2005-04-06 / Political Page

Ognibene Blasts Mayor & GOP Big; Ferrer Flub Still Hurts As Fields Gets Boost

Former Queens Councilmember Tom Ognibene, the insurgent Republican candidate against Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the GOP primary in September, lashed out at the mayor last week for hinting he might endorse Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton in a future race, and called for the Republican Party state chairman to resign for supporting Bloomberg.

Ognibene had reason to be boiling mad. He was refused entry into a Republican Victory Committee rally to pump up the mayor’s campaign, hosted by the Brooklyn GOP, which has endorsed the mayor.

Earlier in the week, it was announced that GOP Congressmember Vito Fossella of Staten Island would serve as chairman of the mayor’s re-election campaign, all but assuring that the strongly Republican borough would be endorsing Bloomberg, hurting Ognibene’s chances to take the nomination away from the incumbent in the September 13 primary.

Ognibene, in a letter to Republican state party chair Stephen Minarik, scolded him not only for taking sides in the mayoral primary in favor of “the alleged Republican mayor.” He also reminded Minarik that Bloomberg’s statement that he might possibly endorse Clinton in the 2006 governor’s race, could hurt the re-election chances of Republican state Senators Frank Padavan and Serphin Maltese, Queens’ only Republicans in the state legislature.

Ognibene, who represented Middle Village in the City Council for 10 years, upbraided Minarik for his “complete willingness to subordinate our party’s internal processes and principles to Mr. Bloomberg’s checkbook,” which he said, “has given him the green light to return to his more comfortable liberal Democratic roots.”

Minarik responded that he would not resign, as Ognibene demanded; he also said that he was not happy about the mayor’s kind words for Senator Clinton and expressed the feeling that the mayor should exercise more party discipline.

Meanwhile, Ognibene is expected to try to bolster his conservative support for mayor when he attends this Sunday’s Spring Brunch $55-a-ticket affair sponsored by the Queens Conservative Party headed by Tom Long. It starts at 12:30 p.m. at Roma View Catering 160-05 Crossbay Blvd., Howard Beach.

As for the mayor, he showed he’s paying lots of attention to Queens as he spent all of last Friday at several events in the borough. Among them were a Department of Correction promotion ceremony at Christ the King H.S. in Middle Village; a party at Antun’s of Queens Village for state Senator Malcolm A. Smith, a Democrat; a labor union dinner at Terrace on the Park, and the Jackson Heights Art Club annual members show.

MALTESE PUSHES DEATH PENALTY: Maltese (R–C, Middle Village), is campaigning hard to get the death penalty back on the books following the state Court of Appeals ruling that the previous law was invalid. The state senate has passed a bill restoring the death penalty, Maltese said, and he’s now trying to get the public involved by writing to their Assemblymembers to vote to pass it.

“Unfortunately,” Mal-tese said in an appeal to the public,” the liberal leaders of the Assembly will most likely not let the bill be voted on unless they are pressured by a grassroots coalition of New Yorkers from throughout the state. If you believe New York needs the death penalty to keep our communities safe, I urge you to visit www.DeathPenaltyNY.com where you can sign an online petition to show your support.”

Those without access to the Web site, can contact Maltese’s office at 718-497-1800 in Glendale or 718-738-0049 in Howard Beach.

FERRER’S DAMAGE CONTROL: Faced with a falloff of support in his bid to win the Democratic nomination for mayor and a swing to his chief opponent, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, Fernando Ferrer last week tried to explain his way out of a hole he dug for himself when he angered the black community by telling a group of police sergeants that the shooting of Amadou Diallo was not a crime.

Two days after a Quinnipiac University poll showed Ferrer’s support dropping dramatically last month while Fields’ went up from 14 percent to 21 percent over the same period. Ferrer explained in a television interview that he had been careless in choosing his words when he made the Diallo remarks and he felt the shooting had been wrong.

Ferrer’s backtracking also followed by a day endorsement of Fields by the city’s most powerful black pol Congressmember Charles Rangel (D–Harlem).

Rangel, who had endorsed Ferrer in the 2001 race, said in his Fields endorsement that it wasn’t because of the Ferrer fluff on the Diallo issue, but was based on Fields’ diverse support which only lacked public officials’ backing.

There’s also a chance now, political observers say, the Reverend Al Sharpton might also endorse Fields, adding to Ferrer’s discomfort. Meanwhile, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and Congressmember Anthony Weiner trail in the Democratic field.

The real significance of Fields consistent runner-up status in the polls is that she could possibly deny Ferrer the 40 percent of the primary vote that he needs to avert a runoff election to the second place finisher, Fields. If such a runoff occurs, it would cost Ferrer several crucial weeks of campaigning against his Republican challenger, presumably Bloomberg at a time when the incumbent mayor would be spending lots of campaign advertising money against Ferrer, weakening his campaign against the mayor.

Also, if Ferrer had to go full tilt against Fields in a primary runoff, it would weaken his support among blacks in the general election, as the mayor would be trying to attract the black vote with his advertising campaign.

It’s a tough prospect for Ferrer who was campaigning comfortably and with little evidence of any major distraction when he voluntarily, without prompting, made the Diallo remarks, obviously hoping to win the police sergeants’ support.

TRASHING MAYOR’S TRASH PLAN: Citing the high costs of Bloomberg’s proposed new garbage disposal plan, the city council signaled last week that they want more details about costs and marine transfer stations, which have caused problems with previous proposals.

Councilmember David Weprin (D–Hollis), Finance Committee chairman, focused on the ever-increasing cost estimates, which were given last week by a city Economic Development Corporation official, who placed them at $107 per ton for removal as opposed to the $75 per ton cost of the present system. Commented Weprin: “Every time we get an update, it seems to go up and up.”

The plan also calls for reopening the East 91st Street transfer station in Manhattan, which doesn’t sit well with that area’s council representative, Council Speaker Gifford Miller, who wants to oppose the mayor in his re-election bid.

Under the plan, which would take environmental-unfriendly trucks out of the removal process, most of the waste would be packed into special containers and then shipped to out-of-state landfills or incinerators.

McLAUGHLIN LOVES R.H. PARADE: Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin (D–Flushing/ Richmond Hill) hosted a reception last Sunday for members of the 16th annual Phagwah Festival committee who will shortly celebrate the occasion. The festival, celebrated by East and West Indian people, the triumph of good over evil,” the lawmaker said at the reception held in a Richmond Hill restaurant.

McLaughlin told the committee: “You should be proud of your great accomplishments in galvanizing the Indo-Caribbean and Hindu communities for the common good. Commemorating the earth’s bounty and acknowledging the importance of friendships makes this holiday timeless and invaluable to all people.”

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