Tag Archives: Malcolm Smith

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Overcast with a chance of rain in the afternoon. Fog early. High of 70. Breezy. Winds from the South at 15 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 20%. Friday night: Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers. Low of 50. Breezy. Winds from the South at 15 to 20 mph shifting to the WNW after midnight. Chance of rain 100% with rainfall amounts near 0.9 in. possible.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Cultural Crossroads – Korea Meets Greece

At 8 p.m., on Friday, April 19, the cultures of Korea and Greece will meet at Flushing Town Hall, located at 137-35 Northern Boulevard in Flushing. The VonKu Pak Drum & Dance Troupe perform Korean music and dance dressed in traditional regalia followed by Yianni Papastefanou and his ensemble in an evening of traditional music and dance from the Greek Isles. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

1 of 2 Mass. bomb suspects dead; suburbs shut down

Two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing killed an MIT police officer, injured a transit officer in a firefight and threw explosive devices at police during their getaway attempt in a long night of violence that left one of them dead and another still at large Friday, authorities said as the manhunt intensified for a young man described as a dangerous terrorist. Read more: AP

Indictment in Smith, Halloran mayoral bribery case

A federal grand jury has indicted State Senator Malcolm Smith and Councilmember Dan Halloran for an alleged bribery plot to rig the mayoral race, according to published reports. Read more: Queens Courier

Video shows beating of Queens girls

A beat down by bullies in Astoria, Queens, that was caught on video left two middle school girls terrified to be on the street in their own neighborhood. Now the girls and their parents are turning to police at the precinct to restore their sense of safety. Read more: Fox New York

‘Good riddance, Sandy’ party at Healy’s Bar and Grill in Rockaway on Saturday to celebrate removal of name from tropical storm database

A Superstorm-battered Queens pub is throwing a going away party for Hurricane Sandy. Read more: New York Daily News

NYPD inspector testifies ‘very few’ complaints of racial profiling over stop-and-frisk

The court case over the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk program has been going on for one month. Read more: CBS New York

Mayor Bloomberg: Senate gun vote ‘a disgrace’

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday called the defeat of gun restrictions in the U.S. Senate “a disgrace” and said “children lost.” Read more: Fox New York/AP

 

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: Mostly cloudy in the morning, then overcast. High of 59. Breezy. Winds from the SE at 10 to 20 mph. Thursday night: Overcast with a chance of rain. Fog overnight. Low of 54. Winds from the South at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 30%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Let’s Make a Movie

Starting at 4 p.m., come take part in a film screening and discussion on “Let’s Make a Movie” at the Douglaston Library.  The movie, written, directed and edited by Queens native Elana Mugdan, is the story of a college dropout and former film student who wants to turn her life around by making a movie with friends. The award-winning film was shot mainly in Queens. Mugdan will introduce the film and answer questions afterward. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Innovative bus system could alleviate traffic in Queens

Congestion along a busy Queens roadway could be alleviated with the help of innovative bus service technology. Read more: New York Daily News

NY Senate group removes Malcolm Smith after arrest

A small group of Democratic New York senators who share majority control of the Senate with Republicans has kicked out one of its members who was charged in a federal corruption case. Read more: NBC New York

St. John’s students angry at choice of Rep. Pete King as commencement speaker

The selection of Rep. Peter King as the commencement speaker at St. John’s University in Queens has sparked an uproar among students angry about his history of controversial comments about Muslims. Read more: New York Daily News

9/11 World Trade Center victim identified

New York City’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner has identified the remains of a 55-year-old man who died in the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Read more: Fox New York

Police: Person of interest sought in Brooklyn bomb scare

Police are looking for a man they want to question in connection with a bomb scare in Brooklyn. Read more: CBS New York

President Barack Obama, gun control supporters vow to fight on

President Barack Obama and his gun control allies say Senate rejection of expanded background checks and other restrictions won’t stop their drive to reduce firearms violence. Read more: ABC New York/AP

FBI arrests Mississippi man in ricin letter case

he FBI arrested a Mississippi man on Wednesday in connection with letters sent to President Barack Obama and two other officials that are believed to have contained the deadly poison ricin, the U.S. Justice Department said. Read more: Reuters

Up to 15 dead after fire and blast at Texas fertilizer plant

A fiery explosion tore through a fertilizer plant and leveled dozens of homes in a small Texas town late on Wednesday, killing as many as 15 people, injuring more than 160 others and spewing toxic fumes that forced the evacuation of half the community, authorities said. Read more: Reuters 

Eyes on possible Malcolm Smith replacement


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The charges against State Senator Malcolm Smith already have the political world swirling with rumors on a potential replacement if the embattled legislator is found guilty.

