Thursday, January 31, 2008

Historic documents stolen, sold on eBay

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Historic documents stolen, sold on eBay

Linda Rosencrance

January 29, 2008 (Computerworld) An employee of the New York State Department of Education allegedly stole hundreds of historic documents and artifacts from the New York State Library and sold some of them on eBay Inc., New York state's attorney general said.

The items included a signed 1823 letter from Vice President John C. Calhoun, The Davy Crockett Almanack, a calling card of Union Army Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock and Currier & Ives colored lithographs, according to a statement from New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Daniel Lorello, 54, an archives and records management specialist with the department's Office of Cultural Education since 1999, was charged with third-degree grand larceny, fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property and first-degree scheme to defraud, which are all felonies, according to the statement. Lorello allegedly took the items from 2002 to 2007.

Lorello, of Rensselaer, N.Y., allegedly smuggled the documents out of the library. In a statement to investigators, Lorello said he used the library's online catalogs to pick out the items he wanted. When he received them, he would put them in a folder and walk out of the library. He said he was never questioned or challenged. Lorello was placed on administrative leave until the the investigation concludes.

"These irreplaceable documents are the property of all New Yorkers," Cuomoa said. "Public employees with access to records of New York State's vibrant history are trusted curators who must not abuse their power for personal gain. My office will prosecute any allegation that an individual has attempted to pawn off the state's property as their own."

One item posted for sale was a four-page letter to a New York general written by Calhoun in 1823.

According to the attorney general, Lorello's ad on online auction site eBay said, "All in all I think this is a super letter with excellent content and one that would make a great addition to any 19th century American political autograph collection ... ... I would say the letter is in very good shape considering it is almost 185 years old. 100% satisfaction is guaranteed. If you are dissatisfied with the letter for any reason simply return it within seven days for a no questions asked refund."

Cuomo said Lorello also listed other documents for sale on eBay, including a Currier & Ives lithograph depicting a "View From Fort Putnam, West Point Hudson River, N.Y." The ad said, "Other than some age toning to the lower left corner and along the top edge, the lithograph is in excellent condition. The back of the lithograph contains no markings other than an ink stain so I did not bother to scan it. If you would like me to scan it for you let me know and I would be happy to do so."

Investigators began monitoring the auction of the 1823 letter by Vice President Calhoun after Richmond, Va., attorney Joseph Romito, a former teacher and history enthusiast, informed state authorities that the item was for sale on eBay. Romito said he believed the letter was in the possession of the New York library system.

"I was interested in bidding on the letter, but as I read the letter and the transcription the seller provided, I was surprised by the political content of the letter," Romito said in an interview. "Usually things that are offered on eBay are autographs, someone signs a personal check or something, or in the case of politicians, an appointment to a military academy or something of that sort."

So Romito compared the letter against the printed edition of "The Papers of John C. Calhoun" and they were identical, he said.

"I then noticed that the printed edition said the letter was in the New York State Library in Albany, New York," Romito said. "I looked at the seller and he was in Rensselaer, New York, which I soon learned was just outside Albany, and then I became suspicious and I called the library the next day and alerted them."

Romito said although he spoke to library executives several times before the auction ended, he wasn't quite sure what they were going to do.

"Government works slowly," he said. "So I finally resolved to put a very high bid on the letter on the afternoon [the auction was to end] and I subsequently received a call from the library saying that the attorney general would bid on it. So I just stayed out of it and they outbid me just before the auction [ended]. My idea was that if they weren't going to bid on it, I didn't want someone else to get it. I wanted to hold it up until such time as I could contact the library again."

The attorney general said the Calhoun letter generated bids exceeding $1,700 on eBay while it was monitored by investigators. Investigators also recovered hundreds of other documents that will be returned to the New York State Library. The attorney general said his office is working with eBay to obtain records of past sales to recover other stolen items.

In a separate case, Denning McTague of Philadelphia was charged with stealing 165 Civil War-era documents from the National Archives and selling them on eBay. McTague worked as a summer intern for the archives in 2006 and smuggled the documents off the premises in a backpack. The stolen items included an 1865 order from the War Department announcing the death of President Lincoln to the troops, and a letter from J.E.B. Stuart, a Confederate cavalry commander.

Queens Chronicle - Hefty Fine Imposed For Alleged Barge Dumping by Lee Landor

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One of the two barges allegedly abandoned at Jamaica Bay’s Barbadoes Basin has pushed up against the already eroding wetlands.
(pic courtesy of Don Riepe)

Proponents of Jamaica Bay are outraged that a marine construction firm allegedly abandoned its barges in the bay, further compromising the ecosystem’s eroding tidal wetlands, but are grateful the state has finally identified the perpetrators.

With help from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Environmental Conservation in late September named Pile Foundation Construction Co. Inc. of Hicksville, L.I., as the company responsible for leaving two large barges to sink to the bottom of Jamaica Bay’s Barbadoes Basin.

Calls to the company were not returned as of press time.

This is relief for the residents of Broad Channel who first alerted authorities of the floating barges on Sept. 23, and environmental groups concerned about Jamaica Bay’s health.

