By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Okay, the party is over. The billions promised by President Bush and
the Congress to help rebuild New York after the terrorist attack seems to be, in part,
tied up in the old-fashioned political games playing.
Were not sure just how fuzzy President Bushs math may be,
but it seems clear that the City is yet to receive and/or be guaranteed the full amount of
the original financial commitment.
Budgeting has never been my strong
suit, however, those that do it for the City, State and feds, have made it clear that
there will be a lot less in the coffers next year because of the present economic
conditions. The Guv and the Mayor have started a series of cutbacks that will have a
serious debilitating effect on an already strained City.
I cant solve this one easily. The
numbers are just too large no one will have a quick and simple solution. However in
business, when faced with a huge budgetary shortfall, what do you do? You cut
non-essentials and you look for additional and new revenue. Where do you look? You start
with existing revenue streams and try to increase them. Then you look at former revenue
streams and try to reactivate them.
The commuter tax stolen three years
ago by a bad political deal engineered by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver that yielded
Silver, the Dems and the City nothing cost the City somewhere around $400,000,000
annually. Sheldon and a bunch of ill-informed Assembly members voted it away in exchange
Now, perhaps they have the newly found love
for our City as the leverage to get it back.
Former Mayor Ed Koch, former Guv Hugh Carey
and financier Felix Royaton (the architect of the Citys financial recovery in the
70s) have all endorsed the concept.
Its a no-brainer!
So where are the Democratic Assembly
members who erred their first chance and let the City be pickpocketed by political ploys?
And where are the downstate Republican Senators leading the charge to get some essential
revenue for the City? Wheres the Guv? Wheres Silver?
Can Congress really take our State
seriously when we sit back and rely on three-year-old political errors that deny the City
The New York State legislature should stand
up and be counted as leaders in the fight to rebuild New York City. They should reinstate
the Commuter Tax and then go to Washington, D.C. and demand that the President and
Congress do their share and live up to their commitments.
New Council Manuevers and Happenings
The Speaker of the Council Guessing Game continues and nothing is new.
Brooklyn keeps claiming Angel Rodriguez has it almost locked up. As weve reported
previously, those in the know credit Queens Dem leader Tom Manton as being able to make
the next Council king.
Manton, according to reliable sources, is back on good terms with Bronx
boss Roberto Ramirez, who had previously been persona non grata. Ramirez, who had
abandoned Manton and Queens during an Albany Speaker coup last year, added fuel to the
fire when he sat on his hands during the recent Mayoral election after believing Mark
Green dissed Freddie Ferrer. Well Bloomberg, the faux Republican, won and Roberto
didnt care. Now is he trying to woo his way back into the good graces of the City
Democratic power structure by throwing his handful of Council votes in with Queens?
If he has and Manton is prepared to trust him, watch for Manton to play
it close to the vest until the very last minute. Then, there seems to be only four
Angel Rodriguez, the choice of Brooklyn leader Clarence Norman but
seemingly unpopular with most of the Queens fourteen, no longer looks as strong. In a
recent debate among Council Speaker hopefuls, it has been reported that Rodriguez showed
poorly, while Gifford Miller, Bill Perkins and Melinda Katz were impressive. If Tom has
the Bronx, he doesnt need Brooklyn although hed like to cement an alliance
with Clarence Norman.
Giff Miller, based on quality and competence the choice of the members
of the Queens delegation, could be the beneficiary of the new alliance.
However, that Manton alliance will include Dem State chair-to-be Denny
Farrell who has another saleable Manhattan Speaker candidate. Bill Perkins star is
also shining brighter.
All of this speculation, however is based on the assumption that Manton
will not go with a Council newcomer as Speaker. Hed have a hard time selling his
choice (assume David Weprin) to the rest of the Queens delegation because hed have
to give away plum committee chairs that Katz, Avella and company expect. He also could be
quite content having Queens make the king, claim the chairs of the major committees and
come back in two years to play again when the Speaker is term limited.
While pundits all watch the battle for Speaker, some of the Council
freshman are preparing their own operations. Armed with boxes of material prepared by a
Council central staff aiming to impress and inform, the newcomers have their work cut out
for themselves. Some of the newcomers have quickly signed on experienced, sophisticated
staff members to enable them to hit the ground running.
David "Finance Chairman in Waiting" Weprin, has hired two
heavyweights: Arthur Flug, former executive director of the American Jewish Congress who
previously spent a decade as chief of staff to Congressman Gary Ackerman, and Jeff
Gottlieb, the experienced Council pro who most recently headed Morty Povmans Council
team. Gottlieb bowed out of a Council race of his own earlier this year at the urging of
County Leader Tom Manton. Some are still shaking their heads over that one.
