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It doesn’t say all that much for our political situation when it’s worth going out of our way to congratulate an honest politician. But that’s how it is.
“Shocker! Post finds honest NY politician” a New York Post page 2 headline blared last Saturday. That politician is Queens City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who blew the whistle on a builder’s alleged efforts to bribe him.
The responsibilities of a borough president have recently become the subject of debate. While some have said these borough-heads who cannot make any decisions on legislation are irrelevant, Queens borough president candidate Barry Grodenchik says the position is about more than rules and regulations.
“The job is about bringing people together,” Grodenchik said in a sit-down with the Queens Chronicle editors last Thursday. “We live in the most diverse place in the country and probably the world, and while it’s easy to scream and rant, the tougher job is to work with the people.”
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, center right, breaks ground on the Kew Gardens Hills Library expansion with Rep. Grace Meng, Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr., Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Tom Galante of the Queens Library, and other elected officials and community organizers.
Former Assemblyman Jimmy Meng leaving Brooklyn federal court.
Former Assemblyman Jimmy Meng was sentenced Tuesday to 30 days in prison for his conviction in a bribery scheme gone awry.
The former Flushing lawmaker was found guilty in Brooklyn federal court last November of one count of wire fraud, after he took $80,000 in a fruit basket from someone seeking a lesser sentence in an unrelated case. Meng claimed he would use the money to bribe Manhattan prosecutors into leniency.
For many Queens residents, 2012 will be forever married to Superstorm Sandy and the havoc she wrought. For good or ill, North Queens was spared the brunt of the storm.
A sizeable number of downed trees and power outages hit the area, but most counted their luck. Compared to the borough’s southern edge, Sandy was forgiving to Flushing and its satellite neighborhoods.
Politics in middle and southwestern Queens was the favorite sport outside of Citi Field in 2012, and the worst storm to hit the region in 74 years devastated some while causing others just a few flickers of their lights.
As the year began, the city filed an appeal of a ruling by federal Judge Nicholas Garaufus that found discrimination on the part of the FDNY against African-American firefighters in the testing and hiring process.
When Grace Meng is sworn into Congress in January, she will become New York’s first Asian-American politician on Capitol Hill.
Meng’s political rise — from representing Flushing in the state Assembly all the way to Washington, D.C. as a member of Congress — is the latest example of an emerging Asian-American political base spawned in Queens during the last decade.
Hiram Monserrate, a former state senator and city councilman from Western Queens, was sentenced to two years in prison on Tuesday for directing $100,000 of City Council money into a fund used for his failed bid for the state Senate in 2006, according to Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
Former Flushing Assemblyman Jimmy Meng pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday to bribery charges, according to published reports.
Meng was held for eliciting an $80,000 payoff to ease charges against associate Eric Hu, who faced tax charges.
Politics as usual indeed.
Tuesday’s elections confirmed what everyone already knew: people cheat. Even when they don’t need to.
This week the Council of Municipal Retiree Organizations of New York City, which represents more than 250,000 retired city workers, announced that three candidates for office in Queens had signed its pledge to oppose any cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment insurance. The candidates all pledged in fact to spend more on those programs, agreeing to “adjust them to the rising cost of living.”
The three are all Democrats, office holders already, one seeking higher office, one defending his seat against a tough challenge and one running for re-election unopposed. They are, respectively, Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), who’s running for the 6th Congressional District seat against City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone); state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), who’s running to retain his seat against Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park); and Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck), who has no opponent.
Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) holds a huge edge in campaign fund raising for her congressional race against Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone). She also holds a considerable advantage in personal wealth, with a household net worth valued between $994,045 and $3,267,998, spread over family real estate and her husband’s financial investments.
Meng’s campaign and supporters — including Mayor Michael Bloomberg — have cast her as a champion of the middle class. Her household’s estimated net worth lifts Meng at least $900,000 above the national median of $77,300, according to her personal finance disclosure released last week by the U.S. House of Representatives, and statistics from the Federal Reserve.
Happy together: former Councilwoman Melinda Katz and her partner, the activist and talk show host Curtis Sliwa.
“It’s not a crazy theory.”
That was Flushing Democratic Assemblywoman Grace Meng’s response to a question posed to her by the Queens Chronicle earlier this week during a sit-down interview that focused on her race for Congress against City Councilman Dan Halloran, the Whitestone Republican.
“If something goes wrong, my life will become miserable,” Flushing’s Jimmy Meng allegedly said in a wiretapped conversation that led to his arrest Tuesday on federal fraud charges.
Meng’s prophecy came true that day when he was arrested outside the lumber yard he owns, allegedly taking a fruit basket filled with $80,000 in cash. The former assemblyman faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.
Jimmy Meng, left, was arrested at his business, Queens Lumber, on Tuesday for allegedly taking money in a fruit basket to bribe officials.
Former Assemblyman Jimmy Meng allegedly promised a tax cheat he would get a lesser sentence in exchange for an $80,000 bribe, but then kept the money, according to the FBI and US attorney for the Eastern District of New York. The money was allegedly hidden in a fruit basket.
Earlier today, former Queens County assemblyman Jimmy Meng was arrested on a federal wire fraud charge for soliciting $80,000 in cash from a state court defendant and falsely claiming that he would use the money to bribe prosecutors in the New York County District Attorney’s Office in Manhattan to obtain a reduced sentence. According to the complaint, the government’s investigation uncovered no evidence that Meng actually contacted anyone in the District Attorney’s Office on the individual’s behalf but instead planned to keep the “bribe money” for himself. Meng is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Joan M. Azrack, at the U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York.
City Council members from Queens came out on the long and short end when City Council Speaker Christine Quinn allocated discretionary funds as part of the city’s new $68.7 million budget.
The funds — which can go to libraries, Little League fields, soup kitchens, and just about any other type of organization or activity — have been called both pork and funding necessary to advance community welfare.
It was a familiar sight — dozens of people standing on the steps outside the Flushing Library on Tuesday, waving signs and chanting to protest the mayor’s budget cuts to libraries in the city.
The mayor’s executive budget includes a $26.7 million, or 31 percent cut, to the Queens Library, beginning July 1. The system has sustained $48.5 million in reductions since 2008, according to library spokeswoman Joanne King.
September’s special election to fill the seat left vacant by Congressman Anthony Weiner’s resignation may create another vacuum, this time in the state.
Should the Democratic candidate David Weprin win, he would vacate his seat in the Assembly. Since the 9th Congressional District is highly Democratic, a win by Weprin would not be a surprise.
Elected officials from the borough say they want government to work in this new year and point to responsiveness and bipartisan cooperation as ways to get things done.
Former Flushing assemblyman and political lobbyist Barry Grodenchik was named deputy borough president on Tuesday by Borough President Helen Marshall.
Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) had a busy Tuesday. She voted in the Democratic primary runoff and delivered her second son at New York Hospital Queens.