Republican primary candidate Curtis Sliwa, who is running in the upcoming 2021 New York City mayoral election, discussed a variety of topics including public safety, hate crimes, his plans to “refund” police, and why he would make a successful mayor.
In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News on Friday, Sliwa, who has been endorsed by both the Brooklyn and Staten Island Republican Parties, began his interview by noting his initial hesitancy to join the race.
“I was the last person to jump into this race, with just moments to go before the door would close on any candidacy,” he said. “And I waited a long time.”
Public safety and policing
Having looked at the “panoply” of Democrat and Republican candidates, Sliwa was unimpressed.
“I was waiting for someone to say, ‘law and order,’ ‘public safety,’ ‘refund the police,’ ‘hire more police,’” he said, “and I was waiting and waiting and no one had that as a message.”
That is when Sliwa decided to run.
“So I said, ‘that’s it,’” he said. “I’ve done this for 42 years in providing safety for people in the streets and subways of New York City, as the leader of the Guardian Angels.”
The Guardian Angels, founded by Sliwa and operating under the motto, “we dare to care,” started as a group of dedicated volunteers who rode the subways of New York in order to protect fellow citizens, eventually spreading to over 130 cities in 13 countries.
Recalling last year’s widespread riots, Sliwa claims the situation propelled him to “jump in.”
“Last summer, when there was looting and shooting, unprecedented anarchy in the streets, especially in Midtown Manhattan and SoHo, the police were told to stand down by Mayor de Blasio, who single-handedly — like a Miley Cyrus Wrecking Ball — destroyed the city in a little more than seven years in office,” he said.
“So I said no,” he added. “I’ve got to jump in.”
Claiming to have the necessary abilities to be an effective mayor, Sliwa emphasized their significance.
“I have the street smarts,” he said. “I have the ability to get control of the streets and the subways without which the economic recovery of the city, which is the slowest recovery of any major city in the pandemic in our country, will not only be slow, but maybe even nil.”
He also warned of the consequences of the status quo.
“People will not want to come into the city of New York; they will not want to go to bars and restaurants as they slowly open up,” he said. “They will not want to go to Broadway or off-Broadway as it eventually opens up or any of the other cultural attractions, and we will be stagnant.”
“The candidates running for office don’t seem to understand that without public safety, our recovery grinds to a halt,” he added.
Plan to refund the police
In addition to talking about refunding and hiring more police, Sliwa devised a plan to achieve those endeavors.
“With the Democrats wanting to tax residents from the cradle to the grave and with the wealthy fleeing [as a result of exuberant taxing],” Sliwa asked himself, “who is it that pays no property tax?”
“Because you can have a designated tax from property taxes,” he said. “I said, ‘hmm, it’s Madison Square Garden. They pay no property tax.’”
Describing it as a “sweetheart deal” signed in the ’80s, Sliwa expressed bewilderment at the fact that many venues, foundations, and institutions in New York City do not pay property tax.
“Then you look at Columbia University, which is sitting on an $11 billion endowment and no property tax, even though they’re gobbling up real estate in the neighborhood and taking it off the commercial property tax rolls,” he said.
“Likewise, NYU — they are sitting on $5 billion, pay no property tax, and they’re buying up massive areas of Greenwich Village,” he added. “Then there are other places, healthcare institutions, nonprofits like Cornell Medical, Rockefeller [Foundation], all sitting on troves of money and they pay no property tax.”
Sliwa asserts that as mayor he would have a “designated property tax,” and that money would go toward refunding the police.
“The billion dollars that was taken away [from the police budget under De Blasio] and hiring an additional 3,000 police to get the levels up to 38,000, which is what Rudy Giuliani had when he inherited the ‘Fear City’ back in 1993 when he was sworn in,” he said. “And that enabled him to drive down the crime rate and provide a quality of life in a zero-tolerance way so that New York City would exist, and it was very successful, and I intend on doing the same thing.”
Asked about the “uphill battle” for Republican candidates in New York City due to a significant registration advantage in favor of Democrats, Sliwa claimed that the key to victory is through moderate Democrats.
“They are not at all happy with the likes of AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez], I call her ‘All-Out Crazy Alexandria Ocasio Cortez,’” he said.
“The Democratic Socialists of America [DSA] and the Justice Warriors who want to defund the police, defund prisons and are advocating that all tenants not pay any rent and drive the landlords out, and this is publicly their battle cry and the establishment Democrats won’t take them up — they’re afraid of them,” he added. “They’re afraid they’ll get primaried out of office.”
As a result, Sliwa believes that by adopting additional party lines, he will draw more Democrat voters.
