Barrett: De Blasio Aims Low With Misleading Mailers
It's odd that Bill de Blasio has struck the pose that going negative is what Mark Green always does. De Blasio happens to be my councilman and I've gotten at least two mailings from him that were naked hits on Green with no redeeming value. Green has yet to do that. I even got one de Blasio mailer since the primary, and was reading it as I watched de Blasio do his derisive dismissal of the supposed perennial attack dog and loser Green on television.
De Blasio's literature opens on the front page with five phony Green buttons, noting that he lost four out of five races, from Congress in 1980 to Attorney General in 2006. There is no mention of the Democratic primaries he won for U.S. Senate in 1986 and mayor in 2001, even though Mark and Bill are squaring off right now in a Democratic primary. By lumping Green's victories for Public Advocate together, de Blasio also minimizes the fact that Green has twice won citywide, which is a far better record than de Blasio, who tried to become council speaker in 2005 and couldn't get enough votes among the council members who know him best to formally test Christine Quinn in the final tally. Actually, de Blasio is zero for two since he abandoned a race for borough president this year.
The flip side of the mailer, though, is really smarmy...
"Mark Green Will Do Anything To Get Back in Office," de Blasio booms in all caps, proving that "Bill De Blasio Will Do Anything To Get Into Citywide Office For the First Time." The sheet rails about Mark's real estate baron of a brother, Stephen Green, charging Mark with taking money from Stephen's real estate company, "which was involved in one of New York's biggest tax scandals, a scheme that cheated New York City taxpayer's out of $160 million." I actually wrote a serious piece about Mark's possible conflicts with his brother's real estate interests in 2001 when Mark was running for mayor, and there certainly are legitimate concerns about how those interests might impact Mark if he took over City Hall (a lot less so if he were to become Public Advocate again).
But de Blasio isn't about to waste good campaign dollars on so subtle an issue. He instead tries to suggest that Stephen Green might be a culprit in a giant tax scandal. The mailer cites a March 1, 2002 piece in the Times as its proof. Green is named as one of many major landlords who used a tax consultant named Albert Schlussler, who was indicted for fixing assessments on more than 550 prime Manhattan properties. Green owned 16 of them, and the Times story quotes Howard Rubenstein, who handled public relations for Green and other involved landlords, as saying that they had "not the slightest inkling of any wrongdoing" on Schlussler's part. Obviously, that's a self-serving statement, but it also happens to have never been disputed by anyone. The 85-year-old Schlussler pled not guilty, had a stroke and died a few months later.
De Blasio mentor Andrew Cuomo didn't even try to whack Green with this wild charge in the bitter 2006 race for Attorney General. He initially raised questions about Stephen Green's participation in a bid to get the state's racing franchise, but then Stephen gave Andrew $50,000. Schlussler never came up.
De Blasio is an excellent councilman. He'd be a good Public Advocate as well, though he might be more of a Union Advocate. His cousin, John Wilhelm, is the national president of the 265,000-member Unite/HERE union that represents garment, hotel and restaurant workers who have a multiplicity of interests before the city. De Blasio and his wife have been carried on the Service Employees union payroll as well, and he sponsored a council bill in 2005 that primarily protected the union his cousin ran and the one he'd worked for. I think it's actually a shingle house that de Blasio owns in Brooklyn, but there must be some glass involved as well.
Take a look, for example, at the single strangest contribution in the PA race. Al D'Amato's wife Katuria maxed out to Bill de Blasio, giving him $4,950 in August. Big Al, the former Republican senator and lobbyist known for collecting a half million dollar fee for making a single phone call, could be seen boosting de Blasio's candidacy on NY1 last night, where he appears as the only "Wiseguy" to have actually been picked up on FBI surveillances on meetings with the real wiseguys, including the heads of almost every crime family in New York. De Blasio is virtually the only Democrat Katuria D'Amato has ever given to, dipping into her purse last year for giants like Staten Island Congressman Vito Fossella. She gave Fossella the max -- $2,300 -- two weeks after he was busted on DWI charges and it was revealed that he had a second family in Virginia.
Katuria was 38 when she married the 66-year-old D'Amato in 2004. She met him in 1999 at a Rudy Giuliani fundraiser (he was planning to run against de Blasio's future employer Hillary Clinton then). Katuria was then suing the University of Washington Law School. The case, filed by a conservative group and eventually thrown out, charged that she'd been denied admission because she was white, which might make for some interesting pillow talk in de Blasio's home (his wife is black). We reached Katuria at her husband's lobbying firm and when we asked her why she was contributing to de Blasio, she hung up in a snit (her association with the firm makes her one of many lobbyists who prefer de Blasio over Green). She is listed in various places as working at the lobbying firm, called Park Strategies, having found a law school in Seattle that took her despite her skin color. While dating D'Amato, she clerked for a federal judge, Loretta Preska, whose appointment D'Amato had engineered when he was in the senate (this was apparently a fair selection process in Katuria's view).
"I have known Senator D'Amato from my work at HUD," de Blasio said through a spokesman, "and while I have gone against him on many issues, I believe it's important to gain the trust of all people, despite disagreements." Connecting D'Amato's name to HUD might not be the smartest comment de Blasio has made in this campaign -- since HUD was the focus of so many D'Amato investigations, some triggered by Mark Green no less (who filed ethics complaints against D'Amato in the 1980s), that de Blasio risks stirring memories of just how often Green has stood up to the dark side whose trust de Blasio says he wants to gain.
But de Blasio seems to think that all references to that past just prove what a relic Green is. He's ridiculed Green's emphasis on his track record as Public Advocate, deriding it as ancient history, even as he simultaneously attacks Green for bowing after 9/11 to Rudy Giuliani's pressure to extend his term by three months. All Bill wants us to remember is Green's error from that era, not the muscular way Green stood up to Giuliani when he was king, and the fact that he did it so effectively that Rudy tried to change the charter to kill the office itself. People all over town got upset when Leslie Crocker Snyder made blatantly ageist attacks against Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau (he was 86 and seeking re-election in 2005). De Blasio has turned 64-year-old Green into a fart before his time (actually Mark had gray hair as a kid).
There is a fair and effective way to run against Mark Green and announce that it's time for a new generation. De Blasio has a few days left before next Tuesday's runoff to discover it.
Research Assistance: Steve Ercolani, Kate Rose, Amanda Sakuma, Aaron Howell, Grace Smith
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.