One Police Plaza

A threat? Says who?

December 14, 1998

Since barricading City Hall makes no sense to anyone but Rudolph Giuliani, anyone defending the mayor does so at his peril.

Take Manhattan city councilman Andrew Eristoff.

Eristoff, an alleged mayoral ally, said on television last week that the police department had informed him of a terrorist threat on City Hall, justifying the mayor's security measures.

In Rudy's world, City Hall has been a terrorist target since August'sEast African embassy bombings, and the decision to erect concrete barriers and bar the public is based on the judgment of the police department and FBI.

"The police department has to decide on the security of City Hall,"the mayor explained last week, "and they do that in consultation with the FBI."

The mayor's only problem is that on Nov. 19, the head of FBI's New York office, Lewis Schiliro, swore in an affidavit in a lawsuit challenging some of the security measures that "the FBI has no specific information that City Hall is a target at the present time."

Worse, if Eristoff's claim is true, the mayor's own police department is keeping secrets from the FBI.

So One Police Plaza asked Eristoff: Who in the NYPD revealed the terrorist threat? Eristoff gave up the name Scott Cantone.

Scott Cantone? No chief, inspector or even captain answers to that name. Could Cantone be the code name of a spy or foreign agent within the NYPD? Could he be a terrorist mole?

Further investigation revealed Cantone to be the mayor's $86,500 liaison to the city council, although city payroll records mysteriously list him as a staff analyst at the Department of Sanitation. (More mysterious, until March, 1997, Cantone was earning $51,000 - $11,000 more than his salary when hired that January.)

"I received a briefing from a member of the mayor's staff," Eristoff expanded, fingering Cantone again. "I was assured there was a threat on the building and that the mayor's response was not inappropriate."

Eristoff added that Cantone wisely didn't reveal the nature of the threat. "That would compromise security even further. I have confidence in the administration," he continued. "They are not dopes. They know this is not worth doing unless there is a damn good reason."

So in the interests of national security, your humble servant set out to find Scott Cantone. As fate had it, we spotted him Thursday morning leaving the City Hall office of First Deputy Mayor Joe Lhota.

Before we could ask who from the NYPD had revealed the terrorist threat he passed to Eristoff, Lhota announced: "Councilman Eristoff is a liar. He lied on television."

Without another word, Lhota retreated to his office.

Cantone fled the building.

The hapless Eristoff lamented, "They said that about me?"

More Brooklyn Justice. Whatever happened to District Attorney Joe Hynes 'sinvestigation of the 1996 kidnap and torture of Rabbi Abraham Rubin of Borough Park? After Newsday reported in March that Rubin was abducted and beaten after refusing his wife a Jewish divorce, known as a get, Hynes deputy Michael Vecchione promised swift justice.

Two years later, no one's been arrested, despite a ton of evidence Vecchione possesses, including mysterious audiotapes. Some say Hynes kept the lid on through his Democratic gubernatorial primary run so as not to alienate the Orthodox vote. That was months ago. His spokeswoman Tracy Manley says, "The investigation is continuing."

Howard Talks. Reporters asked Police Commissioner Howard Safir last week about Officer Anthony Tamburro of Suffolk County, accused ofshooting his wife in their Coram home. Did Tamburro have a history of domestic violence?

"Not in New York City," Safir answered.

Reporters persisted: Did Tamburro have a history of domestic violence outside New York City?

"He had a history of domestic violence in Suffolk County," Safir responded.

And he wonders why former First Deputy Commissioner John Timoney called him a "lightweight."

Howard Walks. The next day, Safir appeared before the city council. He arrived with his top chiefs, all in uniform, and his civilian deputies,about 30 in all. As they crossed Centre Street, one of his security boys stepped into the road and held up his hand, stopping traffic coming of fthe Brooklyn Bridge.

And he wonders why his predecessor, Bill Bratton, called him the Rodney Dangerfield of law enforcement.

Heard: That a deputy commissioner whose dog no longer barks inside OnePolice Plaza threw a hissy fit at a cop in the "blocker" car at the barricade outside Police Plaza because he failed to recognize Her Highness in her Jeep Cherokee.

©1998 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.