2006 Super-Villain Edition
1 Bruce Ratner
Nets Owner & Developer
Where's Jackie O. when you need her? The Atlantic Yards project and the rest of the properties this comb-over-mini-Donald's got his greenbacked mitts around aren't exactly Grand Central Terminal, but bear with us. Think of all the upper-middle-class homeowners who will be displaced after long, hard years of work carving a viable neighborhood out of a once-desolate area of Brooklyn. Then there are the many working-class people living in Prospect Heights, and the small businesspersons in the area. Aren't their homes and businesses worth saving? The Empire State Development Board, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Pataki and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz don't think so. The centerpiece of the proposed development is a 19,000-seat arena that will house the Brooklyn (née New Jersey) Nets, in which Ratner has a major stake. Also on the table are 17 high rises, which will be as high as 55 stories, 628,000 square feet of commercial space and residences. The housing bit is a ruse to assuage the masses. The "affordable" residential buildings will, however, remain out of reach for a single mom of four surviving on a sub-poverty-line paycheck. Ratner's attempts to evade official processes for major real estate projects and the use of Supreme Court-endorsed eminent domain have been met with challenges from underfunded groups like Develop Don't Destroy. What really pisses us off is the imminent razing of Freddy's Bar and Backroom, which is in the 22-acre footprint. With the Freddy's gone, where will we get our $4 beers when that's all we have in our wallet? Oh, and don't look for criticism in the Newspaper of Record: Ratner's building the Times' gleaming new headquarters building west of Times Square.
2 Larry Silverstein
Sometimes it's funny when a Jewish-American named Larry gets into wacky adventures due to being stubborn and shortsighted. Unfortunately, Larry Silverstein is no Larry David. Silverstein sealed a 99-year-old lease for the World Trade Center complex-only seven weeks before 9/11. This made him an object of universal sympathy. Post-9/11, however, Silverstein has been as greedy and senseless as that other Larry on HBO is socially inept. The path to greed began when Silverstein felt he was entitled to collect double the $3.2 billion insurance policies because two hijacked planes meant two separate terrorists attacks.
Ultimately, he "settled" for $5 billion-a $1.8 billion profit from our country's greatest terrorist attack. After four-and-a-half years of squabbling over the details of the new WTC complex, little work has been completed while setbacks accumulate. Security concerns are ongoing (hello, you would think this would be a priority) and doubts still remain whether anyone will actually fill these buildings (only 20 percent of the completed Building 7 have been filled, and no leases have been signed for the Freedom Tower). Silverstein has also disregarded public opinion polls that show overwhelming support for two towers in place of the planned single-structure Freedom Tower.
Silverstein's recent problems involve his self-proclaimed "right to build." Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff has said Silverstein will run out of money after only two of the four buildings are complete. Silverstein has rejected an offer that would hand over building rights for Tower 3 and Tower 4 to the Port Authority in exchange for lower rent payments. In response to Silverstein, the government has stifled construction by freezing over $1 billion in funding. Most estimates are pushing the project's completion back to at least 2011, which would still be a miracle if Silverstein remains in charge.
3 Cardinal Egan
Roman Catholic Prelate
An outsider might see Cardinal Egan on television and ask, "Gee, what's so hateful about him? Seems quiet and friendly enough." He's certainly not as openly controversial as Cardinal O'Conner was. But if a suspended priest from Newark named Bob Hoatson is right, there's something sinister lurking just beneath the surface. Egan and two other bishops from Jersey, he claims in a new lawsuit, are not only practicing (if closeted) gays, but also that being gay has prevented them from doing anything serious about the sexual predators among the clergy. They were, he says, afraid of being outed, and were ready and willing to take action against anyone who called them on it. According to his lawsuit, for instance, Hoatson was removed from his post because he blew the whistle. They in turn claim it was because he spent too much time counseling victims of priestly sexual abuse, while ignoring the rest of his congregation. Even if Hoatson is making it all up as some claim, there's no denying that the church has worked awfully hard for years trying to sweep a deep-seated problem under the rug-and all the while they kept hypocritically preaching against homosexuality and demanding celibacy for priests. And Egan's at the heart of it. Meanwhile, he continues to close down dozens of Catholic schools in the area, claiming poverty without admitting that the so-called poverty is the direct result of paying off so many abuse victims instead of dealing with the problem. (You gotta admit, though, that closing all those schools has probably kept quite a few kids out of harm's way.) You have to wonder sometimes why people are fleeing the church by the millions. Just stupid, we guess.