The department issued the company a notice of violation of New York State’s Tidal Wetlands Act, which imposes a penalty of $10,000 per day, per barge until the two structures are removed. The fine was implemented last fall, when the DEC became aware of the situation.

City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), who chairs the council’s Committee on Environmental Protection and has been a longtime advocate of Jamaica Bay preservation, said the hefty fine is well-deserved. “Anyone who would violate Jamaica Bay in such an egregious way has to be made an example,” he said.

Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who represents the area where the barges were found, said he is also grateful that the DEC is imposing the fine and fulfilling its responsibility to protect the Bay.

“Jamaica Bay belongs to all New Yorkers” said DEC Regional Director Suzanne Mattei, “It’s not a dumping ground for derelict vessels.”

Another concerned preservationist is hopeful that the money collected by DEC would go to Jamaica Bay restoration efforts.

“Jamaica Bay is a very special place to all us,” said Don Riepe, who runs the Jamaica Bay Guardian program and is the director of the American Littoral Society’s northeast chapter. “There’s a lot of people out there concerned and interested in improving the natural resources of the Bay.”

DEC officials said the Environmental Conservation Law requires the fines to be deposited in the marine resources account of the conservation fund.

Riepe explained that the barges, which are used to transport oil, sand, gravel and other materials, are impeding wetland growth and smothering plants. One barge, he said, partially sank and pushed up against the developing salt marshes on the east side of Barbadoes Basin, while the other is fully submerged.

The potential effect this can have on the environment and on human health are significant, Riepe said, explaining that the oil, grease and debris from the barges pollute the water and then are taken up into the food chain. This can eventually pose a risk to human health, he added.

“Who knows what they’re leaching into the water,” Riepe asked, adding that the unsightliness has stolen the basin’s aesthetic appeal.

Gennaro and Riepe are concerned that this situation will cause a setback to the restoration and protection efforts they, and other environmental organizations, have launched for Jamaica Bay’s disappearing salt marshes and eroding tidal wetlands.

The alleged barge abandonment “flies in the face of that effort,” Riepe said.

A spokesman for the DEC said the department is expecting to receive a response from Pile Foundation Construction soon. Once it has made contact with the company, the two will work together to remove the barges from Jamaica Bay, he said.

The conditions of the barges, which Riepe speculated could have been abandoned because they no longer work or are too expensive to rehabilitate, will determine the process of removal, DEC spokesman Arturo Garcia-Costas said. The frequency of vessel strandings has been on the rise in recent years as a result of higher fuel costs and other economic reasons, he added.

Riepe had some words of warning for future violators: “We’re all looking, so people should beware: if they’re trying to dump things in Jamaica Bay, they’re going to get caught.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

NY Daily News - Term-limited Council Members Mull New Political Positions: Beep? Albany? by HB Shin

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Behold the political musical chairs caused by term limits.

Nowhere is the scramble more urgent than in Queens, where 13 of the 14 City Council members are being forced to seek other jobs because their terms run out on Dec. 31, 2009.

That 93% turnover rate - the largest of any borough delegation - has spawned a crowded field of candidates seeking higher office, and many have already amassed robust war chests for their campaigns.

Three Council members - Peter Vallone Jr., Helen Sears and Leroy Comrie - are gunning for the borough president's office, as is Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer. John Liu and Eric Gioia are likely candidates for public advocate. And David Weprin and Melinda Katz have both declared their bid for city controller.

Races for the state legislature will be particularly competitive, said Doug Muzzio, a political science professor at the Baruch College School of Public Affairs.

"The pressure of term limits forces Council members to challenge incumbent members of the state Assembly and state Senate," Muzzio said, noting that term limits have also produced more competitive primaries.

And in a city dominated by Democrats, winning the primary is often tantamount to winning the general election.

Senate races - in particular the battle between Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and incumbent state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) - will be especially hard-fought, as Democrats and Republicans duke it out for control of the upper house, said Evan Stavisky, a Democratic political consultant.

"It's no longer a question of if, but when, the Democrats are going to take control of the Senate," Stavisky predicted.

If so, another Queens Democrat - Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith - would supplant upstate Republican Joe Bruno as majority leader.

As for the 36 new members of the Council, not all will be fresh faces. The other major trend in 2009 will be the return of former Council members to their old seats.

Current law allows a Council member to serve a maximum of eight years consecutively. But it doesn't preclude someone returning to office after a hiatus.

Such is the hope for Deputy Borough President Karen Koslowitz, who plans to run for her old seat in Forest Hills, and Tom Ognibene, who has expressed interest in running for his old seat in Middle Village.

Council District
Party affiliation
Declared or possible candidate for
Tony Avella
John Liu
Public Advocate
Hiram Monserrate
State Senate
Peter Valone Jr.
Borough President
David Weprin
James Gennaro
State Senate
Helen Sears
Borough President
Eric Gioia
Public Advocate
Leroy Comrie
Borough President
Thomas White
Not term-limited in 2009
Dennis Gallagher
James Sanders
Joseph Addabbo
State Senate

NY Daily News - Race to Replace Marshall Underway by Brendan Brosh

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The race for Queens borough president is more than a year away, but four candidates have already thrown their hats into the ring.

