Brooklyn

Brooklyn Among 3 Finalists For DNC

Brooklyn is among the finalists for holding the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Democratic Party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced today in an email to supporters.

Also among the finalists is Columbus, Ohio and Philadelphia.

Elected officials in New York — especially those from Brooklyn — have lobbied heavily in favor of holding the convention there, where former New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is expected to emerge as the nominee of the party.

“We’re thrilled to move to the next step of the selection process to determine where Democrats will come together to nominate the 45th President of the United States,” said Wasserman Schultz in a statement. “We are fortunate to have such a diverse and vibrant group of cities interested in hosting this special event and we thank Phoenix and Birmingham for showcasing their special communities. We look forward to working with Columbus, New York, and Philadelphia as we go forward.”

Meanwhile, potential weeks for the convention include July 18, July 25, and August 22.

The last time New York City hosted a national convention was with the Republicans in 2004, held at Madison Square Garden.

Labor-Dem-WFP Coalition Targets Sen. Golden (Updated)

The coalition created out of the Working Families Party convention to flip the state Senate into Democratic hands is quickly putting together its list of seats to target and/or protect, and apparently one of just two remaining Republican senators representing New York City is in its crosshairs.

According to a source familiar with the coalition’s plans, Sen. Marty Golden, of Brooklyn, will be a top target this fall. Democratic NYC Councilman Vincent Gentile’s name is being floated as a potential challenger to Golden, who is himself a former councilman. Golden, who worked for the NYPD for 10 years before launching his politial career, was first elected to the Senate in 2002.

There’s a long and not terribly friendly history between Gentile and Golden.

Gentile once held Golden’s seat, which he won in 1996, capitalizing on internal divisions in the Republican party to win a three-way race in what was then SD-23. Golden defeated Gentile in 2002 with the help of nearly $4 million from the Senate GOP, and Gentile, who spent about half a million dollars on his Senate campaign, subsequently won a special election for the NYC Council seat Golden vacated to move up to the Senate.

Effectively, the two swapped jobs.

Today, Golden’s Brooklyn district (the 22nd SD) has an overwhelming Democratic enrollment edge – 78,165 to 33,343 Republicans, according to the state Board of Elections. Yet the Democrats have so far been unable to unseat the outspoken and often colorful senator from his seat.

Two years ago, Golden’s Democratic challenger, Andrew Gounardes, lost to Golden, 57 percent to 43 percent, but performed surprisingly well in Golden’s home turf of Bay Ridge. Since then, however, Gounardes has accepted a job with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (a former Senate Democrat), and he would have to give up the job if he wanted to pursue a re-match run against the GOP senator.

Also worth noting: Golden was a close ally of former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who used his considerable wealth to bolster the Senate GOP’s coffers while he was in office. Now that Bloomberg is gone, the Republicans have lost their most prominent individual contributor.

Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif emailed the following statement in response to the news that Golden is yet again a target for the Democrats:

“Another year, another boast from Senate Democrats about this being the year they’re going to take out Marty Golden. Excuse us if we’ve heard this one before. Regardless of who the Democrats decide to put up this time, Senator Golden is going to be reelected because he keeps delivering for the hardworking residents of Brooklyn.”

UPDATE: The coalition source called back in response to Reif’s comment, noting that there are thousands of union members living in Golden’s district whose organizations have never before been uited against him, and prepared to urge them all to work – and vote – against him. Also, according to this source, some $1 million has been earmarked by the coalition to assist Gentile (or whoever the Democratic opponent ends up being) in his quest to unseat Golden.

De Blasio Pitches Brooklyn For Democratic Convention

As first reported by The New York Times this afternoon, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is pitching his home borough of Brooklyn to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

In a letter to DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, de Blasio says Brooklyn’s Barclays Center would be the principle venue for the event.

New York last hosted a national political convention in 2004, when Republicans re-nominated President George W. Bush.

But now, with a liberal populist resurgency embodied by de Blasio, New York City — and Brooklyn in particular — could be a way for Democrats nationally to showcase that.

Of course, New York resident Hillary Clinton may very well be the candidate for Democrats in 2016.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz by Nick Reisman

Felder Maintains ‘Go With Majority’ Stance

With all the talk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo potentially pushing to reunify the IDC and so-called “regular” Democrats as payback for the Republicans’ refusal to support a statewide public campaign finance system, I thought it would be worth checking it with the lone Democrat who is actually conferencing with the GOP: Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder.

“Nothing has changed,” the senator told me during a brief telephone interview this afternoon. “I’m interested in doing everything I can to make sure my constituents get all the services they need and deserve. That was my original position. It’s not about the governor. It’s not about the IDC. It’s not about anyone other than my constituents. I care only about them.”

