Brooklyn Politics by Erik Engquist

GOLDEN PARACHUTE: Political muckraker John O’Hara is on a quest to show that in 2001 the campaign committee of outgoing Borough President Howard Golden illegally spent money on election-day operations for other candidates, including Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes.

The financial disclosures of Golden’s Committee for a Golden Future show over $30,000 spent for an election day operation in September 2001, O’Hara contends, though it was reported as donations to various Democratic clubs.

The committee can donate money to other campaigns (up to a certain limit) but is only authorized to spend money for Golden’s campaign. Term limits prevented Golden from running in 2001.

Most of Hynes’s expenditures in 2001 were for legal fees, not a penny of which was paid by Golden’s committee, a Hynes spokesman told us. (The committee did donate $5,000 to Hynes’s campaign committee on June 5, 2001.)

Committee for a Golden Future donated $6,400 to Assemblyman Clarence Norman’s Thurgood Marshall Democratic Club on September 7, 2001, four days before the scheduled Democratic primary (later postponed by two weeks because of September 11).

Ten other Brooklyn Democratic clubs got four-figure donations from Golden’s committee on September 7 as well. An 11th got $1,000 on September 24, a day before the actual primary.

Presumably the clubs used the money to hire election-day workers to help Billy Thompson (Golden’s former deputy borough president, who won the race for city comptroller), Jeannette Gadson (Golden’s then-deputy, who lost the race for borough president), and/or Hynes. But one Hynes supporter, Councilman Lew Fidler, told us Hynes didn’t even have an election day operation that year.

It’s worth noting, though, that after Hynes won he created a job for Golden paying $125,000 a year. The cozy arrangement generated much bad publicity for both men, so Golden eventually resigned and the position was eliminated.


A FOURTH FOR SARA’S SEAT? The prospect of two Latinos running against Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez has caught the attention of Susan Loeb, who could conceivably win the seat if the Latino vote were split.

Loeb, who is white, finished second to Angel Rodriguez (now in jail) in 1997’s Democratic primary.

A former president of Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Loeb is not a fan of Gonzalez and isn’t particularly impressed by her main competition this year, former School Board 15 President Eddie Rodriguez.

Former Community Board 7 member David Galarza is also considering running.

Will Loeb run? “You never know,” she said. “It’s highly unlikely.”

Loeb added, “It would be fantastic to have someone running in the race to make up the vacuum of leadership in the 38th District.”

Vacuum of leadership?

“I don’t know where she is, I don’t know what she’s doing,” Loeb said of the incumbent. “I’ve lived where I’ve lived (25th Street between 4th and 5th avenues) for seven years. In those seven years, I have never once been visited at my house by any of my elected officials. I have never seen one of them at the subway in the morning. I get occasional newsletters. That’s the only communication I get from my elected officials.”

Not even at CBID meetings has she seen Gonzalez, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, or even State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Loeb said.

“It’s disappointing to me. I expect a lot more from the local officials in terms of being out in the community and paying attention to every block in the district,” said Loeb, who is director of development for South Brooklyn Legal Services.

We asked Galarza about the prospect of his candidacy opening the door for a non-Latino in a district drawn to be predominantly Latino.

“If he/she has more than just a pulse, is not seen just during election time, and is willing to go to work every single day and fight for all the people who live in Southwest Brooklyn,” Galarza e-mailed, “I don’t care if that person is orange!”


HYNES IGNORES RESIDENCY LAW: A Daily News editorial hammered Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes for failing to require his prosecutors to live in the five boroughs, as state law demands.

“Hynes, of all people, should be sensitive to hewing to the legalities of residency,” the paper wrote. “He was, after all, the prosecutor who tried Brooklyn political activist John O’Hara three times, eventually slamming him with a felony conviction for voting from an apartment that was not his primary residence. Turns out the assistant D.A. on the case, John O’Mara [is] a resident of New Jersey. Beautiful.”

