The vote itself appeared to confirm that: Peters got 30 votes on the first ballot, second to the 41 of incumbent Joe Hynes but well ahead of non-club-stackers Arnie Kriss (14 votes), Paul Wooten (4), Sandra Roper (1), and State Senator John Sampson (0).
Because Hynes fell just short of a majority, a runoff was held. Hynes won that easily as Petersâs vote total dropped from 30 to 12. âWhere did those 18 people go?â asked one club member. âThey clearly came to vote for Peters and leave.â
Peters alleged later that Hynes supporters âtampered with the ballot box.â But we heard there was a simple mix-up over when votes could be cast, and it involved an insignificant number of votes.
Hynesâs campaign issued a press release ridiculing Peters for busing in supporters but losing anyway. The Peters campaign denied that, saying Peters supporters went home because IND leaders told them their votes wouldnât count.
But the Daily News quoted a Peters pal saying he voted early and left so he could put his kids to bed. And we found no evidence to support the claim that Peters supporters were disqualified.
It bears mentioning that Hynes didnât win the endorsement strictly on the merits either. Rumors of a deal between pro-Hynes IND leaders and Council Speaker Gifford Miller were widespread; each manâs supporters were to vote for the other. Not surprisingly, Miller won the IND endorsement for mayor (with 51 votes to Rep. Anthony Weinerâs 24 and Freddy Ferrerâs 12).
We also heard that Miller made the same arrangement with Peters, but while Peters delivered his votes to Miller, Millerâs people went with Hynes. âIt seems that Miller stabbed Peters in the back,â said one Weiner supporter.
But appearances can be deceiving. The reality is that Miller couldnât control all of his votersâ ballots in the DA race. Take, for example, influential IND member Buddy Scotto, whose support for Miller was reinforced by Council money allocated by Miller to Scottoâs pet projects. Scotto was going to vote for Hynesâwho once helped get Scottoâs daughter into Brooklyn Law Schoolâno matter what.
Another club member said Peters lost because âpeople became conscious of the deal and the packing, and it made them feel their club was being hijacked. And that brought out a very large turnout of old-time IND members.â
There was even debate over whether itâs uncouth to pack a club. When some IND members stood up at the meeting and complained, Peters supporter and former club president Greg Atkins (now chief of staff for Borough President Marty Markowitz) declared, âIâm shocked that people are saying that. This is a political clubâyou pack it. Thatâs what you do.â
Maybe so. And when you do, you tell your people to get babysitters.
BOOST FOR GALARZA: The Independent Neighborhood Democrats endorsement for the Sunset Park/Red Hook City Council seat went to David Galarza over incumbent Sara Gonzalez and Eddie Rodriguez, who had won IND’s support in 2002.
Why did the club sour on Rodriguez? “Eddie Rodriguez hasn’t been around in the last two years,” said one club member. “When people asked him where he’s been, he gave a real non-answer.”
Give the guy a break—he’s been working for a living! But then, Galarza also has a job but has found time to be active on Sunset Park issues.
Galarza has raised only $11,510 for his campaign, however. Rodriguez has collected $26,755 and Gonzalez $25,315.
Incidentally, Galarza has been endorsed by activist Susan Loeb, who’s decided not to run for the seat herself. Loeb finished second in the first primary won by Gonzalez’s predecessor, Angel Rodriguez.
KING SEEKS TAITT AUDIT: Flatbush City Council candidate Erlene King is upset that the 2003 Campaign Finance Board audit of one of her opponents, Sam Taitt, is not yet public information.
The reason is simple: the audit’s not complete. But King is still angry because it gives the impression “that he had a perfect campaign.”
“Why is this not on the [CFB] Web site?” she asked. “Even if the audit is not finished, the discrepancy should be there. You have to inform the public in a fair manner.”
Replied Taitt via e-mail, “The lady wants to be a legislator but does not understand that there are procedures in law and in an audit process that must be followed.”
Word on the street is that Taitt’s campaign paid campaign workers in cash and didn’t keep proper records of it. Taitt told us that’s inaccurate, but wouldn’t elaborate.
King and Taitt both figure to run this summer against Councilman Kendall Stewart, as they did in 2003.
MAYORAL HOPEFUL IS SMOKED OUT: The Libertarian Party chose Audrey Silk of Marine Park only last month to be its candidate for mayor, but her campaign is already showing some cracks.
Silk, a former 67th Precinct cop and founder of the smokers’ rights group Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, threw a fit when Sam Sloan, whom she’d beaten out for the nomination, began circulating her home address on a Libertarian listserv. “When a crazy anti-smoker comes to my door with a gun, do I tell them to find you instead?” she e-mailed Sloan.
Sloan pointed out that the address of a candidate for public office is public information.
Beyond that, it’s worth asking why the Libertarians would field a mayoral candidate so paranoid that she fears gun-toting smoking opponents will hunt her down. Nothing like that has ever happened, and given the low profile of the Libertarian Party, the chances of it happening to Silk are infinitesimal.
The irony here is that someone so afraid of risk would smoke Parliament cigarettes (she won’t admit how many packs per day) and advocate for more smoking.
Incidentally, Silk’s competition for the Libertarian nomination included subway shooter Bernie Goetz.
MILLER DENIES FRAUD: The Campaign Finance Board has alleged that former candidate David R. Miller tried to defraud it in 2003 by asking for matching funds on bogus contributions. A CFB staff member even told Miller he thought Miller’s entire campaign was a scheme to game the system for money.
But talk to Miller for an hour, as we just did, and you may come away convinced that he made an honest attempt to win the 2003 Democratic primary, when he got 26 percent of the vote against Councilwoman Tracy Boyland, including 38 percent in his home neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant.
For his efforts, he lost his program certification and his campaign was fined $10,000 by the board—even though it didn’t pay him a dime in matching funds.
“You decertify me and you don’t give me any money, and they want to use David Miller as a poster boy for fraud? Come on,” he said. “I’ve run for office 25 years. I’ve never been knocked off the ballot. There’s never been fraud on my petitions. These cats take my rep that I’ve been working on for 25 years, and they smash me up.”
Miller is, to put it mildly, furious. The CFB’s action makes it difficult for him to run again this year, when term limits prevent Boyland from seeking reelection.
Miller’s campaign raised $19,075 from 232 people and asked that $17,680 be matched 4-to-1. It got nothing and ended up $53,591 in debt. Vendors are not likely to extend Miller credit again to print literature and buy the services he would need to run.
The CFB was immediately suspicious because cash made up half of his contributions and money orders about 20 percent. Of the 64 money orders, 60 were in 11 groups with sequential serial numbers.
Miller gave one example of how that happened: a fundraiser persuaded some folks to contribute, and since they lacked checking accounts, she drove them to the post office to buy money orders. Another time, Miller spoke to church members who then passed the hat, and his campaign cut some corners helping them fill out the contribution cards required by the CFB.
Miller said one CFB investigator, dubious that so many folks donated by cash or money order, rejected his explanation that black people often don’t have checking accounts. (The prober clearly hasn’t seen the lines at an inner-city check-cashing businesses on Friday afternoons.)
“They don’t understand black people. They don’t understand our culture,” Miller said. “They need some black workers down there. The entire board is white.”
Miller is no fly-by-night schemer. He’s a former school board president, a longtime activist in local politics, and runs DRM Entertainment, which produces shows on BCAT and elsewhere.
But he’s also no accountant. He acknowledged that some contributions his campaign reported as eligible for matching funds might have been falsely attributed to donors by overzealous fundraisers trying to make an impression. “I kept an arm’s length distance” from the fundraising, he said. “I couldn’t tell you what the contributions were.”
He agreed with the CFB that he didn’t even know some of the purported donors. But he said someone trying to game the system certainly wouldn’t use the names of strangers.
He added that he volunteered that about two dozen of his contributions came from an Atlantic City bus trip the campaign organized. The contributions were promptly ruled non-matchable.
“All of these things were innocent blunders. They weren’t an attempt to defraud anybody,” he said. “I’m saying, you have to go to intent.”
The CFB, however, holds candidates responsible for their campaigns’ financial disclosures. Ignorance is not a defense.
On the other hand, board investigations lack the checks and balances of a court trial. Aside from an exchange of letters, the only chance Miller got to make an impression on the board was a “three-minute presentation” on April 14, he said.
“I’ve been trying to get a hearing from them for two years,” he said. “Shouldn’t I have an opportunity to air out our differences?”
RESOLUTION SOLUTION: How might the City Council stop getting into nasty, unnecessary debates over resolutions that have no force of law?
One way would be to stop introducing them, a thought which has occurred to Councilman Lew Fidler, who told us in 2002, “I’m starting to wonder whether or not it is a proper use of our time.”
Apparently, he’s finished wondering and concluded that non-binding resolutions are a proper use of the Council’s time, because on May 11 he introduced yet another one.
Fidler’s resolution condemned what Lenora Fulani said about Israel and Jewish people in the 1980s (and recently declined to retract). That prompted Fidler’s colleague Charles Barron to say in the Council chamber that he’d like to see Fidler condemn “the racist, bigoted” things the late Rabbi Meir Kahane said about Palestinians, or the strong-arm tactics of Ariel Sharon.
An argument between Fidler and Barron ensued and escalated until Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, who was presiding, suggested they step outside.
Fidler has told us that while resolutions can be big time-wasters, he believes not condemning racism allows it to spread.
KANGOL KID RETURNS: For the City Council’s May 17 celebration of Haitian Flag Day, Councilwoman Yvette Clarke helped round up the usual assortment of civic and religious leaders and other semi-notable Haitians from various walks of life.
But there was one honoree who caught our attention: Shaun Fequiere Sr.
No doubt you can’t even pronounce Fequiere, let alone identify him. Here’s some help:
She was walking down the street
So I said Hello
She said, So?
I said, So?
Baby, donât you know?
I can sing, rap, dance in just one showâ¦
By now, either you recognize these opening lyrics from the rap smash “Roxanne, Roxanne” or you never ventured into any part of Brooklyn where black people resided in late 1984.
In those neighborhoods one could not walk down the street without hearing the song or seeing the hat that Fequiere, a/k/a the Kangol Kid, helped make must-have attire for countless thousands during the breakdancing era.
Clarke ran into Kangol at the Sister2Sister magazine party in April, leading to his Flag Day appearance at City Hall. Kangol asked the other three original U.T.F.O. (Untouchable Force Organization) members to join him, and they accepted. It was to be their first reunion in 15 years.
While U.T.F.O.’s Educated Rapper still lives in Brooklyn, where he’s a record executive, Kangol now lives in the Poconos where he’s a songwriter and music producer. He’s guiding his teenage sons, who launched a small record label after leaving Kings County for safer pastures in 1998.
Kangol is thought to be the first Haitian rapper, and while he was never able to duplicate the success of “Roxanne, Roxanne,” it’s good to see he hasn’t been forgotten.
TIDBITS: Fundraising report from the 35th Council District race: incumbent Letitia âTishâ James, $10,785; Charles Billups, $6,929; Eric Blackwell, $0. We hear Blackwell’s strategy is to give the other candidates a false sense of security…
…Brooklyn district attorney candidate Mark Peters was endorsed by the Brooklyn Democrats for Change, the club of Brian Honan, who ran against Democratic district leader Ralph Perfetto in 2002. Perfetto is backing D.A. Joe Hynes this year……Lambda Independent Democrats will meet to decide its endorsements for the Brooklyn district attorney and uncontested City Council races at 7:30 p.m. May 25 at the YWCA, 30 3rd Avenue.
The bill was for another $82 billion for the U.S. military effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would also require uniform driverâs license features in the 50 states, make it tougher to get asylum here, send $200 million to the Palestinians and $300 million in humanitarian aid to Darfur, allocate $55 million to secure nuclear materials outside the former Soviet Union, and allow a fence to be built on the California-Mexico border.
The bill, which also included plenty of traditional pork, passed 368 to 58 on May 5.
Nadler frequently votes against bills favored by the Bush administration and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union. But he supported this one despite his objection to portions of the âReal ID Actâ contained within it, such as the asylum provisions.
While Nadler opposed the war in Iraq, he feels it would be unfair for the U.S. to withdraw before Iraq is stable. Put more bluntly, he doesnât want the Kurds to be massacred again, said a source close to Nadler.
Weinerâs opposition to the bill is, likewise, perplexing at first, given that he voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq (unlike his Brooklyn Democratic colleagues). But now he regrets that vote.
âIâve just been so frustrated with the lack of planning and rationale, and Iâve been burned before giving the administration my trust,â Weiner said.
