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14th June

First Published in The New York Sun, June 14, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

It is an admirable trait for an elected official to be able to make lemonade when confronted with a carload of lemons. At first blush, this is exactly the position Michael Bloomberg finds himself in. He has taken the significant political defeat he suffered last week, when the West Side stadium plan was rejected, picked himself up, dusted himself off, and come up with a viable substitute.

By presenting the Willetts Point alternative site, the mayor appears to have not only salvaged the city’s sagging Olympic bid, but also scored some political points for doggedness in the face of adversity.
It is too early to say how this will all shake out, but I believe voters have to appreciate a “can-do,” “never-give-up” attitude when confronted by a challenge.These are qualities that are wellappreciated in Gotham.
Another winner in the stadium controversy is Rep. Anthony Weiner, who first suggested the Queens site over a year ago. How he exploits this message is important, but it shows a certain degree of realistic vision to understand the public perception of the problems of a Manhattan stadium, and the degree of opposition any large project in Manhattan is sure to attract.

Mr. Weiner’s favorite baseball team, the New York Mets, are also winners. They look like public-spirited New Yorkers by agreeing to give up their proposed, still-a-glimmer-in-their-eye stadium for a season, an eventuality that only kicks in should the Olympic bid be won. We’ll have the answer to that question in less than a month. But the Mets have greatly enhanced their ability to get their long-delayed need for a new home addressed.

The losers are the Jets, who now may be forced to return to Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands with their tails between their legs. While I understand why they would like to be in Manhattan, I suspect that the Queens site could also serve their needs — certainly as well as a stadium built in a New Jersey swamp. I can see — and almost taste — the international tailgate-party opportunities ahead.

If the mayor brings the 2012 Olympics to New York, without the unpopular baggage of the West Side stadium, he is a huge winner. If he fails, my guess is that the public will give him points for his perseverance.

The Marist College poll released last week suggested that Mr. Bloomberg may have been damaged by the stadium flap. Those surveyed before Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver pulled the rug out from under the mayor had Mr. Bloomberg narrowly leading Fernando Ferrer.Those surveyed after the events of “Black Monday” put Mr. Ferrer ahead of the mayor. If anything, this shows how volatile the polls are, although we don’t know whether there is a bias in the partial samples.

Other than the possible damage to Mr. Bloomberg from last week’s stadium flap (open now to further change with the Queens substitution), there is no other surprise here.

As in the NY1/Newsday poll earlier last week, Mr. Ferrer is within striking distance of an outright win in the Democratic primary, as all his opponents now seem to lack any momentum whatsoever. If there is to be a race here, it is incumbent on Mr. Ferrer’s three foes to capitalize on the Ferrer Achilles Heel, which is frequently found in the former Bronx president’s mouth.

At the same time, they have to define themselves as viable options. C. Virginia Fields must find a way to move beyond her black support, and Messrs. Miller and Weiner need to get some worthwhile support — or any support — in order to survive.

Fred Siegel, whose new book, “The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life” (Encounter Books) is causing a big stir among political and public policy types, feels that the Ferrer mayoral effort will be doomed once his opponents, presumably Mr. Bloomberg, reprise the former Bronx president’s oft-stated opposition to the Giuliani anti-crime initiatives.

The Cooper Union history professor made his comments on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC radio last week.
Mr. Siegel believes that the commitment to keeping the city safe and continuing the successful policing strategies that have resulted in the historic lows in the crime rate is a requirement for any candidate seeking the mayoralty. He maintains that the long Ferrer record of antipathy to the Giuliani policing strategy — expressed often during Mr. Ferrer’s failed 1997 and 2001 mayoral campaigns — will come back to haunt the current Democratic front-runner once the campaign heats up.

After all, it was the Ferrer record on policing, particularly his response to the shooting of Amadou Diallo, that turned what was probably an effort toward moderation made earlier this year appear to his supporters as a betrayal of long-held beliefs. Expect the name of Kevin Cedeno to surface frequently in the months ahead.

© 2005 The New York Sun, One, SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

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