Editorial: The tragic fall of Sheldon Leffler – QNS.com

Editorial: The tragic fall of Sheldon Leffler

Leffler was sentenced last week to five years probation, a $5,000 fine…

By The TimesLedger

The sentencing of former City Councilman Sheldon Leffler brings a sad end to the career of a man who at one time was one of the city’s most trusted and respected elected officials.

Leffler was sentenced last week to five years probation, a $5,000 fine and 540 hours of community service for attempting to defraud the city of $40,000 in campaign matching funds. According to the prosecution, Leffler asked a Hollis Realtor to break up a $10,000 campaign contribution into 40 $250 money orders that would be donated in the name of the Realtor’s tenants and employees and their families. In this way he could circumvent limits on campaign contributions and file for $4 in matching funds for every dollar donated.

The plan allegedly fell apart when someone at the Campaign Finance Board noticed that 40 money orders submitted by Leffler were in sequential order.

Assistant District Attorney Daniel Cort argued that Leffler should not be given special treatment just because he is a politician.

Cort is right, to an extent. On the other hand, it would not have been fair to send Leffler to prison just because he is a well-known public figure. In any sentencing, and especially for a first-time offender, it is the judge's duty to take into consideration the defendant's history.

The judge noted that Leffler served the city for 24 years as a member of the City Council. Ironically, Leffler chaired the Council's Public Safety Committee. Throughout his distinguished career, Leffler earned the respect of his fellow council members and his constituents. We cannot remember even once anyone raising questions about Leffler’s character or his dedication serving the City of New York.

Once the alleged fraud was discovered, the state had no choice, it had to prosecute Leffler. Nevertheless, Leffler’s tragic lapse in judgment cannot overshadow a lifetime of public service. Mr. Leffler is not getting off easy. No one who knows this man will ever think that.

Editorial: Waving at Jamaica

The good news is that Gov. Pataki has promised to reveal four proposals for linking Midtown Manhattan to Kennedy Airport. In addition, the governor pledged that he would create a “job hub” in downtown Jamaica.

The bad news, if you will, is that the connection to Manhattan will likely involve using the AirTrain to create a one-seat ride from Manhattan to the airport. We not only think this is a good idea, it is the only way to make the AirTrain viable. But a one-seat ride will greatly diminish the benefits that the AirTrain is expected to bring to Jamaica. Rather than changing from the subway to the AirTrain in Jamaica, the riders will do no more than wave as they pass through.

To be honest, we were never convinced that the AirTrain would deliver great benefits for Jamaica – although we hoped we were wrong. There’s still a way that even a one-seat ride could contribute to a renaissance in downtown Jamaica. There should be a commitment that the AirTrain will continue to stop in Jamaica, even after the Manhattan link is created. In addition, airport-bound riders should be allowed to board the AirTrain in Jamaica for the cost of a subway ride. The fare is now $5. This would benefit airport workers who live in the Jamaica area and would encourage companies to locate airport support services in Jamaica.

With the right planning, the state can establish a state-of-the art transportation service that will ensure the viability of JFK Airport while creating jobs and business opportunities throughout southeast Queens.

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