Councilmember Leroy Comrie and Jason Hilliard, chief of staff for Congressmember Gregory Meeks, were both reported to be eyeing the spot.

But Comrie, a candidate for borough president, said he doesn’t have any plans to drop out and switch his focus to Albany. Right now Comrie is focused on the race for Borough Hall – an election the deputy majority leader is confident he can win.

“I’m only focused on winning and becoming the next borough president,” Comrie told The Courier. “I’m very confident that many people think I can be the next borough president.”

Even if Smith is expelled from the Senate, Comrie said he is not considering a run, as right now the former is still a senator and only charged with the offenses.

Hilliard did not immediately comment.

If Smith is convicted of a felony, he will automatically be removed from the Senate under state law, thus forcing a special election.

 

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Cuomo cracks down on public corruption


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Governor Cuomo's Flickr

BY CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND TERENCE M. CULLEN

In light of several recent political scandals, including the arrests of Queens legislators Malcolm Smith and Dan Halloran, Governor Andrew Cuomo is cracking down on corruption.

He announced the Public Trust act on Tuesday, April 9, which would make it easier to convict wrongdoers of public corruption under broader legal definitions.

“Preventing public corruption is essential to ensuring that government works and can effectively keep the public’s trust,” said Cuomo. “The Public Trust Act recognizes that crimes of public corruption should be treated more seriously than other white-collar crimes because when they break the law, they also break the public trust that the people have placed in government.”

Crimes expanded under the new legislation include bribery of a public servant, defrauding the government and failure to report public corruption.

The Public Trust Act would also limit immunity for witnesses testifying before a grand jury investigating official misconduct or government fraud.

“We welcome these important new tools that Governor Cuomo is proposing today. They will strengthen our laws and make it possible for prosecutors to more effectively investigate and prosecute public corruption,” said District Attorney Richard Brown.

If they’re found guilty of corruption-related offenses, legislators or associates will face tougher jail sentences.
Anyone convicted would also be prohibited them from “holding any elected or civil office, lobbying, contracting, receiving state funding, or doing business with the state, directly or through an organization.”

Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi, who chairs the chamber’s Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee, told Community Board 9 on April 9 that the Smith debacle was “one of the stupidest scandals” he ever saw.

Hevesi, whose father, Alan, is on parole after being convicted on a “pay-to-play” scandal, said Cuomo’s reforms would do away with government loopholes.

“Part of the reform that Governor Cuomo has brought today is called ending the Wilson Pakula system,” Hevesi said.

“When you’re talking about checks and balances for a bad system, the governor announced today that that’s one of the things he’s looking at.”

The Wilson Pakula Certificate requires three of the five borough party chiefs to approve a candidate from another party to run for office as a member of their own party. In Smith’s case, the Democrat needed the green light from three Republican party chairs.

Hevesi’s committee will soon push for its own legislation that will help investigate the misuse of state funds or poor behavior by elected officials. Because the last few chairs had short tenures on the committee, Hevesi said it’s been hard to get long-term legislation put through.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo, in a statement, said the legislation put forth by Cuomo was long-awaited but the first step.

Addabbo testified before the Attorney General earlier this year on the need for campaign finance reform – another effort to help clean up Albany and party politics.

“It shouldn’t take a number of recently-arrested elected officials to wake up the Legislature to enact tougher ethics and anti-corruption laws. In Albany, it’s long overdue,” Addabbo said. “I am hopeful that the State Legislature expands on these proposals and explores other means of addressing the issue, such as passing campaign finance reform, along with other pending legislative measures.”

