Anti-Semite Fulani Fleeces the City
Last week, the city approved tax-exempt bond financing for a nonprofit arts group that was founded by Lenora Fulani, a flagrant anti-Semite, and Fred Newman, a quack psychologist who’s admitted that he’s had intimate relationships with women who came to him for therapy. The votes on the panel that approved the financing are controlled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
What’s going on here? The answer: cynicism and unprincipled ambition. The Mayor should be ashamed of himself.
The recipient of the city’s largess is the All Stars Project, which purports to use the performing arts to help low-income children. The organization was founded in 1981 by Ms. Fulani and Mr. Newman. That these two buffoons have any sway over the Mayor at all is because of one salient fact: They are influential members of the Independence Party, and in 2001 and 2005, they delivered the party’s votes to Mr. Bloomberg.
Her power within the Independence Party is why Ms. Fulani, a frequent candidate for every office save dogcatcher, actually gets her phone calls returned in New York political circles. This despite the fact that she recently stood by comments she made in the late 1980’s, when she said that the Jewish people “had to sell their souls to acquire Israel” and held it only by acting as “mass murderers of people of color.” Last year, she wondered aloud why she would be considered anti-Semitic. Her comments, she said, simply raised “issues that I think need to be explored.”
Mayor Bloomberg denounced her comments, but refuses to repudiate the messenger. He has personally donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Independence Party, and has made donations to the All Stars Project. Ms. Fulani depends upon the timidity of elected officials who are terrified of losing the Independence Party’s endorsement—never mind that the party is in fact a joke masquerading as a legitimate political party.
And so, when the All Stars Project requested the city’s approval for its $12.75 million bond-financing project—which will allow the group to renovate its Manhattan offices and refinance an earlier bond deal—the Mayor gave it the green light, saving the group over $200,000 in taxes. The panel that reviewed and approved the project, the New York City Industrial Development Agency, is controlled by the Mayor through his appointees. It is disappointing that three of his capable appointees who should know better—Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Daniel Doctoroff, Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo and City Planning Commission chairwoman Amanda Burden—voted in favor of the financing. There was no reason to support the All Stars Project except as a political payoff to Ms. Fulani.
Before the vote went through, State Comptroller Alan Hevesi released a letter opposing the financing: “This group reportedly has a long and close relationship with a cult whose leaders have made statements and taken positions that are misogynistic and anti-Semitic. Providing discretionary financial assistance for this project will be tantamount to providing public validation and support for these ideas.”
Notably, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn signed Mr. Hevesi’s letter. New Yorkers might note this reassuring display of courage—and true independence—from one of the city’s rising political leaders.
Silver’s Not Golden
Eliot Spitzer, the Democratic Party’s candidate for Governor, has been making noises that sound suspiciously like the clarion cries of a reformer. The status quo, he seems to be saying, is not acceptable. The political culture of Albany, which all too often is about private agendas and back-room deals, needs to change.
Mr. Spitzer, a relative newcomer to the state’s political stage, brings to his campaign a record of achievement as State Attorney General. In that position, he has exposed and broken up some disreputable practices in the private sector. Presumably, he is ready and willing to bring that same reformer’s zeal to Albany, home to another kind of corruption.
If he truly intends to fix what’s broken, he is going to find himself confronted with the specter of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a fellow Democrat and a symbol of the status quo. This may prove to be a bigger problem than Mr. Spitzer realizes. Mr. Silver wields tremendous power over legislation in the Democratic-controlled Assembly, a dysfunctional entity run like a banana republic. He has the means to foil any attempt to rock Albany’s barnacle-covered boat.
Mr. Spitzer, who faces a pesky challenge from Republican John Faso this fall, may find himself faced with a difficult choice if he is elected: proceed with a program of reform, or appease an important ally.
If he becomes Governor, Mr. Spitzer cannot allow Mr. Silver to foil plans to make Albany more accountable. Otherwise, he will lose credibility with voters in an instant. By the same token, it’s hard to imagine Mr. Silver going along with any of Mr. Spitzer’s reform plans.
How to resolve this? Mr. Spitzer might take a page from George Pataki, circa 1995. Upon taking office, Mr. Pataki shoved aside the Republican majority leader of the State Senate, Ralph Marino, to install Joseph Bruno, who was considered more congenial to Mr. Pataki’s agenda.
Mr. Silver’s hold over the Assembly is hardly iron-clad. He has alienated more than a few of his Democratic colleagues, particularly some upstate members.
If a victorious Eliot Spitzer wishes to get his agenda for reform passed, he would profit by Mr. Pataki’s example. It would take chutzpah to mount a coup against Mr. Silver. But then again, Mr. Spitzer hasn’t lacked for that particular quality.
Happy Days, Here Again
For generations now, professional nostalgists have spun yarns about the golden age of New York baseball in the 1950’s. You know the drill: Oh, for the days when Willie, Mickey and the Duke patrolled center field for the New York Giants, the Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers, respectively.
To hear some tell it, baseball just hasn’t been the same since the Giants and Dodgers left town in 1957, and nobody has filled the void left by Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider.
Well, guess what: Golden days are here again.
The Mets and the Yankees of 2006 are divisional champions—the first time both teams have won their respective divisions in the same season. Their success wasn’t entirely expected; the preseason pundits said the Yanks were too old and the Mets were too young. But both teams won their divisions with ease, swatting aside the hated Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves.
There’s no question that New York baseball is steeped in history, but it’s equally true that excellence is hardly a thing of the past. Today’s fans relish the likes of Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, David Wright and Carlos Delgado of the Mets, and Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Chien-Ming Wang and Robinson Cano of the Yankees. They and their teammates have put together a season to remember—a season very much the equal of any of those legendary New York baseball summers of the 1950’s.
While the players on both teams have been brilliant, let’s not forget that managers Joe Torre of the Yankees and Willie Randolph of the Mets deserve credit for their quiet leadership, and general managers Brian Cashman of the Yankees and Omar Minaya of the Mets actually put together these championship rosters.
Oh, and one more thing: Owners George Steinbrenner of the Yanks and Fred Wilpon cheerfully picked up the multimillion tab, and had the wisdom to hire competent managers.
The postseason beckons, and there’s no telling what may happen in the playoffs. But there’s a scent in the air, for sure. It smells fresh and lovely. It smells like a Subway Series.
Just like the good old days. Like, oh, the year 2000.