Tag Archives: NYC mayoral race

Liu confident going into mayoral primary

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo and video by Liam La Guerre

This pol is out to prove the polls wrong come the fall primary.

Mayoral candidate and City Comptroller John Liu still believes he can win the Democratic nomination even though recent polls put him well behind his opponents.

“I have a very clear shot of winning on September 10,” said Liu when he recently sat down with The Courier’s editorial board.

An August 13 Quinnipiac University poll found only 6 percent of likely Democratic primary voters would elect Liu. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio placed first in the poll with 30 percent, followed by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn with 24 percent, former Comptroller Bill Thompson with 22 percent and former Congressmember Anthony Weiner with 10 percent.

“You look at the poll numbers and my numbers have been consistent – consistently low,” said Liu.

However, he argued those numbers are flawed. Liu said they are good at measuring long-established voting groups, but not emerging ones including Asians.

But he does not fault the pollsters, admitting it is difficult to survey a demographic group that includes numerous languages and dialects.

He points to his comptroller win four years ago, when he became the first Asian-American elected to citywide office, as an example of the polls’ faulty methodology.

“In 2009 the pundits and so-called political experts gave me no chance of winning the city comptroller election. Well, at the end of the day, it wasn’t even that close.”

Among his other challenges heading into the fall Democratic primary, Liu lost out on about $3.5 million in campaign public matching funds.

The city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB) on August 5 denied him the money because it had “reason to believe” violations had been committed involving the campaign’s fundraising.

Though Liu was never accused of any wrongdoing, the CFB said he was “ultimately responsible for the campaign’s compliance with the law.”

Liu is planning on appealing, but told The Courier it was “relatively meaningless” because the earliest decision would not occur until a few days before the primary.

“I vehemently disagree with any of those characterizations [the CFB] made,” said Liu. “What they said about my campaign is the same scurrilous, baseless innuendo that I’ve been facing for years now.”

If elected, Liu – the only candidate from Queens – said he would seek to “bring back a level of attention to [the borough] that we have not seen for many years.”

Discussing some of his citywide plans with The Courier, Liu said he has a “very comprehensive way to overhaul the school system.”

That includes starting children in school earlier, at age 3, giving students better access to computers and the Internet to close the digital divide and better preparing them for post-secondary education.

“High school has to be geared not towards high school graduation but towards eventual college graduation,” said Liu.

Liu also discussed his stance against the police department’s stop-and-frisk policy, saying it deploys “resources wide and thin.” He added that he would not keep Ray Kelly as NYPD Commissioner if elected mayor.

He also wants to greatly reduce fines and penalties for small businesses and reduce their taxes.

“Too many people consider [the city] a playground for the rich,” said Liu. “The middle class is shrinking. The working men and women are being left behind. I think we have to restore the promise of what New York is.”




Mayoral candidates take on tech at forum

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Mayoral candidates discussed ways to improve the city’s booming technology industry during the Mayoral Tech Policy Forum on June 17 at the Museum of the Moving Image.

The Coalition for Queens, which fosters the tech community in the borough, hosted the event. It brought out more than 100 techies.

“Technology affects everything from all the different industries,” said JuKay Hsu, founder of the Coalition for Queens. “I think it should be a large part of everything the candidates do.”

Former Councilmember Sal Albanese, former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr., City Comptroller John Liu and former Congressman Anthony Weiner took part in the discussion.

To kick off the forum, moderators asked the candidates to reveal what their smart phones, carriers and favorite apps are.

Albanese has a BlackBerry Bold with Verizon and likes the Major League Baseball app; Carrion carries an iPhone with Verizon and frequently listens to Pandora; Liu has an iPhone with AT&T service and also likes Pandora; and Weiner said he has both a BlackBerry and an iPhone, but did not name his carriers or his favorite app.

Moderators Anjali Athavaley of The Wall Street Journal and Nilay Patel of The Verge emphasized the event was not a debate. But the cast of former and current public officials did not miss a chance to promote their campaigns while answering questions collected from social media and tech communities.

Topics included tech jobs, startup companies, housing for workers, digital media and education in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The candidates all praised Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to boost the tech industry, but agreed more could be done. Ideas included increasing the city’s broadband infrastructure.

Discussing technology in schools, Wiener suggested that all students carry Kindles in their backpacks instead of 40-pound books. He later clarified he was not supporting Amazon, which makes and sells the Kindle, but mentioned the device as one example of e-readers.

The roundtable also touched on “disrupters” such as Uber. The app, which allows people to schedule a cab instead of hailing one, has come under fire from the Taxi and Limousine Commission. But Weiner drew some laughs about the subject in general.

