« April 2005 | Main | June 2005 »

May 31, 2005

Fields Female Fan robbed leukemia victim

There it was in the New York Sun -- which seems to treat Virginia Fields with kid gloves -- the piece apparently intended to trumpet support for Fields from prominent women. While any candidate (maybe even Abe Hirschfeld) can round up 60 bodies, being trotted out front and center to support C. Virginia Fields was none other than Hazel Dukes, former head of the New York chapter of the NAACP and admitted grand larcenist.

Jet Magazine wrote on November 10, 1997 that "Hazel Dukes, president of the New York State Conference of NAACP chapters and former president of New York City Off-track Betting Corporation (OTB), pleaded guilty to stealing $13,000 from an OTB employee and longtime friend."

The St. Petersburg Times wrote, "She admitted that she took $13,201 from a leukemia-stricken OTB employee who had trusted Dukes to help pay her bills."

And the Albany Times Union, on February 9, 2004, wrote:

In 1997, Hazel Dukes, a veteran civil rights activist and former national NAACP president from New York City, resigned as a SUNY trustee following a ruling by then-state Attorney General Dennis Vacco that she had abdicated her post by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor that violated her oath.

Dukes pleaded guilty to fourth-degree attempted grand larceny for stealing $13,200 from an ailing employee when she was head of New York City's Off-Track Betting Corp.
Vacco, who was asked by SUNY officials to determine whether Dukes' plea resulted in an automatic vacancy of her post, wrote that she had shown a "calculated disregard for honest dealing" and therefore violated her oath.

Click below to see all four articles.

The New York Sun
May 20, 2005
Female Fans Of Fields Flying High

With chants of "Madam Mayor" and cries of "yes" and "Virginia," about 60 female elected officials and business leaders standing on the steps of City Hall yesterday threw their support behind C.Virginia Fields, the only woman running for mayor in a major party.

The Fields backers included an assemblywoman, Annette Robinson; a state senator, Ruth Hassell-Thompson; a Democratic district leader and Dominican activist, Maria Luna; a former president of the NAACP in New York, Hazel Dukes, and a founding member of the Women Builders Council, Sandra Wilkin.

"Women in construction in this city, as in the nation, represent a major economic force.Women own nearly 18% of all construction firms," Ms.Wilkin said. "She knows the importance of giving women a strong and significant role in New York City's economy."

Ms. Hassell-Thompson called the group of women,Women for Fields,"extraordinary," "diverse," and "committed," and said that women, representing 58% of the electorate, should vote for Ms. Fields.

The candidate told her sign-waving fans that she would improve the environment for businesses in New York City.

"Women-owned businesses,minority-owned businesses, are significant areas where we can expand jobs by just opening up the doors of opportunity," she said. "Our plans are right in line with priorities that you have articulated."

Hazel Dukes pleads guilty to robbing employee.
Dukes, president of New York State Conference of NAACP chapters guilty of robbing Velma McLaughlin, employee of New York City Off-track Betting
Nov 10, 1997

Hazel Dukes, president of the New York State Conference of NAACP chapters and former president of New York City Off-track Betting Corporation (OTB), pleaded guilty to stealing $13,000 from an OTB employee and longtime friend.

In 1993 Velma McLaughlin gave Dukes authority to cash her OTB paychecks and to pay her bills after she became ill from cancer.

In pleading guilty to attempted grand larceny in Manhattan Criminal Court, Dukes admitted she used McLaughlin's money for floral arrangements, dry cleaning, car service, telephone bills and to pay for gifts for her friends and relatives. The New York Daily News also reported that Dukes admitted making donations to political campaigns, her sorority and the church.

Dukes, 65, will not be jailed because of her plea bargain to pay back the money by November.

After entering her guilty plea, Dukes maintained her innocence. "I did not make a mistake...My lawyer and I wanted to have some closure on this," she said.

Now living alone in a senior citizens complex in Kansas, McLaughlin, who is still ill, said she will use the money to repay debts she incurred due to Dukes.

An NAACP spokesman declined to tell the Daily News if Dukes would be removed from her position.

NAACP asks Lyons to leave its board
by David Barstow and Moica Davey
St. Petersburg Times
November 11, 1997

NAACP leaders on Monday called for the Rev. Henry J. Lyons and three others accused of financial misdeeds to resign from the organization's national board.

NAACP chairwoman Myrlie Evers-Williams, who made the announcement after a vote of the group's executive committee, said she feared board members' improprieties could harm the reputation of the nation's largest and oldest civil rights group.

"We want them to resign because the reputation of the NAACP is at stake," Evers-Williams said. "This was a serious matter, and it has to be handled swiftly. Far too many people have suffered for the organization to allow it to be tainted by scandal."

It was the first move by a national organization to disassociate itself from Lyons, plagued for months by allegations of personal and financial misconduct.

Late Monday, Lyons' attorney said Lyons already has stepped down from the 64-member board which sets policy for the NAACP. The attorney cited reasons other than Evers-Williams' request.

Attorney Grady Irvin blamed Lyons' "heavy travel schedule" and his need "to devote more time as pastor of Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church" in St. Petersburg. He also cited Lyons' duties as president of the National Baptist Convention USA Inc.

Irvin said Lyons submitted his written resignation to NAACP president Kweisi Mfume and Evers-Williams last week.

"Although Dr. Lyons has resigned from the board, he will continue to support the worthwhile endeavors of this historic civil rights institution," Irvin wrote in a news release.

Lyons had not received "any written notification, or the like, from the NAACP" calling for him or the others to step down, the release said. In an interview, Irvin would not elaborate on whether Lyons' resignation was prompted by the executive committee's action. Irvin also would not release Lyons' letter of resignation or say on what day last week he had quit.

