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Serrano Votes Against Wall Street Bailout – NY Times BlogShare, Yesterday at 8:31pm
Four of New York State’s 29 representatives voted no on the $700 billion economic bailout package that the House of Representatives rejected on Monday in a historic vote, 228 to 205. The four no votes from New York State came from three Democrats — José E. Serrano of the Bronx, Kirsten E. Gillibrand from the Albany area, and Maurice D. Hinchey of south-central New York — and one Republican, John R. Kuhl Jr. of central-western New York. (See the roll call.)
Mr. Serrano, a Bronx Democrat and the only House member from New York City to vote no, explained his decision in a phone interview:
I felt it was not a situation where you should be giving large amount of money to be administered by the same people who caused the problem. I just felt it was not right to begin with.
Second, I didn’t find enough provisions that satisfied me in terms of the oversight. In so many ways it was just giving them a blank check.
I represent the poorest district in the nation, located within the richest nation and within walking distance of the wealthiest district in the nation, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
When Wall Street was doing great and these guys were giving each other $50 million bonuses, I couldn’t see anything happen to the Bronx that made me say, ‘Wow, there’s some good from what’s happening on Wall Street.’ So now, they want $700 billion — which could amount to over $1 trillion, and who knows how much more later on – and that debt would be incurred by the people of the South Bronx, directly or indirectly.
Next year, when we want to increase funding for education, health care or veterans affairs – or just keep them at the same level – we will be told that we can’t because we can’t pay down the debt.
Despite strong pressure from the House leadership, Mr. Serrano added, “I couldn’t in good conscience” support the rescue package.
Mr. Serrano acknowledged that Wall Street’s collapse could hurt Main Street even further. If so, “do my constituents suffer?” he asked rhetorically, replying, “Yes, but what was presented to us did not help my constituents at all. It in fact put them at risk, because it would saddle them with debt. Where was Wall Street when we were cutting the taxes of zillionaires and driving up the debt?”

City Urged to Scrap Homeless Shelter Plan By MICHAEL O. ALLEN, Daily News Staff Writer

March 21, 2002

Opponents of a proposed 400-bed homeless shelter in Williamsburg rallied against the plan last night, calling on Mayor Bloomberg to cancel it.

“What they’re creating is a warehouse for homeless men,” said Jose Leon.

Opening the East Williamsburg Industrial Park facility, at an old factory at 89 Porter Ave., is the first half of a plan to close the 800-bed 30th Street men’s shelter at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. The city will build a second 400-bed facility in the Bronx.

The Giuliani administration signed a $180 million, 22-year contract with the Manhattan-based Doe Fund to operate the shelter, immediately drawing the ire of Brooklyn elected officials and community activists, who sued the city.

Marty Needelman, a lawyer with Brooklyn Legal Services, said the city used subterfuge to avoid input from the community. But the city maintained the plan did not require review because, in part, the Doe Fund is a nongovernmental firm buying a building from a private seller.

“It’s a bad precedent,” Needelman said. “If the city can get away with avoiding the land-review process through this technicality on a $180-million project, then they can do that on a lot of other projects and undermine one of the critical features of the City Charter.”

Lower courts have ruled against the project opponents, but they have filed notice that they intend to appeal.

Even the Coalition for the Homeless — which fights to get the city to live up to its obligations to provide shelter, housing and services for the homeless — is opposed to the project.

“It’s an incredibly shortsighted and poor policy,” Patrick Markee, a senior policy analyst for the Coalition for the Homeless, said of the plan. “Our position has been that that money would be much better spent to open permanent housing for the rising number of homeless men.”

But George McDonald, founder of The Doe Fund, which finds work and provides treatment for homeless men, said the coalition should be working with The Doe Fund, not fighting it, on this project.

“This is a replacement facility, not a new shelter,” McDonald said. “In a system like we have in New York City, you have to have tranistional facilities. You can’t take somebody right off the street and put them in permanent housing.”

But Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Williamsburg) asked why it has to be Williamsburg, which has a waste-transfer station that processes 40% of the city’s trash daily and a 200-bed homeless shelter in nearby Greenpoint.

