I’m a long time removed from my native New York, but I keep an eye on it, sometimes for nostalgia, sometimes for inspiration.
Right now, I am looking at Curtis Sliwa for inspiration.
You may know his name. In the late ‘70s, when New York’s ticket had been punched for hell, and honest people were afraid to walk the streets or ride the subways, Curtis organized the Guardian Angels.
Known for their red berets and walking in packs, the Angels were a reassuring sight for many New Yorkers. Others felt it was Vigilante Lite.
It wasn’t always a smooth ride. In 1992, Sliwa admitted that he and the Guardian Angels had faked some subway rescues for publicity. He also admitted to falsely accusing three off-duty transit police officers of kidnapping him.
That’s on the record. Also on the record in 1992, Sliwa was actually kidnapped and shot by two gunmen after entering a stolen taxi in Manhattan. Mafia don John Gotti’s son was tried for the attempted homicide, but three juries failed to convict him.
A Brooklyn boy from a Polish-Italian household, Curtis, now 67, made a practice of sticking his nose where it didn’t belong, some thought. Others disagreed. Curtis spent most of his life as a civic activist, and then as a conservative radio host in New York, where he now is a candidate for mayor.
The thing that caught my eye is he is running on the Animal Welfare Party ticket, pledging to turn New York into a no-kill city, meaning every healthy animal will be adopted out, none will be euthanized in the city shelter.
Given my interest in animals, I got him on the phone.
Is there actually an Animal Welfare ticket?
Yes, he says, and he needed that.
New York is about 8-1 Democrat over Republican, he explains, and “I need moderate Democrats and independent Democrats, and some of them will never vote for a Republican.” That’s one reason for the Animal Welfare line, and he’s also running as an independent.
I’ve reported on the same political effect in Philadelphia: Some Democrats and independents will never vote for a Republican, even when, say, the Republican (Sam Katz) was a lifelong Democrat and no more conservative than the Democratic candidate, John Street. That was 2003.
Back to Sliwa. He pledges, “No dog, no cat, no animal, will be killed in the shelter system in the city of New York. They will be adopted out.”
My interest in city animal shelters dates back to 2004, when I wrote an expose of serious mistreatment of animals and horrific conditions in the city’s shelter.
The expose led to the end of what was known as PACCA, replaced by what we know today as Philadelphia’s Animal Care and Control Team, which recently posted a 90% save rate, meaning 9 of 10 adoptable animals leave the shelter alive. The current save rate for New York City is about 80%, says Sliwa, which translates to 6,000 animals being euthanized annually. The New York shelter, he says, is facing renewed stress as people who adopted pets for company during the pandemic are turning them back in.
Animals get 72 hours to be adopted, after which they are put down.
He would end that by executive order and would find the additional space required to house the animals for longer periods by repurposing commercial buildings.
As an animal advocate, he knows shelters need people to foster animals until adoption.
He and his wife Nancy, an attorney, live on the Upper East Side in a studio apartment with — brace yourself — 15 cats.
I asked him to repeat that.
He did: 15 cats in a 392-square-foot apartment.
I later checked with his sister, who handles PR for him.
Yup, 15 cats, two humans, 392 square feet.
And, yes, Sliwa’s platform is more than animal welfare.
He is into human welfare, too, as expressed by public safety, and law and order.
Law and order. Haven’t heard those words for a while.
Will they play in New York, which twice elected a near-Marxist, Bill deBlasio, as mayor? Is the pendulum ready to swing back?
Sliwa says it is. Polls are rating public safety at the top of people’s concerns, “a reversal from a year ago,” he says.
He also has plans for education, business, property tax reform, the homeless, and addicted. Here’s his website.
He’s got to know it’s a long shot and he’s playing with his own money — he had to put his talk show on hiatus for the duration of the campaign, so he has no income.
If he loses, he goes back to radio.
If he wins, it’s Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s crib.
Think of all the cats he could get in there.