“There are moderate Democrats and a lot of independents out there,” he said. “In fact, a lot of young people are not registering with [any] party affiliations. They’re registering as independent. So once I’m in the general election, knowing that a lot of people would never vote for a Republican, I will have an independent [party line].”
“We’re gathering signatures now to qualify it as a third-party line,” he added.
Animal welfare line
Another party line that Sliwa is seeking to adopt is one in favor of animal welfare.
“For the first time — and we’re gathering the signatures now to qualify it — is the Animal Welfare line, which has only one issue,” he said. “We don’t delve into multiple issues on that line; it’s simply to have no-kill shelters in New York City, same thing now that Austin has, LA has.”
“In New York City, when I’m mayor, there will be no-kill shelters,” he vowed. “We spend millions of dollars killing dogs and cats, and they only have 72 hours. If nobody claims them within 72 hours, they get euthanized.”
“When dogs or cats are brought into their animal care and control, they’re not killed,” he explained. “Adoptions are done, sanctuaries are created, and they don’t kill any dogs or cats unless there is no way out. They only get euthanized if they’re so sick or they’re so impaired that you just can’t let them suffer, and it’s very minimal.”
Sliwa is confident that voters will vouch for him, knowing that he upholds the values he promotes.
“People know me because both I and my wife — who is in fact running for a City Council seat in the Upper West Side, which is almost unheard of for Republicans — believe in it, and one of her key planks, as mine, is animal welfare, no-kill shelters.”
“We have 15 rescue cats in a studio apartment in the Upper West Side,” he said. “It’s 320 square feet with a toilet — that’s it, and our biggest job every day is changing the litter. But if we didn’t rescue these cats from these shelters they all would have been euthanized, all of them.”
Seeing his determination, Sliwa believes it will give residents an opportunity to vote for him and other candidates who also believe in no-kill shelters.
A unique Republican candidate
Turning to those who would never consider voting Republican otherwise, Sliwa offers incentives.
“So if you were born of the belief that you could never vote for a Republican or you want a Giuliani Democrat or Reagan Democrat, you could certainly vote for Curtis Sliwa in the general election on an independent line,” he said. “Or this new Animal Welfare line whose focus is no-kill shelters.”
Sliwa also described himself as “probably the only Republican who has gone into neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs of the city of New York, where the only recognizable Republican was Abraham Lincoln on our American currency, on the $5 bill.”
“There are neighborhoods that have never seen Republicans,” he said. “They basically don’t campaign, don’t visit, don’t participate because they assume they’re just not going to get any votes.”
Describing his credibility among the people, Sliwa believes he can reach out to more people as a result.
“As the leader of the Guardian Angels, I’ve been in these communities for 42 years, so I have what they call ‘street cred,’ which, especially in a lot of these neighborhoods, is more important than TV advertising and all of that because people are not fools.”
Sliwa compared running in a political race to sales from an unknown person versus from someone close and familiar.
“With others, it’s like, ‘Who is this person?’” he said. “Whereas with me, it’s, ‘Oh yeah, Curtis, he’s been here forever.’”
“So I’m banking on that when I go into these neighborhoods where there are few, if any, Republicans,” he added. “They’re going to lend me their ear, and even if they’re resolute in the fact that they’re not going to vote for me as a Republican, they can vote for me on the independent line, they can vote for me on the Animal Welfare line, and I think that will be comforting to some.”
Hate crimes and antisemitism
Asked how he would respond to a recent increase in hate crimes and antisemitism, in particular, Sliwa stated that when antisemitism is ignored, more issues appear.
“I think when you ignore antisemitism, as our society tends to do, you end up with other problems happening — as we see now with all the Asian bashing going on,” he said.
“I’ve been in the forefront of providing patrols in the Asian communities, Chinatown, and Flushing,” he said. “There’s a strip now on 8th Ave and Sunset Park, Brooklyn, which is the largest Chinese American community in New York City, and they’re getting attacked.”
Sliwa claims that Asians are being attacked because of their prosperity.
“If you ask why are Asians being attacked,” he said, “well, because they’re living the American dream. They have businesses; they’re prospering. Their kids are doing extraordinarily well in school and there are people who are trying to cap the number of Asians who can go onto gifted and talented courses in the lower grades or the specialty schools in the higher grades. And I saw that myself in the ’60s when I was going to school because the Jewish kids were the ones that were being capped.”
He also sees a relationship between attacks on the Asian community and those on the Jewish community.
“There’s a movement [of people who are angered that there are] too many Jews ‘going to the elite high schools, into the specialty classes,’ and feel it their duty to stop it,” he said.