He said he had heard a bio-tech medical research facility is being installed in place of the Manhattan homeless shelter that would be closed down.

“Instead of giving us the homeless shelter, give us the bio-tech research facility,” Lopez said. “It would be a very positive thing for our community because it would create hundreds of jobs.”

Linda Gibbs, commissioner of the city Homeless Services Department, said the project is a necessary service.

“It is not a matter of making a choice between providing permanent housing, or a homeless shelter,” she said. The city has an obligation to provide shelter for anyone who needs it.”

HERO, BROTHER, EVERYMAN: BRONX MONUMENT IS ONE ALL OF US CAN EMBRACE By MICHAEL O. ALLEN, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

nullSunday, May 24, 1998
The monument to Cpl. Walter J. Fufidio, which has come to serve as memorial to those who served in World War II and the other wars that have followed, stands almost nondescript most of the year in the square named after him.
It will be spruced up in time for Memorial Day, for those who want to remember.
But for the surviving Fufidio brothers, the monument is a shimmering beacon to the good old days, to the values of sacrifice, family and community that typified that old Hunts Point neighborhood in the Bronx, something current and future generations can take lessons from.
Arthur, the oldest, went into the Air Force. Walter came next and he couldn’t wait to join up. He was in the Marines. Michael followed, joining the Navy in August 1945, but the war ended three weeks later. And George, the baby of the family, was too young to fight.
“We belonged in World War II and everybody knew it,” Michael Fufidio, now 71 and a resident of Melbourne, Fla., said. “A lot of us volunteered and for a small neighborhood, we sent a lot of people off to that war.”
In scenes that were probably repeated in every neighborhood, block, or corner in the city, kids played seemingly endless games of stickball in the streets one day and the next day their families were seeing them off to go fight in a distant war.
Michael Fufidio, their father who himself fought in the World War I a few short years after arriving in America from Italy in 1914, would take three of his sons over the Spofford Avenue hill to go to the Longwood Ave. station.
Walter Fufidio, an artilleryman, would participate in the campaign that came to symbolize the United States Marine Corps: The bloody invasion of the volcano island of Iwo Jima and the planting of the America flag on Mount Suribachi.
Nearly all of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers defending Iwo Jima were killed. Among the 6,821 Americans killed was Cpl. Walter Fufidio. In the waning days of that campaign, Marines undertaking a mop-up operation were pinned down by shattering shell fire from a fortified Japanese position.
As his posthumous Navy Cross Medal, second only to the Medal of Honor in American military honors, described, Walter was without cover when he delivered a steady stream of neutralizing shell fire against the enemy position, enabling his infantry unit to charge and wipe out the resistance.
“He galantly gave his life for his country,” the citation read.
George Fufidio said his mother took the loss very hard. Anna Fufidio, now 96 and living in a Throgs Neck nursing home, visited her son’s grave at St. Raymond Cemetery on Tremont Ave. for many years afterward.
“She’d go up there and she’d wipe the snow off the grave,” George Fufidio, who is 62, said.
In the years after the war, Michael would serve 20 years in the New York City Police Department and Arthur and George each served 20 years with the city Fire Department.
Arthur Fufidio was reflective when asked what lessons should be drawn from his brother’s monument. Government officials make wars and call on regular folks like him, his brothers and the other boys they grew up with to fight, he said.
“We were meant to serve and that was it,” Arthur Fufidio said. “It doesn’t seem like the world is in any different position now. That was supposed to be the war that ended all wars but we seem to live under a constant threat of war.”

Rudy Pooh-Poohs Dem Bigs’ Digs By MICHAEL O. ALLEN and LISA REIN Daily News Staff Writers

Sunday, October 26, 1997

With a comfortable lead in the polls, Mayor Giuliani yesterday refused to engage in a war of words with Democratic challenger Ruth Messinger — even allowing harsh comments from his predecessor, former Mayor David Dinkins, to go unchallenged.

Dinkins, who spent the better part of a rainy afternoon campaigning with Messinger in Brooklyn and Queens, accused Republican Giuliani of running an “out-of-control” campaign that would “self-destruct” before Election Day.

