In the final few minutes of the final debate Republican candidate Joe Lhota tried to convince voters he is not the ice water-veined bureaucrat he’s been portrayed as since declaring he would not stop the subway to protect a pair of mangy kittens.
“I’m not the anti-kitten candidate,” Lhota said. The former director of the M.T.A. tried to explain why the subway can’t be stopped for every single cat or kitten: “We have thousands of cats, literally thousands of cats, that are in the subway system every single day, day and night, scurrying across the tracks and they don’t get killed.”
He insisted, “I never said I wanted to kill a cat, all I said, all I actually said, was that we shouldn’t burden the passengers of the New York subway system.”
Lhota’s is essentially a “for the greater good” argument: if a couple of felines “regardless of their size” must be sacrificed in order to ensure New Yorkers make it to work on time, so be it.
In that way, Lhota’s views on subway kittens are not unlike his views on the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslims.
Earlier in the debate, Lhota told moderator Melissa Russo that Muslim New Yorkers understand that their privacy must be sacrificed for the greater good of preventing another major terrorist attack.
“I’ve been to many mosques, Melissa. And I’ve talked to them about it. They understand. They know that not all Muslims are terrorists and are violent. They’re fully aware of it. I will work with those communities to make them feel welcomed in New York.”
Lhota said he would continue surveillance of mosques and Muslim-owned businesses. He credited the program implemented by Ray Kelly as the primary reason the city has not experienced a major terrorist attack since September 11, 2001.
“The reason why we haven’t had further 9/11s in New York is because of the great work of Ray Kelly and the NYPD,” Lhota said. “As soon as he got into office he revamped the NYPD so that there was a focus on intelligence and counter intelligence in the City of New York. I will continue it, I will enhance it, and as I’ve said prior to this, I’d like to keep Ray Kelly as the police commissioner.”
Lhota’s defense of Kelly’s work came the same day the Times‘ editorial board published a scathing indictment of the “indefensible program of spying on law-abiding Muslims in their neighborhoods and houses.”
The editorial board called details of the program unearthed in a new AP report, “reminiscent of discredited police efforts in the 1960s and 1970s to spy on black activists and antiwar protesters.”
Send story tips to the author, Tessa Stuart
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 9, 2013