Moreover, he said he dislikes these emergency bills, which can be passed outside the Houseâs balanced-budget rules.
âWe lurch forward from emergency funding bill to emergency funding bill without any clear strategy and without the accountability that comes with going through the traditional budgeting process,â Weiner said. âI just think itâs no way to run a war.â
Weiner also objected to giving the Palestinians $200 million. He had introduced an amendment to remove the money from the bill, but it had failed on a voice vote.
âIf we are going to allocate funds to the Palestinians it should be based on performanceâ¦letâs say on their compliance with the road map for peace. We pass these appropriation bills with our heart rather than our head. We invest based on what we want to happen rather than on what has happened in the past.â
AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, didnât have a problem with the Palestinian aid. But Weiner said, âAIPAC always supports what the administrationâs position is, and the administration supports this bill.â
PETERS PACKING CLUBS? The buzz at Independent Neighborhood Democrats in advance of the club’s May 11 endorsement for Brooklyn district attorney was that candidate Mark Peters had packed the club with supporters. In fact, we heard Peters packed Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats and Lambda Independent Democrats as well.
Clubs generally frown on this kind of thing because, while it does provide a small infusion of cash from the new club members’ dues, it gives the impression that the endorsement votes are rigged. Which they are.
In a weak attempt to prevent this, the clubs have provisions in their by-laws such as a requirement that members must be in good standing at least 45 days prior to a vote to receive a ballot. Peters got around that easily—his people have been joining the local clubs since at least January.
We questioned his campaign person, Sara Forman, about club-packing at the time. On January 19, she replied, “I joined CBID, as did some of my campaign workers, since I think it’s important to be a part of your local club when your candidate is running for a local office.”
This is why we keep barf bags handy.
IND also doesn’t allow members to vote both there and at another local club, such as CBID, but we’re told that provision is not easily or readily enforced.
MARTYâS RAP SHEET: Last year, after pleading guilty to accepting money the state for driving expenses he hadn’t incurred, Assemblyman Roger Green claimed Borough President Marty Markowitz had committed a similar crime 20 years ago without being forced out of the state legislature, as Green was.
Was Green exaggerating? The New Yorker recently published a description of Markowitz’s crime that made it seem like an honest mistake trumped up to something more as payback for his challenging the political establishment. Here’s what the magazine wrote:
“He first ran for Borough President in 1985, against the incumbent, Howard Golden…That bid for office resulted in Markowitz’s being charged with failing to disclose a campaign contribution from a local businessman: he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, paid a nearly eight-thousand-dollar fine [actually $7,500], and performed seventy-five hours of community service.”
That didn’t seem to be the equivalent of Green’s stealing from taxpayers. (Of course, Green says he mistakenly thought he was entitled to the money.) But The New Yorker made Markowitz’s mistake seem much more innocuous than it really was, according to Maurice Gumbs, a political opponent of Markowitz who followed the Markowitz money trail.
Markowitz’s plea agreement, negotiated with Liz Holtzman, the Brooklyn district attorney at the time, winnowed multiple felony counts down to just the one misdemeanor, Gumbs recalled. Markowitz had been indicted for taking four-figure campaign contributions from a credit union and reporting them as if they’d come from elsewhere, Gumbs said.
Gumbs went to Albany to examine Markowitz’s campaign disclosures, tracked down some of the addresses from which the contributions originated and found them to be empty lots and abandoned buildings. So did the Village Voice, which wrote a couple of scathing articles.
It also seems probable that the charges can’t be chalked up as a consequence of Markowitz’s 1985 campaign for borough president, as The New Yorker put it. More likely they came to light during a federal investigation of the credit union, called HYFIN (Help Your Friend In Need). HYFIN’s treasurer was Edmund Lee, a longtime buddy of Markowitz.
Lee made a bunch of contributions to Markowitz’s campaign apparently using credit union funds, but attributed them to various businesses and people. Though Markowitz didn’t know them from a hole in the wall (which some of the businesses literally were), he never questioned them.
This approach is known as “hear no evil, see no evil.”
For his part, Markowitz insists the magazine’s description was accurate. His chief of staff, Greg Atkins, wrote in an e-mail message, “The New Yorker got it right; he made a mistake in failing to disclose the true source of some contributions raised for his campaign. However, as was made clear at the time, he did not personally benefit, nor abuse his public office in any way. Beyond that, he had absolutely no knowledge of anything other than what he accepted as his responsibility and the D.A. concurred.”
Holtzman, now in private practice, told us she can’t recall the details of the case. But she called Gumbs’s claim that she went easy on Markowitz because of political pressure “preposterous.”
TWO VERSUS TISH: Another opponent for Councilwoman Letitia âTishâ James has emerged: Charles Billups, a board member of the Grand Council of Guardians, the fraternal organization for black law enforcement officers. Billups, who we believe hails from the Department of Correction, held a fundraiser in Fort Greene on May 5, but we were unable to reach him for comment.
Billups’s sister, Denise Billups, was murdered in July 2003 in the Bronx, after which Billups and others held a press conference asking for information about the crime, which apparently remains unsolved. A few weeks later, Councilman James Davis was killed, creating the vacancy that James filled that November.
Already in the race is Eric Blackwell, a former School Board 13 member. Blackwell had called for James to be denied a Wilson-Pakula to run in the Democratic primary, but James was granted one by member of the Democratic county committee in the 35th Council District, which includes Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, and Crown Heights.
Opposition to the Wilson-Pakula was virtually nonexistent. All eight Democratic district leaders representing parts of the council district supported it: Alan Fleishman and Jo Anne Simon (52nd Assembly District), Shirley Patterson and Clarence Norman (43rd A.D.), Bill Saunders and Freddie Hamilton (57th A.D.), and Steve Cohn and Linda Minucci (50th A.D.).
FENNER HAVING FUN: Braxton Freddie Fenner, a former assistant district attorney under D.A. Joe Hynes now running against his former boss, took special notice of the revelation that top Hynes aide Dino Amoroso lives in Long Island in apparent violation of state law. When he was hired by Hynes in November 1991, Fenner says Hynes required him to sign a statement that read, “I…recognize that the offer is conditional upon my becoming a resident of New York City before I begin work and remaining one during my service.”
We’d be surprised if Fenner even makes the ballot, but at the very least he seems to be enjoying his campaign for the moment. On May 5 he issued his 13th press release, headlined, “The District Attorney Association of New York State has named Charles Hynes “Prosecutor of the Year.”
Fenner wrote, “Braxton Freddie Fenner congratulates Mr. Hynes. And, I would like to recognize him for ignoring the residency law, ignoring individual rights, and ignoring prosecutorial misconduct. This truly is an outstanding record of accomplishment.”
VITOâS SOCIAL PROBLEM: Earlier this year Rep. Vito Fossella told over 130 seniors, as reported by the Staten Island Advance, “I do not support the privatization of Social Security. I never have and I never will.” But he’s had trouble living up to it because he doesn’t reject President Bush’s proposal to divert Social Security money into private accounts administered by Wall Street (which Republicans have stopped calling “privatization” in favor of “reform”).
But with Fossella under continuing pressure from Democrats, his spokesman told the Advance that “on the surface, Vito is skeptical” of Bush's proposal and is “concerned about the impact on the overwhelming majority of Staten Island residents.” Fossella says he’s studying the plan and will release his findings soon.
TIDBITS: The Daily News sent a reporter and photographer to Rep. Anthony Weiner’s midnight hockey game at Chelsea Piers on May 9. We still find it hard to picture the rail-thin Weiner playing hockey. Well, we suppose if he’s ever targeted by goons, he could always disguise himself as a hockey stick…
…We occasionally hear that Councilman David Yassky is thinking of running for Congress in the district to be vacated by Rep. Major Owens in 2006. But it’s worth noting that Yassky’s Brooklyn Heights residence is in Rep. Nydia Velazquez’s district. It would not be illegal for him to run elsewhere, but it’s nonetheless unlikely…
…It could be 2006 before Councilman Bill de Blasio finds a full-time replacement for his recently departed Orthodox Jewish liaison Yeruchim Silber, but in the meantime he’s being helped informally by Yitzhach Fleischer, also known as Jules Fleischer. Fleischer is State Senator Diane Savino’s Orthodox Jewish liaison. Both de Blasio and Savino have large sections of Borough Park in their districts…
…Transportation Alternatives project director Noah Budnick, a Brooklynite who was badly injured in a bicycle accident last month, is recovering and could be nearly back to normal in a few months. “He is a miracle of modern science!” wrote Paul Steely White, TA’s executive director…
…Lambda Independent Democrats will meet to decide its endorsements for the Brooklyn district attorney and uncontested City Council races at 7:30 p.m. May 25 at the YWCA, 30 3rd Ave. At 7 p.m. June 6 it will endorse for mayor, public advocate, contested City Council races, and Civil Court at Old First Reformed Church, 7th Avenue and Carroll Street…
…Bay Ridge Democratic district leader Ralph Perfetto and his club, the American Heritage Political Organization, endorsed Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes for reelection…
…Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez and her colleague Annabel Palma of the Bronx held a Mothers’ Day press conference to call for a tax on incomes over $500,000 to reduce class sizes in public schools—not the kind of story that gets assignment editors very excited. But on a slow news day, sometimes there’s nothing else to cover, and in this case Newsday took the bait. Gonzalez, whose media presence is minimal, got a single quote into the humdrum article’s final paragraph…
…A reader e-mailed us, “I do hope that Brooklyn Democrats are searching furiously for a replacement to run instead of [State] Senator [Kevin] Parker in 2006. It would be travesty if our choice in a primary were between the hot-blooded Parker and that idiot Noach Dear.” Better get ready for a travesty, then. The Democratic establishment won’t support a challenger to an incumbent Democrat……Our small item on handicapped ramps for Coney Island beach generated quite a few responses from readers, most of them noting the existence of all-terrain wheelchairs. One e-mail came from E.M. Prentiss. When we replied that the Parks Department was planning to build ramps that dead-end at mid-beach but not provide beach-roving wheelchairs, Prentiss wrote back, “To be honest, having a ramp that gets me halfway down the beach is fine with me. I would never even dip my toe in the ocean, but would enjoy being getting out of the city and be able to wheel down the ramp and sit on a blanket under an umbrella.”
âNeighborhood opposition to the project has ranged from anger at the suggestion that the state may invoke powers of eminent domain to the argument that a privately owned real-estate development is not the best use of the land, a large chunk of which is owned by the M.T.A., and will alter the character of the neighborhood. But the right of the gentrifying class to preserve its property values in blocks close to the arena is not one around which much mass support can be rallied in Brooklyn.â
The writer, Rebecca Mead, later drove past the Atlantic Yards site with Markowitz. She wrote:
ââJust take a look at whatâs coming down,â Markowitz said. âI want you to look at this and tell me in any manner, shape, or form that this has historical significance.â
âOn the block where we were, there were a few warehouses and row houses looking shabby and forlorn, as if they had resigned themselves to their fate. âYou can see this is gorgeousâjust a beautiful sight,â Markowitz said, with undisguised sarcasm.â
OUR NOISE IS GOOD NOISE: Mayor Mike Bloomberg received a sustained ovation when he announced at an event hosted by Councilman Simcha Felder in Borough Park that six blocks of 37th Street between 12th and 14th avenues would be rezoned for residential development, allowing the construction of hundreds of housing units.
And this is odd—Felder’s crowd did not whine about the noise, trucks, and other inconveniences such construction would being, despite having issued those same complaints about plans to modernize the railroad trench through the neighborhood.
The difference, of course, is that the housing would mostly benefit Borough Park, whereas the rail project would help the city at large.
Incidentally, Bloomberg’s announcement makes it certain that Felder will endorse him for reelection. Whether there was an explicit deal or not, we cannot say (insiders suspect there was), but very little in Brooklyn politics happens by accident.
YVETTE PLAYS RACE CARD: How casually does Councilwoman Yvette Clarke throw out allegations of racism?
Consider this sentence from Clarke’s April 28 press release:
“I am calling upon the city’s Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Protection to finally begin the process of much-needed road repair to Linden Boulevard. There is no reasonable explanation for the lack of service for a major commercial traffic thoroughfare other than that the majority of residents are people of color, whose needs this administration has conveniently ignored.”
We got the impression Clarke believes DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall (wife of Senator Chuck Schumer), a Park Slope resident, sits around a table with her deputies and says, “No need to fix Linden Boulevard—it’s mostly black people who live there.”
When we inquired with Clarke’s spokesman, he backed off a bit, telling us the councilwoman is not alleging such overt racism.
