Peak Stupid at the City Council

Something odd is happening in the City Council. Perhaps it has something to do with the national nervous breakdown that the country is having over the Presidential election, but the aggregate stupidity on display at the Council is reaching a new height.

Last week Antonio Reynoso thought it would be a good idea to participate in the “shutdown” of a City Planning Commission meeting. Angry that a real estate developer was planning to build a residential building on private land near his district, Reynoso accompanied a mob to scream and blow whistles until the public hearing was closed. The videos are great: Reynoso’s gratified look of accomplishment when the City Planning people announced that they would end the meeting is adorable, like a three year old who is sure his mashed potato-and-ketchup art installation on the carpet will delight his babysitter.

When asked about the appropriateness of Reynoso’s gesture—invading Steve Levin’s district to disrupt an early-stage land use discussion—Speaker Mark-Viverito acknowledged that it was “not productive.” She went on to say that the Council’s protocol of letting CMs have power over zoning and land use negotiations is a matter of “respect.” Given her typical reticence over matters of internal discipline, it is probably fair to say that this unusually direct language signals some serious displeasure with Reynoso’s tantrum. (You can read my column in the Post about the city funded nonprofit groups that provided the muscle at the hearing here.)

On a side note, Reynoso put out a strange tweet the other day. The local precinct was holding a community meeting about the K2 epidemic. Reynoso put on his Twitter feed: “W/ @NYC fighting stigma & stereotypes of K2 as we find real solutions to assist the most vulnerable people of our communities @NYPD83Pct

“Fighting stigma & stereotypes of K2…” So is Reynoso trying to destigmatize K2? That’s a new one. My impression was that the entire city—including the mayor and the council—were working overtime to make K2 as stigmatized as possible, which is why they put up those “K2: 0% marijuana, 100% dangerous” signs everywhere. And as for fighting the “stereotypes” of K2, I would be curious to see the counter cases. You know, the working mother of three who buys a $3 bag of pesticide-laced lawn clippings to unwind after a hard day, but who still reads to her kids and helps them with their homework.

At the last stated meeting Jumaane Williams did not stand up during the Pledge of Allegiance. Just in case nobody noticed, he drew careful attention to his action by putting out press releases, tweeting about it, going on TV to talk about it, etc etc. Williams said he was aligning himself with civil rights leader and second-string quarterback Colin Kaepernick in protesting state violence against black people.

Charles Barron spent 8 years sitting down during the Pledge of Allegiance and I don’t recall anybody asking him much about it, mostly because it is an extremely cheap and obvious form of getting publicity while pretending to make a statement. As with other instances of council members playing at protest, nothing is at stake. The authoritative moment came in 2014, when CM’s blocked Broadway after Eric Garner’s death: protected by the NYPD, they stopped the flow of traffic, and then went inside and held a stated meeting.

Does no one else see how feckless and indulgent this kind of thing is? The Council is an elected body: they are the government. They are the Man. Whom are they protesting against? Themselves? The whole point of civil disobedience is that it has a cost: actual jail time, or loss of income. Striking a dramatic pose and pretending to be part of a revolutionary movement is just a form of dress-up when there is literally no consequence to your actions.

This week a few brave CM’s joined Jumaane Williams in not saying the Pledge of Allegiance. They stood outside and made idiotic, sophistical speeches about patriotism and justice. Brad Lander read some prepared remarks for four minutes, demonstrating once again that no elected official in New York City has a higher opinion of himself or sets a lower bar of personal accomplishment. A lot of the discussion surrounded Williams’ absolute “right” to sit in his seat while everyone else stands. But nobody is disputing his “right.” If anything, people are questioning his privilege.

Williams got hate mail from some crank, and this was trotted out as a kind of ex post facto validation of his insipid protest. Everyone wrung out their tear-soaked hankies and cried some more for the cameras, shivering at the thought that racists among us had ventured from their caves to hurl invective at Jumaane Williams’ nobility. Even Melissa Mark-Viverito got into the act. At the end of the stated meeting, she read a speech aloud (after first demanding that all the CMs be quiet and listen to her) reminding everyone that she also used to not say the Pledge of Allegiance, and that she was accused of not being patriotic…and it Hurt! It hurt a lot!

She looked right at Karen Kozlowitz during these remarks, for it was Kozlowitz who had told the papers in 2013 that MMV didn’t say the Pledge out of disregard for America’s foreign policy. Kozlowitz didn’t flinch: total stone face. Best part of the meeting.

Incidentally, the fact that MMV didn't say the Pledge isn't what makes me think she is unpatriotic: her devotion to jailed terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera says a lot more about that subject.

I wanted to get into the BDS stuff from last stated meeting…that was also fantastic. But to do it justice would push this close to 2000 words. Maybe next time...let me know if you want a play-by-play.