Monday, November 15, 2010
This Stuff is What Will Make Black Withdraw
November 15, 2010, 10:01 AM
In Search of the Chancellor-to-Be, Park Ave., 5 A.M.
The doormen at 941 Park Avenue, where Cathleen P. Black occupies a penthouse apartment, have quickly transformed her morning ritual into an art form.
Determined to avoid reporters, who waited outside her building starting at 5:15 a.m. Monday, they orchestrated a seamless, starlet-worthy, question-dodging, cab-to-curb handoff of the woman poised to become New York City’s next school’s chancellor.
At 7:05 a.m., a top-hatted valet emerged from the marble lobby, hailed a cab, opened its door and stood sentry by the passenger seat. A moment later, a second attendant appeared, carrying a very undoorman-like Longchamp handbag over his shoulder and deposited it into the car.
Ms. Black, head down, trench coat buckled tightly, followed.
A reporter stood in her path. “Can we ask you a few questions?” he asked.
“No, you can’t,” she said, rushing by.
The cab door slammed shut. The vehicle took off.
(Half an hour before, Ms Black’s husband, Thomas E. Harvey, had made a much friendlier exit, with the family Labrador, Madison. He had explained, good-naturedly, that Ms. Black, the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, would be happy to speak with reporters. “Cathie has been in the media all of her career,” Mr. Harvey noted. “She appreciates what you do in the media.”)
(“Talk to her,” he said, “she’s very approachable. I am sure she won’t. …”)
(Mind? She had certainly seemed to. But the reporters decided to take him at his word and press on.)
Ten minutes later, they tried again, with the help of a heavily incentivized taxi driver, beating Ms. Black to the front of the Hearst Tower on 57th Street.
The journalists, however, were not the only ones waiting for her there. Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, the mayor’s top political adviser, stood in front of the building, sipping a Coke Zero, and looking surprised — and not especially thrilled — to see the reporters.
Soon enough, two of Mr. Wolfson’s City Hall colleagues arrived: Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott, who specializes in education, and Micah C. Lasher, the city’s top lobbyist in Albany (where Ms. Black must obtain a waiver to take the chancellor’s job, given her slight background in education).
What were the three men doing there at such a tender hour? “I live around the corner,” Mr. Lasher said, mischievously, as they walked into the building to await Ms. Black so they could continue briefing her on all things education.
At 7:30 a.m. or so, Ms. Black, stone faced, marched toward the entrance. A reporter ventured another question, explaining she had been waiting to speak with Ms. Black since 5:15 am.
Ms. Black looked unmoved. “That’s great,” she said, stepping into the revolving door.
She did not respond to several inquires, turning her back as she hopped onto one of the building’s distinctive diagonal escalators.
“Are you excited for your new job?” one of the reporters asked. Without turning, midway up the escalator, Ms. Black finally answered a question.
“Very,” she said.