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CITY POWER / Lest We Forget: Rudy's Feet of Clay

POOR ANDREW. The Younger Cuomo attempted to penetrate the mesmerizing force

field that surrounds any election involving Gov. George

"you-are-getting-very-very-sleepy" Pataki and succeeded only in shortening the

odds for an insomniac's dream of a November showdown between Pataki and the

electrifying H. Carl McCall.

That Andrew self-inflicted is unsurprising. More remarkable was his choice

of weapon: blasting George Pataki for not being Rudy Giuliani. Sept. 11, said

Cuomo, revealed the mayor as a great leader ("Cream rises to the top") and the

governor as his valet ("He held the leader's coat"). The strength of this

movement to canonize Giuliani is probably more meaningful than an attempt by a

buzz-hungry candidate to exploit it.

Let's face it: It is hard to write about Giuliani without praising him.

First and last, he played a key role in the decline of New York street crime,

probably the most important local story over the past 20 years. It's true that

other large cities cut their crime rates over the same period. Some, like

Boston, were even more successful than New York. And it's true that Mayor David

Dinkins was the one who hired more cops, and that Ray Bratton was the chief

architect of a more effective NYPD. But Giuliani was indispensable, for part of

the overall strategy was to communicate a tough message from the top.

Everybody heard that message.

Whatever the statistics, New York seemed safer. And that perception made

the city a more attractive place to work in, live in and visit. Tax revenues

climbed.

Which brings us to Big Rudy Failing No. 1: During a period of fiscal

well-being, Rudy Giuliani made few significant additions to the capital stock

of the city. Two bush-league ballfields don't count. Transit, parks, schools,

housing, waterfront - nothing new to speak of. He did little with assets over

which he had sole authority, and his control-freakness meant that any time he

had to share authority - with the governor or the Board of Ed or the Port

Authority or the MTA - nothing ever happened. Did you notice how quickly Mike

Bloomberg and George Pataki were able to strike a deal over Governors Island?

(And did you remember that Giuliani wanted to build a casino there?) Watch as

other Giuliani-blocked projects, like an expanded Javits Center, now fall

easily into place. Thank the planning gods for keeping Giuliani out of Lower

Manhattan redevelopment.

Big Rudy Failing No. 2: Rudy Giuliani ran a secretive, paranoid,

patronage-heavy administration. Take L'Affaire Harding. Thanks to the Village

Voice and Bloomberg appointees, we recently learned that Russell Harding -

whose appointment by Giuliani as head of the New York City Housing Development

Corp. had nothing (absolutely nothing, nothing whatsoever, and, frankly, you

should be very, very ashamed to insinuate otherwise) to do with his father, Ray

Harding, Liberal Party mogul, or his brother, Robert Harding, director of the

City Office of Management and the Budget - admitted that he "may have" spent

about $250,000 of taxpayer money on resorts, meals and sundry indulgences.

Young Harding's case brings to mind Howard Safir's trip to the Oscars, or

Human Resources Commissioner Jason Turner's sweetheart contracts, or the

ousting of bothersome whistle-blowers in the Department of Buildings, or the

scores of other insider arrangements less notorious but well documented by the

Conflict of Interest Board, the Independent Budget Office and various watchdog

groups.

In general, Giuliani was flexible in his approach to constitutional

government. You probably remember his suggestion that the state Legislature

keep him in office a few months after his term expired. You may have forgotten

those hasty summertime "charter-reform" hearings in which the mayor tried to

push through City Charter amendments to: (a) keep the City Council out of

baseball stadium decisions; (b) to revoke the right of the public advocate

(Mark Green) to succeed the mayor in case of death or resignation; and (c) to

gut the Campaign Finance Board.

Big Rudy Failing No. 3: Rudy Giuliani was just too darn rude, and he

thereby lowered the tone of civil society. He was rude to reporters, of course,

but at least they weren't public figures. Why did he have to badmouth David

Dinkins, for example, or belittle City Comptroller Alan Hevesi? Why did he so

frequently question other officeholders' intelligence and morals? By last

summer, you may remember, all that mean-spiritedness had gotten pretty old.

But if not everything, timing sure is something. Catastrophe struck in

September, and Rudy Giuliani rose from the oft-ridiculous to the frequently

sublime. He surely did, and blessings upon him and all the best for him and

Judith Nathan. But if he ever runs for office again. . .

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