I went to a press conference today in a public park in New Rochelle but it was closed.
Seriously, it was closed.
Earlier today I showed up a few minutes late for a press conference scheduled to take place across from 95 Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Park. No one was there. I thought for a while I must have confused the date but checking my email I was sure I was at the right place at the right time. Only later did I learn that the press conference ended up taking place on the sidewalk on Prince Street, on the other side of Lincoln Park.
So, what happened?
I generally do not bother attending these sorts of events because they are often boring and little news is made beyond the endorsement itself (and I typically have the press release already).
I went this time because it was Ron Williams, the President of the New Rochelle Branch of the NAACP, a lifelong Democrat, and he was there to endorse Republican Rob Astorino for Westchester County Executive.
One thing I have learned with Ron is that he will always say what he thinks and you never know what that might be. In the news biz that means Ron makes good copy. He nearly did not get the chance.
I figured there was a decent chance he might call Bramson an idiot or something like that and I wanted to be there. I was really hoping (sadly, he was cordial and respectful, darn-it!) I also figured that Noam had to be fuming that arguably New Rochelle's most visible African-American leader was endorsing his opponent.
At least I got that part right.
Boy Blunder thought this would be a good time to ban Mr. Williams from Lincoln Park. Another Unforced Error for the political genius who had managed to spin two million dollars of campaign donations over his lifetime into the grand, exalted position of part-time Mayor of the Queen City on the Sound.
Think about that.
The Mayor of New Rochelle actually banned the President of the NAACP from exercising his First Amendment rights of assembly and free speech on the exact site of the former Lincoln School, the home of one the most important civil rights cases in U.S. History, a case that established the concept of "de facto segregation" in the United States more than 50 years (New Rochelle schools are still under the consent decree from the case).
I mean really, is Noam this dumb?
Of course, Noam needed plausible deniability so he put the kibosh on the event by having the City Manager dispatch some reluctant park worker and a New Rochelle police officer to do his dirty work. Typical Noam.
I know, I know. Noam will blather on about how Ron should have had a permit or it was not approved or public property cannot be used to for political activities. He may say that but is that really true? Zuccotti Park anyone?
How this works in Noam's mind is the Gadsden Flag at the New Rochelle Armory is political but a Planned Parenthood festival/endorsement for Noam at City Hall is just the Mayor's good luck.
Astorino's people were actually more bemused then offended. They were genuinely surprised that Noam would bother pulling such a stunt. For New Rochelleans who know Noam well, this sort of venal pettiness is par for the course. It is precisely why people who simply disagree with Noam often end up despising him -- a scurvy spider, spinning his webs while the City decays around him.
The press conference went off anyway. So Noam accomplished nothing and ended up looking like a boob to boot.
The Astorino campaign issued a statement:
It's unfortunate that Mayor Bramson chose to expel this morning's news event from Lincoln Park in New Rochelle. Mr. Bramson's actions were disrespectful, deeply small-minded, and probably violated the First Amendment right to free speech and assembly. Mr. Bramson, himself, has used public property in New Rochelle for political endorsements, so we find his decision this morning curious to say the least. We will not await an apology from Mr. Bramson, but we do urge him to choose differently next time." -- Jessica Proud, Spokeswoman, Friends of County Executive Rob Astorino
It is hard to see Noam's actions as anything other than desperation.
Word is that his minions are out now doing polling. Today's fit of pique suggests Bramson ain't much liking what his pollsters have had to say about his chances.