When it comes to guns, Mike Bloomberg behaves less like a mayor and more like the 101st senator. His national anti-gun drive (okay, an anti-illegal-gun drive) began with a lawsuit against firearm dealers in neighboring states and grew from there to encompass efforts in such far-flung places as Ohio and Kentucky. Normally, and ingeniously, Bloomberg works by recruiting other city mayors to his cause, cobbling together a coalition of counterparts, now about 180 strong. Now, though, he's also lobbying Washington directly: At issue is a Republican measure that bans the ATF from sharing gun-trace data with the police, except in special cases. As a result, says Bloomberg, local authorities never get to see the full scope of firearm traffic in their own communities. A Bloomie-financed TV ad campaign is careful to draw the line between "crime" guns and "legal" ones, but the National Rifle Association is decrying it nonetheless. It's hard to tell if crafty Bloomberg is actually all-out anti-gun or not, much like it's hard to tell how, if at all, Republican he really is. In the meantime, we're just enjoying the sight of our mayor pissing off conservatives from shore to shore. As any good New Yorker should.
Bloomberg Bolsters Gun Drive in Ohio and Kentucky [NYT]
PlaNYC — the catchall term Mayor Bloomberg has given both the planning document being drafted to guide New York's development over the next 23 years and the months-long process of public meetings to gather input for it — is, it turns out, almost ready to be unveiled. The formal announcement will come next Sunday, April 22 — you know, Earth Day — at the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side, a City Hall source confirmed to us today. The city has been explicit that PlaNYC is needed to help it deal successfully with an anticipated population explosion while our infrastructure ages and the environment deteriorates. So, while we're excited to see the plan, we confess the museum's symbolism is making us nervous: dinosaurs … carcasses … oy. —Alec Appelbaum
Among the skits to be put on by the city's political journos at the upcoming Inner Circle roast is one featuring Judi Giuliani as a blow-up sex doll. Us Weekly, Star, and other weekly tabloids are upping their negative coverage of Brangelina because they are sick of getting scooped by People. A handful of people are angling for a portion of deceased Dr. Robert Atkins's $600 million estate. Mike Bloomberg's 98-year-old mother sometimes pretends she's not related to him so people don't ask her to hook their grandkids up with jobs. NBC's Today show is losing serious ground to ABC's Good Morning America and even CBS's Early Show in the ratings game. Charlie Rose and Amanda Burden may not be broken up, despite reports they are. Jay-Z has plans to ink a deal with Champagne label Ace of Spades to replace Cristal as his drink of choice.
Several days ago, we raised our eyebrows at an experimental social program championed by Mayor Bloomberg, that would literally pay the poor for good behavior. Under the program's rules, things like taking one's child to regular medical checkups and attending PTA meetings could net the parents up to $5,000 a year. We found the initiative noble in concept but more than a little patronizing in execution. Today, however, it finds an energetic defense in the pages of the Post, which presents an ironclad argument: It worked in Mexico.
• Cardinal Egan turned 75 yesterday, and, as is required of cardinals who reach that age, submitted a resignation letter to the Vatican. The move could well be a mere formality — the Pope doesn't have to accept — but Egan's shaky standing within the archdiocese is giving it extra weight. [WNBC]
• They set 'em up, he knocks 'em down: Fresh from vetoing the proposed pedicab guidelines, Mayor Bloomberg is overriding the much-discussed City Council ban on aluminum bats. ("I don't think that it's the city's business to regulate that.") [NYDN]
• There will be an Imam on the NYPD payroll. The force is hiring a new chaplain. Khalid Latif, a Sunni who's ministered at NYU and Princeton, will be in charge of counseling the department's many Muslim officers. [amNY]
• Starbucks is accused of breaking the law 30 times trying to stem unionization in its Manhattan shops. Now brewing, allegedly: retaliation firings, illegal interrogations of workers, and selective enforcement of the company's dress policy. [NYT]
• And police on Franklin Gallimore III, the man that allegedly murdered his parents in cold blood when they asked him to move out: "He was a 20-year-old who was not living up to his mother's expectations." [NYP]
Mayor Bloomberg has just unveiled a unique new social program: The city will be paying poor families for, well, good behavior. For instance, if your household income is $20,000 or less, providing regular medical checkups for your child while holding down a job may raise it to $25,000. Plus there's more, and here's where it gets weird. Instead of simply evaluating the big picture — is the child healthy? — the program goes into jaw-dropping detail, breaking the lump sum down to micro-rewards for micro-achievements. In essence, it's going to itemize instances of good behavior, price them out accordingly, and tabulate the winnings every two months. A kid's exemplary attendance in elementary school may net the parent $25. Should she ace a test, there's $300 in it for mom and dad. Presumably, the city dispatches a trained social worker to pat you on the head if you say "please" and "thank you."
