Boom. Boom. Boom. The drum tempo is slow and somber. As befits
a funeral procession. The casket bearers stagger forward, their
burden heavy. They tote a hefty corpse. One inflated by years
of repetition. Reposing on velvet, dressed in denial. Zircon
studded, lips rouged red as blood. With pomp and ceremony
"perception" is being laid to rest.
Drugs. Drugs. Drugs. The drums beat the words. Along with gangs
gangs gangs. The intensity of drug trade in Albany, the capital
city of New York State, is being officially acknowledged. For
years, city officials characterized citizen reports of drugs
and gangs as a matter of "perception". Strong implication being
"mistaken". Or "negative". Eventually the reports were admitted
to be valid. Though still negative in nature. And the word
"perception" lingered. Now Mayor Jerry Jennings has laid it to
rest. Proving each man does indeed kill the thing he loves. In
June of this year, in his third term, Mayor Jennings requested
that the federal government designate Albany "a high intensity
drug trafficking area". The HIDTA designation brings federal
dollars (!) and multi agency law enforcement coordination.
The HIDTA program existed in the 90's. The decade when NYC gangs
migrated upstate to Albany, bringing with them big time drug
traffic. Drugs and organized trade were no cherry pop for Albany,
but what already existed became much more so. Signing on to HIDTA
wouldn't have averted the situation: too many factors produced
it. And a whole string of cities along highways and borders in
upstate New York have become drug distribution centers. Mayors
of Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse are also going for the HIDTA
designation. But a little less official denial might have turned
down the volume. Or saved a life or two. Or helped some people
stem the deterioration of their neighborhoods.
The HIDTA program, among other things, coordinates efforts
between city, state and federal law enforcement agencies in
targeting drug production, manufacturing, distribution and
transportation. It's been employed in about 30 cities since
1990. A notable example being Camden, New Jersey. Camden is
in South Jersey, near the Pennsylvania border. Organized crime
ties between Camden and Philadelphia have always been strong.
But in the 90's, when Milton Milan was mayor of Camden, organized
crime and municipal administration just about merged. Camden
became the home turf of New Jersey's largest, most violent and
lucrative drug business. Certain neighborhoods became open drug
markets and Milan himself was laundering drug profits. As
a federal prosecutor put it: "..during his entire term in office
Milan conspired with the very people who have made it difficult
for Camden to solve its social and economic problems". In the
late 90's, a HIDTA coordination of law enforcement agencies,
succeeded in arresting and convicting some of the city's high
level players. Some of them testified in Camden municipal
corruption trials, ones linked to ongoing, state wide federal
investigations into "pay for play" public contract practices.
Mayor Milton Milan was convicted on corruption charges. Camden
turned into Bedford Falls and George Bailey became mayor.
OK. The last is a joke. A wonderful life doesn't come that easy.
But there are gradations in everything. Camden's situation was
extreme. By a certain point it had reached the bottom of the bag.
HIDTA helped give it a step up.
Speaking of bags, picture this. One day your 14 year old son goes
out to make a little money mowing lawns. He gets hired by a guy
who owns an asbestos abatement service and who has a warehouse.
Stored behind the warehouse are bags of friable asbestos-- the
raw stuff ripped from buildings. Instead of your kid mowing
lawns, he's told to to empty those bags into dumpsters. Turn
the bags inside out so the labels won't show. Wearing no special
protective clothing, your 14 year old works for 9 months emptying
those bags. Sometimes, by the end of the day, his clothes are
covered with asbestos dust. But hey, no biggie. His 18 year old
buddy has been doing the same thing for two years and he's still
standing. Besides, not everyone gets lung cancer from asbestos
and when they do, it takes roughly 30 years to kick in. How real
is that to a teenager? Neither kid wants to quit cause they
need the money. Plus, they worry about being blackballed from
the abatement biz.
The above is taken from testimony given in the trial of Joseph
P. Thorn of A+ Environmental Services, Inc. An asbestos abatement
company once based in the Capital region. Thorn is one of
a collection of asbestos professionals who in the 90's, took
part in widespread, complex and conspiratorial abatement frauds
in upstate New York. Frauds which involved either ripping out
asbestos in a illegal "snow storm" and dumping it who knows
where, or just leaving the stuff in the buildings. Dummy labs
faked safety tests. The buildings involved included hospitals,
jails, nursing homes, grade schools, colleges, restaurants,
hotels, churches and the New York State Capital itself. Worker
safety? See above.
The investigation and resulting legal proceedings have taken
years. As of Spring, the alleged ring leaders were still awaiting
trial. Oddly, one of them (or someone with the exact name) was
quoted in the Albany Times Union at Xmas in a little article on
hi tech gift buying. No mention of the charges-- just chit chat
about how digital cameras can alter recorded reality. Less
socially prominent figures have largely pled guilty or been
convicted. Joseph Thorn is one of the latter. Last Summer his
attorney lodged an appeal regarding aspects of the verdict.
The trial testimony of Thorn's teen age employees was cited in
the state's rebuttal. Amongst the government attorneys who
contributed to the rebuttal was Craig A. Benedict of the U.S.
Attorney's Office, Northern District of New York in Syracuse.
On April 24th (Earth Day) Mr. Benedict received an Environmental
Quality Award from the New York State EPA. Among the reasons:
"In the past four years, he has brought perhaps the most
successful, and lengthy, string of asbestos-related prosecutions
in the country with 57 defendants charged, convicted or
I'm not wild about all things EPA. I have doubts about dredging
the Hudson. Small property owners can get horrific bureaucratic
hosings. And sometimes, environmental regulations are used to
club businesses that threaten gentrifugal pretensions-- jobs be
damned. But none the less, environmental dangers are real. There
are thorns in the garden of human nature. Some folks would give
cancer to their own mother-- or your child-- if they thought it
meant a buck in hand. Then bill the taxpayer back for pretending
to remove it.
But beams do beam. On June 13th child molester X Mayor Phil
Giordano of Waterbury, Connecticut got 37 years from a judge
who could barely stand to look at him. Xcremental Phil will
supposedly be informing the feds on Mafia involvement in the
public contract process. Perhaps they could haul him around from
state to state like a dowser. In New Jersey, U.S. Attorney
Christopher J. Christie marches on. While X Hudson County exec
and federal witness Robert Janiszewki has kept carefully mum
about some major players, the unmentionables still twitch when
they hear the word "shackles". Back in Connecticut, Governor John
Rowland has been fined for his cheapie stays at the Guest House
O' Tomasso. And though the gold tooth of X deputy chief of staff
Lawrence Alibozek has turned to dust, he's allegedly still
spitting info nickels. Another X member of the Rowland
administration, Paul J. Silvestri, the X state treasurer, has
been busy in Boston, testifying in the pay for play trial of
investment firm Triumph Capital Group and their attorney Charles
Spadoni. Who allegedly bought themselves partial management of
Connecticut's state pension funds. Spadoni is also accused of
destroying laptop records of dealings with Silvestri-- turning
them into X files with a software program called Destroy-It. In
New York State, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has given a big
shout out (Yo! Culture Of Criminality!) to the New York Racing
Association. Seems bad things happen to good box offices when
well organized grifters run them. On a larger stage, mortgage
Munsters Freddie "Play It Forward" Mac and cousin Fannie Mae
might just get the oversight they deserve-- HUD's house boy
simply couldn't cut it. And please, no jokes about icebergs
and the Titanic.
Next up: Super sized Mondo Links are served, along with a full
course semi fiction account of the good, the bad and the ugly.
Roll out those lazy hazy crazy days of Summer..
Carola Von Hoffmanstahl-Solomonoff
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