Heard Around Town

Fordham Law School in City Hall News, October 19, 2011

Media Source

Former Mayor Ed Koch continued his war of words against the city comptroller yesterday, saying, “John Liu is the pits.” The former mayor was referring to the recent New York Times investigation of phantom donors to Liu’s campaign, which he said warranted a Campaign Finance Board investigation. “He’s in trouble, as he should be,” Koch said. Liu has vowed to return any donations that were not aboveboard, but maintains his campaign has personal checks to back up every reported donation. This is not the first time Liu and Koch have crossed swords: Liu criticized the renaming of the Queensboro Bridge after Koch, based on comments the former mayor made in the early ‘80s that Liu deemed racist toward Asians. Koch replied that Liu should be “denounced” for supporting the naming of a street after Sonny Carson, also been accused of being racist. A spokesman for Liu did not return a request for comment.

* Council Speaker Christine Quinn is used to walking a fine line between New York City’s progressive activists and its business community on issues like paid sick leave and living wage legislation. But it was doubly hard yesterday in a speech about job creation to the Association for a Better New York business group. She said she sympathizes with Occupy Wall Street’s anger toward the financial sector but does not want to “bash Wall Street.” She supports their First Amendment rights to protest, but also supports surrounding residents’ right to peace and quiet. She has no plans to visit their Zuccotti Park encampment, but has been in talks with the park’s owners. Still, her fine calibration failed her when outspoken CUNY trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld asked her about anti-Semitism at Occupy Wall Street. “I do not support that. I cannot agree with that. I want to be very clear there’s no evidence to support that,” Quinn said. Turns out there are YouTube videos of two protesters blaming Jews in general – and one man in a yarmulke – for Wall Street’s problems. Quinn changed her tune after she learned about them in the afternoon, saying, “This type of hate speech is repugnant and must stop. That said, the anti-Semitic sentiments being expressed by a few should not be allowed to overshadow the legitimate concerns of the overwhelming majority of those protesting.”

* Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and Bill Samuels, the reform-minded multimillionaire founder of the New Roosevelt Initiative, were spotted having breakfast yesterday at the Gramercy Park Hotel in Manhattan. Samuels, the former finance chairman for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee who has deep connections in the liberal donor community and funded efforts last year to take out ex-Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., says he plans to be helpful to Jeffries’ as-yet-unannounced bid to win the seat currently held by Congressman Ed Towns. Samuels and Jeffries first met about a month ago at a screening of “Gerrymandering,” a film that prominently features Jeffries. The assemblyman recently reported raising nearly $175,000 for his likely congressional run – including $500 from Samuels.

* He’s one of the most powerful federal prosecutors in the land, but Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara confessed last night he still doesn’t know why big shots turn to crime. “Why … did defendants of great wealth and renown … go south?” he wondered at a Fordham Law School panel on “Absence of Malice,” the 1981 film in which Sally Field’s reporter and Paul Newman’s accused criminal navigate journalistic ethics and prosecutorial misconduct. Bharara said his office patiently builds big cases by starting with smaller fish and working their way up: “We say, ‘You’re in a lot of trouble. Before we go to court, you might want to make a few phone calls.’ Some people find that unseemly because there’s a utilitarian aspect to it.” He also said Wilford Brimley’s prosecutor character seemed so competent in the movie, Bharara was ready to hire him.