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Articles by: Jerry Krase

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    Verrazzano and the Discovery of Staten Island


    If anyone were to take a stroll through almost any commercial section of New York City today and take in the many sights, smells, and sounds that surround them, they couldn’t help but to notice the impact of Italians on our fair city.


    From ubiquitous Pizza Parlors in virtually every neighborhood, including those in Orthodox Jewish areas such as Borough Park which are “Kosher” and those in Moslem communities which advertise that they are “Halal,” to rarefied accessory shops and boutiques on our most elegant avenues of Manhattan, “Italian” is a household name in New York. At a much deeper level, “America’s City,” or “Gotham” as it is also known, is also very Italian. As Frank J. Cavaioli, wrote in “American Colonial Italian American Historiography:” Italian Americans have had a lasting impact on the development of early America. Peter Sammartino (1904-1992), founder of Fairleigh Dickinson University and a strong advocate of Italian American History, advanced this point by stating, “If we take the sum total of the influences of philosophy, of government, and in jurisprudence, discoveries, exploration, the influence on literature, on music, on art, on architecture and on science, then America would not have been the country it is without the contributions of Italians, and this stretches from the thirteen to the nineteenth centuries.”



    We certainly must begin our historical journey in this volume with the story of how Staten Island came to be first sighted by Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524. In the early part of the Sixteenth Century, what we know of New England, and the Middle Atlantic States of the United States of America were hardly explored, by Europeans that is. Florida had been discovered by expeditions financed by Spain, and the more northern Atlantic regions were already frequented by the English and Portuguese. In fact these more northern areas were for more than a century well-known fishing and whaling areas. Some European monarchs and traders, thought perhaps that somewhere between the northern and southern realms of the New World there was more direct route to the East and sent out many expeditions to investigate.

     

    Once such monarch was Francis I of France. King Francis I did as so many others of the time had done; he chose an Italian, in this case the well-seasoned mariner Giovanni da Verrazzano to head the French-financed expedition to find a shorter western route to China and bring back its riches. Most historians believe that Giovanni Verrazzano was born in 1485 at his family's castle, Castello Verrazzano, near the city of Florence. Later, as a young man he traveled to France, learned the seafarer’s trade and became a successful captain.

     

    For the costly and potentially dangerous search for the illusionary middle passage to the Orient, Verrazzano was outfitted with a total of four vessels by the King of France. Rather quickly two were quickly lost to the waves and another was sent back home with loot from raids made along the Spanish coast. The last of the four, his own flagship, La Dauphine, measured 100 tuns and had a crew of fifty men that included his mapmaker brother Girolamo da Verrazzano. It is important to note that it was Giovanni’s brother Girolamo’s 1529 Map of the World which, along with that of the Western Hemisphere by another mapmaker, Vesconte de Maggiolo, in 1527, that documented for posterity Verrazzano’s many discoveries.

     

                On this particular trip in search of a shorter western passage Giovanni Verrazzano made a few stops along what are today the Carolina coastlines on his way northward. As he sailed along the shorelines he passed by, without notice, several major bays and estuaries. At the time, the vast extent of the North American continent was not well known. Large bays and estuaries were seen as possible entrances into passages to the Orient. Verrazzano continued northward until he reached what we now know of as the coast of New Jersey.  It was at this point that he stumbled upon the vast outer Bay of New York into which he sailed. Where this larger bay narrowed he anchored La Dauphine which was just at the entrance to a well sheltered and very deep harbor.

     

    This is how he described his brief visit:

    “The people are almost like unto the others, and clad with feather of fowls of diverse colors. They came towards us very cheerfully, making great shouts of admiration, showing us where we might come to land most safely with our boat. We entered up the said river into the land about half a league, where it made a most pleasant lake [the Upper bay] about 3 leagues in compass; on the which they rowed from the one side to the other, to the number of 30 in their small boats, wherein were many people, which passed from one shore to the other to come and see us. And behold, upon the sudden (as it is wont to fall out in sailing) a contrary flaw of wind coming from the sea, we were enforced to return to our ship, leaving this land, to our great discontentment for the great commodity and pleasantness thereof, which we suppose is not without some riches, all the hills showing mineral matters in them. “ ( Morrison 1971)

     

                Verrazzano’s last voyage to explore the New World was in the year 1528 and it was during this trip that he came to his rather horrible demise. Having had mostly good experiences with the native Americans he encountered elsewhere on his several trips he was led to believe that he would receive much the same treatment after landing on an island in the Carribean. Instead of the predicted hospitality by friendly peoples, he and his crew encountered instead a violent reception by a hostile tribe that proceeded to capture and then kill him. As his brother Giralomo and the rest of the crew observed with horror from the deck of La Dauphine they also butchered him on shore. Even more gruesomely, they proceeded to roast some pieces of the renowned explorer over a fire and then consume them as they watched from the ship. Excerpted from: Chapter I, "Verrazano and the Discovery of Staten Island ",

    The Staten Island Italian American Experience, Staten Island: The DaVinci Society of Wagner College, 2007.

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    Andrew Cuomo: Tribulations and Perhaps Trials



    It seems that Andy, the least lovable child of Mario, is in deeper stuff than usual. The New Times reported recently that he “hobbled” (zoppicato) investigations by the powerful Moreland Commission he himself had established to root out corruption, when it got too close to home. According to Susanne Craig, William K. Rashbaum and Thomas Kaplan “ It was barely two months old when its investigators, hunting for violations of campaign-finance laws, issued a subpoena to a media-buying firm that had placed millions of dollars’ worth of advertisements for the New York State Democratic Party.” Unfortunately they didn’t know that Andy bought campaign airtime from them in 2010. When Cuomo’s most senior aide, Lawrence S. Schwarz found out he called one of the commission’s three co-chairs, William J. Fitzpatrick, the district attorney in Syracuse and directed him to “Pull it back.” Although Andy said “…he had every right to monitor and direct the work of a commission “ “many commissioners and investigators saw the demands as politically motivated interference that hamstrung an undertaking that the governor had publicly vowed would be independent.” Andy nixed the commission after nine of its eighteen-month shelf life.  As he gears up for a (hoped for) re-run in November, federal prosecutor Preeht Bharara is looking into his role in the shutdown and has taken up the commission’s unfinished business. To add more fuel to the ethics fire, Andy evidently intends to use New York State funds in case he faces criminal charges. Even worse (ancora peggio) than all these troubles, the New York Times denied him their expected endorsement in the upcoming (September 9th) Democratic Party Primary Election where he will face an, until recently, virtual unknown law professor (Zephyr Teachout).