“I predict that Mayor Giuliani has a great capacity to self-destruct, and I think he’s going to do that in the next 10 days,” Dinkins said, at times stealing the spotlight from Messinger yesterday.

“He’s out of control right now,” Dinkins continued, recalling the mayor’s blistering attack on Messinger for not attending Mass on Columbus Day. “He seems to think that the whole world started on Jan. 1, 1994, when he became mayor.”

But Giuliani, crisscrossing the city with campaign stops in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Harlem and Throgs Neck in the Bronx, refrained from attacking Dinkins, saying only, “The best thing for me to do with a question like that is to say, ‘I’m not going to respond.’ ”

When asked if he thought Dinkins could rescue Messinger’s flagging campaign, the mayor said he “couldn’t evaluate the other side.”

The mayor’s comments came at Sylvia’s Restaurant, a Harlem landmark where he capped a swing through clothing stores along W. 125th St., receiving warm greetings from proprietors.

Earlier, the mayor tasted meatball calzones and onion rings on his first-ever tour of a superstore, the Costco in Sunset Park. The visit came a day after he pledged to mount an aggressive campaign to revive his failed proposal to speed up the opening of more megastores if he wins reelection.

But as he marched in the small Parade of Flags along Fifth Ave. just a few miles away, some merchants told the mayor that superstores would decimate their mom-and-pop stores.

Messinger campaigned in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, getting thumbs-ups from shoppers and merchants along Broadway.

She then took the stage with Dinkins at the Panamanian Day parade in Brooklyn, where she accused Giuliani of positioning himself for a run for national office, a move she insisted would push him to the right politically and divert his concerns from the city’s schools.

Giuliani denied the charge, calling it an “irrelevant issue” and calling his “sole focus” his race for reelection.

Original Story Date: 102697

Shot Cop Is Stable By MICHAEL O. ALLEN, Daily News Staff Writer

Sunday, June 8, 1997

A rookie cop was in stable condition yesterday after four hours of surgery to repair a bullet wound suffered in a Bronx shootout that left a robbery suspect dead.

Police Officer Washington Zurita — on his first unsupervised patrol — was struck in the left arm, but managed to fire his 9-mm. pistol at Lavaughn Knowings, killing him.

The officers followed their training to the letter and saved innocent lives, Mayor Giuliani said.

The incident began around 8 p.m. Friday when Zurita, 28, and fellow rookie cop Robert Caralyus, 30, were flagged down by robbery victims.

Knowings allegedly robbed four people at 1190 Shakespeare Ave. The victims followed Knowings and hailed the officers when he ducked into a building near 167th St.

The officers found Knowings on an elevator with building residents, and ordered him out. Knowings responded by firing a shot at the officers, wounding Zurita.

Original Story Date: 060897

Raid Bags 2 in Holdup; Shootout suspects nabbed By MICHAEL O. ALLEN and PATRICE O’SHAUGHNESSY, Daily News Staff Writers

Sunday, May 11, 1997

Lying in wait outside a Queens hideout, police yesterday captured two of the suspects in the wild 50-shot ambush that wounded a retired cop and a moonlighting detective during a payroll heist in Queens.

A third suspect — believed to be a twin brother of one of the two arrested — still was on the loose, cops said.

Shortly after 1 p.m., officers recovered a duffel bag that contained weapons, believed to be those used in the holdup, and thousands of dollars, believed to be part of the $50,000 cash stolen.

The identities of the suspects were not immediately released, but police said they have criminal records.

Cops staked out a house at 53-18 Junction Blvd. in Elmhurst after they developed information leading to occupants of the house, said Deputy Inspector Michael Collins, a police spokesman.

One suspect drove up in a van, accompanied by a child, and entered the brick and vinyl-sided house, emerging with a bag, which he threw into the van.

He drove on Junction to 55th Ave., and when he turned the corner, officers in a patrol car pulled him over and arrested him.

Within seconds, another suspect came out of the house, walked down Junction to 55th and started running. Cops tackled him.

He was carrying a bag stuffed with money, police said.