Al Sharpton claims he is not backing Hillary Clinton for president, despite a rumor that he and Bill smoked cigars in Harlem two weeks ago. Rupert Murdoch would back Michael Bloomberg for president, if Bloomberg were to run. A $1.5 million lawsuit against Beyoncé, regarding her House of Dereon clothing line, was thrown out. Michael Jackson was reported to have been hospitalized for pneumonia, but his flack says he's just fine. Bravo is shooting a reality show about photog Patrick McMullan. Jenna Jameson hasn't been attending meetings with mainstream producers regarding the film adaptation of her book How to Make Love Like a Porn Star because she's allegedly unhappy with her vaginoplasty.
Obama and Bloomberg get a thumbs-up, and Hillary gets a raised eyebrow, from the inimitable Eartha Kitt. The still very spry singer and dancer, who turned 80 in January, plays a fortune-teller in a Kander and Ebb musical, All About Us, coming to the Westport Country Playhouse. At a sneak peek of the show this week, we asked about her '08 presidential picks. "I'm for my country, not politicians who go blah blah blah," purred the eternal Catwoman, who spent a decade shut out of gigs in this country after she denounced the Vietnam War during a 1968 White House visit.
• The Sean Bell case continues providing bizarre auxiliary scandals. Now the boss of a grand-jury star witness (a janitor claiming to have seen someone shoot at cops that night) is arrested — for commanding the janitor to keep quiet. [NYP]
• Mayor Bloomberg is dishing out some of his patented TLC as thousands in Brooklyn and Queens begin defaulting on their high-interest mortgages: It's "the marketplace at work," he explains. "You can blame the people that borrowed the money." Stop griping! [NYDN]
• The Yankee dynasty may be left without an heir apparent: Steinbrenner's daughter, Jenny, is divorcing George's announced successor Steve Swindal. (Of course, there are three more Steinbrenner kids in VP positions). [amNY]
• Scorned bicyclists are filing a federal lawsuit against the NYPD, whose new rules let cops stop and ticket any group of 50 or more cyclists that doesn't have a parade permit. (How about a parade permit for those pointless cop-car swarms down Fifth Avenue?) [Streetsblog]
• If your bike is your livelihood, however, you're on easy street, kind of. The city just signed a law that requires businesses to provide helmets and ensure safety (new brakes, etc.) to bike messengers and delivery workers. [NYT]
City-commissioner succession issues don't normally make for a captivating read. This time, however, with Iris Weinshall (a.k.a. Mrs. Chuck Schumer) vacating her job atop the Transportation Department, the mayor will choose between two replacements who subscribe to two very different schools of thought. And so things are getting a bit heated (and the last names, incidentally, exotic).
Back in December, when civic groups proposed the idea of "congestion pricing" — charging cars to enter midtown during prime hours, as a way to control Manhattan's ever-more-horrible traffic — Mayor Bloomberg quickly danced away from it. "The politics of a commuter tax in Albany are probably such that we would never get it passed," he told the Times then. "And what I want to do is focus on those things that we can get passed to help our city." He's since launched PlaNYC, a canvass for opinions about how to help the city survive a million new residents and sharply higher sea levels by 2030, and it seems congestion pricing has wedged its way back into consideration.
Something about a tragedy, no matter how private, reduces us all to children clamoring for consolation and closure. Consider the bizarre criticism raining down on Mayor Bloomberg today, for failing to drop his obligations and stay in New York in the wake of yesterday's Bronx fire. Instead, Bloomberg flew to Florida, as previously scheduled. "I don't know what can be more important in Miami," said Assemblyman Ruben Diaz — and, as it turned out, nothing was: Questions about the fire hounded the mayor at every turn there. Today's Post, in its typically loaded lede, cites "critics" wondering "whether he's fulfilling his role as the city's leader."