So, does that mean that Felder would return to the Democratic fold if the Republican-IDC coalition fell apart? In a word: “Yes.”

As you’ll recall, Felder, a former NYC councilman, announced shortly after winning his seat in 2012 that he would be caucusing with the Republicans, despite the that he had run as a Democrat and had no intention of changing his party affiliation.

At the time, Felder made it clear that he would sit with whichever conference that would enable him to do more for his constituents – in other words, whoever could provide the most in terms of resources and service-delivery power would be getting his vote.

Just over one month later, the breakaway IDC announced its historic power-sharing deal with the GOP (plus Felder), which enabled the Republicans to retain a slim hold on the majority.

In return for his decision, Felder got to chair a brand new subcommittee on NYC education that was created by the Republicans just for him. And he generally has been a reliable vote for the GOP ever since.

This year, however, Felder experienced a significant policy loss when GOP Leader Dean Skelos failed to cut a deal on an education tax credit that would have given religious schools a much-needed boost. Felder took some heat for this, but he says he believes that of all the leaders involved in the budget negotiations this spring, the Senate Republicans “certainly made the best effort” to get the tax credit done.

Cuomo is now being criticized for failing to keep his word – according to Catholic leaders – on the tax credit. Supporters had hoped that it would end up part of a grand deal along with public campaign finance and changes to the teacher performanmce evaluation system, but so far, that hadn’t materialized.

I asked Felder if he felt the loss of the tax credit would encourage him to leave the GOP conference and return to the regular Democrats (who, by the way, once wanted him to be thrown out of the party, thanks to his willingness to sit with the Republicans), and he replied:

“There were a lot of people that – at best – did not do what they should have to make sure that that got passed, and in Albany, it takes three to tango. (Actually, these days, four).”

“…At the end of the day, I’m repeating myself, but party really makes no difference to me. If I was in a different district, I wouldn’t have the liberty to be such an independent person. I have, thank God, the benefit of being beholden only to my constituents and God, so I’m able to make decisions that relate to ensuring constituents get what they need without the impact of party politics.”

Recchia Lands 2nd Union Nod From RWDSU

Former NYC Councilman Domenic Recchia’s campaign is poised to announce that the Brooklyn Democrat has landed his second union endorsement from RWDSU for his bid to unseat Staten Island Republican Rep. Michael Grimm.

“Throughout his many years of public service, Domenic Recchia has stood with New York’s working families,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. “As a New York City Council Member, Domenic not only fought for the people of his district, but also advocated on behalf of working families in every borough.”

“We need a congressman who will stand with low wage workers and all working people. Domenic Recchia will bring the voice of working families in Staten Island and South Brooklyn to our nation’s capital. We are proud to endorse him.”

John Durso, president of Local 338 RWDSU, added:

“We have seen first-hand Domenic’s commitment to all of New York City’s working families As a City Councilman he fought for legislation to protect workers’ rights while also working to create new jobs. We are confident that Domenic will continue to be a great champion as the next Congressman of the 11th District, and he will help change the Republican-caused gridlock in Washington, D.C.”

This isn’t terribly surprising. Two years ago, RWDSU endorsed Mark Murphy, the Democrat who unsuccessfully sought to oust Grimm in a high Democratic turnout, presidential election year.

The NY-11 race has heated up since Grimm was indicted on 20 counts of fraud and tax evasion. Grimm, who is out on $400,000 bond, made his first court appearance yesterday, and it appears this case is not going to be speedily resolved (as he had hoped) before the midterm elections, in which the scandal-scarred congressman continues to run.

The charges are in connection to an Upper East Side health food restaurant that the congressman owned and operated prior to his 2010 election to the House. The government has accused Grimm of filing false tax returns, committing mail fraud and withholding more than $1 million worth of taxes.

The case stems from an ongoing federal investigation into Grimm’s fundraising which has lasted about two years. Also, the House Ethics Committee announced in November that Grimm was under investigation for possible campaign finance violations.

Part of the problem in terms of timing is that it’s going to take a considerable amount of time for attorneys to review the 70,000 pages of documents and 8,000 emails that government prosecutors are using as evidence against Grimm.

The congressman has insisted he is innocent, and has called the charges against him a “political witch hunt” designed to “assassinate my character and remove me from office.” He did, however, resign from his seat on the House Financial Services Committee in late April at the urging of Speaker John Boehner.

Et Tu, Shirley?

ICYMI, this was today’s morning memo:

Et Tu, Shirley?

Since the revelation that former Bronx Assemblyman Nelson Castro had been working as a double agent for federal prosecutors for almost the entire duration of his four years in office, the most popular political parlor game in Albany has been trying to guess who else might be wearing a wire.