 

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Leaders call for changing of the guard in Queens GOP


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photos

Former Republican Councilmember Thomas Ognibene says there needs to be a change-up in the Queens GOP after years of infighting and what he called a negative influence by former vice chair Vince Tabone.

“I’ve believed for the last three to four years that it [leadership] had to be changed,” said Ognibene, who served in the Council from 1991 to 2001 and was the minority leader.

Tabone is charged with accepting $40,000 in bribe money to sign the Wilson Pakula certificate, to greenlight State Senator Malcolm Smith as a Republican for mayor. He resigned as vice chair on Wednesday, April 3, a day after his arrest.

Phil Ragusa currently chairs the Queens GOP.

The ideal person to replace Ragusa if he were to step down, Ognibene and others have said, would be former Congressmember Bob Turner, who lost a Republican U.S. Senate primary last summer and whose congressional district was cut up thanks to redistricting.

On calls to step down, Ragusa said he does not plan on giving up his position, as he’s not linked to the charges.

“We’re just moving ahead,” he said. “One person should not be able to affect the whole Queens GOP.”

Ognibene, now practicing law on Long Island, said the allegation that Tabone frisked a cooperating witness for a microphone was proof he was up to no good.

“That’s evidence of a guilty conscious,” Ognibene said.

Ragusa and Ognibene came into a leadership battle two years ago when a sect of the party voted to elect the latter as the GOP chair. A separate pact voted for Ragusa at the same time, with a judge finally ruling that Ragusa was rightful leader of the party.

While he was saddened by the allegations against Councilmember Dan Halloran, Ognibene said the alleged actions of some shouldn’t reflect on the GOP as a whole and “the Party will go on.”

A replacement for Tabone has not yet been named, Ragusa said.

“We’re going through our process and we haven’t named anybody right now,” he said.

 

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Constituents, community leaders react to Smith, Halloran arrest


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photos

Those represented by State Senator Malcolm Smith and those by Councilmember Dan Halloran are weighing in on the scandal that alleges the two tried to rig the upcoming mayoral election.

Despite the charges, Smith’s neighbors in St. Albans called the senator a morally sound leader.

“I’ve known the family for years, and they’ve always been good to me,” said a friend, who did not want to be named. “As a neighbor, he’s treated me well and that’s all I know.”

Constituent India Holloway said Smith is held to a higher standard.

“He’s a senator, he knows what’s right,” she said. “He’s supposed to be an upstanding citizen. He represents all of us. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong, and he should uphold that.”

Residents of northeast Queens, which Halloran represents a bulk of, have mixed reactions to the charges against the councilmember.

Malba Civic Association President Alfredo Centola said he wanted the Queens GOP to push for a Republican candidate to challenge Halloran in a primary for the upcoming District 19 election. Regardless of the charges, Centola, a registered Republican, said he didn’t think the councilmember should drop out of the race.

“I believe in the innocent until proven guilty,” Centola said. “I don’t think [Halloran dropping out] is a fair request at this point. But the GOP needs to save face.”

Smith was elected president of the State Senate in 2010, when the Democrats took the majority of the Chamber for the first time in nearly 45 years. As president, and without a Lieutenant Governor in New York at the time, Smith was in a position to take over the state, had anything happened to then-Governor David Paterson.

The Republican Minority ended up leading a coup to take over the Senate in 2009 when it recruited two freshman Democratic senators, Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada, Jr., to switch allegiances. Smith was able to retain power, however, by forcing the two renegades back to their side of the aisle.

In an ironic twist, Smith announced last year that he would join the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) and effectively helped put a tandem leadership in between the IDC and Republicans.

Now that Smith has been stripped of his IDC roles, a Senate colleague said it would be easier to get legislation on the floor, but, under a tougher Republican leadership, passing issues such as campaign finance reform and reproductive rights would be harder.

Reverend Floyd Flake, senior pastor of the Greater Allen A. M. E. Cathedral of New York and a former congressmember, who helped launch Smith’s political career, said he was surprised when he heard the news.
“[I was] more than shocked I think,” said Flake.

The former lawmaker added he’s placed several calls to Smith’s home since the arrest and is still waiting to hear back from the embattled senator.

