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The Bobster
12-31-2017, 08:50 AM

Will de Blasio bungle another Staten Island pool project?
By Anna Sanders
December 30, 2017 | 10:48pm

It’s the mayor’s goof that keeps on giving.

Back in 2014, the Salvation Army announced it would use $90 million in donations from the estate of McDonald’s heiress Joan Kroc to build a recreation center in a needy Staten Island neighborhood. All the city had to do was pony up $20 million in seed money to get the project up and running.

But after two years of City Hall stalling, the charity got fed up and pulled its donation. Staten Island and its Borough President Jimmy Oddo were livid at Mayor de Blasio for the screw-up.

So to make it up, de Blasio in April 2016 pledged $50 million for Staten Island’s first public indoor pool — which now has the makings of Boondoggle No. 2.

A draft internal memo obtained by The Post through a Freedom of Information Law request shows the three most viable plans have ballooned in cost.

“It’s beyond frustrating,” Oddo fumed. “This will go down as one of the worst missed opportunities of our collective tenures.”

Building a new Olympic-sized pool at the Goodhue Center or the Michael J. Petrides School would cost upwards of $80 million on top of the original $50 million, according to a Feb. 3 draft memo by Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver.

Adding an indoor pool to the outdoor Lyons Pool could cost $30 million over the original $50 million. The cheapest option — turning Lyons into an indoor pool — is within the $50 million pricetag, but the city dismissed it as the “least optimal.”

City Hall spokeswoman Natalie Grybauskas said the memo’s numbers don’t reflect the pool’s final cost.

“Staten Island deserves an indoor pool, and that’s why we’ve already committed $50M in funding,” Grybauskas said in a statement. “The rest of the cost will be determined by the size of the pool and its location.”

The Bobster
01-02-2018, 07:13 PM

Finance Board missed suspicious de Blasio donations
By Michael Gartland
January 2, 2018 | 8:38pm | Updated

Bill de Blasio (left) and Jona Rechnitz

Contributions that disgraced donor Jona Rechnitz bundled for Mayor de Blasio should have raised red flags with the Campaign Finance Board — long before he said he illegally used “straw donors” to give to the campaign, The Post has learned.

De Blasio’s 2013 campaign received public matching funds for a donation gathered by Rechnitz even though it did not submit documentation — a violation of city campaign finance law — records show.

One $4,950 donation — the maximum allowed under campaign finance rules — came from Paul Raps, who was accused of stealing millions of dollars in cash and gems from Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev.

Campaign Finance Board records show that while Team de Blasio claimed it was entitled to a match for Raps’ money, it did not provide a check or a contribution card, as required under the law.

“That’s a clear problem. That should trigger a higher level of scrutiny,” said John Kaehny of the good-government New York City Transparency Working Group. “Every single one of those contributions [collected by Rechnitz] should have been looked at again.”

But the violation is unlikely to result in a fine because de Blasio qualified for more matching funds in 2013 than it actually received, sources said.

“Typically, contributions are not matched without proper documentation,” said CFB spokesman Matt Sollars. “During its audits of the 2013 elections, the CFB reviewed documentation for more than 100,000 contributions from city residents. In this case, it appears an oversight was made.”

Closer examination of the Raps’ donation may have raised questions about another maxed-out $4,950 contribution from a Chana Weisz, which is tied to the same 580 5th Ave. business address where Rechnitz occupied an office.

The campaign did not provide a home address to CFB even though it’s required to and the records it submitted list her as “not employed” and a “homemaker.”

Further examination also may have revealed that building records at the 5th Avenue address show there are two women the donation could be traced back to there — one is Chana Weiss and the other is Shaindy Lax, who’s known to use the alias Chana Weisz.

Lax said she isn’t “the only one with access” to an account in the Chana Weisz name and referred questions to her husband Moshe Lax, a business associate of Ivanka Trump. Lax did not return calls.

Chana Weiss could not be reached.

De Blasio campaign spokesman Dan Levitan said the matter was “thoroughly examined by multiple agencies and closed with no action taken.”

Rechnitz, a convicted felon who testified at the trial of former corrections union boss Norman Seabrook, admitted some of the $41,650 he raised as part of the bundle for de Blasio actually came out of his own pocket and was funneled through straw donors to get around CFB rules.

Raps, who declined comment, also shared the same 5th Avenue address as Rechnitz, CFB records show.

The Bobster
01-02-2018, 07:18 PM

De Blasio blames ‘dull’ writers for boring speeches: emails
By Yoav Gonen
January 2, 2018 | 7:28pm | Updated

If you’ve ever fallen asleep during one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s speeches you’re not alone: He can barely stay awake himself.

Newly revealed City Hall emails show de Blasio has fumed about the poor quality of his public oratory and placed the blame not on his own speaking skills but on his “dull” speechwriters. :rolleyes:

In particular, de Blasio raged at underlings after a speech about his Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City that apparently had his audience paying more attention to their watches than to him.

Such speeches are pivotal in inspiring potential donors to work with the fund — which is chaired by the mayor’s wife, Chirlane McCray, and pays for some of de Blasio’s pet projects.

“I insist that you all improve the messaging around the Fund. My proposed remarks tonight are dull and uninspiring — as are my remarks too often when the topic is the Mayor’s Fund,” de Blasio wrote to three Fund officials, while copying McCray and former senior aide Peter Ragones.

“My job — in case this wasn’t clear — is to lead and inspire, particularly when we’re trying to build support,” the mayor continued in the email from March 2015 recently obtained by The Post. “Tonight’s remarks are a disconnected laundry list. I expect much better for the Fund board mtg.”

The finger-pointing came at a time when the administration was trying to hire new scribes to bolster the mayor’s public addresses.

“I’m really suffering because of underwhelming texts to work from,” the mayor complained to three top aides on March 10, 2015.

In the email with the subject line “Speechwriting,” de Blasio then added, “Any luck finding new candidates?”

The fund has raised between $20.8 million and $26.3 million in each year from fiscal 2013 through fiscal 2017.

De Blasio has often blamed his administration’s missteps on poor communication rather than on poor execution or decision-making, and his speech-writing team saw significant turnover during his first term.

But Curt Smith, a former speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush and currently a senior lecturer of English at the University of Rochester, said the mayor should take a look in the mirror before casting blame elsewhere.

“To me, the mayor is an unusual speaker in the worst sense of that term — at once overly aloof and harshly emotional,” Smith told The Post.

“Good speech-writing doubtless complements a good public speaker. It does not substitute for such a speaker,” he added. “I never heard Ronald Reagan publicly bemoan the quality of a speech. Nor, for that matter . . . did I hear my former boss, President George H. W. Bush.”

Last December, the mayor hired as his chief speechwriter Jonathan (((Fromowitz))) — a former strategist at de Blasio’s favored media and messaging firm, AKPD.

A City Hall spokesman had no immediate comment.