    There are two different ways to think about the current troubles of Governor Cuomo II. The first is that he is an especially corrupt politician. The second is to think that Andy is, unlike his father, a “normal” politician who makes decisions based primarily on how it will affect his future as opposed to his saintly reputation (reputazione di santo). Having spent much of my long life both studying and being at times too involved in politics, my sense is that Andy is not especially ethically challenged. For example, ex-Kings County District Attorney Charles Joseph Hynes who is now under the ethics microscope for prosecutorial misconduct had such a squeaky clean reputation that he, like Andy’s father, headed several major and very sensitive statewide investigations. The idea that Andy would be unwilling to investigate, and possibly harm, those who helped him get elected is hardly shocking as it is SPOP (standard political operating procedure). The only politicians who go after their friends are those who have never been in office, or are out of the business.

    In the interest of journalistic integrity I should note that I did a lot of work in Mario Cuomo’s gubernatorial and Major Owens’ congressional campaigns in 1982. In fact I coordinated some of their local campaign efforts in Brooklyn. After they both won, for my troubles as a volunteer (volontario), I was asked if I wanted a “job.” My reply was “No thanks.” I already had a professor “job” which most nine-to-fivers consider a “no show” one. I did say that I would accept, if offered, a pro bono position in an area of my interests. Soon thereafter I received a letter of my gubernatorial appointment to the New York State Council for the Humanities on which I proudly served until George Pataki became governor at which point I resigned. I also campaigned for recently elected New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio. Shortly after he was elected I was asked to fill out an on-line form indicating how I might help his administration.  Thereupon I also registered my lack of interest in doing anything more than serving pro bono in areas such as civil or human rights (diritti civili o umani). I have yet to hear from Bill, so I guess he has more important things to worry about such as how toe at pizza with only his hands.

    Other political folks for whom I have done something for nothing much include then newly elected (1983) Congressman (now U.S. Senator) Chuck Schumer (Military Academy Candidate Review Board) are too numerous to mention. One elected official to whom I will be eternally grateful kept me out of Rikers Island Prison after a false arrest (falso arresto). Finally, in reference to political friends and enemies I must tell the story of a relative-in-law who was angry that he didn’t get a job for which he wasn’t qualified. He asked me to “look into it” for him. When I spoke to the patronage boss (capo di clientelare) I was told that my relative-in-law didn’t have the requirements for the position and that given the scrutiny of an earlier Moreland Commission the organization wanted to make sure that all appointments were solid. In politics the general patronage rule is that if there are two people qualified for the job and one is a friend, guess who gets it? PS: When friends don’t get what they think they deserve, they become your enemies.

    Andy’s troubles might also be the Post-FDR curse (maladetto) placed on all New York State governors who even think of becoming President. Nelson Rockefeller failed three times (1964, 68, 72) Mario went nowhere even after the best speech ever heard at a Democratic Party National Convention (1984).  For George Pataki, Elliot Spitzer, and David Patterson the office, for various other, and infinitely better, reasons, was also a dead end. It is also possible that Andy’s troubles are partly a consequence of the sins of his father (peccati di suo padre) Mario. All politics is not only local it is also very personal and both Mario and son Andy made lots of enemies along their oft-shared pathways to higher office.  The rap against Mario was that he thought he was smarter than everyone else (which he was) and the rap against Andrew is that he thinks he is. Perhaps Andrew learned at least one lesson from his father and is trying not to piss off his friends and thereby make more enemies.

               According to unnamed (sensa nome) sources Andy has never been a particularly popular guy. His positive qualities have always been draped around his competence and his no-nonsense, clean-as-a-whistle doggedness, so his current troubles have made him much more vulnerable than anyone expected in his second term election campaign. As noted,
    Zephyr Teachout has been attracting increasing support in her challenge to him in the Democratic Party Primary.  Andy failed in his attempt to keep her off the ballot and, although she might not even come close to winning the battle, the war on Andrew's governorship and especially his higher office (Presidential?) aspirations is certain to continue.

  • Op-Eds

    Rather Grimm Fairytales


    Ex-New York City Council Member Dominic M. Recchia (D) is running hard to fill the somewhat dirty shoes of incumbent Congressman Michael Grimm (R) with the avid support of State Senator Diane Savino (D) and Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D). However, I must warn all of the “Ds” that strange things have happened to those unlucky enough to be elected to represent Staten Islanders (and South Brooklyner’s) in Congress ever since la famiglia Molinari) decided they had better things to do with their time. It’s like someone has cast an evil eye (malocchio) on the most conservative seat in New York City.

     

    Recently The New York Times Editorial Board with a rare, almost FoxNewsian, sense of black humor noted that the “Republicans Have a Grimm Problem”

    “Representative Michael Grimm, the only Republican in New York City’s congressional delegation, was indicted last week on charges of tax fraud. He insists he is innocent, but these charges come at a particularly bad time for his fellow Republicans. A former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, Mr. Grimm was already in trouble with many voters after he was shown on television threatening to throw a NY1 reporter off a balcony. Now he is accused of operating a restaurant illegally.”

    Once upon a time in the good old days of Statenislandia, Republican Party Stalwart Guy Molinari represented it in the U.S. Congress (1983-1989) when he left voluntarily to become Staten Island Borough President. As if by magic, he was replaced in a “special election” by his daughter Susan who, in turn, resigned from office in1997, just after giving the keynote speech at the Republican National Convention. She left to co-host CBS’s Saturday Morning Live. Subsequently she became Google’s top lobbyist and one of Elle’s 10 most influential D.C. women. However, for those who have filled her accursed shoes it’s been all downhill.

    When Susan left her dad helped his protégé, Vito Fossella (D, C, RTL), to replace his fair-haired daughter in another “special” election. Vito ran and won as a regular “family values” guy, voting for example to impeach Bill Clinton for his moral turpitude and for the Marriage Protection Act. After four terms mostly agreeing with Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, Fossella was arreasted while driving drunk on the way to visit his gumada (mistress) and their three-year old child. As to other lapses, Fossella was accused of misusing campaign funds for personal expenses and family vacations, to which he replied honesty “Mistakes have been made.” Advised by his ex-mentor Molinari one might assume, Vito decided not to run for re-election in 2008.


    The embarrassed and disgraced Fosella was followed into the ill-fated office by DINO (Democrat in Name Only) Michael McMahon (D?) who spent only one term in Washington (2009-11). Ironically, the Times had endorsed Mike as a “Less-Liberal Democrat” who supported capital punishment as well as offshore drilling. While in office McMahon completed his right-leaning shape-shift and, among other things Republican, voted against what Democrats praise as the “Affordable Obama Care Act,” and Mike’s new friends condemn as “Obamacare.” As The Staten island Advance reported it just before his losing reelection bid: “At first blush, Rep. Michael McMahon said he's yet to see anything in President Barack Obama's revamped health care plan that would make him vote for it. ‘I haven't seen enough to have me come off my 'no' vote,’ ‘I don't see anything that would make me change my position.’" Democrats therefore saw little reason to support him in 2011 and the right-leaning McMahon was followed by a real right-winger and RINO (Republican In Name Only) Michael Grimm.  