Halloran, who was believed to have been a former cop, but was only a cadet, made an unsuccessful bid as a Republican for the newly-drawn Congressional District 6, but ultimately lost to now-Congressmember Grace Meng.

During his tenure, Halloran made waves in his first year by accusing the Department of Sanitation of a work slowdown during the 2010 Blizzard that crippled the city for days. An inquiry by the Department of Investigation, however, turned up no organized slowdown of work.

Halloran, reportedly facing financial difficulties because of his 2010 divorce, his mortgage and a 2005 promissory note to the woman from whom he bought his house, has been endorsed for his re-election by several fire and police unions, including the Police Captains Endowment Association (PCEA). Roy Richter, president of PCEA, said the union hasn’t decided whether or not to revoke its backing.

— With Additional Reporting by Maggie Hayes

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: Clear. High of 48. Winds from the WNW at 5 to 20 mph shifting to the SSW in the afternoon.Thursday night: Partly cloudy. Low of 37. Winds from the SSW at 5 to 20 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Diverse Visions of Reality Gallery Exhibit

Federico Castelluccio, who played Furio in The Sopranos, co-presents 11 painters who will exhibit two works each during the
Diverse Visions of Reality Gallery Exhibit at the Diego Salazar Art Studios & Gallery in LIC. The show runs from the April 4 (opening reception) through May 4. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Rash of burglaries prompt emergency meeting in Forest Hills

A rash of burglaries in Forest Hills prompted an emergency community meeting on Tuesday to address rising concerns. Read more: New York Daily News

NYC mayoral candidates spar after ballot bribe scandal

One day after prosecutors charged State Sen. Malcolm Smith for allegedly trying to bribe his way into the mayor’s race, some of the candidates who actually are running for the job showed how the scandal could impact the election. Read more: NBC New York

NYPD cop arrested at JFK on robbery, drug charges

An off-duty New York City police officer has been arrested on charges related to armed robbery and narcotics trafficking. Read more: Fox New York

Report: 18 potential human remains found in WTC debris

A total of 18 pieces that might be human remains were found in debris from around the World Trade Center, according to a published report. Read more: CBS New York

Jay Leno to Exit ‘Tonight Show,’ Jimmy Fallon in the wings

It’s the end of an era. Ending weeks of speculation, NBC confirmed today that after 22 years, Jay Leno will step down as the host of “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” next spring. Jimmy Fallon, now the star of “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” will take over shortly thereafter. Read more: ABC News

North Korea moves missiles, but no sign of imminent attack

North Korea has moved a missile with “considerable range” to its east coast, South Korea’s defense minister said Thursday, but he added that there are no signs that Pyongyang is preparing for a full-scale conflict. Read more: ABC New York/AP

EXCLUSIVE: FBI questioned Queens pols last year over GOP probe


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photos

Councilmember Eric Ulrich and ex-Congressmember Bob Turner were two of many Queens leaders questioned in the FBI’s probe into the county’s GOP last year, The Courier has learned.

“At some point during this investigation, I was questioned by the FBI, as were many other people,” said Ulrich, 28. “I told them what I knew on firsthand knowledge. I also told them what I thought was hearsay.”

Many in the southern Queens district, including former district leaders and candidates, were questioned in person by FBI agents last year into dealings with the party, Ulrich said.

“It’s a federal crime to lie to an FBI agent. I told them the truth or what I knew to be true. What I didn’t know at the time was that there already was an investigation into the Queens County Republican Party,” he said.

The agency launched its investigation into the party last May amid allegations Board of Elections employees may have used their positions to further their careers as political consultants, the New York Post reported.

State Senator Malcolm Smith, Councilmember Dan Halloran, Queens County GOP vice chair Vincent Tabone and Bronx County GOP chair Joseph Savino were part of a group of six officials arrested by the FBI yesterday for conspiring to rig the mayoral election, authorities said.

Smith, a registered Democrat, needed consent from three of the city’s five GOP county chairmen to appear on the Republican ballot for city’s 2013 mayoral election.

He allegedly bribed Tabone and Savino with $40,000 in cash payouts for their support, according to the Southern District U.S. Attorney and FBI.

