They’re telling Mayor Tall tales!
City Hall public relations staff and advisors scrambled to push positive press and “isolate” local criticism during their failed bid to secure the 2016 Democratic National Convention for Barclays Center — going so far as to pen letters of endorsement on behalf of local businesses and digging up dirt on rival cities — according to newly released e-mails.
The January 2015 communications between DeBlasio’s flacks and his unofficial press guru Jonathan Rosen — also the publicist for the Prospect Heights arena, and whose missives Hizzoner has tried to keep under wraps — offer a fascinating look inside the mayoral marketing machine and how it works to spin coverage.
In response to a critical New York Times op-ed by Atlantic Yards watchdog Norman Oder arguing the massive convention would cause havoc in the neighborhood, Rosen’s staff quickly penned letters to the editor on behalf of willing local restaurants and bars, emphasizing the business boost the event would create.
“How many do we have ready to pitch a counter story to NY1 or another outlet — we need to isolate Norman and these groups?” Rosen wrote, likely referring to another article that day by former Community News Group reporter Dana Rubinstein relaying similar concerns from neighbors. “Tweets from local business people we can start rolling now?”
He also suggested having local entrepreneurs tweet at Rubinstein and the possibility of Borough President Adams and former Borough President Marty Markowitz putting their names to a joint op-ed saying “events of this magnitude are no problem for Brooklyn.”
Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo wrote her own lengthy letter to the editor, but the e-mails show Rosen’s and DeBlasio’s spinmeisters discussed how they could edit or rewrite it to focus on their message of “community benefits” without offending the local lawmaker.
“We should be very sensitive to her version,” wrote mayoral aide Michael DeLoach. “Fine with changes but we should try to be respectful — she has great pride in authorship.”
A few days later, Rosen responded to a Daily News article on how the corruption probe into disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver could sink New York’s hopes of scoring the prestigious palooza by instructing staff to push back with “hits” on Democrats’ “scandals” in the competing states of Ohio and eventual winner Pennsylvania, and to ask party insiders to whisper to reporters that Silver’s woes are a “nonfactor.”
“We should do some quick research on D scandals in Ohio,” he said. “We NEED NEED NEED some third party voices per my last email that sound like real insiders.”
The release also includes an amusing e-mail thread in which the publicists try to convince a Daily News reporter to preview former party boss Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s visit to inspect the borough, clamoring to appease the scribe’s request for a “Brooklyny” angle.
“Is she tasting local foods at the Barclays Center perhaps?” Berlin Rosen’s Dan Levitan asked Laura Santucci, DeBlasio’s former chief of staff, who left the post to run the unsuccessful convention bid.
“Comfortable with local food tasting,” Santucci confirmed.
The tabloid subsequently ran an “exclusive” preview of the Junior’s cheesecake and hot dogs Wasserman Schultz would enjoy.
Communication between the city and outsiders are typically subject to the freedom of information requests from journalists, but City Hall had tried to keep private its correspondence with Rosen — whose firm also represents major Brooklyn developers Forest City Ratner and Two Trees — on the grounds that he was a so-called “agent of the city.”
It finally released 1,500 pages of e-mails on Thanksgiving Eve after the Post and NY1 sued to obtain them.
DeBlasio’s reps did not return requests for comment, but the mayor has since defended Rosen’s involvement with his administration — which included sitting in on policy meetings — on the grounds that it was cleared by the Conflict of Interest Board and denied that his pal’s clients get any special favors.