“I like the disrupter title. I’d like to think I’ve done that to the mayoral campaign,” he said, adding, “We want you to be a successful tech company, but we don’t want you to undermine the laws.”

Building more affordable housing for tech workers and having more office space for companies was another popular idea at the forum.



Anthony Weiner speaks with The Queens Courier

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo and video by Melissa Chan

A few days after announcing his candidacy for New York City mayor via a YouTube video, Anthony Weiner returned to the Queens community he represented for over a decade in Congress to sit down with several weekly papers including The Courier.

“Community papers have been a fundamental part of the way that I’ve always wanted to communicate with citizens I’ve represented,” Weiner explained. “And frankly, in the mayor’s race it’s going to be the same way.”

The Democratic hopeful also stopped by a Rockaway community meeting the same day he sat down with The Courier.

“There’s really been two times [since] I’ve left Congress that I’ve really felt a sense of real regret, that I’ve missed it, and one of them was when Sandy hit my district,” Weiner said.

“There are some risks that come with living near the water, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do everything we can to mitigate them,” he continued.

Among major issues affecting Queens, Weiner also discussed development including a possible new soccer stadium, Willets Point and the expansion of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Weiner said his default position is the belief “we should be developing and that we should try to create jobs and that we should try to create economic activity in places outside of Manhattan.”

He said he was somewhat conflicted about expanding the tennis center, even voting against the move when he was on the City Council. But Weiner said generally speaking, he is in favor of the three projects and wants to see them move forward. He added he wants to leave himself some wiggle room on details of the soccer stadium.

Addressing issues concerning voters citywide, Weiner expressed a desire to ease health care costs for middle class New Yorkers and help small business owners deal more easily with burdensome summonses.

Weiner outlined those ideas in more detail in his “64 Ideas to Keep New York the Capital of the Middle Class” pamphlet that he put online shortly before he made his campaign announcement.

Describing his philosophy, Weiner told The Courier, “Don’t build a campaign on a foundation of endorsements and money.”

“Good ideas are something people honor, even ideas they might not agree with,” he added.

Below is video of more of what he discussed.



Halloran, Smith enter not guilty pleas

| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photos

Two Queens politicians and a borough GOP boss pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, April 23 in a federal case alleging they conspired to rig the mayoral election, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

State Senator Malcolm Smith, Councilmember Dan Halloran and Queens County Republican Party Vice Chair Vincent Tabone face bribery, conspiracy and wire fraud charges.

Bronx County GOP Chair Joseph Savino, Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret also entered not guilty pleas.

Prosecutors say Smith, a registered Democrat, sought to bribe county GOP leaders to let him run for mayor as a Republican. He needed consent from three county chairs to appear on this year’s GOP line.

According to indictment details, Smith discussed the possibility of being cheated by county chairs with an undercover FBI agent.

“The worst part about that is, when you screw somebody over money like that […] you’re looking over your shoulder all the rest of your life,” he allegedly said.

“Business is business,” he continued. “They understand. You don’t take somebody’s money and just go, you know. Life is too short, I’m telling you. It comes back around fast.”

The state senator, elected in 2000, is also charged with plotting to misuse $500,000 in state funds, the indictment said.

Halloran is accused of setting up meetings between Smith and county bosses and negotiating payoffs.

He also agreed to give an undercover FBI agent $80,000 in City Council discretionary funds in exchange for cash to fuel his 2012 congressional campaign, according to the indictment.

The councilmember allegedly pocketed nearly $39,000 in cash and $6,500 in campaign checks, authorities said.

Tabone and Savino took at least $40,000 in cash bribes for their support, according to court papers.

An attorney for Tabone said the married father of three is “innocent of all charges.”

“Vince Tabone has never before been accused or convicted of any crime and has been an attorney in good standing for the last 13 years,” said his lawyer, Deborah Misir. “We are confident that when all the facts become clear, Vince Tabone will be fully exonerated.”

Lawyers for the other defendants could not be immediately reached.



Indictment in Smith, Halloran mayoral bribery case

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photos

A federal grand jury has indicted State Senator Malcolm Smith and Councilmember Dan Halloran for an alleged bribery plot to rig the mayoral race.

Vincent Tabone, vice chair of the Queens County Republican Party, Joseph Savino, chair of the Bronx County GOP, Mayor Noramie Jasmin of Spring Valley, and the deputy mayor, Joseph Desmaret, were also named in yesterday’s indictment.

