Hynes and His ‘Haman’

Influential Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn are calling for the removal of District Attorney Charles J. Hynes following the acquittal last week of Bernard Freilich, a prominent Hasidic rabbi, on charges of witness tampering. Coming in the wake of a grand jury’s failure to indict four cops accused in the killing of Gidone Busch in Boro Park last year, the Freilich prosecution is seen as the latest in a series of wrongs directed against the Orthodox community.

In the Freilich case, an immigrant couple, Moshe Israel and Anna Shapiro, alleged that the popular Boro Park rabbi—who until his arrest was also a special assistant to the state police—threatened to have them killed unless they dropped allegations of incest and rape against Ms. Shapiro’s father.

“Hynes went after Freilich with a vengeance,” says Rabbi Leib Glanz, a leader of the Satmar Hasidic community, referring to the D.A.’s decision to assign two top deputies, Michael Vecchione and Jay Shapiro—his lead prosecutor on death penalty cases—to the Freilich case.

In a dramatic response to Freilich’s acquittal, about 2000 Boro Park residents attended a celebration in his honor on Saturday at the Satmar Hasidic shul. On Sunday, the head rabbis of each ultra-Orthodox sect in Boro Park met with Freilich, and in speech after speech referred to him and their community as having survived “persecution and prosecution.”

“This is a man with 25 years of service in the public life of Boro Park,” Rabbi Glanz told the Voice. “He was instrumental in creating Tomche Shabbos,” an organization that feeds thousands of Hasidic families each week.

During the trial in Brooklyn Supreme Court, Ms. Shapiro testified that Freilich had come to the couple’s Boro Park home last April on the day before she was to give grand jury testimony, and told them that if she testified they would wind up “in the cemetery.” After she appeared, she alleged, Freilich showed up again and pledged to make good on the threat. Freilich maintains he has never spoken to the couple.

Since his acquittal, Freilich—who friends say once got up at sunrise to help Hynes’s campaign—warns the D.A. of political trouble ahead. “The community doesn’t trust Hynes anymore,” Freilich says, “and he’s obviously going to have problems regaining their support.”

As family members celebrated Freilich’s victory, an uncle gave a short vort (talk) over kosher Chinese cuisine: “This month is Purim, the holiday that commemorates Jewish freedom from their Persian persecutor, Haman. Today, the wicked Haman has once again been defeated by the pious Mordechai—this time Freilich.” One way to interpret the analogy, he explained, is that “the prosecutor, Vecchione could be Haman, while Hynes, his enabler, is the King.”

“I will not be excited to support Hynes again,” Glanz told the Voice. “It’s unlikely that anyone running against him will be worse.”

In a March 10 editorial, the ultraconservative Jewish Press declared: “What bewilders us is the alacrity with which D.A. Hynes indicts persons such as Rabbi Freilich, which is in sharp contrast to his categorical reluctance to [indict the] police officers who shoot a Jew dead on the streets of Boro Park. In our view, there is something very wrong in the way business is conducted in the Brooklyn D.A.’s office.”

“I’ll put it to you this way,” says Reb Avraham, a prominent Hasidic activist who goes only by that name, “regarding the Busch case, the Boro Park community is more furious with Hynes than they are with Giuliani. Hynes was supposed to oversee a fair investigation,” but failed to indict the four cops involved in the shooting of Busch, 31, in Boro Park.

Doris Busch Boskey, Busch’s mother, alleges: “Hynes never had any intention of getting an indictment, and he didn’t even pursue the possibility of lesser charges. I hope my son’s ghost hangs heavy over Hynes, Giuliani, and Police Commissioner Howard Safir as a constant reminder of his senseless murder and the lack of accountability and justice.”

Raphael Eisenberg, a witness to the Busch shooting who testified at the grand jury hearing at which the officers were cleared, told the Voice that the D.A.’s office seemed to be looking for any minor discrepancy to invalidate testimonies. “Hynes’s career is dependent on his popularity among the police,” he asserted.

Reb Avraham maintains that anti-Hynes feelings are now so strong that many Orthodox Jews would join with African Americans—”two communities that have been wronged by Hynes”—to elect a black moderate. “He did some good, but it’s over now what with the legacy of Busch, Freilich, and other cases.”

Avraham translates the last line of a full-page editorial in the March 10 edition of Nayis Baricht (News Report), a major Yiddish-language paper: “. . . perhaps the time has come for [Hynes] to bring his political career to an end and retire while it can still be said that the good of his administration outweighs the bad.”

