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Artful financing for cop museum

October 4, 1999

While Mayor Rudolph Giuliani threatens to cut city funds to the Brooklyn Museum, he is promising $1 million to the Police Museum - although the museum has failed to raise the $4 million the mayor said was necessary to obtain city money. The $4-million figure for the museum, which is chaired by the wife of Police Commissioner Howard Safir, was cited in the "Message of the Mayor," which was prepared in the spring by the Office of Management and Budget for the fiscal year 2000's executive budget.

The document reads: "In a public/private partnership, the city will contribute $1 million towards renovations at the Police Museum provided that $4 million in private funds are raised."

Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Schuyler Chapin confirmed the $4 million figure that the museum had to raise to obtain city funding when it opened in April. The museum remained open through August, but owing to its lack of funds, it closed for "renovations." According to Tim Thayer, the agency's director of institutions, the police museum has raised only $1 million. Despite this, Thayer says the city will grant the museum $1 million if it raises only another $700,000.

"Their budget was originally projected at $5 million. Now it's projected at $2.7 million," says Thayer. "We will give them the $1 million grant, but they have to raise a total of $1.7 million." Thayer did not explain how or why the city lowered the requirement, and Newsday was unsuccessful in breaching the walls of silence at City Hall and One Police Plaza. Neither Chapin nor the mayor's press secretary, Sunny Mindel, returned calls last week. Safir's spokeswoman, Marilyn Mode, and the police museum's executive director, Sgt. Thomas Gambino, refused to comment.

Asked Friday about the police museum's funding, Safir said, "Go file a freedom of information request." Raising money has been problematic for the museum since Safir announced its creation two years ago with his wife, Carol, as unpaid chairwoman. A Wall Street business group agreed to finance the museum in return for Safir's opening of a Wall Street police substation. But Giuliani vetoed the linkage.

Safir and his wife then importuned top execs at Paine Webber and Merrill Lynch for money. They passed.

When the museum opened, Safir assigned 23 cops round the clock as tour guides, security guards and night porters, who mopped floors and cleaned toilets. To raise funds, the museum opened a gift shop stocked with police trinkets, run by Gambino's wife.

Those renovations are said to be carried out by the cops assigned to the museum, who have received so much overtime that Deputy Police Commissioner for Community Affairs Yolanda Jimenez supposedly complained to the first deputy's office that they had used up that office's overtime allotment, sources said.

Jimenez declined to comment without authorization from Mode, who refused to respond to these allegations.

At last week's board meeting, Safir asserted the museum had raised enough money to obtain the city's $1 million. Meanwhile, fliers were posted by the elevators at Police Plaza for a "$100 per player" golfing fund raiser at Staten Island's South Shore Country Club-proceeds to the police museum.

The Slip.
Serving as master of ceremonies at Insp. Bob Cividanes' retirement party last month, Fox News' Bob O'Brien used a heavy Italian slur to describe a raid at John Gotti's Bergen Hunt and Fish Club, which took place on Cividanes' first day of work at the department's public information office. After a collective gasp through the audience (although no one complained to O'Brien), the Columbia Association of Italian-American cops fired off a letter to O'Brien's boss, news director Steve Linden.

"We don't want to start any major upheaval," said its president, Steve Chiarini, "but we want to get away from negative stereotyping." Said O'Brien: "I spoke off the top of my head. It slipped out. I was trying to be funny. As soon as I said it, I regretted it. I didn't mean to offend anyone and I apologize."

Calendar Check.
Key dates of Oscar Howard's trip to Hollywood with Carol, courtesy of the Revlon corporation-estimated cost, $7,000.

Dates of trip on Revlon jet, including two free nights at four-star hotels: March 19-21.

Dates investigations begun into trip's propriety by Conflicts of Interest Board and Corporation Counsel: last week in March.

Today's date: Oct. 4.

Number of days with no resolution: 197.

Dark Prince Exposed.
Your Humble Servant went into brain-lock last week when a reporter from The Clarion Ledger-News of Jackson, Miss., asked about the origins of One Police Plaza's use of "the dark prince" in describing former Chief of Department Louis Anemone, now a consultant to the Jackson police department. In the interests of NYPD cultural etymology, here is the derivation: Prince, Machiavelli. Dark, Satan.

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© 1999 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.