According to the indictment, Smith, a Democrat, with the help of Halloran, a Republican, tried to bribe his way into a GOP bid for mayor.

Smith needed approval from three of the city’s five GOP county chairmen to appear on the ballot as a Republican.

“We’re going to enter a plea of not guilty. The charges are ill-founded and we look forward to a time when Senator Smith can put this behind him,” said Smith’s attorney, Gerald Shargel Thursday, according to NBC New York.

The defendants are reportedly scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in White Plains federal court.




Democratic candidates tackle tough issues at Queens mayoral debate

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Four of five Democrats running for mayor would do away with stop-and-frisk or severely tweak it if they make it to Gracie Mansion.

City Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and ex-Comptroller Bill Thompson said they were opposed to the controversial police tactic at a Queens mayoral debate last week. Former Councilmember Sal Albanese said it needed to be modified.

Front-runner City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was a no-show at the April 11 forum and has not publicly announced her stance on the issue.

“You think you’re reading about some third world dictatorship, not America and certainly not the City of New York,” Liu said. “It has to be abolished. That’s the way to . . . return our city to a state where it’s less of a police state and more of a city that we all came to America to see.”

The four candidates said the NYPD policy has caused rifts between police and communities. Liu, de Blasio and Thompson lambasted the practice as racial profiling.

“Somehow they’re being treated as suspects as a whole class of people,” de Blasio said of young minority males.

The public advocate also supported a plan to allow an inspector general to monitor the city’s police department. He and Thompson called for a new police commissioner, a mayoral appointment, to replace current department head Ray Kelly.

“Stop and frisk, when used correctly, is a useful policing tool,” Thompson said. “But it has been misused and abused by Bloomberg and by Commissioner Ray Kelly.”

Albanese said he would keep the policy in tact but would “focus on quality stops” and officer training. He also supported legalizing marijuana, but did not say if he would give Kelly the boot.

The mayoral hopefuls also discussed the city’s “abysmal” response to Sandy, the need to repair the public school system and plans to fix the city’s income gap.

Liu and de Blasio were in favor of hiking city taxes on incomes of more than $500,000 annually. Thompson said focusing on skill development in public schools would help close the city’s income gap.

“I always talk about the ‘tale of two cities’ we’re living,” de Blasio said. “It’s right in front of our eyes, these vast disparities that are going unaddressed.”

Albanese touted the 1996 passage of the New York City Living Wage Bill under his City Council tenure. But he warned against raising taxes on the wealthy, saying it would push the rich out of the city.

“It’s very sexy to say, ‘Let’s tax the rich.’ Bottom line is we want to generate revenue from services,” he said.

Liu, who wants to increase minimum wage to $11.50 an hour, said there was no evidence of wealthy residents hightailing it out of the city.

“I think it’s time that we stop holding our city hostage to those kinds of ideas,” he said.



UPDATE: State Senator Malcolm Smith, Councilmember Dan Halloran arrested in alleged plot to rig mayor’s race

| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photos

Two Queens politicians were among six officials arrested by the FBI Tuesday for conspiring to rig the mayoral election, authorities said.

State Senator Malcolm Smith allegedly bribed county GOP leaders to let him run for mayor as a Republican, according to the Southern District U.S. Attorney and FBI.

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

“Elected officials are called public servants because they are supposed to serve the people,” FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said in a statement. “They broke the law and the public trust. There is a price to pay for that kind of betrayal.”

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

Vincent Tabone, vice chair of the Queens County Republican Party, and Joseph Savino, chair of the Bronx County GOP, were allegedly part of the conspiracy scheme, officials said. The pair took at least $40,000 in cash bribes in return for their support, a 28-page federal criminal complaint detailed.

“Today’s charges demonstrate, once again, that a show-me-the-money culture seems to pervade every level of New York government,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. “Smith drew up the game plan and Councilman Halloran essentially quarterbacked that drive by finding party chairmen who were wide open to receiving bribes.”

Halloran also agreed to give an undercover FBI agent, posing as a wealthy real estate developer, $80,000 from City Council discretionary funds in exchange for matching funds for his congressional campaign.

The councilmember received $7,500 in cash on September 7 and $6,500 in checks later that month from the agent.

“That’s politics. It’s all about how much,” Halloran allegedly said to the undercover agent. “And that’s our politicians in New York. They’re all like that.”

The agent allegedly told Smith getting support from county leaders would cost “a pretty penny.”

“But it’s worth it. Because you know how big a deal it is,” Smith said, according to the complaint. “You pull this off, you can have the house . . . I’ll be the tenant.”