According to many ultra-Orthodox Jews, there has been much good. For the last decade Hynes has enjoyed a cozy relationship with Brooklyn’s Orthodox communities. Henna White, a Lubavitch woman who serves as Hynes’s liaison to the Jewish community, points to what she sees as culturally sensitive preventive programs for pedophiles, batterers, and drug users that Hynes’s office has initiated over the last two years.

“Hynes is a very caring D.A.,” she maintains, “and the community knows it. The recent incidents are not going to influence Boro Park’s feelings toward Hynes.” White says she was particularly impressed by the way Hynes handled the Crown Heights riots.

However, following the Freilich case, Hasidic leaders who attended the trial are alleging that one of Hynes’s aides made anti-Semitic comments during his summation. Last week, the Jewish Press promised to print portions of the summation—which is currently being transcribed—in upcoming issues, allowing readers to “judge for themselves the appropriateness of some of his comments.” Last year in another controversial case that left the Orthodox community in a state of fury, the same aide allegedly made comments in private to a prominent rabbi and to his lawyer that were construed as anti-Semitic. The lawyer on that case, Roger Adler, told the Voice, “I was shocked when the aide made comments that sounded like more personal attacks on my client than intellectual discourse regarding his innocence.

After Freilich was indicted last year, Orthodox leaders reached out to black Brooklyn assemblyman Clarence Norman—a close friend of Hynes’s—beseeching him to share their concerns with the D.A. The Hasidic community has made other unorthodox alliances regarding Hynes. Park Avenue Synagogue rabbi David Lincoln wrote to Hynes asking why he took such an aggressive stand against Freilich, whom he described as “an outstanding man.” Lincoln told the Voice that Hynes has spoken at his synagogue at least once, “but I think he has lost some credibility over this matter.”

Andrew Stettner, executive director of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, agrees. “We are disappointed with the D.A. Across the board in the Jewish world—and in the Asian and black communities—there is a widespread feeling of injustice.” JFREJ has been organizing events at which secular and religious participants have united in support of petitioning Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate the Busch case.

In the aftermath of the Busch and Diallo cases, the United Jewish Appeal’s Young Lawyers Committee met two weeks ago with Reverend Calvin Butts of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church and Gidone Busch’s brother Glenn Busch, a New York-based lawyer. “In my brother’s case, Hynes never indicted,” Busch told the group. “We need independent prosecutors in police brutality cases.”

On March 5, Congressman Jerrold Nadler reproved attendees at a UJA professional breakfast in Manhattan for not putting more pressure on the Justice Department to help the Busch family, implicitly criticizing Hynes’s office.

“There are certainly questions that have gone unanswered,” he said, such as, “What went wrong in this investigation?”


Boro Park Betrayed

The Orthodox Jews of Boro Park, who trusted the Giuliani administration—which prevailed on them to remain silent and promised a fair investigation after a young Jewish man was gunned down by police last summer—feel like a community betrayed. The four officers who fired 12 shots that killed Gidone Busch last August 30 walk the streets of New York today, acquitted of all charges.

Doris Busch Boskey, the victim’s mother, who plans to file a civil suit next month, says, “I feel betrayed by Mayor Giuliani and Police Commissioner Safir because they should have waited to hear the real facts before incriminating my son on television the day after he was killed. I feel betrayed because they labeled him violently deranged before knowing anything about him. I feel betrayed because I never got a sympathy call from Giuliani and because they had no intention of a fair investigation. I feel betrayed because there was an agenda to not indict the cops from day one.”

As Orthodox Jews marched in the streets after Busch, 31, was blown away Diallo-style in front of his apartment building at 1619 46th Street, one prominent Hasidic resident with ties to the NYPD alleges that Bruce Teitelbaum, a key Giuliani aide and liaison to the Jewish community, beseeched religious leaders to calm residents.

Within days, posters headed “Urgent Plea from the Rabbonim,” which called upon “all members of the Boro Park community who fear the word of G-d, to stay away from any demonstrations and Chilul Hashem [profaning the name of God],” went up throughout the neighborhood. They were signed by, among others, Rabbi Nafatali Tzvi Halberstam of the Bobover Hasidim, Rabbi Shlomo Gross of the Belzers, and Satmar rabbi Dovid Dov Meisels. (Observers point out that fear of profaning the word of God hasn’t stopped pivotal demonstrations in the past in Boro Park and Crown Heights, another Hasidic enclave.)

And the day after the shooting, according to Steven Walz, an editor at the ultra-conservative Jewish Press, “brass from the police department”—including Deputy Commissioner Richard Sheirer—went to the paper, emphasizing “their side of the story.” Articles subsequently appeared in the Press in defense of the officers.

