Poor Bill de Blasio.
Neither last Tuesday’s terror attack nor the NYPD’s Friday announcement that it was on the verge of arresting Harvey Weinstein on rape allegations could protect the mayor from Jona Rechnitz.
Rechnitz is the rich real estate investor who corrupted the top levels of the NYPD and, arguably, City Hall. For the last couple of weeks, he’s been singing like a canary — the feds’ star witness in the corruption trial of former corrections union head Norman Seabrook.
“It’s amazing you guys are still asking me” about him, the mayor said of Rechnitz at a Police Plaza news conference Friday on crime statistics. He declined to comment after a Daily News reporter asked about Rechnitz’s claim that he had paid for a hotel stay during a Caribbean vacation for de Blasio’s chief fundraiser, Ross Offinger.
“Did you ask Offinger about it?” a New York Times reporter then asked.
“No,” said the mayor.
Then on Sunday, there was Rechnitz’s puss smack on the Daily News’ front page with the subhead, “After big donations to Blaz, city turned blind eye to complaints,” a reference to 19 hotel citations Rechnitz faced. Apparently, he was using a Madison Avenue town house as an illegal bed-and-breakfast. He said the citations stopped after he made a $102,000 campaign contribution.
City officials told the News Rechnitz was treated like all constituents.
Still, the mayor is a lock to win re-election Tuesday. Both the feds and the Manhattan district attorney chose not to indict him on fundraising issues relating to the mayor’s last campaign, a fact de Blasio uses as his standard response to reporters asking him about Rechnitz’s allegations.
Seabrook’s trial on federal corruption charges continues this week as well. Seabrook is charged with accepting a $60,000 kickback from Rechnitz. Rechnitz served as middleman for Seabrook and Rechnitz’s hedge-funder friend and co-defendant, Murray Huberfeld, with whom Seabrook invested $20 million of union money. Seabrook’s guilt or innocence will largely depend on how credible Rechnitz comes across to the jury hearing the case.
No matter what the jury decides, Rechnitz’s testimony will hang around the mayor’s neck far longer than people remember his expected campaign victory speech Tuesday night.