By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Its Saturday, around noon, and after rising late as usual,
showering and breakfasting, I came down to my home office to begin my weekly column.
Usually, there is one topic. Today there are many.
I have notes not too many from my lunch yesterday with
new Council Finance Chair David Weprin. The food at Caffe on the Green is just too good to
stop and write while youre eating. But David will be the meat of this column,
although he ordered fish.
I have to say a couple of words about the triumph of Queens in the
Council reorganization and the skillful hand of Tom Manton and company.
I have to follow-up on last weeks column on political correctness
I awoke exactly a week ago and the news on my shower radio compelled me
to mock the process by which the NYPD Fire Department was party to commissioning a statue
and changing the ethnicity of the three heroic firefighters who raised the flag at Ground
Zero on Sept. 11. As I predicted then, the issue has become an FDNY hot potato and the
project is being revisited.
The newly-elected and installed Brooklyn Borough President added to the
politics and art fray by removing a picture of George Washington from Brooklyn Borough
Hall to make room for diversity. Brooklyn Beep Marty Markowitz said he was getting rid of
"the old white man."
Or stupid nonsense!
Markowitz is just an old offensive white man trying to make headlines
and political hay out of his old liberal label. Enough is enough.
Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Catherine of Braganza, the
firefighters? History is history. Art is art.
When politicians like Markowitz place themselves in judgment of art
both politics and art suffer. Rudy proved that with the Brooklyn Museum.
When politicians try to revise history, they deserve to become history.
Im not here to defend George Washington. I really dont care
that much about him. I do, however, care about the hundreds of thousands of school-age
kids who hear the Brooklyn Borough President diss the father of our county just because he
is an old white man.
Markowitz, who is my age, acknowledged he could be considered an old
I think he should grow up.
And finally, I ran into Ann Jawin, the head of the Queens Womens
Center which is about to be evicted (perhaps, by the time you read this, already has been)
from its former building on Fort Totten. Jawin in the name of womanhood is taking on the
Fort, the Parks Department, the Fire Department and all mankind. Well, its not that
bad, but instead of following the procedures that were laid out long ago, Ann chooses to
attempt to make it an issue of discrimination against women. Boshwabble!
The Center, which first opened its doors in 1998, has provided career
counseling, employment training, mentoring, computer classes, and a variety of other
necessary services for women at its Fort Totten headquarters.
The Center had a temporary lease with the FDNY while Fort Totten was
being transferred to the City, but that lease clearly stated it would expire when the land
was completely transferred. The building the Center leased is on the FDNYs side of
Fort Totten, where a training facility is going to be. The Parks Department, however, is
leasing to not-for-profits.
On Jan. 15, the Center was supposed to leave the premises as ordered by
the Fire Department. Jawin refuses to leave because she is angry about being thrown out.
She thought she was being singled out. She wouldnt compromise.
I told her a week ago that I heard she could get space on the Parks
side of the Fort.
"Im not moving," she told me.
Now she is calling the eviction "discrimination against
women." Since the Center was the only group on the FDNY side of Fort Totten, it is
the only one being evicted. She said, "If they throw us out, Ill see them in
Beep Helen Marshall offered other space, Councilman Tony Avella
intervened, but Jawin is not compromising.
The Queens Women Center is worth saving. As the Board of Directors sits
quietly by, Ann Jawin is leading them like lemmings to the edge of the cliff.
Wake up and smell the music.
Now that I got that off my chest, Im going to check my email, chat with Allison
who is expected back from a friends Bat Mitzvah services she spends her
weekends frequently hopping from services to parties wait for the snow while I
attempt to finish the column before Lil and I have to fill the night while Allison is at a
I lunched Friday with David Weprin at Caffe on the Green.
I like Caffe on the Green. Were having Allisons Bat Mitzvah
Party there because the kitchen is a fine restaurant kitchen and Joe Franco runs a real
tight, polished ship. The restaurant is my favorite lunch place in Queens. Not only is the
food good, the place delightful, the service impeccable, but the people who you run into
are also interesting. Superbuilder Joe Mattone and State Senator Malcolm Smith came over
to our table to chat.
