It is a term wed to a negative connotation that has, through myriad case studies of corruption, outsized greed, and general lawlessness, been able to generate feelings of distrust, discouragement, disillusionment, and downright disgust among constituents.
We need not look far for evidence that supports this observation. Queens has, at times, been more infamous than famous – with this distinction owed to the litany of unscrupulous officials who have helped to cultivate a cesspool of public corruption in the center of the World’s Borough.
Just a few examples:
In 2009, Malcolm Smith became the first African-American majority leader of the State Senate. He is now in federal prison. The Democrat was found guilty of bribery, fraud and extortion in 2015 for his role in a failed $200,000 pay-to-play scheme in which Smith tried to buy his way onto the Republican line of the 2013 mayoral ballot with the help of several other players.
Among those players was disgraced former City Councilman Dan Halloran, a Republican from Whitestone who was convicted in 2014 of helping to facilitate the Smith bribe scheme and pocketing illicit cash for himself.
And among the bold-faced names joining Smith and Halloran in this rogues gallery is former Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio, a Democrat who resigned in 2009 after more than 30 years representing south Queens in the Lower Chamber. Seminerio copped to accepting money through a sham consulting firm doing business with Jamaica Hospital. He died in 2011 while serving his six-year sentence in Butner, N.C.
“No matter how inventive corrupt politicians are in trying to abscond with public funds, they never seem to learn from the many that have been caught previously with their hands in the public till,” Dick Dadey, executive director of good-government group Citizens Union, once told Crain’s New York Business.
So when we see a politician actually working hard for, and seemingly doing right by, his or her constituents, we feel the need to trumpet the positive just as much as we bask in the schadenfreude.
The State legislative session, which came to a close last week, was a banner one for Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach). Here are just some of the recent Addabbo-sponsored bills that either passed the Senate or both houses this session:
• Legislation that extends certain prior approved work permits relating to Superstorm Sandy in Breezy Point.
• Legislation to provide veterans’ organizations with 120 days to fix building and other code violations before fines are assessed.
• Legislation to increase public awareness of Down Syndrome and fund research projects into the chromosomal disorder.
• Legislation to create an 11-member Task Force on Responsible Gaming within the New York State Gaming Commission.
• Legislation to provide economic incentives for the removal of dangerous cocklofts.
We’re not saying Addabbo gets it right every time. We won’t always agree with him or the way he may vote every time. But at least he’s trying. Through his steady attention to constituents, and his legislative work ethic, the Ozone Park product is making his case for not being cast alongside the “politicians” that have made it such a dirty word, and restoring even a modicum of confidence in the position to which he was elected in the first place.