In addition, the victim’s grieving brother alleges that Noach Dear—a political ally of the mayor—personally intervened on the day of the funeral. As Busch’s secular Jewish family mourned his death at their mother and stepfather’s home in Dix Hills, Long Island, hundreds of Boro Park residents arrived to pay their respects and convey their support.

Amid the din came a condolence call from Dear. Glenn Busch, a Manhattan attorney, remembers that he was pleased to hear from the Boro Park councilman, and suggested that they organize a protest of some sort in response to the atrocity. According to Busch, Dear told him, “Your brother wouldn’t want you to because God wouldn’t want you to.” Confused, Busch “let it go”—then, that night, watched in horror as Dear appeared on TV alongside Giuliani and Safir, declaring that the shooting had been justified.

Two days later, Mrs. Boskey picked up the phone and found herself talking to Hillary Clinton. They had a 20-minute “mother-to-mother” talk.

It was a hot night last August when the ultra-Orthodox shtetl began to lose its pro-Giuliani, pro-NYPD “innocence.” That was the night that Mrs. Boskey’s youngest son, Gidone (né Gary) Busch—a spiritual, eccentric Ba’altshuva (newly Orthodox Jew), now labeled a hammer-wielding lunatic—was gunned down in front of numerous passersby. Every witness who has subsequently come forward disputes the officers’ story that Busch was attacking a policeman with a hammer when he was shot.

In the aftermath of the shooting, community leaders complied with Giuliani administration pleas to remain calm—and silent—because City Hall and Police Commissioner Howard Safir would make sure that a thorough investigation would take place.

“We now realize that the investigation was not taken seriously,” Boro Park rabbi Shmuel Kunda told the Voice. As Kunda put it recently, writing to the faithful in the Jewish Press: “We should not forget this simple but unsettling fact: that the four police officers who killed Gideon [sic] Busch are still walking the streets of Boro Park wearing the very same uniforms and carrying the very same revolvers they used in the shooting.”

The change in Boro Park’s attitude is perhaps best summed up by a soft-spoken, older neighbor of Busch’s, who said he told a black reporter after the shooting, “Yesterday I believed that when the police would shoot down a black man, they had a reason. Now I realize that the police can be animals—and they have the power to cover it up at all costs. The next time a black man gets shot, I’m marching with you.”

Immediately after the killing, as residents demonstrated and Reverend Sharpton visited the community to express support, Safir and Giuliani pleaded with local leaders to wait and see what the grand jury would decide. True to form, the Orthodox Jews subsided into silence, continuing to hold out trust in the mayor, unlike the African American community, which rose in unified anger following the attack on Abner Louima and the killing of Amadou Diallo.


Even the witnesses to the Busch shooting—who concur that at no point did Busch swing a hammer at anyone—believed that a fair investigation would take place. Then, on November 1, came the appalling news: the grand jury had exonerated all four of the officers who fired at Busch and had found the killing of the frail, 31-year-old ex-medical student totally justified.

Outraged, Congressman Jerrold Nadler met last month with Attorney General Janet Reno to plead for a federal investigation. On January 14, Mrs. Boskey and Gary’s father, Norman Busch, filed a statement with the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

The family’s legal team, which has filed a “notice of claim” with the city, includes Ellen Yaroshefsky, Barry Scheck, and Johnnie Cochran (Scheck and Cochran also represent the Louima family and formerly represented the Diallos), assisted by New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Norman Siegel.

The last day of Gidone Busch’s life, he was going through an “emotional crisis,” according to his mother. Recently engaged, he had also befriended a homeless, non-Jewish man, who spent time in his house. In addition, according to Mrs. Boskey, her son was disoriented because he was nearsighted and had left his glasses at her house on a recent visit. She had just mailed them to him. (Police allege that Busch also may have been smoking marijuana, which was found in his apartment.)

Twice that evening the cops came to his apartment, responding first at 5:44 to a neighbor’s complaint that Busch was playing loud music and dancing in the streets while indecently dressed. According to a witness, Joseph Horowitz, when an officer arrived, Busch—by then fully dressed—reached to shake the cop’s hand, at which point the officer allegedly responded, “I don’t want to touch your disgusting hand,” then added, “You better behave—we don’t want to come back.” (As reported in Newsday, Horowitz said Busch told the cops he wasn’t feeling well, and asked to be taken to a hospital. The officers refused, later explaining that he wasn’t doing anything illegal at that time.)

