On The Other Side Of My Office Wall
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
I share an office wall with Mike Nussbaum.
You may know him as the Trib Associate Publisher or the driving force behind Multi-Media, our printing, promotion and consulting company. Mike has been an integral part of our newspaper family since the late 1980’s when we took our newspaper public. A year ago this week, when I and a group of investors took our company back and made it private, Mike and Trib founder Gary Ackerman joined me in the venture, keeping the Trib focused on its mission and roots.
Mike with his mother and sons Eric and Scott. His wife Dale somehow missed the camera; (right) receiving his award from NYS Attorney General Elliot Spitzer.
Tribune photo by Azi Paybarah
We are a business born in Queens, with a mission of informing the community and advocating for the people of our borough. We are committed to fair, accurate, cutting-edge journalism and the betterment of Queens.
I’ve had the responsibility of steering the Tribune ship on a day-to-day basis for the last quarter of a century. After building that ship, Ackerman has left that task to me. He had another calling. He went into public service to make his contribution to the betterment of us all.
Mike Nussbaum has managed very quietly to bridge the gap between building the Tribune with me and following his calling to public service, leaving a rather remarkable legacy of contributions across the globe.
Yes, the globe.
I’m at home and don’t have Mike’s bio in front of me. I am going to very briefly share with you my personal knowledge of my friend Mike
Nussbaum, someone who is there when I need him — someone who is there when freedom and peace need him.
Those are pretty high-sounding words; please allow me to explain.
I write this on Saturday, and three non-related events of the past two days brought into focus the part of Mike’s life that is somewhat separate from our business and his family. Although Mike integrates all that he does – his family members have become my friends and mine his – and his outside ventures often become my causes, there is another Mike.
Event 1, Thursday night: Lil and I attended the Queens Jewish Community Council’s 35th Anniversary Terrace-on-the Park Gala in honor of Claire Shulman and Mike
Event 2, Friday afternoon: We cleared our Tribune office floors to make room for new carpet and in looking into Mike’s office, I noticed various mementos of a peace trip to North and South Korea that Mike had arranged when Congressman Gary Ackerman became the first person since Douglas McArthur to cross the 39th parallel which divides the two nations.
Event 3, Saturday morning: Mike took Senator Chuck Shumer to welcome Taiwan President Chen Shui-Bian to New York and announce Shumer was joining the newly formed Senate Taiwan Caucus to further ties between our two nations.
Mike’s commitment to public service began in the Democratic Clubs of Queens. At Thursday’s dinner I chatted with Mike’s longtime friend Jay Ivler who told me that Mike used to drag him down to meetings of the New Frontier Democratic Club back in the 70’s. After a brief teaching stint, in 1972 Mike was one of those young guys who were brought into government service when John Lindsay beat the odds and the system and was elected to government as a reformer — a Republican Liberal reformer. Mike stayed in government through 1978 first as Assistant to the Mayor and later as Commissioner of Neighborhood Government for Lindsay and then Abe
Beame. Mike was at the center of the creation of community boards.
It is a regular occurrence for me to encounter people that know Mike from those early days. Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum and DA Dick Brown were part of that Lindsay team.
I understood the City government stuff. I too have rubbed elbows and made friends with those folks who have run our City. What really surprises me about Mike is his Asian connection. Yes, Mike brings us Asian clients and friends — but that’s the smallest part. His network includes the very top government officials and business giants in the Far East as well as their counterparts here in our country.
At the Thursday night affair, I met Mike’s old friend Dr. Cecelia Chang, vice president of St. John’s and Dean of the Asian Studies program. In 1980, as president of his own company, Mike helped Cecelia put together the first government and business delegation to visit Taiwan. Queens Chamber
Prez, Citibank’s Peg Sweezy, Queens Beep Donald Manes, Congressman Jim
Scheuer, Councilmembers Archie Spigner and Ed Sadowsky were a few who went with them. It was that trip which established Queens County and
Taipai, the capital of Taiwan, as sister cities.
It also established Mike as a player in the Far East.
In 1984, in conjunction with President Reagan’s visit to China, Mike brought the first NBA all-star team on a tour of Asia. Cazzie Russell, Pete
Marovich, Rick Barry, Earl Monroe, player coach Phil Jackson and others were joined by a young Queens Assembly member and friend of Mike’s who used to star for the Queens College
hoopsters. Alan Hevesi still tells the story about getting 30 seconds of playing time, hitting a jumper from the top of the key and being taken out to remain the only player to shoot 100 percent on an NBA All-star team.
Mike, the ultimate networker, extended his reach to Korea, and Hong Kong. Some 15 years ago at his oldest son’s bar mitzvah, I met his friend, the publisher of Hong Kong’s largest newspaper.
They all came Thursday night to honor Michael and Claire (left) with a few of the elected officials present. (l. to r.): David & Mark Weprin, Mike, Claire, Toby stavisky, Jeff Aubry, Nettie Mayerson, Howard Pollack for Giff Miller. (Right): Helen Marshall, Mike & Lillian Schenkler; Chuck Schumer via tape from D.C.
The Ambassadors of both North and South Korea came to our office one day many years ago — separately. While these countries don’t talk, Mike had them focused on the same cause and out of it grew a remarkable journey. Ten years ago along with friend and ranking member of the House of Representative Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Asia and the Middle East, Gary Ackerman, he went to Korea. Gary crossed the 39th parallel and North and South Korea engaged in a dialogue that had long been non-existent. It was a significant step in a process that spans decades and Mike Nussbaum engineered it on the other side of my office wall.
This morning – as I write this – Chuck Schumer, the senior Senator from New York, became the first Democrat from the Northeast to join the U.S. Senate Taiwan Caucus, declaring himself a friend of Taiwan, a country that has been alienated from the world community by the power, force, size and insistence of mainland China. Michael helped orchestrate the move. He first started pitching me aggressively on the need to help Taiwan when the World Health Organization outrageously excluded them from help during the recent Far East SARS epidemic.
Yes, Mike always saw the need to, as Schumer said, “strengthen our ties to Taiwan to spread democracy, respect for human rights, and economic prosperity.” But Mike became more passionate when political brinkmanship crossed the health care lines. Denying Taiwan the medical resources available to every other nation in the world caused Michael to get involved. And again, working from the other side of that office wall, Michael made a difference.
Finally, I can’t possibly share with you Mike’s many credentials in the Jewish community, but he recently served as the Met region President of the American Jewish Congress. His commitment to Israel is tempered by human reality and the compelling need for mutual
comunication. Although Mike has devoted himself to supporting Israel, he has demonstrated in the Middle East, like he has in the Far East, that peace through understanding is the ultimate roadmap.
He couples his international involvement with a commitment to our community at home. Walk the Walk, America’s first shelter for abused seniors, the NY Hall of Science, NYHQ Advisory Board, CUNY’s Jewish Studies Center, Queensborough Community College’s Holocaust Resource Center are all part of a long list of organizations that Mike has served.
And how does all of this further the mission of the Tribune?
When the world is a better place to live, so is Queens.
Michael Nussbaum knew long before Queens became the most multi-cultural place on earth that the global community must unite for the sake of us all. From the other side of my office wall, he has dedicated himself to those efforts.
Michael is one person I know who has made a difference.
I’m proud to call him a friend.
Next time you see him, thank him and give him a kiss from me.
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
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