"It's gonna be back in the next three months!" swore Nouriel Roubini, the celebrity economist known as Dr. Doom, about the infamous party Jacuzzi he'd been forced to remove from the roof of his East Village loft by the Department of Buildings — a city tiff that had made the tabloids just hours earlier. "I'm getting all the permits," he said.
Roubini, dressed in a billowy white shirt and surrounded by a group of leggy women, had lent his apartment for the night to the mayoral campaign of Jack Hidary, a dot-com millionaire who is running as an independent. Upstairs on the open-air deck, partygoers were lamenting the loss of Roubini's hot tub, which had been covered over with plywood. But downstairs, amid a hundred-strong throng of onlookers, Hidary — who sits on the advisory council of Google X Labs and has been involved with a number of start-ups in the city since making his fortune with early job site Earthweb — was laying out his plan to make New York a city of forward-thinking entrepreneurs.
"When I'm mayor, everyone gets a pair of Google Glasses!" he said to loud applause.
Hidary's mayoral campaign has been seen as a minor threat to front-runners Christine Quinn, Bill de Blasio, and Anthony Weiner, all of whom have more political experience and bigger ties to the city's power brokers. But as the race has taken its latest twists — with De Blasio, the most liberal candidate in the race, holding a commanding lead in the primary polls — Hidary hopes he can position himself as a viable alternative.
"I need 400,000 votes," Hidary said. "That's what wins mayor of New York City."
Hidary told the crowd that he plans to roll out most of his campaign outreach after the primaries, given the amount of "noise in the system" at present. His campaign — which is heavy on entrepreneurship and oriented at bringing the outer boroughs up to speed in the start-up economy — is also focused on attracting more giants to the city.
"We want 100 more Googles — companies from Europe, Asia — opening up offices, opening up jobs in New York City," he said.
It's a Bloombergian pitch — making New York, and specifically Manhattan, the center of innovation — and indeed, Hidary has brought on a number of Bloomberg campaign vets to his campaign. But while he's the second-richest candidate in the race (after grocery billionaire John Catsimatidis), Hidary doesn't have Bloomberg money. He's poured $1 million of his own funds into the race, but he also implored Roubini's friends to give what they could.
"The one thing I want to tell you right now is that I am running for mayor of New York City, and I am running to win," Hidary told the crowd. "This is not a campaign just to raise some ideas. This is a campaign very serious about winning."
In an interview on Roubini's deck, as well-dressed guests swirled around him, Hidary called De Blasio's emergence as Democratic front-runner "great for us" — and he's not wrong. A general election pitting cantankerous former MTA chief Joe Lhota against a tax-the-rich progressive would, in fact, create an opening for a business-minded centrist in the Bloomberg mold. As Bloomberg News reported today, the city's moneyed class is upset about De Blasio's calls for higher taxes on upper-income earners, and business elites who aren't ready to join hands with Lhota might find Hidary an acceptable alternative. If he can convince the city's hot-tubbing set that he'll keep their fortunes intact, Hidary might find himself with many more friends in high places.