New York Daily News

February 9, 2011


Michael DalyAngry Finest, Bravest say Mayor Bloomberg is out to rob city's heroes

By Michael Daly

  Bob Gates (right) helps pluck man off crown of Statue of Liberty in 1981.

Above: Bob Gates (right) helps pluck man off crown of Statue of Liberty in 1981.
Courtesy Robert Gates

At right: Bob Gates in 1977.


   Bob Gates in 1977.

Retired NYPD Detective Bob Gates wants to report an attempted robbery.

He describes the perp as a white male, 5-foot-7, medium build, 60- to 70 years-old, known to be tan even in winter.

The perpetrator is seen around City Hall on weekdays, where he is often addressed as "Mr. Mayor." He is said to frequent the Mid Ocean Club golf course in Bermuda on weekends.

Gates cannot confirm this, though he once visited the island on a cruise with pals from Park Slope back when the neighborhood was Irish. They did play an approximation of golf. He is not sure on which course. "Half of these guys were in the tank," the 72-year-old Gates explains.

Gates counts himself a victim of the attempted robbery, along with his son, retired NYPD Lt. Robert Gates; his brother, retired FDNY Firefighter Thomas Gates, and thousands of other retirees of our uniformed services.

The crime involves a $12,000 annual retirement benefit the victims receive under two agreements the city initiated with the police and fire unions, in 1968 and in 1988.

The deals accorded the city and the unions a Vegas-style "skim" of the profits from investing the fire and police pension funds in the stock market rather than in safer, but much less lucrative bonds.

The union skim was a percentage of the profits until 1988, when the city proposed formalizing it into a definite benefit. It grew as agreed by both sides in $500 yearly increments from $2,500 to a perpetual maximum of $12,000, in 2007.

Now, the perp at City Hall wants to stop paying anything at all even though the city came out ahead on the deals by $4 billion.

"Guys risk their lives and he just comes and tries to take it away," Bob Gates says. "He should have rode with us on some of the jobs we had."

Gates was at numerous shootings, including the 1973 standoff at John and Al's Sporting Goods in Brooklyn where a fellow officer was killed.

He made two rescues on the Brooklyn Bridge and two more in the East River. He rescued one nut from Lady Liberty's crown, another from atop the World Trade Center.

He risked a 12-story fall when he saved a man who was hanging upside down in an elevator shaft, suspended only by a foot wedged between the track and the wall.

He and his partner, Rick Mahoney, became Daily News heroes of the month in 1977 by rescuing a disturbed man from a swaying crane 240 feet over Times Square.

"I said, 'I know a guy ... in the ironworkers, I'll try to get you a job,'" Gates recalls telling the guy. "He said, 'Okay. Is there chance I could get a beer?'"

Gates agreed and proved himself somebody who honors a negotiated settlement even when it's with a psycho who almost gets you killed.

"We stopped at a bodega," Gates remembers. "He had a couple of beers in the car."

Too bad such honor does not rule City Hall. The shadowy perp seeks to justify stealing the duly negotiated $12,000 by calling it a "holiday bonus," as if it were akin to the Wall Street bonuses that fueled such public fury during the financial crisis.

This from a guy who considered Wall Street excesses good for the city because they generated tax revenue. Now he wants to use the lingering public anger over Wall Street to win support for grabbing money from cops and firefighters.

"He acts like it's a freebie," Gates says. "He knows how we got it."

Should the scheme succeed, Gates will receive only his $20,000 a year pension. His financial analysis sounds like what it is, a guy reporting an attempted robbery.

"They want to take my f-----g money!"