Curtis Sliwa’s Long, Strange, Sometimes Fabricated Road To Becoming A 2021 Mayoral Candidate


Curtis Sliwa has been a fixture in New York Metropolis for greater than 4 a long time, finest recognized for beginning the Guardian Angels, the volunteer anti-crime group, however he’s additionally labored as a trash-picker, newspaper boy, TV and radio host, and cat dad to greater than a dozen rescued felines. As somebody who claims to know the town streets and subways higher than anybody else, there’s a sure logic to his newest transfer: operating for mayor.

The Republican nominee will face off towards Democrat Eric Adams in November, a race that pits two New York Metropolis natives of their sixties towards one another, each claiming to be the most effective antidote to rising crime and homelessness as New York emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. Sliwa, nonetheless, is operating with a fraction of the funds and not one of the institutional assist Adams has.

Recognized for attention-grabbing stunts, like donning a mantle and crown to troll Governor Andrew Cuomo, and offending anybody and everybody with sexist and anti-immigrant rants on his NY1 phase “The Political Rundown,” Sliwa insists his marketing campaign for New York Metropolis mayor isn’t any joke.

Throw the e-book out in case you simply need skilled politicians who’ve been bureaucrats like an Eric Adams,” he instructed Gothamist/WNYC. “You actually assume you’re going to get totally different outcomes?”

Curtis Sliwa on the London Underground in the late 1980s


Sliwa on the London Underground within the late Nineteen Eighties, when the London chapter of the Guardian Angels was established.

Clive Limpkin/ANL/Shutterstock

Sliwa first turned a family identify in New York Metropolis within the late ’70s and early ’80s, after founding a bunch he known as the Magnificent 13, later renamed the Guardian Angels as membership swelled into the tons of. The unarmed anti-crime patrols, of their unmistakable crimson berets and bomber jackets, had been a solace to some New Yorkers as charges of violent crime ticked upward.

To some, they had been seen as vigilantes who undermined police efforts and focused younger males of shade.

When pressed by tv reporter Christopher Glenn in a 1979 phase, Sliwa stated he had each proper to type the group. “I’m a taxpaying citizen… crime is on a spiraling price,” he stated “I’m not simply gonna sit house. I like my metropolis and I’m gonna do one thing about it.”

His standing as chief of the Guardian Angels led him to a seat behind a microphone as a radio host at WABC. All through the Nineteen Eighties, Sliwa was a controversial determine who butted heads with transit law enforcement officials, and was arrested dozens of instances.

The beret Sliwa was wearing when he was shot in 1992.


The beret Sliwa was carrying when he was shot in 1992.

Scott Heins / Gothamist

Then, in 1992, Sliwa was shot 5 instances as he climbed right into a taxi within the East Village, narrowly escaping demise. Prosecutors later stated it was retaliation for allegedly bad-mouthing a member of the Gambino crime household on the air. A couple of months after his restoration, Sliwa got here clear: he admitted to mendacity about six incidents, together with bogus assaults on members of the Guardian Angels and a story that he had been kidnapped by off-duty transit police.

“I’ve waited practically 14 years to say, I instructed you so,” wrote William McKechnie, the president of the transit police union, in a New York Occasions op-ed. “I discovered it exhausting to consider that in New York, the house of the world’s most refined media, they had been prepared to just accept Curtis Sliwa’s claims of heroics when invariably there have been no witnesses to those acts and no victims or perpetrators who might verify their prevalence.”

In a defiant mea culpa, Sliwa stated he felt mendacity was one of the simplest ways to achieve media consideration and recruit extra members to the group. “There’s a lesson right here to be discovered,” Sliwa instructed host Charlie Rose. “When there’s good on the market, I’d hope to good golly god that the media would a minimum of give balanced consideration to them.”

Sliwa definitely knew how you can work the media. Hundreds of hours of vamping on stay radio over the a long time helped. Sliwa even labored at WNYC within the mid-’90s, when the station was nonetheless owned by the town; enraged staffers suspected Rudy Giuliani personally chosen him for the job.

Ron Kuby, a legal protection legal professional and political commentator who co-hosted WABC’s “Curtis and Kuby” with Sliwa for greater than a decade, stated Sliwa’s mayoral bid is nothing greater than his newest publicity stunt.