Believing that the third member of the vicious robbery team — the twin of the second suspect — was in the area, cops roped off the neighborhood for three hours. Emergency Service Unit cops flooded the area, as sharpshooters patrolled the roofs of nearby houses.

They fired rubber bullets into the house, and then entered. It was unoccupied.

The suspects were taken to the 109th Precinct stationhouse. Charges were pending.

Meanwhile, the retired officer critically wounded in Flushing Friday was due to undergo a second operation today, while the detective was in stable condition.

The police had been looking for three or four men in the bloody holdup outside a printing company on 168th St. and Station Road Friday morning.

The suspects — masked and armed with AK-47s and 9-mm. pistols — sprayed more than four dozen bullets at Joseph Bellone, a retired Bronx police officer, and off-duty Detective Arthur Pettus, who were working as security guards delivering a payroll.

The suspects fled with cash and checks and jumped on a city bus when a flat tire disabled their van, which had been stolen last month.

Bellone, 45, of upstate Newburgh, was in critical condition in the surgical intensive care unit of New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens and under heavy sedation.

His left arm and leg were riddled with bullets, but the wounds to his abdomen are “really serious,” and doctors were still working to repair them, said Brian Salisbury, a spokesman for the hospital.

Salisbury said Pettus, a 38-year-old cop assigned to Bronx robbery, was still in the recovery room in stable condition, alert and awake.

Pettus was shot in the legs and abdomen before he rolled under a van to escape the gunfire. Bellone returned nine shots, but one of the gunmen stood over him and fired at close range.

Police said the robbers fired immediately, aiming low, assuming their victims were wearing bulletproof vests, which they were not.

Late Friday, Bellone’s wife, Catherine, and his sister visited Pettus, who had been asking for Bellone.

Yesterday, Pettus was able to visit with his family.

A woman who lives across the street from 53-18 Junction said police had noticed the twin suspects before.

“Every weekend they come with different, very expensive cars,” said Vanessa Otero, 20. “A few months ago, cops came here, probably because of the cars, but they were not arrested.”

Original Story Date: 051197

Raid Bags 2 in Holdup; Shootout suspects nabbed By MICHAEL O. ALLEN and PATRICE O’SHAUGHNESSY, Daily News Staff Writers

Sunday, May 11, 1997

Lying in wait outside a Queens hideout, police yesterday captured two of the suspects in the wild 50-shot ambush that wounded a retired cop and a moonlighting detective during a payroll heist in Queens.

A third suspect — believed to be a twin brother of one of the two arrested — still was on the loose, cops said.

Shortly after 1 p.m., officers recovered a duffel bag that contained weapons, believed to be those used in the holdup, and thousands of dollars, believed to be part of the $50,000 cash stolen.

The identities of the suspects were not immediately released, but police said they have criminal records.

Cops staked out a house at 53-18 Junction Blvd. in Elmhurst after they developed information leading to occupants of the house, said Deputy Inspector Michael Collins, a police spokesman.

One suspect drove up in a van, accompanied by a child, and entered the brick and vinyl-sided house, emerging with a bag, which he threw into the van.

He drove on Junction to 55th Ave., and when he turned the corner, officers in a patrol car pulled him over and arrested him.

Within seconds, another suspect came out of the house, walked down Junction to 55th and started running. Cops tackled him.

He was carrying a bag stuffed with money, police said.

Believing that the third member of the vicious robbery team — the twin of the second suspect — was in the area, cops roped off the neighborhood for three hours. Emergency Service Unit cops flooded the area, as sharpshooters patrolled the roofs of nearby houses.

They fired rubber bullets into the house, and then entered. It was unoccupied.

The suspects were taken to the 109th Precinct stationhouse. Charges were pending.

Meanwhile, the retired officer critically wounded in Flushing Friday was due to undergo a second operation today, while the detective was in stable condition.

The police had been looking for three or four men in the bloody holdup outside a printing company on 168th St. and Station Road Friday morning.

The suspects — masked and armed with AK-47s and 9-mm. pistols — sprayed more than four dozen bullets at Joseph Bellone, a retired Bronx police officer, and off-duty Detective Arthur Pettus, who were working as security guards delivering a payroll.

