Borough President Gale Brewer Makes Manhattan Feel Small
May 11, 2016 - accent chair
Manhattan is not a tiny town. But when we spend a day with a precinct president, Gale Brewer, it feels like one—and Ms. Brewer feels like a mayor.
That even hold loyal when she seemed alongside a tangible mayor, Bill de Blasio, during a city gymnasium for comparison adults in her Upper West Side area progressing this year, where Ms. Brewer called her voters to order.
“I kept them in line, we know. ‘Ann, close up, we already asked your question.’ ‘Belinda, it’s your turn,’” Ms. Brewer told me as we rode by Manhattan in her city-issued SUV. “You know, given we know them all.”
And afterwards Ms. Brewer launches into a quintessential West Side story. An comparison woman, in her 70s or 80s, white and “very attractive,” with “lovely gray hair,” asked a mayor a formidable doubt about lease control. The mayor punted to a financial commissioner, Jacques Jiha, who is Haitian and speaks with a clever accent. Ms. Brewer sets a stage for a punch line.
“She’s a unquestionably tall, skinny woman, we know, impression face. Very attractive. And she looked unquestionably quizzical, like: ‘I don’t unquestionably know what we said.’ That was what her face said. And afterwards she says, ‘Je ne comprends pas alors,’” Ms. Brewer said. Mr. Jiha answered a woman’s doubt again, though this time in French, and a room applauded. “I laughed so tough my stomach hurt. Only on a Upper West Side.”
While her territory now includes a whole island of Manhattan, Ms. Brewer, 64, who lives in a brownstone on West 95th Street with her husband, Cal Snyder, an author, is any bit an Upper West Side character. On a Feb morning she met with me, she emerged from a yellow cab vaguely frazzled and somewhat late for her initial assembly of a day. She was clutching 3 bags containing 4 cellphones, dual of that don’t work though enclose information she’s transferring over to a ones that do. Her blonde hair, as it customarily is, was pulled behind from her prolonged face by dual banana clips. She’s one of a wealthiest inaugurated officials in a city, according to disclosures filed with a Conflicts of Interest Board, a unapproachable feminist who came to politics by a women’s movement, and an unashamed wonk.
And like any good Upper West Sider, she knows everybody and they know her.
“I cruise people know that they could proceed me,” Ms. Brewer said. “I don’t know if they do that to everybody else.”
While Ms. Brewer is maybe a Platonic ideal of a Upper West Sider, she is not many like everybody else—at slightest not like everybody else in politics. She isn’t flashy, and does not like or find praise, though she is also never shy and has been famous to dump a few expletives behind sealed doors. Her domestic passions embody saving a city’s annals (I once wrote about her query to save VHS and Betamax tapes of city meetings) and expanding a use of county data—not accurately marquee issues. She once chaired a legislature cabinet on bedbugs.
“You know how a lot of politicians like to tell we they’re not a politician?” pronounced city Comptroller Scott Stringer, a neighbor and Ms. Brewer’s prototype as Manhattan precinct president. “Gale Brewer is not a politician.”
And yet, she wins. First, she won when she ran for an open City Council chair in 2001, during a propelling of her domestic mentor, a former precinct president, councilwoman and mayoral contender Ruth Messinger. Ms. Brewer had worked for Ms. Messinger as her arch of staff, and before that for Lt. Gov. Mary Anne Krupsak underneath Hugh Carey and for a National Women’s Political Caucus. Later, she served in a Dinkins administration’s sovereign affairs division, and afterwards for open disciple Mark Green. She even did a army in a private sector, user for affordable-housing builder Telesis.
“I still knew any singular chairman in a reside associations and a Mitchell Lamas, we know, a people who matter in a neighborhood,” Ms. Brewer said. “And that’s what helped me get elected, to be honest with you, those 20-year relationships.”
After winning reelection twice and being forced out by tenure limits, she ran for precinct boss in 2013, removing into a competition late, lagging behind in fundraising and confronting 3 critical opponents, including dual other white women with whom she competence have separate a vote, though didn’t.
“She was like a anti-candidate—didn’t unquestionably caring about lifting money, wasn’t gonna start a debate until a paid ill leave debate [in a Council] was done. The rest of us are using for a lives,” Mr. Stringer recalled. “Sometimes we get a clarity that she didn’t cruise about a debate until a final few weeks.”
