NEWSDAY - FEB. 7, 2002
By Robert Polner; STAFF WRITER
Rudolph Giuliani's quiet transfer of official papers, audiocassettes and
keepsakes of his eight years as mayor drew an outcry from more than 1,000
historians and archivists yesterday.
Michael Wallace, a Pulitzer Prize-winning scholar, submitted to City Hall an
Internet petition urging Mayor Michael Bloomberg to take back the historical
record Giuliani put under his own control.
Under the unusual move, which Giuliani worked out just a week before he left
office, 2,114 boxes of government information was transferred without
announcement to a windowless, barbed-wire-protected private art warehouse in Long
Island City. Mayors as far back as Giuliani's hero, Fiorello LaGuardia, have left
it to the city to catalog City Hall records for almost unfettered access by the
One of LaGuardia's biographers, Tom Kessner, was among the scores of historians
who signed the petition, which included the names of people from almost every
state and from some two-dozen universities in the United States and abroad.
One of the dozen or so archivists and researchers who joined Wallace at City Hall
yesterday, Richard Wandal, a trustee of the Archivists Roundable of Metropolitan
New York, described Giuliani's transfer of the records as "theft," while Wallace
termed it "indefensible."
The petition, though, stopped short of requesting a criminal investigation. The
objectors said they were seeking a meeting with Bloomberg.
"I do not intend to cast aspersions on Giuliani's probity, though he was
notorious when in power for his penchant for secrecy and for emitting only
information that reflected well on him," said Wallace, author of "Gotham: A
History of New York City to 1898."
"But personal probity is not what is at issue here," he said. "This is a city of
laws, not individuals. We must not be put in a position of being asked to trust
any private individual with custody of the public's records."
Giuliani's longtime friend, Saul Cohen, a lawyer who is organizing the archiving
project, said Wallace and other critics "don't have a clue" about the cataloging
Cohen said Giuliani was saving the taxpayers money by raising private funds to
pay for a job that Giuliani believes would overwhelm an underfunded city records
"The records had to be moved in order to be properly archived and processed,"
Cohen said, adding that original documents are to be returned to city control
after they are cataloged, with Giuliani keeping only copies.
So far, Bloomberg has let stand the transfer contract that Giuliani and his city
records commissioner signed in the final days of his administration. The new head
of the city's law department, Michael Cardozo, issued a statement yesterday that
the city is working closely with Giuliani to ensure public access and city
Critics are concerned by a clause giving Giuliani the power to withhold from
researchers anything he deems as private. Private citizens cannot make such
determinations under the state's freedom of information laws.
Copyright 2002 Newsday, Inc.
Reprinted with permission.