Alan Hevesi resumes spotlight at the Y

By Sarina Trangle

Former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi made his first post-prison public foray Monday when he took the podium at a Central Queens Y lecture series he regularly attends.

Hevesi gave an hour and a half talk on national politics at the Rabbi Simon Hevesi Jewish Heritage Library in the YM-YWHA of Forest Hills. The 74-year-old ex-lawmaker began his presentation by criticizing the weak federal oversight of the 13 colonies and worked his way up to current elections, where he predicted Republicans would bolster their majority in the House of Representatives and take the U.S. Senate. Hevesi then assailed the partisan rancor and onslaught of campaign spending by corporations and private groups initiated by the landmark Citizens Union Supreme Court case.

“There is a consequence. Candidates for office are obligated to their contributors,” he said. “Republicans, a substantial number, deny climate change… Why? Because they’re getting money from big oil, from energy companies, from the coal industry, from people who have a vested interest and don’t want to be regulated.”

The dozens in the audience seemed to receive Hevesi warmly, with one woman urging a reporter to be nice to him saying, “He’s a grandpa now” and another asking him for his autograph after the talk.

Hevesi resigned as state comptroller in December 2006. A plea deal spared him time behind bars for having a state driver chauffeur his ailing wife.

Then in October 2010, he pleaded guilty to investing $250 million in pension funds with the private equity firm Markstone Capital Partners in exchange for $1 million in gifts, campaign donations and paid trips to Italy and Israel.

Hevesi spent roughly 20 months in prison and was paroled in December 2012.

After his talk, Hevesi said he is barred from holding elected office, but has no further restrictions, such as campaigning or donating to candidates. No former colleagues or relatives have asked him to get involved.

But he described central Queens as welcoming.

“They voted for me for 23 years in the Assembly,” said Hevesi, who began a 35-year political career as Forest Hills’ assemblyman and then was elected to the posts of city and state comptroller. Hevesi ran for mayor in 2001, but was defeated in the four-way Democratic primary.

“They’ve been loyal and supportive through thick and thin, so there’s no anxiety to go out in public in New York City or in my neighborhood.”

Hevesi said he attends lectures at the Jewish heritage library, which is named after his grandfather — the chief rabbi of Pest in Budapest — and he decided to speak when asked.

“I thought, ‘Let me try. It’s been a while,’” Hevesi said.

He would not comment on city or state elections and issues, but said he still pined for politics.

“I miss it tremendously,” Hevesi said. “I had a great career, and a couple of bumps in the road. I accomplished a lot. I’m proud of that. I had not intended to retire.”
He said he fills his days by playing with his grandson and spending time with family who suffered when he was away.

To which his son Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) quipped, “I wouldn’t say we suffered.”

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at stran‌gle@c‌ngloc‌al.com.