Political Shenanigans Start
Political dirty tricks have become part of the political landscape ever since Republican Richard Nixon raised the practice to an art.
Rockaway apparently had its own dirty trick this week, only one month before the November 3 election, when riders of the Rockaway ferry's American Princess were handed flyers announcing that Republican incumbent City Councilman Eric Ulrich was pulling the city funding for the much-prized commuter run from the peninsula to Manhattan.
Under the headline "Save Our Princess," the flyer said, "We heard Eric Ulrich is the one pulling this funding - Congressman Weiner will open a case on our behalf but only if they hear from all of us."
The problem is, none of that is true, and Republican officials believe that those who handed out the flyer knew that it was not true, but were trying to discredit Ulrich right before the election.
"It would be political suicide to be against the ferry," Ulrich told The Wave on Tuesday. "I have been getting emails all day from constituents who want me to keep the ferry. They say they will withhold support for me if I pull the funding. I would never do that. In fact, the Council is looking to expand ferry service, and we'll be pouring millions of dollars into doing that."
Ulrich says that he went to Riis Landing early on Tuesday morning and found Mary Brady, the Breezy Point woman who had been handing out the flyers.
He says that he asked her who had told her that he was pulling the funding, but she refused to tell him anything more than that "a group of people were talking about it."
Suspecting that Democratic District Leader Lew Simon was behind the flyer, he asked her if she worked for Simon.
Ulrich said that Brady denied working for Simon, or even knowing him.
Several calls to Brady from The Wave went unreturned.
Simon told The Wave that he had no idea where the flyer had come from and denied vehemently that he had anything to do with it.
"People have been calling me all day, asking me to do something about the end of the ferry," Simon said. "I never heard anything about it before that, and I certainly had nothing to do with the flyer."
He denies knowing Brady, although two sources in Breezy Point, who asked not to be identified, said that they had seen Brady with Simon at several coop events.
Democratic candidate Frank Gulluscio said that the flyer certainly didn't come from his campaign.
"I run a clean campaign," he said. "I am running on the issues and not a negative campaign like that. I would never do something like that."
He did not, however, rule out the possibility that the flyer came from others in his party who are interested in the outcome of the election.
"I don't have control over everybody else, just myself and my campaign workers," he said.
Judging from the angry emails received by Ulrich from ferry riders who thought he was ending the service, the ferry is very important to many Rockaway people.
A typical email came from Joanne Fogarty.
"I was just advised this morning, on the 7:45 [a.m.] ferry to Manhattan that our service might be in jeopardy. It was suggested on the boat today that your office might be driving the effort to pull the funding. I don't believe that this is the case, but I would like to hear that from you."
Another regular ferry rider, Regina Sirico, wrote to Ulrich, "I, for one, will not travel [to Manhattan] by train or express bus. If the ferry service is cut, a lot more people will be driving into Manhattan, which defeats the purpose of a 'greener' way of life."
Ulrich's campaign put out a statement on Tuesday afternoon decrying the "slander" brought by the flyer.
Ulrich emphasized the timing of the flyer, coming a day before the Democrats were to hold a press conference at Riis landing to outline their candidate's plan for mass transit to and from Rockaway.
"I took calls all day about this issue and reassured my constituents that I am fully in support of our ferry service," Ulrich said in the statement. "It is suspicious that this slander attack came just prior to their press conference."
As for Congressman Anthony Weiner, a spokesperson said that he first heard of the flyer on Tuesday morning, and had not "opened a case" about the ferry as stated on that flyer.
"The Congressman doesn't know anything about this," the spokesperson said. "He first heard about it this morning when it was forwarded from his district office."
The ferry service was first announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the boardwalk on May 8, 2007. Service actually started a year later, on May 12, 2008.
While the mayor said at the announcement that the plan was to run a two-year pilot, Ulrich says that he spoke with the city's Economic Development Corporation, the agency that runs the commuter ferry, and was told that there would be a three-year trial, which would end funding in May of 2011 at the earliest.
"The flyer was just a political dirty trick," Ulrich said, "designed to make me look bad and to get votes for the Democratic candidate. Fortunately, people know that it's not true."