Tag Archives: Malcolm Smith

Former state Senator Malcolm Smith gets seven years for bribery

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

Updated 2:16 p.m.

Former state Senator Malcolm Smith was sentenced to seven years in prison Wednesday after trying to bribe his way onto the GOP ballot in the 2013 mayoral election, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York.

Smith, 58, was found guilty on all counts in a federal corruption trial in February following only four hours of jury deliberations. An earlier attempt to prosecute Smith ended in June with a mistrial.

Once one of the most powerful elected officials in state government during his brief tenure as Senate president and later a member of the breakaway Independent Democrats, Smith — who represented south Queens — is scheduled to surrender to authorities Sept. 21, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Smith lost his re-election bid in a primary to Leroy Comrie in September 2014.

Federal prosecutors had reportedly asked for up to 10 years in prison for Smith and eight for former Queens GOP vice chair Vincent Tabone, who was found guilty on all counts in the same trial as Smith. He was also sentenced Wednesday to 42 months in prison for receiving bribes and witness tampering after being busted as part of the plot to rig the Republican mayoral primary by bribing the party’s leaders in three counties to allow Smith, a Democrat, a place on the GOP ballot.

Then-Queens Councilman Dan Halloran was additionally among several officials arrested by the FBI in April 2013 in the plot. Halloran, who declined to run for re-election the year of his arrest, was found guilty on all five counts against him in July 2014 in a separate trial and later sentenced to 10 years behind bars.

Smith was also sentenced to two years of supervised release, and Tabone, 48, additionally received one year supervised release and ordered to forfeit $25,000. He will need to surrender on Oct. 1.

“Bribes and kickbacks should never play a role in the selection of candidates for public office. By attempting to buy and sell a spot on New York City’s mayoral ballot, Malcolm Smith and Vincent Tabone corrupted one of the most fundamental tenets of the democratic process, that candidates cannot bribe their way onto a ballot,” Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said. “Today’s sentences make clear that the cost of violating the public trust in this way will be measured in years in a federal prison.”


Halloran slammed with 10 years behind bars for bribery scheme

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

A federal judge threw the book at disgraced former Councilman Dan Halloran, sentencing him on Wednesday to 10 years behind bars for his conviction in a failed bribery plot to hijack the Republican Party’s 2013 mayoral nomination for Democrat Malcolm Smith.

Halloran, a former Republican councilman from northeast Queens, hoped to receive probation or home confinement after his conviction in July for his role in the $200,000 bribery scheme.

U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Karas meted out a sentence even stiffer than what was called for by federal probation officials, who had recommended six and one-half to eight years in prison. Karas made it clear he was sending a message to public officials.

After the sentencing, Karas said, “Public officials in our state have to understand that they cannot take bribes.”

But Karas said his sentence was also based on his belief that Halloran perjured himself during his trial.

“I watched Mr. Halloran’s body language. He squirmed when asked about the bribes. And it was a dead giveaway that he was guilty… . He lied and lied and lied,” Karas said. “He repeatedly gave false information for five days.”

“I don’t want to make this finding. Halloran was an elected official. It’s sad what happened here,” Karas said.

Halloran, wearing a dark suit and blue tie, remained silent in court during the sentencing, leaving his lawyer, Jonathan Edelstein, to plead for leniency.

Edelstein described Halloran as an “extraordinary man who answered the calling of public service.”

“His life, except for this offense, has been good,” Edelstein said. “Obviously there’s a crime here that requires punishment, but all of his character should be considered.”

“He’s very sorry he made these choices. He’s very sorry he ran for City Council in the first place,” he said.

Edelstein said Halloran plans to file an appeal.

A federal jury took just 85 minutes to render their verdict against Halloran on five counts of bribery, wire fraud and racketeering.

Halloran was charged by the feds for his role in the attempt to steer the Republican mayoral nomination to Smith, then a Democratic state senator from Queens. Under state law, Smith needed the approval of three of the city’s five Republican county committees to get on the GOP ballot.

The jury found Halloran guilty of charges stemming from pocketing $20,500 in cash bribes for orchestrating talks to help arrange Republican support for Smith. He was also convicted for taking $18,300 in cash bribes and $6,300 in straw-donor campaign contributions in exchange for steering $80,000 in City Council funds to a private company seeking work with the city.