The decision to oust Lyons and the other board members was made during a conference call Friday night by the NAACP's executive committee, USA Today reported Monday. The executive committee voted 12-2 to seek the resignations or initiate removal proceedings if any refused to step down, the paper reported.

"It's the overwhelming appearance of impropriety that has the majority of the board members concerned," Leon Russell, president of the Florida NAACP branch, said of Lyons' ouster. Russell said he supported the executive committee's decision.

Lyons had been serving his first three-year term on the NAACP's national board, Russell said. His term was to expire in February 1999. Lyons was elected to the unpaid position by the rest of the board. He filled a seat traditionally held by the leader of the National Baptist Convention.

But Russell said Lyons' involvement in the NAACP had been minimal. "He has not attended one board meeting since he was elected," Russell said, adding that the board meets four times a year. "It's not common at all (for board members to skip so many meetings)."

Lyons is facing criminal investigations over his handling of National Baptist Convention finances. Among the revelations: secret bank accounts, lavish purchases and forged documents.

The NAACP has been trying to repair its reputation since 1994, when the board fired executive director Benjamin Chavis after learning he diverted $80,000 from NAACP accounts to settle a sexual harassment complaint.

Monday's announcement came after weeks of internal debate following a new series of embarrassing disclosures. Some board members had threatened to resign if Evers-Williams didn't act.

In addition to Lyons, those asked to resign were:

Hazel Dukes, a close aide to Evers-Williams and president of New York City's Off-Track Betting Corp., who pleaded guilty last month to attempted grand larceny. She admitted that she took $13,201 from a leukemia-stricken OTB employee who had trusted Dukes to help pay her bills. The NAACP also will investigate the finances of the New York state NAACP chapter, which Dukes heads, Evers-Williams said.

James E. Ghee, a Virginia lawyer and another Evers-Williams supporter, who pleaded guilty in May 1996 to embezzling more than $38,000 from a client's trust fund. He was disbarred for five years and given six months in jail. Ghee and Dukes were leaders of a reform movement that pledged to clean up the NAACP. They accused former chairman Bill Gibson of financial wrongdoing and signed a code of ethics pledging NAACP board members to "a personal commitment to integrity in all circumstances."

Bobby Bivens, a Stockton, Calif., resident who was arrested Oct. 6 on charges that he owed $20,000 in child support.

On Monday, Evers-Williams said she had hoped to contact the four board members before announcing the action reached by the group's executive committee on Friday.

A member of the committee leaked details of the vote to the news media, however, so Evers-Williams said she felt compelled to confirm that their resignations would be sought.

"I haven't even been able to tell them we want their resignations," Evers-Williams said. "I'm livid that members of our committee couldn't keep this matter private until the proper time as they had promised."

The committee also voted to strengthen the NAACP's code of ethics, Evers-Williams said.

Green's guilty plea clouds job
Albany Times Union
February 9, 2004

Assemblyman Roger Green may have dodged certain dismissal by cutting a deal with Albany County District Attorney Paul Clyne and pleading guilty to misdemeanors last week, but his job isn't necessarily secure.

Under Public Officers Law, elected or appointed officials who are convicted of, or plead guilty to a felony automatically lose their jobs. So it seemed Green, D-Brooklyn, was in the clear last week when he pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor-level crimes in admitting he stole money from the Legislature by submitting false travel expenses.

But the law also says officials can be bumped from their posts when they are convicted of a crime involving a violation of the oath of office.

In 1997, Hazel Dukes, a veteran civil rights activist and former national NAACP president from New York City, resigned as a SUNY trustee following a ruling by then-state Attorney General Dennis Vacco that she had abdicated her post by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor that violated her oath.

Dukes pleaded guilty to fourth-degree attempted grand larceny for stealing $13,200 from an ailing employee when she was head of New York City's Off-Track Betting Corp.

Vacco, who was asked by SUNY officials to determine whether Dukes' plea resulted in an automatic vacancy of her post, wrote that she had shown a "calculated disregard for honest dealing" and therefore violated her oath.

The Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, ruled in 1993 that an official could be put out of office for misdemeanors that "arise from knowing or intentional conduct indicative of a lack of moral integrity."

"When an officer's moral integrity is called into question, so is the oath, and the public's trust in its government is necessarily undermined," the court stated.

To demonstrate a lack of moral integrity, the court added, a crime must involve "willful deceit or a calculated disregard for honest dealings." This must be determined on a case-by-case basis, the court found.

Darren Dopp, a spokesman for Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, declined to comment on whether the standard affects Green. The attorney general would not issue an opinion on the matter unless formally asked to do so.

Following Green's plea last week, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said he would create a panel to evaluate "all issues raised by this case." Asked Sunday whether the panel would consider whether Green should forfeit his job, Silver spokesman Charles Carrier said: "I just have to go with the language of the speaker's statement."

The Assembly Republican minority has yet to weigh in on Green, who last week said the practice of seeking reimbursement for fake travel expenses is widespread and needs to be changed.

But Assemblyman Robert Prentiss, R-Colonie, said Green "violated the public trust," adding that if he were in Green's shoes, he would resign. Prentiss also said Green's actions has "blemished the institution" of the Legislature.

"No one likes to see an elected official break the law," Prentiss said. "Even casting an appearance of the impropriety blemishes our reputation."

Posted by Merkookio at 07:30 AM

Insipid Fields' Press Releases

This is a bit old, but illustrates why the press and electorate view Virginia Fields as more than a few fries short of a Happy Meal. And we would rather not consider the visual image of General Fields marching over to Rudy's Bunker to learn about mosquitoes. Click Below.

Best Waste of Paper:
Borough President C. Virginia Field's Press Releases

from NY Press' Best of Manhattan 9/20/99

Assault by Fax Machine. This is rich stuff. Paleo-Democrat Blackwoman and Harlem machine hack C. Virginia Fields (hey, how come Esquire hasn't laid "Women We Love" honors on her yet?) wants the electorate to know she's working. Hence the incessant flurry of notices from her Centre St. offices that our fax machine spits out a couple of times every week, and sometimes even more than once a day.

