Jim Dwyer's NY Times column on the dust up between Mike Bloomberg and Andrew Cuomo this morning is a must read-underscoring the anti-democratic spirit that animates the Bloomberg administration. And the quarrel involves our own issues about Claire Shulman's illegal lobbying activity on the Willets Point development plan.
As Dwyer points out: "Some weeks back, the state attorney general’s office sent the city a request for records of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, one of these invisible public agencies wearing the costume gowns of a nonprofit operation. The attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, was looking into a report that the city, through the Economic Development Corporation, was the source of funds for lobbyists who helped persuade the City Council to condemn land in Willets Point, Queens. It is illegal for a not-for-profit corporation to use city money for lobbying."
So what did the city do? Try to strong arm the AG-which, as it turns out, was a big mistake: "Instead of complying with the records request, the city’s chief lawyer, Michael A. Cardozo, demanded a meeting with the attorney general’s office. Mr. Cuomo said that his investigators wanted to review the records before meeting with city officials. Mr. Cardozo balked. Mr. Cuomo said that if necessary, he would issue a subpoena. In one of the many exchanges between the city Law Department and the Attorney General’s office, a Bloomberg administration official said that a subpoena from the state would be seen as a hostile act, and would be remembered next year, when Mr. Cuomo is expected to run for governor."
Talk about hubris! Has anyone down at city hall read the underwhelming election returns? If they had they would have realized that the attempt to bogart Andrew was like bringing the proverbial knife to a gunfight: "There are better ways for Michael R. Bloomberg to start his third term in office than picking fights he can’t win."
But, as Tom Robbins indicates today on the Village Voice website, this is all beginning to look real Nixonian-and just how did that turn out, we wonder? "On a panel last night discussing the city's new political landscape, Times columnist Clyde Haberman suggested to the crowd at the Baruch College School of Public Affairs that the signs so far from Mike Bloomberg are a little ominous. "Beginning with a feud with a legendary lawman like Robert Morgenthau would seem like a strange way to start," said Haberman. And lo, this morning comes further evidence of this Nixonian trend, this time from Haberman's colleague Jim Dwyer who reports that Bloomberg's City Hall minions pulled the tough guy act not just with Morgenthau, but the state's top law enforcement official, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo."
And this is all about the effort over at Willets Point to illegally gang up on the property owners with a phony grass roots effort: "The issue at hand concerns the EDC's funding of a non-profit group it had helped form to lobby the City Council on its Willett's Point plan. Such lobbying would be illegal for a nonprofit, not to mention being a bizarre and secretive way for a mayor to try and influence the council. It's the kind of stunt- yes! - Richard Nixon might have pulled."
Which does bring to mind the recent judicial decision on the eminent domain inspired expansion of Columbia University. In that case, Judge Catterson berated the state and the university-and their favorite consultant, AKRF-for collusion that undermined the legality of the entire plan.
Well in the Willets situation, EDC has refused to release any of the traffic data that will determine whether ramps can be built off of the Van Wyck-demonstrating a pattern of non disclosure and a lack of transparency. No ramps, no project. And guess who the city's consultant is for all of this behind the scenes maneuvering? Yup-AKRF-or Old Reliable as far as the cooked books crowd is concerned.
So hats off to our AG Cuomo, who is following in his father's footsteps to a degree on the Willets Point controversy. If Cuomo can demonstrate in his investigation that illegal activity and collusion has animated the Willets Point project, it may spell the demise of this ill-fated and expensive white elephant-demonstrating that as far as the Cuomos are concerned, what goes around, comes around.