Tech mogul sees opportunity in chaotic mayoral race

New York City mayoral candidate Jack Hidary says that the race creates an opening for him.
NYC mayoral candidate Jack Hidary says that the race creates an opening for him. Credit: Reuters

In a New York City mayoral race marked by scandal and the clear absence of a frontrunner, wealthy tech entrepreneur Jack Hidary sees an opening for another candidate — one with a sweeping vision for the city’s future.

“The message across the board is, ‘Thank God someone else is in the race,’” Hidary said in an interview.

Hidary, who casts himself as a business-friendly candidate in the mold of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said two weeks ago that he was entering the race. He has hired seasoned campaign aides, including Joe Trippi, a veteran of Democratic presidential campaigns.

People who know Hidary, a 45-year-old bachelor who lives just west of the Plaza Hotel on Central Park South, describe him as a quick-thinking ideas factory.

“He’s one of those people who’s always one step ahead of you,” said Bill Abrams, president of Trickle Up, a nonprofit organization that provides seed capital for women entrepreneurs. “He has a huge rolodex and really interesting ideas.”

Unlike Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman who as mayor pioneered changes in public health and economic development, Hidary is largely unknown in the city and, even among his admirers, there are questions about whether he has the skills needed to manage a massive, complicated city.

“He is a very creative, smart guy who is a great spokesman for the New York tech sector,” said Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a business group. Asked if those skills translate into politics, Wylde said, simply, “No.”

“It’s a fine art that demands a blend of political and management skills. And Jack is untested,” she said. Still, with voters largely undecided, “anything could happen,” she said.

While in his 20s, Hidary became successful through companies he started or bought that served the tech community. Over the past 15 years, his focus has shifted to nonprofit work including microfinance.

Filling a vacuum?

This week, former Rep. Anthony Weiner fell to fourth place from first in a Quinnipiac poll, as city tabloids splashed details about a scandal involving racy online conversations with women and lewd photographs.

Weiner resigned from Congress in 2011 over similar behavior and has been attempting a political comeback in the mayoral race.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was the frontrunner in the poll, but with less than 40 percent support. On that basis, she would find herself in a runoff for the Democratic nomination with the third-place candidate, former city comptroller Bill Thompson, and he would win.

Enter Hidary.

Hidary’s vision starts in the Ocean Parkway section of New York City’s borough of Brooklyn, where he grew up.

A descendant of Syrian Jews, Hidary’s family is well-known in the area, and he estimates 400 of his relatives live there. “There are weddings every other week,” he said. Matchmaking efforts on his behalf have been “very, very, very” intense.

Standing on a blighted stretch of Coney Island’s boardwalk, he asked why it was not lined with restaurants. Later, at the Jewish community center where he spent summers playing basketball, Hidary said he wanted 30 centers just like it around the city that would offer job training and other services.

In Bensonhurst, another Brooklyn neighborhood, he pointed to vacant storefronts and said they should be shared working spaces for entrepreneurs.

Hidary made his fortune through entrepreneurial endeavors after dropping out of Columbia University, where he was studying neuroscience and philosophy. He went to work on brain imaging at the National Institutes of Health, but left after three years to help start EarthWeb, a company dedicated to the needs of techies.

In 1998, EarthWeb went public and acquired companies that he saw as potential competitors. One of them, Dice.com, a jobs website for IT professionals, became enormously successful.

Since then, New York City has been his project.

Some of Hidary’s more audacious ideas are likely to stir controversy. He wants city schools to specialize in project-based teaching so they reduce their emphasis on standardized testing. And, he wants all teachers to be retrained so they will be able to use more creative teaching methods.

On stop-and-frisk, an issue that has polarized New York City’s voters, Hidary was largely supportive of the practice, but wants to see police officers equipped with better technology.

Bloomberg, who will end his third term at the end of this year, has defended the policy of stopping, questioning and frisking suspected wrongdoers as a crime-fighting tool, but opponents have likened it to racial profiling.

The Hidary campaign said it would be ready to make its big push in October, after the Republicans and Democrats have decided on their nominees. Hidary will run as a third party candidate.

“Politics abhors a vacuum and there’s a huge vacuum in this race,” said Trippi, a Hidary aide. “We’ve got plenty of time.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Bloomberg launches $50 million anti-gun violence effort

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to spend $50 million on a grassroots anti-gun violence network to challenge the National Rifle Association.

Local

East Village woman fights off rape attempt from…

An East Village woman fought off an attempted rapist that she woke to find standing on her bed over the weekend, police said.

International

Nearly 300 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes

Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea Wednesday, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years.

Local

Police look for man suspected of threatening Muslim…

Police seek man suspected of calling a teen Muslim girl a "terrorist" and spitting on her multiple times while on a Queens bus.

The Word

Paul Walker's brothers will replace him in 'Fast…

Ever since a car crash took Paul Walker's life, fans have wondered what the "Fast & Furious" franchise would do without one of its most beloved stars.

Television

'Orphan Black's' Jordan Gavaris talks Felix's Season 2…

Jordan Gavaris plays heroically helpful foster sibling Felix to main clone Sarah on "Orphan Black." We talked to him about what’s ahead for him in…

Going Out

Accomplice Tour: New York (Spoiler Alert)

When I signed up for the Accomplice show tour, I had no idea what I was in for. But every grimy job comes with a great reward.

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, April 15: 'New Girl,'…

'New Girl' Nick and Jess are hiding their breakup from the other loft residents. And Winston passes the police academy exam! That guy needed some…

NHL

Top 5 Philadelphia storylines for Flyers-Rangers

The slate is clean for the Flyers and the Rangers. Which is good news for the Flyers.

NFL

Jets confident despite Chris Johnson leaving with no…

Jets fans clamored for a playmaker on offense all offseason. It looked like they were going to land that player on Tuesday when Chris Johnson…

NBA

Knicks, Nets rivalry never materialized despite national attention

When the NBA schedule was released, the league anticipated an intense rivalry between the Nets and Knicks with all four games slated for national TV.

NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could…

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could the Mavericks surprise?

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Personalize your massage at a private practice

CityTouch customizes spa treatments to meet client's needs.

Style

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show moving to England

It will still broadcast on CBS this fall.