Halloran is accused of setting up meetings between Smith and county leaders and negotiating the bribes. He allegedly pocketed nearly $21,000 in cash in exchange for his help, officials said.

“I had known for a long time that Vince Tabone was a corrupt person and that he was involved in illegal activity,” Ulrich said. “But I never thought in a million years I would wake up one morning and read about Dan Halloran being implicated in a crime like this. The Dan Halloran that I knew has been a very honest person that works very hard.”

The lawmaker, who did not disclose further details of the investigation, claims Tabone solicited money in the past in exchange for county support.

Ulrich said he cautioned Halloran — his only other Queens GOP colleague in the Council — to stay away from county leaders.

“I had warned Dan a million times. I said these are bad people, and he agreed with me. That’s why I’m so shocked,” Ulrich said. “Dan knew these people were unscrupulous, notorious bad apples.”

Party chair Phil Ragusa called on Tabone to resign, pending the outcome of legal proceedings, according to a statement released by the Queens GOP.

But Ulrich said the “compromised county” needs Ragusa to step down as well and elect Turner as their new leader.

Ragusa has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but Ulrich said that could easily change during the course of the probe.

“Who’s to say what Vince Tabone and others might tell the FBI now that they’ve been arrested,” Ulrich said. “I think they’ll tell everything they know to save their own skin.”

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Wednesday: Clear in the morning, then partly cloudy. High of 48. Breezy. Winds from the WNW at 20 to 25 mph with gusts to 30 mph. Wednesday night: Clear. Low of 30 with a windchill as low as 23. Breezy. Winds from the NW at 10 to 25 mph

EVENT OF THE DAY: Spectacle: The Music Video

Spectacle: The Music Video at the Museum of the Moving Image explores the history and art of music videos in a first-of-its-kind exhibit. With 300 videos, artifacts and interactive installations it shows the cultural influence of music videos over the past 35 years, emphasizing their role in new creative technology and how they have pushed the boundaries of creative production. On view April 3-June 16. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Manhunt under way in Kissena Park after suspects flee

The NYPD is searching Kissena Park in Queens after officers pursued robbery suspects into the park Wednesday morning. Read more: ABC New York

Arrest in Forest Park attempted rape

Four days after a female jogger was attacked in Forest Park, police arrested Richard Kassebaum, 42, in connection with the assault. Read more: The Queens Courier 

Massive fire tears through concrete plant in Queens

A massive second-alarm fire burned through a concrete plant in Queens overnight. Read more: ABC New York

Pols, constituents shocked by Sen. Malcolm Smith bribery charge

After spending years under an ethical cloud, state Sen. Malcolm Smith’s arrest Tuesday was less surprising to many of his Albany colleagues than what he was actually arrested for.  Read more: New York Daily News 

Jackson Heights leaders push for slow zone on Northern Blvd.

A rash of accidents along Northern Boulevard could be a sign that the northwestern Queens thoroughfare is becoming the new “Boulevard of Death.” Read more: New York Daily News

Obama, in Colorado, to press for gun measures

In danger of losing congressional momentum, President Barack Obama is drawing attention to Colorado’s newly passed gun control laws as he applies public pressure on Congress to pass similar federal measures. Read more: AP

Rockaway residents promised involvement in rebuilding


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen

State Senator Malcolm Smith has vowed the Rockaways will be united in recovering from the devastation of Sandy, and that residents who have suffered will have a role in determining how to use billions of dollars in federal aid coming to the area.

“We are going to do a meeting every month from now until next year at this time,” Smith said, “so that you have an opportunity not only to hear our report as to what we think is going on, but you can get back to us and tell us whether it’s going on or not.”

At a Thursday, December 13 forum to gauge how federal relief money should be spent, residents took to the floor to tell elected officials where the money needs to go. The Senate task force, co-chaired by Smith and Staten Island Senator Andrew Lanza, can then take this information back to Governor Andrew Cuomo to ensure the money is allocated to the area for what is most needed.

Better infrastructure, community engagement and more jobs are some of the things Rockaway residents said the peninsula needs moving forward from the storm. Some suggested raising houses a level up to prevent some of the damage caused by flooding when the ocean met the bay. An architect recommended homes be rebuilt with energy efficiency to keep the cost of living at a decent price.

