2011-10-26 / Political Page

Seems End Of Story Between Bloomberg And Haggerty Brothers

“With a rogue faction led by the notorious Haggerty brothers boycotting the meeting (in Flushing, where the regular Republican organization was voting to re-elect Ragusa) in favor of an unauthorized meeting in South Richmond Hill, technically Phil Ragusa won re-election with 100 percent of the vote.” “With a rogue faction led by the notorious Haggerty brothers boycotting the meeting (in Flushing, where the regular Republican organization was voting to re-elect Ragusa) in favor of an unauthorized meeting in South Richmond Hill, technically Phil Ragusa won re-election with 100 percent of the vote.” With John Haggerty having been found guilty last Friday on charges related to his misappropriation of close to a million dollars of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s money, it may mark the end of the close political relationship the mayor had with Haggerty and his brother Bart to hijack the Queens Republican Party.

Of course, the mayor and the Haggerty brothers never came close to achieving that goal as, first past GOP Chairman Serphin Maltese kept the Haggertys at bay and virtually reduced to a nuisance, and then Maltese’s successor, Phil Ragusa, continued to thwart whatever plans the Haggertys had of taking the reins of the Queens political organization.

In fact, the renegade Republicans were once again rebuffed just last month as the Queens Republicans’ election of county chairman and other officers approached. According to a news release from the incumbent organization press contact, the faction headed by the Haggerty brothers, which hoped to steal the party chairmanship, fizzled once again.

During that period, John Haggerty was reported occupied during the day at his trial on charges that he misused the mayor’s money, while at night he was quarterbacking the effort to deny Ragusa’s re-election as party chairman. But the Haggerty effort failed both in court and in their make-shift Forest Hills political clubhouse.

Describing the downfall of the political plot, GOP spokesperson Robert Hornak explained in a news release:

“With a rogue faction led by the notorious Haggerty brothers boycotting the meeting (in Flushing, where the regular Republican organization was voting to reelect Ragusa) in favor of an unauthorized meeting in South Richmond Hill, technically Phil Ragusa won re-election with 100 percent of the vote.”

Hornak continued: “It was reported that John Haggerty, understood to be the true ringleader, was on hand helping his brother [Bart] orchestrate this unlawful meeting after another day in his criminal trial for fraud and theft. In this new twist of attempts to steal control of the Queens Republican Party through, well…fraud and theft, Bart Haggerty ignored a Temporary Restraining Order enjoining their unlawful meeting from being held.”

There had been press reports prior to Ragusa’s re-election that former Councilmember Tom Ognibene was mounting a challenge to Ragusa, but it never materialized. In subsequent media reports, it was said Ognibene was elected during a different organizational meeting held in Richmond Hill.

Subsequently, the two party factions met in Queens Supreme Court to argue who should be designated as the lawful Queens Republican Party leader, Ragusa or Ognibene. Ognibene supporters at the courtroom showdown were reported to be Councilmember Eric Ulrich and Bart Haggerty.

According to Vince Tabone, vice chairman under Ragusa, the court’s decision between the opposing sides is still pending. Tabone said one of the key points made by Ragusa’s side was that Ognibene could not challenge Ragusa’s victory because he did not avail himself the opportunity to attend the Flushing meeting where he could have challenged Ragusa.

Getting back to John Haggerty’s trial, the 42-year-old political consultant was found guilty of money laundering and sec- ond degree grand larceny, but acquitted of the more serious charge of first degree grand larceny because there was not enough proof that he stole more than $1 million, which legally constitutes first degree grand larceny.

During the trial, Haggerty was said to have purchased his brother Bart’s share of the Forest Hills Gardens house they inherited from their late father Jack Haggerty. The purchase price was about $700,000, which is about the amount of money he received from the state Independence Party, which has gotten $1.1 million from Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, Haggerty is scheduled for sentencing next week (November 4) by Justice Ronald A. Zweibel in Manhattan Supreme Court.

In another strange twist to the Haggerty saga, Judge Zweibel held him on $250,000 bail pending his sentencing because Zweibel said he was disturbed about something he had heard from prosecutors at the trial to the effect that Haggerty may have had an Irish passport, the implication being he might take a powder before sentencing. Haggerty said there was some mistake, that he did not have an Irish passport.

So concludes the trial, at which the mayor had to endure a day or two of public scrutiny testifying during what was surely a world class spectacle.

With all that behind them, it seems unlikely that Bloomberg and Haggerty’s prior relationship could ever survive and continue. The mayor will have no need of the Haggertys’ services, even if he was in a forgiving mood—and besides that he’ll be out of office and out of politics and public life in about a year as his career as mayor concludes at the end of 2013.