    As another Molinari protégé, Grimm was the perfect conservative candidate to take back the seat. A decorated ex-marine, U.S. Marshall, and FBI undercover agent, he was backed by Sarah Palin, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Tea Party folks. Grimm was victorious over McMahon only to be hoisted by his own Law and Order petard (petardo) by being accused of under-paying his Healthalicious restaurant workers off the books and, even worse, lying about it to Federal officials. 

    Right now, Grimm’s most likely challenger, Dominic Recchia, is making all the right (centrist) noises on his campaign website:

    As a nation, I can’t think of a more important time to have representation in Congress that knows how to come to the table, work with both sides, and get things done. I am a parent to three wonderful daughters and like a lot of parents out there I worry about what will happen if Congress continues to kick the can down the road on the major challenges facing our country. Whether it's the federal deficit, or transforming America's competitive advantage in the world, or rebuilding the middle class, I will use my experience and skillset to be part of the solutions that will shape our future. 

    Recchia seems to have a good chance of defeating Grimm (or a possible Republican Party replacement) in this coming fall's General Election, but given the fates of the past three “winners” perhaps he should think thrice about it.

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    The Routes of Success for a Few Italian American Politicians

    In my last column I noted the excess of successful Italian American politicians in the New York metropolitan area. Since I’ve already spent too much time on Big Apple Mayor Bill De Blasio, I shall turn my attention to the personal qualities and ethnic ties of Westchester County Executive and Empire State Gubernatorial wannabe Robert Astorino, Empire State Governor and Presidential wannabe Andrew Cuomo, and Garden State Governor and Presidential wannabe Chris Christie.

    Astorino, Christie, and Cuomo have recently garnered much good and, even more, bad press. Comedian David Steinberg’s explanation is the “Three Stooges Theory of Politics” he presented in 1976 on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Of the three (Moe, Larry, and Curly) the leader Moe and second-in-command Larry are most relevant because Moe is in charge and Larry wants his job. As Men’s Health editor Ron Geraci noted, psychologists say all men are Moes, Larrys or Curlys. “If you're a Moe, you're a hot-tempered guy who intimidates people with ‘verbal slaps and managerial eye pokes.’ Temperamental, bossy, paternalistic and hard-driving at work, Moes aren't any smarter than other folks but bang through life being furious at everyone,” It would be unkind to connect specific Three Stooges traits to individuals, but some more and less unkind direct comparisons can be made between the Italian American Moes and Larrys as to their positions on important issues.

    Affordable Care Act: Astorino and Christie, no; Cuomo, si.
    The Dream Act: Christie, no; Cuomo, si; Astorino, si and no.
    Living Wages: Christie, Cuomo, Astorino, no.
    Women’s Right to Choose and Gay Marriage: Christie, no, no; Cuomo, yes, yes; Astorino, hell no, hell no.

    On issues like fracking, Cuomo is on the Democratic Party’s right wing, just left of Christie who hugged Obama after Hurricane Sandy to position himself in the Republican Party’s center. Astorino is to the right of Christie on most of the few issues he is willing to talk about. As to public persona, Astorino has the best voice, speaks Spanish fleuntly, and has the least hair. Cuomo is the sexiest but tends to screech nasally, whereas Christie tends to snarl and, despite bariatric surgery, is the heaviest. As a Catholic radio host and program director, Astorino is the most Catholic and Cuomo the least. Sometimes Christie is a better Catholic than Cuomo but not often. As to mental problems, Christie suffers from a rare form of amnesia. Even though he and Andy jointly run the Port Authority, Andy remembers even less about the George Washington Bridge traffic jams. Also, according to the Nation, “The two governors allowed aides to float a proposal for a much higher toll increase, after which the governors stepped in like knights on white horses to propose a smaller increase—even though that had been the original level they wanted all along.”

    Since they seem not to appeal to Italian Americans for their shared italianità, I wondered what it is about Italian Americans that appeals to non-Italian Americans. Leading scholars agree on several common traits. Richard Gambino (author of Blood of My Blood) remarked that beyond the extended family and close friends they saw “all other social institutions” “within a spectrum of attitudes ranging from indifference to scorn.” Fred Gardaphe’s “Signs of Italianita” are omertà (secrecy) and bella figura (good appearance). Combining these insights it seems that Italian Americans don’t trust anybody very much but want to look good at it. What’s not to like? Although they run the gamut of ideologies they increasingly fall on the right—like Italian American voters. When I asked people why they vote for them, one non-Italian woman, seeing the good side of bullying, said she likes Chris Christie because “He tells people where to get off.” Astorino’s, Christie’s, and Cuomo’s most common “positive” qualities were being down to earth, tough, and (of course) passionate. Finally, both tactically, and because none are the sharpest tacks in the box, Astorino, Christie, and Cuomo don’t pretend to be “fuzzy- headed intellectuals” or “policy wonks.”

    I wrote this on Saint Patrick’s Day, or should I say Il Giorno di San Patrizio, given that Paddy was a Roman monk. Last week MSNBC’s Chris Matthews kwelled about the phenomenal climb of the Irish from peasantry to aristocracy in American politics. Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote that their keys to success were “indifference to Yankee proprieties,” “regarding the formal government as illegitimate,” and “[being] alive to the possibilities of politics (and the) effective technique(s) of political bureaucracy.” Italian Americans have done pretty well with only the first two. The third, which translates as “working together for the common good,” is as Italian as Irish soda bread.

    According to Azi Paybarah in Capital New York at the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick’s dinner Cardinal Timothy Dolan joked: “…I’m happy to see Rob Astorino, the county executive. Rob, you think the odds are against you? You should have been in my place in the conclave in the Sistine Chapel this time last year, when folks thought I had a chance. You think you have trouble with name recognition? When I was going through the entrance way coming here somebody yelled out ‘Look honey, Governor Christie!”

    He also quipped: “You got to admit a little nostalgia, don’tcha? Remember when the Irish ran all the politics in New York City, remember that? What do we got now? We got Astorino. We got Cuomo. We got de Blasio. We’ve gone from Tammany Hall to Mama Leone’s. Good lord, we Irish used to argue about jobs and rent and immigration and these three guys argue about whose mom’s lasagna recipe is the best.”

