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October 18th, 2007

PLUNKITT OF TAMMANY HALL: A POLITICAL COLUMN OF AMAZING RANDOMNESS.

by Trip Plunkitt

Let’s talk about Gansevoort and the marine transfer station. What’s up with that? On the one side, there are the people who say no because it interferes with the waterfront park over there. On the other side there is reality. Marine transfer of recyclable waste is necessary to get all those polluting vehicles off the streets. After all, Manhattan is an island. Using the river for transport is only what we’ve been doing for the past 300 years – why stop now? All the pretty waterfront parks in the world won’t make up for our City filling up with garbage with no good way to get rid of it.With that said, a possible rail link to moving garbage is a possibility, and since people are clamoring for that option to be explored, why not investigate? (We don’t mean that literally.) Plunkitt has spoken!

Now, one of the big opponents of the above marine transfer station is Friends of Hudson River Park [Development]. This group filled up its coffers with developers’money at their “Feeding Out of the Trough” dinner in June, featuring a rehabilitated Martha Stewart. People say the dinner made $800,000, but where does that money go, exactly? Does anyone care? It seems that raising money for Hudson River Park [Development] is their big mandate, but will any of this stash go into the waterfront park, or does it go to salaries, influence peddling, advertisements, and PR for this group of developers and their friends and families? Friends of Hudson River Park [Development’s] BFF* seems to be making money, not park. Hmmmmm.
*best friend forever

Pier 40 development continues to grind on: The Pier 40Working Group completed its review of the Related and Campgroup proposals, and neither has been found acceptable.Working Group Chair Arthur Schwartz presided over many, many, many meetings to come to this inevitable conclusion. Also, the participants of the Pier 40Working Group were not privileged to see the financial details of either proposal, making true analysis impossible.

Now, here comes an interesting story, brought to us on good authority: A sports league parent, one who had made a bundle on Wall Street and who has connections with other nouveau riche folk, went up to Dan Doctoroff at a party and said how important the existing, protected field space was at Pier 40 and that other (yuppie) parents like him would be happy to put their financial muscle towards underwriting a rebuilt Pier 40 with a real sports emphasis, since downtown has a paucity of this kind of space. The (alleged) response from the ol’ doc: “No way. Pier 40 is getting developed. It’s already been decided.”Well, let’s just see about that– even if the lame waterfront park board votes yes, that’s still a long way from dismantling the great sports field in the “donut” at Pier 40, especially after government spent millions of dollars building it – wasn’t it only a couple years ago?

Speaking of lame, Governor Spitzer has really shot himself in the ethical foot this time and there’s no going back. Hope you’re saying your Plunkitts– remember in our first column, we paraphrased the gov’s slogan, saying: “‘Day one, everything changes’ (except that day two, everything goes back to the way it was.)”?We were right. ‘Nuf said.

Congressman Nadler is getting hassled by not supporting anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan’s quest to get President Bush impeached. Apparently, Sheehan wants to run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi if the House Speaker doesn’t support Bush’s impeachment. Pelosi doesn’t, and neither does Nadler, causing Nadler’s office to get picketed recently by Sheehan supporters. This is ironic, because of all the people in this country, Nadler is the most anti-Bush, anti-war guy around. He voted against starting this war, unlike Hillary. Nadler performed spectacularly at theWashington hearings he held last June, in which Christine ToddWhitman denied giving the false and misleading statements after 9/11 regarding air quality (somebody should have told her they were taping her back then). Hey, as Jon Stewart said on The Daily Show, what doesWhitman know about clean air? She’s from Jersey.

By the way, stay away from the Caliente Cab Company if you don’t look fem or butch enough–or at least stay out of the bathrooms. A recent incident involves a female patron using the ladies room who was booted out of both the bathroom and restaurant, in the Village on Gay Pride Day, no less! Apparently, she didn’t look feminine enough to a staff member. Makes one wonder where the Village is heading. One would think that some sensitivity (protection of human rights, perhaps?) might be employed in the handling of such matters. Is a picket in order?We are never eating there, ever!

What about those “bus bulbs” on Broadway in Soho? Those sticking out protuberances so that busses no longer have to pull over to pick up passengers are, how do you say, silly. Go and check one out: they have a lame fence that keeps people from entering the bus pick-up area, except at either end, with a weird 5 inch space between it and the regular curb. Now, busses just stop traffic completely in the right lane when they pick up or dislodge passengers. If there’s a disabled passenger getting on or off, that lane is out of service for 5- 6+ minutes, and there’s only one lane left – not great for keeping traffic flowing.What brilliant genius thought this up – the staff at Disneyworld? Maybe it’s from the congestion pricing people – you know, the ones who wanted to regressively tax people driving their cars into most of Manhattan–rich people can and will always pay, no problemo, while the rest of us are stuck paying out with no accompanying mass transit upgrades. Ever tried getting on the 4,5,6 train at 8am or 5pm? Mayor Mike has, and he says it’s a piece of cake. Some cake.

Bloomberg’s recent defection from the party of Lincoln shows that he has taken all he could get from the Republicans. Now that the Republican well has run dry for him, the new party of note seems to be the “Rich-Guy-Buys-The Election Party,” alternately called “Party of One.” Bloomberg can do whatever he wants, since he bankrolled his own campaigns for his two electoral wins in 2001. (What–about $100 million each?Well, who’s counting?) But the rich-guy-business-executive who has enough money to run and win escapes having to build a consensus with party leaders and elected public officials to get elected (you just need a good PR campaign and a series of expensive ads). The result: insulation from the normal pressures of an elected public official. But do we get good government from that? In our book, politics equals accountability. When you hear: “I’m not political,” it means “I’m not accountable to the people.” Bloomberg is the businessman mayor, and he is applying his business model to governing. In getting elected, he doesn’t owe politicians anything, so he now can go off into a closed room and create wonderful, masterful schemes, with wonderful, masterful experts, like his congestion pricing plan (which may have good elements in it–who has time to tell?) but one thing is missing–he can’t pass it into law himself (rats!) He needs others to agree with him (it’s called democracy). So he delivers a photo-ready idea with no wiggle room for input (because it’s so perfect already, dummy, and hey, if it doesn’t work, we’ll just create another ad campaign!) and state legislators have the NERVE to ask questions? They want to actually discuss it? Bravo, to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for doing his job, it’s rare we can say that about anyone involved in public office.

Making business decisions behind closed doors is what the private sector does, but this model breaks down with government because, ultimately, any new policy that affects the public has to pass the smell test with others who are duly elected to represent the public interest. In this case, that would be the State Legislature (and now, the City Council – the new commission studying congestion pricing has included the Council in the review and approval process). ‘Selling’ congestion pricing is what Bloomberg was trying to do (remember the good PR campaign and a series of expensive ads?)* Bloomberg’s mantra: “We know what’s best, just do what we say” is not how the founding fathers envisioned democracy. It’s a group effort. Democracy is not autocracy. Mayor Bloomberg needs an intro course on U.S. government.

Again, Plunkitt has spoken!

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