The suspects fled with cash and checks and jumped on a city bus when a flat tire disabled their van, which had been stolen last month.

Bellone, 45, of upstate Newburgh, was in critical condition in the surgical intensive care unit of New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens and under heavy sedation.

His left arm and leg were riddled with bullets, but the wounds to his abdomen are “really serious,” and doctors were still working to repair them, said Brian Salisbury, a spokesman for the hospital.

Salisbury said Pettus, a 38-year-old cop assigned to Bronx robbery, was still in the recovery room in stable condition, alert and awake.

Pettus was shot in the legs and abdomen before he rolled under a van to escape the gunfire. Bellone returned nine shots, but one of the gunmen stood over him and fired at close range.

Police said the robbers fired immediately, aiming low, assuming their victims were wearing bulletproof vests, which they were not.

Late Friday, Bellone’s wife, Catherine, and his sister visited Pettus, who had been asking for Bellone.

Yesterday, Pettus was able to visit with his family.

A woman who lives across the street from 53-18 Junction said police had noticed the twin suspects before.

“Every weekend they come with different, very expensive cars,” said Vanessa Otero, 20. “A few months ago, cops came here, probably because of the cars, but they were not arrested.”

Original Story Date: 051197

SHARPTON HITS BACK Mayor’s race heats up By MICHAEL O. ALLEN and DAVE SALTONSTALL, Daily News Staff Writers

Sunday, April 6, 1997

Stepping up an intraparty battle, the Rev. Al Sharpton accused Democratic mayoral rival Ruth Messinger of widening the city’s racial fault lines yesterday by urging him to denounce Minister LouisFarrakhan as an anti-Semite.

“Your public attack is nothing but a cheap political ploy to gain votes at the expense of racial sensitivities in this city,” Sharpton fired back in a letter faxed to Messinger yesterday. “Any shrill voice can just call people names.”

Sharpton’s response came one day after Messinger, who is Jewish, wrote the activist preacher saying he was “wrong — terribly wrong” for refusing to denounce Farrakhan when asked last week about the Nation of Islam leader, who has called Jews “bloodsuckers” and pronounced Judaism “a gutter religion.”

The battle between the two mayoral hopefuls — quickly escalated by a similar attack on Sharpton by Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer — ended an informal peace pact among the Democratic hopefuls. Mayor Giuliani quickly moved to capitalize on the fight.

Asked to clarify his position yesterday on Farrakhan, Sharpton said that just as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. never “personally denounced” black activist Malcolm X, he would never criticize Farrakhan “the person.”

“She [Messinger] is asking me to do something that no civil rights leader does,” said Sharpton, who is not known as a close Farrakhan associate.

He also argued that Messinger’s supporters include the Rev. Calvin Butts, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, and state Assemblyman Al Vann (D-Brooklyn), both of whom “have much closer ties to Minister Farrakhan than I do.”

“Have you attacked their public view of Minister Farrakhan?” Sharpton asked. “Of course not.”

Messinger responded, “Al Sharpton is [the one] running for mayor. All I did is tell him that he is wrong.”

But Giuliani waded into the fray. Noting that the four Democratic hopefuls — Sharpton, Messinger, Ferrer and Brooklyn Councilman Sal Albanese — have pledged to back the winner of their primary, Giuliani suggested that Sharpton was not worthy of their endorsement.

“I think Ruth, Freddy and Sal have to face up to the fact that a lot of New Yorkers would find it rather incredible . . . that they would support Al Sharpton over me, should that be the choice,” Giuliani said.

“In essence they are sort of giving away their credibility to excessive partisanship.”

Sharpton said he “wouldn’t dignify” Giuliani’s suggestion with a response. Messinger suggested the mayor take a closer look at some of his own associates — particularly former Rep. Herman Badillo and Liberal Party boss Ray Harding, both under fire for lobbying City Hall — before teeing off on his Democratic opponents.

Original Story Date: 040697

LIVOTI BOUNCED IN SAFIR CRACKDOWN Commish orders profiles of too-tough cops By MICHAEL O. ALLEN and JOHN MARZULLI, Daily News Staff Writers

February 22, 1997

Police Commissioner Howard Safir yesterday vowed tougher monitoring of cops accused of brutality after he fired a controversial Bronx officer whose use of an illegal choke hold led to a man’s death.