4 ALLAN JENNINGS
Former City Councilmember
It takes a special kind of lowlife to spend his time at the office sexually harassing his female employees. It takes an even bigger rat to then try to talk his way out of it by calling those staff workers ugly, and boasting that he would never sexually harass an ugly woman. Such is the case of Allan Jennings, the disgraced former Queens City Councilman, whose over-the-top moves with the ladies would make even the most brazen womanizer blush. According to a City Council investigation, Jennings would stop short when he had female staff members in the car, a la Frank Costanza, so that he could cop a cheap feel. He would make females do demeaning personal chores, force them to place their coats on the ground rather than in the closet, and constantly make lewd remarks to them. One woman who worked for him even alleged that after she informed him that she had cancer, he grabbed her and pressed his throbbing erection into her clothed backside. Jennings denied all of these charges, defending himself by maligning the looks of those accusing him, and informing the world that he doesn't fuck with ugly bitches. And just before voters sent him packing, Jennings took time out of his busy schedule to throw a chunk of metal at a television reporter who dared to try to interview him. A real classy guy.
5 Roger Toussaint.
Transit Union Leader
If the public didn't get anything else out of last December's utterly pointless transit strike, at least the leader of the Transit Worker's Union was exposed as a lousy leader, an inarticulate spokesperson and a terrible negotiator. We are not necessarily against strikes per se, but to time a walkout of such a vital city resource-subway and buses are the lifeblood of New York-during the week before Christmas was cruel to small business owners, shoppers and tourists. We aren't going to mention the sick, elderly, poor... That is the week that the mom-and-pop shops hope to go from red to black. The week they wait for all year. But what would the TWA head know or care about that? This tone deaf attitude makes Toussaint anything but a saint. So he shuts the city down for three long and hard days. The three-day strike would have been nothing more than an extremely unpleasant memory if Toussaint could have shown some leadership and sold his contract (one anyone in the private sector would have killed for) to his rank-and-file. When the 34,000 TWA membership rejected the MTA's contract, Toussaint's time as president was ticking. Now it comes out that as an employer, Toussaint is as stingy as his bosses at the MTA. The VP of the TWU, Ainsley Stewart, stood up to Toussaint and led the charge for the contract to be rejected. Toussaint got Stewart back by cutting his pay $20,000. Real union man. At least when Mike Quill shut the city down in 1966, the transit workers got something in return. Now they'll be lucky if they get the same contract they rejected. The union, meanwhile, may not survive the Taylor Law fines for an illegal strike. Maybe Toussaint will be back working on the tracks after the next union election. We can only hope.
6 JAMES FREY
After trying unsuccessfully to hump a lackluster novel around to the major publishing houses, James Frey decided to repackage his drivel as a memoir. He endured a public flogging at the hands of America's favorite talkshow host, lost agents and contracts, and faced off against a furrow-browed Larry King, who seemed to sincerely hope that all the fuss would lead Frey back to drugs or, better yet, suicide. In a perfect world, Frey's scam might have been an art school metacommentary on the gullibility of a trauma-hungry public. Alas, he ends up as little more than a no-talent rank opportunist pedaling rehab and catharsis to a nation of suburbanites desperate for the pretense of high culture. We look forward to running into him sometime soon, preferably unshaven, crack-addicted and bumming change outside of a Dunkin Donuts. Now that's poetic justice.