“Councilmember Clarke cannot speak to the conscious thoughts of individuals, but it is apparent that the city’s administration has been challenged in seeing that municipal services are equally applied to all communities throughout this city,” e-mailed her spokesman, Rance Huff. “Not only do we have the example of commercial traffic and road repair on Linden Boulevard, but there are numerous other examples of environmental racism throughout this city, such as the placement of transit bus depots primarily in communities of color.”
The statement went on to suggest that white neighborhoods had faster snow removal last winter. “Councilmember Clarke feels that there have been continued examples such as this that makes it appear that certain communities are given priority over others.”
PETERS, HYNES ENGAGE: News of the arrest of an alleged rapist stemming from DNA testing of 32-year-old evidence prompted the Manhattan district attorney to call for an end to the statute of limitations for rape cases.
That prompted a press release from Brooklyn D.A. candidate Mark Peters criticizing the incumbent, Joe Hynes, for not coming up with the idea first.
In a statement, Peters said: “Once again, Mr. Hynes is sitting on his hands while other district attorneys are being proactive. His lack of interest in pursuing new ideas to improve Brooklyn, is similar to his lack of interest in seeking out and prosecuting corruption in our borough.”
The response from Hynes’s office:
“What D.A. in history has been more innovative than D.A. Hynes? We brought the first rape case based on DNA evidence. We started a Domestic Violence Bureau, the first in the nation, now a model for those around the country. Our DTAP program (Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison) was ordered by former mayor Giuliani to be replicated in other D.A.'s offices. We run the only John School in the city. This can go on and on.
“Surely anyone who criticizes Hynes for lack of innovation knows nothing about this office. As for corruption: In the past three years, two Supreme Court justices have been indicted (one has already served his prison term) and the leading political figure in the county [Assemblyman Clarence Norman] is facing four indictments.”
OâHARA APPEALS (AGAIN): Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, disbarred Sunset Park attorney John OâHara has again appealed his conviction for illegal voting, this time on the basis of selective prosecution.
His previous appeals, which were exhausted at the state and federal levels, asserted his innocence. This one does not deny his guilt but rather argues that he was selectively prosecuted, which could be grounds to erase the felony from his record and perhaps allow him to get his law license back.
O’Hara’s motion, filed April 28 in Brooklyn Supreme Court, is before Judge Abe Gerges, the former City Councilman for Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights. Gerges is regarded as a good judge and not a political hack.
Still, the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes isn’t worried about O’Hara’s motion, which it will not respond to in court before Gerges’s initial ruling. “We don’t think this has much chance of succeeding,” said Hynes spokesman Jerry Schmetterer.
While Hynes does not deny that he pursued O’Hara in part as a favor to Assemblyman Jim Brennan, he can still claim that the case was formally referred to his office by the state Board of Elections. Of course, the complainant in that action was attorney Jack Carroll, Brennan’s close ally—a fact O’Hara only discovered last month.
What’s unusual about O’Hara’s appeal is that it is based on an affidavit from freelance writer Christopher Ketcham, who recorded interviews with most of the principals in O’Hara’s case for a Harperâs Magazine article published last November. Ketcham, formerly of Park Slope, has gone from a chronicler of the case to an active participant in it, which is not exactly encouraged in journalism.
Had Hynes’s people—including John OâMara, who handled O’Hara’s prosecution for Hynes—known that Ketcham would become so involved in O’Hara’s effort to overturn his conviction, they would not have consented to be interviewed.
One of the arguments O’Hara’s motion makes is the extraordinary lengths Hynes went to investigate him in the mid 1990s, including ordering surveillance of O’Hara’s campaign headquarters, apartment, and mother’s house.
Targeting someone in a unique manner has been disallowed by the courts before. O’Hara was the only New Yorker nailed for illegal voting in the 20th century.
O’Mara, the prosecutor, also told Ketcham that one reason they went after O’Hara was that civil cases had failed to deter him. For example, a civil challenge to O’Hara’s petitions alleging fraud forced him to withdraw from the 1994 Assembly race, yet in 1996 O’Hara ran again and also led a legal effort to overturn the results of the 1996 primary in which Mike Feinberg became the Democratic nominee for surrogate judge of Brooklyn. (O’Hara says the case was deep-sixed when Hynes convened a grand jury against him on illegal voting charges from the early 1990s.)
TIDBITS: One of the activists fighting Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards proposal, Patti Hagan, said Assemblyman Roger Green, a Ratner project supporter, has been doing a spot-on Claude Raines over the last six months or so. “He’s gone into the witness protection program since he got reelected,” Hagan observed. “He doesn’t show up at any kind of meetings or forums on any subject.”
…Brooklyn’s independent screening panel has completed its interviews of candidates for Civil Court judge. The 11 deemed “qualified” were Civil Court Judges Mickey Morganstern and David Schmidt (both seeking reelection), Ingrid Joseph and Housing Court Judge Dawn Jimenez (who both lost primaries last year), Sol Handler, Norma Jennings of Lambda Independent Democrats, South Brooklyn Legal Services board member Theresa Cicotto, Michael Gerstein, Cynthia Boyce, Genine Edwards, and Marty Needelman, chief counsel for Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation…
…Civil Court candidate Richard Velasquez chose not to appear before the independent screening panel, making him ineligible for any help from the Democratic county organization. Velasquez is supported by Assemblymen Vito Lopez and Joe Lentol, State Senator Marty Dilan, and his son Councilman Erik Dilan. His opponent is Marty Needelman. They’ll face off in the Democratic primary in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and part of Bushwick for the seat vacated by Wayne Saitta, who was elevated to Supreme Court…
…Democrats in the House of Representatives needed two more votes to defeat a Republican budget for 2006 that includes $106 billion in tax cuts, $10 billion in Medicaid reductions, and a green light for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But they failed, thanks in part to Rep. Vito Fossella’s vote in favor and Rep. Ed Towns’s absence. For Towns the political implications are nil, but Fossella might be reminded of his pro-drilling vote during his 2006 reelection bid …
…How eager is Adele Cohen to get out of the state Assembly? She’s telling political people that if she doesn’t think she can get one of the two Democratic Supreme Court nominations up for grabs this fall, she’ll consider running in the Democratic primary against Civil Court Judge Mickey Morganstern. The problem there would be rather than sway a plurality of the 42 Democratic district leaders, Cohen would have to win over actual voters, which has been a challenge for her even in her home district of Brighton Beach, Coney Island, and Bay Ridge…
…Sources said Councilman David Weprin of Queens stayed for nearly the duration of Councilman Al Vann’s recent fundraiser. Either Weprin believes he can snag Vann’s support to become Council speaker or he really likes rubber chicken…
…Three candidates were missing from the forum hosted by Independent Neighborhood Democrats for the district attorney race: incumbent Joe Hynes, Sandra Roper, and Braxton Freddie Fenner. Roper had said she would come but told us she backed out because Hynes didn’t come, thereby muting the event’s impact. It’s not clear that Fenner was even invited, as he is not seen as a viable candidate…
…Could this column have had something to do with Borough President Marty Markowitz coming out in favor of gay marriage? When folks at Lambda Independent Democrats, Brooklyn’s gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender club, read in this space about Markowitz welcoming leading homophobe Rabbi Abraham Hecht to Borough Hall, they published it in the Lambda newsletter and started giving Markowitz grief about it. Then Markowitz announced his support for gay marriage, distracting Lambda from its beef about Hecht…
…We e-mailed The New Yorker about its innocuous description of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s brush with the law in the 1980s after we heard a more sinister recollection of the crime from a political activist at the time. At press time, we were waiting for a response from the magazine writer, Rebecca Mead…
…Yeruchim Silber has left his post as Jewish liaison for Councilman Bill de Blasio to become vice president for community affairs for Metropolitan Jewish Health Systems. For de Blasio, whose budget didn’t allow him to come close to matching the salary Silber was offered by MJHS, finding a replacement with the same political acumen and ties to the Orthodox community will be extremely difficult. In fact, the councilman won’t even try until January…
…When Joel Klein, the city schools chancellor, called for legislation outlawing sex between teachers and students, did State Senator Carl Kruger gently inform Klein that he’d introduced such a bill in January?
No. Instead, Kruger called Klein “asleep at the switch” and said he’d have known about the bill “if he was even paying the slightest attention.” Kruger gave Klein a grade of F, but Kruger might deserve a similar grade in the category “plays well with others”…
…Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs allocated some discretionary funding to Flatbush Athletics to buy sports equipment for its free pick-up sports program, which runs through July 4. For information, visit flatbushathletics.com or call Dave Herman at 917-664-6664…
…The New York Jets removed Councilman Domenic Recchia’s name from its Web site listing supporters of the West Side stadium plan. Recchia says he’s neutral, Newsday reported……Councilmembers Vinny Gentile and Tracy Boyland announced on April 26 that they’re in favor of building a stadium for the Jets on the West Side.
It was the usual mish-mash of political mumbo jumbo, with headings like “A Record of Effective Crime Fighting” followed by bullet points such as “Sponsored bills of zero-tolerance against drunk driving.”
As if anything meaningful could be garnered from that.
Any legislator not on life support can sponsor a bill, and in fact they do—hundreds, even thousands of them, virtually none of which ever pass. And what does “zero tolerance against drunk driving” mean anyway? Drunk drivers are to be pulled over and decapitated?
But rather than attempt to provide meaningful analysis of a palm card, we’ll take the easy way out and just examine its grammar.
First paragraph: “Brooklyn has always prided itself as one of our nations great communities, and the time has come to elect a district attorney with the experience & vision to match. In 2005, Brooklynites will have an opportunity to elect a District Attorney who will restore our faith in the fairness of the criminal justice system.”
No doubt you cringed when you noticed no apostrophe in “nations” in the first sentence, and again when you saw a lowercase “district attorney” followed inexplicably by an uppercase one.
What’s that? You didn’t cringe?
Maybe it’s just us. Heck, we didn’t even like Sampson’s use of an ampersand rather than the actual word “and.”
We’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention candidate Sandra Roper’s comma-deprived “Justice Not Politics” palm card, which touts her as “A Tough Civil Rights Attorney With Scientific Expertise.” Scientific expertise? You mean, that she’s a pharmacist? Are we to believe Roper will remake the D.A.’s office into C.S.I. Brooklyn?
At least Roper’s piece makes one substantive point, saying she’s the only candidate against the death penalty.
The incumbent, Joe Hynes, is also against the death penalty, but that didn’t stop him from seeking it against 11 defendants after capital punishment was reinstated in New York.
The other candidates seem to have a similar position.
A spokesman for candidate Arnie Kriss e-mailed us this statement:
“I think Roper’s position is that she will never seek the death penalty under any circumstances. Our position is that in the unlikely event the death penalty is reenacted, as D.A., in the appropriate case, Arnie would follow the law.
“However, for death penalty purposes, Arnie would have to be satisfied beyond all doubt that the defendant committed the crime. Reliance on one witness identification, an informant, or a confession not being videotaped would be significant factors that would cause Arnie as D.A. not to seek the death penalty.
“It is Arnie’s belief that the legislature is aware of these factors, as well as others, and before new legislation is enacted these issues will have to resolved.”
Another candidate, Mark Peters, submitted a similar answer:
“In recent years, critics of the death penalty around the country have raised concerns about the problems with the administration of the death penalty, including the chance of innocent people wrongly being put to death. I share those concerns, and am not advocating for the return of the death penalty in New York State.
“But should the state enact a constitutional death penalty statute that adequately addressed those concerns, I will, as the chief law enforcement officer of the borough who is sworn to uphold the law, evaluate each case on its own facts and enforce the law appropriately.”
Candidate Paul Wooten explained that when the Bronx D.A. announced he would never seek the death penalty, he was sued by the governor. “It was a hugely costly litigation and tied up the office for months—almost for a year and a half, I believe,” Wooten said.
As D.A., would Wooten seek the death penalty against anyone? “There have been over 100 instances where people were convicted of the death penalty and were later found to be innocent,” he noted. “However, if the state legislature enacted the death penalty and that was the law of the state, I would follow the law.”
We didn’t hear from Sampson’s or Fenner’s campaigns by press time.
DINOâS DWELLING: Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes’s nemesis, John OâHara, doesn’t buy Hynes’s explanation that his chief aide Dino Amoroso is voting legally from his parents’ house in Queens while living in Long Island.
“You can only vote from your principal and permanent residence,” said O’Hara, quoting the state law under which he was infamously prosecuted by Hynes and convicted. “Dino’s principal and permanent address is his mommy’s house? Come on. It’s where his wife and kids live.”
