2011-09-14 / Political Page

Mayor To Testify In Haggerty Trial?

A Manhattan judge ruled yesterday that Mayor Michael Bloomberg must testify in the trial involving his payment of $1.1 million to John Haggerty in 2009 to conduct an Election Day poll-watching operation for the mayor. Haggerty did not do as agreed, but kept the money anyway.

Haggerty, of Forest Hills, was charged by the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. with stealing the loot and his trial is set to start next Monday. But Supreme Court Justice Ronald Zweibel said he would make a final decision during the trial on whether the mayor can be called to testify. The mayor has already testified to a grand jury regarding the matter.

According to media reports on this issue, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said the mayor would testify if called.

Prosecutors have been maintaining for months that it wasn’t necessary to try Haggerty with testimony from the mayor and members of his staff because it wasn’t necessary to prove the charges against Haggerty, an independent Republican consultant who has been friendly with the mayor and figures in his relations with the regular organization that represents the party. Haggerty is also a Republican state committeeman, elected to a Forest Hills district.

Basically, prosecutors have said putting the mayor on the stand would turn the trial into a circus.

As far as the mayor and his advisors are concerned, they didn’t want the mayor to testify in open court because it would lift the lid on how and why he conducts certain business the way he does. For instance, the

$1.1 million that wound up in

Haggerty’s hands was delivered to him by

Independence Party officials to whom the mayor gave the cash originally. As for Haggerty, the story goes that he used most of the money to buy out his brother Bart’s share of their late father’s home in Forest Hills Gardens. Their father was Jack Haggerty, who for many years was the top aide to the Republican state senate leader in Albany. Also Bart Haggerty has worked in the mayor’s office at City Hall from time to time, attesting to the good relations he has had with the Haggertys over the years.

MAYOR GETS MORE PLEASANT NEWS: Along with the slightly disconcerting report the mayor got on Tuesday about the trial, there was word that a Quinnipiac University poll showed the mayor was viewed favorably by 54 percent of responders who were queried after Hurricane Irene. The mayor was generally lauded for leading the city through that windy and soggy episode, which included getting seniors, sick and well, to a safe place and evacuating residents who would have been endangered in their low-lying homes. The post-Irene poll followed one in March in which the mayor’s favorability rating was unsatisfactory.

VALLONE CALLS FOR ACTION AGAINST SURGE IN CRIME: Reacting to reports of a surge in the city’s crime rate in New York City recently, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria) declared there’s an urgent need to add cops to the force immediately and doing more to end illegal guns from coming in to the city.

Vallone, who has headed the Public Safety Committee since joining the Council 10 years ago, stated: “It’s not enough to say we are safer than we were 10 years ago. What’s most important to people is whether we are safer than we were last year, or last month, and we are not!

“Yes, the federal government needs to do more to stop the influx of illegal guns, but our city must do more too. We must give Commissioner [Ray] Kelly the resources he needs to stop the crime surge, which means we need 1,800 cadets in the Police Academy on January 1. No less.”

Vallone emphasized, “Enough words we need action.”

Vallone also pointed out that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s claim that the July 2011 class is the largest in five years is misleading.

Vallone emphasized, “It is actually two smaller classes combined, due to the fact the January 2011 class was cancelled. Those cadets would have hit the street in July and been available during this crime wave—but they were not,” a fact Vallone believes contributed to its severity.

GENNARO DISAGREES WITH CUOMO: The administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo released the latest draft of an environmental study last Wednesday by the state Department of Environmental Protection dealing with mining or not mining for natural gas in the Adirondacks using the controversial process of hydrofracking.

The process involved blasting water, sand and chemicals into heavy deposits of shale buried deep in the ground to access natural gas deposits. Environmentalists and others object to the fracking because the water runoff from the blasting runs the danger of getting into drinking water sources.

But particularly in the Adirondack region, where New York City’s drinking water supply originates, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Councilmember James Gennaro (D–Fresh Meadows) and others have called for tough regulations to assure that the dangers from hydrofracking do not affect the city’s water supply.

These concerns have come to the forefront at this time because Cuomo is expected to open the door to the natural gas industry amid estimates that they would be able to create many jobs and spread some money around to help pull New York state out of the recession and unemployment doldrums, especially in the Upstate area.

But Gennaro offered another word or two of caution to Cuomo. The highly esteemed environmentalist started out with the observation that the DEP’s latest action brings the state one step closer, in my opinion, to the degradation of a large swath of our state through the irreversible industrialization of hydrofracking.

Gennaro quickly added, “The state’s insistence that hydrofracking be allowed a mere 1,000 feet from New York City’s Upstate critical water supply infrastructure—such as water supply tunnels–in the face of scientific fact to the contrary—that a 1,000-foot buffer zone between such insensitive infrastructure and hydrofracking wells provides adequate protection for New York City’s water, is not a study, in my opinion as a geologist, in which the public should place its confidence.”

Gennaro, the council’s chair of the

Committee on Environmental

Protection, has issued similar warnings in the past that the hydrofracking menace should leave much greater space between the well digging and the city’s

Upstate reservoirs.

Someone should pay attention.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is also concerned.

The governor plans to come out with proposed regulations for drilling next month and public comments on the draft environmental study will be heard until December 12. But, a New York Times editorial advised, “Only after the final study is completed should the administration begin to draw up the regulations.”

