By Sydney H. Schanberg
First published in Newsday, Jun 2, 1987
Just when it looked as though the garbage-without-a-country was going to be the only story to keep the press alive during the summer doldrums, along came The Mayor and The Mogul to deliver their gift to the hungry hyenas of the Fourth Estate. They gave us the multiple, continuous, floating mega-tantrum.
The Mogul, whose parents had named him Donald Trump, was rechristened by The Mayor as “Piggy, Piggy, Piggy.” It’s not clear whether this came before or after The Mogul called The Mayor, who used to go by the moniker of Edward Koch, a “Moron.”
What a boon for the headline writers — “Mayor Moron Blasts Mogul Piggy.” It’s almost enough to restore one’s faith in the high-mindedness of our celebrities and in their selfless commitment to keeping us entertained.
We’ve seen hair-pulling by inflated personalities before, but this one is special — a pluperfect specimen. After all, it’s not often that two of the biggest hustlers, con men and self- promoters in town turn on each other in their sandbox and throw a conniption fit.
This town isn’t big enough for both of us, nyuh-nyahed Piggy the Mogul. “Koch is a disaster. He should resign from office. He can’t hack it anymore.”
Mayor Moron snarled back that if The Mogul “is squealing like a stuck pig, I must have done something right.” And then, to make sure everyone got his meaning about the swine epithet, he jeered: “Greedy, greedy, greedy.”
You’ve got to admit, this is mud-slinging at its best. I can’t wait for the next installment.
And there’s bound to be more. Because this particular chapter in the saga of The Mayor and The Mogul is not only about towering egos but towering bucks as well.
The Mogul, you see, wants to build a mini-city on 100 acres he owns along the Hudson River and the poor thing wants The Mayor to give him all sorts of subsidies to lure the National Broadcasting Co. to the site as the prime tenant, occupying nine of the 100 acres. NBC, it seems, looking ahead to when its leases expire at Rockefeller Center in the 1990s, is considering a move to New Jersey, where taxes and other costs are lower.
The Mayor said he will give tax abatements and other incentives to NBC to keep the communications giant in New York City, but he will not give these goodies to Piggy’s whole 100-acre project to help him amass a windfall profit. Piggy wants this handout, The Mayor says, because he is, well, greedy.
“Common sense,” said The Mayor, citing a trait rarely demonstrated before in his dealings with real estate developers, “does not allow me to give away the city’s treasure to Donald Trump.” This is what probably drove Donald to call him a Moron: for forgetting that he has been giving away the city’s treasury to builders for the past 10 years.
Mayor Moron didn’t stop at smearing The Mogul. He had an insult left over for New Jersey as well, as he explained why NBC should understand that being in Gotham, center of the entire world, was a premium all by itself. “People want Manhattan,” he said. “This is bedrock country. This is not mudflats.”
And besides, you don’t get spitting matches like this in New Jersey.
While it’s true that The Moron was forgetful about his giveaway policy to developers — it seems to be the style of the ’80s to have memory losses about important things, as with the president’s arms sales and secret bank accounts for rebel armies — Piggy also seems to deliver a self-serving version of history when he listed The Mayor’s failures and said that he should therefore spare us further fiascos and fade into retirement.
For example, Piggy noted — shedding crocodile tears — that, under Koch, “the homeless are unnecessarily wandering the streets.” This is true — as far as it goes. But it fails to mention that the only thing that Piggy has done for the homeless, as their numbers have swelled, is to build more and more super-luxury apartments.
In one instance, when Piggy wanted to empty a building so he could convert it from middle class to regal class, he offered to house a few of the homeless temporarily in the building’s vacant apartments so as to scare out all the other tenants.
Trump and Koch have feuded before, but never as Piggy and Moron. Usually it’s been over who gets the credit for something and who gets to stand in front when the cameras start taking pictures. This time, it’s no different, except that it involves more money as well as a valid policy issue about how large the concessions to entrepreneurs should be to spur the city’s economy.
The problem, though, is that the behavior is that of little boys throwing tantrums because they can’t get everything their own way. It’s my bat and ball, so we’re playing by my rules. Who sez? I sez, what are you going to do about it? You’re a piggy. Yeah, well you’re a Moron.
No, they don’t get this kind of big-time entertainment in the mudflats on New Jersey. Think how dull their newspapers must be.