Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Rudy’s Legacy

There was an interesting Rudy Giuliani retrospective and book review by Ben Smith in last week’s Observer. Everyone is trying to tip toe around the Giuliani legacy given the fact that, in spite of some significant achievements, the former mayor remains viscerally unpopular among prime Dem voters. Here are some of our thoughts on Giuliani:

“One City, One Standard”

The famous Giuliani slogan would have been much more accurate with the following postscript: “The double standard.” Rudy pointedly eschewed racial set-asides and favoritism, to the huzzahs of the Manhattan Institute crowd but, in the process, managed to obscure the fact that his administration, perhaps the most politically corrupt in memory (not in any venal sense) never did anything that was not geared to political expediency. Put simply, the set-asides were always to Rudy’s political allies and these were all too often large real estate interested linked to Ray Harding.

Megastore Examples

Rudy famously promoted the mega-store rezoning policy – which would have led to an influx of box stores – while simultaneously doing more to kill specific megastore projects than any other elected official. He killed a club store on Staten Island, a Shoprite supermarket in Forest Hills, a Home Depot in Mill Basin and, along with Governor Pataki, the Charlie Katz Brooklyn Junction Mall in Bay Ridge. All of these projects went down because they were in neighborhoods that voted for Giuliani.

Most interesting, Giuliani was the driving force in the unsuccessful attempt to kill the controversial Pathmark supermarket in East Harlem (Messenger and Rangel were its biggest supporters). After meeting with the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, Rudy pushed the Republican councilmen, Mallard and Eristoff, to vote against the project, and the development would have gone down to defeat except for traitorous behavior of Guillermo Linares (now Bloomberg’s Commissioner of Immigration; what a joke!).

Shoprite on Avenue I

To further demonstrate Giuliani’s total hypocrisy (Tom Lehrer’s line about Werner Von Braun comes to mind: “A man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience”), a look at the building of a Shoprite on Avenue I in Midwood should suffice. After exhaustive analysis by the Alliance, it was determined that the store, being built by Rabbi Lesser, a well-connected giver from the Orthodox community, needed a special permit. This was confirmed by the Buildings Department and a Stop Work Order was issued.

Two days later work recommenced while the developer “appealed” the decision because Noach Dear had intervened with Deputy Mayor Bruce Tetelbaum. Disingenuously, DOB actually told us that if it were determined that the permit it had issued was deemed legitimate no certificate of occupancy would be issued. So, for the first time in city history a project in need of a special permit was allowed to complete construction before it was determined that the building was acceptable under prevailing zoning. As a result, the opposition lost heart, the store was built and the law was totally violated.

It should be pointed out that the Borough Commissioner Trevissano, who had supported our position, was subsequently exiled to Staten Island. Trevissano had also opposed the easing of building safety rules for the Chasidic community in Williamsburg where, subsequent to his removal, a poor Mexican immigrant drowned in wet cement. Rudy’s folks were always above the rules that he so assiduously applied to other, less favored groups.


Giuliani enjoyed touting his mob busting ability in the garbage industry. The reality was that DA Morgenthau had prosecuted the key players in the garbage cartel while Giuliani, after the fact, passed Local Law 42 and proceeded to unleash an ill-tempered miscreant named Ed Ferguson on the mom and pop carters who had not been prosecuted by Morgenthau because they were too small to have played any significant role in the cartel. Our observation at the time: “Morgenthau whipped the bad guys, Giuliani beat up the women and children.”

Local Law 42 is the only law in New York City history where someone can be banned for doing business because of “association” with a bad guy or because some politician decided a person lacked “honesty, integrity and good character.”

Public Markets

The garbage statute wasn’t bad enough so Rudy decided to apply it to all the labor unions in the public markets (Hunts Point being the main focus). What people don’t realize is how much of this effort devolved from U.S. Attorney Giuliani’s failure in regard to UFCW Local 359 in the Fulton Fish Market.

In the mid 1980s the UFCW International had kicked out the corrupt Romano brothers from the leadership of Local 359 and, concerned with insuring the union’s purity, they went to the U.S. Attorney to vet the five new candidates for presidency. Giuliani cleared all five candidates and Tony Cirillo was elected. Shortly thereafter, however, the US Attorney brought a civil RICO case against Cirillo and Local 359. The case, prosecuted by Randy Mastro and the previously mentioned Ferguson, was ill-fated and Judge Griesa, no liberal, threw it out after threatening Mastro and Ferguson with contempt citations.

The public markets law was an attempt to impose the “good character” standards on labor because there was no other evidence(outside of the mayor's own malign perceptions), that the newly constituted union or its sister locals were corrupt. The good character (as well as the “association”) clause in the public markets law was made for Giuliani because it would have allowed him to avoid the inconvenience of due process. As a result, he and he alone could decide the guilt or innocence of people under his dominion. That, my friends, is the “One Standard” most characteristic of the Giuliani Administration.

Update: When we talked about Local Law 42, one thing slipped our mind but it goes to the heart of Rudy’s hypocrisy. Under the city’s old garbage statue, any company that had been convicted of a felony was enjoined from owning a carting license. Giuliani’s scorched earth goal, however, was to eliminate all of the local carters, large and small, and bring in the major hauling companies.

There was a problem: one such company BFI, had been convicted of felonies in 43 states. So, in order to accommodate the mega-felon, Rudy changed the law so that BFI could reconstitute itself de nuovo in New York City as BFI New York. Of course, the company now had no criminal record. The irony was that small carters, with no criminal records, were being put out of business for “associating” with bad guys while a major felon was being given carte blanche. Once again the one standard is the double standard.