In a word, the Times’ advice to the governor is move cautiously.

OBSERVATIONS ON 9/11 ANNIVERSARY: Congressmember Joseph Crowley had a personal reason for observing this past Sunday’s 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. His cousin John, an NYFD officer, was killed in the destruction of the World Trade Center that day.

Along with the many other families on hand to mourn their loss, Crowley said, “Their strength is tremendous and it is comforting to know that John rests with the thousands of heroes who put country first that day.”

Recalling the morning of September 12, 2001, as he stood among the ruins and ruble, Crowley recalled, “You could feel our country’s unity, our shared pain and our determination to emerge stronger. That spirit is something I hope, I believe, we need to recapture.

“America is the greatest country in the world. The men and women who ran into burning buildings on September 11th; the courageous passengers who forced the crash landing of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania; and our service members who have fought bravely for our country overseas—would never want us to forget that.”

Other Queens officials offered their observances. City Comptroller John Liu noted, “Ten years later, memories of September 11 remain as frightening and painful as ever. We will never forget those that perished, especially our FDNY, NYPD and PAPD heroes who so selflessly ran towards the burning World Trade Center. Our world changed forever that day.

“Today, we continue to remember the victims of September 11 and remind ourselves of our humanity, knowing that the best is yet to come.”

State Senator Michael Gianaris (D–Astoria) wrote “September 11, 2001 is an experience that will remain ingrained in our psyche forever. The emotional scars of that day will never leave us as we remember those who were lost, and my condolences continue to go out to their families and friends. May their memories be eternal.

“While New York City will never be the same, it is gratifying to see the unity that developed among New Yorkers and the work that was done in the last decade to increase our preparedness and help prevent another attack.”

Assemblymember Aravella Simotas (D–Astoria) said, “As we mark 10 years since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, we mourn the loss of our beloved colleagues, friends and family members. We also remember the heroism of both our first responders and ordinary citizens who risked—and often gave up— their lives to save the lives of others, and those who returned to Ground Zero day after day to clear rubble and search for survivors at the expense of their own health. We must never forget their sacrifice, and we must always strive to honor it in our words and, more importantly, in our actions.”

GIANARIS BILLS STRENGTHEN VOTING PROCESS: Four bills which would result in increased voter participation, a more efficient Board of Elections and make ballot casting more convenient have been introduced by state Senator Michael Gianaris (D–Astoria).

The lawmaker said, “The upcoming special elections remind us of the importance of voting. As we quickly approach 2012, it is vital that we make voting an accessible and convenient process in order to maximize turnout. Every ballot counts and New Yorkers must be able to exercise this valuable right as easily as possible.”

The four bills do the following:

•S 1970 facilitates voting by designating libraries, local housing authority buildings and public high schools as participating polling sites that offer voter registration forms, renewal services and change of address services.

•S 1972 allows for Election Day Voter Registration so new voters can register to vote up to Election Day itself.

•S 1974 would enact the Automatic Voter Registration Act, and provide for the automatic voter registration of persons at least 18 years old based on motor vehicle and tax records.

•S 1978 removes the requirement that voter registration be completed at least 10 days before Election Day.

Gianaris had previously introduced these bills when he was an Assemblymember and also earlier in the senate session. He is a leading government reformer and good government advocate, aiming to increase transparency in the election process.

SCHUMER WANTS 9/11 MUSEUM SUBSIDY: Arguing that the just-opened 9/11 museum is a national responsibility that should be accessible to all Americans, U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (both D–N.Y.) are supporting legislation to provide the new museum with a $20 million-a-year grant to help cover its $50 million-$60 million annual operating costs.

The new attraction will also charge an admission fee to raise the remainder of the cost to operate it. Under discussion was either a $25 suggested donation or a $20 mandatory admission fee. The proposed $20 million grant would help to keep the admission fee low, officials said. Most national memorial museums charge an admission fee to help offset operating costs, they said.

Schumer stated: “9/11 was an attack on America, and supporting the site that memorializes the tragedy and heroism of that day is a national responsibility, as it is at Pearl Harbor.”

The museum attracted SRO crowds throughout the day since Monday hosting visitors that secured their reserved admissions many months ago. The wait for future admissions stretches out for several months.

SEEK LOCAL BANKS IN OZONE PARK, RICHMOND HILL: Councilmembers Karen Koslowitz (D–Forest Hills) and Ruben Wills (D–Jamaica) have called on civic and community leaders to support their effort to get local banks to operate in Ozone Park and Richmond Hill, which are presently with few small banks.

Koslowitz, chair of the Economic Development Committee, said recently her area is amply represented with local banks, but in Ozone Park and Richmond Hill there are a lot of businesses in this area, and people have been asking for a bank for years.

Wills, noting the problem throughout his district, said wherever there is a check cashing business should have a local bank.

The lawmakers said the areas in question should be designated as Banking Development Districts, which would make them eligible to receive state assistance in getting small banks to open in their areas. Designated districts in Long Island City and South Jamaica already have state-authorized small banks.

WEINER MOVES FROM F.H.: Newspapers reported yesterday the former congressmember, Anthony Weiner, moved out of his Ascan Avenue apartment in Forest Hills into an apartment in Greenwich Village with his wife, Huma Abedin, who is pregnant. Weiner left the 9th CD location just before the special election.

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