3:30 pm Feb. 18, 20137
Ceceilia Berkowitz came into my life in an instant.
It was around 9 p.m. one night late last month when Twitter alerted me and other reporters from around New York City to the following message: "Hi. I am running for NYC mayor and I wanted to let you know & see if you wanted to interview me. DM me."
Which prompted an informal question-and-answer session between Berkowitz, a 34-year-old college mathematics instructor, and a number of local reporters and political operatives. #AskCeceilia suddenly became a busy hashtag.
It was the first time any of Berkowitz's interlocuters had ever heard of her. And yet there we were.
"She must be serious because I see serious people talking to her," one operative said, decribing an initial impression of the candidate, upon seeing what was happening online.
I was curious about this person who managed, at least, to create a feedback loop about herself among those "serious" people. She wasn't going to be mayor, and her claim on Twitter to be "friends" with Michael Bloomberg seemed to be, well, one an actual friend of Bloomberg probably wouldn't make.
But it also seemed clear from her Twitter activity alone that she was, at the very least, no Mindy Meyer. And, as a reporter who complains regularly about lack of direct access to candidates, I kind of hoped that, with her very direct self-introduction and willingness to field and answer questions with no filter or preconditions, she was maybe even in the process of proving a little something about how an aspiring citizen-candidate with ideas but no money could go about building a public profile.
I met Berkowitz at a coffee shop near Union Square this weekend, and we spoke for nearly an hour.
As it turns out, she comes across very differently when she isn't communicating in 140-character bursts.
She spoke for nearly eight minutes, straight, before I interrupted her to ask my first question.
She said she planned to hire 20 campaign managers and allow her fund-raisers to keep 50 percent of what they raise for her until the campaign raises $1 million. (After that, the percentage given to the fund-raisers would drop.)
Her claim about being friends with Bloomberg, in the live telling, turned out to have been a reference to having attended a fund-raiser at the mayor's home and written checks for at least one of his pet causes.
She sat facing a window and rarely turned toward me when speaking.
"I was having problems with higher ed because you lose a lot of money," she said, at one point. "I lost a lot of money working for Baruch College, definitely over $20,000 in four months, because I had to get to work on time and the students needed me to always show up and the school doesn't pay for expenses. So I did everything I could to get there [on time], even if you're sick. It cost a lot money. So I need a career where I don't lose money for every year. And so, I notice it's a very good opportunity, for me, to take on the role of mayor. I have very good experience in starting new jobs, whether they are hard or easy, making sure I meet or beat expectations. Even if I lose money myself—Mayor Bloomberg himself doesn't take a salary—I would be prepared to spend the money on getting ready, like, if I have an emergency and need to buy new shoes, if I need to pay for my own car and I don't get reimbursed for that type of thing."
Cecilia Berkowitz is not going to be mayor.
If you think you might be a contender, tweet at me.