And if fund-raising is any barometer of a candidate's chances, Peter Vallone Jr. is miles ahead of his nearest competitor. The term-limited city councilman has already raised more than $680,000 for an undeclared office, according to city Campaign Finance Board records as of Jan. 15.

Fellow term-limited Council members Leroy Comrie and Helen Sears, as well as Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, also are considering a run for the office.

Pheffer, the only one officially registered as a candidate for borough president, has raised about $230,000, roughly a third of Vallone's war chest. Comrie has raised more than $77,000, while Sears has accumulated close to $74,000.

"Fund-raising is important. It shows support," said Vallone, who has already held a high-profile event at the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden in Astoria, and plans on hosting several smaller parties in the near future. "I love public service and I'd like to continue in it," he said.

Pheffer flirted with running for the office in 2001, but dropped out of a crowded field early in the race. She told Queens News she plans on ramping up her profile and hosting more events for a stronger run in 2009.

"In a borough with over 2 million people, you want fund-raisers that reach everyone," said Pheffer, who has served in the Assembly for more than 20 years. "You really have to talk to the man and woman on the street. I want to bring people into the electoral process."

Comrie has openly coveted the office for the past few years, and said he doesn't plan on playing catch-up for long. "We want to have some events soon," he said. "It's an opportunity to talk to people. We want our fund-raisers to have an emphasis on fun."

Queens Republicans have yet to anoint a candidate for the 2009 race, and are focusing on the presidential and statewide races in 2008, party leaders said.

The borough president's office has historically been occupied mostly by Democrats, and many see the Democratic primary in September 2009 as the real election.

"I'm sure we're going to run someone," said Queens County GOP Chairman Phil Ragusa. "We don't have any names yet."

Vallone said he hopes to capitalize on his family's political legacy, which goes back to his grandfather, Queens Criminal Court Judge Charles Vallone, and his father, Peter Sr., who served on the Council for more than 25 years.

"I hope that in 2009, with the cacophony of candidates, [voters] will look for a name they can trust," he said.

NY Daily News - Parks Dept. Floats $50M Restoration Proposal, but Critics Want it Left Alone by John Lauinger

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The Ridgewood Reservoir could one day feature a lighted bicycle loop, an environmental learning center and "meandering meadows," much like Central Park, a top Parks Department official said last week.

Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said those options are being considered as part of a potential $50 million restoration of the heavily wooded former reservoir that straddles the Brooklyn-Queens border.

Yet even as Lewandowski said Parks planners are trying to balance passive and active forms of recreation into "a model that doesn't in any way damage the environment," the agency's own hired consultants warned against any "major disturbances" of what is one of the city's last remaining swaths of untamed woodland.

"Most important to maintaining and enhancing the biotic integrity of the Ridgewood Reservoir is preventing any major disturbances of the otherwise intact forest and other ecosystems," concluded a draft environmental report prepared for the Parks Department by Round Mountain Ecological LLC of New Jersey.

The report - a copy of which was obtained by the Daily News - calls the reservoir "highly significant for the biodiversity of New York City and the region," and said it is home to at least seven endangered bird species and three endangered plant species.

"Why would New York City, which is now taking this green approach to everything, want to destroy that?" asked Christina Wilkinson, president of the Newtown Historical Society, which formed the Ridgewood Reservoir Education and Preservation Project. "It doesn't make any sense."

The 50-acre site served the city as an active water source until 1959, and as a backup water source for Queens and Brooklyn until 1989. In the two decades since it was closed, it has regenerated into a rare urban forest.

City Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) agreed the city should not "alter what nature has created over the years."

"We really cannot re-create what nature has done at the reservoir," he said.

Addabbo, who serves on the Council's parks committee, said money would be better spent upgrading adjacent Highland Park.

Lewandowski acknowledged "there is not a defined plan at this point," and said public comment could take place at community board meetings in Queens and Brooklyn this spring.

While the topography and ecology of two of the three reservoir basins makes them unsuitable for development, she said, an 11-acre portion of the West Basin could be developed for active recreation.

"Think of it in terms of Central Park or Prospect Park, where you have these beautiful, naturalistic locations that are tucked in within an [Frederick Law] Olmsted landscape," she said. "So you have these meandering meadows that people can walk on, you can bring a blanket, you can sun, you can play ball informally or formally."

She would not say what type of active recreation is being considered.

Ron Bourque, a member of the conservation committee of the New York City Audubon Society, said breaching the basin's thick perimeter wall to allow for development would be expensive.

"Preserving the natural areas and doing things based on that would be more economical and would make a lot more sense," he said.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

City Limits: News for NYC's Nonprofit, Policy and Activist World

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State Republican and Democratic strategists don't agree on much, but on one thing they do concur: Control of the New York State Senate could come down to what happens in a sliver of southern Queens from Maspeth down to Howard Beach. In the handful of communities known as the 15th senatorial district, presidential politics, ethnic rivalry, the vagaries of incumbency and local issues are competing for voters' attention as Democrats try to replace Republican State Senator Serphin Maltese.

