by Nancy Muldoon
When Curtis Sliwa founded the Guardian Angels in 1977, New York City was a cesspool of crime, drugs, murder and mayhem. The City was nearly bankrupt and its longtime residents were leaving in record numbers. Even hardened New Yorkers were disgusted by what the Big Apple had become, rotten.
Sliwa, born and raised in Brooklyn is working class hero who began a recycling program in the 1960’s long before it was trendy. When the Guardian Angels first began, the NYPD treated the Angels with overt hostility. They had a contentious relationship with one another for decades. Curtis was arrested 76 times as he and his crew fought to curb the utter lawlessness on the streets and subways. Sliwa describes the police of 1970’s and 80’s, ‘they were like a para-military group.’
The animosity between the Guardian Angels came to an abrupt halt in 1993 when Rudy Guliani became Mayor of NYC. Guliani issued an operational order to the New York Police Department to ‘stop, cease and desist’ Guliani’s directive was, ” I want you working with the Guardian Angels, they’ve helped our city. The harassment has to stop. ” And it did.” said Sliwa.
Sliwa intends on hiring another three thousand police officers. When I asked him about how this will be funded he said that New York University, Madison Square Garden and Columbia University do not pay property taxes. He intends on making them pay. New York University has a four billion dollar endowment and Columbia University has an eleven billion endowment.
“The obvious beneficiaries will be its students, employees and the citizens of New York.” said Sliwa. New York City currently has thirty four thousand officers. de Blasio, has defunded the police by a billion dollars and even cancelled two cadet classes that would have put more officers on the streets. There are usually 38K officers employed with the NYPD.
Another casualty of the NYPD defunding was the elimination of the Peddlers Unit so anyone can set up shop anytime and anywhere in the city and sell knock off bags and other merchandise with impunity.
Sliwa vows to end this if elected. Many New Yorkers have been critical of this idea as street vendors have always been an integral part of the New York experience, not just for tourists but for many city residents also. “It’s a drain for those who have legal businesses who have been trying to resuscitate the city.” said Sliwa. Vendors do not pay taxes and often sell illegal merchandise which is a crime. “It’s a federal crime, there has to be arrests, seizures and prosecution. It’s counter productive to stores that are legitimately in business. We can’t allow it.” said Sliwa.
Sliwa’s opponent, Brooklyn Borough President and former NYPD officer Eric Adams claim to fame is surviving diabetes. Sliwa has survived far more. He is pure grit. He’s had his jaw broken, a tooth knocked out, has been stabbed and even shot multiple times in a murder attempt ordered by Gambino crime family member John Gotti in June of 1992.
I asked Sliwa if he ever made peace with Gotti who died of throat cancer in prison in 2002. His response was, “Never. Never. One of the best days of my life was when I was informed he had died and he died a horrible death.” I danced the Tarantella. (Italian folk dance)
Sliwa is a self-described tough guy, populist and still rides the NYC subway and says that will not change if he is elected Mayor. “The Subway is the best focus group. You get on the subway and people approach you, you hear the good, the bad and the ugly. It is a litmus test for things that are going right, which officials want to hear, they want to hear good news bears, You’re gonna hear mostly from bad news bears because they ride buses and the subway. But the Politicians are not forced to use the same transportation that they make decisions about.” said Sliwa.
On Voter I.D.: “It’s ironic now if I want to go to a restaurant I have to show a vaccine passport.” Sliwa says he has been vaccinated twice. “And then I supplement it with a legal I.D. But if I go to vote I don’t have to show anything. How ludacris that is. To vote you just put a signature in. That is no way to authenticate someone who they claim to be. But this whole mandate thing proves that when they [Government] wants to demand legal I.D. they do. But when they want people to vote who maybe shouldn’t be voting there is no requirement of I.D.”
Of all the boroughs I ask which one is plagued with the most problems. Curtis claims that the Bronx has this distinction. “Its’ been this way since I started the Guardian Angels. Even the hipsters and the millenials are not starting out in the Bronx. They’ve moved into Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Manhattan. I think the Bronx is out of sight out of mind. The politics of the Bronx is not strong. The Bronx is the Rodney Dangerfield of the five boroughs. It gets no Respect.”
In spite of the Bronx getting no respect, Sliwa says the Bronx is his favorite borough because that is where the Guardian Angels were founded. “Without the Bronx I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Curtis Sliwa is on the campaign trail throughout the city seven days a week. His opponent Eric Adams does not seem to be campaigning at all. Curtis walks around the subway with an empty milk carton with Adams’ image on it and asks subway riders, “Have you seen this man?”
I ask Curtis what he does to relax. He listens to EDM, electronic dance music which he says is a ‘mood elevator”. His favorite film is On The Water Front and Marlon Brando’s character Terry Malloy is something that Curtis himself can relate to. “That is how I live my life.”
As for sleeping, he claims to get 3-4 hours of sleep a night. “I believe there will be plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead.”