The Borough Park, Brooklyn power broker at the center of a federal investigation into NYPD corruption may have had police helicopters do a flyover his Hudson River cruise party. The Daily News reports, citing unnamed sources, that Jeremy Reichberg arranged the buzz-by to impress the dozens of guests at his floating shindig.
As the News writes, this should have been against protocol, given that the NYPD's aviation unit "has strict rules regarding where it can fly and is largely used to handle emergencies or special events."
Reichberg and Upper West Side developer and investor Jona Rechnitz supported Mayor Bill de Blasio's 2013 election, fundraising for which is also under federal scrutiny. The most publicized piece of the probe so far, though, has been the businessmen's close relationships with high-ranking law enforcement officials, including former Chief of Department Philip Banks, jailer union head Norman Seabrook, and several commanding and executive officers. Reportedly at issue are trips the men took with police brass, and possible favors done in return, such as providing police security details for social functions, and possibly, in Seabrook's case, investing $10 million in union money with a pension fund Rechnitz had ties to.
Nine NYPD officers have been at least temporarily demoted in connection with publicity around the investigation. Most recently three officers in the License Division were reassigned for allegedly working with a member of the Boro Park Shomrim, a Hasidic Jewish volunteer police force, to grant gun licenses to otherwise ineligible people, in exchange for bribes. The Shomrim member, Shaya Lichtenstein, was charged with bribery in federal court on Monday.
Some of the figures questioned in connection with the probe have ties to Borough Park's 66th Precinct, including Banks, who was once its second-in-command, and a community affairs detective who was stripped of his gun and badge after pleading the Fifth before a grand jury.
The News' anonymous sources echoed a claim made recently in the New York Post, implicating Rechnitz in another bit of alleged high-flying graft, saying that he took cops on trips using his private jet, and that at least one flight featured a sex worker dressed as a flight attendant.
On Monday, de Blasio declined to say whether his campaign staff had been contacted by the FBI. He'd previously said they hadn't. "I am not going to get into the details day by day," he told the News. "The bottom line here is we hold ourselves to very high ethical standards. We’re going to cooperate."
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that the massive investigation is also looking into de Blasio's fundraising for Democrats running for state Senate seats in 2014. The paper wrote that subpoenas went out earlier this week seeking records related to the mayor's support of the campaigns. Good government advocates previously criticized de Blasio for evading campaign contribution limits through his nonprofit Campaign for One New York, saying it constituted a "shadow government." Rechnitz gave $50,000 to the group, and Reichberg hosted a dinner for it. The mayor is now disbanding the organization.
A lawyer for de Blasio's campaign called off an April 26th fundraiser for the mayor's upcoming reelection bid because of the federal scrutiny, the Wall Street Journal reported.
For those hoping that this investigation might cut down on the level of corruption pervading New York politics, don't hold your breath. The recent convictions of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate majority leader Dean Skelos for selling their offices—prosecutors are seeking more than 14 and 12 to 15 years in prison for them, respectively—have not yet motivated legislators in Albany to pass any ethics reforms.
In Silver's Lower East Side district of nearly 40 years, meanwhile, his anointed successor Alice Cancel won the special election for his Assembly seat by 1,000 votes last night. At a debate earlier this month, Cancel called Silver "a hero in this community," and in February she told the Times of his crimes, "Whatever he did in his private life has nothing to do with our district. To me, it doesn't matter." In the final weeks of her campaign she did, when pressed, agree that Silver should serve time in prison.