Smith was found guilty of his role in the bribery scheme by a federal court last month. He is awaiting sentencing.


Malcolm Smith found guilty

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

Former state Senator Malcolm Smith has been found guilty on all counts in a federal corruption trial where he was accused of trying to bribe his way onto the GOP ballot in the 2013 mayoral election, according to published reports.

An earlier attempt to prosecute Smith ended in June with a mistrial after it was revealed that the U.S. Attorney’s office failed to turn over recorded conversations to defense lawyers until the trial was already underway. Several jurors said that due to time constraints they could not serve on the jury long enough for the defense to process the new recordings.

After a retrial that began a month ago, jurors took a little more than four hours to deliberate before returning a guilty verdict, according to reports.

Once one of the most powerful elected officials in state government during his brief tenure as Senate president and later as a member of the breakaway Independent Democrats, Smith, who represented Jamaica, now faces up to 45 years in prison.

Also found guilty Thursday as an accomplice in the $200,000 bribery plot was former vice chairman of the Queens Republican Party, Vincent Tabone. He faces a maximum of 45 years behind bars.

The two men were part of a plot to rig the Republican mayoral primary by bribing the party’s leaders in three counties to allow Smith, a Democrat, a place on the GOP ballot.

Under the state’s Wilson-Pikula law, Smith, a Democrat, would need the approval of three of the five county Republican Party leaders to cross party lines and run in a GOP primary. Smith had the backing of Queens Republicans, thanks to Tabone, and had the Bronx leader in his pocket, as well.

He never did secure a third county party’s support.

To raise the money for the bribes, Smith hatched a deal with a Rockland County developer. He promised to steer $500,000 in state funding to transportation projects that would boost the developer’s business in exchange for his help in securing the ballot line.

The developer, Moses Stern, turned government informant, helping to lead federal prosecutors to Smith, Tabone and a third defendant, former Queens City Councilman Dan Halloran. Halloran was convicted in July for taking $20,000 in bribes for his help with Republican leaders.

Halloran faces sentencing next month in federal court in White Plains. Federal probation officials have recommended that he be sentenced to six-and-a-half to eight years in prison.

Smith had attempted to delay the start of his first trial until the end of his primary election in September, but was denied the request. His opponent in the race, Leroy Comrie, defeated Smith by a landslide.

After the verdict was announced, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Preet Bharara released a statement, calling the case against Smith “just one of many pockets of corruption this office has uncovered in New York, which has become the ‘show me the money’ state. It should not be asking too much to expect public officials at least to obey the law. This office will continue the vigorous prosecution of political corruption until every public official understands that violating the public trust will likely land you in prison.”

Smith is the latest in a long line of city and state elected officials who have been targeted by  prosecutors on corruption and ethics charges, including one of the state’s most powerful elected officials, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was arrested two weeks ago.



Comrie bids farewell to deputy BP seat, gears up for state Senate

| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Borough President Melinda Katz’s office

Leroy Comrie has been serving Queens as deputy borough president for about a year, but he’s getting ready to return to an arena he’s more familiar with.

He is starting his bid as the new state senator of the 14th District of Queens covering Jamaica, Queens Village, St. Albans and Hollis. Borough President Melinda Katz and her staff said goodbye to Comrie last week and praised him for the work he did there.

Katz mentioned his tireless work ethic on behalf of the people of Queens and thanked Comrie for his wise counsel during her first year as borough president. She also mentioned that she believes he will do an outstanding job for his new, smaller group of constituents.

Comrie served as a public figure in southeast Queens from 2002-2013 as councilman for the 27th District, which covers St. Albans, Jamaica, Hollis and Cambria Heights. In 2013, he ran for the borough president’s seat in Queens but later dropped out. When Katz won her seat she hired him as the second-in-command as the deputy borough president, a position he held until his nomination for state Senate in April.

Comrie defeated incumbent state Sen. Malcolm Smith, whose political career took a turn for the worse after he was hit with federal charges for trying to bribe his way into the 2013 mayoral election as a Republican candidate. Comrie defeated Smith in the September primary for the Senate seat and ran unopposed in the November general election.

