Bells, bells, bells

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I begin on a sad note. Journalists are a tribe and we lost a brother last week. Photographer Ira Cohen passed away suddenly. Ira was a Vietnam veteran and retired MTA employee. His snowy moustache (and sometimes dreadlocks), were often to be seen in the background – while the “important” people were in the foreground. He had elbows as sharp as anybody when he needed to get the shot, but shared info, from finding the best vantage point to the shortest buffet line. He will be missed.


We continued ringing in the new political year with the swearing-in of Queens Beep Melinda Katz last Thursday night, in a packed-to-the-rafters ceremony at Queens College’s LeFrak Concert Hall.

There were so many elected officials that emcee (and Katz political mentor) Assemblymember Jeff Aubrey couldn’t remember them all. So many people called out missed-names, Aubrey quipped it was “the audience participation part of the program.”

Despite the rousing applause for all the luminaries, the showbiz adage that you can’t upstage a child was proved when hubby Sliwa brought the Katz ‘n’ Curtis kids, Carter and Hunter, on stage. The tykes continued to steal the limelight from the balcony, while Curtis beamed from the sideline.

The program began with a retrospective of Melinda’s life and career, with a focus on her father David, who founded the Queens Symphony Orchestra, and her firm belief that “we should never have to go over a bridge or under a tunnel to find what we deserve here in Queens.”

Congressmember Joe Crowley (who placed third in the tiptoe-tallness competition with Mayor de Blasio and the towering winner, Aubrey) held the Old Testament that Mel inherited from her dad, while Hizzoner administered the oath.

Katz kudos came in many forms, from Crowley’s biblical references, to Public Advocate Tish James’ riff on “I’m a Woman” (not Helen Reddy’s anthem – Peggy Lee famously covered Christine Kittrell on the Leiber and Stoller tune).

The usual star speaker, Senator Chuck Schumer, arrived after the ceremony (flight delay) and with a flourish, tore up his notes – though he kept the pieces.

As we supposed last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo rang for Jim Gennaro to be Deputy Commissioner for New York City Sustainability and Resiliency at the Department of Environmental Conservation. He’ll interface between the state’s science guys and the city to combat future storm catastrophes. Given Gentleman Jim’s strong scientific background and just about universal respect around City Hall, looks like the Gov got the best man for the job.

Cuomo’s State of the State alarm bell about LaGuardia Airport came a day after an article by Ted Mann in The Wall Street Journal noted that the Port Authority (PA) has already earmarked $600 million for improvements – with some work already underway.

Four teams of bidders are reportedly vying for “the most complicated construction project in the country,” to replace the main passenger terminal,  while keeping the airport up and running. The winner could be selected in April or May.

The PA also answers to Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey – who may have ringing in his ears thanks to the “Bridgegate” scandal. Maybe he’ll tread lightly (no pun intended) on this matter.

Here’s hoping our governor can speed things up and keep costs down – the estimate on this project is 15 years and $3.6 billion – but if past is prologue, that could just cover the office supplies. Stay tuned.

Speaking of ringing out the old, unsuccessful Republican candidate for the 19th Council District Dennis Saffran was injured in a cycling accident last month and may require surgery to repair nerve damage in his right arm. “I avoided a car that was going to hit me, but I hit a tree,” he explained.  A couple of weeks after losing the election, he lost his job in a bloodbath at the Nassau County Attorney’s Office and then this, on the day of his Christmas party. They say bad things come in threes… here’s to a better 2014, Dennis.