About an hour later, the 66th Precinct received another call about Busch, this time alleging “strange behavior.”

Raphael Eisenberg, who lives several blocks away and did not know the victim, noticed two policemen with nightsticks approaching Busch’s building. He became curious and followed them. Eisenberg told the Voice he then saw “a man with a hammer” standing in a basement-apartment doorway. He said the cops called for backup as Sergeant Terrence O’Brien descended the stairs to confront Busch.

Then things turned ugly. Despite a 1997 CCRB recommendation that pepper spray not be used on emotionally disturbed persons, Officer Daniel Gravitch allegedly pepper-sprayed Busch, who then, according to Eisenberg, ran blindly up the stairs, screaming, in an attempt to get away from his attacker. In so doing, according to Eisenberg, Busch bumped into O’Brien, who police believe may have been scratched by the hammer.

Witnesses said Busch ran onto the sidewalk, holding the hammer over his head (“like it had some religious power,” says Eisenberg), then turned to face the cops, still screaming, with his back against the wall of an adjacent building. Six officers closed in, forming a semicircle around Busch—at least four feet from him—while other cops gathered in the background.

According to 16-year-old Aaron Gerlitt, one cop yelled, “Drop it or we’ll shoot.” Said Eisenberg, “All I could hear was Busch screaming. His back was to the wall, with the hammer over his head.” Another witness, Abe Jacobowitz, concurred. “Busch wasn’t moving, he wasn’t gesturing with the hammer.” According to Gerlitt, one cop counted to three, and then fired a shot. There was a pause. Then four cops pumped 11 more bullets into the victim. (O’Brien, 35—who, according to The New York Times, fired half the shots that hit Busch—has 12 previous CCRB complaints, two for force, which were substantiated. Officer William Loshavio, 28, who fired twice, has 19 previous complaints, three of which were substantiated. Sergeant Joseph Memoly, 29, who fired three shots, has one previous complaint, for which he was exonerated. Officer Martin Sanabria, 31, who fired one shot, has no previous complaints.)

Stunned, Eisenberg recalls that he asked one officer, “Why did you shoot him?” He says the cop did not respond.

Adding to the eeriness of the scene, witnesses noticed Busch’s tefillin (small leather boxes containing scriptural passages, which are bound to the arm with straps) on the steps. Tefillin are used only during prayer.


The officers huddled as Busch lay bleeding to death. Later, a caller to Brian Lehrer on WNYC charged that an ambulance from Hatzoloh (the volunteer medical service that is staffed and paid for by the community) was prevented for 15 minutes by the police from attending to Busch. He was dead on arrival at Maimonides Hospital.

That night, several neighborhood sources allege, detectives questioning witnesses crossed off the names of people who said that the shooting had been unprovoked. One neighbor claims he saw a detective throw away notes he’d been taking after a woman told him that the police had committed an atrocity. (Due to what he described as “an ongoing investigation,” NYPD detective Vincent Gravelli declined to comment on these charges as well as any others put forth in this piece.)

The next day, Safir announced that the police had seven witnesses who supported the cops’ version of the story. He has yet to bring them forth. On October 5, Jayson Blair of The New York Times wrote that “investigators now believe that none of the six officers at the scene of the shooting had been struck with the hammer, and . . . no witnesses could be found to confirm Mr. Safir’s version of events.”

Eisenberg, who later testified before the grand jury, says it was evident to him from the start that it was a kangaroo court. He feels that Assistant District Attorney Jay Shapiro tried to discredit his testimony on minutia. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes’s career is based on his relationship with the cops, Eisenberg notes. “And,” he adds, “that was clear” during the grand jury proceedings.

As early as four days after the shooting, some in the Orthodox community began to sense a cover-up. Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a strident Giuliani foe, produced six witnesses whose accounts differed markedly from the police officers’. Feeling betrayed by the cops who had paid a visit earlier that week, the Jewish Press began publishing furious editorials. A few weeks later, at a meeting with Safir, Boro Park Jewish leaders told him that they and their congregations were concerned about how the police had acted. Then a leader of the Agudat Israel Movement, which represents all the ultra-Orthodox groups in Boro Park, wrote Safir that there is “a widespread sense that something went terribly wrong.”

Glenn Busch had had the same feeling: “When I got to the police station the night Gary was killed,” he told the Voice, “all they wanted to know was Gary’s medical history. I knew they were up to something.

According to Ellen Yaroshefsky, who heads the family’s legal team, “There has definitely been a cover-up. The strangest thing is that not one officer can remember who shot first.” Busch’s killing, she adds, is “part of a long-standing pattern.”