Queens Assemblyman David Weprin even joked to the New York Times that it had become de rigueur upon meeting colleagues to “feel them up and down” – in a joking sort of way, of course.

Little did he know.

Last week, we learned Castro was not alone in his undercover activities. Former state Sen. Shirley Huntley, also of Queens, had also been working for the feds after discovering she would be slapped with corruption charges.

It looks like prosecutors hit pay dirt with Huntley – netting a much bigger fish than the one Castro managed to reel in (freshman Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, who is scheduled to be indicted in federal court today).

Former Minority Leader John Sampson turned himself in this morning to the FBI to face corruption charges in connection with a bribery deal that also involved Huntley and his own embezzlement of some $440,000 from the foreclosure sales of four Brooklyn properties for which he was the court-appointed referee.

Court documents reveal that Huntley, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges in January, recorded meetings with nine different people, seven of whom were elected officials and two others who had previously worked as a consultant or staff member to a public official.

It turns out that Sampson is the lawmaker identified in those documents as “Senator #1,” who sought help from Huntley for a businessman who was offering bribes in exchange for help to expand his business at Kennedy International Airport, which is in Huntley’s district.

Sampson set up a meeting between Huntley and the businessman, and Huntley subsequently contacted airport authorities on his behalf over the next two months, receiving $1,000 for her efforts. The money was ill spent, however, because despite the bribe, the businessman did not receive a lease for additional space from the Port Authority.

This is not the only incident involving Sampson that has caught the interest of federal investigators. They’re also reportedly looking into the Brooklyn Democrat’s relationship with Edul Ahmad, a Queens real estate broker whom Sampson represented as a client through his legal practice.

Ahmad pleaded guilty in federal court in October to a mortgage fraud scheme and has been the focus of a loan scandal involving Queens Rep. Gregory Meeks.

It’s ironic that Huntley is the one to take Sampson down. Back in 2010, he defended her against LGBT advocates who were furious that he agreed to support her and other Democrats who voted “no” on the gay marriage bill.

At the time, Huntley was facing a primary challenge from gay-marriage supporter Lynn Nunes. Sampson gave Huntley $9,500 from his own campaign cash and tried unsuccessfully to prevent the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s largest LGBT organization, from endorsing Nunes.

Nunes was not successful at ousting Huntley in the September primary. She won roughly 70 percent of the vote in that race.

Unlike with Castro, whom the feds allowed to stand for election three times, knowing all the while he was 1) a crook, and 2) splitting his time between representing his constituents and trying to catch fellow crooked colleagues in the act; Huntley only ran for re-election once, and was defeated in a primary by former NYC Councilman-turned-Sen. James Sanders.

It’s unclear if there will be more charges stemming from Huntley’s work on behalf of the US attorney’s office, but most observers agree this is just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s certainly bad news for the Senate Democrats, who have been trying to argue since last year’s elections that they are no longer the dysfunctional and trouble-ridden conference of the past.

And it’s especially bad news for those who are close to Sampson and might have something to hide. Sen. Malcolm Smith, the Queens Democrat who replaced Sampson as conference leader during the infamous 2009 coup, is battling his own corruption charges.

But there are one or two others – elected officials and former Senate staffers – who must be pretty darn concerned these days.

Grimm Racks Up Legal Fees, Attracts Opponents

Republican Rep. Michael Grimm may have easily defeated his Democratic opponent, Mark Murphy, this past November, but he may be facing troubled times ahead.

The Staten Island congressman’s latest filing with the FEC indicates his camapign committee spent another $100,000 on legal fees with the Washington, D.C. firm Patton Boggs. This filing covers the period from Nov. 27 through Dec. 31, 2012, so that’s a pretty hefty bill.

Last month, Grimm’s committee reported it had incurred $677,966 in legal fees from Patton Boggs. And that was on top of the $321,000 debt to the firm that was reported in June.

Taking into account the latest filing, Grimm’s legal bill now tops $1 million.

Patton Boggs is representing Grimm in the ongoing FBI probe into his fundraising.

An Israeli national, Ofer Biton, is at the center of the inquiry by the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn into whether Biton and Grimm collected contributions for Grimm’s 2010 campaign that exceeded contribution limits, were given in cash or came from foreigners without green cards.

Biton was charged last August with immigration fraud.

A House ethics panel has said it voted to investigate Grimm in November, but decided to defer to the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation of the fundraising activities. Grimm has denied being engaged in any illegal activities.

Also today, the House Majority PAC announced Grimm is one of ten “extreme” Republican members of Congress on its target list for 2014. He’s the only New Yorker on the list. The others are: Michele Bachmann (MN-06), Mike Coffman (CO-06), Gary Miller (CA-31), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08), Joe Heck (NV-03), David Joyce (OH-14), John Kline (MN-02) and Steve Southerland (FL-02).

