Sidney Davidoff will be in Washington, D.C., next week to attend a conference sponsored by Common Cause on the "Lessons of Watergate."
It is a topic that hits close to home.
Forty years ago, Davidoff, a scrappy young political operative for New York Mayor John Lindsay, was among 20 critics of the Nixon administration included on its original "Enemies List"keeping company with Paul Newman, journalists such as Daniel Schorr, eminent academics, and union and business leaders.
Davidoff, now 73, and others on the list will be recognized during a reception at the Common Cause event, where the group will honor people who spoke "truth to power."
Politics, not law, was Davidoff's priority when the Brooklyn native graduated from New York University School of Law in 1963. He worked for Lindsay for seven years, first as a deputy business commissioner and then as an administrative aide. He left to start a restaurant that he said was popular but a "disaster" financially. Only then did he turn to the practice of law, founding Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, where he applies his political savvy for clients navigating state and city government agencies.
Q: How did you get into politics?
A: My father owned a candy shop next to the local Republican headquarters when I was growing up in Queens Village. When delivering coffee as a child, I saw many people being helped there. Years later at City College, John Lindsay was a guest speaker in one of my classes. After I heard him speak about politics and had the chance to meet him, I knew right then that I wanted to work with him and help make a difference in New York.
Q: You worked for several years as Lindsay's administrative assistant, during which one author described you as Lindsay's 'burly troubleshooter.' What did you do for the mayor?
A: I started in the Lindsay administration as the assistant buildings commissioner, but I kept being pulled into Mayor Lindsay's inner circle of political operatives. So it was finally decided I should go and serve at City Hall.
I then served as Mayor Lindsay's chief administrative assistant and 'political general.' By that I mean I was his right-hand man and chief political operative, responsible for the mayor's welfare whenever he left Gracie Mansion or City Hall. I knew where he was at all times, handling his priorities and serving as a gatekeeper to the community-at-large. I also was in charge of Mayor Lindsay's in-person on-location tours in under-served parts of New York City.