Developers and de Blasio: Not Just Horses’ Tales

The most blessed among us do not crave money, but devote their lives to charity and caring for all living things. Mother Teresa. St. Francis of Assisi. NY real estate developers?

While I take a back seat to no one when it comes to my love of animals (unless I’m in the back seat with a slobbering St. Bernard), I always wondered why Bill de Blasio never seemed to give a hoot about carriage horses before he ran for mayor. But after real estate developer and anti-carriage horse zealot Steve Nislick’s NYCLASS group made sizable donations to his mayoral campaign, de Blasio saw the light, and the welfare of the carriage horses became his No. 1 priority. Hallelujah!

And let’s not forget Jed Walentas of Two Trees Management, who thought it would be fun for all if streetcars ran right by the new condos he is developing on the site of the old Domino Sugar factory in Williamsburg. He donated $100,000 to the Campaign for One New York fund, an “independent” group that supported de Blasio priorities.

Soon after, the mayor discovered he loved streetcars as much as he hated the carriage horse trade. At his February State of the City speech, he enthusiastically supported a plan for a streetcar financed through area property taxes, as thousands cheered. Ok, at least one__Jeb Walentas.

The bundling of checks from such individuals has proven a way for the mayor to raise huge sums of cash. Yes, the donations are legal — if the contributors aren’t promised anything in return for their generosity. That’s how I know these developers are doing this out of pure charity, fervently believing in the Bible’s directive that, “One who waters will himself be watered” (Proverbs 11:24-25).

And boy, are they being watered. National real estate developer Toll Brothers donated $50,000 to de Blasio’s fund, coincidentally right around the time it started developing Pierhouse at Brooklyn Bridge Park, a 101-unit waterside condo. Local activists oppose the project, saying it will block views. Good luck with that!

Meanwhile, NYCLASS has been subpoenaed, and the Campaign for One New York, which the mayor swears was on the up and up, has been shuttered.

What a shame.

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Weed Be Better Off Legalizing Marijuana

Happy 4/20! For those of you who don’t know, that number is code for cannabis, and users are celebrating worldwide.

Recreational use of marijuana is legal in four states and Washington, D.C., but not New York. While pot arrests have declined significantly in NYC because of more lenient policies by the NYPD under Mayor Bill de Blasio, it is still against the law to smoke weed here.

Meanwhile, New York recently legalized the use of medical marijuana, but only under stringent conditions — some say too stringent. Count my brother Bob among them.

Bob has spinal stenosis, the same condition afflicting Mets third baseman David Wright. Muscular dystrophy and rheumatoid arthritis are among the ailments not considered serious enough for medical marijuana relief in this state, while spinal stenosis sufferers must jump through hoops to get help. Bob has tried many medications and acupuncture, to no avail.

“I’m not looking to get high, just for pain relief,” Bob told me. “Why can’t I go to my doctor and get a prescription for it like any other drug?”

Good question. Your doctor can still prescribe highly addictive pain killers, but probably not marijuana for medicinal use. There are just 455 doctors registered for the state’s medical pot program.

Supposedly one of the more progressive states in the nation, New York’s attitude toward the legalization of pot and particularly the use of medical marijuana is anything but. State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) recently introduced four bills to expand the program.

In a 2015 Gallup poll, 58 percent of Americans favored legalizing pot (it was 12 percent in 1969, when Gallup first asked the question). At least 20 states have recreational marijuana legalization on the ballot in 2016. Not New York.

This will change in the near future. Why? Follow the money. Just like state- sponsored gambling, pot brings in huge revenues to states where it’s legal, and New York lawmakers won’t be able to resist this cash cow much longer.

When? Perhaps by the next time 4/20 rolls around. Meanwhile, the state’s draconian medical marijuana program should be rewritten to be more realistic and humane — now.

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There’s No Debating Gentrification? Why Not?

As someone raised in a small, rent controlled apartment in Brooklyn as you were, Bernie Sanders, I have a question: how do you feel about gentrification? How about you, Hillary Clinton?

The Clinton-Sanders debate at the old Brooklyn Navy Yard tonight will go a long way in determining the winner of the NY Democratic primary next week. If there is one question allowed that relates to Brooklyn while also impacting most major American cities, how about one on gentrification and affordable housing?

Both political parties have virtually ignored the subject of affordable housing in urban America during this presidential race. Perhaps they feel it’s not important.

New Yorkers strongly disagree. According to a recent NY1-Baruch College poll, we rate affordable housing the number one issue facing us today. Almost two-thirds of New Yorkers believe they may be priced out of their neighborhood in the next four years.

New York is now bursting at the seams with more than 8.5 million residents, with the greatest population growth in Brooklyn, as home prices in the borough soar.