7 John Sexton
What's worse than a bunch of over-educated, privileged crybaby Felicity wannabes? Their disciplinarian daddy, of course. John Sexton helms NYU, that beacon of Downtown real estate and strike-busting. Sexton gave the rising princes of capitalism at the Stern School of Business a lesson in how to break the back of underpaid workers when he refused to negotiate with the Graduate Student Organizing Committee. The private university grad student union's contract had expired, and Sexton's stonewalling led to a November strike.
Picket lines and petitions led to cancelled classes. Some co-eds went keg wild-in support of the strikers. The strikers believed that they had won the day. But Sexton, the Andrew Carnegie of Academia, wouldn't budge instead issuing an "or else." The union and its members claimed Sexton's tactic was proof of their power. The strike is ongoing, yet unlike the Transit Workers Union walkout, NYU's newsworthiness fizzled quickly. With a reduced workforce, the university, whose tentacles have spread from the East to West Village, apparently hasn't taken over enough of Downtown Manhattan, and is-if you can believe it-looking to expand. While the school administration claims the undergraduate enrollment is shrinking, and therefore revenue, NYU dorms and classrooms are sprouting like poisoned mushrooms over the two villages. One such project has the villagers brandishing torches and pitchforks: A 26-story dorm at the corner of Fourth Avenue and East 12th Street. That's the site of the soon-to-be-former 159-year-old St. Ann's Church (the Landmarks Commission caved into NYU and denied landmark designation). The building would be the tallest in the East Village. If you were wondering whatever happened to the Saint and the Palladium, the city's two best-ever nightclubs, it's easy: NYU. Lower Third Avenue now looks like Upper Third Avenue, thanks to all the dorm highrises. A recent $200 million gift, earmarked for an institute dedicated to the research of ancient civilizations, will further pad the pockets of a school administration that has already eaten everything around Washington Square.
8 JUDY MILLER
Former Times Reporter
At first we were so rooting for her-hero journalist courageous enough to go to jail for the ethics of the profession-after she refused to reveal a news source, which turned out to be a now-former vice-presidential aide, Scooter Libby. Then bit-by-bit, we found out that she was the quintessential Washington insider, in bed with power and privilege. What we do know is that she became a New York Times high-flyer after Adolph Ochs Sulzberger Jr.-who was her colleague (and her summer share, with their mutual amours) when both were working the paper's Washington bureau back in the late '70s-became publisher in 1992. She rose to become the Paper of Record's Washington news editor and deputy bureau chief. There, she was perfectly placed to be a victim of Lord Acton's maxim: she was corrupted by power, and absolute power corrupted her absolutely. So when George W. was seeking a consensus for a war he so desperately needed,this presumably sober and judicious senior writer for a presumably liberal newspaper began beating the war drums so loud they could be heard in Baghdad. Miller became an administration lapdog, echoing the now-debunked WMDs. Thousands have died, and one day (probably soon) this country will slink out a la Vietnam with its tail between its legs. Meanwhile, Judy Miller keeps protesting her innocence as being complicit in mass murder. The Times has declared her toxic-a small penalty compared to those shot, burned, widowed and made homeless by her Bush brown-nosing.
9 Laura Blackburne
The poster hag for incompetence on the bench, this deluded 68-year-old in a black robe is a living throwback to the craven, money-hungry, gleefully corruptible judges devised by Tom Wolfe in The Bonfire of the Vanities. In fact, Blackburne has been loathsome at least since the Dinkins administration, when she resigned from her Housing Authority post after it was shown she had wasted $341,000 on her gluttonous taste in office furniture, including a puke-pink leather couch, which she defended as essential to create a warm ambience. That might have been her lowest point, if not for the 2004 catastrophe in which she personally escorted a mugging suspect, on trial before her for robbery, out the courthouse's back door, allowing him to evade arrest. Blackburne and her supporters-the NAACP, the Association of Black Women Attorneys and the Latino Lawyers Association of Queens County among them-momentarily contended that she was actually the victim of a police conspiracy to make her look like an idiot, though that theory collapsed in Her Honor's own words: "I
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