Like most New Yorkers, we're usually about as interested in what's happening at the offices of the borough presidency -- a now-irrelevant post that should be eliminated with the next charter revision -- as we are in Details' much-discussed redesign, and just transfer the insipid documents ("MANHATTAN BOROUGH PRESIDENT C. VIRGINIA FIELDS TO HOST RECEPTION HONORING CARIBBEAN-AMERICANS" reads one of the latest) to the recycling bin.


Oh she does, does she? Funny. We received this fax around noon on that very Saturday. Which meant that even if we were a daily newspaper, news of the Borough President's diligence and bravery wouldn't get printed until Sunday -- a day late to warn people about the recent malathion insecticide spraying, and about a million years after every major news outlet on the planet had disseminated the same news. Here's how the press release begins:

"Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields today was briefed by Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Jerry Hauser on plans to spray in Manhattan to reduce the population of mosquitoes carrying St. Louis Encephalitic (SLE). The Borough President yesterday visited the OEM command center to see first-hand the City's plan for spraying the borough and the city. The Borough President was informed that the City will begin spraying..."

The Borough President was informed? Everybody was informed. It was on the news. What a self-aggrandizing waste of time, energy and -- yes -- paper. The sooner the borough presidencies are eliminated and Fields is compelled to earn an honest dollar, the better.

Posted by Merkookio at 07:27 AM | Comments (1)

May 13, 2005

More Flak for the Hack

The Villager reports that Borough President C. Virginia Fields took flak from Downtown Democratic leaders Monday for waiting so long to act against a Village bar owner who headed the Community Board 2 committee that handles liquor licenses.


Fields gets grilled on Rinaolo conflict at forum
By Josh Rogers

Borough President C. Virginia Fields took flak from Downtown Democratic leaders Monday for waiting so long to act against a Village bar owner who headed the Community Board 2 committee that handles liquor licenses.

Jim Stratton, vice president of Downtown Independent Democrats and owner of Grassroots Tavern on St. Mark's Pl., said when he used to be chairperson of Community Board 1, he always recused himself from decisions on liquor licenses. While questioning Fields during the D.I.D. mayoral candidates forum in Soho, Stratton said he was disturbed to hear that Fields had appointed so many bar owners and entertainment industry people to C.B. 2 and that she did not move quickly after learning of a Conflicts of Interest Board advisory opinion affecting a bar owner, Bob Rinaolo, who ran the board's Business Committee, which makes recommendations on liquor license applications.

Fields stood with her legs crossed and looked uncomfortable as the questions turned to her Board 2 record.

She said she doesn't look to appoint club owners, but she doesn't rule them out either. "To exclude a person because they may happen to be a bar owner is not something we have done," she said at the Puffin Room gallery on Broome St.

Another questioner, Puffin owner Carl Rosenstein, then asked Fields why she "basically ignored the ruling of the Conflicts of Interest Board" for a year and a half and did not reprimand Rinaolo or Board 2's chairperson, Jim Smith.

"As I understand it, the board made the decision to appeal the decision of the Conflicts of Interest Board.," Fields started to say before an audience member interrupted and said that Smith and Rinaolo decided to appeal without telling their colleagues on Board 2.

"The decision was appealed - how about that?" Fields responded. She said after the appeal was denied, she recommended Rinaolo step down as chairperson of the Business Committee.

The Conflicts Board ruled in mid-2003 that a liquor license owner, such as a bar owner or restaurateur, cannot chair a community board committee that considers liquor licenses. Smith did not appeal the ruling until the beginning of 2004 and the appeal was denied in August 2004. After The Villager began making inquiries about the ruling in December, Rinaolo said he would step down as committee chairperson and in the fallout from the disclosure of his conflict, he announced he would not proceed with his plan to run to succeed Smith as chairperson of the entire board.

Sean Sweeney, a C.B. 2 member and president of D.I.D., and David Reck, a district leader and C.B. 2 member, did not want to comment on Fields' response to the questions.

Stratton later said Fields should have moved aggressively against Smith and Rinaolo and he called her answers at the forum "lame."

As for the rest of the mayoral forum, one of the only policy differences between the four major Democratic candidates was over Fernando Ferrer's call for a small tax on stock trades, with Congressmember Anthony Weiner saying the tax would hurt the city economy and be damaging in Lower Manhattan, in particular. Council Speaker Gifford Miller and Fields are also against the tax plan.

In response to questions from Rosenstein, several of the candidates expressed concern about police actions against the monthly Critical Mass ride that begins in Union Sq. Park and opposition to add a restaurant in the park. All four said they opposed adding tolls to East River bridges. Mayor Michael Bloomberg floated the toll idea soon after taking office in 2002 but then backed away in the face of strong opposition, particularly in the outer boroughs. The tolls are supported by some in Downtown Manhattan who argue that free bridges encourage people to drive into Manhattan rather than take the subway.

"I'm the candidate from Brooklyn and Queens," said Weiner. "I ain't supporting any bridge or tunnel tolls."

Posted by Merkookio at 07:24 AM

Yes Virginia, There is a Small Business Community

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance blog reports that Virginia Fields has been indifferent (if not hostile) to the needs of small business.

Yes Virginia, There is a Small Business Community

As all of the recent polls indicate, a great deal of growing support for Virginia Fields's candidacy for mayor in the Democratic primary, it is a good time to analyze what her candidacy could mean for small business in general and neighborhood retailers in particular.

