Mayor Bloomberg came out swinging for congestion pricing today. Facing a March 31 deadline for the city and state legislatures to collect $354 million in federal start-up funds, Hizzoner appeared at breakfast with U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters at his side. To an Anthony Weiner question about congestion pricing's threat to federal funding, Bloomberg snapped: "That's one of the stupider things I've heard!"
Governor David Paterson was just sworn in and gave his first address as head of the state. And boy, was he excited. It was hard not to get giddy for him, even though he took about ten minutes to introduce everybody that came to see the event (Hillary Clinton! Chuck Schumer! The governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts! (The last of whom is also black!) Mayor Bloomberg! Paterson's stepdaughter! Yaaaaay!). Every dignitary in the audience seemed to be wearing at least one piece of ridiculous green flair, which added a comical air to the proceedings. Paterson allowed himself only one swipe at Spitzer, saying: "[My wife] Michelle and I have a different kind of marriage," before pausing for laughs. His speech was centered upon the theme of moving forward "in spite of obstacles and regardless of circumstance." He also challenged party leaders to work together on issues, unlike in the past. To close his speech, he couldn't resist a moment of triumph. "Let me reintroduce myself," he shouted. "I am David Paterson, and I am the governor of New York State." We wondered whether it was too much, but then, as the standing ovation stretched toward two minutes long, we realized it wasn't. This guy is going to be fun.
Bloomberg ’08 proved to be a false start. But with the self-immolation of Eliot Spitzer, Bloomberg ’10 makes almost too much sense.
Our term-limited mayor will, of course, be looking for a job come January 2009. He laid some serious groundwork for a presidential bid, enough that by the beginning of this year, his supporters were saying he could launch a campaign “at the drop of a hat.” It wasn’t just annoying ballot-access issues that ultimately turned him off, or the prospect of an Obama-McCain race leaving little room for a reform Republican. Bloomberg doesn’t like to enter a contest unless he can be pretty to sure win.
In one of its more curious repercussions, it looks like Eliot Spitzer’s fall might mean the resurrection of Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion-pricing agenda. The groups pushing for a fee on midtown driving to fund mass-transit improvements say that governor designate David Paterson’s reputation as a conciliator bodes well for brokering a deal on the controversial proposal. As it stands, city and state lawmakers must adopt a proposed pricing plan by March 31 to retain a $354 million federal start-up grant — but that too could now change. The city will likely play the our-state-government-is-in-crisis card, pressing the Feds — who badly want to see New York get the money — to extend the deadline. (An ally of Sheldon Silver sniffed: “The mayor's office has cooked up lots of deadlines and may be cooking up this one, too.”)
Cecilia Sarkozy, the ex-wife of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, is set to get married to PR exec Richard Attias in New York on March 22. (Friends say it's a "revenge" wedding.) Shelley Ross was so hated in her capacity as executive producer of CBS' The Early Show that CBS News president Sean McManus didn't even wait to find a replacement before firing her. Colin Farrell tried hitting on model Meghan Lowther at the Rose Bar, but found out the hard way that she has a boyfriend. The April issue of Elle features an interview given by Michelle Williams right after she broke up with Heath Ledger. New York real-estate giant Steven Fisher, best known for turning the aircraft carrier Intrepid into a museum, is trying to get his own TV show. Gossip Girl's Conor Paolo wants, uh, Daniel Day-Lewis to join the cast.
How humiliating is it to be dropped off Forbes' annual list of the world's billionaires? Just ask Jimmy Cayne and Lehman Brothers' Richard Fuld. Cayne, who stepped down from Bear Stearns earlier this year, and Fuld, who it was just announced raked in a paltry $40 million in 2007, were notably absent from this year's list, which was released yesterday. Does this mean they will be turned away from Steve Schwarzman's next birthday party? Will it be like, I'm sorry, sirs. Only billionaires are allowed here? If that's the case, it's going to be a pretty small crowd, unless Schwarzie plans to hold his fiesta in Moscow. This year, the Russian capital eclipsed New York in the amount of billionaires per capita: We have only 71, with an average net worth of $3.3 billion each, whereas in Russia, 74 billionaires, with an average net worth of $5.9 billion each, are whooping it up with the caviar blini. So other than deadbeats Fuld and Cayne, who else is keeping us down?
After Mayor Bloomberg finally ended speculation about a possible presidential run last week with an op-ed in the Times, we were hoping to put the whole annoying saga behind us once and for all. After all, it was mentally exhausting trying to parse Bloomberg’s carefully worded denials and mixed messages each week. However! It turns out that POTUS was only one of many jobs Bloomberg may be looking at for when he is forced out of office by term limits at the end of next year.