Safir canned Officer Francis Livoti for violating departmental regulations in the 1994 Bronx struggle that ended with the death of Anthony Baez.

Livoti, 37, the target of 15 civilian complaints over 13 years, was supposed to be under a strict watch by police supervisors at the time of his struggle to subdue Baez.

But the death of the 29-year-old guard showed that the system used to monitor officers hit with multiple complaints was “somewhat inadequate,” Safir admitted.

He ordered police prosecutors to draft profiles of cops accused of more than five violence or abuse complaints so a special board can decide whether the officers require monitoring, counseling, re-training or transfer.

“This department will never tolerate an officer who is abusive or brutal,” Safir said.

He also ordered a review of Sgt. William Monahan, Livoti’s supervisor on the night of Baez’ death. Monahan has not been disciplined, although he was present throughout the struggle.

Police Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rae Koshetz blasted Monahan as a “disgracefully lackadaisical supervisor” in her decision urging that Livoti be fired after she convicted him of using the choke hold at a departmental hearing.

Safir announced the tougher monitoring after he acted on Koshetz’ recommendation and fired Livoti, a move that strips the 15-year veteran of his pension. In an unusually harsh attack on a cop with strong police union ties, Safir ripped Livoti for “inexplicable aggressiveness” and lack of remorse.

The ouster marked one of the final chapters in an emotion-charged case that sparked angry demonstrations in the Bronx, pleas for justice from Baez’ family and a controversial acquittal of Livoti at a criminal trial where he was charged with criminally negligent homicide.

“I’m satisfied with the decision, but nothing is going to satisfy me. Nothing. I lost my son. That doesn’t change,” the victim’s father, Ramon Baez, said yesterday.

Livoti, who still faces a federal civil rights investigation and a civil lawsuit by the Baez family, could not immediately be reached for comment on the firing. But his lawyer, Stuart London, said the ex-cop would appeal the decision.

At the 46th Precinct where Livoti served, tight-lipped officers called the firing a foregone conclusion.

A senseless chain of events produced the tragedy. Baez and three brothers were playing touch football in the early morning of Dec. 22, 1994, in front of their University Heights home.

The struggle began after Livoti, angry that the ball had struck his patrol car, raged at the brothers for ignoring his orders to halt the game.

Livoti’s “inexplicable aggressiveness during what most reasonable officers understand to be a routine street encounter escalated events into violence, and the death resulted,” Safir said.

Livoti applied the choke hold — banned by the Police Department in 1993 — in a struggle when Baez protested Livoti’s arrest of his brother David for disorderly conduct. Livoti testified during the departmental trial that his arm only brushed Baez’ neck.

Safir caustically said Livoti “remains incapable of accepting responsibility for his actions. He blames others for his ordeal.”

City Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Hirsch, however, estimated that Baez was choked for more than a minute. Although Baez suffered an asthma attack during the clash, Hirsch determined that the ailment played a minor role in his death.

Mayor Giuliani praised Safir for the ouster. He also conceded that Livoti should have been booted long ago — but blamed the inaction on prior police administrations.

“Should they have kept him on the police force for as long as he was on the police force? Absolutely not,” Giuliani said.

Original Story Date: 02/22/97

Rudy Probes His Own Campaign By BOB LIFF and MICHAEL O. ALLEN, Daily News Staff Writers

February 17, 1997

Mayor Giuliani’s reelection campaign has launched internal audits to determine whether any corporate contributors gave donations that exceeded the $7,700 limit allowed by the city’s public campaign finance law.

Campaign officials disclosed the reviews after the Daily News reported that a company that landed a lucrative recycling contract gave $77,500 to Giuliani’s reelection drive after concluding the deal.

Campaign treasurer John Gross described the audits as a regular process designed to insure that Giuliani does not violate campaign finance laws as he runs for a second term.

Based on an initial review, Gross and Giuliani said they did not believe any other givers had contributed amounts above the $7,700 limit.

