Queens District Leader Surrenders on Corruption Charges

Updated, 12:37 p.m. | A Queens district leader and two-time candidate for the City Council surrendered to federal authorities Wednesday morning to face corruption charges, including mail fraud conspiracy and obstruction of justice, stemming from what prosecutors said were campaign finance improprieties.

The district leader, Albert J. Baldeo, a Democrat, is accused of using phantom donors to funnel illegal campaign contributions to his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the City Council, to fraudulently increase the amount of matching funds provided by the city, federal prosecutors said. He is being charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, attempted mail fraud, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and obstruction of justice.

Mr. Baldeo, whose district includes Richmond Hill and Ozone Park, surrendered at the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation at Federal Plaza shortly after 9 a.m. He is expected to be arraigned Wednesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

The charges were announced by the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, and Mary Galligan, the acting assistant director of the F.B.I., who heads the bureau’s New York office, in a statement issued by Mr. Bharara.

Ms. Galligan said in the statement that Mr. Baldeo’s fraud, according to the government, was fabricating contributions to his campaign to receive six dollars in matching funds for every dollar he reportedly raised.

“These were nothing more than funds drawn from his own bank account, disguised as donations from others,” Ms. Galligan said. “When F.B.I. agents began to uncover his deceitful scheme, Mr. Baldeo told straw donors to lie to our agents and in some cases threatened and intimidated others in a vain attempt to derail the F.B.I.’s investigation.”

Mr. Bharara said that Mr. Baldeo “was so focused on securing a position with the New York City Council that he was willing to break the law to increase his chances – including engaging in a scheme to circumvent campaign finance laws by funneling his own money through straw donors.”

Mr. Baldeo, a lawyer, could not be reached for comment.

His lawyer, Henry E. Mazurek of Clayman & Rosenberg, said in a prepared statement that Mr. Baldeo had devoted himself to public service, and had been singled out in unfair treatment.

“The government crusade against Mr. Baldeo is particularly vindictive and discriminatory given that past history reveals that more sinister conduct alleged against establishment candidates often resulted in civil administrative proceedings — and not criminal cases,” he said. “We intend to vindicate Mr. Baldeo’s good name and commendable civil service. We regret, however, that the government will force this well-intentioned community servant to suffer the emotional and financial costs that criminal litigation entails.”

Mr. Baldeo also ran unsuccessfully for the City Council in 2005 and for the State Senate in 2006. A district leader, also known as a state committeeperson, is an unpaid, part-time elected official who serves a two-year term. The leader’s duties include endorsing candidates and helping to select the county party’s leader.

Baldeo Complaint (PDF)

Baldeo Complaint (Text)

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Send Us Your Halloween Pumpkin Photos

With Halloween but a week away, thoughts turn to the ghoulish, the sugary and, of course, to holiday decorating. On stoops and windows and in commercial displays, the trimmings seem more elaborate than ever.

Even jack-o’-lanterns, the stalwart icons of the holiday, have gotten increasingly elaborate and outrageous. And we want to see yours.

You may love those fancy carvings or prefer the traditional triangular eye holes and jagged grin. Either way, please send us your pumpkin photos — of your own creations or of those you’ve discovered — for possible online publication.

Submit Pumpkin Photos »


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Transit Initiatives Are Giving a Boost to Businesses, a Report Says

The Bloomberg administration has long trumpeted the safety benefits of its many roadway initiatives, hoping to rebuff critics who consider the policies to be undue interventions from a meddling city.

And in a report unveiled on Wednesday, the city’s Transportation Department says it has identified another benefit to pedestrian plazas, bike lanes and a rapid-transit bus system: Businesses that operate nearby have seen a pronounced bump.

“These projects are not just about the quality of life or aesthetics,” Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s transportation commissioner, said in a phone interview. “In case after case, these projects really do set the table for economic development.”

The department culled data from the Department of Finance, drawing on sales figures reported by small businesses in areas that have been affected by the changes. (Larger chains report receipts centrally, rather than by location, so they could not be included, a spokesman for the department said.)

