By Alana Horowitz
Rudy Giuliani can’t even go on vacation these days without ruffling political feathers.
The former mayor — who recently embroiled himself in Florida politics by endorsing Marco Rubio for Senate instead of current Governor and frenemy Charlie Crist — is finding himself at the center of another local controversy. Since 2004, Giuliani has owned a condo in Palm Beach Towers, one of the most prominent opponents in a recent battle over whether or not to develop a nearby historical site. Luckily, his pal Bill Diamond is fighting for their cause.
Like Giuliani, Diamond is a New York transplant. He was one of Giuliani’s top Republican appointees and ran the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services, the agency that oversees city assets and contracts. The two were so close that Giuliani even officiated Diamond’s wedding.
Diamond is best known for, as head of DCAS, his instrumental role in helping the then-mayor secure his infamous $61 million dollar command center at 7 WTC. When the site was destroyed on 9/11, the city’s emergency operations were left without a headquarters to help mobilize a response and Giuliani did nothing but blame an aide for the mistake. Diamond again helped out his friend by giving $4,400 to Giuliani’s 2008 failed presidential run. He offered another $2,100, but federal contribution limits forced the campaign to return to donation.
The multi-millionaire Diamond retired to Palm Beach and was elected to its town council last February. Once again, he’s protecting a Giuliani nest as the sole councilmember opposed to renovating the landmark in question — the Royal Poinciana Plaza, an old playhouse/retail complex down the street from Giuliani’s condo. Supporters of redevelopment contend that replacing the playhouse with new condos and stores could be a great way to boost the town’s economy. However, Palm Beach Towers residents are wary of the traffic and congestion that construction could bring to their peaceful neighborhood.
“There are a lot of people who are concerned with it, but they’re the most readily affected,” Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Bill Cooley said.
The town council voted in 2008 to landmark the site, protecting it from renovation, but changed its mind last May and voted 4-1 to consider a plan by local developers Sterling Palm Beach. Diamond was the sole nay. He also recently voted to kill a long-debated rezoning proposal that would have facilitated development.
When Sterling pulled out last month, Diamond was not shy about celebrating his victory.
“I thought the Sterling proposal, with the condos on the lake, would not only have destroyed the theater, it would have tainted the character of the town,” he said.
Councilman Richard Kleid blamed a “vocal minority,” opposed to the increase in density and traffic that development would bring, for dictating the direction of the town in regards to the future of the area.
So it looks like another one of Rudy Giuliani’s favorite places is safe thanks to Diamond, who, by the way, gave $1,000 last month to the Giuliani-endorsed Marco Rubio. With friends like these, who needs majorities?