    The Cardinal neglected to mention Astorino’s, Christie’s and Cuomo’s Irish connections. Both Astorino and Christie claim Irish heritage on their father’s side, and all three of them married Irish women. Chris married Mary Pat Foster, Rob married Sheila McCloskey, and Andy’s ex-wife is Kerry Kennedy. Even De Blasio’s wife Chirlane McCray could have distant Irish roots. Given their rather unremarkable personal attributes and charisma, perhaps part of their success is due to “marrying up.”

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    The Irish Routes of Success for a few Italian American Politicians


    Everyone seems to agree that there is an excess of successful Italian American politicians in the New York Metropolitan Area. Since I’ve already spent too much time on Big Apple Mayor Bill De Blasio, I shall turn my attention to the personal qualities and ethnic ties of Westchester County Executive and Empire State Gubernatorial wannabe, Robert Astorino, Empire State Governor and Presidential wannabe, Andrew Cuomo, and Garden State Governor and Presidential wannabe, Chris Christie.


    Astorino, Christie, and Cuomo have recently garnered much good and, even more, bad press. Their antics are best explained by comedian David Steinberg’s “Three Stooges Theory of Politics,” which he presented in 1976 on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Of the three (Moe, Larry, and Curly) the leader Moe and second-in-command Larry are most relevant because Moe is in charge and Larry wants his job. Christie and Cuomo want to be President and Astorino wants to be governor. According to Men’s Health Senior Editor Ron Geraci, psychologists think all men are variations of Moe, Larry or Curly. “If you're a Moe, you're a hot-tempered guy who intimidates people with "verbal slaps and managerial eye pokes." Temperamental, bossy, paternalistic and hard-driving at work, Moes aren't any smarter than other folks but bang through life being furious at everyone, Geraci writes. But it's good to be Moe, at least in the office; many Moes end up as bosses.” Larry’s (Rob, Chris and Andy) are Moe wannabes.


    It would be unkind to connect specific Three Stooges traits to individuals, but some more and less unkind direct comparisons can be made between the Italian American Moes and Larrys as to their positions on issues that are important to me.

    Affordable Care Act: Astorino and Christie (Obamacare) no;

    Cuomo Si.The Dream Act: Christie no; Cuomo si; Astorino si and no.

    Living Wages: Christie no; Cuomo no; Astorino no.

    Women’s Right to Choose and Gay Marriage: Christie no, no; Cuomo yes, yes; Astorino hell no, hell no.

     

    On most issues, such as fracking, Andrew Cuomo is on the right wing of the Democratic Party, just to the left of Christie who, after hugging Obama after Hurricane Sandy, has positioned himself in the middle of the Republican Party. Astorino is on the right of the middle wing of the Republican Party on most of the few issues he is willing to talk about. As to public appearances Astorino has the best voice, is fluent in Spanish and has the least hair. Cuomo is the sexiest but screeches nasally whereas Christie tends to snarl, and despite bariatric surgery, is the heaviest. As a Catholic radio host and program director, Astorino is the most Catholic and Cuomo is the least. Sometimes Christie is a better Catholic than Cuomo but not often. As to mental problems, Christie suffers from a rare form of amnesia, and even though he and Andy are co-equals as heads of the Port Authority, Andy remembers even less about who caused the George Washington Bridge traffic jams and, according to the Nation,  “The two governors allowed aides to float a proposal for a much higher toll increase, after which the governors stepped in like knights on white horses to propose a smaller increase—even though that had been the original level they wanted all along.”

     

    It is important to consider what it is about Italian Americans that appeals to non-Italian Americans as they don’t seem to appeal to Italian Americans, at least for their Italianita.

    Leading Italian American scholars have agreed on several accounts. Richard Gambino (author of Blood of My Blood) remarked that beyond the extended family and close friends “all other social institutions were seen within a spectrum of attitudes ranging from indifference to scorn.” Fred Gardaphe’s “Signs of Italianita” are omerta (secrecy) and bella figura (good appearance). Combining their insights it seems that Italian Americans don’t trust much but want to look good at it. Although Italian American politicians run the gamut of ideologies they fall increasingly on the right -- like Italian American voters. When I asked people why people vote for Italian Americans, one non-Italian woman, seeing the good side of bullying, said she likes Chris Christie because “he tells people where to get off.” The most common of Astorino’s, Christie’s, and Cuomo’s  “positive” qualities were being down to earth, tough, and passionate.  Finally, both tactically, and because none are the sharpest tacks in the box, neither Astorino, Christie, nor Cuomo are perceived as fuzzy-headed intellectuals or policy wonks.

     

    I wrote this piece on Saint Patrick’s Day; or should I say Il Giorno di San Patrizio given that Paddy was a Roman monk. Last week MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was kwelling about the phenomenal climb of the Irish from peasantry to aristocracy in American politics. For Daniel Patrick Moynihan the keys to their success were “indifference to Yankee proprieties,” “regarding the formal government as illegitimate,” and “alive to the possibilities of politics” and “effective technique(s) of political bureaucracy.” Italian Americans have done pretty well with only the first two. The third, which translates as “working together for the common good,” is as Italian as Irish soda bread.

     

    According to Azi Paybarah in Capital New York at the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick’s annual bash Cardinal Timothy Dolan joked:

     

    “…I’m happy to see Rob Astorino, the county executive. Rob, you think the odds are against you? You should have been in my place in the conclave in the Sistine Chapel this time last year, when folks thought I had a chance. You think you have trouble with name recognition? When I was going through the entrance way coming here somebody yelled out ‘Look honey, Governor Christie!”

     

    He also quipped:  

    “You got to admit a little nostalgia, don’tcha? Remember when the Irish ran all the politics in New York City, remember that? What do we got now? We got Astorino. We got Cuomo. We got de Blasio. We’ve gone from Tammany Hall to Mama Leone’s. Good lord, we Irish used to argue about jobs and rent and immigration and these three guys argue about whose mom’s lasagna recipe is the best.”

     

    The Cardinal neglected to mention Astorino, Christie and Cuomo’s Irish connections. Both Astorino and Christie claim Irish heritage on their father’s side, and all three of them married Irish women. Chris married Mary Pat Foster.  Rob married Sheila McCloskey, and Andy’s ex-wife is Kerry Kennedy. Even De Blasio’s wife Chirlane McCray could have distant Irish roots. Given their rather unremarkable personal attributes and charisma, perhaps part of their success is due to “marrying up.”