In the 1995 battle over Pathmark in East Harlem, Fields, even though she was an active member of Abyssinian Church, supported the use of public money for Abyssinian Development Corps's proposal to bring the regional chain into Harlem. When we met her for the first time she remarked to us, "Oh, you're the one who represents the `bodegos'"

It was pointed out to her that these so-called "bodegos" had collectively invested over 45 million dollars in the East Harlem community and any reference to them that implied they were bodegueros was demeaning. Her hostility, however, continued unabated even while council members who eventually supported the project made special efforts to visit the local supermarkets and comment on how well they were run.

Virginia's work for the big guys continued as she helped broker another council deal that brought a shopping center to Laurelton, Queens, over the objections of the African American council member in the district and the Laurelton Federation of Block Associations. In fact, Virginia's main role on the Council's Land Use Committee was to be the primary midwife for all large real estate development.

Unfortunately, Virginia brought this mindset with her when she was elected Manhattan Borough President. When Steve Ross and Related were looking to build two huge Costco stores - without any parking - on the West Side of Manhattan, the labor-business-community coalition met with her to hopefully enlist her support. She told our group that she would be with us but subsequently failed to lift a finger in the effort that eventually led Related to withdraw its silly proposal. In fact, while Virginia did nothing, State Senator Tom Duane and council member Chris Quinn [see note below] demonstrated what strong leadership was all about by rallying their communities to the cause.

With all this being said, it is important to point out that the purpose of campaigns is to give candidates the opportunity to expand their constituencies. In this vein, we welcome Virginia's proposals on how she will treat the small business community. Given the mayor's weak record, there is clearly room for all the candidates, although only Anthony Weiner has articulated a full set of proposals.

p.s. Given Virginia's history, her rather weak initial comments on Wal-Mart (ones she later clarified), should make the entire anti-Wal-Mart coalition nervous.

Notes: The article is incorrect in that it was West Side community groups that mounted the effort to keep Costco out. Quinn and Duane certainly came along for the ride, but at the behest of the community groups.

It should also be noted that the Neighborhood Retail Alliance is represented by Richard Lipsky, a well-known NYC lobbyist. While taking strong stands to support small businesses, Lipsky is also associated with Bruce Ratner (Forest City Ratner) in the efforts to build a basketball arena in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn, where widespread opposition has been mounted to the plan that would displace almost 1,000 residents, workers and small businesses.

Posted by Merkookio at 07:21 AM

May 08, 2005

Lenox Terrace resident on Rangel & Fields

"Good job. I'm African American, live in Harlem, and [I] don't find the site racist at all. You're mild compared to my site, www.CharlesRangel.com.

"I am a tenant at Lenox Terrace in Harlem and and putting Congressman Charles Rangel on the spot ... C. Virginia Fields is Rangel's 'girl.' You can't enter the system without Rangel's blessing on the Democratic side."

According to this Harlem website, the owner of the 1700-unit Lenox Terrace complex at 135th Street was pandering when they told tenants they contributed to Fields' campaigns. While it worked on some, the site states "Ethnicity alone is not sufficient grounds for accordance and alliance."

But Fields, according to the site, is owned by Landlords and Law Firms like Borah Goldstein and Altschuler. "She has stacked the deck of numerous community boards with appointees landlords want to see. She is known as 'Neighborhood-Destroyer Fields'."

Posted by Merkookio at 07:19 AM

Snippets from Kirtzman's Blog

After a "brutal" April 17th interview on WCBS's Kirtzman & Co., viewers had a Field Day [sic] on Andrew Kitzman's Blog (with his responses):

Maybe Virginia Fields Isn't So Nice
May 2, 2005 10:01 pm

Are you surprised that there has not been more talk about what Virginia Fields has done when it comes to Community Board members who disagree with her? This seems to be a reflection of how she would deal with people if elected, but seems no one cares about it. -No name

Not many people know who Virginia Fields is, much less the community board member she canned. But it's a story worth following. -AK

Another Virginia Fields Moment
Apr 21, 2005 1:58 pm

Was it just me, or did everyone in the room at the Crain's forum perk up when they heard that you would have the first direct question and it would be for Ms. Fields? She sure seemed a bit taken aback. -No name

So was I. That interview with her last Sunday was one for the books. I don't think either of us has recovered. -AK

Kerrey Fan
Apr 19, 2005 4:13 pm

Bob Kerrey is the answer to the Democrat primary conundrum. Ferrer is self-destuctive. Fields is a nice lady but has a mid-double digit IQ. ... -No name

Posted by Merkookio at 07:13 AM

Not really a Million Dollar Baby

From a May 8th WNBC interview:

GABE PRESSMAN: Now Mr. Ferrer told an audience at a fund-raiser the other day, "I grew up"--I'm quoting him--"on Fox Street in the South Bronx, played stickball on a tough street, and that's where I learned how to fight. It wasn't about picking the fights you could win; it was about you getting in the fights that meant something." Do you consider yourself a fighter?

Ms. FIELDS: Oh, absolutely. I've always been a fighter. I've always had to fight on many different levels. And I'm a good fighter; I'm a tough fighter. And...

PRESSMAN: Physically or...

Ms. FIELDS: I've had to fight physically.

PRESSMAN: ...figuratively?

Ms. FIELDS: I've had to fight physically...


Ms. FIELDS: ...sometimes, much younger, you know, as a kid. I don't fight now. But we used to do...

PRESSMAN: What sort of fights did you have as a kid?

Ms. FIELDS: Well, it was usually about turf kinds of things, you know, whose side of the street did this group belong to, and you don't cross this side. Sometimes about boys, too, you know.

For the entire Gabe Pressman interview, go here - or click below.

