One Police Plaza

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Falkenrath’s Backyard “Terror”

December 13, 2010

So, Richard Falkenrath, the NYPD’S former Deputy Commissioner for Counter Terrorism, is back in the news, touting his terrorism credentials to fight a personal battle literally in his Riverdale backyard.

Spoiled and imperious during his three years at the NYPD, Falkenrath has apparently lost none of his sense of entitlement as an ordinary citizen.

At issue is the encroachment of a Jewish Day School next door to his home, which Falkenrath opposes.

In trying to derail the expansion of the Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy [which includes construction of a trash storage shed], Falkenrath has regaled his Riverdale neighbors with his terrorism bona fides. [He is currently a commentator for Bloomberg News and CNN, and a consultant with a security firm headed by Michael Chertoff, the former head of Homeland Security.]

Besides a cheap shot at getting attention, evoking the bugaboo of terrorism is a surefire way of inducing fear in the neighborhood.

In another inappropriate move to halt the project, he has sought help from an old terrorism-fighting buddy, the NYPD’s ubiquitous Captain Brandon del Pozo.

Del Pozo — whom the NYPD posted to Amman, Jordan, in 2006, and dispatched to Mumbai after the terrorist attack in 2008 — is now the commanding officer of the 50th precinct in the Bronx, which covers Riverdale.

As quoted by the Times’s Corey Gilgannon, del Pozo, a graduate of the elite Stuyvesant High School, Dartmouth College and Harvard, called the department’s position on the Falkenrath/Salanter Akiba dispute “agnostic” —whatever that means. He did not return an email.

Falkenrath, who could not be reached for comment, was apparently encouraged enough by del Pozo’s agnosticism that he asked 50th precinct officers to increase their ticketing of parked cars outside the day school.

Sources said he also asked the precinct to send two tow trucks [although it’s not known whether they did.]

In addition, Falkenrath made some calls to the Department of Traffic, and a week ago he attended his first community board meeting of Riverdale’s Land Use Committee.

And what a meeting it was.

Perhaps a half-dozen police officers attended, including the precinct’s top brass.

By the time the community board meeting began last Monday night, Falkenrath had telephoned the police so many times that, as committee chairman Charles Moerdler, put it, “They think there’s going to be a riot.”

Then, said Moerdler, who served as Buildings Commissioner under Mayor John V. Lindsay, “He [Falkenrath] goes on a rant and starts yelling he is a terrorism advisor to the president.”

This is not the first time that coming too close to Falkenrath’s home has posed problems for people.

Shortly after becoming the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Counter Terrorism in 2007, a homeless man made the mistake of stopping there to ask for a glass of water.

Apparently, the job had quickly gone to Falkenrath’s head. He alerted the police, who, a few weeks later, arrested the homeless man for jumping a subway turnstile, and placed him in a Brooklyn hospital psych ward for five weeks. They then put him on a plane to Chicago and escorted him to a relativein that city.

Nor are Falkenrath’s complaints to authorities over the school’s expansion the first time he has been so demanding.

After arriving at Police Plaza in August 2007, he demanded, and received, a $9,240.10 first-class air ticket and a $348-per-night luxury hotel suite for giving the “Distinguished Dinner Lecture” in Singapore. Although he’d been in town only four months, his topic was: “Protecting the City: Observations and Lessons from New York.”

He also demanded that the NYPD lease him two $20,000-a-year, top-of-the-line, luxury cars — a 2007 Chrysler Touring Car and a 2007 Ford SUV Expedition – each with leather upholstery, a GPS navigational system and the full lights and sirens package.

These princely wheels included his own personal NYPD chauffeurs — two of them.

How badly did Falkenrath want those luxury cars? A never before published snippet of some car-talk between him and an NYPD sergeant that went down that October reveals Falkenrath as impatient and self-entitled.

Falkenrath on Oct. 26, 7:05 PM: “Srg, is that car still on sch [schedule] for Oct. 28?”

Sergeant, responding five minutes later at 7:10 P.M.: “Commissioner, Support Services Bureau has indicated that they have the VIN number. I’ll check with SSB tomorrow and advise.”

Falkenrath on Oct. 27, 3:25 PM: “OK, now I need this.”

The sergeant, at 3:39 P.M.: “I contacted Support Services Bureau who states that there was a delay [by the manufacturer] in the production of your vehicle. They advise the Expedition is two weeks out from the Ford dealership. The leasing company requires one week to prep the vehicle. The current ETA is now the week of November 20th. I will advise if there is any change in this date.”

Falkenrath on Oct. 28, 3:42 PM: “After all this time, I sure hope the thing has leather upholstery.”

A five-month investigation by the city’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan led to last week’s arrests of five Columbia students, charged with selling marijuana, cocaine, LSD, and an assortment of amphetamines.

The students’ reactions to the charges sounded out of touch with reality.

Three of the five said they became drug dealers to pay their tuition. While Ivy League tuitions may indeed be in the stratosphere, going rogue and turning criminal is not a sensible option.

One student said he hoped his arrest wouldn’t hurt his chances of getting into graduate school. Good luck with that.

Instead of coming down like a hammer on these little darlings, Columbia’s tepid response only furthers the impression that its administrators are also in their own orbit.

“The alleged behavior of the students involved in this incident goes against not only state and federal law, but also University policy and the principles we have set — and strive together to maintain — for our community,” a statement read. You think?

A statement like this perhaps explains the administration’s tolerance of what was known as “40-40 day”— where, 40 days before commencement, seniors sat on the steps of Low Library all day and drank 40 ounces of beer. Instead of stopping the students from sitting on the library steps and getting drunk all day when the practice began, the administration ended up supplying the beer.

Harrison David, a third-year engineering student who was the main target of the investigation, allegedly sold drugs on eight separate occasions to undercovers, including a four-gram sale of cocaine. David, whose father is a doctor, told authorities he was responsible for his own tuition and sold drugs to pay for it.

Christopher Coles, a junior in whose room police allegedly found 1½ pounds of marijuana and $900 in cash, worked as a counselor at a sexual violence response program. He, too, told the arresting officer he sold drugs to pay his tuition.

Michael Wymbs, who allegedly sold amphetamines and LSD, was his high school salutatorian. His father is a professor of international business at a local college. His mother is an attorney.

A senior in the engineering school with a 3.5 grade average, he is applying to graduate school. At his bail hearing, his lawyer, Michael Bachner, said, “We are hoping his arrest is not going to derail that.”

Prosecutor Brennan said that, apart from the Columbia location, the operation was “typical of our other drug operations.” The investigation, she said, was not confined to the Columbia campus but had a connection on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. She added, “There was an appreciation by the office that the violence associated with drug-dealing can exist in what many perceive as a safe enclave.”

Brennan, a Merritt scholarship winner, is one of 11 children. She graduated from Macalester College in Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin Law School. To pay her tuition, she said she held two or three summer jobs and two jobs during the school year. One job was as a cocktail waitress; the other was on the assembly line of a brewery.

Copyright © 2010 Leonard Levitt