Boss Tweed died in solitude in 1878. Yet, the political shenanigans that came to define the once powerful Tammany Hall still persist today. Queens County has long held the unscrupulous distinction for having a corrupt and ironically undemocratic machine run the gamut. Maspeth and Middle Village are no exception to that rule. In fact, our community is home to some of the biggest clubhouse politicians in the entire city. They hold little or no regard for the views of their constituents, and will stop at nothing to do whatever is best for them; the general public be damned.
Marge Markey: Missing in Inaction
First let’s examine the leadership (or the lack thereof) of Assemblywoman Margaret Markey. From time to time, some residents have spotted Markey standing in front of a camera, but that’s about the only place you’ll find her. If you’re a member of a civic group, or attend monthly police forums, chances are you’ve never laid eyes on our Assemblywoman. That’s because she rarely bothers to show up. Since she was anointed by the Queens County Democratic machine in 1998, Markey has attended only one Juniper Park Civic Association meeting. Civic groups are comprised of volunteers who depend on the help of their elected officials to improve the quality of life in the community; Markey on the other hand, is a paid public official who is expected to make the meetings. Civic volunteers and members go to great pains to set up meetings by renting the halls, publicizing the event, inviting guest speakers. They also spend thousands of hours away from their families in the righteous cause of protecting and enhancing their communities. So it’s particularly disturbing when elected officials don’t even make an attempt to show their face(s).
To examine why Markey never shows up at community meetings, one need not look further than her résumé, which reveals a lifetime involvement in party politics. Before her election to the State Assembly, Markey was a longtime Queens County Democratic Committee member. She was rewarded for her loyalty with a plum post as Director of Queens Tourism in the Borough President’s office. Talk about a patronage job; give me a break!
In 1998, the party bosses selected Margaret Markey to replace Assemblyman Joseph Crowley, who was also selected that year to fill Tom Manton’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Manton had resigned his seat in Congress conveniently after the deadline for filing candidate petitions so that there could be no challenger to Crowley. As a result, Joe Crowley automatically became the party’s designee in a bait-and-switch tactic that dealt the voters yet another raw deal.
When Tom Manton passed away in 2006, Joe Crowley was selected to take his place as Chairman of the Democratic Organization of Queens County. In recent years, Joe Crowley has neglected his constituents. For instance, when asked to sponsor air and noise quality studies for Maspeth and Middle Village, he agreed. However, the results of the ‘study’ have never been published. When his office was questioned regarding the status and findings of the study, the only answer provided was that NYU botched the study.
“Say it Ain’t So, Joe”
In 2008, after we put an illustration on the cover of the Juniper Berry depicting Marge Markey as a puppet for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, an angry Joe Crowley was quoted in local newspapers stating that the JPCA is jeopardizing its 501-c3 (not for profit status) by commenting on political matters. Joe Crowley had it only half right. Yes, the JPCA is a “not-for-profit,” however we are 501-c4 and we certainly have every right to comment on public matters. Curiously, right after Crowley’s inaccurate comment all of the JPCA’s city and state grants disappeared including a grant to offset the printing costs of the Juniper Berry.
We all remember in early 2006, when disgraced ex-Councilman Dennis Gallagher suddenly declared war on the JPCA. We believe he was acting on behalf of several elected officials in his attacks on the Juniper Park Civic Association. The Juniper Berry had published op-eds by Ed Kampermann and the late Bob Doocey that were critical of some local elected officials. Gallagher’s first action against us was removing JPCA Board Member Tony Nunziato from Community Board #5. At the time, Nunziato was contemplating running for the State Assembly; the seat occupied by Crowley’s hand-picked successor Marge Markey. Prior to that point, Markey rarely faced an opponent.
As further retribution, Nunziato was also removed as the President of Maspeth Town Hall, a move orchestrated by several members of the Queens Democratic machine, their cronies and Gallagher. A short time later Gallagher formed a phony rival civic association called the Middle Village/Maspeth Civic Assoc. The new group met a few days before the JPCA’s meetings and was allocated funding by Gallagher, former Councilwoman Melinda Katz, and Senator Serf Maltese, among others.
In return for all of this, Gallagher, albeit a Republican, was hoping to curry favor with the Queens Democratic Machine. Gallagher was already raising funds for a potential State Senate run, and was looking to resurrect the unholy pact between the two parties that prohibited candidates from running against certain incumbents.
What Goes Around, Comes Around
A little over a year after Gallagher declared war on the JPCA he was indicted for rape and assault. He plea-bargained with the Queens District Attorney to avoid jail time. The only penalty Gallagher received was that he had to resign his council seat. How convenient for the Queens Democratic Machine! The Queens DA had strong evidence against Gallagher including DNA, however, it’s well known that the Queens Democratic Party had more to gain in grabbing Gallagher’s seat on the city council than seeing Gallagher in prison.
A year later in 2008, Joe Crowley’s cousin, Elizabeth, won Gallagher’s seat and is now our City Council Member. Once again, welcome to the wonderful world of Queens politics.
Meanwhile Councilwoman Melinda Katz, who had partnered with Gallagher against the JPCA, lost her election bid for City Comptroller and is out of politics.
As for Elizabeth Crowley, this year, she received the least amount of funding for her district out of all 51 council members. It seems she angered Council Speaker Christine Quinn by leaking confidential information to the press. You would think that her cousin Joe could step in and reason with Quinn not to punish the neighborhoods for Elizabeth’s faux pas, especially given the fact that Joe Crowley’s Queens Democratic Party helped elect Quinn as speaker. However, that didn’t happen and as a result many community organizations suffered little or no funding for their programs.
But Wait, There’s More
This month, the Office of Congressional Ethics — an outside, independent body of former members of Congress — recommended that the House Ethics Committee investigate three members, including our very own Congressman Joe Crowley, who raised significant sums of Wall Street money before key votes on the financial-services-overhaul bill. Crowley pulled in $23,500 from one fund-raising event alone last December, just days prior to a vote.
Congressman Joe Crowley is also a staunch defender of Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel, who is charged with 13 ethics violations. In fact, Crowley even co-hosted Rangel’s 80th-birthday fund-raiser at The Plaza hotel last month. Talk about arrogance.
And, while we’re on the subject of “contributions,” we also learned that Assemblywoman Marge Markey received a campaign contribution from Waste Management Inc. As many residents of Maspeth, Middle Village, Woodside and Glendale know, Waste Management is responsible for the “stink trains” on freight tracks traveling through western Queens’s neighborhoods with nothing going out by barge, the preferred route. With no emission laws for diesel engines and not enough track lines, trains will continue to idle and couple and uncouple in our backyards spewing toxins into our air and destroying our quality of life, jeopardizing everyone’s health so Waste Management can make larger profits. Barging garbage from the WM facility on the Newtown Creek would be more fuel efficient and less of an impact to our community and communities around the State of New York. However WM said that they are not in the barging business and the city apparently is looking the other way.
After accepting a campaign contribution Assemblywoman Markey praised Waste Management for loading their garbage on trains near their facility in Long Island City and listening to the community. When residents of Middle Village complained about the noise and smell from these WM garbage trains, Markey came up with a recommendation that residents should consider applying for federal grants for triple glazed windows.
Trust me. All of the corruption, misdeeds, cronyism, influence peddling etc. going on in Queens politics would more than fill this magazine. I just touched upon the tip of the iceberg.
After the United States government sets up fair and open elections in Iraq and Afghanistan, they should take a good long look at Queens County.