Interview: C. Virginia Fields, Borough President Of Manhattan, Discusses Her Position On Issues And Her Campaign For Democratic Nomination For Mayor Of New York City
POSTED: 4:52 pm EDT May 6, 2005

NEW YORK -- GABE PRESSMAN, host: Will she become the first black woman elected mayor of New York? That's C. Virginia Fields' hope. And in recent weeks, her poll numbers have gone up. She's angry about the apparent neglect of warnings on security at ground zero and the stalling of that project. And after the bombing, near the British Consulate on the East Side, can Manhattan's buildings be protected? The borough president of Manhattan is one of four contenders for the Democratic nomination for mayor, including Fernando Ferrer, who, according to a recent Marist Poll, still leads the pack, though Fields is now a close second. Lagging behind, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Among the major issues: Mayor Bloomberg's determined campaign to build a West Side stadium, which he claims will bring jobs and the Olympics to New York; Fernando Ferrer's statement that the shooting of Amadou Diallo was, as a jury found, not a crime.

Announcer: From Studio 6B in Rockefeller Center, this is a presentation from News Channel 4, Gabe Pressman's NEWS FORUM. Now your host, senior correspondent Gabe Pressman.

PRESSMAN: And Virginia Fields is our guest on NEWS FORUM today.

Good morning and welcome, Ms. Fields.

Ms. C. VIRGINIA FIELDS (Borough President, Manhattan; Democratic Candidate for Mayor of New York City): Good morning, Gabe.

PRESSMAN: Security concerns, it was disclosed this week, will delay the building of the new office building known as the Freedom Tower. The governor and the mayor both agree that they want to make sure that it's safe. How do you feel about this decision to delay this building that seems so close to realization?

Ms. FIELDS: Well, I certainly do agree that safety and security must be paramount in the development of all of our buildings. And when we look at the Freedom Tower, that particular area where we had the terrorist attack and created the situation--or where the situation was, rather, created and that we now have to address it, security should have been obviously a part of the overall planning. My concern is at the end of the process, to now say that the delay is due to security concerns, I find that mind-boggling because...

PRESSMAN: What do you think they've been doing all this time?

Ms. FIELDS: Well, that is the question that I and every citizen perhaps is now asking, and that is during this period where we were told that the police commissioner and other security experts were a part of the planning throughout, that if they were making specific recommendations, the questions are: Why were they not listened to? Why were they not incorporated into the overall planning? And why weren't these issues raised before the announcement of the final plan? I think it really represents, in my mind, colossal failure. And I think that it is just absolutely unacceptable...

PRESSMAN: Do you think they goofed?

Ms. FIELDS: ...that all of this time...

PRESSMAN: The governor and the mayor goofed?

Ms. FIELDS: I think that the governor and the mayor, because they have total control of this planning process, did not communicate, did not follow up in terms of making sure that issues of security were, in fact, a part of the overall plan, especially...

PRESSMAN: How would you characterize that?

Ms. FIELDS: Colossal failure. That's how I characterize that. It was failure on the part of those who were in charge of the planning process, and that is the governor and that is the mayor.

PRESSMAN: The other day, Commissioner Kelly--I was there--he expressed his feelings about this when he said this.

Commissioner RAY KELLY (New York City Police Department): ...occurring in the plans for the Freedom Tower. We've been engaged in discussions on security since November of 2003...

Unidentified Man: Commissioner, the real question is: Have they been slow to respond to the concerns that you've raised?

Commissioner KELLY: Well, I'm not going to characterize their response. All I can tell you is I believe the police department is doing a job, has been doing a job in focusing on security concerns and will continue to do that.

PRESSMAN: Well, the city administration informed us that they were aware of Kelly's reservations, but nobody did anything, did they?

Ms. FIELDS: That is what I'm saying. Basic...

PRESSMAN: So isn't that incredible?

Ms. FIELDS: That is absolutely mind-boggling, it's incredible and it represents the fact that the communication and the leadership that should have been going on clearly was not happening. If the commissioner's saying he's been a part of this process since 2003 and specific recommendations were made and they were not incorporated into the plan prior to the big announcement last year now, `The Freedom Tower's ready, etc., and it is now finalized,' that represents a disrespect, I think, for his position, for his input around critical issues of security. And now we are at the end of a process, being told that the delay might very well be for an additional year for some...

PRESSMAN: Or more.

Ms. FIELDS: ...or more, for something that a great deal of time, money, effort and emotions.


Ms. FIELDS: I mean, thinking about the emotional impact on the families and so forth, so that this is major, I think, in terms of the failure of those who had responsibility.

PRESSMAN: What do you think that emotional impact will be on the families?

Ms. FIELDS: Well, one can never, you know, determine that, but the fact that they had been engaged and involved with this and now perhaps having to go through a process again, one can only imagine the impact that that has.

PRESSMAN: So it's a colossal foul-up, failure, as you said, and what would the--what's the remedy now?

Ms. FIELDS: Well, I think at this point steps must be taken immediately to replace the president--because you know that he also resigned--of the LMDC, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. And it needs to be someone who is independent, someone who has a track record in this kind of public-private...


Ms. FIELDS: ...development and can fast-track this, and make sure that all of the relevant components are engaged.

PRESSMAN: You think a deal was made between the governor and the mayor early on, with the mayor having control of the West Side of Manhattan for the future Jets Stadium...

Ms. FIELDS: I do believe that. I do believe that.

PRESSMAN: ...and the governor have control of Lower Manhattan?

Ms. FIELDS: I do, because that is exactly how it has proceeded. The governor has been in total control, basically, of Lower Manhattan in terms of the appointment of the president, making key decisions. And the mayor has focused on the West Side of Manhattan.

PRESSMAN: Are you saying, in a sense, that there was a political conspiracy here to enable the mayor to build the Jets Stadium while the governor had control of what was happening downtown?

Ms. FIELDS: I do not call it a political conspiracy, but what I do say is, based just on the actions, the mayor's focus has been on the building of a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan, and that has consumed a considerable amount of his time and focus. And now when we look at where we are on the Freedom Tower, the fact that we are possibly facing a year or more delay because of security being the major problem here, the coordination, the leadership, the communication that I think one would expect between the mayor and the governor clearly was not there, and it did not happen.