Hynes’s spokesman said Amoroso is in compliance because he intends to eventually return to his childhood home. That’s the argument Howard Lasher successfully used to stay on the City Council ballot in 1993, when he lived in a Manhattan Beach house outside the district but owned a small Brighton Beach apartment within it.
O’Hara doubts an investigation by Queens D.A. Richard Brown into Amoroso’s voting will amount to anything. “When a prosecutor gets bagged like this,” O’Hara said, “they say they’re investigating and then two weeks before the election they come out with a press release saying he did nothing wrong.”
WEINER GETS NOTICED: The last month has produced a steady stream of good press for Rep. Anthony Weiner as he tries to campaign his way up the polls in the race for mayor.
Twice in a week he landed positive stories on the front page of the Metro section of The New York Times, thanks largely to a strong performance at a candidates’ breakfast forum hosted by Crainâs New York Business. Weiner earlier scored mostly laudatory articles in the New York Observer and the Times.
The Park Slope native, who also lived in Sheepshead Bay before moving to Forest Hills, has struck a chord with both left- and right-wing publications.
Wrote Tim Robbins in the April 26 Village Voice, “As the four candidates speak at forums and political clubs, it is Weiner who is attracting attention. While most stories have focused on his relentless bent for nifty economic development ideas and comedy-club shtick, his candidacy has sounded the toughest notes on the Bloomberg administration's shortcomings, while laying out his own ideas for reforms.”
In the conservative New York Sun, on the opposite side of the political spectrum, Andrew Wolf wrote that Weiner “is young, energetic and he is impressing audiences. The next round of polling may show Mr. Weiner pulling into a serious, solid third-place position. Unless lightning strikes the campaign of Gifford Miller, the council speaker seems destined to fall into last place among the four Democratic contenders.”
It remains to be seen whether Weiner’s success on the campaign trail will translate into poll numbers on par with Freddy Ferrer and Virginia Fields, however. How can both be far ahead of Weiner despite not having distinguished themselves on the campaign trail? One possibility is a strong correlation between the ethnicities of the people polled and the candidates they’re supporting.
D.A. RACE UPDATE: One observer of the Brooklyn district attorney race said none of the current challengers to incumbent Joe Hynes has the right package to beat him, but “if you could composite Mark Peters and John Sampson, you’d really have something.” Peters has a strong résumé but lacks the political connections and savvy of Sampson, the source noted.
What about attorney Paul Wooten? His competition doesn’t take his candidacy seriously because the vast majority of the money in his campaign fund came from a $65,000 loan from himself a day before the last reporting deadline.
The loan made it appear Wooten had raised over $70,000, but in fact his two fundraisers were sparsely attended, another source noted.
Wooten’s camp has boasted of substantial support among elected officials. “Wooten has a relationship with these elected officials because he was their attorney,” said the observer, who is backing another candidate. “But they understand that a man with $10,000 is not winning.”
Which may be why only Councilman Al Vann and Assemblywoman Annette Robinson have committed to actually endorsing Wooten.
A boroughwide race can cost upwards of $1 million. As of late March, Hynes had raised over $500,000, Mark Peters had pulled in about $450,000, State Senator John Sampson over $400,000, and Arnie Kriss over $300,000.
Sandra Roper had raised nothing, jeopardizing her ability to collect enough signatures to make the ballot.
In 2001, Roper was on omnibus petitions with other insurgent candidates, but she might not be able to piggyback on such petitioning operations this time because there won’t be as many.
PETITION FRAUD IS NO JOKE: The New York Post penned an amusing story about Germania Taveras pleading guilty to felony charges for faking signatures on petitions to run for City Council in 2001 in the race eventually won by Erik Dilan.
Authorities were tipped off by a college student who volunteered for her campaign. Among the names the student handed Taveras to forge were Adam West and Cesar Romero, who played Batman and the Joker, respectively, on TV in the 1960s.
Taveras was indicted by Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes in October 2003 but skipped a May 2004 court date. She remained at large until being busted for turnstile-jumping April 11.
Taveras spent 10 days at Rikers and will be sentenced to 280 hours of community service.
TIDBITS: An anonymous reader called to inform us that the Brooklyn district attorney is Charles Hynes, not Joe Hynes, “unless there’s an inside joke I don’t know about.” It’s not really a joke—Hynes has just always been called Joe by his friends, so that’s how we refer to him. His middle name is Joseph.
The style of this column is to use colloquial first names, such as Lew for Lewis Fidler, Vinny for Vincent Gentile, and Chuck for Charles Schumer. But we draw the line at Rep. Anthony Weiner. We just never thought of him as Tony…
…Crainâs Insider reported that Councilman Michael McMahon of Staten Island is being recruited by national Democrats to run against Rep. Vito Fossella in 2006. McMahon could run without giving up his Council seat…
…Only one member of the City Council joined Councilman Allan Jennings in voting against punishing Jennings for abusing his female staffers: Councilman Charles Barron, who said he wasn’t allowed to see all the evidence against Jennings.
That was in stark contrast to Councilman Domenic Recchia, who said, “It’s a shame he isn’t being expelled.” Councilmen Kendall Stewart and Erik Dilan abstained from the vote. (They are strong believers in abstinence.)
Jennings was censured, hit with a $5,000 fine, stripped of his committee positions, and ordered to undergo sensitivity training and anger management and to write “I will be a good boy” 500 times…
…The Appellate Division upheld a ruling that Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Michael Garson must repay $163,000 he took from his elderly aunt without properly accounting for it. Garson, who couldn’t prove he spent the money on his aunt’s care, will have to pay interest on it as well. But his larger challenge may be showing that her signature on crucial legal documents wasn’t forged. Look for that case to land in open court sometime before the September 13 primary election for district attorney…
…City Councilman David Yassky had an editorial published in the New York Post April 25 saying the state should approve a Jets/Olympic stadium conditional upon New York City being awarded the 2012 Olympics. If the games are awarded elsewhere, the state could decide whether a huge public investment in a football stadium is still worth it, Yassky wrote…
…An astute reader and observer of judicial politics wrote in about our April 18 edition, “This week’s column does a good job in explaining the complicated way Brooklyn leaders can pick a Civil Court judge while avoiding primaries. You might want to mention in a future column that reformers might be surprised that one judge ‘elected’ this way was Margarita Lopez Torres, who was hand picked by Assemblyman Vito Lopez” in 1992. We should note that Lopez Torres was offered the nomination; she did not campaign for it…
…Brooklynite John J. Clair lost his $107,000 job as the Fire Department’s assistant commissioner for medical affairs because he accepted free vacations from a company doing business with the city, The New York Times reported…
…Borough President Marty Markowitz told The New York Times he’d gladly trade in his city-issued gas-guzzling Ford Explorer for a Toyota Highlander Hybrid if he could get approval from City Hall, which is slowly changing to a more fuel-efficient fleet.
Markowitz’s sentiment is appreciated, but we see no reason he can’t spare a little coin from his seven-figure campaign fund to replace his Explorer right now…
…State Senator Carl Kruger has never hesitated to criticize the Department of Education, but there’s one thing they agree on: it should be a crime for a teacher to have sex with a student, even if the student has reached 16, the legal age of consent. Kruger introduced a bill to that effect, but he will need a Republican sponsor to shepherd it through the State Senate……The Rev. Clint Miller, the new pastor of Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Fort Greene, said he would endorse City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (no relation) for mayor but then got “cold feet,” the speaker’s campaign told The New York Times. However, that didn’t stop the campaign from listing the pastor as an endorser.
But the price of victory could be steep, given the bad press Hynes is getting. Even the staid New York Times jumped on the bandwagon on April 19, publishing criticism by Assemblyman Clarence Norman (under indictment by Hynes) that Norman had read in the New York Press.
Behind it is John OÃ¢ÂÂHara, a disbarred attorney and unemployed felon from Sunset Park. Looking through Hynesâs campaign contributions, OâHara discovered a pattern of donations by Hynes employees with six-figure salaries. Weâve learned Hynesâs top deputies told their subordinates they were expected to fork over $300 at a time.
Hynes says when he discovered this, he put a stop to it. But convincing people it went on for years without his knowledge may be impossible.
OâHara is seeking revenge because Hynes prosecuted him for the arcane crime of voting from a false address. In a bit of delicious irony, OâHara has discovered that Hynesâs first assistant D.A., Dino Amoroso, votes from his parentsâ house in Queens rather than the house where he lives with his wife and kids in Nassau County.
Interviewed by the Times, Amoroso said his boss has long known this and doesnât care because Amoroso has âa longstanding relationshipâ with his parentsâ house. What the Times neglected to mention is the law says you can only vote from your âprincipal and permanentâ residence.
The law also says Brooklyn prosecutors must live in the five boroughs. OâHara found Amoroso and 30 percent of his colleagues live elsewhere. Indeed, John OÃ¢ÂÂMara, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted OâHara for most of the 1990s, has lived in New Jersey since 1985.
Hynes says the law shouldnât apply to him because the Manhattan D.A. is exempt from it, and besides, itâs silly. But the Daily News editorialized that so is the illegal voting law he used to nail OâHara. Norman told the Times that Amoroso should be treated just as OâHara was.
Hynesâs challengers have trumpeted OâHaraâs discoveries as well.
âFor District Attorney Hynes to look the other way while his staff blatantly disregards New York State election law is inexcusable, not to mention the height of hypocrisy,â said candidate Mark Peters in a statement. âHow can we expect Mr. Hynesâs office to rigorously fight corruption and other crime effectively when a top deputy in his office allegedly violated the same law he fought so hard to uphold against John OâHara?â
âDistrict Attorney Hynes says he can ignore the residency law because the Manhattan D.A. is exempt,â added former Hynes A.D.A. Braxton Freddie Fenner in his own press release. âThe law also requires public transportation riders to pay a fare. But, there is an exemption for children. Using Hynesâs thinking, adults can ride free because children are exempted.â
KRISS CASH WENT TO HYNES: To hear Arnie Kriss criticize the man he’s running against this year, Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes, you wouldn’t expect to find Kriss on the list of donors to Hynes’s campaign fund.
Yet it’s there at least three times: Kriss made a contribution in 1998, when Hynes was running for governor, and another one in 1999 for $500. (Kriss thought that donation was to help retire his debt from the gubernatorial campaign, but it actually went toward Hynes’s 2001 reelection.) In October 1990 Kriss forked over another $150.
Kriss’s spokesman e-mailed, “When Arnie made his contributions, he was unaware of the problems in the (D.A.’s) office. It was not until January of 2002 that Arnie realized there was an ethical problem in Mr. Hynes’s office, when the former Kings County Democratic leader (Howard Golden) was hired, and his belief was reinforced in July of 2002 when he found out Mr. Hynes was taking campaign contributions from the assistant district attorneys on staff.
“Thereafter Arnie, along with other former A.D.A.s, came to the conclusion that Mr. Hynes had to be replaced, and discovered that the office’s performance in comparison to Hynes’s predecessor, Elizabeth Holtzman, and the other D.A. offices in the city was performing poorly.”
WHEELCHAIRS ON THE BEACH: Our small item questioning a plan for wheelchair access to Coney Island beach generated several responses from readers.
We’d wondered how someone in a wheelchair could negotiate the beach upon reaching the end of the ramp, which the Parks Department plans to build with funding procured by Assemblywoman Adele Cohen and Rep. Jerry Nadler.
The answer, according to column reader Ed Ravin, is an all-terrain wheelchair such as the ones used at some public beaches in Long Island and elsewhere.
Sounds like a good idea, but that isn’t the Parks Department’s plan for Coney Island. Instead, four paths will initially be built, ranging from 160 to 220 feet. That will get wheelchairs (and strollers) halfway across the beach.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation will not allow construction any closer to the water, but the Parks Department figures halfway there is better than nothing.
What about allowing people to swap their wheelchairs for an all-terrain version, which Ravin says can now be purchased for $2,500?
One Parks official informed us, “On two occasions in the last 10 years, we spent small fortunes buying all-terrain wheelchairs. We housed them at our office at West 25th Street and the Boardwalk and we put up signs in the area alerting the public to their existence. We had virtually no takers. We do still like the idea and might consider buying them again.”
BACK DOOR TO BROOKLYN BENCH: Some folks want voters and not Democratic Party insiders to pick Supreme Court judges, and have suggested primary elections such as we have for Civil Court.
But there’s a way for party insiders to pick Civil Court judges as well. Here’s how:
First, you need an incumbent Civil Court judge up for reelection. We’ll use Mickey Morganstern as an example. (We just, um, picked her out of the blue.) She’ll likely win the Democratic primary in September (perhaps without an opponent), guaranteeing a victory in November’s general election over a hapless Republican-Conservative candidate.
