Education

Cathie Black Gets a Free Pass from Business Pal Mort Zuckerman’s Editorial Page

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By Lily Altavena

As backlash to Cathie Black’s appointment as chancellor of New York City public schools mounts, the mayor remains mum while others question why he chose someone with such a lack of experience in education.

The Daily News‘ editorial board hasn’t asked that question. Maybe it’s because Black has conducted big real-estate deals with Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman. (Calls to Zuckerman weren’t returned.)

While the paper’s actual news coverage of Black’s appointment has shown balance, including a Michael Daly column that acknowledged the new chancellor’s lack of experience in education, the editorial page is another story. The paper’s “Cathie Black was an Inspired Choice by Mayor Bloomberg to Replace Chancellor Joel Klein” took 13 paragraphs to gush about the former CEO of Hearst Magazines, citing not one flaw.

On the other hand, the Times took a more sober stance on the selection, listing the problems that Joel Klein had faced during his tenure as chancellor, and ending with an ominous warning to the state education commissioner, who has the power to veto a waiver that would officially make Black chancellor: “David Steiner, the state education commissioner, needs to thoroughly vet Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed successor, the media executive Cathleen Black, to determine if she is up to the job.”

The only real criticism of Black on the News‘s editorial page is from readers, where one quipped, “Hiring Cathie Black to be schools chancellor makes about as much sense as the circus hiring a plumber to be lion tamer.”

Black, the News own editorial writers said, “is an accomplished woman with a proven ability to reshape large organizations.” They’re absolutely correct that Black knows how to conduct business with large organizations — one of them is Boston Properties, Zuckerman’s real estate company.

Back when Black was CEO of Hearst, she sold several buildings in the 55th Street area to Boston Properties and Madison Equities for $160 million, according to the Observer. Zuckerman and Madison Equities had planned to build an 850,000-square-foot office tower at 250 West 55th Street, but plans fell through in February of last year.

In 2001, the News was the only big daily to endorse Bloomberg. Of course, at that time, Bloomberg held a half-million dollars in stock in Boston Properties, as reported by the Voice in 2008. In fact, Zuckerman himself has endorsed every candidate that Bloomberg has, including Reshma Saujani, who was widely criticized for her close ties to Wall Street. The relationship between Bloomberg and Zuckerman doesn’t end there. The mayor signed off on air rights for Zuckerman’s property on 250 West 55th, the same parcel Black’s company sold to Boston Properties.