Barry Scheck points out that “the police should have been informed of the CCRB recommendation” regarding the use of pepper spray on emotionally disturbed suspects. “The department needs to set up appropriate procedures in handling mentally disturbed people,” he adds.

Writing a series of passionate articles in the Jewish Press, Rabbi Kunda pleaded with readers to “flood” City Hall with “strong letters, Emails, and faxes expressing indignation and anger at what happened”—although Kunda ackowledges readers’ fears that “if we don’t vote for the mayor in the Senate, we’ll be stuck with Hillary Clinton—a much worse alternative.” Other Busch sympathizers take note of Boro Park’s conflicting loyalties.

Cynthia Greenberg, associate director of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, which has been involved in protests in the Louima and Diallo cases, held an event last week at the Upper West Side liberal Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, seeking broader support for the Busch case.

“We called the Busch family right after the shooting,” she declares. “As Jews, we wanted them to know we are here for them.”

Gary Busch, described as a “gentle soul” by his teachers, friends, and relatives, became Orthodox in Israel after leaving medical school in the middle of his third year, in 1993. In Israel, he began to suffer from manic depression. During his worst episodes, his mother says, he wouldn’t eat or talk to people for days. At his most manic extreme, during his final eight months in Boro Park, he would outrage neighbors by dancing expressively to his own highly amplified Hasidic music in the street.

As Gary’s fiancée, Netanya Ullman, also a wide-eyed Ba’altshuva, walks with a Voice reporter toward the staircase descending to his former basement home, she gestures energetically to the sidewalk where, she recalls, he “danced the most beautiful dances” she ever saw.

“He carved the Hebrew name of God into his hammer, which he called his staff,” she explains. “Everything had spiritual significance to Gary. He was incredible.” (In fact, at his mother’s home in Long Island, even his alarm clock has the Hebrew name of God scratched on the sides.)


“There’s no doubt Gary was a little nutty,” says the older next-door neighbor, “but I never considered him dangerous. The kids always played with him, and my own grandchildren did on the day he was killed.” Some of the parents in the community were away for the summer, and when they returned they were taken aback by his “strange” ways, he said. “But it’s a shame they didn’t understand him.”

In her grief, Doris Busch Boskey has become something of an activist, first joining protesters in early January outside the Brooklyn courthouse when jury selection began in the case of the officers allegedly involved with Justin Volpe in the Louima attack, then journeying to Albany for the Diallo trial. She obsessively collects articles and looks for new leads in her son’s case. She has compared experiences with mothers of other police-killing victims—perhaps most extensively with Iris Baez of the Bronx, mother of Anthony Baez, who died in 1994 in a notorious “choking death” case. Officer Francis Livoti was acquitted of criminally negligent homicide in 1996, but was convicted in 1998 of civil rights violations.

Mrs. Boskey emphasizes her son’s virtues. He wrote poetry. He was just starting his own Web-design business. He took care of her when her sister passed away last year. “He would go out with the intention of befriending and feeding drug addicts,” even bringing one to her Long Island home.

In her living room last week, Mrs. Boskey proudly showed a Voice reporter a lovely, illustrated book of poems that her son wrote during the final months of his life. She turned the pages to one of her favorites, titled “The Grateful Earth,” in which Gary recounts a trip he took to the cemetery where members of his family are laid to rest. It ends:

I sang out at the top of my lungs

Cause not a soul in this place had any objections to honesty

Or any objections to truth

And I took comfort in my friends and family

Who were resting in the earth.

Now his mother takes comfort in her slain son’s words.


Jews Too — ‘No Justice, No Peace’

‘This Isn’t the Movies,’ Said Safir

‘Jewish blood is not cheap.’ — One of hundreds of Jews in the streets of Borough Park, August 31; ‘Who was trained to act like this?’ — Another Jew in borough Park that night.

Brian Lehrer, who conducts On the Line (WNYC-AM, 10 a.m. to noon weekdays), is the most knowledgeable talk-show host— on a remarkable range of subjects— in this city. He does not push any ideological agenda of his own, but he does challenge guests who try to spin or tell lies.

The morning after Gidone Busch was killed by police in Borough Park, Brooklyn, Lehrer asked two questions that I expect were also being asked by most New Yorkers— of all races, religions, and no religions. Clearly a mentally disturbed man, wielding only a hammer, had been shot to death by the police.

“Could not five officers [there were six]
have subdued him in some other way?” asked Lehrer. “Are they not trained in disarming suspects— especially in the case of a suspect they knew was not armed with a gun?”