Then, a couple of weeks after the primary, Assemblyman Clarence Norman, the county Democratic leader, will conduct his annual secret telephone poll of the other 41 Democratic district leaders to see whom they’re supporting for the two Supreme Court vacancies this year.
Norman will announce the two phone-poll winners to the very same district leaders at their September meeting. (You might ask, Why conduct an advance phone poll instead of just having the leaders vote at the meeting? More on that in our next item.)
Let’s say Morganstern is named one of the Supreme Court nominees. She would then need to be replaced on the general-election Civil Court ballot. Who picks her replacement? Not the voters who just pulled the lever for her in the primary. Rather, an obscure body called the Democratic county committee.
Who’s on the county committee in Morganstern’s district? Friends and relatives of the folks who run the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club.
And speaking of relatives of T.J. club leaders, we bring you one Kenny Sherman, whose mother just happens to be club leader Roberta Sherman, a Democratic district leader.
Kenny Sherman, through no fault of his own, might have a hard time getting elected in an open primary. But if county committee members loyal to his mom and other T.J. club leaders were doing the electing, Sherman would win without knocking on a single door, handing out a single flier, or raising a single dollar.
We should note that this scenario may well not happen this year because Morganstern has a lot of competition for elevation to Supreme Court. Councilman Lew Fidler, a district leader who has his own club but also has influence in the T.J. club, has already committed to supporting Civil Court Judge Loren Baily-Schiffman for one of the two openings. To diversify his ticket, he’ll probably pick a black person for the other position. Morganstern is white, so she—and hence Kenny Sherman as well—may have to wait for another year.
But don’t doubt that Sherman’s year will come.
“I have known Kenny Sherman for a long time,” Fidler e-mailed us, “and believe that he would make an excellent judge should that opportunity present itself.”
NORMANâS PHONE POLL SURVIVES: A handful of Democratic district leaders tried and failed this month to end the secret telephone poll method of Supreme Court judge selection we mentioned in the previous item.
Only nine of the 42 district leaders supported a proposal to have the leaders conduct an open vote to decide the Democratic Supreme Court nominees, rather than have one yes-or-no vote on the slate announced by county leader Clarence Norman after his unverifiable telephone poll.
One of the champions of the reform, Park Slope’s Alan Fleishman, called the current system “the most nondemocratic way you could possibly do this.”
He said the reform plan was rejected in part because many leaders had given proxies to Norman, who favors the status quo. (By the way, Fleishman objects to the proxy system as well, believing leaders should only be able to vote in person.)
But proxies or no proxies, the motion would have failed. Too many powerful district leaders benefit from the current system because it centralizes the power, and they are near the center, i.e., Norman.
As one observer of judicial politics explained, district leaders such as Assemblyman Dov Hikind, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, Assemblywoman Annette Robinson, and Councilman Al Vann “can threaten or leverage their position with the county leader and make people judges. So when we come to election time, they can say [to Norman], ‘Look, I control these six leaders, and if you don’t nominate [a certain candidate] for Supreme, we’ll run someone against you for leader.”
One way Norman retains his leadership is by doling out Supreme Court judgeships as favors to the folks who can protect him. So long as Hikind gets the Orthodox Jew of his choice elevated to Supreme Court every year, Hikind will support Norman. (By one count, an Orthodox Jew has become a Supreme Court judge in each of the last seven years.)
Norman maintains that the slate he announces is a simple reflection of the will of the other district leaders. But it is unclear why that will couldn’t be ascertained through a more transparent process.
YASSKY HELPS LOCKED-IN WORKERS: While other members of the City Council busy themselves with bills to co-name streets for little-known dead constituents, David Yassky continues to introduce legislation addressing real-world problems.
His latest effort is a bill to deter stores from locking in nighttime workers.
Media investigations have found supermarkets and other stores not infrequently lock their doors at night, imprisoning employees whose shifts have ended until a manager shows up in the morning to free them. In some cases the workers’ only possible escape is through a fire door, but they are told they’d be fired if they use it when there’s no emergency.
In other cases, even the fire doors are locked. Incredibly, even after well-publicized fatal blazes featuring locked fire doors, the fine remains just $500. One wonders what the City Council has been doing besides cutting ribbons all these years.
Yassky’s bill, introduced April 19, would increase inspections and fines. A first violation would rise from $500 to $5,000, and repeat offenders would have to pay up to $20,000.
The only thing missing from Yassky’s bill is compensation for locked-in workers. Perhaps they could get a percentage of the fines, or overtime pay for the hours they were held against their will.
TIDBITS: Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes skipped the April candidates forum hosted by the Brooklyn Young Democrats, but asked to be invited back. Brooklynites are still waiting for Hynes to appear at the same time as his challengers…
…Mark Peters scheduled a press conference for April 21 in downtown Brooklyn to formally declare his candidacy for Brooklyn district attorney. Also, Councilman David Yassky and D.A. candidate Arnie Kriss held a press conference to call for full videotaping of police interrogations. We asked Yassky if that means he’s endorsing Kriss. “I’m endorsing his terrific idea to require that custodial interrogations be videotaped,” Yassky said.
He elaborated, “Just like DNA testing, when you have technology that makes sure we’re getting the right guy instead of the wrong one, there’s no reason not to do it. This way you can see the whole course of the interrogation…We now know that people confess falsely. People crack under the circumstances.”
…The “John OâHara vs. Joe Hynes” story (the illegal voter vs. the Brooklyn district attorney) has now been covered as far away as New Zealand. A newspaper columnist in that country just penned a heavily propagandized, error-ridden, pro-O’Hara account of the two men’s 11-year-old saga…
…Virtually all of the elected officials who attended the 27th anniversary lunch of Lambda Independent Democrats, Brooklyn’s gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender Democratic club, had an obvious reason for attending. Either they represent liberal neighborhoods (Rep. Major Owens, Rep. Jerry Nadler, Assemblyman Jim Brennan, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, etc.) or need campaign help this year or next (Councilwomen Yvette Clarke and Tish James, Assemblywoman Adele Cohen, District Attorney Joe Hynes).The lone exception was Councilman Domenic Recchia, who holds a safe seat in Coney Island, Bensonhurst, and Gravesend, where gay rights has never been a high priority of residents. We can only conclude that Recchia has political ambitions beyond his Council seat, which he’ll have to leave at the end of 2009.
Apparently, more than a few of Hynesâs assistant district attorneys took vacation days on the day of the Democratic primary in September 2001 and were instructed by Hynesâs campaign to hand out literature at particular spots.
This comes from one A.D.A. who did exactly that on September 11, 2001, until that primary was postponed for two weeks because of the terrorist attack.
Speaking on the condition that she not be named, the A.D.A., who has since left Hynesâs office and is rooting for one of his competitors this year, took exception to Hynesâs claim that he didnât have an election-day operation in 2001.
The A.D.A. recalls being told to report to the Harbor View Car Service in Bay Ridge, where one of Hynesâs sons was on hand. âWhen we went to Harbor View that day, it was wall-to-wall people from the (D.A.âs) office. Everyone who worked closely with me, went,â she said.
Hynesâs spokesman told us this was actually an Alan Hevesi mayoral campaign operation being run by a Hynes employee, but our source clearly recalled working for Hynes.
Why did they all give up a vacation day for Hynesâs campaign?
âI made a very good salary at the D.A.âs office. No one ever said point blank, but it was understood that you were rewarded and that the tradeoff was you were expected to give backâwhether it was going to a fundraiser, which I also did, or working on the campaign,â the prosecutor said. âThere were no threatsâ¦but it was understood.â
The A.D.A. recalled being asked directly by one of three of her superiors. âThey would ask me in the office, during working hours,â she said. âI have to say I resented it. I knew it was part of the cost of doing business there, but I did resent it.â
Employees with high salaries were asked to give more. âI was told you could give $100, $200, $300. One of the people who worked for me was having financial problems. I said, âI could probably get $100 from this person.â They said, âAt your level, youâre expected to give $300.ââ
What level was that? âAnyone who had a title other than just A.D.A.,â she said. âDeputy bureau chief, bureau chiefâ¦â
Low-level employees were not asked to contribute, the A.D.A. said.
The prosecutor said when she first arrived at Hynesâs office, campaign contributions by employees were not legal. âThe first time I was asked for money, we were told we could not personally give. We should give the money to a family member and ask the family member to give,â she recalled. âI know some people who said, âMy motherâs going to give. She has a different last name.ââ
OâHARA VS. HYNES: The latest episode in John OâHara’s crusade to take down Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes is a complaint O’Hara filed with the Conflicts of Interest Board alleging that more than 30 percent of Hynes’s 98 prosecutors earning over $100,000 live outside of New York City (an apparent violation of state law).
The complaint also objects to Hynes’s practice of accepting campaign contributions from his employees. In fact, that’s how O’Hara got the addresses of so many Hynes prosecutors—by examining the D.A.’s campaign disclosures.
O’Hara is seeking revenge against Hynes for pursuing and obtaining an illegal voting conviction against him, which resulted in O’Hara being disbarred, paying a fine of nearly $20,000, and being sentenced to 1,500 hours of community service.
O’Hara’s complaint makes specific allegations against several Hynes people, including chief counsel Dino Amoroso, whose residence is listed as “210 Joralemon Street” (the municipal building) rather than his actual address in Lynbrook, Long Island. O’Hara adds that Amoroso’s registered voting address is “a mail drop at a relative’s house” in Queens, which “constitutes a Class E felony.”
“You have to understand the severity of an ADA prosecuting a crime without jurisdiction,” O’Hara’s complaint reads. “The A.D.A.s at that pay level are all handling serious crimes—murder, rape, robbery, illegal voting.”
O’Hara contends that Hynes’s receipt of campaign contributions from employees violates the City Charter’s Section 2604, b-9 through b-12 and b-15.
We looked up Section 2604 and found this: “No public servant shall coerce or attempt to coerce…any public servant to engage in political activities or request any subordinate public servant to participate in a political campaign.”
The City Charter also says, “No public servant shall, directly [or] indirectly, compel, induce or request any subordinate public servant to pay any political assessment, subscription or contribution.”
By O’Hara’s count, 74 percent of the Hynes prosecutors who contribute to his campaigns do so with $300 contributions twice a year, “which has amounted to over $70,000 in contributions.”
Of course, Hynes would say that his employees’ contributions are strictly voluntary.
But it certainly would take a very loyal employee to donate $600 a year to his boss’s campaign or use a vacation day to hand out campaign literature at a polling site.
Maybe these employees are truly devoted to their boss. Or maybe they believed making donations and sacrificing vacations days to Hynes’s campaign would protect their jobs or earn them promotions.
The only way to eliminate this possibility is for Hynes to prohibit or at least discourage his employees from donating time or money to his campaigns. But he doesn’t.
HYNES DUCKING DEBATES? Opponents of Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes are beginning to wonder if he’ll ever show up at a candidates’ debate or forum.
Of the first half dozen events across the borough, Hynes attended not a single one. He cited scheduling conflicts, such as the course he teaches.
“His rationale is that he teaches on certain nights, and he can’t miss his class,” someone from a competing campaign said. “There’s only one D.A. in the city who feels he needs a side job.”
Organizers of candidates forums appear to have caught on. The Brooklyn Young Democrats scheduled an event for Wednesday, April 13—not a night that Hynes teaches—and got a commitment from the D.A. to attend.
But six days before the event, Hynes canceled his appearance, citing—you guessed it—a scheduling conflict. Hynes asked to come on a different day, presumably when no other candidates would be appearing.
Event organizers didn’t roll over, instead asking Hynes to honor his commitment. But he did not attend.
GOLD TARNISHED: At the March meeting of Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, former CBID President Susan Loeb asked Flatbush Democratic district leader Jake Gold why he supported Assemblyman Clarence Norman for reelection.
“He was dumbfounded by the question,” one witness reported. “He stood up there talking about how he originally supported Tony Genovesi.” (Until his untimely death, the assemblyman was a rival of Norman.)
“That was 12 years ago,” Loeb told Gold.
Gold replied, “I don’t see any reason to be on the wrong side of people.”
Loeb was not impressed, asking why none of the leaders in CBID’s area except Alan Fleishman opposed Norman’s reelection as county Democratic leader in 2004. CBID, a reform club, considers Norman to be on the wrong side of its political goals.
G.O.P.âER TOUTS VOUCHERS: Republicans often claim to be free-market-loving capitalists, yet many advocate subsidizing parochial schools with taxpayer dollars.
Take Bob Capano, ex-candidate for City Council in Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst. During his campaign he put out a press release calling for vouchers to boost enrollment at Catholic schools, 17 of which were slated for closure in Brooklyn.
