Wall Street Journal profiles Jeff Boss' NYC Mayoral Run
If you're looking to vote with your pocketbook in the upcoming mayoral election, you may want to consider Jeff Boss. The recently declared candidate promises to build a million units of new housing renting for less than $500 a month. But wait, there's more! Think free subway rides in the summer, a new train connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island, and free college tuition for all.
How to pay for this largess? At an interview in the New Jersey apartment he shares with his mother, Mr. Boss (who plans to establish NYC residency before the election) says it's all very simple. He'll finance the housing with 100-year loans and make the college courses available online. He'll also fund more than 200 new charter schools through legalized gambling in all five boroughs.
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With his glowing green eyes, baby face and ball cap permanently shielding his balding pate, the preppy Mr. Boss looks younger than his 49 years. His idealism, too, is youthful. "I'm on a mission to save the city," he says. "The city is doing great but the poor and middle class need help. Want a mint?"
Not all his proposals depend on spending zillions. The proud owner of two fuzzy white dogs, Woofie and Nellie, Mr. Boss says he'd allow pets in restaurants, "like in France." He'd lift zoning restrictions across the cityNew York should have the world's tallest skyscrapers. And he'd welcome Wal-Mart so New Yorkers can buy cheaper groceries. "I'll probably be hated for that," he says.
Mr. Boss says he grew up in a prosperous home in Montclair, N.J., attended the elite Newark Academy prep school and took classes at Pace, though he never graduated. "I was into flying planes," he says. When his pilot dream fell through, he followed dad's footsteps into finance, eventually joining his father's firm, "and that wasn't so great."
It was in 2007 that Mr. Boss, who had developed elaborate theories connecting the NSA and 9-11, started campaigningfirst for president, then for Senate and Congress. In 2009, he captured 8% of the gubernatorial democratic primary vote. He points to a framed ballot from the 2012 presidential electionhis name appears right next to Obama's and Romney's.
Mr. Boss says he earns a little money working as a travel agent and that he also runs a cryogenics outfit, freezing pets and people (he won't say how many "members" he's immortalized). But he's mainly spent the last five years campaigning seven days a week; he's become a familiar presence to New Yorkers who see his posters plastered around town and bump into him greeting commuters at Columbus Circle.
It's hard to see how all this qualifies him to run the nation's largest city, but Mr. Boss isn't worried. The mayoral job is easy, he saysit's a simple matter of hiring the right people. Michael Bloomberg is welcome to join his administration.
Does he really think he can win? Mr. Boss, who seems to find nothing outside the realm of possibility, has a ready answer: "I think my odds are great!"
At the end of the interview, his mother, the poet Laura Boss, emerged from her bedroom in a long, flowing skirt. A lovely lady with her son's eyes, she produced faded photos of herself with Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. I asked Ms. Boss what she thought of her son's campaign.
"I support my son, I love my son," she said. "I think he's very, very smart and very, very energetic. He got his name on the presidential ballot."
"Twice!" Mr. Boss interjected.
Mr. Boss asked if there was anything I'd like to see happen in the city, and suggested I come up with a wish list. When we met the next day at the Port Authority, he was hauling a huge black suitcase stuffed with campaign fliers; I produced my list, which he reviewed carefully.
"Great idea!" he said of my proposal to build a park over the BQE. He also liked my plan to offer tax breaks to restaurants providing public restrooms. "This is such a great idea," he said. He wrote "Great Idea" under both proposals. His eyes brightened at a plan to install the world's largest petting zoo in Prospect Park. "That's the best one I've seen yet," he said. "I'll add this to my list."
We boarded the A train. Mr. Boss's campaign technique consists of introducing himself in a booming baritone and, sounding a bit like a mattress salesman, rattling off all his promises.
He's greeted with a combination of irritation, interest, and delight. Plenty of passengers reach for his fliers. One rider smiled and shook his head. "It's ludicrous!" he said of the 100-year loan plan for housing, "You can't get financing like that." But Mr. Boss, who clearly enjoys attention, never falters. He talks on and on, shouting on the platform, handing fliers to conductors, cheerfully chatting up folks in the elevators. Jumping from train to train, he sometimes loses track of time and space, forgetting where he is.
It struck me as a lonely odyssey, but Mr. Boss says he has plenty of support, starting with Phil Schrader, editor and publisher of the Sovereign, a small circulation monthly specializing in news about the surveillance state and UFOs.
Mr. Schrader, who contacted Mr. Boss after finding one of his fliers on a 33rd Street construction fence, says he admires the candidate's sense of mission. "He's captured the do-it-yourself spirit, which is missing in politics today," he says. "I find it almost mind-boggling what he's doing, and I find it a lot of fun, so I'm hopefully going to work with him."
There's a lot to be done. Mr. Boss needs to collect thousands of signatures to get on the ballot, and then there's the problem of fundraising. But Mr. Schrader is looking forward to the journey. "He's a true believer," he says. "It really comes from the heart. Jeff Boss for mayor!"
A version of this article appeared January 26, 2013, on page A18 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: And a Chicken in Every Pot.
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