Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Flashback: at a funeral, the intersection of Bruce Ratner and Vito Lopez

A 7/22/12 essay from Paul Berman in Dissent, Regular Politics: Judge Reichbach, contains cameos for both Bruce Ratner and Vito Lopez, both typically in the news for other reasons:
On Saturday, July 14, a New York State Supreme Court judge named Gustin L. Reichbach succumbed to cancer. On Sunday his funeral service took place at a synagogue in Brooklyn Heights. And the first and most eloquent of the speakers to address the mourners was a politician named Vito Lopez, who holds the office of New York State Assemblyman from Bushwick, Brooklyn, and the still more exalted office of chairman of the Democratic Party of Kings County, otherwise known as Brooklyn Democratic boss, whose powers are myriad, vast, and rooted in affairs so profoundly local as to be incomprehensible. The boss is known, for instance, to influence the election of minor officials called District Leaders, who are unpaid yet nonetheless have the power to select the modestly paid workers who supervise the voting on Election Day. And God knows what happens next, except that everyone recognizes that, when the Brooklyn Democratic boss presides over a nonprofit organization, the state and municipal contracts descending upon the organization tend to be profitable indeed, even if the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council is currently under investigation. And still larger contracts come into play. The very skyline is at stake. And, lo, prominently mentioned at Gus Reichbach’s funeral was a man named Bruce Ratner, who, in the Brooklyn of our time, is widely known—reviled!—as the preeminent developer, the destroyer of Brooklyn’s antique charm (as per his detractors), or else the creator of jobs (as per his admirers) and the benefactor of basketball (objectively true). And, to be sure, Bruce Ratner turns out to have been a law school roommate of Gustin L. Reichbach. And Lopez made a point in his funeral oration of invoking Bruce Ratner’s influence in the most affectionate of terms, and the name of George Pataki, the former Republican governor of New York, came up, whom Bruce Ratner evidently lobbied on behalf of the judicial career of Gus Reichbach, and no name was left unsaid.
Pataki was a law school friend of Ratner, so those connections can pay off.

The overall article is well worth reading, since Lopez comes off as a more generous personality than he's typically portrayed, albeit a very savvy practitioner of retail politics, which he taught the left-wing Reichbach, who maintained an impressive independence while still in the system. (Here's the Times 7/17/12 obit, Gustin Reichbach, Judge With a Radical History, Dies at 65.)

Nets game to be used for ceremony?

In the 7/16/12 City & State, Morgan Pehme wrote:
* Assemblyman Vito Lopez celebrated state Supreme Court justice Gus Reichbach’s life at his memorial service in Brooklyn Heights on Sunday, recounting stories of how he won election to the bench. Lopez helped Reichbach win a judgeship to Brooklyn Civil Court by only 141 votes in a contested primary. The two had grown close ever since. “He always wanted reassurance, he always asked, ‘Did I do well?’ ” said Lopez. “He loved politics. For someone who was outside the political scene, he loved regular politics. He became a friend.” Lopez suggested jokingly that the city rename the Brooklyn Bridge, the Reichbach Bridge, or at least rename the corner of Bond and Dean streets where Reichbach lived after him and encourage Reichbach’s longtime friend, developer Bruce Ratner, to honor him at a Brooklyn Nets game this fall.

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