PRESSMAN: And you were not included in the process.


PRESSMAN: And Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker, wasn't; Councilman Alan Gerson wasn't.

Ms. FIELDS: We were not a part of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and that was my criticism at the very beginning, when this development corporation was formed to not include elected people locally and boroughwide representing the district and the city, I think, was a major mistake, because our focus is on what happens on a daily day-to-day basis in matters such as that.

PRESSMAN: What about the West...

Ms. FIELDS: And I think it was a failure.

PRESSMAN: What about the West Side stadium? Are you still against it, or do you feel that the mayor has some merit in what he says about getting the Olympics and the West Side stadium being vital for that and for creating thousands of jobs?

Ms. FIELDS: As I said, I support the Olympics coming to New York City. I do not support a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan, Gabe. It's the wrong location. And of course, we have had a lot of discussions and you've heard about desire to move it to Queens. Building a stadium in Queens will also create jobs, but more importantly, it begins to build strong economic development sites and locations in other areas outside of Manhattan. Building the expansion of the Javits Center, building residential, more residential on the West Side, which is what my plan calls for on the West Side of Manhattan, with relevant commercial hotels and so forth. We're still creating jobs. And we're also--by building housing, we will be generating property tax. So that's revenue. So it is about jobs either way we go, but the West Side is the wrong location.

PRESSMAN: I want to talk to you about the recent Marist Poll which showed that you had gained a great deal, and about Fernando Ferrer, who's still in first place, although you've gained on him, and about who the fighter is, Ferrer or Fields, after this.


PRESSMAN: And we're back here with Virginia Fields, a contender for the Democratic nomination for mayor.

The recent Marist Poll, Ms. Fields, showed that you have 30 percent of registered Democratic voters to Fernando Ferrer's 34 percent, an increase of 9 points for you. What do you attribute that to?

Ms. FIELDS: Well, I think it is directly attributed to the fact that I am now campaigning broadly throughout the city, going out into all of the boroughs, the different neighborhoods, talking with people about my background, my accomplishments, my vision for the city.

PRESSMAN: What about the Diallo case? Mr. Ferrer, who was here just last week, sitting where you are, did his statement about that, that it wasn't a crime, which I think echoed what the jury found in the actual trial when they acquitted the four officers--Was the Diallo situation what undid his long lead over you?

Ms. FIELDS: You know, I don't know if that attributed to it. Obviously, people have strong opinions, as evidenced by the polls. But I do believe that my increase based on responses that I received when I'm out campaigning, talking about the issues that affect people's daily lives. People are looking for a mayor who will make the priorities of health care, for example. I've been talking about that all week. This is, as you probably know, the conclusion of Cover the Uninsured Week, a national issue. And we've been talking about that. With 1.8 million uninsured residents here in New York City, we can do more. And we've talked about using, for example, the tobacco settlement funds instead of continuing to use it as a part of the general operating fund of the city's budget, use that to really do what it was intended to. So when I talk about these issues throughout all of the city, I think that is what is attributing to the...

PRESSMAN: Should the Diallo case be an issue?

Ms. FIELDS: Individuals will make up their minds about that because it affects people in so many different ways. But I think that, as I said, as I'm moving throughout...

PRESSMAN: But what about this individual, you? Do you think Diallo should be an issue?

Ms. FIELDS: It will probably be for many.

PRESSMAN: Not for you?

Ms. FIELDS: In terms of how I vote? I'm voting for Virginia Fields. I wasn't going to be voting for Freddy Ferrer in the first place, so...

PRESSMAN: Now Mr. Ferrer told an audience at a fund-raiser the other day, "I grew up"--I'm quoting him--"on Fox Street in the South Bronx, played stickball on a tough street, and that's where I learned how to fight. It wasn't about picking the fights you could win; it was about you getting in the fights that meant something." Do you consider yourself a fighter?

Ms. FIELDS: Oh, absolutely. I've always been a fighter. I've always had to fight on many different levels. And I'm a good fighter; I'm a tough fighter. And...

PRESSMAN: Physically or...

Ms. FIELDS: I've had to fight physically.

PRESSMAN: ...figuratively?

Ms. FIELDS: I've had to fight physically...


Ms. FIELDS: ...sometimes, much younger, you know, as a kid. I don't fight now. But we used to do...

PRESSMAN: What sort of fights did you have as a kid?

Ms. FIELDS: Well, it was usually about turf kinds of things, you know, whose side of the street did this group belong to, and you don't cross this side. Sometimes about boys, too, you know.

PRESSMAN: Where was that?

Ms. FIELDS: When I grew--as I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. But in terms of being a fighter, I've had to knock down barriers all of my life. Having grown up in the South, as we talked about the last time I was on the show, I grew up--I was born and grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. And fighting down barriers, fighting against civil rights, civil liberties that were denied people of color, `colored people,' as we were called. All of that helped to shape my vision, my view and my perspective.

PRESSMAN: At 17 you marched with Martin Luther King.

Ms. FIELDS: At 17 I marched with Dr. King, was in jail for six days. And by the way, that was also the time when he wrote the letter from the Birmingham jail. So those are really difficult times. So knowing how to fight, how to challenge and how to win has been a part of many of my battles and my activities, so I'm well-prepared.

PRESSMAN: You've said that education should be a major issue; so has Mr. Ferrer and the other two Democrats who are running, Congressman Weiner and Speaker Gifford Miller. But hasn't the mayor done a lot by centralizing education and by making it the highest priority for his administration?