In the release, Capano blamed years of declining Catholic school enrollment on “the high cost of operating in NYC and the rising middle class tax burden.”
Question for Capano:
How have non-religious private schools managed to thrive despite the high cost of operating here? Poly Prep, St. Ann’s, Packer Collegiate, Berkeley-Carroll and others don’t seem to be hurting for students, despite charging much higher tuition than the Catholic schools.
Question number two: Is the “middle class tax burden” really rising? No evidence of that was included in the press release. Property taxes have gone up, but income taxes have gone down.
And why use a loaded word like “burden” to describe taxes? Try running a civilized society without them.
Capano’s statement went on to say, “It is unconscionable that politics would stand between children who need a quality education and schools with empty seats and the proven ability to provide that education.”
By âpolitics,â we assume Capano is referring to that little church-state-separation thing.
TIDBITS: One person not supporting Frank Boyland for City Council is Daily News columnist Errol Louis, a former Council candidate himself from Crown Heights. “Boyland, who spent 20 uneventful years in the state Assembly, is scheming to keep his family’s lock on every available political office in Brownsville by running for the Council seat held by his term-limited daughter, Tracy,” Louis wrote…
…Republican Pat Russo formally announced his candidacy in the 43rd Council District (Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights). The Conservative Party formally endorsed Russo on April 7. The incumbent is Vinny Gentile, a Democrat…
…Councilman Kendall Stewart’s 2003 campaign has been ordered to repay $17,948 to the Campaign Finance Board, which awarded more matching public funds than Stewart was entitled to receive. The CFB also found that Stewart didn’t spend $7,843 of his matching funds. Why Stewart wouldn’t have exhausted his account in such a close race (he edged Sam Taitt by 3 percentage points—fewer than 200 votes) is certainly a valid question…
…Rep. Jerry Nadler secured money in the recent transportation bill to study whether a ferry terminal could be restored at the aquarium in Coney Island. Sounds like a worthy expenditure. But he also funded a project to build handicapped ramps to the beach. But wheelchairs don’t work on sand, so it seems to us that beach ramps would have to be hundreds of yards long to be useful…
…Samuel Nicolas, a potential candidate for the 45th Council District seat held by Kendall Stewart, is a cousin of Abner Louima and has served as spokesman for the police brutality victim. Nicolas has run for office before, notably against Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs in the 1998 Democratic primary…
…Whom will Councilman Domenic Recchia endorse in the race for Brooklyn District attorney this year? Here’s a clue: the treasurer of Recchia’s campaign committee was once Kevin Hynes, son of D.A. Joe Hynes…
…Rep. Anthony Weiner still cruises around in an S.U.V., but at least it’s not the gas-guzzling Ford Explorer he used previously. It’s an Escape Hybrid, a combination gas- and electric-powered vehicle that gets over 30 miles per gallon in the city.
In less important Weiner news, the mayoral candidate is up to 12 percent in a poll of likely Democratic primary voters, twice what it was some months ago but still well behind Freddy Ferrer’s 40 percent. Weiner’s problem continues to be low name recognition……An angry reader reminded us by anonymous letter that traffic agents are now part of the NYPD and no longer the Department of Transportation, as we had reported back on November 29. But the reader’s second attempt at a correction was itself incorrect: he (or she) objected to our use of the word “missing” to describe cars that are towed or stolen to a street location unknown to their owners. The reader claimed we should have used “abandoned.” But abandoned means “given up” or “forsaken.” An abandoned car is one whose owner does not want it back.
The letterâs author, Paul Heller of the First Street Block Association, which lobbied for the new design, said the only assistance received was âfrom Greg Atkins, formerly of [Assemblywoman] Joan Millmanâs office.â
Note to Heller: Atkins is Markowitzâs chief of staff. Markowitz is responsible for whatever Atkins does in that capacity.
And to accuse Markowitz of grandstanding is absurd. Commerce Bank folks were probably thrilled to have the beep on hand. We suppose that if Heller were the borough president he would have told the bank, âSorry, I wonât come. I donât want to be accused of political grandstanding.â
ALBANYâS BILL-WRITING FRENZY: At a recent forum at Brooklyn Law School about legislative gridlock in Albany, ACORN and Working Families Party official Bertha Lewis complained of legislators’ habit of churning out bills that merely collect dust. “Folks can pander by writing out these bills that never go anywhere,” Lewis said.
She might have been talking about State Senator Carl Andrews, who used to send taxpayer-funded mail to constituents proclaiming that he’d written and introduced “over 60 pieces of legislation” in his first six months in office—more than three bills per week.
Lewis, a panelist at the forum, also said, “The Democrats eat their young. And if the young survive and go to Albany, they are raised by wolves.”
E.J. McMahon, a conservative on the panel, said later, “I disagree with Bertha on every issue she raised—except the one about the wolves…And I can assure you it’s true of Republicans, too.”
He explained, “The legislators, they get entrenched and they don’t have to be good.”
DEATH BECOMES THEM: Republican district leader Jim Sutliff had a little fun with the news that eight Conservative Party County Committee candidates were ruled ineligible by the Board of Elections.
“The reason: DEATH,” Sutliff wrote in his e-mailed newsletter, which was headlined, “Conservative Party Candidates. Wanted: Dead or Alive.”
One of the eight candidates had died as long ago as 1996.
“Remember, just because you died almost 10 years ago doesn’t mean that you won’t have a promising political career ahead of you in the Conservative Party,” Sutliff wrote.
The reality, of course, is that this happens all the time. Parties do not keep close track of their county committees, which consist of a thousand or more ordinary folks who almost never have to meet or do much of anything.
But Sutliff dislikes Brooklyn Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar, a supporter of State Senator Marty Golden, who defeated Sutliff in the 2004 Republican primary.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: To read Councilman Simcha Felder’s press release about Community Board 14’s vote against the proposed Cross Harbor Rail Tunnel, one would think the board was up in arms. “Brooklyn’s Community Board 14 overwhelmingly rejected the project citing concerns of noise, pollution, and vibrations,” Felder wrote.
But a close reading of the board’s explanation of its vote reveals that it resolved only to withhold support for the project until the community’s questions are addressed by the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which was a no-show at the CB 14 meeting.
Felder’s press release said CB 14 Chairman Alvin Berk was “obviously impressed with the turnout at the public hearing,” an apparent reference to tunnel opponents who showed up. But Berk’s letter to the EDC noted that “both project advocates and opponents…were present in considerable numbers.”
That certainly belies Felder’s claim that “from Maspeth to Midwood, New Yorkers are unified against this ill-conceived waste of eight billion taxpayer dollars.”
In the absence of a formal presentation of the plan to increase traffic on the railroad tracks through Borough Park and Midwood, and unanswered questions from residents, CB 14 could hardly have voted to support it. The real test of the board’s opinion will come when the full board hears from the EDC.
Felder insists, “This project would devastate the quality of life of my constituents.” In that case, why doesn’t he object to the elevated subway trains that rumble cacophonously through his district hundreds of times every day?
They make about a thousand times as much noise as two dozen trains on modernized, sound-mitigated railroad tracks would make if the tunnel were built.
Felder notes that residents who live near the el were aware of it before they moved in, whereas no one suspected the LIRR cut would ever be frequently used again. But hey, devastation multiplied by a thousand sounds pretty bad. Surely neighbors of the elevated subway deserve some advocacy. And the el should be torn down.
But wait! you say. What about the greater good of that subway line?
This is the major argument of rail tunnel supporters. Whatever noise, pollution, and vibration are caused by the trains would be far worse if the same quantity of freight arrived by truck.
Perhaps the best way to analyze Felder’s opposition to the rail tunnel is to imagine that it already existed and that people who lived by the tracks before the tunnel was built were indeed bothered. Would Felder argue vociferously to divert the freight from those trains to a million trucks a year?
If so, he’d be the first Brooklyn politician to demand more truck traffic. In fact, tunnel proponents would say he’s already doing exactly that.
FERRIS BEMOANS HYNES PETITION FLAP: A major reason former Assemblyman Joe Ferris got knocked off the ballot against then-Borough President Howard Golden in 1989 is that all the signatures Ferris collected on a joint petition with Brooklyn district attorney candidate Joe Hynes were disqualified when Hynes disavowed the petition.
We ran into Ferris in Park Slope recently. He insists that Hynes had approved the joint petition. Why, then, did Hynes renounce it, allowing Golden to cruise to victory? Was Hynes repaying Golden for the beep’s late endorsement of Hynes over then-Assemblyman Dan Feldman?
Not according to Councilman Lew Fidler, a Hynes supporter, who said the problem was that a candidate for judge was also on the petition with Ferris and Hynes. Hynes informed the Ferris campaign in writing that he would not share a petition with the judicial candidate, but Ferris’s people circulated the petition anyway, Fidler said.
When those signatures were invalidated, Ferris didn’t have enough to survive a petition challenge, so he withdrew before everyone associated with his petitions could be hauled into court.
Jack Carroll, a Ferris ally, remembers it a bit differently. “To the best of my recollection there was no written notice from Hynes and certainly no such notice was produced in court,” Carroll wrote in an e-mail message.
Ferris, a reform Democrat considered by some to be one of the more principled people in recent Brooklyn politics, remains bitter about Hynes’s action that year.
Ferris eventually tired of Albany and declined to seek reelection. He was succeeded by Jim Brennan, who remains in office. Hynes won the 1989 race and hasn’t been seriously challenged since.
SCHMIDT COULD HIT FAN: A host of candidates will spend this summer wooing voters they’ll never see again if elected.
Such is the bizarre world of Civil Court races, where winners get 10-year terms with $125,000 salaries to preside over small lawsuits and fill in for Supreme Court and Criminal Court judges when needed.
Five Civil Court judgeships are up for grabs. All are “open seats” (i.e., no incumbents) except for one, in which Judge David Schmidt will be seeking reelection.
The inimitable John OâHara told us Schmidt is particularly vulnerable because the votes from his support base in Borough Park would be overwhelmed by votes from Sunset Park and other neighborhoods in the district.
How did Schmidt get elected in the first place? Extremely low turnout in the year he ran, 1995, allowed Borough Park (where turnout is always good) to contribute a higher percentage of the overall vote than it will this year, when the mayoral and Brooklyn district attorney races will boost turnout greatly.
O’Hara pledges to run someone against Schmidt, who was backed in 1995 by Assemblyman Dov Hikind. O’Hara is upset that when asked whom he would endorse for district attorney, Hikind reportedly said he didn’t know yet, but it wouldn’t be Sandra Roper. Roper is close to O’Hara.
In a world free of politics, O’Hara would target judges based on their own records Schmidt, not those of their past political supporters. Schmidt, for example, has been named an acting Supreme Court judge, indicating the Office of Court Administration thinks highly of him.
By contrast, Margarita Lopez Torres (a cause celebre of reform Democrats when she ran against the machine and won reelection in 2002) remains in Civil Court year after year while less senior judges are promoted.
Councilman Lew Fidler, an attorney who’s never appeared before Judge Schmidt, said, “He’s got a good reputation. Clean, smart, hard working. People consider him to be a good judge.”
Should O’Hara be taken seriously? He wasn’t until 2001, when two candidates he helped recruit ran against candidates backed by the Democratic organization—and won.
Still, Fidler suspects O’Hara recruits candidates so he can charge them $5,000 or $8,000 in consulting fees. But O’Hara has told us he’s never made a cent from politics.
Of the other four races this year, two are for districtwide seats and two for countywide. Why are some judges elected by districts and others by county? That’s the way the system was set up many decades ago, and even though it makes no sense anymore, nobody bothers to change it.
Nor is the system fair, since some parts of the borough get to elect more judges than others, for no apparent reason.
Dear state legislators: perhaps that’s something you could think about during breaks between ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
QUIT RACE, GET JOB: We begin this week with a very simple quiz on Brooklyn politics.
First, the background:
In 2003, Republican Bob Capano wanted to run for City Council against Vinny Gentile, but was persuaded to quit the race to help fellow Republican Rosemarie OâKeefe’s chances. After her 31-vote defeat in the special election, and Pat Russo’s defeat in the general election later that year, Capano started his 2005 campaign early so as not to be pushed out of the race a second time. He raised money far in advance and even quit his job to focus on his campaign.
And then it happened again—Capano had to quit the race because Republican and Conservative party officials agreed to support Russo, and Capano couldn’t win without the Conservative line.
A few weeks later, Capano accepted a job on the staff of Rep. Vito Fossella, a Republican who supports Russo in his race against Gentile.