Sharon Plummer, whose son was murdered five months ago on Beach 38th Street and Seger Avenue, implored Smith and other officials to use some of this funding for after school programs that could eventually decrease crime in the area.

Along with promising a monthly meeting, guaranteed for at least a year, Smith said people from every corner of the peninsula have to work together on this task force.

“This is the first night of the beginning of a 12-month process in which the Rockaways is going to be completely united,” Smith said. “Sandy was an equal opportunity destroyer. She didn’t care if you were black, white, poor, rich — it didn’t matter.”

Smith’s move could stymie State Senate Democrats


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Malcolm Smith #8

State Senator Malcolm Smith, representing southeast Queens, announced he joined the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) in an allegiance with Republican representatives. This will possibly give the pact a tandem leadership of the chamber and stymie the Democrats, who seemingly took power in November’s election.

The tenured senator is now joining a coalition that will split power between two of the three sects in the Senate, with incumbent Senate Leader Dean Skelos switching every two weeks with Bronx IDC Senator Jeff Klein.

Klein’s spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

Smith wants to focus more on policy than politicking, said spokesperson Hank Sheinkopf.

In 2009, two freshman Democrat state senators joined Republicans to vote for a change that would have effectively removed Smith as senate leader.

The two senators later retracted and sided back with Dems.

“As someone who has been a victim of a coup,” Sheinkopf said, “and has seen chaos, this would be the best way to ensure that there would be no chaos. He wanted to make sure that it didn’t happen again.”

The senator, whose district will no longer include the storm-ravaged Rockaways, wants to focus on better transit, among other issues concerning the state, Sheinkopf said.

Though Smith is joining a coalition that will be allied with Republican senators, Sheinkopf said Smith remains a Democrat.

And while some Democrats are cautiously optimistic, others are appalled by what is known of the plan so far. Senator Joseph Addabbo, one of the Queens senators in office during the 2009 leadership crisis, said the Senate is at a crossroads right now. If power is split between all three sects of the higher house, GOP, IDC and Democrats, then a true allied government could be productive. However, should there be what Addabbo called a continued blockage by Skelos against Democratic bills, constituents will suffer as a result and the progress of government will get nowhere.

The New York State Senate Democratic Conference released statements following the news of Smith’s move, and claimed Republicans ultimately hurt constituents by holding up the legislative process.

“This is not a coalition but a coup against all New Yorkers who voted for Democratic control of the Senate and a progressive state government,” said Democratic spokesperson Mike Murphy. “Sadly, the real victims of today’s announcement are the people of our state, whose clearly expressed desire for progress on a host of issues will now be scuttled.”

Senator Jose Peralta, also a candidate for borough president, said he always had a great relationship with Smith and looked forward to continuing that despite the move, focusing on borough-wide issues and doing whatever possible to enact legislation at the state level.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Senator Malcolm Smith in the legislature in Albany and in communities in Queens,” Peralta said. “While I am deeply disappointed that he will not be a member of the Senate Democratic Conference, I will work to keep open a line of communication between Senator Smith and the conference and am hopeful he will fight to enact long-overdue sensible gun legislation, raise the minimum wage, improve our schools and ensure access to decent, affordable housing for all New Yorkers.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo, in an editorial for the Albany Times-Union, noted that he would not support either side at this time, or discuss the actions of particular legislators.

He did note, however, that the Democrat-led senate, which held power from 2009 to 2011, had failed to pass much legislation and cited leadership crises during that time. In addition, the governor listed what legislation he supported, including a minimum wage increase and reform to the much-discussed stop-and-frisk policy.

“The Democratic Conference was in power for two years and squandered the opportunity, failing to pass any meaningful reform legislation despite repeated promises,” he wrote. “The Democratic Conference dysfunction was legendary and the current leadership has failed to come to a cooperative agreement with Mr. Klein’s IDC faction.”

Murphy, in a statement responding to the op-ed, said the governor’s agenda was almost a match to members of the conference. Democratic senators, he said, would continue to fight for New Yorkers’ wants and needs and jeer the Republicans for any missteps in constituents’ needs.