If David doesnt get the expected chairmanship, Arthur and Jeff
may have to wash dishes to pay their way.
Peter Vallone, Jr. has hired as his chief of staff George Mihaltses,
who Pete describes as a very bright guy. George is making a career change to work with
Jr. Hes also the husband of the present Council Finance Director Haeda, so
hes been around this game for a long time.
Queens lost a controversial and meaningful figure last weekend when
political columnist Arthur Nitzburg died suddenly of a massive heart attack.
Arthur had recovered from a life-threatening illness several years back
and friends tell me he was recently in good health. Arthur and I were not friends,
however, we had a relationship in which we crossed paths, pens and occasional swords over
the past two decades.
Arthur Nitzburg 1944 2001
photo: Courtesy of Queens Courier
This is not intended as a formal
but my personal reflection and reaction based on the recollections of two of his former
editors David Oats and Tamara Hartman. Arthur and I shared not only
David and Tamara but my Tribune colleague Mike Nussbaum who, in another life, was
business partners with Arthur.
Arthur wrote a weekly political column,
first in the Bayside Times and then for quite a number of years in the Courier.
His column is why I read the Courier why a lot of political insiders and
elected officials read it. Many of us didnt agree with Arthurs weekly
analysis, presentation of the facts or even his political reality at times, however we
knew he was bright, perceptive and worked his network. Arthur was tuned in.
Arthur got upset whenever I would kid him
that he was the second best political columnist in Queens so I did it as often as I
He began his political life as an aide to
Bella Absug long before he was a candidate for a Queens local school board almost two
decades ago. Although, as I saw it, Arthur, who in earnest wanted elective office, found a
niche writing about the game of politics he loved. He loved to probe, scoop and challenge.
He took on the Queens Democratic political organization and frequently alienated some
rather important political figures with reporting they felt inaccurate.
Although, I too, occasionally disagreed
with Arthurs portrayal of politics, the political hoohahs that he and I wrote about
almost always cry foul when a newspaper account makes them look less than saintly.
I dont think Arthur made up the facts
as some accused. I believe Arthur told the facts as his eyes saw them a bit skewed
and tainted by his intellect and orientation. He was never malicious; he was only
advocating for the political process the way he believed it should be.
And Arthur was smart. He was an
accomplished professional campaign strategist, a skilled political analyst and a student
of the borough and City. His analytical ability and broad knowledge of government,
politics and history placed him on an intellectual level to be admired. He worked the
phone and his network well, enabling him to frequently reveal in his column political
insights and nuances that was manna to political junkies.
His friends tell me he was sweet and
sensitive. Corinne Oats used to chat with him about Paris in French. David Oats had
an affection for him that surprised me. He spoke with the warmth that David usually
reserved for people filled with fun and creative juices. That was not the Arthur I knew,
but he obviously meant a great deal to David and thats enough for me.
David was the first to tell me about the
death of Arthur he called me Saturday morning. David was concerned that
Arthurs memory would be preserved with the respect David wanted him to have.
Later in the day I received an email from a
mutual friend of mine and Arthurs. Marsha Livson wrote:
"Although you probably already know, I
thought I should tell you that Art died last night from a heart attack. It is very
difficult to lose a friend, especially one that is that young and truly enjoying
"Art had achieved so many of his goals
recently; writing for Newsday on a regular basis, being a commentator for Channel
One. He almost died two years ago and his wife, Annie, has a great attitude about
this and feels that God lent her two more years with him.
"It is also so wonderful to see people
as much in love as these two were and rare indeed in this day and age. He saw in her such
beauty and she saw in him such nobility.
"If you do an obit, please mention
this . . . it would be a mitzvah. He was also, to me, a very good friend who was
always there for me and that especially in political circles is so
rare. Friendship is such a precious commodity and each time I lose someone I hold it
dearer and dearer."
When I got home Saturday night, there was a
message on my answering machine from Gary Ackerman informing me of Arthurs passing.
Additional notices came by email.
I dont remember the last time that
this many people reached out to me about the death of a Queens player.
It certainly doesnt happen very
often. In his death, the reaction is tribute to his life. Arthur touched many of us.
Arthurs mind and style made us react.
David, Marsha, Gary, Tamara and Mike, and
Im sure many other Queens players, have strong memories about Arthur.
You see columnists like Arthur are not
Often they are just respected.
Queens will miss his weekly words.
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
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