Anthony Weiner, who usually points to his congressional record or loud advocacy efforts, went a different route in Harlem yesterday and recalled his days battling then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani from the City Council.
“Do you remember when the stairwells were bursting into flames in public housing?” Mr. Weiner asked members of the Sojourner Truth Democratic Club’s mayoral forum gathered in a back room of the La Hermosa Christian Church.
“And you remember there was one scrawny, skinny, undernourished city councilman standing up to Rudy Giuliani saying something’s wrong here?” he asked. “I don’t know what kind of list he had–but I was on it. And as it turned out, the paint they were putting on those walls was a flammable paint. And a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of someone in the administration [had] gotten that contract? And I fought ‘em tooth and nail?”
“Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t look like much, but I can handle myself,” he said to enthusiastic “whoos!” and applause from the crowd. “I told them, I don’t want to hear excuses, I don’t wanna hear press conferences. I want you to remove that paint, every drop of it.”
He was referring to oil-based paint that was linked to more than 20 NYCHA hallway fires by the fire department in the early 1990s, but continued being used, regardless, according to reports at the time. Mr. Weiner said the administration dragged its feet
“You know what they did? They said, ‘No, I’m Rudy Giuliani. I don’t make mistakes,'” he claimed. “I kept standing up and kept standing up. And then one Christmas Eve there was another fire. And I held up a letter form the fire department that said, ‘If you don’t remove that paint from that very building, you were gonna have trouble.’”
“They called me Ebenezer Weiner, the Prince that stole Christmas and all these names, but the bottom line is, I hung in there, I fought for you, and I think that with me and you working together, and with God looking down upon us, we saved lives,” he told the group, vowing to continue fighting if he’s elected to office once again. “I’m not sayin’ that if you vote for me for mayor, milk and honey’s gonna flow through the streets of Harlem. But I am gonna say that every single day I’m gonna lay down my head thinkin’ ’bout how the next day I’m gonna get up to fight for you.”
He continued to rail against the city’s housing authority, saying the NYCHA chairmanship has long been a “patronage job.” And he slammed the current administration for failing to consider the idea of allowing private companies to make energy-efficiency upgrades paid for with energy savings. He later told Politicker he called NYCHA leaders about two months ago, telling them he’d found a company in New Jersey willing to make the upgrades–and install safety cameras–all for free, but they weren’t interested.
“This is not rocket science,” he told the group. “That was one of the many things that made me think, if you can’t get them to do the job, try to do the job yourself. And that’s one of the reasons I decided to run for mayor.”
Mr. Weiner was also asked a series of rapid-fire questions. He said would settle the Central Park Five case, as well as compensate the victims, is open to allowing charter schools to share traditional public school space, and would not end stop-and-frisk, which he argued is a valuable crime-fighting tool.
Instead, he proposed using a CompStat-like system to track cops who are making unwarranted searches, and then removing cops, supervisors, inspector–even the police commissioner–if bad apples are allowed to stay on.
“I want to police to go out there and arrest the bad guys and rarest the drug dealers, and if they see something acting suspicious, I want them to be able to stop them,” he said.
Notably, Mr. Weiner did not mention nor apologize for the sexting scandal that forced him to resign from Congress two years ago, as he had during a previous forum.
But he did apologize to the group for arriving late–offering perhaps the most creative excuse in mayoral forum history: “It involved a 17-month-old, peanut butter and a cat,” he said, later explaining that his son had somehow managed to put peanut butter on the cat’s back.
“I’m not sure I’m ready to be mayor. I did not manage that situation very well at all,” he joked. “My wife yelled at me, she just doesn’t like the cat … And vinegar doesn’t work.”