Plunging crime rates over the past two decades and other positive factors have made the city more inviting, and Mayor de Blasio is trying to make room for us all by expanding the housing supply. This includes changing zoning laws to permit more high-rise dwellings, with some apartments set aside for means-tested tenants.

When hearing about this initiative, many locals howled. For example, some residents of Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill are fighting the development of hi-rise condo towers on the site of the former Long Island City Hospital, saying it will ruin the integrity of their low rise neighborhood.

Director Spike Lee famously bashed gentrification in Brooklyn, saying it prices out and displaces people of color__after he sold his Fort Greene home to a gentrifier for a hefty profit and moved to the Upper East Side. Hmm…

Meanwhile some African-American and other families of modest means who bought their Fort Greene homes for about $50,000 now find they live in a property worth a million dollars or more__a life-altering amount.

Gentrification and the overriding issue of affordable housing is a complex subject that deserves serious discussion.

What better place to start than tonight’s debate in Brooklyn?

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Painful Choices in NY’s Presidential Primary

With the New York Democratic primary less than two weeks away, both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are claiming to be genuine New Yorkers. If you dropped both of them in midtown, who do you think could find his or her way to Coney Island, Yankee Stadium or the Rockaways without a cab?

That said, I couldn’t care less who the real New Yorker is. What concerns me is who has the best chance to beat the two repugnant extremists most likely to represent the GOP this year: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Polls in March showed Clinton with a commanding lead over Sanders in New York. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Sanders only 12 points behind and closing fast. Meanwhile, Republicans are in a bind. If Trump is their nominee, he would probably not only lose, but destroy the party in the process. If he isn’t the nominee, the party will lose millions of voters.

But Democrats are also in a bind, even if some won’t recognize it. If they nominate Sanders, the candidate progressives are most passionate about, the GOP will have a field day.

If Sanders had labeled himself an independent instead of a democratic socialist, he would most likely be our next president. His authenticity comes through, he’s trouncing Trump in national polls, and voters are disgusted with politics as usual.

But if Sanders gets the nomination and the GOP trains its guns on him, things will get ugly quick. Expect attack ads showing Sanders voicing support for the Sandinistas and dictatorship in Nicaragua, for starters. It’s not an accident every Republican I speak to is praying for Sanders to be the Democratic nominee.

The “Bernie or Bust” crowd is of the same ilk that supported Ralph Nader in 2000 and helped usher in President George W. Bush. Sanders supporter Susan Sarandon said recently she wasn’t sure she could back a Clinton nomination, and that “some people feel Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately.” Yes Susan, the fascist revolution.

I don’t know who will win on April 19. But if Democratic infighting and self-righteousness once again lands a Republican in the White House, this time it will be Trump. Not the real New Yorker they had in mind.

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Trump A Huge Role Model for Kids. Really.

If you want to teach your kids how to behave, tell them to carefully listen to Donald Trump.

No, I’m not kidding. I know many parents are freaking out that Donald the Nasty is saturating the media, and (egads!) that their kids are watching. Ominous articles such as “The Parent-Child Discussion That So Many Dread: Donald Trump” in the NY Times address these panicked moms and dads.

Not to worry. As a former teacher, I can tell you that Trump provides a perfect teaching tool, and I do mean tool. From cursing to bragging to denigrating minorities to instigating fights, Trump is a walking, talking Mister Bad Example.

But what a gift to parents. Whatever Trump does, just teach your child to do the opposite. For example, who better to provide a lesson on bullying than him? When a protester showed up at one of his campaign events, Trump said he’d like to “punch him in the face.”

A perfect chance to ask your children to choose the right response to someone who disagrees with them: violence, or respecting free speech and their right to have a different opinion? Great parenting!

Just remember, you’re the adult, so stay objective and make sure to say things in a way a child can understand. So when Trump mocks a disabled reporter, calmly explain to your impressionable tot why anyone who mimics someone’s disability is lower than the slimiest worm that crawls the earth.

Not only does Trump provide a treasure trove of impermissible behavior for the kids, but a chance to teach them some history.

For example, nasty accusations hurled at Fox News’ Megyn Kelly (and other women who dare says anything less than adoring about Mr. Yooge) is an excellent opportunity to discuss the Salem Witch Trials, where innocent women were persecuted for being possessed by the devil. Trump even offers similar terminology used by the righteous witch hunters of the 1600’s (“She was bleeding from her whatever!”)

Those with teenage sons get bonus lessons from Trump, about objectifying women and how not to talk about them (“She’s ugly! A bimbo! A fat pig!”)

Ok, there remains one tiny problem. What’s the lesson going to be if he wins?