On Ninth Avenue, where the city has installed protected bike lanes, businesses from 23rd Street to 31st Street have seen a 49 percent increase in retail sales, compared with a boroughwide average of 3 percent over the same period, the report said.

On the north end of Union Square, where the city has installed a plaza and a protected bike path, the department said there was a 49 percent reduction in commercial vacancies. The borough has averaged an increase of 5 percent in commercial vacancies.

In Brooklyn, where a parking area on Pearl Street was converted into a plaza, retail sales have increased 172 percent for neighboring businesses, compared with 18 percent throughout the borough.

The department has even tied revamped bus service to economic improvement, citing a 71 percent increase in retail sales along Fordham Road in the Bronx. Ms. Sadik-Khan said increased ridership and faster-moving buses was most likely drawing more patrons to the businesses.

“Everybody’s got an opinion,” she said, “but we have the data.”

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Barbra at the Beginning

Dear Diary:

Amid all the excitement about Barbra Streisand’s concerts at the Barclays Center (and the tears of those who missed them), my mind hurried back to a long-ago evening in October 1961 at the Gramercy Arts Theater.

I was in the audience for a revue called “Another Evening With Harry Stoones,” which was opening after nine preview performances. A young actress was featured in the ensemble cast. In one skit, she portrayed a gawky teen who listens in on the popular crowd’s tales of torrid love. The audience thinks she is jealous, but when she runs into a boy her age, she delivers the line of the evening: “Barry, darling, I’m pregnant.”

Yes, that was Ms. Streisand, and every member of the audience knew that she would rise to stardom. The show closed after one performance, but that proved fortunate for Barbra. Her next role was the secretary Miss Marmelstein on Broadway, in “I Can Get It for You Wholesale.”

Read all recent entries and our updated submissions guidelines. Reach us via e-mail: [email protected] or telephone: (212) 556-1333. Follow @NYTMetro on Twitter using the hashtag #MetDiary.

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Candidate Defeated in Primary for Assembly Seeks New Vote

A candidate who said that a state assemblywoman had committed “rampant and aggressive electioneering” in and around polling places in the Bronx on Primary Day asked an appeals court panel on Tuesday to grant his request for a new vote.

The candidate, Maximino Rivera, lost the Sept. 13 Democratic primary to the incumbent assemblywoman, Carmen E. Arroyo by a vote of 1,370 to 647, according to court papers. Several days later he sued the New York City Board of Elections, Ms. Arroyo and a third candidate, Charles Serrano, saying that Ms. Arroyo’s campaign had broken numerous rules.

The suit was dismissed by a lower court on procedural grounds.

Chief among the violations listed was an assertion that Ms. Arroyo herself had gone into a polling place, at the Borinquen Court apartment complex on East 138th Street in the South Bronx, and told voters how to cast their ballots.

A photograph accompanying court filings shows a woman identified as Ms. Arroyo, in a red blazer, inside a polling place identified as the one at Borinquen Court.

State law forbids candidates or supporters from actively campaigning within 100 feet of a polling place.

An affidavit by Linda Resto, a poll watcher for Mr. Rivera who said she took the photograph, added that when she complained to an election worker at Borinquen Court that Ms. Arroyo should not be in the polling place, the worker replied: “She is my boss. She pays my salary. I can’t tell her to go.”

Another poll watcher for Mr. Rivera, Harry Bubbins, said in an affidavit that Ms. Arroyo and staff members also spoke to voters at a polling place at the Judge Gilberto Ramirez houses on East 138th Street.

Mr. Rivera filed a photograph from the Ramirez houses that showed a sample ballot marked with a vote for Ms. Arroyo, which he said was taped to a wall inside the polling place, as well as a photograph of a car parked outside; Mr. Rivera said the car displayed a poster for Ms. Arroyo and blared a message supporting her from loudspeakers.

Ms. Arroyo’s chief of staff did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment.