So now, to the quiz. Capano’s hiring by Fossella was…
(A) pretty lucky
(B) a total coincidence
(C) utterly shocking to political insiders
(D) his reward for quitting the race
(E) Come on. After (D), you’re still looking for the right answer?
RATNERITES ON TISHâS TURF: Bruce Ratner and several Ratnerites invaded Councilwoman Tish James’s turf on the morning of March 30, choosing a Starbucks across from her district office to meet with Daily News columnist Errol Louis.
Louis supports Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development plan while James has helped lead the opposition. So it made for an awkward moment when James herself walked into the coffee shop to find Ratner, Louis, Ratner’s right-hand man Bruce Bender, and Ratner press aide LupÃ¨ Todd. Minutes later, the pro-Ratner gang grew when ACORN’s Bertha Lewis and Jon Kest arrived. ACORN backed James’s election in 2003 but supports Atlantic Yards.
COCHRANâS LEGACY: City Councilwoman Yvette Clarke issued a statement following the death of attorney Johnnie Cochran. It read, in part, “Above all, Johnnie Cochran will be remembered as an African-American who not only succeeded in the American legal system but successfully challenged and defeated its inherent racism.”
Let’s be honest here. Fair or not, “above all” Cochran will be remembered as O.J. Simpson’s attorney. Clarke’s 50-word statement neglected to even mention Cochran’s most infamous client.
TIDBITS: Prospect Park gets millions of dollars from the borough president’s office. So it raises an eyebrow to see Tupper Thomas, the park administrator and head of the Prospect Park Alliance, raising money for the campaign of Borough President Marty Markowitz.
This is not to say that Markowitz would cut the park’s funding if Thomas didn’t raise money for his future campaigns. It’s simply the appearance on an ulterior motive that’s untoward…
…Councilman David Yassky, with help from activists in northern Brooklyn, is taking on the Bloomberg administration over a plan to rezone that area to allow for large apartment complexes. Yassky says much more affordable housing should be included, while the mayor’s Department of City Planning says including too much would discourage developers from building anything.
The Council tends to respect the wishes of a member whose district is most affected, so Yassky’s opposition could well force the mayor to modify the Greenpoint/Williamsburg rezoning……Only a handful of Brooklyn’s 42 Republican district leaders showed up at State Senator Marty Golden’s meeting with state Republican Chairman Steve Minarik. Given the poor turnout, you’d think Golden would have welcomed just about anyone to the table. But sources said when Republican mayoral candidate Tom Ognibene arrived unexpectedly, he was asked to leave. Golden is endorsing Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
The financial disclosures of Goldenâs Committee for a Golden Future show over $30,000 spent for an election day operation in September 2001, OâHara 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 Goldenâs campaign. Term limits prevented Golden from running in 2001.
Most of Hynesâs expenditures in 2001 were for legal fees, not a penny of which was paid by Goldenâs committee, a Hynes spokesman told us. (The committee did donate $5,000 to Hynesâs campaign committee on June 5, 2001.)
Committee for a Golden Future donated $6,400 to Assemblyman Clarence Normanâs 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 Goldenâs 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 (Goldenâs former deputy borough president, who won the race for city comptroller), Jeannette Gadson (Goldenâs then-deputy, who lost the race for borough president), and/or Hynes. But one Hynes supporter, Councilman Lew Fidler, told us Hynes didnât even have an election day operation that year.
Itâs 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 SARAâS 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 OâHara 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
In a letter to the magazine, he commended the illustration âfor its prominent placement of the Brooklyn Bridge, the worldâs most beautiful.â
Then he added, âI am concerned, however, that my copy of the issue may have been missing a second panel, in which the couple realize that what awaits them on the other side of the bridge is not a dark cloud of doom but the promised land itself.â
He followed that with plugs for Brooklynâs âbetter quality of life,â âunrivalled diversity,â and even its âmost divine bagels and lox.â
Thatâs Markowitz at his best. But hereâs something we donât quite understand.
Itâs a Markowitz fundraiser invitation sent in mid-March by real estate saleswoman Libby Ryan of Park Slope and Jessie Kelly of Brooklyn Heights âto help reelect Brooklynâs most dedicated public servant.â Tickets to the reception at Kellyâs home cost $250.
Letâs be honest here. Markowitz doesnât need any help to be reelected. His campaign has a robust $1 million in the bank and could claim $273,000 more in public matching funds. The most heâs even allowed to spend on the Democratic primary (tantamount to victory in Brooklyn) is $1.289 million.
Not that he would ever spend that much on the race. First, because he could be reelected without spending a dime, and second, because there is no race (yet). No person of any prominence is going to bother running against Markowitz in the primary.
So the invitation should not pretend to be about helping to reelect Markowitz. Anyone who believes otherwise should buy a ticket to a benefit weâre hosting March 31. Weâre raising money to help the sun come up the next day.
MILLMAN HOPS ON REFORM WAGON: This is why Assemblyman Joan Millman doesn’t much care for this column: Every time she endorses reforming the state government (suddenly a popular notion among Albany veterans), we feel obligated to mention how she bristled in 2002 when gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo called the legislature dysfunctional, worthless, and in need of a massive shake-up.
In her latest newsletter, Millman declares, “It’s no secret—Albany needs serious reform.” She cheers “the Assembly’s sweeping new reforms [which] will begin making our state government more open, accountable and responsive.”
That’s what Cuomo was talking about three years ago.
RAW DEAL FOR SHAW: The Brooklyn Republican Party’s mayoral endorsement was awarded unanimously to Mayor Mike Bloomberg, but in fact Park Slope candidate Steve Shaw had significant support among Republican district leaders, who ultimately agreed to vote with their chairman, Hy Singer.
“It was not a knock on Shaw,” one Republican official noted. “It was a pragmatic, political party decision to support the county chairman.”
Shaw was nonetheless furious.
“That Mayor Bloomberg does not lift a finger for local Republicans and that he governs as a liberal Democrat brings into question why Mr. Singer and his committee would not want to hear from candidates committed to Republican principles and to building the Republican Party,” Shaw said in a statement. “Mr. Singer’s decision to not allow other candidates to come before the committee is all about insider politics rather than fielding the best candidate. His focus on the former above the latter is a complete disgrace.”
Republicans are upset that Bloomberg’s administration is run by Democrats. Said one G.O.P. leader to Bloomberg, “No commissioners, deputy mayors, or even deputy commissioners are Republicans. All the people you gave jobs to are going to vote against you in November!”
The official added, “We’re not looking for handouts. We’re looking for qualified people to be given the opportunity.”
SUNSET PARK THREESOME: Sunset Park’s Eddie Rodriguez believes he can defeat Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez in the Democratic primary—“I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think we could win,” he said—but his chances would obviously increase if he were the only challenger.
So it can’t please him to know that another Gonzalez detractor, David Galarza, filed papers with the Campaign Finance Program at the same time as Rodriguez. Galarza told us, “I’m making the preparations to be an official candidate.”
Among those preparations is moving back into the 38th Council District. Galarza was raised in Sunset Park and served on Community Board 7 but personal circumstances caused him to move to Windsor Terrace—that is, he found a rent-stabilized apartment with a good landlord there.
“I was priced out of the neighborhood that I grew up in and love,” Galarza said. “I’ve seen nothing on the part of the incumbent to address that issue.”
Well, Gonzalez could point to rising rents as an indication Sunset Park is improving under her watch. Fortunately, for the sake of gag-prevention, she hasn’t.
Gonzalez won a special election in 2002 following the resignation of Councilman Angel Rodriguez, now in prison for bribery. Galarza doesn’t see Gonzalez as much of an improvement.
“Southwest Brooklyn has gone from having a City Council representative who was convicted to a City Council representative with no convictions,” he said.
GOLDEN RULES: You would think that State Senator Marty Golden, the most powerful Republican elected official in Brooklyn would be a hero to the Kings County Republican Committee. But some party leaders think Golden has let his exalted position go to his head.
They weren’t thrilled when Golden endorsed Mayor Mike Bloomberg for reelection weeks before the committee did. And some were downright perturbed when Golden bypassed them and invited Steve Minarik, the state G.O.P. chairman, to a Sheepshead Bay restaurant for a meet-and-greet on March 24, which happens to be Purim and Holy Thursday.
“He didn’t know about Purim,” one Republican insider told us, “and he didn’t think Holy Thursday was important enough that people would stay home for.”
FLYERS AND LIARS: In an item on the anonymous Brooklyn flyer controversy that rocked the 2001 mayoral race, New York magazine’s political columnist Greg Sargent let stand a dishonest statement from the campaign of Mayor Mike Bloomberg about State Senator Carl Kruger.
Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser criticized Freddy Ferrer for campaigning with Kruger, saying, “Mr. Ferrer was outraged by the flyers, but now he embraces one of its masterminds.”
That crosses the line between exaggeration and fabrication.
Kruger has not been accused of “masterminding” the flyer later distributed by Mark Green supporters. The only allegation supported by witnesses is that Kruger advised Green’s campaign to link Ferrer with the Rev. Al Sharpton (which Kruger denies), not that Kruger conceived of the flyer, which was a reprint of a New York Post cartoon of Ferrer kissing Sharpton’s rear.
And Kruger had nothing to do with the money-laundering scheme Green’s people use to pay for the flyers or the accompanying phone-bank operation targeting white Brooklyn voters.
By then, in fact, Kruger had thrown his support to Ferrer. Which makes it inexplicable that a Ferrer spokesman told Sargent that Ferrer welcomes “new” supporters, meaning Kruger, since Kruger endorsed Ferrer in 2001.
Kruger continues to be vexed that his name is associated with the flyers. He e-mailed us the famous Mark Twain quote, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
Kruger, referring to the infamous Nick’s Lobster House gathering, explained, “I attended a lunch of Mark Green supporters and campaign staff where the idea of such a flyer surfaced. I told them in the strongest terms that it was wrong. After leaving the lunch I contacted Fernando Ferrer. I then notified the Green campaign that I could not support Green and would endorse Ferrer for mayor. The day after the lunch I campaigned with Fernando Ferrer with Assemblyman Peter Abbate at the Amico senior center in Brooklyn.”
Though some witnesses remember the lobster lunch quite differently, they won’t do so on the record. Nearly two years ago, Kruger told us when the topic was raised by Mark Green’s people, “My comment was that ‘this is craziness’ and that ‘it’s radioactive. You guys are nuts.’”
However, he was quoted in the Daily News of November 2, 2001, defending the use of the flyer. “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,” Kruger said. (The clip was posted by the New York Observer on March 23.)
Blame for the strategy (which backfired in the general election when outraged Hispanic voters flocked to Mike Bloomberg) has been laid at the feet of mid-level Green campaign aide Fran Miller.
Kruger recalled, “When it reached the point that I saw that all of them—the Fran Millers and everybody else—were on board, I not only left the meeting, [but] I went back to my home, thought about it for 15 minutes, called Freddy Ferrer, and told him the next day that I’m endorsing you. The next day I was at the Amico senior center with Freddy and we have been good friends ever since.”
DOV HIKIND IN GAZA: Assemblyman Dov Hikind went to Gaza to protest Israel’s decision to remove the Jewish outposts there.
Israel sees the withdrawal as a necessary component of peace with the Palestinians and a militarily strategic decision, since protecting the settlements has come with high costs and few benefits.
But Hikind told the Daily News, “If there is going to be peace, let Jews live in their homes with Palestinians as their neighbors.”
Problem is, let the Jews live in homes on Palestinian land and there is not going to be peace.
Hikind will argue this point until the cows come home, but he can at least be credited with standing up for his beliefs. The Gush Katif settlement he visited first with about 40 other New Yorkers is in an area where gunfire, bombs, and rocket attacks are common. Hikind’s bus tour was to visit all 22 Jewish settlements in Gaza over three days.
The New York Post, however, was not impressed. Its editorial board criticized Hikind for interfering in the affairs of an independent sovereign nation other than his own.
COUNCIL RACE UPDATE: The Campaign Finance Board’s March 15 filing deadline provided an updated look at this year’s City Council races, including an increasingly crowded race in the 41st Council District.
That’s the seat being vacated by Councilwoman Tracy Boyland, who’s being pushed out by term limits. Her father, Frank Boyland, the former assemblyman, has filed papers with the CFB, the first formal indication that he’ll run.
He has yet to raise any money, but others who’ve filed in the 41st C.D. have raised little or nothing either: Alicka Amprey-Samuel, Royston Antoine, Essie Dugan, Pamela Junior, Stanley Kinard, Danny King, Naquan Muhammad, and Maryam Samad.