Depending on whom you ask, Maltese's seat is the only competitive state Senate race in the city, or one of a few vulnerable Republican districts, or merely the GOP counterpart to several Democratic seats that are also at risk. But under any scenario, the contest in Maltese's district will loom large because of the tight margin in Albany's upper chamber – whose control will determine the fate of Gov. Spitzer's agenda and affect policies from school aid to congestion pricing.

Republicans now hold a 33-29 advantage in the state Senate, after picking up a seat in 2006 and another in a special election last year. After 69 years of nearly uninterrupted Republican control, Democrats' winning just two more seats will split the Senate evenly, shifting control to them, because Democratic Lt. Gov. David Paterson can break ties. An upcoming special election in the upstate 48th district where GOP incumbent Sen. Jim Wright is retiring has Democrats hopeful that, come November – when all state Senate and Assembly seats are up for election – they'll need just one more seat to take charge.

That calculus will likely mean a major infusion of party resources into the race against Maltese. Republicans, meanwhile, say they are going after as many as eight Democratic senators in New York City, not with a realistic hope of winning all of them but in order to force the Democrats to divert money from attacking Republicans to defending their own seats.

History favors the incumbents. In 2006, 11 of the city's 28 Senate seats weren't even contested by the major parties. In districts where both major parties did field candidates, the opposition usually lost by huge margins. Registration figures foreshadowed these outcomes: In some districts, there are 10 Democrats for each Republican. But tradition plays a role, too; that's why four city seats remain in Republican hands despite their registration disadvantage.

Two of those seats, held by Sen. Martin Golden in Brooklyn and Sen. Andrew Lanza in Staten Island, are not presently considered competitive, according to interviews with strategists from both parties. But they say Maltese's seat is up for grabs, and Republican Sen. Frank Padavan's district – spanning the Bronx, Queens, and western Long Island – could be competitive.

Since 1988, Maltese has represented the district composed of Maspeth, Ridgewood, Middle Village, Glendale, Woodhaven, Howard Beach, parts of Ozone Park and other areas. In 2006, Albert Baldeo, an unknown Democrat running with no party support, came within a few hundred votes of beating Maltese, marking the conservative Republican as vulnerable this year. Baldeo, an attorney, is running again, as is Democratic City Councilman Joe Addabbo. Their nascent primary contest has already turned nasty, with Internet postings charging ethical problems and racial insensitivity. That's all good news for Maltese. "I don’t know why the Democrats keep primary-ing each other," says a leading state Republican operative. "They have to seriously sit down and say, 'We can't let Baldeo and Addabbo kill each other in a primary.'"

Ozone Park native Addabbo says education, transportation and public safety will top his list of issues. One priority is to make sure Mayor Bloomberg retains responsibility for public schools, rather than have them revert to state control. While crime is down, Addabbo says the low pay for starting police officers is a public safety issue – and that low crime statistics don't have everyone convinced. "They are very quick to tell me," says Addabbo of his constituents, "that numbers can be skewed in certain ways."

For his part, Baldeo says that overdevelopment is a major concern, along with the cost of prescription drugs. Running against Maltese (who declined an interview request), Baldeo says he'd highlight the need for a state assault weapons ban and Maltese's "A" rating from the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association. But the biggest issue, says Baldeo, is property taxes. "That's really causing a record number of foreclosures in our district and it's causing a lot of working families to lose their homes," he says. "You have the high cost of utilities, and now the property taxes. It's too much for homeowners. A lot of senior citizens are going to lose their homes."

Party games

Padavan is in his 35th year of service in the state Senate from a district that covers much of northeast Queens, from College Point over to Douglaston and down to Jamaica Estates. He faced a late challenge in 2006 from attorney Nora Marino, who posted solid results. This year, City Councilman James Gennaro, a resident of Jamaica Estates, is gearing up to challenge Padavan. As in other districts, education, the economy and quality of life will dominate the conversation, Padavan says. But there are also district-specific issues in the mix: the construction of a new dormitory near St. John's University, the upzoning of parts of Jamaica, and related effects on parking and school crowding. The traffic mitigation plan that emerges from Mayor Bloomberg's commission on congestion could loom large, as might Padavan's longevity in office: Democrats will say it's time for change, while Padavan will point to accomplishments ranging from a tough human trafficking law to the founding years ago of the Queens County Farm Museum.

Republican operatives admit that Maltese is in danger. They say Padavan is less at risk but will face a fight, and they're promising an all-out campaign to defend him. And they claim that there are several Democratic senators in the city who, despite incumbency and heavy registration advantages, are vulnerable.

One is Sen. Jeffrey Klein, who in 2004 replaced jailed Republican leader Guy Vallela in a district that spans the Bronx-Westchester border. Klein spent roughly $1 million to fend off a challenge from Republican Jay Savino in 2006. "That would probably be the only seat that state Republican leaders would consider in play" in the Bronx, says Savino, the borough's GOP chairman. The district next to Klein is that of Sen. Efrain Gonzalez Jr., who despite being under federal indictment did not draw a GOP challenge in 2006. While Gonzalez might face a primary, the GOP is likely to skip that race again, Savino says. "It's very difficult to find a candidate who will run against such a steep registration disadvantage," he explains.