Smith struck a deal with the undercover agent, authorities said, to use his Senate position to help obtain state funds for a road project in Spring Valley that would benefit the agent’s posed development company.

Mayor Noramie Jasmin of Spring Valley, and the deputy mayor, Joseph Desmaret, were also arrested in connection with the scheme.

Smith, elected to the State Senate in 2000, was the chair of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) before his power was revoked shortly after the arrest.

IDC Leader and Senate co-leader Jeffrey Klein said Smith should think about resigning.

“I believe that Senator Smith should seriously consider whether or not he can continue to effectively serve his constituents,” Klein said.

Halloran has been the Republican incumbent in Council District 19 since 2009. He is running for re-election this year.

A Council vote next week could strip him of his committee assignments, freezing his ability to make funding allocations, according to Speaker Christine Quinn. Halloran’s case was sent to the Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee.

“These allegations represent a reprehensible abuse of the public’s trust,” Quinn said. “If true, then the full weight of the legal system should be brought to bear on all parties implicated.”

Halloran allegedly wanted to use the bribe money to pay his mortgage, the complaint said. He also urged Smith to appoint him as Deputy Police Commissioner if the hopeful won his bid for mayor.

“You can’t do anything without the f—ing money,” Halloran told the undercover agent, according to the complaint. “Money is what greases the wheels.”

According to Halloran’s spokesperson Kevin Ryan, the lawmaker denies allegations.

The six defendants were arraigned Tuesday in federal court in White Plains, but no pleas were entered.

They were released on $250,000 bonds with travel restrictions and are slated to return to court on April 23.

Meanwhile, Smith’s neighbors 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. “He has always been good to me. 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.”

Todd Shapiro, a spokesperson for Smith, touted the senator’s 13 years of service.

“He will be vindicated when all the facts in the case are revealed,” he said.

-Additional reporting by Maggie Hayes



Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Monday: Partly cloudy with a chance of rain. High of 54. Breezy. Winds from the West at 10 to 20 mph with gusts to 30 mph. Chance of rain 20%. Monday night: Partly cloudy in the evening, then clear. Low of 36. Breezy. Winds from the NW at 10 to 20 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Jazz Appreciation Month at Louis Armstrong House Museum

Come visit the Louis Armstrong House Museum this April as it celebrates Jazz Appreciation Month. Eighty-five  years ago, Louis Armstrong recorded one of his all-time masterpieces, “West End Blues,” one of the most important records in jazz history. For Jazz Appreciation Month, the museum’s historic house tours will feature an ultra rare recording of Louis Armstrong performing “West End Blues” live at Freedomland in 1961. This performance was recently donated to its archives by the son of Freedomland sound engineer Peter Denis. Previously unissued and not in any discographies, it will be featured only during Jazz Appreciation Month. This recording ties into the museum’s current exhibit, Louis Armstrong at Freedomland that closes April 30. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

11 injured in Queens house fire

Fire officials say 11 people have been injured in an early morning fire at a two-family house in Queens. Read more: Fox 5/AP

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall took off more than 40 days in 2012

Where’s the beep? As she wraps up her third term, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall seems to be preparing for retirement early — taking more than 40 days off last year. Read more: New York Daily News

Jon Niese takes hill for New York Mets on Opening Day

Two main attractions will be missing when the New York Mets host San Diego in their season opener Monday. Read more: ABC New York/AP

City to resume search for human remains in Twin Towers’ debris

The grim and sad search for human remains in the debris from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks resumes Monday. Read more: CBS New York

Majority of mayoral candidates send children to public school: News survey

Five of the city’s eight mayoral hopefuls who have children send or have sent their kids to public school.  Read more: New York Daily News

Dolan says the Catholic Church should be more welcoming to gay people

On Easter Sunday, weeks after he helped elect a new pope for a church struggling with declining numbers and controversy over social issues, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said that the Roman Catholic Church could be more welcoming of gay men and lesbians despite opposing same-sex marriage. Read more: New York Times

Immigration deal at hand, focus turns to details

Big business and big labor have settled on a political framework for an immigration overhaul. Now, the lawmakers writing bipartisan legislation need to resolve the nitty-gritty – and keep their parties’ political flanks mollified. Read more: AP

Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Friday: Mostly cloudy with a chance of rain in the afternoon. High of 48. Breezy. Winds from the WSW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 20%. Friday night: Mostly cloudy with a chance of rain in the evening, then overcast with a chance of snow. Low of 32. Winds from the WNW at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation 30% .

