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Queens Chronicle

No state pensions for felons

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Posted: Thursday, October 14, 2010 12:00 am

State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo — who this week looks even more likely to be our next governor given his opponent’s mouth — has a wide-ranging government reform package to implement once elected. One proposal that would go a long way toward restoring New Yorkers’ faith in Albany is pension forfeiture for public officials convicted of any felonies related to their official duties.

Case in point is disgraced ex-Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who’ll be collecting $105,000 a year for life from the state’s taxpayers if the law is not changed. He’ll get another $62,000 as a former Queens College professor, but that’s not the issue here because that’s not when he committed the crimes for which he’s headed to prison.

The Forest Hills resident who had a fondness for using taxpayer money for his own benefit even while charged with making sure no one else did is not the only Queens-based official-turned-felon who’ll get a pension most people would agree he does not deserve. So will ex-assemblymen Anthony Seminerio of Richmond Hill, the hospital shakedown artist, and Brian McLaughlin of Flushing, the racketeer.

It’s high time the law allowing such crooks to get their pensions be changed. A bill to do that, sponsored by Sen. Craig Johnson of Nassau County, is ready to pass the state Senate — which, in one reflection of our Legislature’s dysfunction, actually remains the more responsible of the two houses. It’s out of committee and could be voted on anytime. Twenty states have a pension forfeiture law. Cuomo’s Republican opponent, Crazy Carl Paladino, backs it, as do both candidates for state attorney general, Republican Dan Donovan and Democrat Eric Schneiderman.

But there’s no movement on the measure in the Assembly, which, as (almost) always, should be embarrassed by its failure to enact reform.

The state Constitution says state officials’ pensions “shall not be diminished or impaired.” If it requires amending the Constitution to end this nonsense, so be it. We, along with leading former officials like mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani, support holding a constitutional convention in New York. Here’s one more reason to do so.

The tennis stadium

Now that club members have decided not to sell the West Side Tennis Stadium in Forest Hills to the Cord Meyer Development Company so it could build condos there, the question is, what will become of the 1923 arena?

Activists are seeking landmark status for the structure, once known as America’s Tennis Stadium, which hosted the U.S. Open for decades, as well as numerous famous concerts. That’s great, but it doesn’t provide for maintaining the building, which has been decaying over the years. The last thing Queens needs is another deteriorating landmark like the New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows Park, which manages to be both the pride of the borough and the shame of the city because of the condition it’s in.

Michael Perlman, chairman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council, has fine ideas for making the venue viable again by holding everything from tennis matches to weddings there. That could bring in the revenue needed to maintain it, but initial funding is also needed. What the source of that would be is another good question.

Welcome to the discussion.