EDITOR’S NOTE: ‘POLITICS FROM HERE’ WILL BE A WEEKLY COLUMN PRESENTED IN OUR PAPERS AND ONLINE
Among journalists, leaving the fourth estate to work the media in government or business is referred to as, “going over to the dark side.” I’ve spent the last couple of years as a Director of Communications with the New York City Council, after a five-year stint as a reporter for The Courier – and now, thanks to publisher Victoria Schneps-Yunis,
I’ve more or less re-emerged as a political columnist.
My roots may be in far-northeast Queens (I spent nearly 10 years on Community Board 11, including two years as vice-chair), but I hope to bring you interesting insights into just what’s going on throughout our borough and the city at large, with a little help from my friends – maybe even the “friends” who don’t really like me.
All I can promise is honesty and fairness as best I see it, presented with good humor wherever possible, pointedly where necessary. But as my old college professor used to say, “It is the duty of the intellectual to speak truth to power.” So here goes.
After the largest turnover in city government since the loyalists went back to England after the Revolution, everyone is scrambling to get their offices and staffs up and running, no mean task with nearly half of the City Council being replaced. As of Sunday, email still had Bill de Blasio as Public Advocate. Hopefully, all the phones will be connected and email accounts set up before the business of governance gets going in earnest.
This past weekend saw packed houses for the swearings-in of Councilmembers Paul Vallone at P.S. 169 in Bay Terrace on Saturday, and Rory Lancman in LeFrak Hall at Queens College on Sunday. Newly-minted Public Advocate Letitia James (“call me Tish”) and City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and City Council Speaker-hopeful Dan Garodnick had prominent places on the stages, along with a bevy of current and former elected officials, including Flushing’s own John Liu, who was enthusiastically received.
James is basking in the warmth (heat really) of the reception to her inaugural address and unapologetic for the tone, admitting that she wasn’t going to let national coverage go to waste. Stringer, a Courier reader who used to visit his uncle at a nursing home in downtown Flushing, also had no trouble finding his way out here.
Borough President Melinda Katz, to be sworn the day this paper comes out, is putting the finishing touches on her staff and laughingly confirmed to me that among the pleasures of her office, she was glad to have other people sing the National Anthem for a change.
Lancman’s predecessor, Jim Gennaro, presided at his ceremony and is being tight-lipped about his future at an “important” post because “it isn’t official.” Given his starring role in the anti-fracking documentary “Gasland,” (the ever-humble Lancman, who was also in the film, noted that neither of them was invited for the sequel) maybe “Gentleman Jim” will be protecting the environment. Then again, there’s always the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting.
Melissa Mark-Viverito – unanimously elected Speaker of the Council on Wednesday – arrived late to the events, no doubt pressed for time in advance of the vote. The tabloids had been turning her biography and finances inside out, perhaps looking to affect the outcome, but to no avail. The Bible may say that the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong – but the smart money knows that’s the way to bet it.