“I’m not aware of it,” Giuliani said yesterday, adding that his campaign “returns money any time there are questions.”

The campaign pledged to refund all of the contributions made by Pratt Industries U.S.A. after the Daily News reported that the firm got a no-bid city contract to build a $250 million recycling plant on Staten Island. The deal calls for the firm to process up to half the discarded newspaper and wastepaper in the city.

Giuliani yesterday dismissed the company’s excess contributions as “technical violations” of the campaign finance law, which gives taxpayer-funded contributions to candidates who agree to abide by limits on their private fund-raising.

The law bars companies and subsidiaries they control from giving a total of more than $7,700 to a single candidate who accepts public campaign funds.

The News reported on Saturday that the firm and nine subsidiaries began making contributions to Giuliani in January 1996, two weeks after reaching the recycling deal with the Giuliani administration.

City officials said there was no connection between the contract award and the political contributions, and Gross said the campaign discovered the overpayments and initiated refunds without any prompting.

“Anyone who would like to investigate our finances can have at it,” Gross said.

But three Democrats vying for the nomination to challenge Giuliani in November called for an investigation of the Pratt contributions.

The three, Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger and the Rev. Al Sharpton, charged that the contributions raised questions about Giuliani’s fund-raising.

“This looks like the worst kind of government quid pro quo since the corruption scandals that United States Attorney Giuliani uncovered nearly a dozen years ago,” Ferrer said.

Giuliani fired back, accusing the Democrats of using the issue for political purposes.

Original Story Date: 02/17/97

Swiss Ask Jews For Help With Fund By MICHAEL O. ALLEN, Daily News Staff Writer

February 14, 1997

The Swiss government yesterday invited the World Jewish Congress to Switzerland next week to help administer and distribute a fund set up for aged Holocaust survivors.

It was the first gesture by the Swiss, under increasing pressure to compensate Holocaust victims for looted World War II assets, to reach out to Jewish groups.

Ambassador Alfred Defago, the Swiss consul general in New York, offered the invitation at a hearing conducted by the state Assembly’s Standing Committee on Banks at the New York Bar Association in Manhattan.

The hearing was held to examine how the state can help heirs of victims reclaim assets deposited in Swiss banks during the war.

Israel Singer, secretary general of the Jewish Congress, accepted the invitation and called it a “turning point” as he addressed the hearing, led by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene (D-Bronx), the committee’s chairwoman.

Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, said the invitation moves the two sides “from confrontation to cooperation.”

“The trouble is that the investigation into the looted assets can take many, many years, and the survivors are aged,” Steinberg said. “So that their immediate desperate needs can be taken care of, this fund has been established.”

Switzerland has been weathering accusations from Jewish groups for 18 months that the nation was more than a neutral bystander during the war and that its banks hoarded up to $7 billion left in the country for safekeeping by families who later died in Nazi concentration camps.

The Swiss government established a fund — which now stands at $71 million but is expected to grow as banks, industries and individuals contribute to it — to meet the needs of elderly Holocaust survivors and heirs of Nazi victims.

American and Swiss officials will attend a meeting of the Jewish Congress today to discuss the disbursement of the fund.

Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.), who has been pressuring the Swiss about the assets, has more recently softened his stance after, for instance, accusing Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Cotti of “arrogance and contempt for history” for announcing that the Swiss government would administer the fund.

Yesterday, D’Amato said he is reassured that Switzerland will do the right thing about the fund, especially now that Jewish groups will be involved.

Poll: Wild About Mayor, Not Rudy By MICHAEL O. ALLEN and FRANK LOMBARDI, Daily News Staff Writers

February 12, 1997

City voters soundly approve of Mayor Giuliani’s job performance and would reelect him in a walk, even though they aren’t wild about his personality, according to a new poll.

The Quinnipiac College Poll showed 62% of voters approved of the first-term Republican’s performance as mayor, while 32% disapproved and 6% were undecided. That’s the best showing for Giuliani since the Quinnipiac mayoral surveys began nearly two years ago.

