N.Y. / Region
Peter Powers, Mayor Giuliani’s Steady Right Hand, Dies at 72
By SAM ROBERTSJULY 7, 2016
Peter J. Powers, a high school friend whom Rudolph W. Giuliani recruited to impose order on his chaotic novice mayoral campaign and later installed as his even-tempered alter ego to manage New York City’s government, died on Thursday in the Bronx. He was 72.
The cause was complications of lung cancer, Mr. Giuliani said. Mr. Powers, who lived in Manhattan, died at Calvary Hospital Hospice.
Before being hired to manage Mr. Giuliani’s 1989 mayoral race, Mr. Powers, a tax lawyer, had last been involved in a campaign in college, when his losing effort for senior class council president was managed by Mr. Giuliani. And before becoming deputy mayor in 1994, his only government job had been in the parks department mail room one summer three decades earlier.
Mr. Giuliani, the most famous prosecutor in America but a neophyte candidate, had squandered $2 million, was being challenged for the Republican nomination and was trailing the Democrat, David N. Dinkins, by about 29 points in public opinion polls when he enlisted Mr. Powers.
Mr. Powers proceeded to impose discipline on Mr. Giuliani’s disparate Republican, Liberal and independent supporters and, with Roger Ailes, focus on a runaway campaign. He helped steer Mr. Giuliani to within two points of victory that November in a race that Mr. Dinkins won.
In 1993, with Mr. Powers managing the rematch, joined by the media consultant David Garth, Mr. Giuliani toppled Mayor Dinkins with 51 percent of the vote.
In 32 months in City Hall, as deputy mayor for operations and first deputy mayor, Mr. Powers presided over the largest budget cuts the city had made since the fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s. He reduced the payroll by 20,000 workers, most of them induced to leave with buyouts, and slowed the rate, though not the total amount, of city spending.
“We changed the agenda,” Mr. Giuliani said at the time, referring to a shift in focus from how to spend money to how to cut budgets. “I helped, and so did my three budget directors. But Peter was at the core of much of that, if not all of that.”
When Mr. Powers was first drafted to help in 1989, Mr. Giuliani, a former United States attorney, was already surrounded by a loyal and competent — if sometimes too compliant — cadre of fellow former prosecutors. But Mr. Powers enjoyed a personal rapport with Mr. Giuliani that gave him the leeway to reverse political losses in the campaign and, later, years of rising municipal spending and crime.
“Peter was the glue that held the thing together,” Joseph J. Lhota, Mr. Giuliani’s former budget director and deputy mayor for operations, said in an interview on Thursday.
Mr. Powers was variously characterized as the mayor’s Cardinal Richelieu, the good cop to Mr. Giuliani’s bad cop and even the conscience of the city administration.
“I’m not afraid of losing my job if I give him bad news,” Mr. Powers said not long after becoming the mayor’s deputy.
Peter J. Powers in November 1993 when he was leading the transition team of Rudolph W. Giuliani, who had just been elected mayor of New York. “I never had a brother,” Mr. Giuliani said in an interview this week. “Peter was my brother.” s
Mr. Giuliani himself described their relationship in familial terms. “I never had a brother,” he said in a telephone interview this week. “Peter was my brother.”
Peter James Powers was born on April 9, 1944, in Middle Village, Queens, the son of Thomas Powers, an organizer for the retail clerks’ union, and the former Florence Fitzgibbon.
He befriended Mr. Giuliani during their sophomore year at Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn. Mr. Giuliani induced him to join the opera club, though Mr. Powers preferred country music, and they ran on the same ticket for class office — Mr. Giuliani for president and Mr. Powers for treasurer — winning as sophomores but losing the next year.
After high school, they both went on to Manhattan College, where they were members of the same fraternity, Phi Rho Pi, and from which they earned bachelor’s degrees in 1965. They were also classmates at the New York University School of Law. Mr. Giuliani even introduced Mr. Powers, on a blind date, to Kathleen Ingrassia, whom he would marry.
That marriage ended in divorce. Mr. Powers is survived by their daughters, Heather McBride and Krista Harvey; his wife, Sylvia Ng; his brothers, Jack and Dan; and four grandchildren.
As young men, Mr. Giuliani was a Kennedy Democrat (he became a Republican later), and Mr. Powers a Goldwater Republican. They would argue regularly but politely — splicing, Mr. Powers once said, fiscal conservatism with a progressive social consciousness.
“I think we both moved closer to the center,” he told The New York Times in 1993. “We’ve ended in the same place.”
Mr. Powers, as a certified public accountant with advanced law degrees, became a successful corporate tax lawyer. He and Mr. Giuliani collaborated on several cases when they were in private practice.
When Mr. Giuliani was elected mayor in 1993, he named Mr. Powers chairman of his transition team and, following his advice, focused first on finding a budget director once he had discovered the size of the deficit he was inheriting.
Mr. Powers was self-effacing and carefully rationed his responses to reporters’ questions. His profile was so low that early on a police officer asked him for identification when he tried to enter City Hall. But woe to whomever defied him or reneged on a commitment.
“If he got angry — and it was so rare — you didn’t want to be on the other side of him,” Mr. Giuliani said in the phone interview, “because it was probably for a really good reason, as opposed to those of us with a more volatile temper.”
After he left city government in September 1996 and was succeeded by Randy M. Mastro, the mayor’s chief of staff, Mr. Powers joined a hedge fund, was chairman of a city charter revision commission and formed a consulting firm with powerhouse clients, some of whom had business dealings with the city.
Before he left, he said, he had learned a revelatory lesson about the city. After only a few months as deputy mayor, his doubts about whether the city could be run effectively were dispelled. “It is very governable,” he said.
But Mr. Powers had proved his political bona fides even earlier by grasping another lesson that public officials often forget. In his City Hall office, not far from the mayor’s, the screen on his computer was programmed to blink repeatedly “Power on Loan” — a reminder that his job was just temporary and subject to the voters’ approval.
# – # – # – # – #
Powers, Peter J. [MC1965 RIP]
# – # – # – # – # 2016-Jul-07 @ 21:48
Colon, Philip J. (MC1962) added this request to his prayer circle.
# – # – # – # – # 2016-Jul-08 @ 11:19
# – # – # – # – # 2016-Jul-09 @ 12:27