The mayor’s immediate response was, as usual, like that of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland: “Sentence first— verdict afterwards!”

The only “investigation” had been an instant preliminary assessment by the NYPD itself. But the mayor’s verdict was “Innocent.”

“There appears to be every reason to believe,” he said, “that the police officers acted in accordance with police procedure and acted in a responsible way to save a human life.”

Every reason to believe?

The police commissioner, the mayor’s faithful vassal, echoed his master:

“This isn’t the movies. You don’t shoot hammers out of hands. You don’t shoot people in the leg. If you use your weapon in exerting deadly physical force, then you shoot to stop the individual who is exerting that deadly physical force against you.”

The facts on the ground, as the September 1 Daily News reported, were:

“The 6-foot-3, 159-pound Busch was hit by 12 bullets, two to his right arm, one to his right leg, one to the left leg, two to the lower torso, one to the lower abdomen, three to his right chest, one to his right back and a graze wound. The 9mm bullets pierced his heart, lungs, liver and intestines, according to the medical examiner’s office.”

The mayor said the police had acted “precisely” according to procedure. Twelve bullets hit Busch. Four more were found embedded in a van down the street.

As Brooklyn assemblyman Dov Hikind pointed out, “It was a hammer, not a gun.”

And it was not the movies. A real man was killed.

Ah, but the mayor and Howard Safir kept reminding us that it was “a claw hammer”! According to the Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, a claw hammer is “a hammer having a head with one end curved and a cleft for pulling out nails.” Hardly an unusual hammer.

Busch hit a sergeant on his arm and thigh, and his colleagues immediately delivered “deadly force” to just about all of Busch, including his arms and legs.

It is not surprising that some of the hundreds of Jews protesting in the streets the night of the killing were shouting “No Justice! No Peace!”— Al Sharpton’s anthem. (On WABC radio, cop protector Sean Hannity said only “a few” were protesting.)

When Sharpton tried to forge a bond with the angry Jews, he was turned away. And rightly so. He still righteously refuses to accept any responsibility for his complicity in the multiply destructive Tawana Brawley hoax. And another index of his self-vaunted leadership qualities is his silence concerning Khallid Muhammad’s “march” of open-ended bigotry when so many other black leaders have advised people to stay away.

But it was fitting that his “No Justice! No Peace!” was also shouted by Jews. Maybe that will awaken more New Yorkers to the systematic, fundamental problems with this police department— including the training of officers. I have yet to see a serious analysis of what actually is taught at the Police Academy— and by whom. Who trains and monitors the instructors?

I am told, for instance, that only 16 hours of training there is given on how to deal with emotionally disturbed people.

But, as I’ll try to indicate in future columns, there is so much more to be done to rehabilitate the NYPD— against the strenuous opposition of Giuliani and Safir, who, by their self-protecting denial of reality, have done more to harm the department than all of its critics, responsible and irresponsible.

I do not write as a cop hater. When the Voice once gave me a dinner to commemorate my having been here since the Spanish-American War, two of the friends I invited were detectives from the homicide squad. And some of my best sources for Voice pieces have been cops disgusted at what they see around them— particularly as they look at superior officers who, like the mayor and the commissioner, are in denial, or worse.

One aspect of the Borough Park story I have not seen in the press, as of this writing, is a report by a caller to Brian Lehrer on WNYC that a volunteer ambulance— a Jewish ambulance staffed and paid for by the community— was prevented for 15 minutes by the police from getting in to attend to Busch as he was bleeding to death.

If this is true, will the commander of that division be held accountable?

There is also a question for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her husband has been a fiercer supporter of the police than any recent president. That’s why there is often— in a photo op— a blue wall of rank-and-filers and police chiefs behind him when he announces new death penalties, as in his Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which greatly extended many law-enforcement powers of very dubious constitutionality.

As Hillary Rodham Clinton “listens” to New Yorkers, how will she react, if at all, to shouts of “No Justice! No Peace!”— and not only in “minority” neighborhoods?

Will her huge press entourage ask her reaction to the killing of Gidone Busch?


Same as the Old Dov

The gorgeous mosaic lives, at least in the form of Dov Hikind, the Borough Park assemblyman whose brush with law enforcement last year seems to have changed him as profoundly as the trip to Mecca changed Malcolm X. Hikind, long known as a combative disciple of Jewish Defense League capo Meir
Kahane, is now billing himself as a new man, more attuned to the problems facing New Yorkers, more appreciative of New York’s diversity, more sensitive to discrimination and intolerance.