Ms. FIELDS: My priorities in education would definitely be very different from the mayor. First of all, I would be more inclusive of educators. I think that's where we have seen. What we are seeing now is the fact that principals do not have the kind of decision-making in schools that they are in control of in terms of managing what happens in that school on a daily basis.

PRESSMAN: Who's in control?

Ms. FIELDS: The Department of Education, the chancellor and others at that particular level as opposed to engaging the school community. Your principals, your teachers, input and participation from parents and, to some extent, students, especially as relates to issues of safety. I think that students should be a part of comprehensive safety discipline plans. Who are better--and in a better position, rather, to work with their peers than other students?

PRESSMAN: You think that the educational system under the mayor, this mayor, is a dictatorship?

Ms. FIELDS: I think that it has certainly cut off a lot of the voices that should be included, some of those I mentioned as well as other elected officials.

PRESSMAN: Too authoritarian?

Ms. FIELDS: Too authoritarian, and decisions made at the very top and handed down as opposed to included. And as a result, I think that we have missed valuable time in making reforms. I would certainly focus more on investing early on in our children, pre-K. Let's do early assessments. Let's make sure that the interventions are provided so that as the children move through first, second, third and they get to the third grade and take the standardized test, we would not have to spend so much prep time on just how to take tests.

PRESSMAN: How would you characterize the system now? What's it doing?

Ms. FIELDS: Very controlling, very--it is not inclusive in terms of educators, in terms of the school community. The voices that should be heard, principals making the kind of decisions in the schools as it relates to methodologies, with curriculum, as it relates to comprehensive plans for safety and the involvement of parents. Parents have not been included to the extent that they should also be encouraged. And these are, I think, important as it relates to relationships building, too, in the schools.

PRESSMAN: Now rent control. Tenants should be very happy, the mayor said the other day, that the rent guidelines board is mulling increases of 2 to 4.5 percent on one-year leases. Said the mayor, `The range that they put out is lower than I think what a lot of people expect.' In other words, they're allowing less of an increase than some people expected. If you're a tenant, you should be very happy about that. What's your reaction to that?

Ms. FIELDS: I thought that it was rather an insensitive statement given the fact that many of these people aren't even able to keep up with the rent that they now have to pay. With the increased costs in fares for our subways, for our buses, increased costs in terms of food prices and other responsibilities and the fact that their salaries are not going up, I thought that that was a rather insensitive statement, quite frankly. And it does not give consideration to the many hard-working people out here who are really trying to make ends meet and simply are not able to make that 2 percent or even 1 percent. If salaries and other income perhaps was more in keeping with these increases, but that, I thought was rather insensitive. And I certainly would not have made that statement.

PRESSMAN: Do you think that the mayor doesn't relate to paying rent?

Ms. FIELDS: I don't know if he has to pay rent but we also have a place, Gracie Mansion, where he could have been living free, you know, of rent, and I know he would not have had to pay rent there. And as mayor I will...

PRESSMAN: What about...

Ms. FIELDS: ...live in Gracie Mansion, by the way.

PRESSMAN: So you'll go back to the...

Ms. FIELDS: Yes. I would definitely go back to the people.

PRESSMAN: ...old hangout.

Ms. FIELDS: That's the house of the people and I will live in it.

PRESSMAN: Affordable housing--Are we making any progress?

Ms. FIELDS: Affordable housing, major issue. We're at a time now when one out of five of New Yorkers are paying 50 percent or more of their income for rent, and that does not include other expenses that they have. We have to turn the corner.

PRESSMAN: Let's talk about some other issues after this message.


PRESSMAN: Back here with Virginia Fields, candidate for the Democratic nomination for mayor. Ms. Fields, do you think that you're significantly different, as the issues you've discussed just now, from the other candidates, the other three?

Ms. FIELDS: Well, my position ...(unintelligible).

PRESSMAN: Democratic candidates, I meant. Yeah. Yeah.

Ms. FIELDS: My position, again, on these issues have basically evolved from my experience and my work. And I am very passionate about doing the necessary things that will improve in each one of those areas, and I know some of the areas we've talked about where I have talked about this, for instance, is jobs. For example, we still have a major number of people in this city in different communities that are not working, and I have said I would create a deputy mayor's position--full employment. And that person would work to consolidate all of the relevant entities, private as well as public, in order to help put people back to work. So I think the--while we're all concerned with probably the same issues, how we address them and our response to them, I think, you will find differences there.

PRESSMAN: In his budget message, the mayor made it clear that jobs are--number of jobs are increasing, that tourists are more attracted to the city, that there's a very upbeat picture of New York right now. Do you agree with that?

Ms. FIELDS: Try telling that to the hundreds of people every day who are looking and calling the various offices, people trying to find work, at every level, high school dropout, people who have masters degrees, or no degree, and simply have not been able to find work.

PRESSMAN: And you think as mayor you could do something about that?

Ms. FIELDS: We would certainly focus on it very differently so that we can put people back to work at--in every area that we have control whether it's tourism, hotels, the health-care system...

PRESSMAN: Do you think your approach will be far different than...

Ms. FIELDS: It would be far...

PRESSMAN: ...Mr. Ferrer's?

Ms. FIELDS: It would be far different, I think, than all of the candidates, including the mayor. And my approach to housing and issues such as the rent we were just talking about, I would certainly be in touch with the concerns of those tenants and I think the statement certainly shows that the mayor's out of touch.

PRESSMAN: There's a tradition in the Democratic Party of having bruising primaries, beating each other up and then being victimized very often in the general election by the other party. Now do you--you signed a non-aggression pact, so to speak, with Freddy Ferrer. Are you going to keep observing that?

Ms. FIELDS: My concern again relates--that relates to all of the candidates. There is no need to personally attack any of the candidates, Freddy Ferrer and the other two candidates, not at all. We will talk about differences just as we talked about them a few minutes ago. Where differences exist in terms of our approach, our focus on the priorities that I certainly care about: affordable housing, health care, jobs, education. We will make the change.