The competition was considerate and professional, pronounced Jessica Lappin, a former city councilwoman who ran opposite Ms. Brewer. They’d been colleagues for years, and Ms. Brewer had once sent Ms. Lappin a handmade coverlet after a birth of one of her children.
Asking Ms. Brewer how she won reveals a lot about a things that seem to matter to her.
“I’ve had 10,000 interns. I’ve been training college since, let’s see, we don’t know, 30 years, 20 years. we have all my students, all my interns, all my National Women’s Political Caucus people,” Ms. Brewer said. “It’s tough to describe, though literally in any dilemma of a borough, we know people. Every novice has a family, any tyro has a family.”
Ms. Brewer has a knack for wise in with many groups—on a day we followed her, she went to an eventuality for a Collegiate Congress during a rooftop bar Hudson Terrace (“Oh, God, we go here all a time”) and afterwards crossed city and a integrate generations for a Valentine’s Day celebration for a Turtle Bay Association. But she seems generally during palliate with immature people.
“We changed a eventuality given we wanted her to attend this evening,” Christo Thomas, who founded a Collegiate Congress and interned for Ms. Brewer, told me. “We could have gotten some-more inaugurated officials from a Assembly and a Senate. But Gale is a contingency for us. I’m serious.”
If Ms. Brewer is gentle with immature people, it might be given she’s spent many of her life surrounding herself with them. Ms. Brewer and her father have helped to lift 35 encourage children, and adopted dual of them. She’s mentored large interns like Mr. Thomas given her time user for Ms. Messinger, and also taught hundreds of students.
“She doesn’t like anyone to contend anything good about her—that’s one of a hurdles of user with Gale—but she’s always had an heated thought of investing in a future,” pronounced Ms. Messinger, who co-teaches a category during CUNY with her.
In a march of a day, Ms. Brewer spoke with believe and consolation about a spate of construction deaths, generally of undocumented workers. “I wish people cared some-more about a people who died. we don’t know since they don’t. But we do.” When it comes to reigning in hawkers and dress characters, she rattled off a spate of inherent hurdles and certified she, like any other genuine New Yorker, avoids Times Square. She summarized her prolonged conflict to save internal businesses from proliferating banks and sequence pharmacies. She was peaceful to contend when she didn’t know about something though always seemed to wish to learn more.
“She is somebody who knew what her star of concerns were and knew how to concentration on them,” Ms. Messinger said. “And she didn’t try to be all things to all people.”
She speaks her mind. Ms. Lappin described it as revelation it like it is—“Gale is unquestionably straight.” Councilman Corey Johnson combined that she “doesn’t humour fools.”
“The mayor will be observant something during a press conference, we know giving a talk, and Gale only interjects, though being called on,” infrequently to scold him, Mr. Johnson added. “She’s not a siphon up.”
In a evening, she bounced from a accepting for artists in her bureau to a assembly on a perils of a skill taxation complement a few doors down to a retirement celebration for a friend, all before a collegiate and Turtle Bay events.
“She’s famous for going to 87 meetings a night, and we always notice when she walks in given she’s always carrying 3 bags value of paperwork,” pronounced Ms. Lappin. “People fun about that, though it unquestionably only speaks to a implausible work ethic.”
Mr. Johnson before chaired a village house in Hell’s Kitchen—where only a few blocks were in Ms. Brewer’s aged legislature district. For 8 and a half years, Mr. Johnson said, Ms. Brewer came to any village house meeting.
“She’s arrange of user during a breakneck pace, for years, in government. And we don’t know how she does it,” Mr. Johnson said, recalling nights when he’ll content her during midnight and afterwards get an email respond during 5:45 a.m. “I cruise to myself: When does Gale Brewer sleep? Or does she sleep?”
Ms. Brewer pronounced she strives be accessible.
“I’m some-more on a process wonk side. we do know a issues. That’s one thing we know,” Ms. Brewer said. “I cruise we know how something should work. I’m not observant we can repair everything, though we know how something should work.”
It can be tough, Ms. Brewer said, when you’re not an user or don’t always authority a limelight. You have to learn how to build your possess constituencies. You have to work tough for change, “pushing any lever.”
“You only unquestionably wish to make a difference,” she said. “I don’t know how else to contend it.”
Ms. Brewer’s Manhattan doesn’t feel like a tiny city only given she seems to know everybody in it, immature and old. It’s given a parochial aspects of supervision are some of her favorites. She’s a doctrinaire proponent of village boards. In her morning assembly with a Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater New York, she chatted with large wigs about land use and genuine estate like a pro. Then she urged a landlords to join their internal village boards.