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    Pizzagate According to Me (Pizzagate secondo me)


    Like the original “Fill-in-the-Blank-Scandal-Gate,” for me at least, Pizzagate started small; as a ripple on Facebook as I visited my fbf (Facebook Friend) Diane Savino’s page and watched a video of Bill De Blasio’s commensal visit to Goodfella’s Pizza. It had a link to the Staten Island Advance’s coverage of the (for SI at least) momentous occasion.  From there I was carried adrift by the swelling wave that swamped all the New York City Dailies, New York Magazine, Huffington Post, The Daily Show, and the Entire Blogoshere. Then it crossed the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea to crash upon the shores of La Bell’Italia where it soaked the pages of La Stampa and La Repubblica until the backwash of righteously bogus indignation finally seeped into Maureen Dowd’s “Tynes that Tempt Men’s Souls”.

     

    Some of my more intellectual Facebook friends responded to the New York press corps’ waste of valuable public space by lamenting the absence of actually informed sources such as Murray Kempton. Being less cerebral, I wondered how Wayne Barrett, Jimmy Breslin or even Woodward and Bernstein would have dealt with the story. To the Italian and other foreign media that monolinguals ignore, the American press doesn’t know anything about pizza or Italy. Italians have always railed against the uninformedly biased coverage of cose italiane but for them this was the last dirty dish.


    I’m sure Jimmy Breslin would have compared Blazin Billy’s culinary predelictions to those of Un Occhio, or perhaps, in regard to his upscale dinner table affections, to Society Carey. Wayne Barrett, I am certain, would have penned a thousand-word digression into the loss of the cutlery industry in The Big Apple. To mimic Woodward and Bernstein: “One of the eight men (+ two women) secretly videographed Friday evening in the attempt to consume several pizzas and related antipasti at Goodfella’s in Staten Island last week is the recently elected Mayor of the City of New York, Bill De Blasio. The suspect, aka Wilhelm Warren Jr., 53, also shovels his own sidewalk after significant snowfalls, NYC OEM Commissioner Joe Bruno said yesterday… In a statement issued by Mario Batali, De Blasio and the others caught on camera at the pizza venue “were not operating either in my behalf or with my consent” in the alleged partaking.  Not eating pizza the way real new Yorkers do was probably due to his Boston roots.


    My most favorite ever journalist, Murray Kempton would have been embarrassed by the entire pizza mishegas. When in 1979 he reviewed books on an actual problem he wrote: “Investigative reporting is the best, probably the only, excuse for journalism; but, welcome as its renaissance is, we ought to recognize that it is an extractive and not a refining process.” Richard Severo’s 1997 obit, “Murray Kempton, 79, a Newspaperman Of Honor and Elegant Vinegar, Is Dead,” is more than enough for contemporary contrast.


    In my opinion, Pizzagate and the explosion of copious copy reflecting having too much time on one’s hands, or better things to do, is explained by the sudden appearance of a (for now) too-accessible Mayor. It was difficult for City Hall reporters to look over Bloomberg’s shoulder as he dined during one of his top-secret weekend excursions to the other outer island of New York City –Bermuda, where Michael Barbaro once caught him “At Greg’s Steakhouse, the power lunch spot on this sun-soaked island,” at which Himself “…is such a regular that he has his own booth, with a view of the Parliament building. The waiters have memorized his order: coffee-rubbed New York strip steak.” 


    The rapidity at which “the how not to eat pizza in front of reporters who don’t know any better” story went viral, is more unfortunate proof of the decreasing distance between the deservedly maligned twittering/tweeting, Blogosphere and the allegedly Legitimate Press. As to other things that might concern reporters about Staten Island, first on my list would be the past, present, and future neglected scandals over the lack of attention to the plight of residents and businesses in Richmond County’s enormous littoral zone where they never should have been found, where they were swamped by Sandy, and where they wait righteously impatiently for promised relief by Federal, State, and Municipal authorities. Another good story might be the wages of fast food workers and the regressively super abundance of Lhota voters there. In the meanwhile, I await the outrage by those sharing Wilhelm’s Teutonic roots over Blazin’ Bill’s uncoerced confession about pouring beer over ice cubes.

     

    For an Italian view of 'Pizza-gate' per De Blasio, la mangia con le posate A Ny non si fa, valanga di critiche sul sindaco italo-americano.



    Note: This article first appeared in YourFreePress.com which is edited by old friend, and "Bane of four Mayors," Rafael Alequin Martinez who was a pioneering alternative journalist in NYC.

  • Op-Eds

    A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Gracie Mansion



    In the first three days of the Bill De Blasio New York City Mayoral Dynasty it appears to me that he has received more negative press attention than Michael Bloomberg did during his three terms (12 years). Much of this chatter concerns Bill’s less than perfect New Year's Day Inauguration extravaganza on the always slippery (sempre scivoloso) steps of City Hall. I kinda new something bad was going to happen when I wasn’t invited to attend the historic inauguration of the second half-Italian Mayor ever in history. In contrast, I had been invited to all three of Bloomberg’s and was even thanked three times by him, along with some A.I.P.s (Actually Important People) in his printed inauguration programs for the use of my photos of diverse city neighborhoods. I wondered whether Bill might recycle them like the Bloomberg staffers he is retaining, I think, because he hardly expected to win. Had Bill Thompson or Christine Quinn won, every open position would have been filled the day after the election by what’s left of the Democratic Party patronage machine. The toothless county Bosses would have lined up at least three (more or less qualified) candidates for each show and/or no show jobs. Being out of power for twenty years makes for hungry political club members.

    However, I did receive an invitation for the Gracie Mansion Inauguration Open House and went with my wife and two of my five grandchildren. My friend Michael stood in line for three and half hours in the freezing drizzle with his two grandsons before getting photographed with Bill. Michael also got one; like the one he got when Bloomberg left City Hall. Michael and I were pleased to see so many black and brown faces at Gracie, obscured as they were by hats, scarves, and earmuffs. I spent much of my foul weather ordeal conversing with an Indian (from India) American architect Staten Islander who said that Staten islanders are very "opinionated." I told him he should be proud to be one of the three people who voted for Bill on l’Isola Bella. As my wife, grandsons, and I have better things to do during the NFL Playoffs, we voted (4-0) to leave after an hour on line and a cup of hot apple cider.

    There have been so many complaints about Bill De Blasio’s inauguration in the right-wing (di destra) mass media and apologies in the left-wing (di sinistra) mass media that I thought I should take a look/listen at his speech. My friend, and mega-Bill supporter, James Anthony, who I trust more than both Chris Hayes and Matthews, was there and came away disappointed, having expected expressions of unity, not division. To be honest, not only hadn’t I been invited to the inauguration, I didn’t listen to De Blasio’s speech or even read it until asked to do so for this column. Having been treated to Bill’s rhetorical flourishes and oratorical prowess on several pre-victory occasions he would not be on my “oldies but goodies” i-Pod playlist.