Another state Republican strategist, who asked not to be named when discussing party strategy, named seven other city Democratic senators whom the GOP is targeting – perhaps optimistically, as many observers would consider these safe seats – Sens. Martin Connor, Thomas Duane, Liz Krueger, Bill Perkins, Diane Savino, Eric Schneiderman and Toby Ann Stavisky. The reasons for their supposed vulnerability vary, from being in historic Republican districts (Krueger) to facing a potentially damaging primary (Connor) to being a freshman senator who broke with the Harlem establishment in the presidential contest to back Sen. Barack Obama rather than Sen. Hillary Clinton (Perkins).

The strategist claimed that polling has uncovered weaknesses for most of these Democrats, and that candidates have already been recruited to run against some. Among the major issues, the operative says, will be healthcare – specifically, the legislature's vote to create and empower the commission that in 2006 recommended closing hospitals around the state. Another strand of the Republican attack in some of these districts will be a reflection of the very majority the GOP is trying to defend: That Democrats, because they are the minority party in the Senate, have failed to deliver key money and projects to their districts.

The GOP strategy is still developing. "This is an ongoing polling process," the strategist adds. "We roll our candidates out over six to eight weeks. We don’t want to give away the playbook."

Both sides want to mold perceptions: A race that is deemed "in play" will draw contributions and coverage, which the challenger wants. Republicans, for instance, say Padavan is "untouchable" and won't be beat. Padavan also disputes the idea that he's in jeopardy. "I have run 18 times; this is the 19th time. We run on our record of performance, and if history is any guide my constituents will continue to acknowledge that record," Padavan says. "The district is three-to-one Democratic majority, that’s true, but that doesn’t seem to have been an issue in the past."

Meanwhile, Perkins scoffs at the idea that a Republican is going to win in his overwhelmingly Democratic district in a presidential election year. The Republicans' best chance in the city, he says, would be if former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani were the GOP nominee – and even if that happened, it wouldn't help in Perkins' district of Harlem and the Upper West Side. "Let's just say he's not popular here," Perkins quips. Marty Algaze, chief of staff for Sen. Martin Connor, is just as dismissive. "This district is so heavily Democratic that a Republican wouldn't have a chance," he says of Connor's southern Manhattan – northwest Brooklyn constituency. As for Republican plans to knock off other city Democrats, "They live in a dream world."

Beyond the boroughs

Republicans do have to worry about Senate seats outside the city. They want to win back the Westchester seat that Nick Spano lost to Andrea Stewart-Cousins in 2006. But if Spano decides to skip a rematch, Republicans have two other candidates in mind.

Undoubtedly, the outcome of the 2008 presidential race will be a bigger story this fall than what happens in a handful of state Senate districts. But control of the 62-member body is a prize desperately sought by both parties: Democrats because it would confer control of all the levers of state power, Republicans because the Senate – which they have controlled for all but two of the last 69 years – is their last foothold in that power structure. Both parties know that whoever wins control this time stands a better chance of being at the helm – and thus able to exert influence in party-building ways – when redistricting occurs after the 2010 Census.

William Samuels, a longtime Democratic activist who chairs the Democratic State Senate Campaign Committee, depicts the race as a crossroads for reform; he wants to see a nonpartisan redistricting commission, which Gov. Eliot Spitzer has also backed. "We're not running to win. We're running to get legislation through that's been blocked for decades," Samuels declares. But to win will take old-fashioned money. Democrats have been gearing up for this year's races since before the 2006 election, when Samuels met with major fundraisers to sell them on committing to a big push in '08. Conventional wisdom is that it takes about $1 million to beat an incumbent state senator. Samuels says it's hard to get donors to focus on state Senate races because so few contributors know what these races are about.

"National issues are easy to understand – the war, healthcare. They make it into the papers," Samuels says. "All the issues in Albany get hidden." Samuels is trying to connect state concerns with national ones by pointing out that, with anti-abortion rights groups targeting Roe v. Wade at the national level, New York state has no clear statute guaranteeing a right to abortion – something a Democratic state Senate could change.

National politics surely will influence state Senate races, but it's unclear how or to what extent. Presidential years generate high turnout, and high turnout tends to favor the party with a registration advantage in the district. But there's no guarantee that that advantage will trickle down to the Legislature; after all, Republicans have held on to the Senate even as New York has gone Democratic in the past five presidential elections. Predicting the impact of the national race is even tougher this year because New Yorkers Clinton and Giuliani – who tend to arouse strong feelings among both fans and foes – could head their respective tickets come November. Bloomberg's possible candidacy is another wild card.

As the political year of 2008 progresses, City Limits will take a closer look at some of the issues at play in these linchpin races.

- Jarrett Murphy

Race to seal fate of State Senate? by John Lauinger

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The line in the sand for state Senate supremacy this year runs right through Queens County.

The highly anticipated political showdown between veteran Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) and City Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) is already gearing up.

Maltese is gunning for his 11th consecutive term and Addabbo is term-limited out of his Council seat. The political stakes couldn't be higher.

With Senate Republicans clinging to a razor-thin two-seat majority, pundits said the Maltese-Addabbo race could be the linchpin that determines who calls the shots in the upper house.

