Political retribution and shenanigans that came to define the once powerful Tammany Hall still persists today. No, we are not talking about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the George Washington Bridge scandal with alleged political abuse of power. Look no further than right here in New York City. In fact Queens County has long held the unscrupulous distinction for having a corrupt and ironically undemocratic political machine that runs the gamut. Our community is home to some of the biggest clubhouse politicians in the entire city. The political class has a stranglehold on our city and borough and will do whatever it takes to stay in power. 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 public be damned.
Enter Billionaire Bloomberg
Mayor Michael Bloomberg knew how to get back at individuals or groups who disagreed or dared to question his vision for the City. In 2006 after visiting Juniper Park Civic Association Town Meetings on four occasions and courting the JPCA during his 2005 re-election campaign, he abruptly turned on the civic association. The reason? The JPCA had the audacity to file a lawsuit against the City for allowing unleashed dogs in city parks. Bloomberg sent two of his aides and a Parks Commissioner to threaten the civic association and directed at least two other commissioners to stop dealing with the JPCA. This was confirmed by then Councilman Tony Avella who was told by a City commissioner that he had orders not to work with the Juniper Park Civic Association. Avella was trying to help the civic to save the historic St. Saviour’s Church building in Maspeth.
In 2007 JPCA President Robert Holden wrote a letter to the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit (CAU) asking for help with the growing graffiti problem in Maspeth. CAU Commissioner Nazli Parvisi wrote back saying that her office would not work with the JPCA until Holden and the JPCA offered a public apology for allowing a man to hold a sign at a protest rally that attacked the Mayor and other city officials for their handling of the St. Saviour’s issue. The man, who happened to reside in Flushing, was protesting the destruction of 180 trees on the St. Saviour’s property. Parvisi was critical of Holden for allowing the man to hold the sign at the rally. Obviously Parvisi never read the United States Constitution.
Dennis The Menace
In early 2006, then Councilman Dennis Gallagher suddenly declared war on the JPCA. It was clear that 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 the JPCA was removing Tony Nunziato from Queens Community Board 5 . At the time, Nunziato was contemplating running for the State Assembly, the seat occupied by Crowley's handpicked 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 Association. The new group met a few days before the JPCA's meetings and was allocated taxpayer funding by Gallagher, former Councilwoman Melinda Katz, and State Senator Serf Maltese, among others. Meanwhile none of these elected officials either funded or even attended Juniper Civic Town Meetings.
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.
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.
The Crowley Curse
A year later in 2008, Congressman and Queens County Democratic Boss Joe Crowley put his cousin, Elizabeth, up for Gallagher's seat. She lost a special election in June to Republican Anthony Como but came back in November in the regular election and finally won the seat riding on Barack Obama’s coattails.
Liz Crowley immediately announced that she would not allocate any funding to the Juniper Park Civic Association saying it’s because they publish the Juniper Berry magazine, which she claimed was “too political.” Here’s a politician who got elected solely on the basis of her last name refusing to fund a 75-year old civic organization because they have opinions about ongoing political shenanigans in Queens County!
In September, 2008, after the JPCA 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 a local newspaper 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 they are 501-c4 and certainly have every right to comment on public matters. Mysteriously though, right after Crowley's comment, all of the JPCA's city and state grants disappeared including a grant to offset the printing costs of the Juniper Berry. Since 2008 the JPCA has not received any funding from any elected official. Even Republican State Senator Serphin Maltese removed the JPCA’s funding, further evidence of the “unholy pact” between Democrats and Republicans in Queens.
It was also confirmed that the Queens (Un)Democratic Machine, led by Joe Crowley instructed Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi not to fund the JPCA and told State Senator Joe Addabbo not to attend JPCA meetings. To add insult to injury, Joe Crowley, who decides what candidates will run for office in Queens, doesn’t even live in Queens or even New York City for that matter. He resides in an upscale neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia and sends his three kids to Arlington’s nationally renowned public schools shunning New York City’s educational system.
All of the corruption, misdeeds, cronyism, influence peddling etc. going on in Queens politics trumps any New Jersey bridge scandal. After the Federal Government investigates New Jersey they should cross a few more bridges and take a good long look at Queens County where it’s ground zero for political abuse of power.