Whatever reservations Mayor Bloomberg may have had about Lenora Fulani vanished last week when he joined - and quoted - the controversial Independence Party activist at a glittery Lincoln Center event.
Bloomberg delivered welcoming remarks at the annual All Stars Project fund-raiser, a gala that organizers say attracted nearly 500 people and raised $650,000.
The mayor spent 10 minutes chatting with Fulani and other officials of the All Stars, a nonprofit group founded by Fulani and Fred Newman that provides theatrical training to young people.
In her introduction, Fulani praised Bloomberg for having the "guts" to reform the school system.
Minutes later, the mayor adopted the same language in explaining his agenda to remake the schools.
"All we have to do, as Dr. Fulani said, is to have the guts and to have the desire to say we're not going to take it anymore," Bloomberg said. "You are part of the effort to harness the opportunities. You really, when you go home and look in the mirror, can congratulate yourselves for making a difference."
Bloomberg hasn't always been so comfortable with Fulani, even though he accepted the Independence Party line in 2001 and seems certain to get its endorsement again in 2005.
Last year, a mayoral aide tried to block a New York 1 reporter from filming Bloomberg and Fulani together at an Independence Party event.
Bloomberg told reporters last July that he barely knew Fulani. "I met her once, maybe twice," he said at the time. "I've never had a conversation with her. I read the woman's name in the paper." Fulani took out a full-page ad in The New York Times last week to refute charges that she is anti-Semitic.
The charges resurfaced in February when the All Stars mounted a play about Crown Heights that the American Jewish Committee labeled as having an "anti-Semitic story line." A scene from the play showing Hasidic Jews beating a Crown Heights youth was part of a film clip shown at the Lincoln Center gala.
Former Mayor Ed Koch, a fervent Bloomberg supporter, told The Post he'd never accept any political line tied to Fulani. "Each of us has different standards," Koch said. "She doesn't meet my standard to take an endorsement."
Mayor Bloomberg's hefty political contributions have gotten plenty of attention. But no one seems to have noticed the checks written - apparently in tandem with the mayor - by Martin J. Geller, Bloomberg's longtime accountant.
On Nov. 20, the mayor donated $65,000 to the Republican state Senate campaign committee. The same day, Geller chipped in $25,000 to the very same committee.