Comrie, a Democrat, will take his seat in the Republican-controlled state Senate as of Jan. 1. The 63-seat branch of the Legislature will now house 32 Republicans and 31 Democrats, making it more challenging for Democrats like Comrie to press their agenda in Albany.

Comrie’s commute to work — he’ll now have to travel to Albany when the Legislature is in session — is only one of several trade-offs he’ll make by going from the borough president’s office to the Senate. He’ll take a hit in the pocketbook too, trading his $135,000 deputy borough president salary for the base salary of $79,500 as a state senator.



Comrie defeats state Sen. Malcolm Smith in landslide

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Salvatore Licata

Leroy Comrie is the de facto next state senator for District 14 after besting incumbent Malcolm Smith in the Democratic primary.

There is no Republican candidate for the seat in the upcoming November election.

Comrie, who previously represented part of the district on the City Council, ousted Smith, who is awaiting trial on federal corruption charges, in a landslide victory, earning 69.4 percent of the votes, according to unofficial results.

“I’m excited about being able to serve [District 14] in the state Senate. I was overwhelmed by the reaction from the community,” Comrie said. “It’s a gratifying win. It’s a real testament to the power of the community.”

Political supporters, such as Councilman Daneek Miller and Borough President Melinda Katz, were at Comrie’s victory party to cheer him on.

Most recently, Comrie was the deputy borough president under Katz; he stepped down to run in the District 14 primary.

Smith, who has represented the district for over a decade, was indicted for allegedly trying to bribe his way into a GOP nomination for mayor.

The trial was thrown into turmoil when prosecutors produced hours of audiotapes — many in Yiddish — that Smith’s lawyers claimed would bolster his defense.
The judge declared a mistrial and a new trial is set for January.

But Smith’s tainted reputation was enough to sway several elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Borough President Melinda Katz, to endorse Comrie over Smith.

“I’m going to do my best to be an effective legislator,” Comrie noted. “I really have to get going and make sure that the residents of the 14th District can have the things they need in the budget starting in January. [District 14] means home to me.”



Primary Day 2014 coverage

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


Check back here for The Queens Courier’s Primary Day coverage from the casting of ballots to the election results.

12:03 a.m. 

The District 11 race has been called: Incumbent state Sen. Tony Avella defeats John Liu.

11:05 p.m.

Leroy Comrie has been declared the winner in the State Senate District 14 race, defeating incumbent Malcolm Smith at 70.9% with 81.7% of the precincts reporting.

10:55 p.m.

Incumbent Toby Stavisky wins her race in State Senate District 16.

10:35 p.m.

Incumbents state Sen. James Sanders and Assemblywoman Margaret Markey have been declared winners in their races.

10:22 p.m.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has been declared the winner in the Democratic primary, Kathy Hochul in the lieutenant governor race: AP

9:00 p.m.

Polls are now closed.

6:16 p.m.

Leroy Comrie: “Honored to have Mayor @BilldeBlasio here in the 14th Senate District to help #gotv for our final push!”

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

5:06 p.m. “Speaking to voters in Briarwood with Assemblyman @DavidWeprin and @ElizCrowleyNYC”: 14th District State Senate candidate Leroy Comrie

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

3:18 p.m. State Senate candidate John Liu admonishes a Queens resident for wearing a Yankees shirt: “We’ll get you a Mets shirt.” 


THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

3:11 p.m. The Queens Courier found this John Liu  taxi getting the word out during Primary Day.

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

3:01 p.m. State Sen. Avella’s crew lays a stake at P.S. 191.


THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

2:37 p.m.  11th District State Senate candidate John Liu talks to a parent at P.S. 191, who told him to do something instead of just making promises.

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

2:26 p.m. “Happy to do my civic duty this Primary Day. #nycvotes,” Toby Ann Stavisky tweeted.

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

1:52 p.m. State Sen. Tony Avella talks to a constituent near the voting site at P.S 169. The polling place has recorded 400 votes since 6 a.m.