EVENT OF THE DAY: Wreck-It Ralph in 3-D at NYSCI

From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes a hilarious, arcade-game-hopping journey in 3-D. Wreck-It Ralph longs to be a hero. So when a new game arrives, he sneaks into it with a plan to win a medal, but soon wrecks everything, and accidentally unleashes a deadly enemy that threatens every game in the arcade. Playing at the New York Hall of Science Friday, March 15 and Friday, March 22 at 5 p.m. $9 adults/$7 children, seniors and students with ID. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Man charged in Queens murders, brush fire due in court

A Brooklyn man is due in court Friday in the murders of two men whose bodies were found in a burning brush fire in Queens. Read more: AP/ABC New York

Census records show more people are moving to NYC

The entrances to the Big Apple are now busier than the exits. For the first time in half a century, more people are moving into the city than moving out, helping to swell the population to a record of 8,336,697, according to Census data released yesterday. Read more: New York Post

Former New York Gov. Pataki endorses John Catsimatidis for NYC mayor

Billionaire mayoral hopeful John Catsimatidis on Thursday picked up his biggest endorsement yet: former Gov. George Pataki. Read more: New York Daily News

David Wright wants to rejoin U.S. Lineup; sore ribs a concern for Mets

David Wright was scratched from the World Baseball Classic game Thursday against the Dominican Republic because of sore ribs, and U.S. manager Joe Torre isn’t expecting him to rejoin the lineup. Read more: CBS New York

Critics wave knives and hockey stick at U.S. air safety hearing

The top U.S. transportation security official on Thursday defended his controversial move to allow small knives to be carried onto airplanes, despite protests from flight attendants and lawmakers who say it will endanger the flying public. Read more: Reuters

How will Pope Francis deal with church sex abuse scandal?

The election of a new pope could help heal the wounds left by a Roman Catholic sex abuse crisis that has savaged the church’s reputation worldwide. For alleged victims, much depends on whether Pope Francis disciplines the priests and the hierarchy that protected them. Read more: AP/ABC New York


Endorsements rolling in for city candidates

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

The following candidates have received backings . . .

New York City Mayor

Former Councilmember Sal Albanese was endorsed by the Transport Workers Union Local 101 in the Democratic mayoral primary, while his opponent City Council Speaker Christine Quinn landed support from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

New York City Comptroller

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer gained the backing of Teamsters Joint Council 16.

City Council District 19

Republican incumbent Dan Halloran bagged an endorsement from the NYPD Captains Endowment Association. Austin Shafran, one of four candidates in the race’s Democratic primary, rolled out boosts from UFCW Local 1500.

City Council District 22

Costa Constantinides got a leg up from Communications Workers of America Local 1180.



Former Councilmember Sal Albanese kicks off mayoral campaign

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Albanese for Mayor 2013

Former Councilmember Sal Albanese, who recently announced he’s running for mayor as an independent Democrat, has high hopes for improving public safety and the city’s education system.

Albanese, who represented mostly Bay Ridge for 14 years, said he was building a campaign based on voter needs and not special interest groups.

“We’re building a grass-roots campaign around the city,” Albanese, 63, told The Courier. “I want to get to City Hall with a broad base of support.”

Albanese spent 11 years as a teacher and said he would partner with education colleges throughout the city and strengthen the student-teacher program if elected mayor.

Albanese said he would hire 3,800 new police .officers for patrols in the outer boroughs where crime might be ignored or under-reported. “If you have nobody on patrol…these things can drive people out of neighborhoods,” he said.

For Queens, Albanese said he would focus on ensuring continued development is done properly, and the borough recovers and rebuilds after Sandy.

All options and effects should be explored before officially jumping on a project such as the proposed Major League Soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. “[It] could really be a positive thing,” he said. “But we have to balance that with the parkland.”

Despite a lengthy term on the council, Albanese has not been in public office for about 15 years and is running in a primary against many Democratic incumbents. Some opponents include: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Comptroller Bill Thompson.

On the Republican front:

Less than a week after his announcement, and after a long-expected endorsement, Republican Mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis picked up the backing of the Queens GOP on Friday, February 1.

“John Catsimatidis has the right experience as an independent businessman to lead New York and solve our city’s problems with common sense,” said party chair Phil Ragusa in a statement. The grocery store magnet is one of only a handful of candidates whose career hasn’t been in public service. Upon his endorsement, Catsimatidis noted his father worked as a bus boy at Riccardo’s in Astoria.

“I am very pleased to accept the Queens County Republican Party’s official endorsement,” Catsimatidis said. “My father who came over from the old country when I was just six months of age worked hard for our family and taught me the value of hard work and because he worked hard we never knew we were poor.”