Joe Lhota may or may not be the wildest and craziest of this year's mayoral candidates. But he does have the brassiest set of balls.
Just days after he described the Port Authority Police -- who lost 37 officers in the World Trade Center terrorist attack -- as nothing more than "mall cops," his campaign, according to the Daily News, was mailing out photos of himself, posing with his former boss, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, at Ground Zero shortly after 9/11.
Let's be clear about our feelings for Lhota, who most recently headed the state's Metropolitan Transportation Authority. As a top aide to Giuliani, he was, unlike others, always professional and restrained -- even when this reporter questioned whether Rudy's final destination would be the White House or a lunatic asylum.
But as one of Rudy's top aides, he didn't always give the mayor such good advice. Not many people outside Giuliani's inner circle know this, but Lhota was one of those aides who supported Bernie Kerik as police commissioner over the then Chief of Department Joe Dunne.
Dunne, saying he loved the NYPD so much he would have stayed as dogcatcher, ended up with the consolation prize of First Deputy. A year later on 9/11, while nursing a torn Achilles tendon, he, shortly after the planes struck the Twin Towers, was hobbling around Ground Zero on crutches.
Bernie ended up in a federal pen.
Next time Lhota presents his law-and-order bona fides, reporters should ask him whether he seriously believed Kerik was more qualified than Dunne or whether he wanted to score points with Rudy.
His apology notwithstanding, Lhota's disparagement of the Port Authority Police reflects Rudy's own feelings about the Port Authority during his eight years as mayor.
As early as 1994, his first in office, Rudy wanted the NYPD to take over security at the city's airports, which are run by the Port Authority.
Former Chief of Department, Louis Anemone, a one-time Giuliani favorite, recalled last week that he was sent to a meeting with Port Authority officials and told to request a copy of a security report of the JFK airport. "I was politely refused over a cup of coffee and Rudy turned up the media hype about the Port's failings until he lost interest and focused on the Housing and Transit Police instead."
A few years later, Giuliani was back at it, calling JFK's airport security "lax."
"We remain very concerned about the situation with security at the airports," proclaimed that paragon of security expertise, Marilyn Mode, the NYPD's spokeswoman under another Giuliani favorite, Police Commissioner Howard Safir.
"We have been extremely successful in reducing crime in the city -- we offered to assist them and they chose not to accept our expertise," Mode added.
Even Kerik got into the security act. Following a snowstorm in January, 2001, that closed JFK, and led Giuliani to criticize the Port Authority's lack of snowplows, Kerik pointed out that auto theft at JFK was up 98 percent, from 44 in 1999 to 87 in 2000, and that grand larceny at LaGuardia rose 17 percent, to 230 incidents in 2000.
"There is no reason why there should be an increase [in crime] at the airports when the city is experiencing declines year after year," said Kerik, who then threatened to sue to take over airport security.
Current police commissioner Ray Kelly, who is in many ways Rudy's mirror image, has similar feelings about the Port Authority Police. But unlike Lhota, he is too disciplined to express them publicly.
Instead, his actions speak louder than his words.
In 2002, he persuaded then New Jersey Governor James McGreevey to appoint his friend, retired NYPD Inspector Charlie De Rienzo, to head of the Port Authority Police. Charlie lasted two years.
When he was told to clean out his desk, Kelly took him back as a $153,557-a-year deputy commissioner, creating a position as head of the NYPD's "Facilities Management Division," which oversaw Building Maintenance, Plant Management and Headquarters Custodial sections. At Police Plaza, they referred to this as Mops and Brooms.
Like Rudy, Kelly didn't give up easily when it came to the Port Authority.
In 2006, Kelly, attempted to take over security at Ground Zero, which is also run by the Port Authority Police, creating an urban version of a Mexican standoff.
Kelly stationed NYPD patrol cars round-the-clock outside the gates to the four entrances on West and Liberty Streets -- supposedly to guard against terrorism. Inside the gates, guarding the building site, sat the Port Authority Police. The two agencies didn't communicate.
The struggle continues today over control of the site. This time, though, Kelly has a formidable opponent -- Dunne -- who was appointed last year to head to the Port Authority Police.
Lhota -- who no doubt recognizes the similarities between Kelly and Giuliani -- recently expressed his "respect" for Kelly. But he has hinted he would not retrain him as commissioner. That's probably in part because of the long-standing feud between Kelly and Giuliani, which began when Giuliani fired Kelly when he became mayor and brought in Bill Bratton. Kelly has never forgiven either of them.
Meanwhile, the kindest words about Lhota and his "mall cops" remark came from Anemone, a victim of his own intemperance while chief of department but who late in life sounds increasingly like a statesman.
"I like Joe Lhota very much. He's a competent guy," Anemone said. "There is no defending him over his boneheaded remarks. They [the Port Authority Police] lost 37 people during the 9/11 attacks, all of them running into the inferno after the planes struck. Let's not forget that. I was happy to see Joe apologized afterwards."
HYNES STILL OUT THERE. Five hundred people attended the annual and elegant dinner of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives [NOBLE], who gave a public service award to, of all people, Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes.
The news about Hynes, running for re-election for yet a seventh term, keeps getting worse. As if railroading Jabbar Collins, who served 16 years for the murder of a Brooklyn rabbi that he didn't commit, wasn't bad enough, an investigation by the NY Times revealed 12 more questionable murder convictions involving retired homicide Detective Louis Scarcella. Hynes' response: his own "Conviction Integrity Unit" to reinvestigate. [Ha, ha. The joke's on anyone who takes that seriously.]
NOBLE's award for Hynes reflects his longstanding ties to black law enforcement groups, which go back at least as far as his prosecution of the white Howard Beach teenagers who chased a black kid onto the Belt Parkway in Queens to his death nearly three decades ago. Two black candidates are running against him but Hynes, closing in on 80, is proving to be a tough old bird.
Two no-shows at the dinner: former NYPD Captain and current State Senator Eric Adams, whose name has surfaced in the wide-ranging federal corruption probe of the Senate, and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Loretta Lynch, who is prosecuting many of these cases.
GET LOST, MORT. Former police reporter Patrice O'Shaughnessy was one of the many Daily News staffers caught in News owner Mortimer Zuckerman's latest editorial bloodletting. She was savvy, gutsy and honest, qualities that represented the best of what the News was once about. No longer.
Memo to my friend Art Browne, editor of the News' mostly insane editorial pages yet one of the best newsmen in this burg: Loyalty is not part of Zuckerman's DNA. Better start looking around.
With editing from Donald Forst