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

12:08 p.m. State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, who is up for re-election: “All smiles on Primary Day with @AndrewHevesi @CMKoslowitz”

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

11:30 a.m. John Liu votes this morning, hoping to defeat incumbent state Sen. Tony Avella. “Running and voting as a proud #truedemocrat, joined by @MelindaKatz on #PrimaryDay”

Photo via Twitter/@LiuNewYork

Photo via Twitter/@LiuNewYork

10:44 a.m. 30th District Assembly candidate Dmytro Fedkowskyj: “So proud of my daughter, Deanna, who is voting for the 1st time today. Let’s vote for change! #PrimaryDay #AD30″

Photo via Twitter/@FedkowskyjForNY

Photo via Twitter/@FedkowskyjForNY

10:22 a.m. State Sen. Tony Avella’s crew passes around fliers in Bayside just off of Bell Boulevard. 


THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

10:04 a.m. “Our support has been incredibly positive and when the polls close, we are confident that our campaign will be victorious, ” Tony Avella said in a statement after the incumbent state Senator voted this morning. “Voters understand that this race boils down to which candidate they trust to uphold this office with honor and integrity, and John Liu doesn’t pass the laugh test on either account.”

Photo courtesy of Tony Avella

Photo courtesy of Tony Avella

9:38 a.m. Leroy Comrie casts his vote. “I just voted! Thanks @TishJames for joining me! #gotv”

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

9:10 a.m. Public Advocate Letitia James joins 14th District State Senate candidate Leroy Comrie in Queens.

Photo via Facebook/Leroy Comrie

Photo via Facebook/Leroy Comrie

7:48 a.m.

11th District State Senate candidate John Liu greets voters at the LIRR Bayside station.

“Greeting morning commuters bright and early with @edbraunstein reminding people to vote.”


Photo via Twitter/@LiuNewYork


 6:00 a.m.

Polls are open and will close at 9 p.m. You can find your poll site location at http://nyc.pollsitelocator.com or by calling the voter Phone Bank at 1-866-VOTE-NYC.

Here are the list of Queens candidates in the Democratic primary for state Senate and Assembly, as well as the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor:

State Senator (10th District)
Everly Brown
Gian Jones
James Sanders Jr. *

State Senator (11th District)
Tony Avella*
John Liu

State Senator (14th District)
Munir Avery
Leroy Comrie
Malcolm Smith*

State Senator (16th District)
S.J. Jung
Toby Ann Stavisky*

Assembly (30th District)
Dmytro Fedkowskyj
Margaret Markey*

Andrew Cuomo*
Randy Credico
Zephyr Teachout

Lieutenant Governor
Kathy Hochul
Timothy Wu

Incumbent = *

Former Councilman Halloran found guilty in bribery trial

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

Updated 11:40 a.m.

Former Queens Councilman Dan Halloran was found guilty Tuesday for his role in a bribery scheme to get Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith on the GOP ticket in last year’s mayoral race.

“With today’s verdict of guilty reached by an impartial and independent jury, the clean-up of corruption in New York continues in courtrooms,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

It took just over one hour for the jury to reach its verdict following the eight-week trial, according to published reports, and Halloran was convicted of all five counts against him. The conviction ends a trial that continued even after co-defendant Smith was released after a mistrial was declared. During the trial, Halloran also attempted, and ultimately failed, an insanity defense on the basis of a removed brain tumor in 2012, according to the New York Post.

“I was also very troubled with Mr. Halloran in terms of his candor,” White Plains Federal Court Judge Kenneth Karas said, following the verdict.

Halloran will be sentenced on Dec. 12 and faces up to 55 years in prison, according to the Post. The judge allowed Halloran to remain out on a $250,000 bond and will be subjected to home confinement with a monitoring device until he is sentenced. The 42-year-old appeared distressed after each guilty verdict was read, while his lawyer patted him on the back, according to the Daily News.

“It would be monumentally stupid of you to flee,” the judge warned.

Halloran was accused of negotiating payoffs and setting up meetings between Smith and the county bosses, allegedly pocketing thousands in the process. He had claimed he was trying to remove corruption when he took the payoffs from developer Moses Stern, a Rockland County developer who became a government informer in order to avoid a prison sentence, and the undercover FBI agent “Raj.” The bribery scheme involved around $200,000, reports said.