Hynes justifies his pursuit of O’Hara by noting a prosecutor’s obligation to follow the law as written. If true, he should indict about a third of his assistant D.A.’s.

Hynes replied with a letter to the News:

“Once again the Daily News confuses the conviction of John O’Hara with other imaginary violations committed by law-abiding citizens.  O’Hara was convicted of registering and voting from an address where he neither lived nor resided.  Federal Judge John Gleeson described this as a ‘sham’ address.

“To equate that with allowing experienced, highly competent Assistant District Attorneys to live outside of the City of New York is absurd, to say the least.

“For the record, there was no legal impediment to John O’Mara prosecuting the case against John O’Hara.”

But Mark Peters, who’s running against Hynes, had a different take.

“If Brooklynites wanted their prosecutors to be from New Jersey, they’d move to Hoboken,” said Peters in a press release. “Mr. Hynes cannot continue to run the Brooklyn D.A.’s office above the law, especially given the recent reports that have raised questions about Mr. Hynes’ own residency and whether he even lives full-time in the borough he represents.”

Actually, there’s no question that Hynes spends significant time in his Breezy Point summer home; he freely admits it. In fact, some folks believe his original intent in the 1980s was to run for D.A. of Queens.


WHAT ABOUT RABIN? Controversial Rabbi Abraham Hecht’s meeting at Brooklyn Borough Hall has drawn the ire of Lambda Independent Democrats, whose leaders read about it in this column. They’re upset, and would like to see Borough President Marty Markowitz (who welcomed Hecht to Borough Hall) because Hecht’s group fights gay rights in Jerusalem and objects to recognition of gay Holocaust victims.

Unmentioned by Lambda or any other Brooklyn organization is that Hecht once said it wouldn’t be so bad if Yitzhak Rabin were assassinated. “Markowitz may eventually apologize because of the gays, since they are an activist constituency,” one reader opined. “If it were Rabin alone, he’d do nothing, since there is apparently no activist constituency in Brooklyn that deplores the death of Israeli moderates.”


BIRTHDAY BOTHER: Noach Dear received three birthday cards in the mail from the office of State Senator Kevin Parker during Dear’s campaign against Parker last summer, and has gotten three more since the campaign ended, a source close to Dear reported.

The first time it happened, we asked Parker about it and the senator told us his office routinely sends birthday greetings to constituents of note. We inquired how he knows their birthdays, he replied, “We’re the government.”

But Dear’s initial birthday mailing arrived six months before his birthday, we pointed out. “That’s something we sent to him just to probably bother him,” Parker explained last July.

If so, it’s certainly working. Dear has filed several aggravated harassment complaints against Parker at the 66th Police Precinct pertaining to the birthday cards.

Parker didn’t return our call seeking comment.


BARRON MISSES HIS CHANCE: City Councilman Charles Barron reacted predictably to the Daily News “Scratch-n-Match” brouhaha, accusing the paper of shortchanging people of color who thought they’d won millions of dollars.

The “winning” tickets were in fact worthless because the newspaper printed the wrong winning numbers on March 19. Still, some guy thought he had six tickets worth $100,000 each.

The News announced a $1 million lottery for holders of the “winning” tickets that weren’t, but Barron declared that wasn’t enough.

“They’re preying on people of color, to disrespect us,” he said, according to the New York Sun. “If they added up all the money that people of color gave to this game, they’d come up with much more than $1 million.”

Exactly. Which is why Barron might instead have said, “Why are people of color gambling away precious dollars on Scratch-n-Match? What fool buys six copies of the Daily News on the same day?”

Assuming Barron has the welfare of his constituency and not political gain at heart, he should be on a mission to stop poor people from blowing the little money they have on lottery tickets and Scratch-n-Match, hoodwinked by advertising come-ons like “All you need is a dollar and a dream.”

Instead he’s doing the opposite: asking that Scratch-n-Match losers be paid. If the aim is to stop poor people from gambling, rewarding and celebrating gamblers doesn’t seem like the best idea.