    As I spent three years in the U.S. Army Security Agency, before both Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning were born, I figured I’d put my training to good use and decipher Bill De Blasio’s inauguration address as might The New York Times’s Charles Blow. First of all, his talk lasted a little less than twenty minutes and the written text was 1888 words long. For the analysis, I watched and listened to it in its entirely on The New York Times webpage while making notes of what sounded like more emphatic phrasings as well as expressive facial and bodily movements that might give special meaning to the words. Given his rather ligneous (legnoso) performance, this yielded rather little additional intelligence. For most of the text, I did a simple content and contextual analysis, looking especially at the most frequent words used and grouping them together when appropriate into meaningful categories. These were then placed in descending order of frequency. For example the most frequent expected category was “ethnic.” And, among “Ethnic Things: Latino” there were 24 words but all but one were in his reasonably well-uttered Spanish translation of his thanks to his New York brothers and sisters. The second most, “Ethnic Things: Italian” received 13, but these included the names of his children Chiara and Dante as well as LaGuardia and Cuomo. So we should conclude it was not especially ethnic speech. Politicians like to present their ideas as “New” and as might be predicted it was used 14 times; but most were in reference to “The” city or newspapers, so it wasn’t especially “new” either.

    Work and derivatives of the term were used 9 times, followed by Family (8), and of course Progressive at 6. Children and Neighbor(hood) got 5 mentions while People and Taxes both got 4. One of the 3 Parents mentioned were “grand,” and Justice was pronounced twice along with Bloomberg and Cuomo. The rest were equivocated once: American and Mother without the Apple Pie; God got as many as each of the Clintons on the stage with equal billing for Wall Street, One Percent, (middle) Class, Tale of Two Cities, and Stop and Frisk. Jews, Muslims, Catholics, and Protestants were indirectly intoned as "Rabbi," "Imam," "Monsignor," and "Rev.", so only Hindus, Buddhists, et alia., should feel slighted as well as Agnostics and, God Forbid (Dio non voglia) – Atheists (most of whom probably voted for De Blasio).

                 Grouped together, the core keywords of Bill’s, less than stirring but solidly hopefull, positive, and forward-looking (Progressive?) oration concerned Family and Neighbors and emphasized what we owe to each other as fellow New Yorkers. Who, other than Hannity & Co. and arayan Ayn Rand Paul could be nauseated (nauseato) by that sentiment? His tenderest tones and most genuine smiles were reserved for his wife and the least of those affectations for his ex-Mayor, but all this is to be expected. Had the other Bill on the dais given De Blasio’s speech, it wouldn’t have received a better rating even as we slave on alongside Letitia James, hand and hand with Dasani, Harry Belafante, and the Rev. Frederick A. Lucas, Jr. on the Dickensian plantation of Gotham.

    To live or relive the whole William Warren, Jr. Bill De Blasio Inauguration.

  • Op-Eds

    A Day, or so, in the Life of Jerry Krase, De Blasio Campaign Volunteer

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn began Ivan’s bitterly cold and dark day as a forced laborer in a Gulag camp, mine began a bit more leisurely on a brilliantly warm and sunny Tuesday morning in Super-gentrified Park Slope, and there the similarity almost ends. The day before the election, The New York Post used its front page to super-impose Bill De Blasio’s smiling face on the brilliant red flag of the USSR, as it shamelessly continued its Red-Baiting anti-De Blasio as not-so-closeted Communist campaign.

    Bill had attracted quite a number of otherwise rabid "fans" such as Pamela Geller who had earlier, and amazingly, legally vented her spleen by posting her Islamophobic messages on New York City’s subway stations. Now she was threatening to “Stop Red Bill” with ads that featured women in hijab holding a “Muslims for De Blasio” sign and claiming that he will end NYPD counterterrorism surveillance. It had never been easy being Multicultural Bill and his Tale of Two New York Cities. After winning the primary, he was advised to calm the 1%ers, who own all the papers, by finding good things to say about Bloomberg and rich people in general. This has been made even more difficult after Patrick McGeehan wrote in The New York Times: "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said in an interview published on Saturday that Bill de Blasio, one of the leading candidates to succeed him, had run a “racist” campaign.   By promoting his mixed race family…."As might be expected the New York Post joined the chorus of nattering nabobs of negativism.

    The, compared-to-Bill, really far-left French daily newspaper Liberation (founded by Jean-Paul Sartre) didn’t help matters with “New York: un favori très à gauche pour la mairie. Élection.” Le démocrate De Blasio, qui veut taxer les riches, pourrait remporter le scrutin, le 5 novembre (A far-left favorite for Mayor. The Democrat De Blasio, who will tax the rich could win the vote). Even though none of the New York dailies endorsed him in the primary election because he was too radical for their tastes, all but one (guess which?) more or less endorsed him in the general election with the hope that he was only kidding about being progressive. When according to the polls he was about to become Mayor by a landslide, they starting publishing articles about how he wasn’t really so bad after all. I believe it is the Mayor’s Office that controls who gets press credentials. A half-hearted endorsement was also published in the Staten Island Advance which serves Gotham's "Tea Party Country.":

    "Do we pretend to agree with all of Mr. de Blasio’s policies? No. We think stop-and-frisk on some level can be good policing and has made our city safer. Mr. de Blasio would be wise to seriously evaluate the effectiveness of the program before throwing it out completely. We also disagree with his plan to install an independent inspector general to oversee the Police Department. If Mr. de Blasio cannot trust his police commissioner, he has hired the wrong police commissioner.” As we might have expected, this last counted for little, especially among Italian American voters.

    It was easy getting out the vote in De Blasio Country. About a third of the registered voters in Park Slope had already indicated support for Bill, and those who were still at home Election Day morning, and hadn’t yet gone to polls, reassured me that he “had nothing to worry about.” Only one person slammed the door on me and uttered an obscenity. As per my rigorous training, I apologized and wished her well. It was one of the few houses that didn’t have working intercoms and she had come down from the third floor to answer the door. I don’t blame her. I knew enough not to mention Bill De Blasio’s name as soon as I saw her snarly face. I must admit that a few of my less-than-progressive Park Slope friends to whom I sent my I-Italy “Bill De Blasio: A Progressive Mayor for All New Yorkers” were not impressed with his scant "accomplishments" while serving as Public Advocate. I countered that the only function of the Public Advocates is to prepare oneself to run for higher office, but they still thought I was only doing this to get a no-show job. 

