The Full Rudy

“David and Nelson’s twin tombstones.” That’s what Jack Newfield called the Twin Towers, which were rising steadily in the winter of 1970/71. They cast long rectangular shadows over more and more of Lower Manhattan in the late afternoons.

David Rockefeller, the head of Chase Manhattan Bank, was in charge of the family’s business interests. Brother Nelson was the governor of New York State whose “Edifice Complex” Newfield had written about in the Village Voice.  In Albany “Rocky” had taken 98 acres by eminent domain to build a plaza full of government buildings with supposedly arty exteriors. It was the early 1960s, the time of “urban renewal,” also known as “Negro removal,” and sure enough, the biggest group being evicted were African Americans

Meanwhile in NYC, where most of the major office buildings were in midtown, Brother David was heavily invested in Lower Manhattan real estate. In the late 1950s he had financed the construction of One Chase Plaza, 60 stories of glass and steel, the first high-rise office built in the financial district since before World War 2. It involved creation of what planners call a “superblock.” As explained by Eric Darton in Divided We Stand, “The elimination of a single block of Cedar Street between Nassau and William Streets provided a platform upon which David Rockefeller’s 60-story bank headquarters could rise. A decade later, the pedestal for the World Trade Center engulfed 16 blocks to the northwest. The combined force of these two projects opened the floodgates to a tidal wave of office and residential superblock developments in Lower Manhattan.”

For the World Trade Center David would hire Minoru Yamasaki, who shared his goal of extracting maximum value from the land. “Yamasaki concluded,” writes Darnton, “you must abandon the anachronistic structure of the old skyscraper. Instead, emulate the hollow, fibrous structure of the bamboo stalk. Shape your tube into a square. Then you can build prairie upon prairie of columnless stories, as high as you want to go. No limit.”

A Forgotten Scandal

Bernie Kerick was an NYPD narc who rose to be Police Commissioner under Rudolph Giuliani. As reported by Charles Bagli in the New York Times in 2004, “An apartment in Battery Park City that former Police Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik secured for his personal use after Sept. 11 was originally donated for the use of weary police and rescue workers who were helping at ground zero, according to a real estate executive who has been briefed about the apartment…

“During his use of the apartment, Mr. Kerik and Judith Regan engaged in an extramarital affair there, according to someone who spoke to Mr. Kerik about the relationship. Ms. Regan published his best-selling autobiography in 2001.”

Was Kerik’s career derailed by the revelation that he was schtupping this broad in an apartment needed by the exhausted, heroic clean-up crew?

Not a bit.  According to Wikipedia:

“After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush appointed Kerik as the interior minister of the Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority. In 2004, Bush nominated Kerik to lead the Department of Homeland Security. However, Kerik soon withdrew his candidacy, explaining that he had employed an undocumented immigrant as a nanny. His admission touched off state and federal investigations. In 2006, Kerik pleaded guilty in the Bronx Supreme Court to two unrelated misdemeanor ethics violations and was ordered to pay $221,000 in fines. In 2009, Kerik pleaded guilty in the Southern District of New York to eight federal felony charges; in February 2010, he was sentenced to four years in federal prison. On February 18, 2020, President Donald Trump granted Kerik a full pardon. On November 7, 2020, Kerik stood behind Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, during the Four Seasons Total Landscaping press conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.”

Trump put Giuliani in charge of the post-election legal fight as challenges by other lawyers were being thrown out in courts in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Michigan. Giuliani was widely seen as a desperate choice, but this is the United States of Amnesia, and the pundits who ridiculed the capability of “America’s mayor” had forgotten how close he came to extending his term in office after the bombing of the World Trade Center. Donald Trump undoubtedly remembered.

Giuliani was due to be termed out in November 2001. September 11 was the day of the primaries in which Democrats Mark Green and Frank Feron faced off and Michael Bloomberg was the clear favorite among Republicans. After the planes hit the towers, the primary was postponed till Sept. 25.

Jack Newfield reported in The Full Rudy, “Giuliani was not prepared to bow gracefully and exit the stage with the applause ringing in his ears… When he walked into ball parks and restaurants, people greeted him with the chant, ‘Rudy! Rudy! USA! USA!’  He was Charles Lindbergh and Davy Crockett rolled into one. [Such similes were Newfied’s trademark.]

“Very quickly this adulation began to convert itself into a movement for Giuliani to remain as mayor. It was a movement he nourished in private… On September 21 posters began to appear on walls and lampposts all over the city, proclaiming ‘Giuliani for Mayor. Paid for by grateful citizens of New York City.’ They were in every borough. Somebody was spending a lot of money to jumpstart a popular uprising against the term limits law… Also on September 21, the New York Post ran an editorial urging that that the election be postponed….

“Giuliani could get another term as mayor only if the state legislature voted to repeal the term limits law… John Faso, the Republican minority leader of the state assembly, immediately announced he would introduce legislation allowing Giuliani to remain in power. Governor Pataki said, ‘Whatever the mayor’s decision is, I will support that decision.’

“Business leaders began to burn up the phone lines trying to generate support for Giuliani remaining as the mayor. The buzz word was ‘unity.’ Giuliani and Governor Pataki held a series of phone conversations on how this might be accomplished legally, without a court fight. Giuliani kept working the phones, discussing different strategies on how to remain in office. He talked to some people about just remaining an extra 90 days, about an ‘extended transition.’ At the same time he talked to state legislative leaders about the possibility of remaining four more years through an outright repeal of term limits.

“Giuliani’s advisers told the city’s power brokers that only Giuliani could hold the city together in this time of peril. They made the argument that the two leading Democrats were antagonistic to the police, and this would complicate the transition and the governing of the city.”

On September 25, Michael Bloomberg won the Republican nomination. Fernando Ferrer [Borough President of the Bronx, who had grown up in poverty]  finished first in the Democratic primary and would face runner up Marc Green in an October 11 runoff election. The next day, Giuliani decided he would meet with all three finalists seeking to replace him and try to gain their voluntary support for an extra 90 days in power for himself. He also decided that he would keep lobbying in private at the same time for the repeal of term limits and four more years in power. It was a two track strategy.

“Bloomberg and Michael Green quickly agreed to give Giuliani the extra 90 days even though there was no provision in the law for such a deal. But Fernando Ferrer had his doubts. His gut told him the whole thing was anti-democratic. He did not believe that Giuliani was indispensable to the continuity of government, or the recovery of the city.” Ferrer refused to bow out.

“On September 28 the New York Times ran an editorial called ‘The Mayor’s Dangerous Idea,’ noting, ‘Neither New York City  nor the nation has ever postponed the transfer of power because the public was convinced they could not get along without the current incumbent. The very concept goes against the most basic American convictions, that we live in a nation governed by the rules of law.'”

Newfield concluded, “Now, looking back, this power grab seems like a hallucination during a high fever. It was illegal, anti-democratic, unprecedented, and supremely selfish. But it came within a hair of happening. Powerful corporate, real estate, media, and political forces had bought into the hallucination. Bloomberg and Green had ratified it with their acceptances.”

Fred Gardner is the managing editor of O’Shaughnessy’s. He can be reached at