“These folks play by the rules; they study hard for the most part and are not causing problems in the school system, and now you want to penalize them? So what I see going on with the Asian community is very similar to what has happened to Jews over decades.”
Sliwa criticized the inaction on part of the mayor during the Crown Heights riots against Jews.
“If we look at New York City, we go back to 1991, the riots in Crown Heights where the Lubavitchers, the Hasidim, were targeted by the African Americans and West Indians in the immediate area, and for three days the [former] Mayor David Dinkins did nothing.”
“He told the police to stand back and they did, and Jews were attacked morning, noon, and night, and they depended on the Guardian Angels to defend them, which we did for 30 days and 30 nights until, finally, the city took control of the area,” he continued.
“And then two Hanukkahs ago, we had another spate of incredible numbers of attacks on Jews, mostly the ultra-Orthodox and the Hasidic because, obviously, they’re very noticeable in terms of the garb they wear in the neighborhood they’re in,” he said. “And again, the Guardian Angels and I, we went into Crown Heights; we went into Borough Park; we went into Midwood; we went into Williamsburg; we went into Regal Park; and we were patrolling morning, noon, and night to stop the attacks.”
Sliwa also criticized the inaction on the part of Mayor de Blasio.
“This mayor De Blasio did nothing,” he said. “I remember he was summoned to Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway and gives a big speech and he said, ‘Oh, you know these ‘white supremacist’ [attackers] and everybody there was saying, ‘Is this guy ‘mishug’ [crazy in Yiddish]? The people who are assailing us are mostly blacks. Some of them are emotionally disturbed, some of them are like thugs, gangs, but I know there’s no white supremacists coming in here attacking Jews.’”
Sliwa accused de Blasio of intentionally mischaracterizing the attackers.
“[Mayor] de Blasio wanted it to fit his narrative,” he said.
Sliwa also described himself as familiar with antisemitism.
“The reason I’ll be an effective mayor is I know how the streets react,” he said. “I know the classic antisemitism that rears its ugly head and it has to be confronted right away. You don’t let any incident go unattended, too.”
He then illustrated how failing to confront hate breeds more bold attacks.
“They did nothing when Jews were being attacked,” he said. “They hesitated, they delayed, and now Asians are being attacked, sometimes for the very same reasons [as Jews], and this is what happens if you don’t deal with antisemitism.”
“Then other people start being attacked for some of the same reasons,” he added. “All you have to do is be a student of history and know this is what happens in cycles and you have to be preemptive, and as mayor, I will be preemptive to stop these attacks.”
Sliwa then listed more actions to be taken to fight such crimes.
“Make sure the perpetrators are locked up and seek the most severe penalties for them,” he said. “Then try to educate the community that is mostly attacking the Jews or, in this case, the Asians, as to all their incorrect stereotypes, the misinformation, the ‘urban myths’ that exist about both Jews and Asians — and there are a hell of a lot of them.”
“They feed the beast,” he added, “and no mayor wants to tread on that ground. Me, I don’t go over, around it; I go right through it. I deal with it directly.”
Asked why voters should choose him over his main opponent, Fernando Mateo, Sliwa referred to a recent poll in which “even liberal Democrats said that the issues they were most concerned with were COVID-19—number one, and crime—number two, whereas reforming the Police Department was number 12.”
“The moderate Democrats are not loud there, not as organized as AOC and the all-out crazy crew of the DSA, and they are considering leaving the city,” he said. “The things that they most often find that pushes them out the door is crime and the fact that the city administration and other elected officials are refusing to use the police to control the streets and the subways.”
Sliwa then addressed his contender.
“That’s not Fernando Mateo’s forte,” he said. “But when you think of Curtis Sliwa, that’s a 42-year legacy, and New Yorkers recognize that.”
“And then once you get into a general election, regardless of what candidates survive the Democratic process, right now if the election were held tomorrow, the polls say it will be [Andrew] Yang and Sliwa,” he added. “I’m 36 points up on Fernando.”
Sliwa then broke down how he views the differences between candidates.
“It’s a simple campaign: you have ‘Curtis Sliwa is New York,’ and Andrew Yang is trying to learn about New York on our dime,” he said. “Do we really want a mayor who [requires] special education when it comes to understanding all the issues in New York City? Or do you want a tried and true New Yorker that even my detractors understand nobody knows more about New York City than Curtis Sliwa?”
“You may disagree with his ideology. You may disagree with how he’s gonna go about dealing with these problems. But nobody challenges my knowledge, my expertise, my experiences within the five boroughs,” he concluded.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.