Thursday, November 13, 2008

Now, Vito Lopez Has Warm Words for Mike the Mayor

NY Obsever, By Azi Paybarah, 11/13/08

Michael Bloomberg, who plans to seek re-election next year, is rekindling his friendship with Brooklyn Democratic County Leader Vito Lopez, who hosted the mayor at a community meeting last night.

Bloomberg was greeted with thunderous applause when he walked into the gymnasium inside the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Center, the epicenter of Lopez’s world. In front of a crowd of school children (still in uniform!), their parents, older residents and a few Brooklyn politicos, the two politely argued as to how often they agree: 98 percent of the time, or just 97 percent of the time.

Before fielding a handful of questions from the audience, Lopez introduced the mayor warmly. He lauded Bloomberg’s “commitment to education and to Bushwick, and for that alone, the mayor is a hero and should be a hero to the people here.”

The first three people to ask questions began with lengthy thank yous to the mayor.

One simply wanted to know how to thank city health care workers that got insurance for a five-year-old girl 24 hours after she was hospitalized for a random gunshot wound.

One potentially thorny question came from an older woman, Maria Gomez, who asked what the mayor planned to do about senior centers. The administration has a plan to restructure them, and possibly reduce services in some.

But after hearing the mayor’s answer--“We are not walking away from our seniors”--Gomez nodded approvingly and mouthed “Thank you.”

The entire event lasted about an hour. Once the mayor left, Lopez posed for pictures with a few people. In between photos, I asked Lopez how he thought it went.

“You saw the applause,” he said.

I asked Lopez if he thought Bloomberg has learned how to connect better with regular New Yorkers who don't live on the Upper East Side.

“He’s warmer, he’s much more gracious, and he fits right within the personality of the community that he’s at. So, today, the people here felt a lot of warmth, and they were excited. They’ll remember this day for a long time.”

He added, “I’ve met Shirley Chisolm when she first started, I knew Geraldine Ferraro. I think some people change, and the mayor has made a remarkable change and he really is extremely sensitive. If he had a little bit more time, he’d be hanging out and walking through the crowd.”

With the 2009 mayoral race right around the corner, I asked Lopez if he’d support Bloomberg, who is not in any registered party, running in the Democratic primary. To do so, Bloomberg would need permission from three of the city’s five Democratic County leaders.

“It’s all relative to who runs,” he said. Then, as if obliged, he added, “But I’m the Democratic County leader. My obligation is to the Democratic Party. That’s a judgment I will make four or five months from now.”

AZI PAYBARAH can be reached via email at

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