Good morning. Today we’ll look at the city’s auction of 50 gifts to past mayors. We’ll also look at how prosecutors are once again scrutinizing Donald Trump’s role in hush-money payments to a porn star.
Credit…via Department of Citywide Administrative Services
Like presidents, governors and other officeholders, mayors get gifts all the time.
We’re not talking about bags of cash — we’re talking about trinkets. Totally legal stuff, but stuff they’d probably never use. Consider:
A pair of Nike Air Force Ones autographed by the rapper and actor Ice-T and the graffiti artist and hip-hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy from 2008. (Can you picture Michael Bloomberg, who was the mayor then, in Air Jordans?)
A Louis Vuitton soccer ball that was given to Rudolph Giuliani when he was mayor.
An apple-shaped paperweight given to David Dinkins by Diana Ross.
You can’t take it with you, and mayors can’t even take such things with them when they leave City Hall — gifts to mayors belong to the city. They (or probably someone on the staff at City Hall) send them off to the agency more often thought of as the repository for historic documents and photographs, the Department of Records and Information Services.
It has more than 185,000 cubic feet of things that have accumulated over nearly 400 years, from colonial-era Dutch and English manuscripts to the original engineering drawings of the Brooklyn Bridge to tax photographs from the 1930s and 1940s and the 1980s. It also has more than 10 million birth and death certificates and marriage records.
It amounts to a municipal cabinet of wonders. And the city is going to clean it out, but only a little: 50 objects that were given to mayors from Edward Koch to Bloomberg are being sold off.
An online auction begins today and will be run by another city agency, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which sold a vintage subway car for $235,700 in July. Money from selling the mayors’ gifts will go to the Municipal Archives Reference and Research Fund.
This is not the first time the city has sold some of its holdings. It has unloaded old saloon licenses and, in the 1980s, a folio of drawings by John James Audubon that the city had owned for 135 years. Using the acronym for the records agency, the city said the items to be sold have been “deemed by DORIS to have no research or archival value.”
So much for a framed front page of The Village Voice with the cover story “Mayor Dearest: An Exclusive Preview of Mayor Koch’s Memoirs.”
The same goes for a portrait of Koch from 1988, well into his third term in City Hall. The drawing was the work of the artist Miriam Troop, who died in 2016 at age 99. “She was a big fan of Koch,” recalled her daughter, Abigail Zuger, who said that Troop’s habit was to make preliminary sketches and take photographs of a subject — and have the subject sign a blank piece of drawing paper.
Koch signed, and Zuger said that later, when Troop went back to City Hall to give the completed portrait to Koch, he looked at it and said, “You did that?”
“She thought that was the best compliment,” Zuger said. “She enjoyed making it and was happy it was hanging in City Hall. And if it goes to another home and makes the city some money, we’d both be happy.”
The city put a starting bid of $40 on the Village Voice page and $50 on the portrait. The minimum bid on the Louis Vuitton soccer ball will be $600, while the starting bid for a pair of sterling silver Tiffany cuff links and a lapel pin that were also given to Rudolph Giuliani will be $40.
And there are the Nike Air Force Ones, apparently given to Bloomberg when Ice-T appeared at City Hall to announce that the annual “Hip Hip Honors” awards show would remain in New York. Bloomberg welcomed him to City Hall — “or my crib, as I like to call it,” Bloomberg quipped at the time — along with the graffiti artist and hip-hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy, among others.
“My people said Bloomberg’s cool, man,” Ice-T said at the time.
“So that’s what happened to those sneakers,” Bloomberg said through a spokesman last week when told about the auction.
It’s a sunny day near the low 40s. The evening is mostly clear, with temps around the low 30s. Expect wind gusts.
In effect until Thursday (Thanksgiving Day).
The latest New York news
Divide over Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu has mounted a political comeback with the backing of a far-right coalition that has stirred concerns among some over the direction Israel will take.
Buskers and RTO: It has been over a year since buskers, and their music, returned underground, and their slightly fuller tip jars and instrument cases suggest things may be looking up.
Arrests for intended attack on synagogue: Two men arrested on Friday at Penn Station, in what authorities said was a “developing threat to the Jewish community,” have been charged with multiple felony counts, including criminal possession of a weapon and making a terroristic threat.
Law schools boycott rankings: Four schools joined Yale and Harvard’s rebellion against U.S. News. And the bar association will no longer require schools to mandate the LSAT or GRE. But rankings still matter.
Prosecutors take another look at a payment to a porn star
The Manhattan district attorney’s office is once again looking at Donald Trump’s role in a hush-money payment to a porn star, returning to an aspect of the investigation that once seemed to have reached a dead end.
Prosecutors first examined the payment to the actress, Stormy Daniels, when Cyrus Vance Jr. was the district attorney. The direction of the inquiry changed to focus on Trump’s broader business practices, and Alvin Bragg, who succeeded Vance in January, balked at indicting Trump in connection with his business practices.
But Bragg and some of his deputies have recently indicated that they are newly optimistic about building a case against Trump, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Three of my colleagues — Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum — write that prosecutors are pressuring a longtime Trump lieutenant, Allen Weisselberg, to cooperate. He has already pleaded guilty to unrelated tax charges and testified against Trump’s company last week at its trial for the same tax infractions. But Weisselberg has not turned against Trump.
To step up the pressure, prosecutors are considering a new round of charges against Weisselberg in hopes of winning his cooperation against the former president. Those charges, involving insurance fraud, are unrelated to the hush money.
But there is little indication that Weisselberg, who had direct knowledge of the payment to Daniels, would suddenly agree to cooperate. And Bragg’s prosecutors have yet to present evidence about the hush-money payment to a grand jury, suggesting that, if they decided to seek charges, it would not happen this year, the people with knowledge of the matter said.
I joined the morning throng on the escalator descending into the 83rd Street entrance to the Q train, which must be among the steepest in Manhattan.
On this morning, the up escalator was not working. Dozens of people were on the way down, but only one person, a man, was coming up on the opposite side, step by methodical step (I’ve counted 130 while making the climb during other outages).
This man was handling the ascent with ease and grace. He was dressed in a crisp suit and tie, notable compared with the clothes being worn by those in the crowd headed down. He had a cellphone pressed against his head as he climbed and was waving his free arm wildly.
Looking down at him from above, it was hard to tell if he was gesturing in happiness or anger.
At one point, he stopped abruptly on the motionless stairs, stood stock-still and leaned into his phone. As the escalator continued down, I got close enough to hear what he was saying.
Suddenly, he shouted into the phone, his voice booming loud.
“No, you listen!” he yelled at whomever was on the other end of the call. He was holding the phone directly in front of his mouth. “The only thing I need from you — right now — is for you to pretend that you understand what I’m telling you!”
And then I had passed him. I looked back over my shoulder and saw that he had renewed his uphill hike. But his words hung in the air. And by the time I got to the platform, they made perfect sense in my mind.
— HP Newquist
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].