Sheinkopf Speaks: Nadler’s history plays forward

Congressmember Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney
U.s. Reps. Carolyn Maloney, left, and Jerry Nadler, right.
Hank Sheinkopf

Jerry Nadler and friends. They were going to change the entire world, slap the backside of Thomas Nast’s Democratic Party donkey symbol, forcing it to run for daylight. 

The friends, known as  the West Side Kids were Nadler, Richard Gottfried, and two other Richards–once political consultant/ polling and media placement service partners who in separate careers arguably reshaped American and international politics and the political business—Dresner and Morris.

While many of that era of more than 50 years ago plotted battling the War in Vietnam in the streets while removing the existing political order locally and nationally, the West Side Kids used their skills in  political campaigns and in  backrooms. And two of West Side Kids—Nadler and Gottfried—became very long-time serving elected officials.

Dresner, who worked successfully for many Republicans, died last year. Gottfried is retiring after 52 years in the NYS Assembly. Morris’ used triangulation to re-elect a president previously headed to extinction, found polarizing emotional issues as winning campaign ad themes at home and abroad, wrote best sellers and is a conservative on air talker.

And then there’s Jerrold Nadler.

He worked for the old NYC Off-Track Betting Corporation, was elected to the NYS Assembly in 1977, and 15 years later began a 30 year congressional career. 

The Manhattan liberalism that for many hid generational jealousy and class warfare served Nadler well. His West Side was the place where his endorsement meant political life and death. He picked the successors, picked the officials, and picked the battles. Gay Rights, yes. He said no to Trump when he built the massive west side development that once bore the ex-president’s name, but lost. Nadler was right when he said force the Port Authority to build the freight tunnel for which the bi-state agency was created.

The West Side run by Nadler is no more. His 2021 candidate for Mayor, Scott Stringer—often seen as his protégé—spectacularly flopped. Councilmember Gail Brewer’s immediate predecessor was a Nadler enemy and Brewer is independent in every way.

Nadler had the power to stop the gerrymander which along with crime, homelessness and a sense of disorder is now undermining voter faith in Democratic party candidates. 

But he didn’t stop it. He didn’t say a word. 

And the West Side he controlled, in the style of ward leaders he once criticized, is no more. Moving vans seem to be the busiest commerce as local stores shutter and the hopeless and homeless crowd uninvited into the lives of the condo residents who have no memory of a time a half century and more ago when a McNamara scholarship meant a paid trip to an Asian nation Vietnam, and too frequently a return ticket that got too many only as far as a military cemetery.

He is a declared candidate against his colleague Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Nadler will not go quietly into the night. Nor will Maloney, who today appears to have the edge. Gender when the right to choose is to be outlawed helps her. 

Even the coffee shop once on the corner of 72nd Street and West End Avenue where you could see Congressman Nadler eating if you looked through the window as you passed by is no more. It closed a while ago. It’s long term lease expired. No one rents a store forever.