With the help of his high job approval rating, Giuliani would rout any of five potential Democratic challengers in a head-to-head match, the survey showed. That includes former Mayor David Dinkins — who was to announce today if he would take on Giuliani for a third time.

Dinkins, Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger would lose to Giuliani by at least 20 percentage points if the election were held now, the poll showed.

Giuliani would beat Dinkins 55% to 34%, the poll found. Ferrer would lose 53% to 33%, and Messinger would lose 54% to 34%, it showed. The remaining Democratic contenders, Brooklyn City Councilman Sal Albanese and the Rev. Al Sharpton, would fare even worse.

Still, the survey wasn’t all good news for Giuliani. It found voters split on his hard-charging personal style — with 43% describing him as likeable and 52% disagreeing.

“I can deal with that,” said Giuliani, noting that the poll gave him high marks for leadership and getting things done.

While cautioning that poll results fluctuate, Giuliani said “it always feels a little better [to be ahead] by 20% than to be behind by 20%.”

The survey showed Giuliani has not bridged racial and gender gaps as he tries to expand the narrow margin he won over Dinkins in 1993.

While white voters gave him 77% approval on job performance, that dropped to 52% among Hispanics and 34% among blacks.

Among male voters, 71% gave Giuliani thumbs up on job performance, compared with 55% among women.

White New Yorkers were evenly split on his personal style; 48% liked it and 47% didn’t. Hispanics were equally split, with 49% approving and 48% disagreeing. Among black voters, 29% liked his personality and 66% did not.

“New Yorkers like the way the mayor does his job,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac College Polling Institute. “But they don’t think he’s a likeable guy.”

The poll of 845 voters was conducted Feb. 3 to 9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

Original Story Date: 021297

Free Parking Bill Is Meter Made By MICHAEL O. ALLEN, Daily News Staff Writer

December 6, 1996

The City Council wants to give you something for nothing: 10 free minutes at parking meters everywhere except midtown Manhattan.

But there’s a catch. As the city giveth, it taketh away: A quarter in that same meter would then get you only 20 minutes more.

The free meter plan was introduced yesterday by Bronx Councilman Michael DeMarco as a way to ease motorists’ pain when they stop to make a fast phone call or grab a cup of coffee.

Instead of double-parking, drivers could pull into a legal space without fishing for change to feed the meter.

“All they have to do is flip the meter and get 10 minutes,” DeMarco said.

But for somebody who wants to stick around longer, pumping in a quarter will push the meter up only an additional 20 minutes — 10 minutes less than what a quarter usually gets.

If you put a quarter in without flipping, you’ll still get 30 minutes.

Still, business leaders and drivers said they’ll take what they can get.

“The impact on business will be favorable,” said John Dell’Olio, president of the Westchester Square Merchants Association in the Bronx. “The meter will not be an enemy to the motorists.”

“Motorists shouldn’t have to pay just to run in to get a cup of coffee or pick up their dry cleaning,” agreed Marta Genovese of the New York chapter of the American Automobile Associaton.

Randy Barretto of Brooklyn said he could have used the plan yesterday, as he stopped in lower Manhattan to make a quick phone call.

He waved to an approaching police officer, miming that he was moments away from moving his car.

“I’m an outside salesman,” Barretto said. “I constantly have to stop and make quick phone calls, and I’m always pleading with police officers and meter maids not to give me tickets.”

This time, he was successful.

Typical of the city, the meter plan actually is geared toward making money.

DeMarco said it has been so successful in Yonkers and other municipalities that it has increased parking revenues 25%.

But Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro said it’s an interesting idea whose time may have passed.

In three years, the city will have phased out its mechanical meters, switching to electronic devices. You won’t be able to flip for the free 10 on them.

“Technology is changing so quickly it may be impossible to go this route, even if everyone agrees,” Mastro said.

About 20% of the city’s 68,000 meters are already electronic, he added.

Meanwhile, Staten Island Councilman Jerome O’Donovan wants to give freebies to commuters from his borough. In a new bill, he called for free ferry fares for passengers transferring from a bus or subway.

It will be up to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the city to approve free transfers.

The MTA will have free transfers between buses and subways, starting in July.

Original Story Date: 120696