Joe Lhota Is Running To Be "The Man" In NYC

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota campaigning in Union Square Park. (Jim O'Grady/WNYC)

"Be a man!" That's what Joe Lhota barked at an MTA board member at a public meeting last September, back when Lhota was reaching the end of his one-year tenure as authority chairman. Lhota later (sort of) apologized for the outburst, blaming it on his Bronx upbringing. But before that, he seemed to view it as his prerogative as an executive — that is, as the guy in the room who tells everyone else how things are going to be.

So perhaps it is a logical progression that Lhota, a Republican, is now seeking to be mayor of New York City.

For one thing, the mayor has more than 8.2 million people to yell at, if that's called for. Lhota also has the example of his former boss, Rudy Giuliani, who was inclined to opine at decibel levels of operatic intensity.

But first, Lhota must get elected.

That means New Yorkers are now encountering a milder Joe Lhota, a guy who, on a recent summer afternoon, circled Union Square Park shaking hands and making small talk with the people on the benches.

It's a departure from Lhota's work of the past two decades as deputy director to Mayor Giuliani, followed by a stint as executive vice president at Madison Square Garden and then, for a year, as head of the MTA. (After Storm Sandy, Lhota was credited with getting the transit system back up and running in relatively short order.) With that career, he's much more used to giving orders than presenting himself to strangers and asking for support.

"Everything I've done leading up to this, I've always been in charge," he said in a break from interrupting people who'd been picking at their lunch salads before he came and plied them with campaign literature. "I'm not in charge now. I'm the product."

That doesn't mean he's not politically savvy. At a campaign stop in Bushwick, Lhota reacted instantly when a rabbi launched into a joke with a premise of questionable taste and asked a reporter to turn off his microphone. Lhota explained, "I want to protect the rabbi, and myself." It turned out to be a wise decision.

For the audio version of a day in the life of Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota, click on the audio player above. Slide show below.

Jim O'Grady/WNYC
The voter on the right, who wouldn't give his name, described himself as "a Second Amendment supporter" and asked Lhota about gun control
Jim O'Grady/WNYC
Lhota campaigning at lunch time in Union Square Park.
Jim O'Grady/WNYC
Communications director Jessica Proud works her phone.
Jim O'Grady/WNYC
Lhota is driven from Union Square to a campaign stop in Brooklyn.
Jim O'Grady/WNYC
The candidate, followed by an aide, arrives in Bushwick.
Jim O'Grady/WNYC
Clothier Martin Greenfield, 84, tells Joe Lhota that back in the day, Greenfield's father-in-law was "the only Republican in Brooklyn."
Jim O'Grady/WNYC
Lhota at Greenfield's suit factory in Bushwick.
Jim O'Grady/WNYC
Lhota debating his Republican primary opponent George McDonald, as seen dimly through the glass door of a TV studio.
Jim O'Grady/WNYC
It's 10 pm and Lhota, his long day done, is a blur as he leaves the studio.


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Comments [8]

Alex from NYC from NYC

Part 2 of 2: Private sector cash and borrowing power is plentiful, interest rates are low, and the labor supply is more than adequate. What is needed is rhetoric, policies, and actions from government that encourage businesses to risk capital, rather to hoard it – a sense of government partnership with business rather than the sense of oversight and policing that we currently see on the national level.

Lhota’s public statements during the campaign suggest he understands how jobs are created – not by government spending, but by creating an environment that encourages businesses to risk their capital in new, expanded, or improved enterprises. The following quote from Lhota is what first caught my eye: “A mayor doesn’t create private sector jobs, only the private sector does. As mayor, I will create the environment for the private sector to grow and create jobs, good paying jobs. I believe that small business, start-ups and entrepreneurs drive our economic prosperity. As Mayor, I will ensure that government gets out of the way.”

A vibrant, robust, fully-employed economy is NYC’s and the nation’s greatest need, as the financial resources that would thereby be created is what are desperately needed to help both the poor and disadvantaged and the middle class and to make affordable the government entitlements the public indicates it wants. Lhota seems to be the candidate most likely to accomplish that for NYC.

Aug. 23 2013 12:24 PM
Alex from NYC from NYC

Part 1 of 2: Joe Lhota is by far the best qualified candidate for mayor, having had wide experience in virtually all spheres needed to manage NYC, including: (1) public finance from both the investor and the NYC administration sides, (2) at various times within past NYC administrations, the disciplines and activities of finance and economic development, the NYC office of management and budget, NYC operations, NYC’s liaison with the White House, Congress, the NY State Governor and NY State legislature, oversight of NYC’s relationships with public employee unions and collective bargaining strategies, and as deputy mayor, strategies for dealing with crime, terror threats, social services, job creation, and responses to actual terrorist attacks, (3) transportation management and issues in the NYC region, and (4) provision of communication and data services from the private enterprise point of view.


The number one problem in both the nation and NYC is unemployment and the greatest need is for government to create an environment that encourages the private sector to risk its currently abundant but sidelined cash and borrowing power to create jobs, through new, expanded, or improved products and services, the demand for which products and services will come from the newly created salaries and wages of the newly created jobs themselves and not from higher government spending funded by borrowing from or taxing the private sector, which government borrowing or taxing does not create new demand but simply transfers spending power from the private sector to the public sector.

Greater risk-taking by private sector entrepreneurs in both large companies and small is what is needed in both the nation and NYC, and is a boot-strap operation that has driven economic growth throughout the world for thousands of years, despite the seeming lack of understanding of that process in some circles at the national and local level.

So-called lack of demand is NOT the reason job creation is lagging the pace of prior recoveries. Entrepreneurs care little about demand. Risk-taking entrepreneurs are the most optimistic persons on the planet. To a person, they believe that if they build it, demand will come. An example is restaurants, where nationwide, and despite the high failure rate, tens of thousands are opened every year, each one requiring a substantial investment in space, equipment, and staff, all before there is a single dinner reservation. There is no line of persons outside waiting to be fed.

Aug. 23 2013 12:21 PM
Pia110 from Brooklyn

"A product" alright. Defective product in my view and that's putting it nicely. I would never vote for this guy. A year as MTA chairman does not qualify him to AT ALL. No to Quinnberg. No to Lhotiani.

Aug. 21 2013 04:22 PM
suzinne from bronx

Joe Lhota was Giuliani's sidekick, so that's all I need to know about him. Would NEVER vote for anyone associated with the totally abhorrent Rudolph Giuliani. And you can be sure Blacks and Hispanics are never going to vote for him either. Decidedly a NO GO.

Aug. 21 2013 01:03 PM

To be fair, the joke was confused and rambling and only vaguely offensive. Lhota's decision to listen and change the subject was a valid response, i thought.

Aug. 21 2013 12:15 PM
Tom from Manhattan


The G Train specifically has had problems for many years. Lhota was the chairman from 2011 to 2012 after which he resigned to pursue the mayor's office. While the chairman, the MTA became more efficient and service improved on many lines.

It's completely unfair to blame Lhota for the G train's woes.

Also, remember that he was heavily involved in coordinating the response effort after 9/11. Not too shabby.

Aug. 21 2013 11:22 AM
Louise from uws

What happened after you turned off the mike? Did Lhota listen to/laugh at the joke?

What does this tell you about the guy?

Aug. 21 2013 09:47 AM
Mark from Brooklyn, New York (US)

Being Chairman of the MTA should automatically disqualify Lhota to be mayor. It's like saying "I'm completely incompetent, now please elect me."

If he wins the nomination, I plan to show up at his campaign events with signs reading "Where's the G train?"

Aug. 21 2013 09:45 AM

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