"This is an historic race," said Evan Stavisky, a Democratic political consultant. He noted that if Democrats snatch the Senate from Republicans, redistricting in 2012 could cement Democratic control in Albany.

"Any credible expert will acknowledge that once the Senate goes Democratic, it's not going back," Stavisky added.

Republicans are already outnumbered in Maltese's district by more than two to one.

And Maltese has had a bull's-eye on his back since the 2006 campaign, in which he was nearly upset by political newcomer Albert Baldeo, who pulled in 49% of the vote without significant party backing.

"That's got to be one of three or four really heavily targeted districts in the state — probably the most targeted because of the perception that Maltese can be taken out," said Doug Muzzio, a political science professor at Baruch College.

Addabbo, who reported more than $70,000 in fund-raising by the state Board of Election's Jan. 15 filing deadline, said Democratic bosses have promised to give him "all-out resources" in his battle against Maltese. He said an influx of cash and campaign staffers from all over the state will arrive in his camp soon.

However, Addabbo faces a primary against Baldeo, who boasts $400,000 in campaign funds.

"I look forward to them fighting it out," said Maltese, who already has $240,000 in hand. He said the Republicans are not to be outdone in this race.

"[Majority Leader] Joseph Bruno in the Senate has pledged to me that if necessary he views it as a possible million-dollar race," he said.

Each candidate vowed not to run negative campaigns, but both slung a little mud in interviews with Queens News.

Addabbo slammed Maltese for flooding the district since shortly after the 2006 campaign with office newsletters that he says are really thinly veiled campaign ads.

Maltese blasted Addabbo for taking three donations, totaling nearly $30,000, from billionaire George Soros and his family.

"My donations are in the main from individuals, in the main from people residing in the district," Maltese said.

With Paul H.B. Shin

NY Daily News - Addabbo's Council Seat up for Grabs by Nicholas Hirshorn

Addabbo's council seat up for grabs

With Councilman Joseph Addabbo poised to try for higher office, the race for his seat is shaping up as a generational showdown between a grad student and a grandpa.

Fresh-faced Republican Eric Ulrich, 22, and elder Democrat Frank Gulluscio, 60, won't face each other until February 2009 if the Democrat Addabbo dethrones state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) - or until November 2009 if Addabbo loses.

But the civic-minded men are already exchanging potshots over who should represent Howard Beach, the Rockaways and other parts of southern Queens in the Council.

"A 60-year-old man like Frank against a guy like me who can knock on more doors [to get votes]? That's a no-brainer," fired Ulrich, who studies at St. John's University and became a Republican district leader in September.

Gulluscio shot back with his résumé: an English teacher in the 1970s, franchisee of two Brooklyn roller-skating rinks in the 1980s, nearly a decade as Democratic district leader and two years as Community Board 6 district manager.

"I've been 22. I know how 22-year-olds act and walk and talk," Gulluscio said of his rival. "We need somebody in that job who's competent. . . . We need someone from Day One who's not going to ask where the bathroom is."

Ulrich has raised $18,565 for his run over the past two years, with donations from several civic leaders and the wife of former Councilman Thomas Ognibene, according to city Campaign Finance Board records.

Gulluscio has garnered a comparatively slim $4,575, records show, but he stressed he hasn't truly started fund-raising.

"Look at me in July, which is the next filing [for campaign contributions]," he said.

But the candidates agree on some things: Both are proposing ferry service and cleaner, safer beaches in the Rockaways.

Losing 2006 Assembly candidate Stuart Mirsky, now vice president of the Rockaways Republican Club, figured Ulrich's dynamism would help him put up a formidable fight against Gulluscio.

Eric Ulrich (R)
Frank Gulluscio (D)
B.A., St. Francis College (2007); M.A., St. John's University (Expected 2009)
B.A., SUNY (1968)
Engaged for four months
Married for 35 years, grandfather of two
District leader for five months
District leader for nearly a decade
George W. Bush (2004)
First presidential candidate voted for
Eugene McCarthy
"Shawshank Redemption" (1994)
Favorite movie
"Patch Adams"
Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" (1979)
Favorite pop song
John Lennon's "Imagine"

"You don't have an incumbent in place," Mirsky said. "It makes things a lot easier for a challenger."

And Democratic district leader Lew Simon, who lost to Addabbo in the 2001 primary, said he hasn't ruled out entering the race.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Gossage Elected to Hall of Fame, but McGwire Again Falls Short - New York Times

Goose is one of my favorite baseball players of all time - he was a great player and deserves to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame...

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Rich “Goose” Gossage, the intimidating closer with the explosive fastball and the Fu Manchu mustache, secured baseball’s highest honor on Tuesday when he was elected to the Hall of Fame.

In Gossage’s ninth year on the ballot, he received 85.8 percent of the vote. Jim Rice, who was in his 14th year on the ballot, received 72.2 percent, which was 16 votes shy of enshrinement. Candidates need to eclips 75 percent to gain admission to the Hall and can remain on the Baseball Writers Association of America’s ballot for up to 15 years if they receive at least 5 percent of votes.