Until you read the fine print, that is. Looking to run for higher office, Hikind may sound like Jesse Jackson (“We should really all get along and respect each other”), but his positions remain predictably conservative. He’s still endorsing Republicans, he’s still pro-life, he’s still antigay. Nevertheless, Dov has a story to tell, the story of juror number eight.

She was one of 12 jurors who sat in a courtroom for months hearing charges by the federal government that Hikind had illegally used public funds for personal and political purposes, including travel expenses, fundraising, even his children’s tuition costs. Had he been found guilty, he would have faced up to 10 years in prison. The jury took less than two hours to reach a not-guilty verdict.

Afterward, the aforementioned juror eight, a 35-year-old woman from Harlem, met Hikind for dinner at a kosher restaurant on the Upper West Side. Then he invited her to his Borough Park home for dinner on Shabbat. The episode may not seem extraordinary to some, but to Hikind it was a revelation. “My kids were fascinated” with having an African American in their home, he says. “We spent six hours talking about the case. It was unreal. What an incredible story!”

Being aquitted by a mostly minority jury has broadened his outlook, he says. But Hikind has hardly neglected his base in Borough Park, the conservative Orthodox Jewish community he has represented in Albany since the early 1980s. For years, Hikind’s m.o. was straightforward: endorse a candidate (regardless of party affiliation) and get some petty patronage and local pork in exchange. His recent machinations have been slightly more sophisticated. A few months ago, he opened a new political club, the United New York Democratic Club, in Borough Park. According to Hikind, the club has more than 600 paid members, whose average age hovers around the mid 30s, in contrast with the geriatric hue of most political clubs these days.

Elected the area’s district leader last year, he briefly put up a candidate in a civil court race against the Democratic party organization’s candidate, peeved that county leader Clarence Norman hadn’t consulted him over his choice. (The candidate dropped out after Hikind realized he had no chance of winning.) He’s also made peace with his longtime neighborhood rival, City Council member Noach Dear. Although the two are hardly friends, they are no longer committed antagonists either. (“He does his thing, I do mine,” Hikind curtly comments on the subject.)

But Borough Park no longer fulfills Hikind’s political ambitions; he wants the entire city of New York. For the past year, he has talked about running for Brooklyn borough president in 2001, but Hikind told the Voice that his real interest is in a citywide position. “If I had a choice, I’d rather be public advocate,” he says. “It excites me a lot more than borough president.” But there’s a problem: he would need to get 40 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff. In borough president races, there is no runoff; the candidate with a plurality wins. In what promises to be a crowded field for Brooklyn beep, Hikind would have a distinct advantage over the likes of Senator Marty Markowitz, Darryl Towns (Congressman Ed’s son), and Jeanette Gadson (deputy borough president and Clarence Norman’s candidate), the early contenders to succeed Howie Golden.

Meanwhile, Hikind is also the latest addition to the right-wing airwaves. He’s got his own radio show now, holding forth Saturday evenings on WMCA-AM (last week’s topic was “Hillary Rodham Clinton: Please don’t run”). What’s more, he now presents himself as Dov the Populist: “I’m going out there to meet people. I’ve been reaching out to people in the black community, the Latino community, and I’m very happy about the reception I am getting.”

But rhetoric aside, Hikind’s actions look mighty familiar. In last year’s elections, for example, he stayed true to form, backing Republican George Pataki and even Al D’Amato, despite the presence of Brooklyn boy Chuck Schumer in the Senate race.

Hikind began the year expressing tolerance toward the gay community, distancing himself from the rabidly homophobic rabbi Yehuda Levin, head of Jews for Morality, who was running for the City Council in February. “I cannot support anyone who is homophobic,” Hikind told a Brooklyn paper in January. “I can’t and I won’t.” Gay activists applauded Hikind’s stance and were further pleased when he cast a vote for the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination bill that passed in the assembly in March. But Hikind said the vote was an electronic mistake and filed a memo with the assembly stating that he would have voted no had he been present. “I have no intention of supporting that bill, unless someone changes the laws of the Torah,” he declared. Lamented Lambda Line, a newsletter for the gay and lesbian Democratic club in Brooklyn, “We were optimistic that Hikind had, indeed, matured in his thinking on this issue, but were sadly mistaken.”