While political watchers spent last week looking ahead to primaries in Ohio and Texas, the candidates engaged in a serious debate — over a photo of Barack Obama wearing Somali clothing. (An Obama staffer claimed Hillary Clinton had leaked the shot to make him look Islamic; Clinton’s campaign manager said no one had claimed the photo was “divisive” until Obama and his new friend at the Post played it up.) Latecomer Ralph Nader, unsafe at any speed as far as most liberals are concerned, moseyed into the presidential race. Connecticut senator Christopher Dodd backed Obama; Jersey governor Jon Corzine rushed to aid the Clintons in Cleveland.
Mario Cuomo, like Mayor Bloomberg, knows presidential-bid scrutiny. But he knows Albany even better. And the former governor doesn't see congestion pricing coming out of the legislative swamp by the end of March — when lawmakers must adopt a commission-sponsored plan to keep the city from losing $354 million in pledged federal transit aid. “I'm not ruling it out, but I'm not ruling it in,” Cuomo told us (there's that hedging we remember from the presidential-run talk). After hearing Eliot Spitzer talk up an ambitious budget proposal to the developer-heavy Association for a Better New York, the former governor noted that Mayor Bloomberg's air-quality cause seemed conspicuously absent from his successor's weighty wish list. “He has a complicated and very impressive agenda,” Cuomo tells us, “and if congestion pricing were on it, we'd have heard about it.” To be fair, Spitzer's slideshow did include an endorsement of the MTA's five-year capital plan, which relies on upwards of $4 billion from bonds that congestion-pricing fees would support. But Albany can always find ways to borrow more money — that's something Cuomo knows, too. —Alec Appelbaum
The City Council passed a watered-down version of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to place produce carts in low-income neighborhoods. The new plan cuts the total number down to 1,000 from 1,500 and reduces the number of targeted precincts from 43 to 34. [NYP]
The Post hit two midtown Starbucks yesterday and found that, while Tuesday night’s three-hour training session for baristas may not have instilled the ability to make perfect drinks, they will remake it as many times as you force them to. [NYP]
A City Council member introduced legislation yesterday that would require meat from cloned animals to be labeled as such. [Metro NY]
After months of teasing, innuendo, and downright madness, Bloomberg has put our stress over the possibility of his presidential candidacy to rest. In an editorial in the New York Times that went online last night, the mayor explained:
I listened carefully to those who encouraged me to run, but I am not — and will not be — a candidate for president. I have watched this campaign unfold, and I am hopeful that the current campaigns can rise to the challenge by offering truly independent leadership.
He railed against the candidates for not fully comprehending the challenges facing our economy, the environment, and our schools. He also encouraged an independent approach to these solutions, rather than a partisan one, and emphasized the importance of encouraging growth in America's cities. He says he'll still use his vast means to advocate for these issues during the race. The Daily News applauded the move, immediately nominating Bloomberg as a vice-presidential candidate to run on Obama's ticket. The Post, meanwhile, called his prior flirtation with a run "shameful" and "infuriating." We're frankly a little past caring — we'd already pulled out all of our eyebrows by last summer anyway.
I'm Not Running For President, But… [NYT]
Say good-bye to fake Prada bags: Yesterday the city shuttered 32 vendors of counterfeit goods on Canal, Walker, Center, and Baxter streets, dubbed the "counterfeit triangle" by Mayor Bloomberg and the gazillion tourists looking for cheap holiday gifts.
Every Starbucks location in the country will be closed from 5:30 to 8:30 this evening, and Dunkin’ Donuts is sure to reap the benefits by offering small espresso drinks for 99 cents. [Snack]
Though restaurants seem to be recession-proof, consumers’ budgets and diets are not. Soaring food prices — milk costs 36 percent more now than it did a year ago — have some New Yorkers changing their grocery habits and eating out less. [NYDN]
Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced a proposal yesterday to give 1,000 new licenses to street vendors who will sell produce items in neighborhoods with high rates of obesity and heart disease. [Metro NY]
The year’s first blanket of snow dropped from the skies two days before Valentine’s Day, but it soon washed away — and on the ground, heartbreak abounded. Barack Obama spoiled the Clintons’ romantic holiday, beating out Bill for a Grammy (with his reading of The Audacity of Hope) and stomping Hillary in eight primaries. Roger Clemens told a congressional committee that best bud Andy Pettitte was mistaken in his recollection that Clemens took human growth hormone, maintaining that wife Debbie was the only family member who’d done so.
First Bloomberg took away smoking. Then he took away fat. Sure, this is good for us in the long term, but what about now? Is he going to take away all our cheap, easy pleasures? It seems like he's trying. Yesterday had Hizzoner all up in the federal government's business again, railing against the federal stimulus package recently passed by the Senate, which will see $600 to $1,200 distributed to most Americans this tax season. Whee! "They want to send out a check to everybody to stimulate the economy," he said, as if this on the face of it was a bad thing. "It's in many senses like giving a drink to an alcoholic," he continued. Wait a second. Has Bloomberg been looking at our bank statements? Because actually that's exactly what it is going to be like. But it's not like it's our fault. When did cocktails start costing $20?
Mayor: Stimulus Like Giving Drink to Alcoholic [NYS]