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GOP’s Stubbornness Could Backfire Big Time

Both of President Barack Obama’s confirmed appointees to the Supreme Court are NYC-born, progressive women. If Republicans aren’t careful, the next SCOTUS appointee might be a third NYC-born woman whose politics they abhor.

No, I’m not talking about whom Hillary Clinton might appoint if she wins in November. I’m referring to federal Judge Maryanne Trump Barry.

That’s right, Donald Trump’s sister.

By saying they will not vote or even hold hearings on the nomination of centrist Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, the GOP has painted itself into a corner. If Clinton wins, she will probably pick a more liberal, younger nominee than Garland. But what if Clinton loses to Trump? A strong conservative would then be the choice, right?

Not so fast.

Last summer, Trump was asked by Bloomberg Politics whether his sister would make a good Supreme Court justice. “I think she would be phenomenal,” he said. “I think she would be one of the best. But we’ll have to rule that out now. At least temporarily.”

Trump later said he was “kidding” about nominating his sister, whom Sen. Ted Cruz has called “a radical pro-abortion extremist.” While that is an absurd claim against the moderate Barry, she wrote an opinion on a ruling that struck down a New Jersey partial-birth abortion ban, saying it “places an undue burden on a women’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion.”

This made a number of conservatives queasy about Trump’s true intentions. On Sunday he said he would list “five to 10” potential judges, but if you think he wouldn’t have the chutzpah to nominate his sister, you haven’t been paying attention.

There’s a reason the Supreme Court has an odd number of judges: to avoid deadlocks. In 2016, the court will review cases vital to millions of us on such subjects as health care, union dues and immigration reform. We are entitled to informed, thoughtful decisions.

With their party poised to be taken over by a demagogue, many Republicans fear it might be on the brink of destruction. If they want to save it, here’s the first step: Do what’s right for your nation, not your party.
Do your jobs. Give Obama’s nominee a fair hearing.

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Look Ma, I’m a Pilot

Sit back, relax and enjoy your flight. Your pilot today will be cousin Chuck.

JetBlue Airways has launched a program to teach novice pilots to fly its passenger planes.

I know what you’re thinking. Why?

“Many dream of becoming a pilot but are deterred by financial realities,” said Warren Christie, a JetBlue executive. True. But this unique program will be available for the bargain basement price of $125, 000.

In return, “New York’s hometown airline”, as JetBlue likes to call itself, will offer “an opportunity to create the best pilot training program in the U.S….so those with the natural aptitude can pursue their dream.”

So if you are ready to ditch the cubicle and head for the skies, the airline’s Gateway Select program is ready to make you a pilot trainee. Can you multitask? How’s your hand-eye coordination? Do you have a passport? And $125,000?

Then get ready to begin your adventure at JetBlue University in Orlando for four weeks of training on the fundamentals of aviation!

But first you must pass a “personality” (not psychological) screening. I’m not sure what that means, but I think it goes something like this:

“You want to fly a 100 seat passenger jet?”

Yes sir!

“Do you have $125,000?

“Yes sir!

“Welcome aboard!”

The training program takes four years, with no guarantees. So how do experienced pilots feel about this?

“We’re opposed to it,” Capt. Jim Bigham, chairman of the JetBlue Airline Pilots Association union, told Bloomberg Business. “We think there are thousands of pilots available that have higher qualifications.” Spoilsport!

If passenger jets can be flown by novices (who will have to garner 1,500 hours of flight experience and FAA certification first, so that’s reassuring) why not try this in other fields? You say you’re no rocket scientist? I say you are! Or perhaps you think you have what it takes to be a brain surgeon. Hey, if sleepy Dr. Ben Carson can do it, why not you?

Surgeons charge $50,000+ for a single operation. Can’t you do better? Imagine yourself a cut-rate cutter offering the amazing rate of $999 for any type surgery. Paging Dr. Nick!

But why stop there? How about President of the United States? Amateur candidates are quite the rage these days. Of course, it will take a bit more than $125,000.

Then again, there’s always Kickstarter.

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NYC’s # 96? I Don’t Think So

Did you ever wish you lived in Albany instead of New York City?

Me neither.

But according to U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Places to Live in the USA” list, Albany is a much better place to reside than here.

Based on a number of factors, including a high quality of life, the magazine’s inaugural 100 best big cities list places New York in the bottom five (96th), while Albany ranks 36th, 60 points ahead of us.

Have you ever been to Albany? Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch said living in Albany was a “fate worse than death.”

I wouldn’t go that far, but I once spent four crushingly boring days there, and kissed the ground in front of Carmine’s in Manhattan when I returned.

Fayetteville, Arkansas, is ranked at No. 3, trailing only Denver (No. 1) and Austin, Texas (No. 2). Rated highly because of its close proximity to Walmart headquarters, Fayetteville resonates with the Walmart cheer. (“Give me a W! Give me an A! Give me an L!”)

