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August 26th, 2008

PLUNKITT OF TAMMANY HALL—A POLITICAL COLUMN OF AMAZING RANDOMNESS: THE PEOPLE’S INDICTMENT OF MICHAEL BLOOMBERG. PLUS: PAY TO PLAY.

by Trip Plunkitt

The push for development buy this mayor has led to the death of quite a few people this year alone. His development mania has also wasted precious government time and resources: just look at the failed 2012 Olympic bid and failed congestion-pricing plan (Bloomberg sent state legislators glossy brochures to convince them). And don’t forget “Guantanamo on the Hudson,” the four day police-instigated hostage situation during the Republican National Convention, where protesters were held at Pier 57 long enough to keep them off the streets until the convention was over, without due process. Thank YOU, Mayor Bloomberg!

In taking the City in the direction of non-stop construction, the mayor has chosen to overlook the safety of workers and citizens. For this ignoble effort, we give Mayor Bloomberg the “Emperor Nero, Death by Development” Award for most construction, most death of any mayor since (pick a date). And as we write this, more will probably be killed as a direct effect of Mayor Bloomberg’s (“the business mayor”) edict that business, real estate interests, and big money trump all else. Even life.

Look at the Department of Buildings: The “deer in the headlights” former commissioner, Patricia Lancaster, left under the cloud of death after seven people died on East 52nd Street from a falling crane. “Accidents happen,” says the mayor as he blithely walks away. Meanwhile, seven families continue to mourn. Later, it was determined that this project should never have been approved. Construction has since been stopped (but by now, it is probably full speed ahead again—”stop work orders” do not actually mean what they say).

New (acting) commissioner, more death—this time on East 92nd Street. Two workers dead, the side of a residential building scraped off. People displaced. The mayor tells us that the Buildings Department didn’t do this—it was the crane that broke! Thanks for the useful info! Meanwhile, investigations show pay-offs, corruption, and no-show workers inspecting city cranes. Guess it costs too much to regulate the Buildings Department; it might slow things up.

And let’s not forget the crane in our own neighborhood at the Soho Trump site—death by decapitation earlier this year. Please cross the street when passing.

Well, many say it is the Buildings Department that is broken, and a completely absurd and WRONG assessment made it into the New York Times on June 11, 2008: they described the Buildings Department as “a department with the seemingly conflicting tasks of promoting real estate development and overseeing public safety, while enforcing the city’s vast building code and complex zoning regulations.”

In fact, the promotion of real estate development is NOT one of the functions of the Department, which are set forth in section 643 of the New York City Charter. Those functions concern the enforcement of the law, and the promotion of public safety. Indeed, when it does the job it is supposed to, the Buildings Department is a public safety agency every bit as much as the Police and the Fire Departments are.

So next time you see a construction site or crane, look up—not at the clouds or sun, but at the things the Bloomberg administration are throwing down at you. Perhaps the sky really is falling.

As billionaire Bloomberg ponders the next office he’ll pay for—we mean run for—millionaire former developer Julie Menin, the chair of Community Board One, has a buying campaign of her own, depositing money into the coffers of local groups in an apparent effort to win their support when she runs for City Council in 2009. The one group that didn’t receive any money, however, seems to be the SoHo Alliance. This is odd since the head of the Alliance is also the president of the local political club, Downtown Independent Democrats. The “pay to play” strategy has worked out well for her in other places: She is on the LMDC board and she is on the jury for the permanent Ground Zero Memorial; according to the Daily News, she gave former Governor George Pataki $11,000 for his campaign coffers to insure that she has a place in the downtown action. Sadly, just one of the many victims’ families got a seat on the Memorial jury. They couldn’t pay enough to play, apparently.

Millionaire developer Menin apparently has a long Republican background (remember, this is the party that wants to repeal Roe v.Wade and is notoriously anti-gay). She “converted” to the Dems when she had to, since running for the City Council as a Republican in lower Manhattan is a kind of kamikaze move that Mother just wouldn’t allow. Her millionaire spread in Rupert Murdoch’s NY Post in June, 2008 shows her lovely expensive home, her lovely expensive dress, her lovely expensive view, her lovely photo-perfect children, but former Trump-loving developer hubby, Bruce, was nowhere to be seen. Has he run away from all the loveliness in search of something real? Should we?

Meanwhile, Menin’s takeover of Downtown Independent Democrats didn’t work out so well. And despite her denials, Menin and her new longtime friend Borough President Scott Stringer are cozying up for some real politicization of the community boards. If you’re not with their political program, whatever it is, the whispering campaign begins. Keep listening for your name.

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