Bloomy’s New Crew Sends a Message

The New Mayor Adds—and Subtracts—at City Hall

Another candidate for retention was Jason Turner, the welfare sharpshooter imported by Giuliani from Wisconsin to impose a new, draconian workfare program. Turner's policies helped Giuliani earn conservative applause for pushing hundreds of thousands of people off the dole. But he also embroiled the administration in controversy after he recommended the award of a $1 billion consulting contract to a firm with which he had close ties. Bloomberg opted not to keep Turner, choosing instead the director of a counseling and education center for homeless gay youths.

New HRA commissioner Verna Eggleston, who is black and openly gay, quit her job as head of the Hetrick Martin Institute last summer to work for the Bloomberg campaign. Some advocates worried that she lacked the experience to handle the mammoth agency, but the loudest sounds heard were sighs of relief that Turner was gone.

"That man put into effect the most repressive policies against poor people I have ever seen," said Kathy Goldman, of Community Food Resource Exchange. "I don't know Eggleston, but to have a black gay woman coming from the Hetrick Martin Institute instead of that Wisconsin dairy farmer who wanted to push all the poor into the East River, that's a real difference."

Michael Bloomberg with new deputy Dennis Walcott
photo: Richard B. Levine
Michael Bloomberg with new deputy Dennis Walcott

In the end, the Giuliani holdovers were not the cronies and spear-carriers, but the grunts who got the tough jobs done, often in spite of City Hall. Bloomberg left in place sanitation chief John Doherty, who came off the trucks years ago to help bring better management to the agency. He also kept Housing Preservation and Development commissioner Jerilyn Perine who rose through hard work, not politics, and whose contributions merited barely a public nod from Giuliani.

There are still vacancies to fill, and the rumor mills are stoked with talk that some of the deadest patronage wood that Giuliani shoveled into the smaller agencies could still survive. But the overall sentiment was voiced by one wag who last week walked through the City Hall rotunda singing, "Ding dong, the witch is dead."

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