But they had a long run, beginning as we said, under Maltese’s reign as Queens Republican chairman which coincided with his service in the state senate. Also included during this blissful period was the time which Bart Haggerty spent as a member of the City Hall staff during Bloomberg’s early years as mayor. It seems like the time has arrived to close this chapter, this strange relationship between the billionaire mayor and his foray into the gritty world of Queens politics with the power hungry Haggerty brothers.

ACKERMAN WANTS CORPORATIONS TO DISCLOSE POLITICAL SPENDING: Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court issued the so-called controversial “Citizens United” decision, which ruled that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as American citizens to independently spend unlimited amounts of money for or against candidates running for public office.

Congressmember Gary Ackerman (D–Bayside) opposed the decision, and introduced legislation that would require major corporations to disclose such spending to their shareholders. The legislation has been stalled, so last week Ackerman, joined by 42 colleagues in the House, wrote the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to issue rules that would require corporations to disclose their political spending to shareholders.

Ackerman charges that with the radical Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court created democracy-destroying beasts called super-PACs and corporations can now donate unlimited amounts of shareholder funds to Karl Rove political attack groups, without ever telling shareholders how the money is being used.

Rove, former President George Bush’s top political strategist, is using the millions of dollars pouring into those PACs to help Republicans to get elected to Congress next year and to defeat President Barack Obama in his re-election quest.

Apparently Ackerman feels that requiring shareholders to be made aware of where their corporations’ money is going could possibly stall the flow. Ackerman says the SEC must do that to protect against abuses by holding the corporate giants accountable. Let’s wait and see how this turns out.

GOLDFEDER URGES SENIORS ‘APPLY FOR HEAP’: Looking ahead to the coming wintry weather, Assemblymember-elect Phil Goldfeder is urging low- and moderate-income residents in his 23rd District (the Rockaways) to sign up for the HEAP program, the federallyfunded effort that issues heating benefits to help homeowners and renters with the cost of heating their homes.

Benefits from the Home Energy

Assistance program will start to reach applicants beginning November 16. District residents can visit the HEAP field office at 325 Beach 37th St. in Far Rockaway, Goldfeder advises, or the Queens Borough President’s office at 120-55 Queens Boulevard, Kew Gardens. Or contact the federal Human Resources Administration Department of Social Services at 1-800-692-0557.

WHERE WILL BLOOMY’S TECH CAMPUS RISE? The idea for a tech campus or satellite campus in New York City to compete against Silicon Valley in California originated with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and right now the question of where to build it has turned into a pulling match with at least four locales being proposed as building sites.

As matters now stand, universities have until Friday to submit proposals to the city Economic Development Corporation. That might give the site question a bit more clarity.

But it won’t be until December that EDC is expected to select a winning entry and that may settle the project location question.

As of now Roosevelt Island here in Western Queens seems to be leading the site selection sweepstakes, as Cornell University in Ithica, Stanford University from California and Carnegie Mellon from Boston have been hogging the conversation as their plans are taking up a lot of newspaper space.

Early on it had been Governors Island off the tip of Manhattan that seemed to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue, including the mayor’s. Now NYU has said it is interested in acquiring the old NYC Transit headquarters in the Brooklyn Navy Yard as the site where it would build a tech campus.

The 61-acre Willets Point in Flushing was also considered at one time to be an option.

The mayor, who has been preoccupied with the Haggerty trial and the Wall Street sit-in hasn’t said a word about the tech campus. He’s just marveling over how well his suggestion about getting NYC into this race has caught on and how the city’s future has brightened a bit since he started talking about it.

Just recently we read about the city’s major corporations doing flip-flops over how excited they are about the tech campus idea and how it will create jobs and spur other new business.

Also on board with the idea are the city’s labor unions whose ears pricked up when city administration officials were quoted saying that nearly 30,000 jobs could come out of this and a total economic impact of $6 billion over 35 years.

As for the Roosevelt Island site, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney and state Senator Michael Gianaris were among several public officials who visited there and lauded the island for its excellent qualifications and expressed their hopes that it will carry Western Queens along with it as the broader area will develop side by side with the new university campus.

TWO WEEKS TO ELECTION DAY: Election Day 2011 will be upon us in just two weeks and, although it won’t be big in numbers, voters should make plans to come out and vote because a great civil servant, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown is up for re-election. Although he has three-party endorsement—Democratic, Republican and Conservative—and no opposition, which assures him of re-election, the longest serving prosecutor in this county’s history deserves a huge turnout of voters to give him a vote of thanks for the steady and level-handed justice which he has administered here in Queens.