Assistant US Attorney Douglas Bloom said he believed Halloran lied throughout the trial and he thought the jury could see the politician’s deception, according to the Post.

“Quite frankly, he engaged in perjury,” Bloom told the judge. “The jury clearly found that. He’s a lawyer. He’s someone who took multiple oaths to tell the truth to this court, and he broke that.”

Meanwhile, Smith’s new trial is set for Jan. 5, 2015. He currently holds office and is seeking reelection. The state senator is accused of trying to bribe his way into a GOP nomination for mayor but the proceedings were declared a mistrial in June.

The mistrial was declared after it was revealed that the United States Attorney’s office failed to turn over 9,000 recorded conversations to defense lawyers until well into the trial, prompting several jurors to say that they could not wait for the defense to process the new recordings.



Former Councilman Daniel Halloran wanted to secure City Hall posts for Republicans: report

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com


During the White Plains federal corruption trial of state Sen. Malcolm Smith, jurors on Wednesday heard a secretly-taped recording of former City Councilman Daniel Halloran telling an undercover agent that Republicans should get at least half of the city’s top appointments, according to a published report.

Halloran, a Queens Republican, is accused of plotting a $200,000 bribery scheme to make Smith the GOP candidate for mayor.

“It comes down to what is it that you need first?” the agent, who went by the name “Raj” said in the recording taken on Feb. 8, 2013 at the Essex House in Manhattan, the New York Post reported.

“The first dep and a guarantee on the agency heads being split in the party,” Halloran said in the recording. “If he goes to City Hall and … cuts the baby in half so to speak, he plays Solomon, everything, everything works out.”

Halloran goes on to say that Republicans should get half of the 115 mayor-appointed commissioner, deputy commissioner and first assistant posts. He also demanded that Raj convince Smith, if elected as a Republican, to appoint Republicans to judicial positions, giving the conservative party influence in City Hall and “make things happen” for politically friendly developers at the Board of Standards and Appeals and the Buildings Department.

Smith made the failed bid to secure the 2013 Republican mayoral primary line by bribing Halloran and then-Bronx Republican Chairman Joseph “Jay” Savino, prosecutors alleged.


Recorded conversations presented at Malcolm Smith trial

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

State Sen. Malcolm Smith secretly agreed with undercover federal agents that fellow politicians could be persuaded through certain incentives to help him attain his political goals, The New York Times reported following courtroom testimony on Monday.

“Sometimes it takes cash, sometimes it takes checks, sometimes it takes a job,” an undercover FBI agent said in a recorded conversation, which was presented in court Monday, according to the Times. The statement was made in reference to what it would take for other politicians to throw their support behind Smith.

“Right, right, right,” Smith replied.

A meeting between two informants and Smith took place on November 16, 2012, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in White Plains, the Times said. One informant was a FBI agent posing as a businessman. The other was a Rockland County developer who assisted in the operation after being threatened with prison time, the Times said.

The Times reported that the Queens politician divulged two plans during the meeting: One to set himself up for a city mayoral run by running on the Republican ticket although he is a Democrat, and another that would re-establish himself as the leading Democrat in the State Senate by providing incentives to other state senators to garner support.

According to the Times, following the court session, Smith’s lawyer Gerald Shargel said, “Senator Smith is not charged with any conduct relating to senatorial elections.”




Malcolm Smith corruption trial begins

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

Opening statements began Wednesday in the corruption trial against state Sen. Malcolm Smith who is accused of trying to bribe his way onto the Republican ballot for New York City mayor.

“Malcolm Smith wanted something more; he wanted to be mayor” and figured his best shot would be to cross party lines and “run as a Republican,” Assistant US Attorney Douglas Bloom told jurors at federal court in White Plains, the New York Post said.

Former Councilman Dan Halloran and former Queens GOP vice chair Vincent Tabone are also on trial with Smith.

Halloran is accused of negotiating payoffs and setting up meetings between Smith and the county bosses, allegedly pocketing thousands in the process.

Vincent Tabone allegedly took cash bribes as part of the conspiracy.

Smith’s lawyer’s accused the government of entrapment, and Halloran’s defense team argued that their client is not a crook, Post said.

