Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.
--H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)
The intelligentsia of the Southampton Town prosecutor’s office known affectionately as the team of Lombardo and Sendlenski have been busy attempting to extort cash out of the newest class of criminals in the Town -- New York landlords and property owners.
With the advent of the new Rental Law - a thinly disguised set of guidelines intended to rid the area of those pesky Latinos (in the absence of a national immigration policy) and at the same time, transfer responsibility for enforcing laws from the police to landlords – a whole new situation, what a normal person would think is a con job, has evolved.
Take the recent scenarios that have erupted in the Town Justice Court.
The Code Enforcement boys arrange a complaint from a neighbor who is just thrilled about having a Latino living next door with their extended family.
An anonymous phone call to the local gendarmes complaining of, say, garbage, becomes the excuse (probably cause) for a full-blown investigation. As was popular with Hitler Youth, that garbage complaint becomes the ticket to arrive at the front door with guns drawn and badges flashing.
Who could refuse a visit from your friendly, local, law enforcement officer? Tell Sally to put her robe on and invite the boys in for a beer.
Of course, this humor pales when confronted with the new realities of the Justice Court. Joe Lombardo and his pal Michael Sendlenski, looking to make a name for themselves with the locals, have started to hone the good-cop, bad-cop routine to a level where Abbott and Costello would be envious.
What has been happening folks, are a few of the following realities. For one thing, the Town needs money. Mostly for more salaries to enforce the laws against New Yorkers and other riff-raff. Too many people seem to have gotten the idea that investments are welcome in the Town and that they, therefore, should have some say in who rules and how the game is played. So, taxes have been jacked up – just in time, it seems. The tax revenues were about to decrease, so while values drop, tax rates go up. As the values continue to drop, don’t look for the taxes to drop. This year’s increase in the Community Preservation Fund, the transfer tax paid on big-ticket purchases of real estate, may be a very serious disappointment next year. There was enough money to go around this year, and for the politicians to “borrow” from – but this may not be possible next year. This year’s take was based heavily upon the performance of real estate for the first two-thirds of 2007. That was when financing did exist.
But, what the Town has traditionally fallen back on for money is the good old formula of ripping off the New Yorkers. You know, that elephant in the room that pays for everyone to have a job in Town government but does NOT get to vote, Yet.
Fines, penalties, and criminal summonses do very nicely. It’s the meat and potatoes of the Town Justice Court. It’s gets those white New Yorkers all squirmy when the idea of traveling 100 miles to court with the possibility of being arrested for things like not having a number posted on your house or, say, renting your house to someone the Town doesn’t like.
That brings us to Latinos and Rental permits.
Recently, a couple of landlords were dragged into court by the vaudeville team of Sendlenski and Lombardo because they had rented a couple of properties to tenants that were immigrants. Their “Paperz” were not in order – and by the way, we found numerous violations in your houses and you have not obtained a rental permit with the names of the people living in these houses. And, by the way, are they here legally? Now, that's your job, not our job.
But, we are concerned because they are not safe. But, are they here legally?
How about you give us $5000? No, make that $10,000.
Yes, and what about jail time?
Well, give us the money and maybe we'll just give you Community Service. For renting your house.
Judge Burke, of course, a recently re-elected jurist who is tough on crime adjudicates many of these cases. Perhaps with tongue in cheek. How could you keep a straight face when there are real criminals wandering about and landlords are being arrested and criminalized?
So, how humorous is this situation? How does a New Yorker logically deal with such an obvious sham. The previous Supervisor "Skip" Heaney even published a campaign ad in Suffolk Life describing in detail how he planned to get rid of immigrants. The plan, when Heaney, Kabot and Nuzzi were running on a Republican ticket (before Heaney and Kabot broke up) was to intensively inspect houses that the Latinos were living in and use the safety issue as a means to criminalize landlords -- disguised as concern for the very people the Town wanted to vanish. Of course, no house can survive a safety inspection if the inspector is instructed to find problems.
While Sendlenski and Lombardo are busy shaking down the landlords, and while Supervisor Kabot is clucking over the extra $4 million sucked out of New Yorkers pockets from real estate transactions, Judge Burke’s kid is creating a new business.
Ed Burke, Jr. is advertising in the Republican Town organ, the Southampton Press, which passes as a newspaper, for his services – to advise those pesky landlords on how to get those Rental Permits. Whether the Rental Law is constitutional or not is immaterial.
In "House of Games," Joe Montegna described a "Tell" as the most successful way to figure out what was going on. You have to watch these characters in operation. Sit in on a Justice Court session. All of the players have their game down with each other.
And, just as John Cusack mistrusted Annette Benning and Angelica Huston in "The Grifters," watch the Town play out this "Long Con." In addition to the entire corrupt process from Town Investigator David Betts, to Fire Marshall Cheryl Kraft and her Code Enforcement boys and girls, to the Town Attorneys in Justice Court in front of Ed Burke and Tom DeMayo (who signs most of the anti-Latino search warrants) – there will now be a charade played out with beleaguered landlords represented by Burke, Jr., in front of his father. It is a system of corruption poorly disguised as a campaign to enforce safe housing that is feeding upon your wallet. Can you imagine that they want you to believe that they want safe housing for people that they really want to kill? Visit Quogue if you doubt that. The police shot an unarmed immigrant to death.
Where’s the U.S. Attorney when you really need him?
The South Bronx during the Civil Rights Movement was a safer place for New Yorkers.