Friday, December 26, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: A Political Swamp in our Backyard

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Is there something in the water in southeast Queens?

There’s a long line of political corruption growing in part of the city's backbone that's tucked away in a corner near JFK Airport and Jamaica Bay.

Home to many of the city's civil servants and one of the most economically successful African-American communities in the country, southeast Queens has also become an open-air market for old-fashioned political thievery that would make Tammany proud.

The current poster child for the neighborhood is State Senator Malcolm Smith – who's facing a federal bribery trial next year on charges that he tried to buy his way onto the ballot in last year's mayor's race.
But there are others; earlier this year, City Councilman Ruben Wills was charged with stealing more than $30,000 in state and city money from a non-profit group he founded.

Wills was a political protégé of former State Sen. Shirley Huntley, who went to federal prison for embezzling money from non-profit that she controlled.

Trying to get a better deal with prosecutors, Huntley secretly taped conversations with seven other elected officials as part of an FBI probe. The Huntley tapes brought focus on a neighborhood that is now receiving plenty of attention for the wrong reasons.

Tonight, NY1’s Courtney Gross places a spotlight on corruption in southeast Queens with a special report on “Inside City Hall” that tries to untangle the web of connections between current and former lawmakers there. It’s well worth watching – especially as election season is well underway this month.

Bob Hardt

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