A juror was dismissed for discussing the case with a relative and defense lawyers asked for an entirely new jury after a copy of local newspaper was found in the jury room, but the judge opted against selecting a new one, according to the Post.





Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Tuesday: Becoming partly cloudy after some morning light rain. Fog early. High 66. Winds SW at 20 to 30 mph. Chance of rain 70%. Tuesday night: Partly cloudy skies. Low 41. Winds WNW at 10 to 20 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: New York Meets Istanbul – An Exhibition of Charcoal Drawings

Meliksah Soyturk’s “New York Meets Istanbul” is an exhibition which brings the above words to life…. transporting us, through the Artist’s eye, through time and space, to another Continent. Through his work, he is bringing together two of the most wonderful cities in the world and two vastly different, yet undeniably similar cultures. At Flushing Town Hall through Sunday, April 13. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Queens cab driver arrested in West Hempstead hit and run

A cab driver from Queens is under arrest and facing charges in connection with a hit and run on Long Island. Read more: ABC New York

Sen. Smith’s fraud and bribery trial set for June

A federal judge on Monday ordered state Sen. Malcolm Smith’s fraud and bribery trial to begin June 2, quietly rejecting the powerful Queens Democrat’s bid to push the date back a few months so he could smoothly seek re-election. Read more: New York Post

EXCLUSIVE: Average woman in the city earns 82 cents for man’s dollar, controller study shows

It’s still a man’s world — even in progressive New York City. Read more: New York Daily News

City Council plans 10 percent raise in its budget

Belt-tightening is out and free spending is in at the City Council, which plans to increase its own budget by more than 10 percent in a single year — six times the rate of inflation. Read more: New York Post

NTSB: Engineer in fatal Metro-North derailment has ‘severe obstructive sleep apnea’

Federal investigators have found that the engineer at the controls of the Metro-North train that derailed and left four people dead and dozens more injured has a serious sleep disorder. Read more: CBS New York/AP

Candidate Clyde Vanel wants State Senator Malcolm Smith to step down

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File photo

Clyde Vanel launched his campaign against State Senator Malcolm Smith in January, and on Wednesday Vanel called for the incumbent to step down.

Smith was arrested last April on corruption charges. His trial is set to begin June 2 and Vanel said Smith, who is up for re-election, “cannot properly represent the community while on trial for political corruption.”

“The Senator is innocent until proven guilty. However, the community’s need for proper representation during this difficult period is outweighed by the Senator’s individual circumstances. Smith should step down,” Vanel said.

The State Senate will be out of session come the trial date, but Vanel said that “doesn’t mean the work for the community isn’t done.”

“The petitioning period for the campaign begins in June. The time to really engage and talk to the public is during the campaign. If you’re too busy and you cannot do that, that’s a detriment to the community,” he said.

Smith will be tried along with former Councilmember Dan Halloran and former Queens GOP leader Vincent Tabone. The three were allegedly involved in a scheme to get Smith, a Democrat, on the Republican ticket for last year’s mayoral race.

“Our community is suffering and there are many vital issues that our community needs proper representation and attention [to],” Vanel said, “namely unemployment, education, senior services and quality of life, to name a few.”

Smith and representatives for the state senator did not comment.



Tony Avella joins NY State Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

State Senator Tony Avella is joining the New York State Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), he announced Wednesday. 

He will be the fifth member of the breakaway faction of Senate Democrats — led by Jeffrey Klein of the Bronx — who share majority control of the chamber with Republicans.

“Under Senator Klein’s leadership, the IDC has developed a clear, progressive agenda for New York’s working families,” Avella said. “They have shown an ability to get big things done, without the dysfunction of years past.”

The cross-aisle conference, formed in 2011, also includes Senators Diane Savino of Staten Island, David Valesky of Oneida and David Carlucci of Westchester.

Avella, elected to the Senate in 2010 after two terms in the City Council, is also the only member from Queens.

State Senator Malcolm Smith, of southeast Queens, joined the conference in December 2012 and helped the IDC and Republicans take leadership. Klein stripped Smith of his IDC membership, however, after his arrest last year on federal corruption charges.

Conference members praised Avella for his passion and knowledge.