Things the New York City Health Department spends its time doing, even though we always thought they were the sorts of things that were none of the city's business:
• Determining whether we may smoke in bars.
• Determining whether we may ingest trans fats.
Things the New York City Health Department is apparently incapable of doing, even though we always thought this was why health departments exist:
• Monitoring dirty fast-food places to ensure they're not infested with frolicking rats.
Additional responsibilities City Council Speaker Christine Quinn agrees with Mayor Bloomberg the Health Department should take on, according to today's Post:
• Making sure fast-food chains post calorie information on their menu boards.
• Cardinal Egan made parishioners cry when he pulled a brusque landlord trick to get rid of a tenant. He summoned the pastor of the crumbling, doomed Our Lady of Vilnius for a meeting, then ordered guards to shutter the church while the priest was out. Smooth. [NYP]
• Hey, you know where else we can fit a 50-story condo tower? Before you come back with something obscene, here's where: South Street Seaport. If built, it will be the first building of its sort to the east of the FDR Drive. [amNY]
• Hizzoner rarely makes us remember that he's a Republican, but one reliable reminder is his distaste for garish court settlements. The city just tried to cap the awards to the victims of the 2003 ferry crash at $14 million, citing a dusty maritime law. A federal court said no dice. [NYT]
• Just days after reports that the westward extension of the 7 line was in jeopardy, the MTA has thrown the $35.8 million contract open to bids. The city is forking over $2.1 billion. Until the next time we hear that it isn't. [MetroNY]
• And a Queens man was arrested for selling porny versions of copyrighted costume characters, including Barney and Scooby-Doo, to furry fetishists. In the words of the News, "Kinky Costume Caper Crushed." (Weak. The Post would have gone with all Ks.) [NYDN]
Of all the delays, scuffles, and tantrums besetting the ground-zero reconstruction effort, none is as fundamentally embarrassing as the general inability to settle on the order of names for the 9/11 memorial. Last we checked, the families of first responders demanded that the cops and firefighters be separated from the "regular" victims, and the original random placement gave way to a bizarre system wherein civilians would be grouped by employer, without naming the employer. Mayor Bloomberg, who chairs the WTC Memorial Foundation, has long been saying he considers the matter closed; that's why a recent Spitzer remark suggesting "future discussions" threatened to start the whole ordeal anew. But today some good news: The governor and the mayor had a nice long talk yesterday, and they got their positions in sync. Spitzer now says he subscribes to the foundation's plan. One would think that would be the last hurdle, but no. Some "family and firefighter groups" are still lobbying for the inclusion of victims' ages and ranks. Yes, let's introduce rank into this equation, shall we?
Mayor Says Spitzer Now Agrees With Him on Listing of 9/11 Names [NYT]
Earlier:9/11 Name Fight Drags On
• A riot is brewing — or, more likely, the tabloids are picking up some easy populist points — over Mayor Bloomberg's failure to lift alternate-side parking rules during this week's snowstorm. [NYDN, amNY]
• Guess which single mayoral action is "tragic and misguided", and will "degrade societal standards" — the smoking ban, LES rezoning, the 2012 Olympic bid? Wrong: it's those damnable free condoms, according to Cardinal Egan and Brooklyn Bishop DiMarzio. [NYP]
• We all know about the sex-offender registry, but what does one do with homeless sex offenders? Suffolk Country found one, vaguely medieval, solution: put them in trailers that are periodically rotated around the county. [Newsday]
• MoMA director Glenn D. Lowry is even richer than we (and the IRS) knew: In addition to a jaw-dropping salary of $1.28 million a year, Lowry has been getting millions through a murky tax-exempt trust set up by the Museum's benefactors. [NYT]
• And in parting, this, from today's OMG-straight-men-can-cook "trend" profile in the News : "I'm constantly bringing wild game back to my apartment, and my girlfriend and I sit outside and pluck it." Don't we all?[NYDN]