Undaunted, the assemblyman is plowing ahead. His political action committee, Friends of Dov Hikind, has already raised more than $250,000 just for the upcoming election. But will that thwart his powerful enemies? During his trial, Hikind never hid his suspicion that Mayor Giuliani was behind his troubles, believing that the mayor engineered the investigation after the two parted ways over the 1994 gubernatorial race. The animosity toward Mayor Giuliani is still there. They do not speak, according to Hikind (“but that may be changing soon,” he adds), and he frowns on the prospect of Giuliani in the Senate, noting how even his own conservative constituents are tired of the mayor’s dictatorial style. “He’s done a decent job as mayor, but I’m absolutely not excited about him running for the Senate,” Hikind says. “I don’t think people like this mayor at all. People look forward to a period when he’s not around, when there’s less confrontation.”

And yet, Hikind has printed 10,000 buttons urging the First Lady not to run. It’s not HRC’s support for a Palestinian state that bothers him— not only does Israel’s new prime minister support a two-state solution, he admits, but even the Israeli lobby has conceded the issue— it’s what Hikind calls her “love affair” with PLO chairman Yasir Arafat that irks him so. “Arafat must be dealt with, but let’s not forget who he is,” the onetime JDL activist says. Continuing with the sexual metaphors, he adds, “I mean, you don’t have to go to bed with him, which is what Hillary has done.”


Political Conversion

Only seven years ago, Brooklyn City Councilman Noach Dear appeared to be headed for political oblivion, if not jail, when he was found receiving nearly $250,000 a year from a charity he headed called the Save Soviet Jewry Foundation. After an investigation by the state attorney general, Noach returned more than $37,000 to the now defunct nonprofit.

Today Noach Dear is running in a tight race for Congress, vying for Chuck Schumer’s open seat with three other Democrats. Like Al D’Amato and George Pataki, the conservative Dear has been presenting a kinder, gentler version of himself, backing away from his right-wing voting record and lifetime of hostile rhetoric towards gays, blacks, and women. Indeed, the man who voted against several major AIDS and gay civil-rights bills before the City Council last year said that he “believes in equal rights for gays because discrimination is not a religious right.”

No doubt Dear’s makeover is based on necessity rather than conviction, a recognition that he’s no longer running in the conservative confines of Borough Park, the Orthodox Jewish community he has represented in the council since 1983. In fact, Borough Park is not even in this district. The recently reconfigured 9th Congressional District is roughly 60 percent Brooklyn, and the rest Queens, and is comprised mostly of secular Jewish, middle-class communities. (Apparently, Dear didn’t know this. He had 3000 signatures rendered invalid because they came from outside the district.) Ironically, the new design may work in Dear’s favor, since voters in this district may be vulnerable to his attempts to refurbish his image.

One area where the tactic won’t work is Park Slope, which has a sizable gay population. Look for progressives to come out with guns blazing against Dear from now until the September 15 primary. “The notion that somebody as reactionary as Noach Dear may be the next member of Congress for this district is very scary,” asserts Alan Fleishman, a neighborhood activist with a long involvement in gay and lesbian issues. “Things have been quiet over the summer, but we’re going to ratchet it up a few notches now.”

On Monday, several gay rights and prochoice organizations held a press conference in Prospect Park, pointing out Dear’s conservative record in the City Council. To wit: voting against the landmark 1986 gay rights bill, AIDS prevention advertisements, and the 1998 domestic partnership bill; opposing Mayor Giuliani’s efforts to raise money for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis because it would legitimize “a lifestyle that the heterosexual person is opposed to”; and consistently voting prolife, including voting against a 1994 bill making it illegal to block access to an abortion clinic. (Dear denied the Voice‘s request for an interview.)

The other Democrats in the race are all formidable and have a shot at winning. Dan Feldman, a longtime member of the state assembly, has the support of Brooklyn’s Democratic county organization and many political clubs. Melinda Katz, an assemblywoman from Queens, is being heavily promoted by City Comptroller Alan Hevesi and the Queens county organization. She will benefit by being the only woman and Queens candidate in the race. City Councilman Anthony Weiner, whose face recently adorned The New York Observer as a “young political hotshot,” is close to Chuck Schumer. He was endorsed by the late Tony Genovesi and his Canarsie club, and thus suffers from his death.

What Dear has going for him is money—lots of it. In 1996, he flexed his fundraising muscles by securing more than $2 million for the Clinton-Gore reelection campaign. (Gore even paid a visit to Dear’s Borough Park home three years ago to raise money.) Dear has gone on to use his extensive contacts to build a considerable war chest of his own, raising $1.3 million by the end of June, more than his three Democratic opponents combined. He will hit the television airwaves with commercials over the next two weeks, and plans to send a self-promotional videotape to 20,000 residents in the district. The primary candidates will hold a debate September 3, at P.S. 206 in Sheepshead Bay.