“In 2012, House Majority PAC built a strong record of success and in 2013 we are ready to hit the ground running to hold these Republicans accountable and communicate with swing voters about their extreme records and backwards priorities,” said the committee’s Executive Director Alixandria Lapp.

“Whether it’s supporting the end of Medicare as we know it, backing tax cuts for the wealthy, working to roll back the clock on women’s rights or opposing stem cell research, these Republicans are simply out of step with the districts they represent. House Majority PAC will work to ensure voters know the truth.”

During the 2012 cycle, House Majority PAC spent approximately $36 million. Democratic candidates won in eight of the 10 races in which the committee spent the monst cash.

So far, two Democrats have expressed an interest in potentially challenging Grimm in 2014 – former Rep. Mike McMahon, who was ousted by Grimm in 2010; and Brooklyn Councilman Domenic Recchia, who was pushed out of the NYC comptroller’s race by Manhattan BP Scott Stringer and the Brooklyn BP race by frontrunner/Sen. Eric Adams.

RIP Sen. Emanuel ‘Manny’ Gold

Former Sen. Emanuel “Manny” Gold, a Queens Democrat who had a nearly 30-year career in the state Legislature, died yesterday morning after a brief battle with cancer, his daughter, Sue, confirmed. He was 77.

Copy of erg 005

Gold began his public service career by serving from 1965-68 as cousel to then-Assembly Majority Leader Moses M. Weinstein. In 1967, he served as counsel to the majority leader of the Constitutional Convention.

In 1970, Gold was elected to the Assembly in a special election, and was subsequently elected to the Senate in a special election the following year.  He was appointed deputy Senate minority leader in 1978 and retained that post through 1994.

Despite the fact that Gold was a member of the Senate minority conference, he was been the prime sponsor of more than 80 laws - a number of which have attracted national attention.

He authored the nation’s first Son of Sam Law, a law that required all prescription drugs in capsule or tablet form to be labeled, and a law that require New York’s educational curriculum be expanded so that children are taught about human rights violations, including the Holocaust and slavery.

While searching the web for information on Gold, I came across the following report by Albany Times Union columnist Fred LeBrun:

Sen. Emanuel R. Gold of Queens, a Democrat, brandished at a press conference in Albany an AK-47 semi- automatic and a 12- gauge shotgun with a pistol grip billed as a “home protection weapon” he purchased at unnamed area gun shops. He said it was easy – just a driver’s license and a personal check. And it was fast.”

“The fact that anyone can obtain such a weapon so easily is ludicrous,” he said. “It took me no more than 12 minutes to buy each weapon.” Gold was grandstanding for a package of stringent gun control bills he’s introduced, including registration of all existing shotguns and rifles, a move bound to draw down the sporting gun folks like myself on his head.

But even among the most ardent of us who shoot sporting clays, or deer, or pheasant, there’s a queasiness over defending Saturday night specials and assault rifles. Twelve minutes, says Mr. Gold. Twelve minutes for an anonymous citizen like himself to buy a nasty looking gun like an AK-47.

For the record, LeBrun, an avid sportsman, did not take kindly to what he called Gold’s “grandstanding,” writing in a subsequent column:

“Mr. Gold is facing the wrong direction: Tell it to Washington. As long as handguns and long guns and assault rifles are readily available, particularly in southern states, there will be a problem in New York City.”

This incident occurred back in 1991.

Twenty years later, Sen. Eric Adams -  a Brooklyn Democrat – pulled a similiar stunt, traveling to Albany with a Daily News reporter in tow to demonstrate how easy it is to purchase high-capacity magazines, even though they were supposedly banned in New York back in 1994.

Adams went to a Rensselaer County gun store and purchased two 30-round magazines for…wait for it…an AK-47  assault rifle, and the transaction was captured by a hidden DN camera.

Ah, the irony.

According to a biography forwarded by his daughter, Gold wasn’t only a veteran politician with a flair for the dramatic, but also an avid athlete in high school, a boxer in college, a lifelong golfer, a professional photographer and accompished musician. He conducted several symphony orchestras.

Gold was married to and survived by the former Judith Silberfein and is also survived by his children; Sue, of Guilderland, NY; and Steve and Bonnie Gold of Glenmont, NY; grand-daughters Emily Borst and Jaclyn (Jackie) Gold. He was predeceased by his sons Jeffrey and Adam.

Services are Sunday, the 27th at Parkside, 98-60 Queens Blvd, Rego Park, NY, at 12:45 p.m.  Donations in his memory may be made to the American Cancer Society.

NOTE: I initially mistakenly said that Gold was a Brooklyn senator. He was indeed born in Brooklyn, but raised in Laurelton, Queens, and also represented districts in that borough.