“Senator Avella has built a career fighting for those who are most in need, so I am thrilled to welcome him to the IDC,” Carlucci said. “He has the experience, passion and know-how to make a major impact on state policy.”

Klein said Avella’s public service experience makes him the “type of seasoned legislator who knows how to get things done.”

“He will be a major asset in our fight to make New York more affordable for working families,” Klein said.

The switch, however, is said to hurt Senate Democrats’ efforts to reclaim control in the chamber.

Senate Democratic Conference spokesperson Mike Murphy said in a statement that it was “unfortunate that progressive policies continue to be stymied because of divisions created by senators who choose to empower Republicans.”

Astoria Senator Mike Gianaris, the deputy minority leader, declined to comment.

The move also upset some of the senator’s usual supporters.

“It’s  disloyal and it’s not fair to the people of the 11th Senate District who have worked very hard for Tony over the years,” said Democratic State Committeeman Matt Silverstein. “What he did was self-centered and disgraceful.” 

Avella is up for re-election this year. He dropped out of a contentious race for Queens borough president last year, citing “unfinished business in Albany” as a major factor to his decision.



State Senator Malcolm Smith seeking re-election despite corruption charges

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File photo

State Senator Malcolm Smith is running for re-election and fighting to keep his seat from current challengers Clyde Vanel and Munir Avery.

While Smith is “focusing on governing,” Vanel has jump-started his campaign with a $100,000 loan to provide the “infrastructure of the campaign.”

“We wanted to start off strong,” he said.

He is seeking to maintain his campaign office and purchase voter information software, among other things.

Vanel, who previously ran for City Council, said the senate district is “much bigger” and “we need resources to start the campaign the right way.”

He hopes to raise $350,000 as election season continues. With the $350,000, he will pay back the loan and spend $250,000 on his campaign.

Regarding his own race, the incumbent Smith said “the time for campaigning is later.” Despite an indictment on corruption charges, to which Smith plead not guilty, he hopes to reclaim the seat he has held for 13 years.

“I don’t think there was ever any doubt the senator would run,” said a spokesperson for the embattled legislator.

Vanel, a Cambria Heights business attorney, and Avery, a Queens Village estates attorney, both criticized Smith for his involvement with the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of Democrats who govern with Republicans.

However, after Smith’s indictment in April, the IDC dropped him.

“The senator is a Democrat and he will be running as a Democrat,” the spokesperson said, but added he “is no stranger to crossing party lines in order to work with everyone.”

Smith is “focused on the budget and making sure southeast Queens receives the adequate share of resources for schools and jobs creation,” he said in a statement.



Clyde Vanel latest to enter race for Malcolm Smith’s Senate seat

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File photo

The race for State Senator Malcolm Smith’s seat is widening with new contender Clyde Vanel.

Vanel joins attorney Munir Avery to try and snag the Senate seat from Smith, who was arrested last April for corruption charges.

“We have zero representation right now in the Senate,” Vanel said of the 14th Senate District, which comprises of southeast Queens neighborhoods, including Jamaica, Queens Village, Hollis and Cambria Heights.

Vanel, a Cambria Heights native, wants to focus on bringing jobs back to the district and straightening out “Albany’s dysfunction.”

“We need to bring more jobs to our state and economic policy,” he said. “I have owned and run businesses before. I’ve had employees. I’m a business attorney, so I understand the policies and regulations that make it difficult for people to keep small businesses in New York.”

Vanel most recently ran to replace the term-limited Councilmember Leroy Comrie, but fell short by two percent of the votes to current Councilmember Daneek Miller in September’s primary.

Since then, the attorney said he has “been trying to get back on my feet” and expand support in the district for this upcoming election.

If elected, he said he would “be loyal to the Democratic Party,” criticizing Smith for associating with the Independent Democratic Conference, a bipartisan legislative branch. He also hopes to find alternative ways to bringing in revenue outside of raising taxes.

“We have to be more creative with respect to how do we generate revenue from the government, and how do we do more with less,” he said.

He added he will soon be releasing a plan of ideas on how to do so.

“I’m the best person that is currently in the race now,” he said. “The thing is, I’m not running against Malcom Smith, I’m running for the seat. The plan of attack is to just stand on the issues.”