“The governor has now presented a similar agenda including many issues the new Republican Coalition has opposed,” he said. “Senate Democrats will continue to lead the fight on this progressive agenda, and we will hold the Senate Republican Coalition accountable until New Yorkers get the progressive change they deserve.”

Bill would toughen punishment for illegal guns


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

The day before a man shot and killed a former co-worker near the Empire State Building, State Senator Malcolm Smith and Assemblymember William Scarborough introduced a bill that would increase the punishment for illegal gun possession.

The legislation would change the penalty from a class A misdemeanor to a class D felony, which has a sentence of at least five years in prison.

“We need a comprehensive approach through new legislation as well as through new gun detection technology,” said Scarborough. “This bill underscores the need for stricter gun laws in this city and state, especially because of all of the gun violence plaguing this city.”

Police said that Jeffrey Johnson bought the .45 caliber handgun that he used to kill Steven Ercolino August 24 legally in Florida in 1991, but illegally brought it to New York.

New York City does not honor gun permits from other states.

“Whether or not the shooting today involved an illegal gun, the fact remains that guns are in people’s hands and they are using them. We need to send a clear message in this state and to the people of New York City, that if you have a gun in your possession and you shouldn’t have it, you are going away,” said Smith.

At a recent gun buyback event in Jamaica, co-sponsored by Smith, 509 guns were surrendered.

 

Queens gun buyback brings in more than 500 weapons


| tpetropoulosedit@queenscourier.com

File photo

With no questions asked, hundreds of people walked into New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Jamaica and turned in 509 guns over the weekend.

The gun buyback program, the first since 2009, netted an AK 47, tec-9, 245 revolvers, 168 semi-automatic pistols and a Calico 9mm with a 50 round capacity magazine.

Participants received $200 for handguns and $20 for rifles and shotguns in exchange for their weapons.

“I’m excited about [the gun buyback program], not in a good way, because I wish all these guns were not on the street, but I am excited that they are coming in,” said State Senator Malcolm Smith, who co-sponsored the program with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “With the feedback we had today, I am encouraged that the people are starting to say ‘You know what, enough is enough, I am going to be part of the solution.’”

As of August 5, shootings have seen a nine percent increase in New York City this year compared to last year, with 882 shooting incidents so far, according to NYPD data.

“I am all for this gun buyback program,” said Donna Hood, a member of the New Jerusalem Baptist Church who lost a son, Kevin Lamont Miller Jr., to a stray bullet in Jamaica in 2009. “I still have a son to raise, so if this program will make it a little safer for kids that we still have on the streets, that’s alright with me.”

Malcolm Smith denies Republican run for mayor


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Malcolm Smith #8

Conflicting reports have come out about a Democrat state senator considering a run for mayor next year as a Republican.

The New York Post reported on Wednesday, August 1, that State Senator Malcolm Smith, who was the majority leader when the party held the senate, was in talks with the state Republican party about running in 2013. The Post reported that Smith confirmed he was in talks with the party.

A spokesperson for the senator, however, said the six-term state lawmaker was focusing on his re-election campaign for the 14th District, which is made up of the Rockaways and areas of southeast Queens.

“Malcolm Smith is focused on running for re-election for New York State Senator for which he has proudly served the people of the 14th electorial district over 12 years,” the spokesperson said. “He is honored that party leaders are considering him for the office of the mayor of New York City but no decision has been made.”

At deadline, state GOP chair Ed Cox had not responded to a call for comment.

If Smith was to run as a Republican, he would need backing from party leaders in at least three boroughs.

Queens GOP chair Phil Ragusa said neither the party, nor Smith, had contacted Republicans in the borough about getting an endorsement. He went on to say that Smith — if he does decide to run for the GOP — would most likely not pass the party’s screening process.

“We ask a question if you’ve ever done anything that would embarrass yourself, or the Republican party, and I don’t think he could pass that test,” Ragusa said.

Republicans have won almost every mayoral election over the last 20 years. Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani won in 1993 and 1997; incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg won in 2001 and 2005. Bloomberg won his third term as an Independent in 2009, after changing party affiliation in 2007.

Other Democrats, who have discussed running as Democrats, include City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and former City Comptroller Bill Thompson.