This could have easily be written today, and here it is two years old and as fresh as a new born baby. I particularly like the line “For all the storm clouds, the local politicians routinely win re-election by Castro-esque margins. ” I would also like to add “ignorant and stupid sheep”.
Yes something it very foul smelling in Jamaica/Southeast Queens and this time it is not all the garbage and something needs to be done about it because it has been going on for decades.
First it was the corrupt white leaders of Jamaica back in the day, Masta Donald Mannes, Masta Thomas Manton and Masta Joseph P. Addabbo. Today, same shit, different complexion. And you wonder why Jamaica is so totally FUCKED UP!
Local pols under fire: What’s the matter with SE Queens?
Flood of corruption charges undermine area development.
October 28, 2012 12:01 a.m
A few weeks ago, a federal judge spent 20 minutes reading aloud the staggering details of a $50 million mortgage scheme that had defrauded Wall Street banks and duped hundreds of immigrants.
Edul Ahmad, a handsome 45-year-old dressed in a dark suit, and a Guyanese immigrant himself, rocked nervously in the courtroom.
“I knew what I was doing was illegal,” he said, entering a guilty plea in a near-whisper.
“Where were you when you were doing this?” asked the judge, Dora Irizarry.
“Queens, New York,” replied Mr. Ahmad.
In Queens—southeast Queens, specifically—Mr. Ahmad’s conviction added to a litany of troubles that has ensnared local politicians and, some say, threatened government funding for economic development.
Mr. Ahmad had made a $40,000 personal loan to Rep. Gregory Meeks, which the Democratic congressman initially failed to disclose as required by law. The loan is being probed by the House Ethics Committee, and speculation has run rampant about the potential consequences of Mr. Ahmad’s plea for Mr. Meeks, the neighborhood’s primary political breadwinner.
Darkening the cloud over the congressman, federal officials charged last week that Albert Baldeo, a political ally of Mr. Meeks, engineered a “straw donor” fraud scheme during a 2010 City Council run. Mr. Baldeo’s lawyers accused prosecutors of “overreaching.”
In September, state Sen. Shirley Huntley, D-Queens, was indicted in connection with no-work jobs at a nonprofit she funded, and investigations have reportedly been launched into nonprofits tied to state Sen. Malcolm Smith, City Councilman Ruben Wills and other Queens officials. The shadow cast by the various probes has complicated efforts to secure public money for the neighborhood, which has been pummeled by the foreclosure crisis.
“It has affected the ability to get ESDC and EDC dollars,” said one local lobbyist, referring to the Empire State Development Corp. and the city’s Economic Development Corp. “And it’s prevented Mayor Bloomberg from doing enough direct, long-term economic development. They might build a park or a cricket field, but they’re not focusing on building the next Court Street.”
The competition for a multibillion-dollar “racino” at Aqueduct Racetrack, one of the area’s biggest recent developments, did not escape controversy. Several local politicians were criticized in a state inspector general’s report examining potential bid-rigging for a favored developer whose ownership included the powerful local Rev. Floyd Flake. The group’s bid was disqualified, and the matter has been under federal investigation. (The project was ultimately undertaken by a different developer and the new Resorts World Casino has been an unqualified success.)
Development to take advantage of the area’s proximity to JFK airport is also a major local priority, but that too has produced negative headlines. The New York Post wrote this summer that federal investigators had subpoenaed records from the Greater Jamaica Development Corp., the main economic engine in southeast Queens. Mr. Meeks had lobbied for $40 million in funds that went toward went toward city and state projects administered by Greater Jamaica.
That included a $2.7 million grant for the group to develop an old grocery store into a corporate office tower for tenants like JetBlue, an initiative that stalled for eight years and was harshly criticized by the Port Authority. In the meantime, JetBlue instead built its headquarters in Long Island City, Queens.
The president of Greater Jamaica, Carlisle Towery, an Alabaman who has run the organization for 41 years, has also drawn scrutiny from the Post for receiving $283,000 in annual salary and benefits, while his wife in 2010 got $77,000 for unspecified consulting work. The Post has been a thorn in the side of local politicians, many of whom believe the paper is biased against them. A Post spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.
A spokesman for the group said the controversies had been ginned up.
‘Guilt by association’
“We at Greater Jamaica think it’s important to cross all our t’s and dot all our i’s and show others how to do things right,” the spokesman said, adding that its spending is publicly available for scrutiny and is thoroughly audited.
None of the controversy was apparent at Greater Jamaica’s recent posh fundraiser in Hell’s Kitchen, which featured a string quintet and a live Latin-jazz band.
Instead, speaker after speaker praised Mr. Meeks and the organization, which was celebrating its 45th anniversary. Daniel Greene, the board chairman, said that a neighborhood devastated by the mortgage crisis had rebounded, thanks in no small part to the group’s work. For instance, he said, property values had increased from $313 million to $1 billion during a 10-year period and that there had been significant job growth.
There was also effusive praise for Mr. Meeks.
“Jamaica is privileged to have such an able and dedicated public servant as Congressman Meeks!” said Mr. Greene to a crowd of about 100, including several of the city’s top lobbyists.
Many elected officials in the area insist that the headlines have not hampered economic development. Assemblyman William Scarborough, whose name has notably not come up in those reports, said it was unfair for unproven charges to be played up by tabloids.
“I’ve seen how easy it is to engage in innuendo and guilt by association,” Mr. Scarborough said.
‘It doesn’t help’
For all the storm clouds, the local politicians routinely win re-election by Castro-esque margins. (One exception is Ms. Huntley, who endured a perp walk in front of her home just days before losing September’s Democratic primary.)
Recently, the Guy Brewer Democratic Club, the most powerful clubhouse in the area, held a party at its headquarters in St. Albans to watch Barack Obama and Mitt Romney debate. Some 200 people showed up and enthusiastically joined state Sen. Malcolm Smith in a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Mr. Meeks, fresh off a 16-hour flight from the nation of Georgia, where he had been monitoring elections, also received warm applause.
Standing outside the club on Linden Boulevard, former Councilman Archie Spigner, who is something of a political godfather in the neighborhood, paused to consider the recent tumult’s impact on local development.
“It doesn’t help; it certainly doesn’t help,” said Mr. Spigner, who now lobbies for the Greater Jamaica Development Corp.
Mr. Spigner, shaking his head, added that it had not always been this way.
“It must be something in the water these days,” he said.