    It was much worse a few days earlier making phone calls for Bill to Staten Island seniors. Staten Island never was, and never will be, “De Blasio Country.” I got three kinds of responses to the name “De Blasio” during the phone calls.   Silence and a click was the most frequent. Many of the women who answered after I identified myself said things like “I don’t have to tell you anything. It’s my right.” Most women are kind enough not to tell you what they know you don’t want to hear. But the men are different: “Hello, may I speak with Anthony Italian-Sounding-Name?” “Who wants to know?”   “I’m calling for De Blasio ...” “I wouldn’t vote for him in a million years.”   “How about a thousand Anthony?” One woman whispered that she would vote for him but didn’t want her friends, whom I could hear in the background, to know. A day later, Andrea Bernstein on WNYC radio interviewed an alleged “election expert” who predicted that the Island (La Isola) would, for the first time in ages, go for a Democratic Party Mayor. Staten Island money was flowing into his campaign coffers from donors there because of the commanding (75%-25%) lead he had in the citywide polls.

    Both Bill and Joe had marched in the Columbus Day Parade with hardly a concern about the Native American New Yorker voting bloc. The Daily News reported that as to his "humble origins," Lhota described his maternal grandfather, Joseph Tinnaro, as “very Italian,” who grew up in Brooklyn and drove a Checker cab. Tinnaro lived across the street from St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, where Lhota’s grandmother, Edith Steinberg, worked as a nurse’s aide. De Blasio better fits my own bill for future political candidates of Italian descent and the Italian American Democratic Leadership Council agreed by endorsing him early on: “Bill is very proud of his Italian heritage-- his family is from east of Naples. Bill’s maternal grandmothers and her sisters emigrated to the U.S. from Italy in the early 1900's and started a dress shop in midtown. He has taken his family back to his grandfather’s hometown in Italy - Sant'Agata dei Goti. De Blasio speaks Italian.” But being more of an Italian than Lhota didn’t help very much with Italian American voters. The Italian names of his son Dante and his daughter Chiara seemed also not to generate ethnic solidarity. Luckily, Bill didn’t count on a wave of Italian American votes. His "landslide" citywide victory (74% vs. 24%) in the mayoral election over Joe Lhota did not include La Bella Isola where he lost 42% vs. 53%; in virtually every identifiable Italian American precinct there, and elsewhere in the Grande Mela, it was more like a 80% vs. 20% Lhota landslide.

  • Op-Eds

    Bill de Blasio: A Progressive Mayor for All New Yorkers Part II



         While I, and other self-confessed “progressives” celebrate the victory of Bill De Blasio in the Democratic Mayoral Primary, we must prepare ourselves for what could be another Democratic Party campaign debacle.

         “Dizzy’s a finer diner” is in the heart of De Blasio country (Park Slope, Brooklyn). There, after his victory, I conducted my own hardly reliable survey asking somewhat puzzled and occasionally annoyed early morning patrons to name the last five Democratic Party mayoral candidates. None got even close.  Despite Democratic Party registrants outnumbering Republicans by almost two to one, David Dinkins (1993) and Ruth Messinger (1997) lost to Rudy Giuliani. Then in embarrassing succession Mark Green (2001), Fernando Ferrer (2005), and Bill Thompson (2009) fell victim to Mike Bloomberg. The last election drew one of the lowest turnouts in NYC history (26% of registered voters). This does not bode well for Bill despite his recent endorsement by Centrists Bill and Hill Clinton, as well as Barack Obama.

         Winning means getting people out to the polls to vote for you. Information motivates people to either go or stay away. With the exception of WBAI and Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now!” on CUNYTV, Gotham’s mass media is owned and operated by the 1% and they are unlikely to trumpet the interests of the rest of us. Most election analysts miss the essence of democracy and many journalists seek attention rather than to better inform the public.

         Even for the best newspaper writers Brooklyn continues to be terra icognita politica. Therefore, it is hard to expect sage commentary and coverage. For example, a recent article accentuated the historical negatives of Mayors from Brooklyn by noting, without naming, the attempted assassination of William J. Gaynor (1910) and the disgrace of William O’Dwyer (1952). Ignored were long-time Brooklyn resident Abe Beame and Brooklyn-born Rudy Giuliani, neither of whom also added much in the way of sheen to the Big Apple. Even without Rudy and Abe the message seemed to be a warning about Bill crossing The Bridge.

         The worst of the bad news written about De Blasio is proffered almost daily by the New York Post, followed its ugly twin sister the Wall Street Journal, where rabid pundits assure readers that if he’s elected, NYC will look like a scene from your favorite post-apocalyptic movie.  Mine are Will Smith in I am Legion (2007) and Harry Belafonte in a more melancholy The World, the flesh, and the Devil (1959). This reading from the right, explains the Koch and their other brothers money pouring into New York City to finance the Bill as Anti-Christ movement, and Mike’s unfounded fear that Bill’ll  chase away the billionaires who want to re-Occupy Wall Street. Post-primary election commentary on De Blasio ranges from the hardly informed to mostly misinformed, paralleled by the totally irrelevant such as the New York Times equivocations of De Blasio, FDR, Karl Marx, and Bob Marley followed by The Sandanistas.

         At least Bill’s son Dante’s afro has escaped notice for the time being, but is sure to emerge in another guise as November 5 nears. The Daily News finally took some time out from dwelling salaciously on Miley Cyrus’s twerks to investigate the permutations of De Blasio’s appellations, as though his monica choices were as politically motivated as his Manichean choices for spouse and offspring.  I do agree, however that “Wilhelm” is not a good choice for a New York City mayoral aspirant. He also should avoid being seen eating halal middle-eastern street food as that might be seen by Fox News' Bill O'Reilley as support for jihadists.

         While the city’s mass media tries to discourage folks from supporting Bill, or just going to the polls, many potential voters rely on their neighborhood, union, ethnic, religious or other leaders to tell them what to do.  Some people are taken to the polls or otherwise prodded and cajoled to participate in democracy. In all these cases “walking around money” has always made a difference. But, cash can discourage as well as encourage voting, as voter suppression takes many forms. Those who you might expect to be active De Blasio supporters can be made less so -- for a fee. It has been my experience that loyal political apparatchiks are easily be bought off, as patronage requires only incumbency.  Over the decades I have known too many nominal Democrats who learned to appreciate the philanthropy of Republicans.