When deliberating a formidable doubt of affordable housing in New York, she once again returned to a thought of Manhattan as a community.
“When we have rentals, affordable and market, a affordable people stay forever, we know, spin over when they die or pierce or whatever. But a other people change like this,” Ms. Brewer snapped, “because a lease goes adult all a time. So we don’t get a permanent, we don’t get a permanent area group. That’s a genuine problem…You don’t attend in a affairs of a community.”
Michael Slattery, a comparison clamp boss during a Real Estate Board of New York who serves on Ms. Brewer’s Midtown East Steering Committee, has disagreed with Ms. Brewer plenty—on things like landmarking or her efforts to keep Duane Reades and large banks out of her district.
“It was always finished in a cordial, accessible manner,” he said. “She’s a extreme aspirant and a extreme advocate, though so are we during times. But we continue to work together on other issues after that.”
“You can remonstrate with her,” Mr. Slattery added, “but we can’t dislike her.”
Of course, Ms. Brewer is not indeed a mayor of a tiny city of Manhattan. That’s a gig indifferent for Mr. de Blasio—someone Ms. Brewer has prolonged supported. She corroborated him when he ran for legislature speaker, and paid a cost when he mislaid to Christine Quinn: she was stranded on a Technology Committee, something Ms. Brewer plainly says was meant as a punishment. But Ms. Brewer—who believes she had City Hall’s initial Blackberry—embraced a position, with her crowning feat being open information legislation that creates it easier for people to entrance city records. And she didn’t demeanour behind when it came to Mr. de Blasio, subsidy him for mayor.
That doesn’t meant they always agree.
“I’m called ‘Conscience.’ ‘Here comes Conscience.’ He says, ‘Here comes Conscience.’ So we like that. we cruise that a badge of honor,” Ms. Brewer said. “I cruise we get along with him fine. we don’t work for him.”
Later that day, Ms. Brewer testified about a mayor’s affordable housing re-zoning devise to a City Council—outlining a areas where she’d given redeeming support, and areas where she wanted changes. (The devise eventually passed, with amendments and Ms. Brewer’s blessing.) She was during home in a Council chambers even as she sat on a sidelines, patiently watchful her spin on a riser indifferent for press, her feet swinging a few inches above a ground.
James Oddo, a Republican precinct boss of Staten Island, served with Ms. Brewer in a Council, where he sat in front of her.
“I can’t tell we how many times we spun my chair around slowly, and during a finish we knew any other so good we would only make eye contact,” Mr. Oddo said. “But that was preceded by a duration where she would say, ‘Don’t get me started, Jimmy Oddo,’ in response to comments finished by a colleagues.”
Ms. Brewer gets along swimmingly with all her associate precinct presidents, observant a 5 of them have a organisation content summary string. “You substantially can’t—no, we can’t see these texts,” she says with a laugh. Mr. Oddo removed a new assembly a 5 of them had with Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. The “two alpha males,” Eric Adams of Brooklyn and Rubén Díaz Jr. of a Bronx, battled it out to pronounce first. Then Melinda Katz of Queens jumped in, Mr. Oddo said.
After, Ms. Brewer looked during Mr. Oddo. He changed to produce to her, though Ms. Brewer mouthed to him: “I have her cellphone number. we can pronounce to her later.”
“That’s it. Gale knows everyone. Everyone knows Gale. Gale does in fact have everyone’s cellphone number, given she has been user with everybody so long, and she, to me, is what this pursuit is ostensible to be about,” Mr. Oddo said. “She’s invested in it. She’s unquestionably good during it. It’s not about her.”
That’s a kind of personal infrastructure that could pave a highway for a mayoral run.
“I positively will not. Absolutely, unquestionably no,” Ms. Brewer says when asked if she will ever run.
Of course, once on a time Ms. Brewer didn’t cruise she’d run for everything. But her answer lacks a shake room many politicians give themselves, as does her reason about why.
“Because we like Manhattan. we don’t know about those other boroughs. Too complicated. we know Manhattan,” Ms. Brewer said. “I’m not a five-borough person. I’m a Manhattan person. we like my borough.”
Not meaningful adequate about a city to be a mayor hasn’t stopped any of a prior possibilities from seeking a pursuit or winning it. But Ms. Brewer truly seems to see it as a disqualification.
“Too complicated,” she pronounced again.