The History of Rudy

Giuliani's files are (mostly) back in public hands. Why did they leave in the first place?

Four years later, the furor is gone. Many critics of the records deal have stopped following the archives story. And now the records are back. The obvious question is: Why did Giuliani take them in the first place?

Cobb says Giuliani's archivists did exactly what the city archives would have done, only faster; his office has yet to process all of David Dinkins's papers. That's partly because of resource limits, and also because historians usually wait about a generation before delving into the documents of an ex-mayor.

Of course, interest might come sooner for would-be candidate Rudy. So Cobb says the staff of the municipal archives is working on a more user-friendly way to access the material, including possibly putting the digital copies produced by the Giuliani Center on the Web.

The idea's been floated before. In late 2003, former deputy mayor Tony Coles told the New York Post that "all the documents will be available on the Web in a way that's never been done before." There was also talk of gathering $20 million in donations and establishing a research center at a local university. Former mayors often donate their papers to colleges. The archive that Lie- berman runs at LaGuardia College handles documents not only from LaGuardia but also Beame, Robert Wagner, and Ed Koch. Dinkins's material was donated to Columbia (where staff tells the Voice that the processing of those papers is stalled).

It's unclear if the efforts to create a public center or a website for Giuliani's materials have gone anywhere. Calls to the phone number listed on the Giuliani Center's tax returns, the attorney representing the mayor in the FOIL action due in court this week, and Giuliani's consulting group Giuliani Partners were not returned by press time.

In the three tax years in which it has filed, the center has raised about $1.5 million. But it has spent more than that and was $144,932 in the hole at the end of 2004. Almost a million bucks went to Winthrop, the center's archivists. Most of the rest was paid to the Fortress—the secure storage facility in Long Island City where the files went.

"I think what Giuliani and his colleagues discovered was how expensive it is to conserve and index a collection," says Lieberman. "The world of archives is labor-intensive. There are no shortcuts."

Cobb says he's "100 percent confident" that he'll get everything that left the city's hands. "We're dependent very much on what their staff do. We just take what's left when they leave," Cobb says, but adds: "People that create [these records] are not idiots. They don't leave smoking gun papers in files because they know they are going to be in the public domain eventually anyway."

But NYPIRG's Gene Russianoff says, "There's always going to be a cloud over these records because there was a break in the chain of custody. It is very hard to know about records that aren't there."

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