2001-02-21 / Political Page

Vallone’s Criticism Of Stern Now Bearing Fruit

City Council Speaker Peter Vallone was right on the mark last year when he called Parks Commissioner Henry Stern on the carpet for demanding a fee from a Catholic group that wanted to use a park in Manhattan for an event.

Vallone’s anger over the request has led to investigations into the longtime parks commissioner’s practice of charging fees for similar events and distributing the money to park advocacy groups without accounting to anyone else in city government.

Following several hearings by the City Council into Stern’s activities, which brought out information that Stern also distributed fees collected for cutting down street trees, comes word that an audit of these activities by City Comptroller Alan Hevesi shows more serious infractions that border on being illegal.

In one case, a $19,856 check from the United States Tennis Association covering overtime by city parks workers at the U.S. Open in 1999 did not go into the city treasury, as required, but went to the City Parks Foundation.

In another, the department used donated funds which it received for a party to celebrate the Parks Enforcement Patrol’s 20th birthday.

In a third case, department officials may have illegally charged a Rockaway homeowner a $1,000 "donation" to the City Parks Foundation for authorization to build a sea wall near his home.

REMEMBERING ABE BEAME: The recent death of former Mayor Abraham D. Beame brought recollections of how he forced a change in the Queens Democratic Party when he started his term as mayor in 1974. The late Donald Manes took over the party leadership, replacing the colorful and flamboyant Matthew J. Troy.

Beame had been involved in a bitter primary with then Congressmember Mario Biaggi, who was strongly supported from the start of the campaign by Troy. Biaggi weakened during the campaign and Beame pulled ahead, with Manes as one of his chief backers, to win the nomination.

After Beame won the general election and was sworn in as mayor, he and his political operatives made a series of calls to Queens Democratic district leaders to line up their support behind Manes. Troy was soon history. Thus the pleasant, soft-spoken and gentle Beame, who started his career in politics as a Dem district leader in Brooklyn, showed his tough side.

ADDRESSES MAD COW DISEASE: Seeking to assure the public that the meat it eats is safe, Assemblymember Margaret Markey has introduced seven bills to protect New York State consumers from contracting Mad Cow Disease.

Markey, a member of the Assembly’s Agriculture Committee, who first became aware of the disease when a brother-in-law died from it in 1994, stated in her announcement of the bill filings, "I do not want to frighten the public or reduce meat consumption, but we need to protect ourselves by monitoring what cattle eat." And it is urgent, she said, that American cattle be protected against contracting BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy), commonly called Mad Cow Disease, and the people of New York state thus be prevented from contracting vCJD (variant Creutzfedt-Jakob Disease), the human form of BSE.

"The bottom line is that we are not 100 percent sure where forms of vCJD come from, but we know it exists in New York state," she said. "The only way we will determine the extent of this problem is through extensive monitoring and tracking."

Markey’s action came on the heels of a report that a candy product manufactured in Europe and sold in neighborhood stores contains beef-based gelatin. Recently some candy with the same ingredient was taken off store shelves in Poland during a mad cow disease scare.

WOULD BAR POLITICS FROM CUNY–SUNY SELECTIONS: Alluding to the recent selection of a CUNY college president in which the fear of reprisal dominated the process, state Senator Toby Stavisky (D–Flushing) has introduced a bill which would prohibit the appointment of a CUNY or SUNY trustee when that trustee serves under the supervision of the person making the appointment, namely the mayor or the governor.

Stavisky, complaining that one recent appointment was "an example of backroom politics at its worst," stated: "Political threats and intimidation have no place in the selection process."

The Flushing lawmaker, the ranking Democrat on the senate Higher Education Committee, commended state Comptroller Carl McCall for his recent recommendation to establish a nominating committee to recruit and screen CUNY and SUNY trustees, just as judges are screened.

BUSH–CHENEY CELEBRATION: The Amerasian Outreach Committee of the Frank Kenna Republican Club in Astoria is celebrating the victory of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney on Saturday, Mar. 3rd at Tropical Island, 69-09 Roosevelt Ave., Woodside. Buffet dinner and dance tickets are $20 per person minimum.

CANDIDATE/PUBLISHER: Rudolfo Flores, one of several Democratic candidates for City Council in the 25th District (Jackson Heights) says he is the first Peruvian to seek a council seat. Flores publishes an Hispanic resource guide containing the names of 600 Hispanic organizations on America Online called "Hola!" Flores describes it as a great marketing tool database and networking resource. Hola is available through Dan-Ed Enterprises Inc., 38-01 23rd Ave., Long Island City.

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