Publisher Michael Schenkler
and Council Finance Chair David Weprin.
photo: Dee Richard
David Weprin a Democratic district leader, former state
deputy commissioner of banking, older brother of Assemblyman Mark and son of the late
Assembly Speaker Saul was selected last week as chairman of the City Council
"Queens did pretty well with committee chair assignments and so
did you," I noted.
"It pays to stick together," David smiled.
And in that sentence of quiet joy, David Weprin summed up the long path
that led him to the second most powerful job on the City Council and the reason that
Queens County Democratic Leader Tom Manton called the shots and put together the deal that
formed the new Council.
The Queens delegation was a block and Manton delivered it, getting in
return rewards for all 13 Queens Democratic Councilmembers. The biggest prize went to
His colleagues Leroy Comrie and Melinda Katz were not far behind, also
getting impressive positions and hefty stipends while the rest of the delegation were all
taken care of.
David, who learned the game from his father, is a better politician
than his demeaner conveys. He is thoughtful, loyal, and although he never shows it,
several steps ahead of what he reveals.
He was with Tom Manton, everyone was, because it was good for Queens.
He likened Mantons effectiveness to that of the most powerful County Leaders in
modern New York City history.
He praised the new speaker, "Gifford Miller is committed to
empowering members and chairmen. He has corrected the huge disparity in stipends that used
to exist. Im looking forward to working with him."
He was supportive of reform as advocated by the Fresh Democracy Council
and plans to introduce a charter revision requiring Council confirmation of Mayoral
He has already been in touch with Comptroller Bill Thompson and expects
to work very closely with him.
Although he has never supported term limits, he is grateful for the
opportunity it has afforded him.
"In spite of what the opponents of term limits predicted, the
process has been orderly," David noted. He quickly acknowledged that the tough jobs
still lay ahead.
He showed the expertise that made this former State Banking Deputy
Commissioner and Wall Steet Investment Banker everyones choice for Finance chair.
Citing Federal Legislation introduced by Senators Schumer and Clinton
and Congressman Rangel, to help the City in the post Sept. 11 recovery, David spoke of
refinancing municipal bonds for a third time yielding hundreds of millions for the City.
He spoke of bond rating organizations accepting one-shot financing for the recovering
Hes already talked with the Mayor and Governor about reinstating
the Commuter Tax although readily admits that Pataki would never let it happen in
this election year.
I was reminded that several years earlier my friend and stockbroker,
former Tribune Advertising Manager Ron Roberts, who had resettled in Florida,
called me to say he had just spent the day with David Weprin.
David and Ron were both with Advest, who flew David to Florida to
negotiate some municipal financing. Ron reported back then that David knew his stuff.
Now, Im no financing wiz, but yesterday, David sure sounded like
he knew what he was talking about.
David asserted that although there certainly was politics in the
Council reorganization, committee chairs like him were selected because they were good in
"Jim Gennaro, who opposed the County Organization candidate,
became chair of the Environmental Protection Committee because he deserved it," he
gave for illustration.
David Weprin is more enthusiastic than he was when we had lunched
during the campaign a half a year earlier.
"Now I know why I gave up my career to run," David said. He
explained, being a freshman in a legislative body is not normally appealing but term
limits have brought new people and new government to New York and he feels privileged to
be part of the leadership.
He noted the dramatic change in the average age of members from the
previous Council. David, at 45, was sounding old where on the previous Council he would
have been a child.
And as we were concluding, I asked, "What do you see in the future
for New York, financially?"
"We have to close the budget gap, but I think its going to
be terrific," said the Council Finance chair.
And I followed, "With term limits, Giff Miller is gone in two
years, whats in the future for David Weprin?"
"Theres only room for one speaker and thats Giff
Miller," he said as he held up his hand, while he was counting his votes for the
speaker race two years from now on the other.
The list for speaker in 2004 will be long. David Weprin will be right
near the top.
Angela Montefinise contributed to this column.