TIDBITS: Sources tell us novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, author of “Everything Is Illuminated,” has purchased a Park Slope mansion with the neighborhood’s largest backyard. The asking price had been over $6 million, so we assume Foer, who’s just 27 years old, has sold quite a few books. He joins a contingent of young (or youngish) local fiction writers including Paul Auster, Peter Blauner, Siri Hustvedt, and Jonathan Lethem. (And, if we’re including children’s book writers, Jon Scieszka.)
The wave of Brooklyn writers is following in the famous footsteps of Norman Mailer, Ezra Jack Keats, Maurice Sendak, Arnold Lobel, Arthur Miller, Hubert Selby Jr., and Pete Hamill…
…Bob Capano announced he was quitting the race against Councilman Vinny Gentile for “family” reasons. We weren’t aware that Brooklyn Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar was a member of Capano’s family. As a Republican source explained, “Bob looked at the numbers and realized that without the Conservative Party [ballot line] that Pat [Russo] was likely to get, he couldn’t take the district…He saw the handwriting on the wall.”
A significant portion of the vote in the Bay Ridge-based district is expected to fall on the Conservative line, making Kassar’s support crucial. “Without it, the Republican is dead,” our source noted…
…Just received this e-mail message: “You are invited to attend Monday’s recording of the cable TV show Brooklyn45 with Sam Taitt, when Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes will be the guest. He will discuss issues affecting our community.”
Translation: Hynes will campaign for reelection…
…Daily and weekly newspapers continue to report that Sandra Roper tallied “40 percent” or “nearly 40 percent” of the vote against Hynes in 2001’s Democratic primary. Hynes hater Chris Ketcham, writing in the New York Press, put Roper’s showing at “a shocking 39 percent.” Roper’s own Web site claims she got 37 percent.
But Roper’s actual percentage was 36. Roper got 56,483 votes to Hynes’s 99,594.
Ketcham also wrote that Roper did so well despite being outspent 30 to 1. But most of Hynes’s expenditures were on legal fees, not campaigning……The Daily News editorial board added its $.02 to the debate over the proposed rail tunnel from New Jersey to Brooklyn, calling the project “critical to the economic future of the entire region.” Opponents, led in Brooklyn by Councilman Simcha Felder, say the noise and vibrations from trains using the tunnel would bother people who live and work next to the tracks, and that’s more important than the economic future of the entire region. Well, they don’t phrase it quite that way.
We asked him why he made no mention of Wal-MartÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs questionable activities, including:
1. Union busting, often done illegally (see National Labor Relations Board rulings) or immorally (shutting down an entire store that unionized; closing a meat-packing unit that unionized; harassing and firing workers who engage in unionizing activities, etc.).
2. Locking employees in stores overnight after their shifts ended.
3. Forcing employees to work unpaid overtime.
4. Providing low wages and unaffordable health insurance for workers.
5. Allegedly sexist promotion policies.
Shaw, to his credit, said heÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂd look into such reports, which we assume havenÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂt been well covered in the conservative publications that reflect ShawÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs politics.
But Shaw added, ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂThat said, I would totally disagree with your point 4ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂdo you think Wal-Mart would have 1.2 million employees if it was such a terrible place to work?ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ
ThatÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs like asking if Darfur would have 6.5 million residents if it were such a terrible place to live.
Wal-Mart controls a huge percentage of retail sales in the U.S. It is, in much of the country, the dominant employer, selling everything from socks to groceries to meat to prescription drugs to car tires. Competitors are non-existent in many places. By one count, about half a million Wal-Mart workers do leave the company every year, but many cannot quit or risk being fired because no other work is available.
TUNNEL VISION ENDORSED: The proposed Cross Harbor Rail Tunnel championed by Rep. Jerry Nadler got another boost when The New York Times editorialized that politics should not stop the project, which it said could reduce truck traffic and lower the cost of goods in the only metropolis in the U.S. without a rail delivery system. Were Congress to start funding the tunnel now, construction could start in four years.
NewsdayÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs editorial board earlier endorsed the tunnel. But Councilman Simcha Felder is furiously lobbying against it. While Felder has lost the battle for Newsday, the Daily News and The New York Times, he does have the Torah Times solidly in his corner.
NOACHÃÂÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂS NEW RIDE: Former City Councilman Noach Dear has reportedly ditched his Acura for a Lexus RX 330, a five-passenger SUV with a list price starting at $36,675.
One of our readers spotted Dear emerging from the vehicle outside an Avenue D fruit store and snapped photos of the car in a no-standing zone while Dear was inside squeezing grapefruit. According to our witness, Dear was allowed to skip the line for the cashier.
The carÃ¢ÂÂs vanity plates read NYC TLC, which we assume reflects DearÃ¢ÂÂs membership on the Taxi & Limousine Commission.
We e-mailed Dear to ask if he or his campaign paid for the car, but got no reply. DearÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs past campaign disclosures show numerous payments to the Honda Finance Corporation.
GREEN WITH ANGER: A former Green Party candidate for City Council was not amused by our comment that City Councilwoman Yvette Clarke but never called on minorities and women to seek Fire Department jobs as she delivered a lengthy criticism of the FDNYÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs lack of diversity.
Gloria Mattera, who challenged Councilman Bill de Blasio in 2003, called our remarks ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂshameful and insensitiveÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ in an e-mailed letter.
For the record, we admit to insensitivity, but not shame.
Mattera wrote, ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂFlippantly suggesting that unemployed people, especially in communities of color could solve their problems by clicking onto the FDNY website is ignoring the role systemic racism and state and federal policies that compromise the quality of life for most poor and working class people play in joblessness. What about placing some blame on a government that caters to the corporations while it systematically cuts back on resources for basic services like access to quality public education, housing and health care?ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ
First, we never suggested unemployed people could ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂsolve their problemsÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ by visiting the FDNY online. Our point was that the department is not trying to hide these jobs from minorities, and that Clarke could have found room in her message to encourage minorities to apply for them.
To imply that we cannot do so without writing a treatise on all the ways government has failed poor people is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of this column.
ROPER A NO-HOPER? At first glance, Sandra Roper might not seem like a strong candidate for district attorney of a county with 2.5 million people.
Her small-time lawyerÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs rÃÂÃÂ©sumÃÂÃÂ© doesnÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂt suggest sheÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs supervised an office of any size, let alone one with more than two dozen bureaus and hundreds of prosecutors and investigators. And her fundraising history gives no indication she can raise anywhere near the $500,000 or more insiders say is needed to contend.
But her supporters believe Roper, 48, a part-time pharmacist, has a few factors in her favor.
ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂSheÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs a scientist. There are no other scientists in the race,ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ said political insurgent John OÃÂÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂHara, noting the increasing role of science and technology in law enforcement.
Assuming the scientist vote wonÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂt be enough to win, what other votes can Roper hope for?
First, votes of sympathy and outrage, if Roper can continue to cast herself as a poster child for white oppression based on her indictment, even though it was recently dismissed.
Second, the black vote, since sheÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs black. Third, the Latino vote, since sheÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs a native of Panama. ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂHer middle name is Elena,ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ OÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂHara explained, and it will appear on the ballot, he said.
Fourth, the pro-woman vote. ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂIÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂve never seen a countywide race where one woman runs against five guys and loses,ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ OÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂHara said. (The other candidates raising money are incumbent Joe Hynes, Mark Peters, State Senator John Sampson, Paul Wooten, and Arnie Kriss.)
One problem here is that while voters tend to favor female judges, they prefer male prosecutors. ThatÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs the conventional wisdom, though it doesnÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂt always hold true (for example, Liz Holtzman was BrooklynÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs D.A. from 1982 to 1989).
But the larger impediment for Roper and the other challengers is that incumbent district attorneys just donÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂt lose reelection bids in New York City. Any reader who remembers one, please let us know.
SPITZER, NEWSDAY BACK RATNER: In a boost for Bruce Ratner, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer told Newsday he supports the developerÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs plan to build an arena for the Nets and adjacent office, retail, and residential properties in Prospect Heights. SpitzerÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs support is important because heÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂll likely be governor when the project actually happens. Ratner expects the Nets to move to Brooklyn in 2008.
Rep. Anthony Weiner, a mayoral candidate, told the Daily News heÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂgenerally supportiveÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ of the project. City Council speaker Gifford Miller said much the same, while two other mayoral hopefuls, Freddy Ferrer and Manhattan Borough President Virginia Fields, voiced concerns but didnÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂt oppose the project, the News wrote.
Ratner got another lift when NewsdayÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs editorial board called his Atlantic Yards development ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂa must.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ Wrote the paper, ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂItÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs impossible to imagine a place outside Manhattan thatÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs better suited to top-heavy, high-density development.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ
But Newsday lamented that the projectÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs review process excludes a fiscal analysis of all the tax breaks and subsidies Ratner stands to receive.
Atlantic Yards has already been endorsed by the New York Post.
In other bad news for project opponents, a lawsuit challenging an eminent domain condemnation in Connecticut got an icy reception from the Supreme Court, auguring a ruling that would grease the rails for Ratner to acquire the land he needs even if some private owners continue to hold out.
One bright spot for opponents was an article in the New York Observer critical of the city and state governmentÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs financial arrangement with Ratner.
ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂRatner will be able to finance the arena through tax-free bonds. While he pays those bonds back, he will not have to pay property taxes or even payments in lieu of taxes,ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ the weekly paper wrote. ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂThe city will even throw in a couple of lots that it owns, along with portions of streets and sidewalks, for $1.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ
Ratner may even be exempted from mortgage-recording taxes and sales tax on his construction materials. Councilwoman Tish James complained to the Observer, ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂThey are getting every tax break known to man.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ
ÃÂÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂPARKER PACKAGEÃÂÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ SUGGESTED: Political commentator and operative Maurice Gumbs, musing about what to do with rage-prone State Senator Kevin Parker, wrote, ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂWe have been taking suggestions from some readers. One suggestion was that the [Senate] minority leader equip all female employees in his office with a portable alarm system and a can of mace. This will be called the Parker Package.
ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂAnother suggestion was that handcuffs be placed on Parker when he is expected to be around female employees. And one reader recommended a muzzle and a leash.
ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂSome readers felt that Parker should be required to take medication, and one reader felt that a lobotomy was the only solution.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ
In a March 13 article, The New York Times summarized some of ParkerÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs recent troubles, including his arrest for striking a traffic agent. The word lobotomy did not appear in the story.
A day later, the Daily News reported that ParkerÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs Capitol access pass was suspended for three weeks because he repeatedly broke security rules including ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂbarging through an emergency doorÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ on March 7, setting off an alarm and leaving the door unsecured.
In a positive development for Parker, the door declined to press charges.
BUMPER STICKER BLUES: Flatbush newsletter contributor Tim OÃÂÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂBrien tells a funny (but also disconcerting) story about getting a double-parking ticket while bringing his son to Midwood Montessori three days after the Bush-Kerry election.
OÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂBrien writes that as he approached the officer writing the ticket, ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂI smiled and said that I was dropping off my son and needed to walk him to the door. The officer then stated the obvious about the parking rules on the street and I prepared to leave. He then asked if I had voted for Kerry, waving his pen in the direction of my Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker.
ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂYes, I replied. He looked at his partner and chuckled and offered that he should give me two tickets.
ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂStill smarting from that TuesdayÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs results, I countered, ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂI was voting for YOU guys! I thought YOU might like 100,000 more police officers and perhaps better pay, but I see you are fine and really donÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂt need any federal assistance to help you do your job.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ
ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂHe bristled at this and questioned my judgment. We parted amicably; me with a shiny new $45 ticket and he with what I hope was a bit of buyerÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs remorse.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ
TIDBITS: A member of Congress doesnÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂt have to be a millionaire to live like one. Rep. Vito Fossella ran up bills over $20,000 at fine restaurants during his 2004 reelection bid, all paid for by campaign donors, the New York Post reportedÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦
ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦The New York Times inexplicably reported that State Senator Kevin Parker raised only $55,000 for his campaign last year. Heck, Parker raised more than that ($59,700) in a three-week period in August and September, and more than $227,000 for the year.
We wondered if the Times reporter got mixed up with ParkerÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs 2002 campaign, but we checked our files and found in that race, Parker spent about $105,000ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦
ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦Congressional candidate Chris Owens doesnÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂt call his New Brooklyn Leadership political club dead, just dormant. But whatever you call it, at the moment it doesnÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂt exist and thus wonÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂt be of much help to Councilwoman Tish JamesÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs reelection bid this year. Owens and former club secretary Carmen Colon said club leaders were involved in too many other projects to keep it goingÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦
ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦Assemblyman Felix Ortiz of Sunset Park has a bill pending that would require schools to report studentsÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ body-mass index to their parents twice a year. Schools would also have to send home an annual report about obesity, nutrition, and exercise.