TIMES ON RATNER PLAN: The New York Times finally weighed in on Bruce Ratner’s $2.5 billion plan for a basketball arena, apartments, offices, and retail space on Atlantic Avenue in Prospect Heights, saying the developer “should pay his own way” rather than get $100 million each from the city and state for streets, sidewalks, and site preparation.

The paper also editorialized that Ratner “should also make more of an effort to work with the community.”

On the plus side, the Times commented, “A mixed-use development like this could be a shot in the arm for the local economy. The low- and moderate-income housing units would be a big plus.”

It’s hard to argue with the notion that developers should pay for all of their own projects, but reconciling a “no subsidies” policy with a demand for non-market-rate housing is more difficult. Perhaps that’s why the paper did not attempt to do so.


HYNES TOO BUSY FOR COUNCIL: It didn’t go unnoticed that Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes, as usual, declined to personally attend the annual City Council public safety budget hearing. “Apparently every year Hynes’s office advises the Council that there are scheduling conflicts,” one observer noted wryly.

Indeed, that was Hynes’s excuse this year, though his spokesman said Hynes did appear before the Council last November to argue against budget cuts.

Still, all the other district attorneys, plus the city’s special narcotics chief, managed to attend the March 21 hearing—even Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau, who’s about a thousand years old. (Actually, he’ll be 86 on July 31.)

Not only does Morgenthau attend every year, but this year so did one of Hynes’s opponents for D.A., Arnie Kriss, who remained for the duration of the hearing. To no one’s surprise, Hynes was repped by his top aide, Dino Amoroso.

Kriss suppressed a chuckle when Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. referred to Amoroso as Hynes’s “official testifier.”

Why doesn’t Hynes come in person?

“I was told by a friend on Giff Miller’s staff that many years ago (early Giuliani era), Hynes received a grilling on fiscal mismanagement in his office and since then he has refused to return,” one source reported.

That may well be erroneous, though, given that Hynes did show up in November, and that all the councilmembers from the early 1990s have been term-limited out of office, leaving no one against whom to hold a grudge.

But it’s safe to assume Hynes is still angry, as he told us years ago, that his office receives less funding per capita than does Morgenthau’s.


TIDBITS: In the print version of our March 28 column, we noted that State Senator Carl Kruger had at least been consistent in his account of the 2001 Al Sharpton-Freddy Ferrer flyer scandal. We should have said consistent over the last two years. Because on November 2, 2001, Kruger was quoted in a Daily News article about the flyer saying, “My perception was, prejudice is in the eyes of the beholder. If someone is supporting someone else’s campaign, there’s no reason on earth why someone else can’t point that out.” (The clip was posted by the New York Observer on March 23.) We e-mailed the quote to Kruger but got no reply…

…Sources close to Assemblyman Clarence Norman tell us not to read too much into the Daily News story that the terms of a plea bargain for the indicted Democratic county leader are being laid out. Norman won’t agree to anything until an appellate court rules on his motion to dismiss his indictment for collecting travel expenses he didn’t personally incur. Norman contends only the Albany district attorney has jurisdiction to bring such charges, not Brooklyn D.A. Joe Hynes

…Reps. Nydia Velazquez, Major Owens, and Ed Towns endorsed Freddy Ferrer for mayor. The other two Brooklyn House Democrats, Jerry Nadler and Anthony Weiner, have yet to announce their mayoral endorsements. Insiders tell us Weiner is likely to endorse himself, but he’s waiting for an opportune moment to roll out the announcement……Answering a question we posed in a recent column, a reader reported that the last incumbent district attorney to lose in New York City was Manhattan’s Richard Kuh, who lost to Robert Morgenthau in 1974. However, Kuh had been appointed by the governor after the death of D.A. Frank Hogan, the reader noted. So we’re still looking for the last elected D.A. to be booted from office

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