There’s not an finish objective on this,” Kuby stated. “That is what Curtis desires. Individuals are paying consideration, they’re listening, they’re quoting him. They’re speaking about him. He’s having a incredible time.”

Printed out photos of cats on the wall


Inside Sliwa’s house, a wall of cat pictures.

Scott Heins / Gothamist

One of Sliwa's cats on the bed


One among Sliwa’s cats.

Scott Heins / Gothamist

Sliwa’s mayoral platform options an array of proposals resembling ramping up property taxes on Madison Sq. Backyard, opposing vital race concept in public colleges, and making Gracie Mansion a cat and canine sanctuary. On the marketing campaign path, he has usually talked about that he lives with round 15 cats in his present spouse’s 300-square-foot house on the Higher West Facet.

However Sliwa’s central message, as at all times, is the necessity to crack down on crime. In his early years, Sliwa was a thorn within the aspect of the police division however now he’s attempting to place himself as its largest ally, at the same time as he runs towards a former NYPD captain.

“I’m gonna take it to Eric Adams, trigger he’s been a vacillator,” Sliwa stated, shortly earlier than posing for a photograph with uniformed NYPD officers patrolling the town’s current ticker tape parade. It was the day after Adams was declared the victor of the Democratic major. “Final summer time was he defending the police? No, he was on the sidelines. He was ready to see the place the wind would blow.”

Sliwa’s message is resonating with some. Alison Jurado, 71, was passing by a Guardian Angels patrol on a current morning in Inwood Hill Park after three assaults on ladies there.

We’d like legislation and order. I imply, it’s loopy. I’ve lived right here for over 40 years. I do know what it’s like when the town deteriorates,” she stated. “Anyone like Curtis is our solely hope.”

Wall of clippings


Wall of clippings.

Scott Heins / Gothamist

Violent crime remains to be a fraction of what it was within the ’80s and ’90s, when greater than 2,000 folks had been murdered annually on metropolis streets, similtaneously the town’s inhabitants elevated. In 2017, below Mayor Invoice de Blasio, the town noticed fewer than 300 killings, the bottom quantity in fashionable historical past. However fluctuations within the crime price, or the truth that the town is safer now than any 12 months Rudy Giulani was mayor, doesn’t matter to Sliwa, in line with Kuby.

What Curtis realized is how folks really feel issues. Not what’s true,” Kuby stated, deriding him for enjoying on folks’s fears. “What’s the social good of this relentless, fixed, ugly, bilious fearmongering which is at all times about younger Black males? It has at all times served a really racist agenda in New York Metropolis.”

Sliwa rejects expenses of racism, usually mentioning Guardian Angel membership is usually Black and Latino. When chatting with Gothamist/WNYC, he conceded the town is safer now than in the beginning of his profession however added, “we’re starting to maneuver in that path.”

Critics like Kuby and others stated they suspected Sliwa’s mayoral bid was an effort to lift his profile, pure and easy. Gerson Borrero, who co-starred within the NY1 phase “The Political Rundown” with Sliwa, had a extra beneficiant take.

“I interpret it as very critical. Different folks can say it’s a part of a shtick. In his head he has options,” Borrero stated. “This man loves being a New Yorker. There’s no different cause. There’s no different gimmick.”

Borrero factors out Sliwa’s dedication to New York Metropolis and the Guardian Angels, is a longer-running relationship than he is had with any of his 4 wives. The second of Sliwa’s three ex-wives, Mary Galda, described Sliwa as an “inveterate, world-class liar” in a messy court docket battle, the place she claimed he’d cheated on her along with his third ex-wife, Melinda Katz, who’s now the Queens District Lawyer. Sliwa at present lives along with his fourth spouse, Nancy Sliwa.

Curtis Sliwa in front of a tv camera


Sliwa making a media look, July 2021.

Scott Heins / Gothamist

Maybe Sliwa’s persistence in New York Metropolis life is finest captured by Sliwa himself in a motivational speech he gave in 2004 to college students at New Dorp Excessive Faculty. He talked a few realization he got here to whereas he was recovering from the gunshot wounds a decade earlier.

“There needed to be one more reason why I used to be nonetheless hanging round. That’s after I realized, ‘keep on the mission, proceed to be constant,’” he stated. “Do not let these guys deal with me like a hemorrhoid in a crimson beret, placing preparation H throughout my physique, as a result of I am not disappearing, pal. I’m not disappearing.”