         Another way by which the 2 to 1 Democratic Party voter advantage melts away are officials and operatives who give little support beyond tepid endorsements of winning candidates before playing “Let’s Make a Deal.” Remember, despite public displays of solidarity, over the past 20 years the designee has not enjoyed the full support of the Party and, in my humble opinion, their campaigns have been undermined. Sometimes it's personal but Democratic Party leaders and their minions have been induced to either back the opposition or go through the motions of supporting their “own.” As to fickly party allegiances, some ethnic voting blocs such as Orthodox Jews, Evangelical Christians, Irish Catholics, and Italian Americans who register as Democrats regularly vote for more conservative candidates in general elections. Note also that one of Bill Thompson’s biggest fund raisers in this last primary run was Republic Party stalwart ex-US Senator Alphonse D’Amato. Even more ironically,  many of the Black pastors who were behind Thompson this time, gave their whole-hearted support to Bloomberg when he ran against Thompson in 2009.  (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/17/nyregion/for-thompson-a-disappointing-end-to-a-not-quite-compelling-quest.html?pagewanted=all )

         And just across the city lines, Fred Dicker tells us that Democratic Party Governor Andrew Cuomo “…has secretly joined with former US Sen. Alfonse D’Amato and other top Republicans to stop Democrat Tom Suozzi from recapturing his old job as Nassau County executive, key Nassau Democrats angrily charge.” So much for both party and ethnic honor among politicians.

         Some things are non-ideologically simple. Like elsewhere in America, in New York City there has been an Upward Redistribution of Wealth, This state of the city has been facilitated by the actions of elected governments to reduce taxes on the wealthy, and services for the rest of us, while simultaneously subsidizing, with public money, the costly speculations of the least needy/most greedy. The ideological difference is whether this reality is seen as a positive or a negative.

         Ironically, in order to win, even in a city of reasonably enlightened subjects, the Progressive candidate must be seen as less so. Progressive, once a positive tag for Republicans has become in the hands of publicists, a negative for Democrats. Both Michael Powell (Times) and Bill Siegel (News) find important similarities between the Progressive ideas of Bloomberg and De Blasio. Therefore, I suggest that Bill applaud all the Progressive things that Mike did for our fair city, because De Blasio's problem will be less the zeal of the Tea Party as the lack of it in the Democratic Party. Remember what I said, Republicans can’t win without Democratic support, and making nice with lame duck/big buck billionaires is prudence personified. In this regard I suggest that the De Blasio family ride Citibikes to their next campaign event.

  • Op-Eds

    Bill de Blasio: A Progressive Mayor for All New Yorkers

    Bill DeBlasio I believe has the best chance among real progressives to win the mayoralty and to take New York City in a different, more hopeful direction. He’s genuine, which makes him somewhat boring at times. He’s bright, and that might scare some people.

    He knows public policy without being a wonk. He knows how the system works but is not an insider.  I am sure he will use all his energy and skills to better the lives of all New Yorkers as opposed to only his friends, relatives, and country club members as has been the case for the past two decades. Finally, I think it’s time for New Yorkers to take back THEIR city from those who have used it to enrich themselves at our expense. Bill de Blasio can help us put the Statue of Liberty back on its pedestal in New York politics.
               

    Now that Bill De Blasio is almost a front runner in the first round of the Democratic Party primary for Mayor of New York City which will take place September 10th, I am reluctant to urge people to vote for him, as for the past 20 years the front runner has been the worst thing to happen to ordinary New Yorkers like myself since Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg. It has also been tough avoiding watching the incredibly uninspiring and uninformative alleged “debates” on one or another television station that obviously sees its role as enhancing the ignorance of potential voters. From left to right all of the media moguls seem to have conspired to make the Democratic Party contenders appear to be part of another reality show --- “The Great Primary Race,” “NYC Idol,” or perhaps “Prance with the Also Rans.”

    Two of the Democratic Party mayoral candidates are Italian American and therefore.

    Please note that I am not urging an “ethnic” vote, as, for example, that would guarantee that, given the increasing allegiance of Italian Americans to the Republican Party, both Bill De Blasio and Sal Albanese would get trounced. Sal Albanese is a long-term (as opposed to “old”) friend, and one I will always be indebted to for both his personal help at a difficult time as well as his great progressive service when he served in the City Council (1982-98). His Quixotesque runs for U.S. Congress (1992) and N.Y.C. Mayor (1997) have demonstrated his willingness to endure defeat for good intentions. Both he, and my final choice for Mayor, Bill De Blasio, follow in the Progressive Italian American traditions of Fiorello LaGuardia.Vito Marcantonio and Mario (not Andy) Cuomo; as opposed to the Neanderthal traditions of Rudy Giuliani, Rick Santorum, and too many to mention others. I must reveal that Bill De Blasio is a neighbor with whom I’ve had the pleasure of dinner with his lovely, but misquotable, wife Chirlane McCray at the house of a good friend. I also met his son Dante twice whose "‘fro" makes me feel young again, but the personal is not why I hope Bill'l win the Democratic Party Primary on September 10th.
     

    Having been more than disappointed with the rightward movement of the Democratic Party in recent years, I think David Sirota, writing in Salon best (better) expresses my reasons for supporting Bill de Blasio and “America’s new progressive revolution.” Sirota, and I believe De Blasio’s campaign has impact far beyond The Big Apple. So far he has been successful
    "...by coupling criticism of inequality with specific public policy proposals to combat such inequality...by government-based populist initiatives that the Times notes have "alarmed many business leaders and Bloomberg aides...de Blasio proposes to raise income taxes on those making over $500,000, reduce the city's huge corporate subsidies and use the reclaimed resources to finance universal pre-kindergarten. He also backs using the city's financial leverage to force municipal contractors to pay living wages, and he proposes to rein in the stop-and-frisk program that in practice persecutes New Yorkers for the alleged crime of not being white and/or rich. In sum, he is not running on a gauzy rhetorical criticism of inequality, he is running on explicit proposals to use the power of government to combat that inequality."
     

    I was born At one end of Ninth Street, Brooklyn in the low-income The Red Hook Houses and, metaphorically, was able to move “up the hill” to my current perch near Prospect Park in over-gentrified Park Slope. Like many New Yorkers of past (pre-Rudy/Mike) generations, the taxes paid by the much better off made the economic playing field a bit more level for me. It gave us a chance to succeed by doing our best, and helped us overcome class and ethnic hurdles. New York City at its best was an engine for creating a large middle-class out of poor and working class people. In partial payment of that great debt I owe, I’ve been doing pro bono consulting work and community service even before getting my first, and last, job at Brooklyn College. As to “Stop and Frisk,” when I was a tough looking, albeit light –skinned, teenager the cops also hassled and rousted my pale-faced friends and I, especially when we strayed outside our own neighborhoods. But, most often, we were actually up to no good as opposed to simply looking like no goodniks. Frankly speaking, I don’t want my black and brown friends and family members to have to stay out of the sun and use skin-lightening creams to keep from getting falsely arrested. Bill de Blasio can get us back on the track for a better New York for all New Yorkers.

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