Meeks Clears Air
By U.S. Rep. Greg Meeks
I would like to begin by thanking the Queens Tribune for giving me an opportunity to once again clarify issues of concern. This is something I have repeatedly done in print, on radio, as well as television, over the past year and a half. I very much respect the effort of the Queens Tribune to be fair and balanced. Out of respect for both this publication and its readers, many of whom are my constituents, let me proceed:
|U.S. Rep. Greg Meeks
First and foremost, I am not under any sort of criminal investigation concerning the New Directions non-profit or the NOAH-F fund, which was set up under New Directions’ auspices to assist Hurricane Katrina victims. Nor, should I be. I am not and never have been an officer. I have never been a signatory on any of its bank accounts. I have never had any fiduciary responsibility or authority for New Directions or NOAH-F, and I never received any money from these organizations or their affiliates. In fact, I donated $5,000 from my campaign to NOAH-F.
I have publicly and repeatedly said if funds are missing there should be an accounting. But, again, by not having any fiduciary responsibility or authority over NOAH-F, I am not the one who could provide answers. As a contributor if there are questions to be answered I want to know the answers.
Let me be very blunt in regard to the home I built in St. Albans. There was no sweetheart deal. The source of allegations to this effect is a complaint by the National Legal Policy Center (NLPC), a right wing organization based in Washington, DC, which, according to its own fund-raising letters and other documents, has repeatedly targeted Democrats. The NLPC complaint offers no credible reason to dispute the sale:
First, it relies for “evidence” principally on the difference between the purchase price of the property and its later tax assessment. This method conveniently overlooks the well-established fact – as many of my constituents are now painfully aware - that tax assessments generally have little, if anything, to do with the actual sale value of the property.
Second, the complaint tries to compare the sale price of my home to the sale price of so-called “A7 mansions” in Queens in 2006. However, as the property records show, my home was not classified as an A7 property but as an A1 property. This is the appropriate classification for a two-story detached home in Jamaica, Queens. To further distort the facts, the NLPC “compared” my home with houses in other neighborhoods – one of which was a beach-front property in Belle Harbor. The market values of homes vary drastically from neighborhood to neighborhood across the borough. The data for houses in Belle Harbor, Forest Hills and Jamaica Estates have nothing in common with the fair market value of my home in St. Albans.
Third, I paid far more than the average sale price of the other eight homes the builder developed on the same block.
Fourth, the property records indicate that far from being a “sweetheart deal” the transaction was quite lucrative for the builder.
At the time, I thought the price was a bit high but the seller would not budge. Even so, for substantive and symbolic reasons, I was determined to build a home in the heart of the Sixth Congressional District. Substantively, I wanted to build a beautiful home for my family. Symbolically, I wanted to send a signal to other families that Southeast Queens is the place to sink roots, raise children, invest time, energy and care, and build a good life.
Another contention about me that appears over and over in certain local and citywide publications has to do with a House Ethics Committee investigation of two allegations about me obtaining two loans. Several months ago, the House Ethics Committee dismissed the allegation in connection with a 2010 loan allegation outright, and I believe that the second allegation will soon be dismissed as well. I have been responsive throughout this process. I have been open and frank about the facts. Because of my respect for the process, I have chosen not to comment until the deliberations have been concluded.
Those are the facts. And they have been readily available to any journalist or legitimate watchdog undertaking an honest investigation. Unfortunately, the National Legal Policy Center, working in an openly stated alliance with the New York Post, has made accusation after accusation with the deliberate attempt to tarnish my reputation, sow distrust among my constituents of my conduct in office, and divert both the public and me from the pressing issues at hand. I have not and will not let these provocations get in the way of the work I do on behalf of my constituents. It is my hope that in the future the Queens Tribune and other publications will thoroughly report on the work I do in Congress, here in Southeast Queens, and around the world to promote the interests and well-being of the Sixth Congressional District and the United States of America.
Reach Reporter Ross Barkan at email@example.com or (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127.