It might be said that New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has an identity crisis.
The story began with a New York Times article on how Silver repeatedly blocked affordable housing projects from development on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a move that has left the property vacant for decades. One Planning Council member would later accuse Silver and his colleagues of preferring “vacant lots and rats” to “minority people there.”
Then came the twist. Rather than admit his opposition to a project that should be manna to a Democrat, Speaker Silver took a different tack. He said the efforts to block passage of the measure were those of a different Sheldon Silver. To make sure the other Sheldon could not fight back against the charges, the Assemblyman chose a long-deceased lawyer who happened to have the same name. He was even indignant about the Times’s error and demanded that they print a correction … until they proved he was lying.
Via the New York Times:
To Sheldon Silver, the powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly, it was nothing but a simple case of mistaken identity.
In the 1970s, Mr. Silver, a Democrat, worked with a new nonprofit group, the United Jewish Council of the East Side, to block low-income housing on a large, barren site in his district on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the beginning of a decades-long effort that was described in a recent article in The New York Times.
Those actions, Mr. Silver insisted after the article was published, were actually taken by another man: Sheldon E. Silver, a Minneapolis-born lawyer who moved to Brooklyn in the early 1970s and died in 2001.
“I was forever confused with this guy,” Mr. Silver said at a breakfast he hosted on Thursday at the state Democratic Party convention. “Even after he left there, I got phone calls from people who I knew.”
Mr. Silver’s spokesman, Michael Whyland, said in an email that the other Mr. Silver “was a counsel to U.J.C. in the ’70s and early ’80s.”
“You can understand why he would be upset,” Mr. Whyland said in a subsequent telephone call.
But the documents cited in the article make clear that Speaker Silver — a master at distancing himself from controversies and scandals in his chamber — was in fact the person who pressed New York City officials to allow an international mall to be built on the site, instead of low-income housing. The letter quoted was written on his official stationery from the Assembly. And minutes of the meetings with city officials clearly identify Mr. Silver as the lawmaker, not the similarly named lawyer from Brooklyn.
After Mr. Silver’s office saw those documents, it dropped its request for a correction on which Mr. Silver pressed for the mall in the 1970s.
The widow of the deceased Mr. Silver didn’t seem surprised by Speaker Sheldon Silver’s actions. “I guess he doesn’t want to take responsibility for those things,” she said.
Silver isn’t exactly a man cut from the kind of moral cloth that would have him take responsibility for his actions or those of his fellow Democrats. This is a man who has covered up multiple sexual assault cases from Assembly members over the last couple of decades.
But blaming your own actions on a dead guy with the same name? That’s scraping the bottom of the morality barrel.
Cross-posted at the Mental Recession