Mayor Bill de Blasio’s longtime cultural affairs commissioner was pressured into quitting his “dream job” to take the fall for First Lady Chirlane McCray’s statue snub of Mother Frances Cabrini, three top city officials claim.
De Blasio claimed on WNYC radio Friday that Tom Finkelpearl’s exit from his $221,151-a-year job heading the Department of Cultural Affairs, “had nothing to do with” the controversy over the Italian-American icon, but sources told The Post that’s patently false.
“Tom took the fall because the mayor was so upset about Cabrini that he thought DCLA should have figured this out in a way that didn’t expose him and Chirlane to criticism,” one source said, using the acronym for the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs.
“They screwed it up,” the source said, referring to de Blasio and McCray. “Now they’re getting beat up every day and Tom had to take the fall for it.”
Just days before de Blasio unexpectedly announced Finkelpearl would be stepping down Thursday, the commissioner told confidantes he was looking forward to staying at the post through the mayor’s final term.
“He said he planned to serve out the two years left, and it was a dream job for him,” a second official recalled.
During an Oct. 15 event at the Museum of the City of New York, Finkelpearl even gushed to the crowd, “I’m proud to be the commissioner of this unbelievable agency.”
But then the mayor’s office issued a terse press release Thursday announcing Finkelpearl’s upcoming resignation, which is expected at the end of December.
De Blasio claimed it was a “mutual decision,” while Finkelpearl posted to Facebook, “I feel great. No health issues. No hard feelings. An amicable separation.”
But the city officials — who spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity — had a completely different take.
“Tom didn’t resign,” said the second source. “It was called a departure, [but] it is very clear he was pushed out.”
“Finkelpearl posted on social media that it was an amicable separation, but make no mistake when people resign they submit their resignation because they either have a new job or they’re retiring, or they have to spend time with my family. Tom didn’t offer any of those bullsh-t excuses,” the source said.
Finkelpearl drew the mayor’s ire for his failure to quell criticism of McCray’s She Built NYC initiative to erect public statues honoring historic women, sources said. Her statue commission sparked public outrage for refusing to award a monument to Cabrini — even after the Catholic saint received the most nominations in a citywide poll.
The long list of critics included actor Chazz Palminteri, who called McCray “racist” for ignoring those results, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who promised to dedicate state funds to bring a Cabrini statue to the Big Apple.
“The mayor was livid about how the statue commission played out and blames the commissioner,” a third official said.
One official also suspects McCray was involved in the ouster.
“She played a decision-making role here,” said the second source, adding that the commissioner had more daily interactions with the first lady than the mayor during his nearly six years heading the agency.
The mayor “doesn’t care about culture and the arts, but she does,” the source added. “She takes a lot more interest in certain aspects of what Tom does or what his agency was technically involved in.”
“In my mind, there is no question that he somehow ran afoul of the first lady — and then the mayor.”
City Hall spokeswoman Jane Meyer denied de Blasio or McCray played any role in pushing out the commissioner.
“That’s just plain wrong,” she said.
Queens Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who chairs the cultural affairs committee, said the Finkelpearl announcement is “sudden and unfortunate.”
“He was doing a good job,” Van Bramer said.
“I don’t know why anyone would come to the conclusion that he wasn’t doing a good job, and I think Tom did so much for artists and culture in the arts in New York City. I believe he deserved a better sendoff than this.”
Joseph Sciame, president of the Sons of Italy Foundation who lobbied the mayor for a Cabrini statue, had only praise for Finkelpearl.
“I think he’s done an incredible job,” Sciame said.
He added that de Blasio was to blame for the snub.
“I don’t understand on this issue why the mayor didn’t listen to the people,” he said.
A spokesman for Finkelpearl declined to comment.
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