PRESSMAN: Would you support the winner if it's not you?

Ms. FIELDS: I am very hopeful that it will be me, but I will support the winner of the Democratic Party, because we need to take back the power of this position, the mayority here in the city of New York.

PRESSMAN: It's not like in the old days when you were a little girl and there was a gang on one side of the street and you were on the other.

Ms. FIELDS: No, not at all. And they weren't gangs. They were just friendly rival groups.

PRESSMAN: Thank you very much, C. Virginia Fields, for joining us this morning. I'm Gabe Pressman. Have a good day.

Posted by Merkookio at 05:02 AM

May 03, 2005

Some things are just too funny for words.

In 1988, Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, wanting to appear macho, climbed into a tank for a photo-op, where the stunt summarily backfired on his image. In 2005, Virginia Fields perhaps wants to be seen as svelte. We don't think so given her attempt at hula hoops. Nevertheless, her campaign is holding a "Work Out for Fields" fundraiser on May 5th, where you can sweat the idea of a Fields' administration.

Serge Gym
104 West 145th at Lenox Avenue
Thursday, May 5, 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Posted by Merkookio at 04:56 AM

May 02, 2005

Aide: Indecision and no focus - in an otherwise puff piece

In an otherwise embarassing puff piece by NY Post's Frank Edozien, a former longtime aide of Fields is quoted as saying, "She doesn't run a tight ship. There is not a clear direction of what you want to get done. Things get dropped in the middle for any number of reasons."

Another former aide stated, "Getting a decision can take months, years. She is indecisive, inconsistent and invisible."

For the entire piece, click below. Prepare to gag.

NY Post
by Frank Edozien
May 2, 2005

She hates to be underestimated, or even to be branded as an underdog, but that has been the hallmark of Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields' political career ever since she first ran for City Council back in 1989.

Tonight, she and the dean of New York's congressional delegation, Rep. Charles Rangel, buoyed by consistently rising polls, will prod deep-pocketed Democrats at a dinner to infuse her mayoral campaign with funds and spread her message that she'll be a mayor for all New Yorkers.

"This is a very serious race for me," Fields said from the central Harlem brownstone that serves as her campaign headquarters.

"I never considered myself an underdog. I got in those races for the right reasons - using government to address the needs of people. This is who I am; this is what I will do."

Fields has long been a protégé of the powerful Harlem triumvirate--Rangel, former Mayor David Dinkins and former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton. Her story is inspirational to many.

In 1963, a 17-year-old Virginia Clark, of Birmingham, Ala., marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., staring down police dogs with other marchers. She got arrested and tossed in jail for six nights. Upon her release, she helped register black voters.

The youngest daughter of a steelworker and seamstress ended up with a graduate degree in social work from Indiana University, and by 1971, Fields had relocated to New York with her husband, Henry Fields.

She moved to Harlem in 1978 and became a tenants' advocate and active in local political clubs.

Her stunning victory against incumbent Councilman Kenneth Clark - by a 3-1 margin, as she proudly points out - laid the foundation for what would become a career marked by deliberation and political calculations.

In 1997, when Fields ran for borough president, she crushed the five others in the race, grabbing 42 percent of the total votes.

Now she hopes to follow the lead of former Mayors Dinkins and Robert Wagner, who used the borough presidency of Manhattan as a springboard to the mayoralty.

"Blacks see her as a favorite daughter running, and women are beginning to realize there is a woman running," Joe Mercurio, her top strategist, told The Post as news of her latest spike in the polls was released.

A Fields victory would give the city its first female mayor and only second black mayor.

"If the question is: Is she competent to be mayor? The answer is yes," Dinkins said, stressing that he hasn't made an endorsement yet.

"Philosophically, she certainly pleases me," he added, saying that the city would be ready for its first female mayor.

"Were they ready for me? Were they ready for the first Jew? If she gets more votes than anybody else, then the city is ready."

One former staffer who lives in Harlem said Fields had cultivated relations with the political machine there for years.

"She's very astute politically. She's been active in politics on the most local levels, so she understands it. She understands how to relate to people, and she knows the basic laws. She's a student of politics."

Over the years, she's been seen routinely strolling uptown and talking to local Democratic activists. But some newcomers who know of her would like to see more of her among them.

"There been a huge change of population in the last three years, a lot of gentrification," said Derrick Briggs, 35, a Harlem homeowner. "It wouldn't hurt her to come in front of young professional audiences and shake hands."

Fields frequently points to her 16-year experience in government. In that time, the always elegantly dressed Fields has nurtured an image as a conciliator, a listener and someone approachable.

Many like her. Many more voters love her. Few are loath to openly criticize. But there are critics.

"She doesn't run a tight ship. There is not a clear direction of what you want to get done. Things get dropped in the middle for any number of reasons," said one former longtime top aide.

Another who served under Fields for nearly three years called her management style invisible. "Getting a decision can take months, years. She is indecisive, inconsistent and invisible," she said.

All agree that her political instincts are razor sharp and that she's very caring.

"She's cautious and she's deliberative, and its worked for her. But at the same time, it's hard to identify Virginia with a single issue. At a certain point, you need to go out and takes risks," said one former senior staffer who worked with her early in her career.

"She can be hard if you leave her. That's for damn sure. I don't think she holds grudges, but you're not supposed to leave. Period. You can leave but you damn well better be out of politics," another said.

Fields wears the deliberative tag as a badge of honor and said the city would be better served by a deliberative mayor, and that's the problem with the Bloomberg administration.

"Deliberative, yes, indecisive, no," she said. "One of the issues that I have is they are not deliberative in terms of being inclusive. To hear other points of views . . . other than their own."

Posted by Merkookio at 04:51 AM | Comments (1)