Mark McGwire, whose 583 homers are the eighth best on the all-time list, garnered a paltry 23.6 percent of the vote, nearly identical to the 23.5 he received last year, the first time he was on the ballot. McGwire’s candidacy has been damaged by the suspicion that he used performance-enhancing drugs and his refusal to answer questions about steroids at a Congressional hearing in 2005.

Besides Gossage and Rice, the only other players who were mentioned on more than half of the ballots were Andre Dawson, who received 65.9 percent of the votes, and Bert Blyleven, who notched 61.9 percent. There were 543 votes cast, which included three blank ballots.

Gossage, who pitched for nine teams across a 22-year career, went 124-107 with a 3.01 earned run average and 301 saves. The right-hander pitched for the Yankees’ 1978 World Series Championship team and had 150 saves in six superb seasons with New York. Gossage was a nine-time All-Star, he pitched in three World Series and he twice finished in the top 10 in the Most Valuable Player balloting.

After Gossage received 71.2 percent of the vote while sharing the ballot with first-year candidates Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn in 2007, he returned as the most deserving candidate in 2008. He joins fellow relievers Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley and Bruce Sutter in the Hall.

Rice, who hit 382 homers in an era that was not defined by steroid use, fell agonizingly short of being enshrined this year. He will make his 15th and final appearance on the writers’ ballot next year. Rickey Henderson, who is the all-time leader in stolen bases and runs scored, will make his first appearance on the ballot next year.

Run Mitt Run...Current-tv

Monday, January 7, 2008 - Person Struck, Killed By V Train In Queens

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Photo from

A person was struck and killed by a V train in Queens about 12:45 p.m. on Monday, CBS 2 has learned. The incident occurred at the Grand Avenue station at Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst.

Police and fire department officials are on the scene investigating the cause of the accident. Many service disruptions in Queens are being reported as a result.

Why I Believe Bush Must Go by Senator George McGovern

As we enter the eighth year of the Bush-Cheney administration, I have belatedly and painfully concluded that the only honorable course for me is to urge the impeachment of the president and the vice president.

After the 1972 presidential election, I stood clear of calls to impeach President Richard M. Nixon for his misconduct during the campaign. I thought that my joining the impeachment effort would be seen as an expression of personal vengeance toward the president who had defeated me.

Today I have made a different choice.

Of course, there seems to be little bipartisan support for impeachment. The political scene is marked by narrow and sometimes superficial partisanship, especially among Republicans, and a lack of courage and statesmanship on the part of too many Democratic politicians. So the chances of a bipartisan impeachment and conviction are not promising.

But what are the facts?

Bush and Cheney are clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses. They have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world. These are truly "high crimes and misdemeanors," to use the constitutional standard.

From the beginning, the Bush-Cheney team's assumption of power was the product of questionable elections that probably should have been officially challenged -- perhaps even by a congressional investigation.

In a more fundamental sense, American democracy has been derailed throughout the Bush-Cheney regime. The dominant commitment of the administration has been a murderous, illegal, nonsensical war against Iraq. That irresponsible venture has killed almost 4,000 Americans, left many times that number mentally or physically crippled, claimed the lives of an estimated 600,000 Iraqis (according to a careful October 2006 study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) and laid waste their country. The financial cost to the United States is now $250 million a day and is expected to exceed a total of $1 trillion, most of which we have borrowed from the Chinese and others as our national debt has now climbed above $9 trillion -- by far the highest in our national history.

All of this has been done without the declaration of war from Congress that the Constitution clearly requires, in defiance of the U.N. Charter and in violation of international law. This reckless disregard for life and property, as well as constitutional law, has been accompanied by the abuse of prisoners, including systematic torture, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

I have not been heavily involved in singing the praises of the Nixon administration. But the case for impeaching Bush and Cheney is far stronger than was the case against Nixon and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew after the 1972 election. The nation would be much more secure and productive under a Nixon presidency than with Bush. Indeed, has any administration in our national history been so damaging as the Bush-Cheney era?

How could a once-admired, great nation fall into such a quagmire of killing, immorality and lawlessness?

It happened in part because the Bush-Cheney team repeatedly deceived Congress, the press and the public into believing that Saddam Hussein had nuclear arms and other horrifying banned weapons that were an "imminent threat" to the United States. The administration also led the public to believe that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks -- another blatant falsehood. Many times in recent years, I have recalled Jefferson's observation: "Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

The basic strategy of the administration has been to encourage a climate of fear, letting it exploit the 2001 al-Qaeda attacks not only to justify the invasion of Iraq but also to excuse such dangerous misbehavior as the illegal tapping of our telephones by government agents. The same fear-mongering has led government spokesmen and cooperative members of the press to imply that we are at war with the entire Arab and Muslim world -- more than a billion people.

Another shocking perversion has been the shipping of prisoners scooped off the streets of Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other countries without benefit of our time-tested laws of habeas corpus.

Although the president was advised by the intelligence agencies last August that Iran had no program to develop nuclear weapons, he continued to lie to the country and the world. This is the same strategy of deception that brought us into war in the Arabian Desert and could lead us into an unjustified invasion of Iran. I can say with some professional knowledge and experience that if Bush invades yet another Muslim oil state, it would mark the end of U.S. influence in the crucial Middle East for decades.

