There was an article in yesterday’s New York Times by Michael Powell about how the infamous Kenmore Hotel on East 23rd Street was cleared out of undesirables with the help of a confidential informant. The guy’s name is Earl Robert Merritt and he told reporters how he planted drugs and set people up for the NYPD and the Manhattan DA’s office. The photograph accompanying the story is one of Rudolph Giuliani at a press conference vowing to clean up the Kenmore and the rest of the city.
I’m familiar with both the Kenmore Hotel and Mayor Giuliani on a personal level, and the article brought back a lot of memories of New York in the 80’s and early 90’s.
I had a friend who was living at the Kenmore inn the mid 80’s; it had already gone to seed and had a reputation for catering to residents with drug problems. This guy was a German national who ended up being a heroin addict and shoplifter in New York. His specialty was stealing expensive red sable brushes from art supply stores and then selling them on the street.
My connection with the Mayor is a little more tenuous; in the mid 90’s when my son was ten years old I signed him up to the local PAL baseball league. It was called the “Steven McDonald Rookie Baseball League;” and on opening day officer McDonald would come out to McCarran Park and give the kids a little pep talk.
On opening day 1997 we got a special treat. The field was cleared, a couple of van loads of policemen stationed themselves in a perimeter around the field and we watched as a large helicopter swung over the neighborhood and landed behind second base. The door opened and Mayor Giuliani popped out. He approached the little podium that had been set up, and gave a short speech. He then threw out the first ball and turned to head back to the waiting helicopter. We were then allowed to approach the mayor for autographs. I took my son’s baseball hat and got in the mob that surrounded the mayor.
As he began signing autographs, I noticed that he paid attention only to the white kids and parents holding out hats, he pointedly ignored the hat I held out and the hats of the few Black and Hispanic kids and parents. He kept turning his back on those while reaching for the hats of the whites. He then held up his arms and said, “OK, that’s it,” and ran to the waiting helicopter.
I was furious, but I said nothing, after all there was really no one to say it to.
I had watched the Mayor’s antics on TV, in the early 90’s he and his then friend Senator Alphonse D’Amato staged a publicity stunt by “going undercover” and setting out to buy crack in Washington Heights. It was front-page news in The Daily News.
This is the picture I cut out of the paper that day.
I have to talk about my own obsession and resentment with the mayor, which started well before the baseball field incident. It started with the Mayor’s crackdown on drugs when he became Mayor. I was into drugs at the time and didn’t like how hard the Mayor was making it for me.
I further did not like how he was encouraging gentrification, alienating the minorities in the city and unabashedly making New York better for the haves and telling the have-nots that if they didn’t like it they could find someplace else to live. I didn’t like him.
Maybe he sensed that when I held out the hat for him to sign, or maybe he just doesn’t see minorities as people, I’ll never know.
Mayor Giuliani was famous for getting things done, and if people got in the way of progress, well it was just too bad for them. The article about the informant who used totally illegal means to help clean up the Kenmore is only one example of what went on in his administration, hiring a prison guard with dubious credentials as Police Commissioner was another, one that blew up in his face a few years later.
Mayor Giuliani became America’s Mayor just by pure happenstance. The world saw and remembered the dust-masked Mayor striding through the rubble and vowing revenge on the perpetrators of the September 11th attack, but nobody remembers how he insisted that the brand-new multi-million dollar Office Of Emergency Management was located at the very place it was rendered useless by the attack.
We all make mistakes, but most of ours are not visible to the whole world.
That day at the baseball field, I sensed he was not a very happy person. Despite the smile he wore while signing the hats, his eyes and brow were set in hard, unfeeling stare. I wasn’t a very happy person myself at the time, as the saying goes, if you spot it, you got it.
In late 2002, just after he had vacated the mayor’s office and Gracie mansion, I was walking up Broadway from the East Village one night. I was very newly clean and was learning to navigate a new way of life, and as I reached 42nd Street, in front of the ESPN Zone restaurant, a door opened and out stepped America’s Mayor, Rudy Giuliani. He was alone, no bodyguards, no second wife, no acolytes. Just Rudy and his grim little smile. I was inches from him, he seemed just as surprised as I was. I looked at him, and he looked at me. I turned to face north and continued on my way to the depths of Hell’s Kitchen, where I lived at the time.

About xaviertrevino

I like to write, take things apart and put them back together. Also our cat Snookie, turtles, and my lovely wife Danusia.
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3 Responses to MESSAGE TO RUDY

  1. Mike irvin says:

    right on! X

  2. janetgzinn says:

    Thanks for talking about the lies that become legends.

  3. Robert W Hufstader says:

    Rudy may have cleaned up N.Y.C. but the new no-grit Manhattan sucks. No record stores, J&R Music world shuttered and the building demolished for another bland “yuppie” tower in lower Manhatan….$28,000 a month rents…..I’ll take L.A. anyday…..

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