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NEWSDAY - FEB. 7, 2002
Historians Protest Transfer Of Records
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 curious.

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 process.

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 management agency.

"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 control.

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.
www.newsday.com

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Add your Name to the Petition | Press Conference, Feb. 6, 2002 | Protest Letters | News Articles | Testimony at the Feb. 20, 2002 City Council Hearing |
Defending the archives contract: Saul Cohen, President, Rudy Giuliani Center for Urban Affairs