Ironically, while Bush and Cheney made counterterrorism the battle cry of their administration, their policies -- especially the war in Iraq -- have increased the terrorist threat and reduced the security of the United States. Consider the difference between the policies of the first President Bush and those of his son. When the Iraqi army marched into Kuwait in August 1990, President George H.W. Bush gathered the support of the entire world, including the United Nations, the European Union and most of the Arab League, to quickly expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The Saudis and Japanese paid most of the cost. Instead of getting bogged down in a costly occupation, the administration established a policy of containing the Baathist regime with international arms inspectors, no-fly zones and economic sanctions. Iraq was left as a stable country with little or no capacity to threaten others.

Today, after five years of clumsy, mistaken policies and U.S. military occupation, Iraq has become a breeding ground of terrorism and bloody civil strife. It is no secret that former president Bush, his secretary of state, James A. Baker III, and his national security adviser, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, all opposed the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq.

In addition to the shocking breakdown of presidential legal and moral responsibility, there is the scandalous neglect and mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe. The veteran CNN commentator Jack Cafferty condenses it to a sentence: "I have never ever seen anything as badly bungled and poorly handled as this situation in New Orleans." Any impeachment proceeding must include a careful and critical look at the collapse of presidential leadership in response to perhaps the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.

Impeachment is unlikely, of course. But we must still urge Congress to act. Impeachment, quite simply, is the procedure written into the Constitution to deal with presidents who violate the Constitution and the laws of the land. It is also a way to signal to the American people and the world that some of us feel strongly enough about the present drift of our country to support the impeachment of the false prophets who have led us astray. This, I believe, is the rightful course for an American patriot.

As former representative Elizabeth Holtzman, who played a key role in the Nixon impeachment proceedings, wrote two years ago, "it wasn't until the most recent revelations that President Bush directed the wiretapping of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) -- and argued that, as Commander in Chief, he had the right in the interests of national security to override our country's laws -- that I felt the same sinking feeling in my stomach as I did during Watergate. . . . A President, any President, who maintains that he is above the law -- and repeatedly violates the law -- thereby commits high crimes and misdemeanors."

I believe we have a chance to heal the wounds the nation has suffered in the opening decade of the 21st century. This recovery may take a generation and will depend on the election of a series of rational presidents and Congresses. At age 85, I won't be around to witness the completion of the difficult rebuilding of our sorely damaged country, but I'd like to hold on long enough to see the healing begin.

There has never been a day in my adult life when I would not have sacrificed that life to save the United States from genuine danger, such as the ones we faced when I served as a bomber pilot in World War II. We must be a great nation because from time to time, we make gigantic blunders, but so far, we have survived and recovered.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Allstate pays for jet damage to NYC home

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Allstate Insurance Co. has agreed to pay $995,000 to a Brooklyn couple who claimed their house was badly damaged by vibrations caused by an Air France Concorde jet nearly five years ago.

The couple, John and Annette Ferranti, initially won a $1.15 million verdict against Allstate last month after a trial in Manhattan's state Supreme Court. Allstate had filed a notice they would appeal the award.

Allstate's lawyer, Bruce Farquharson, confirmed the settlement but said he could not comment further.

The Ferrantis sued after Allstate refused to pay for damage to their 12-room concrete and steel house created by vibrations from an Air France Concorde as it took off from John F. Kennedy airport on July 21, 2002.

The couple said the supersonic jet struggled to gain altitude, flew low over Jamaica Bay, and buzzed the areas near their home where other residents complained about shaking foundations and cracking plaster.

Following the ear-splitting takeoff, the Ferrantis said, their home began leaking during rainstorms. They said the water seeped through cracks that had opened in concrete blocks they used to build the waterfront house on Jamaica Bay in 1990.

Allstate had insured the house since John Ferranti, a retired general contractor, built it in 1990, said the Ferrantis' lawyer, Jonathan J. Wilkofsky.

Wilkofsky said Allstate had refused to pay the Ferrantis' claim, saying bad construction and poor maintenance had caused the leakage problem.

The lawyer said Allstate also argued that the couple's late notice of claim precluded the insurer's having to pay. The Ferrantis gave Allstate their notice of claim 14 months after the flight which caused the damage, Wilkofsky said.

After a three-week trial, which included testimony of six engineers and a noise expert from the Port Authority, the jury took five hours to return its verdict, Wilkofsky said. He said Allstate settled with the Ferrantis on Dec. 21.

The Concorde, which was used only by Air France and British Airways, was taken out of service by both carriers in 2003.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Sports Network - Thoroughbred Racing

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Ozone Park, NY (Sports Network) - The New York Racing Association (NYRA) has reached an agreement with the state of New York to remain operating on a temporary basis.

The agreement allows racing at Aqueduct to go on through Wednesday, January 23. The contract NYRA has was to expire December 31.

"On behalf of our fans, employees and the participants in the racing industry, NYRA wants to thank Governor Eliot Spitzer and Steven Newman, Chair of the Oversight Board, for their extraordinary efforts to continue racing at Aqueduct," NYRA Chairman C. Steven Dunker said in a statement.

Negotiations on a permanent contract to operate Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course are expected to resume next week.

12/31 17:39:46 ET