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City Politics

The Brooklyn That Can’t be Bought…


thompsonstreet540Mike Bloomberg’s first thoughts the morning after Mayoral election night might have wavered seamlessly between “ I won!” and “I almost lost!”  A bittersweet victory/defeat for the richest man in New York City, who lives in a world where powerful egos have no patience with almost losing.  He won 557,059 expensive votes to Democrat Bill Thompson’s low-cost 506,717.


That morning, our friend Robert Taylor woke up to a world that eludes the city agencies.  He was at peace padding his way from Brevoort Place to Clinton Hill’s Grand Avenue, as he does every morning.  “If it snows, I pick up a shovel and clean the streets for a few dollars. I just keep moving, but I keep coming back.”  Virtually homeless after losing his apartment on the avenue just after 9/11 due to escalated rents; Robert is accustomed to “street guy” references.  But he also knows how to train horses; he does not bet on them.  He sometimes entertains small crowds, outdoors, with his phenomenal classic music playing, when a used piano is dropped off at his friend Eddie Hibbert’s Antique warehouse down the street.

Mr. Taylor informed us that the Mayor shelled out about $200.00 per vote  for each of the more than half million votes he received, compared to his Democrat opponent Bill Thompson’s $14 each for almost the same amount of votes.  “But, remember, it’s not always about the money; it’s about what you want that money to do. When the stakes are high, you cast high bets to win at any cost.  He now has a lot of work to do to make true on those promises he paid for.”

On the north easternmost edge of Brooklyn, Mr. B., a block association president and former corrections officer agrees, but he still thinks arrogance, not money interfered with Mr. Thompson’s sure shot.  At his election site, the lever for DeBlasio was stuck, and the pollworker told him gruffly,  “Don’t worry ‘bout that, it’ll count.”  After putting his strength on that lever to bring it to its place, he informed everyone present what was going on.  “This ‘kiss-my-ass’ attitude – on the part of a lot of folks connected with the political process, including local elected officials, only succeeds in keeping voters away.  And it may have pushed votes away from Thompson.  People are turned off, they don’t want to participate. 


“At the community board meeting this week, a guy stands up and asks about construction jobs that are going to other ethnic groups who don’t live in the neighborhood; a weatherization official announces that it doesn’t make sense for owners of 2-family homes to apply for special funding, ‘especially,’ he said, ‘since you don’t use that much hot water anyway’, plus we learn about 75% of the program’s $10 million is available to owners of multi-family dwellings, well – that’s not us; then there’s these rezoning issues and whether or not certain areas of Bedford –Stuyvesant will be rezoned in accordance with the special interests of other ethnic groups in other areas.  Point is … if local politicians are servants of the public, they should come out of their comfort zones and get into the neighborhood and go to the people. Explain to them what’s going on.”

The 45-year-old block association president was recently stopped by police in Herbert Von King Park and asked to show ID because he was walking through the park at night, three nights before the election.  Officers apologized profusely after they discovered he was a retired Corrections Officer. “This is the way it is.  But attitudes across the board must change if they are to get the support from all of the people.

“Some of the young Turks seeking election against incumbents could have gotten a lot of mileage out of putting their weight solidly and visibly behind Mr. Thompson. There are so many lessons to be learned.”

It’s still no excuse for such a low turnout, says New York City Parks worker Earl Williams.  “When I went to P.S. 305 at 4pm to vote, there was no one there except the poll workers.”

It was chilly and dry the day after the election, and everyone had something to say abouthow Thompson should have won. Except, of course, the mainstream press, stunned that their polls didn’t get it right, and perhaps numbed by the same thinking as Taylor, Mr. B., Mr. Williams and Mr. Bloomberg: if Black people had turned out, in force, Thompson, who earned 50.9% of Brooklyn votes to Mr. Bloomberg’s 45.3%, would have enjoyed the landslide of the century.  For pennies on the dollar.  Lessons to be learned, indeed.