We’re assured that the three major political parties, which have endorsed Brown, again will get party members out to cast a ballot for him. All others should join them to give the Queens DA a giant show of support. There are also six elections for Supreme Court judgeships and each political party has choices in those half dozen elections. Voters should also come to the polls to select among these well qualified individuals who will be dispensing justice in Queens county in the future.

VALLONE TO STRENGTHEN SEX TRAFFICKING LAW: Following a public oversight hearing on combating sex trafficking in New York City, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria) said he plans to call on the state legislature to increase penalties called for under the law.

Vallone said there had been testimony from representatives from both the Queens and Brooklyn district attorneys’ offices expressing concerns and problems they face regarding penalties for certain charges and also ways to protect underage victims.

Responding, Vallone said he would propose changing the charge under the law fromaBnonviolentfelony,whichcarriesa onetothreeyearsentence,toaBviolent felony, which calls for a minimum five year sentence. According to Vallone, the resolution would also amend the law, to include victims who are 16-years-old or younger, which would mean a person could be found guilty if he or she intentionally advances or profits from prostitution involving a victim 16-years-old or younger.”

The joint hearing was held by the Committee on Women’s Issues, headed by Councilmember Julissa Ferreras (D–Corona), and the Public Safety Committee, chaired by Vallone. The hearing focused on sex trafficking from the perspective of law enforcement and criminal justice officials, specifically examining tactics and investigative techniques.

Vallone noted, “Sex trafficking isn’t confined to individuals being smuggled from other countries—far too many of our women and children are victims. Raising awareness on sex trafficking, an issue often surrounded by silence, is one of the best ways to combat it.”

MALONEY, GILLIBRAND APPLAUD TROOPS’ RETURN FROM IRAQ: Following President Barack Obama’s announcement that all U.S. troops will come home from Iraq by the end of this year, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand applauded the withdrawal.

Maloney said it was truly great news.

“After being falsely justified to the American people on misleading pretenses,”

Maloney added, “the Iraq War has exacted a tremendous toll on the American people, diverted critical resources from our needs here at home and damaged our standing around the world.”

As for Obama, Maloney praised him for “fulfilling his mandate to end America’s divisive and costly military involvement in Iraq. Above all, I thank the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces for serving our nation with extraordinary courage, determination and ability, and I join all Americans in honoring the memory of those who paid the ultimate price in Iraq in service to our country.”

Gillibrand opened by commending Obama for bringing the troops home, but cautioned that “we must also re-focus on our national security interests in Afghanistan and bring our combat troops home from there as well after a full decade of war.”

Gillibrand said, “Drawing down the war in Afghanistan with just 10,000 combat troops coming home this year is not fast enough.”

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, she has advocated a shift to a counter-terrorism mission in that country and an aggressive drawdown of combat troops. Gillibrand added, Afghanistan’s national officials must lead the country in taking responsibility for their own security.

TURNER TOURS AFGHANISTAN: Meanwhile, Congressmember Bob Turner (D–Queens/Brooklyn) just returned from a secret four day tour of the Afghanistan war zone and reported one of the greatest concerns of our servicemen and women was if they would find jobs waiting for them at home after finishing their tours of duty.

Here at home, concerning another issue, Turner and Staten Island Republican Michael Grimm said they agreed with many parents that rather than take a required city course in sex education, they would favor a curriculum stressing abstinence as an alternative.

“Parents had no say in this mandate,” Turner complained, and he joined Catholic and Orthodox Jewish groups in advocating the abstinence choice.

AVELLA OPPOSES PUBLIC LAND RELEASE: State Senator Tony Avella (D–Bayside) is opposing a plan under which a South Asian community group in the Bellerose area would purchase state land on the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center site to build two nine story buildings to house senior citizens.

Community Board 13 was to take up the proposal this past Monday night. The Gazette will report on any actions the board takes in its next edition.

Avella said he had been approached by the community group involved, the Indian Cultural and Community Center (ICCS) and was asked to support their housing plan. He refused. He said later on, Assemblymembers David Weprin (D–Little Neck) and Barbara Clark (D–Queens Village) and Councilmember Mark Weprin (D–Oakland Gardens) also asked him to support the ICCS plan, but he refused again.

Avella was quoted in a newspaper report as saying, “The whole project should be stopped” and he has introduced legislation to require greater oversight of state land transfers or purchases of more than $100,000.

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