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January 6th, 2005

Viewpoint 2005 and beyond

by D. Clark MacPherson

Now that the Bush boys have retained their role as our handlers, we can focus on local problems. The Republicans have managed to turn a terrorism threat by criminals who buy and sell hostages (it really is all about oil and money) into a new “religious war.” That’s easier to sell to rural republicans.

Bush hasn’t learned, as Johnson belatedly did (in Vietnam), that he is now fighting an insurgency as an oppressor, not terrorism as a savior. His family’s quest for dynasty and riches, will bankrupt America and has helped Bin Laden immensely. But now it is unequivocally “Bush’s war.” And he will be defined by it.

The 2005 political races will heat up in January with Borough President at the top of the list. Already a crowded field of some eight or nine announced candidates, there will be a plethora of fundraisers for those of you with a positive balance in your checking account. The frontrunners at this point appear to be Scott Stringer, Phil Reid and Carlos Manzano. The more organized campaign, which has already been in gear for a year is the Manzano group. He’s a State Committee-man with the powerful McManus Midtown Democratic Club and is plugged in to many of the political insiders who will ultimately affect the outcome.

The race for District Attorney will also get underway more seriously as we approach spring. Bob Morgenthau’s opponent is Leslie Crocker Snyder, a candidate who appears to be running primarily on a “Law and Order” plank.

Morgenthau’s biggest claim to fame is the fact that he has prosecuted anyone who has violated the law-no matter how well connected they are politically and regardless of how much money they have to throw around. This kind of impartiality coincides with a long tradition of keeping our streets free of crime and our political offices free of corruption. Few people can stand up to the governor or the mayor like Bob Morgenthau has as our District Attorney.

Alan Gerson, SoHo’s Councilmember, has begun a new Quality of Life initiative and will be seeking our opinions and suggestions. He plans a few Town Hall meetings to deal with a number of issues that affect us all. The focus of these meetings will be excessive noise, motorcycle problems, street vendor issues, billboard proliferation, emergency construction problems, liquor license abuse, and traffic problems. All of these special little indignities that impact our lives in SoHo are going to be the subject of his inquiry and hopefully he will find new ways to resolve them through the City Council. If you have any suggestions or questions, Alan Gerson’s office will be happy to assist you, at 212-788-7722.

There has been a veritable chorus of accusations and criticisms aimed at Sheldon Silver, the Speaker of the Assembly. Essentially, the finger has been pointed at Silver for what has been called a logjam in the State Legislature. A number of important pieces of legislation as well as chronically late budgets have inspired some of this. But what we find most interesting is that it seems to be primarily leveled at Silver. Now, could the fact that Bruno in the Senate and Pataki in the Governor’s Mansion, who are Republicans, have anything at all to do with these difficulties?

The fact is that Silver is a Democrat and for those of us who have felt that Washington would like to disembowel Manhattan if they could, he is like the proverbial finger in the dike. Silver is a tough, no-holds-barred kind of politician who is like a breath of fresh air compared to local and national Democrats who continuously shoot themselves in the foot-unable to distinguish between liberal politics and survival tactics. Or, might we suggest, let’s focus on Bruno and Pataki-not on continuously trying to undermine a tough Democrat who is on our side.

C. Virginia Fields has already made it known that she intends to run for Mayor. Her constituency is broad and she has fused Downtown politics with middle and upper Manhattan in a way that has made her a strong candidate. She is a warm, but tough, individual who clearly has a bright political future. While we will miss the cultural and artistic initiatives from the Borough President’s office, she would be a welcome change at Gracie Mansion. Come out early, often, and generously for her campaign.

Finally, on a purely community based note, we should all be aware of the work being done by the SoHo Alliance and the Downtown Independent Democrats. The Alliance has taken on many of the community issues that have helped preserve the artistic heritage of SoHo while helping to enforce the regulations that keep the developers and nightclubs from totally transforming our area into the “Nightmare on West Broadway.” By litigating to limit the size of building projects and shut down nightclubs and restaurants that merely front for lounges-the SoHo Alliance has established itself as a watchdog for over-zealous entrepreneurs. Doing business in SoHo is fine, but doing it at the expense of its residents is not.

The Downtown Independent Democrats (D.I.D.) is a political club that grew out of the reform movement and has continued to grow in size and influence. Its members are involved in local political support, balancing Downtown political factions, recommending judgeships, interviewing candidates who will represent SoHo, and keeping our visibility high in the Legislature.

Sean Sweeney, who heads the SoHo Alliance and David Reck, leader of the Friends of Hudson Square, are prominent in the D.I.D. Sweeney is also Chairman of Community Board #2 Landmarks Committee and Reck runs the Zoning Committee. As leaders of this political organization and as community leaders, their hard work and dedicated efforts to preserve our community should be appreciated.

To the Elected Officials we would like to offer this suggestion: the work of our community leaders, for which there is absolutely no pay, should be rewarded. How? By renewing the efforts to solve some of SoHo’s worst problems: introduce new, tough legislation protecting us from Liquor and Beer and Wine licenses that have been rejected by the Community Board; enforce the removal of billboards that are illegal or objectionable; Give SoHo crossing guards or traffic agents so we can safely cross the street; give us enforcement agents that provide heavy fines for garbage and drinking on the sidewalks in front of bars and restaurants; and find a way to enforce the noise laws-from unruly bars, motorcycles, and unresponsive Con Ed crews that jackhammer at 2 or 3 a.m.

Give us back SoHo!

D. Clark MacPherson

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