Give me a break. OK, NYC is less affordable, but does Fayetteville really better fit the magazine’s other criteria, such as transit options, crime and overall quality of life?

No!

We have the nation’s only 24/7 subway system, and one of the lowest crime rates of any big city in the nation. Not to mention the best music, theater, museums and, yes, affordable restaurants — if you know where to go.

Meanwhile, clocking in at No. 40 is Palm Bay-Melbourne, Florida. I recently spent time in the area. Leading off the 11 o’clock news was a story about a guy who threw a live, 3 1⁄2-foot alligator through a Wendy’s drive-through window. The alligator-hurler’s mom said he was just a “prankster.” This kind of thing happens so often down there that they’ve coined a generic name for such imbeciles: “Florida man.”

Call me provincial, but compared with that, I’ll take our rats, squirrels and the guy who walks around Central Park with a profanity-spewing parrot on his head any day of the week.

Why do reports like this often undervalue and diminish New York City? I have a hunch. Give me an E! Give me an N! Give me a V! Give me a Y!

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Trump’s Antics Are Far From Funny

As Donald Trump gathered delegates by the bushel on Super Tuesday, it became all too clear that this preening New Yorker whom we laughed at for decades might have the last nasty laugh on us.

Not only does it appear that Trump will be the Republican presidential nominee, but the latest Real Clear Politics poll average shows Trump less than 3 points behind Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump has always been humorous, though often inadvertently. Even Democrats chuckled at his New York-style takedowns of such bumbling politicians as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (“he puts on glasses so people think he’s smart”).

Like any great entertainer, Trump can make us laugh or cry. But when he threatens to do the latter to anyone who dares protest at his events, it turns into something far from humorous.

As a protester was ejected from one of his rallies, Trump told attendees, “I’d like to punch him in the face.” A man with a “Veterans to Trump: End Hate Speech Against Muslims” sign heard Trump bellow, “Get him the hell out!” Supporters jeered the veteran as he was removed.

Free speech is a bedrock of our democracy. But when the words include criticism of him, legitimate or otherwise, the thin-skinned Trump turns venomous.

A disturbing pattern has emerged of Trump appealing to the worst instincts of his followers, whether the target be protesters or minorities. At one rally, Trump did a mocking, cruel imitation of disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski.

But it’s not only at the candidate’s events that bullying and ugliness reign.

When Republican political strategist Cheri Jacobus mildly criticized Trump for skipping an Iowa debate, he went after her with a vengeance on Twitter, calling her a rejected job seeker and “a dummy.”

According to the Times, Trump’s Twitter followers quickly took his cue, hurling vile names and vulgar photographs her way.

After the protester Trump said he’d like to punch in the face was escorted out to taunts, Trump told supporters he longed for the “old days” when “guys like that” would be “carried out on a stretcher.”

Which old days? 1938 Germany?

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Can This Friendship Survive the 2016 Race?

What happens when two Manhattan women are close friends, but their parents are at each others’ throats?

The similarities in the women’s backgrounds are striking. Both come from famous, tumultuous families, both went to the best schools and both understand each other as few can.

One’s parents went through an ugly divorce when she was 10, the other’s dad’s philandering embarrassed the family. Both have survived and thrived. One attended the Wharton School and became a writer and designer, then joined the family business. The other attended Stanford and Oxford universities before becoming a TV correspondent, then also joined her family’s enterprise.

Both Christian-born women married Jewish men, and are moms of preschoolers. They obviously have a lot in common, and it isn’t surprising they became fast friends.

But can Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton’s relationship — they’ve been friends for years — survive their parents’ hatefests?

In a relationship stranger than anything ever aired on “Friends,” Chelsea and Ivanka try to remain buds despite their parents’ nasty exchanges in their quests for the White House.

For starters, Ivanka’s dad (“The Donald”) recently said Chelsea’s dad, Bill (“The Big Dog”), had a “terrible record of women abuse” and that her mom, Hillary, got “schlonged” by President Barack Obama in 2008. Meanwhile, Hillary called Ivanka’s father a sexist, a bully and a bigot.

Have Chelsea and Ivanka compared notes on who was raised by a more embarrassing dad? For a while, Bill’s dalliance with an intern was tops in the humiliation category, until The Donald said recently that if Ivanka weren’t his daughter, “perhaps I’d be dating her.” Yecch.

They say friendships are the family you choose, and it’s not surprising that Chelsea and Ivanka have bonded. But advisers to both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have suggested their daughters not be seen together during the campaign, according to the New York Daily News, which adds that they’ve gone “underground” with their relationship.

As their parents remain the front-runners, and as the vitriol grows, I wonder: Can this unique friendship survive?

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