Mr. Rivera’s suit was dismissed on procedural grounds in early October by a State Supreme Court justice in the Bronx, who said that Mr. Rivera, who drew up the papers, erred by starting his lawsuit with a petition and notice of hearing rather than an order to show cause.

The justice, John Carter, also said that Mr. Rivera’s filing gave the other parties a response date that was one day less than the eight days’ notice required.

But on Tuesday a lawyer representing Mr. Rivera, Donald R. Dunn, told the five-judge panel at the Appellate Division, First Department, in Manhattan that election law did not require an order to show cause. And he said that the public interest would have been served by allowing the Supreme Court to hear arguments with seven days’ notice or adjourning the proceeding for a day.

Three of the judges asked a lawyer for the Board of Elections whether the agency would have been prejudiced by allowing the Supreme Court hearing to proceed on Oct. 1, the response date in Mr. Rivera’s filing.

The lawyer, Stephen Kitzinger, replied that the primary vote was to be certified on Oct. 2 and that there was not enough time to conduct a new primary, certify that result and prepare for a general election.

One of the judges reacted with apparent surprise, asking: “The Board of Elections has put into effect a system that cannot be corrected if there is a defect?”

“If it’s in the September primary that is correct, Your Honor,” Mr. Kitzinger replied.

A lawyer for Ms. Arroyo, Stanley Schlein, told the judges that he did not believe that all sides would have been prepared to conduct a hearing in State Supreme Court on Oct. 1.

“Everyone was not ready or present,” he told the panel.

Outside the courthouse, Mr. Rivera said that he thought his challenge was important.

“Its time to send a message,’ he said. “Everyone should respect the rights of the voters.”

The judges did not say when they would issue a decision.

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Have You Seen This Tabby? (Check Your Carry-On)

Iris Yu left a lot behind when she left Queens to care for her ailing father in Taiwan 10 months ago. But she was finally set to reunite with her cat, Xiaohwa, courtesy of a friend who was leaving for Taiwan last Thursday and agreed to take the cat to her.

When a Transportation Security Administration officer at Kennedy International Airport inspected Xiaohwa’s crate just before departure, though, the cat darted and disappeared into the bowels of Terminal 4.

Just like that, Xiaohwa, a 4-year-old tabby and mother to several litters of kittens (though none recently), became the latest in the growing roster of pets to go missing in an airport, leaving Ms. Yu and her boyfriend, Jerry Cheung, distraught.

Mr. Cheung, 36, of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, said on Tuesday that he was afraid that Xiaohwa could not survive long without care because she has the feline version of H.I.V. He said he did not think the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport, was doing enough to find her.

“I can understand that there’s a limit to what they can do,” he said. “But are they really doing anything to look for the cat? This is the part that I doubt.”

The Port Authority did not respond on Tuesday to a request for comment on the disappearance, which was reported Monday by DNAInfo.

The Transportation Security Administration said in a statement: “T.S.A. officers screened the pet and its carrier properly. It is unfortunate that the pet is missing at the airport. But, as a reminder, passengers are responsible for their pets throughout the screening process.”

Aiding in the effort to find Xiaohwa (the name, meaning “little flower,” is pronounced like “shower” with the “r” left off) are two veterans of airport pet disappearances, Bonnie Folz and Mary Beth Melchior.

Ms. Folz, a dog trainer, helped lead the search when Vivi the whippet, a prize-winning show dog, went missing in 2006 at Kennedy. Vivi never resurfaced. Ms. Folz said she hoped the Port Authority, which usually tries to passively catch animals with humane traps, would allow her to search the airport, including in areas that are normally off limits.

Ms. Melchior leads Where Is Jack?, an organization focused on animals’ travel safety. It is named for her sister’s cat, Jack, who escaped his carrier and went missing for 61 days at Kennedy last year before falling through a ceiling tile. He turned up, but was so malnourished and infection-prone that he had to be euthanized.

Mr. Cheung recalled that Xiaohwa was a stray that he and Ms. Yu adopted two years ago.

“We took it in as a stray when we found her and tried to give her a good home,” he said. “And now she has to go back to being a stray again.”

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