Saturday, May 16, 2009
Mayor Mike Uses SS tactics to Get Rid of Opponents Like Gerry Esposito
Shame on you, Mr. Bloomberg.
May 16, 2009
About New York
A Heretic to the Gospel of Bloomberg
By JIM DWYER, NY TIMES
A half-hour late, Gerry Esposito hustled into the Fort Washington Armory one rainy day last month. Inside, Michael R. Bloomberg, the mayor, was speaking to a group about new ways for people to volunteer in the city.
A mayoral appearance is less government in action than stage management; liturgy without Scripture but with scripts.
And as Mr. Esposito, the manager of Community Board 1 in Brooklyn, was to learn, there was to be no deviation — even a faint hint of one — from the Bloomberg catechism.
Mayoral aides had police officers from the intelligence division ready to escort Mr. Esposito, in his fourth decade of government service, directly out of the building, on suspicion of heresy.
As he came into the lobby, he spotted a familiar face, Carolyn Sanders-James, a mayoral aide who works with community boards in Brooklyn.
“Hi, Gerry,” she said.
“Hi, Carolyn,” he said, and Mr. Esposito later recalled thinking it odd that, given his own tardiness, she was still in the lobby, and not in the armory’s track and field arena, where the mayor was speaking to 1,000 people.
Mr. Esposito turned to the sign-in table. As he leaned over, he said, he felt a tap on his shoulder. This is how Mr. Esposito remembers the exchange:
“Gerry Esposito?” the man said.
“Yes,” Mr. Esposito said.
“Don’t bother looking for your name,” the man said.
“Excuse me,” Mr. Esposito said. “Who are you?”
His name was George Torres, another mayoral aide, who worked with community boards in the Bronx.
“You’ve been disinvited,” Mr. Torres said.
“Why?” Mr. Esposito said.
“You know what you did,” Mr. Torres responded. By Mr. Esposito’s undisputed account, Mr. Torres said he had been barred on the orders of Nazli Parvizi, the city’s commissioner for community affairs. Ms. Parvizi did not respond to a request for comment, but the mayor’s office said officials had decided that Mr. Esposito was a threat to order.
“He was coming to protest and disrupt the event,” said Marc La Vorgna, a spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg. “Anytime there is intelligence that an individual wants to disrupt an event, that information is circulated and appropriate measures are taken.”
What was this intelligence?
Several days earlier, Mr. Esposito had sent an e-mail message to the other 58 community board managers in the city, the last bastion of local government. The boards have yearly budgets of $189,000 each, but they face the same cuts of 5 percent as most city agencies.
All community board managers had been invited to the mayor’s presentation in the Fort Washington Armory, but Mr. Esposito said he suspected that more than a few would skip making the trip to Upper Manhattan.
“Perhaps we should attend to let our voices be heard about the cuts!” he wrote in his e-mail message. “What do people think?”
That is the entire text of the message that the mayor’s office took to be a signal of his plans to disrupt the event.
In 1977, Mr. Esposito became the manager for Community Board 1 in Brooklyn, which covers Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick. This year, he announced that he was running for a City Council seat.
“Of course I’ve campaigned with prior mayors to increase the community board budgets,” he said. “But I wasn’t going to the mayor’s meeting with a bag of tomatoes.”
HE did arrive with a sign, folded and wrapped in brown paper, that said things like, “Where is the ultimate in volunteerism? The community board. An asset to NYC and its longest-proven civic engagement model. Keep CBs fully funded.”
He offered to leave it with Mr. Torres, but was told that he had to go.
“He showed up with a protest sign, with intent to disrupt,” Mr. La Vorgna said. “He was stopped at the door and not admitted. He was shown to a demonstration area. It’s normal protocol.”
The mayor’s presentation, on April 20, concerned the creation of a community service program. The city is collaborating with the AmeriCorps Vista program, a kind of domestic Peace Corps. As it happens, Mr. Esposito served in the Peace Corps and with Vista as a young man.
“It was like an arrow to my heart when the cop escorted me out the door,” Mr. Esposito said. “When we got outside, he said he was sorry, that he was just doing what he was told.”