Monday, December 26, 2011

New York Senate's ‘Four Amigos’ down to just 1 Only Ruben Diaz Sr. remains

Juan Gonzalez
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Originally Published: Tuesday, December 20 2011, 9:53 PM
Updated: Tuesday, December 20 2011, 9:53 PM


Julia Xanthos/Daily News

New York State senators Ruben Diaz Jr. (left) with Hiram Monserrate, Pedro Espada and Carl Kruger in 2009.

W ith Brooklyn Sen. Carl Kruger’s guilty plea on federal bribery charges and his resignation from the Senate, only one of the Four Amigos is still standing.

Three years ago, the tiny band of Democratic senators startled the political world by launching a revolt against their own party leadership.

They dubbed themselves the “Four Amigos,” because three of the four were Latino.

Their cunning rebellion came just when Democrats had gained their first slim majority in the senate in more than 30 years. It ended up paralyzing state government for several chaotic weeks.

Two of the four, Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens, then jumped to vote with the Republicans in June 2009 and briefly give them a majority. The two openly plotted with the other amigos, Kruger and Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx, in a naked attempt to become Albany kingmakers.

Espada became senate president pro tem and Kruger chair of the powerful finance committee.

The Democratic majority and our state’s accidental governor, David Paterson, both turned into laughingstocks for their inability to keep discipline in their ranks.

“What was supposed to be a new day for the Democrats, turned out to be a dark day, and the cloud never cleared up for us,” Sen. Bill Perkins said as he recalled that period.

Who can forget that front page photo in the Daily News of Espada and Monserrate, arrogant smiles plastered on their faces, as they sat in a field box during a Yankee Stadium game in the midst of the crisis?

A year later, Espada was indicted for allegedly siphoning $500,000 in government funds from the Soundview Health Center that he founded. Among the federal charges: Espada used a Soundview corporate credit card to pay for tickets to Yankees games and Broadway shows.

Espada, who is awaiting trial in Brooklyn federal court, lost a reelection bid in 2010.

By then, Monserrate had already been expelled from the Senate after a conviction on a misdemeanor assault on his girlfriend.

The only Amigo remaining in the senate is the guy who came up with the name — Ruben Diaz.

So how does Diaz, a Pentecostal reverend, feel now that his one-time rebel group has been decimated?

“My friends are still my friends, no matter what personal defects they have,” he said. “I pray for them that they will be all right.”

Diaz insists the others were targeted because they showed too much independence from the state’s political elite.

Similar outrage, he notes, has not been marshaled against a group of four centrist Democrats that formed this year in the senate and allied itself with the Republican majority.

That group, led by Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, calls itself the Independent Democratic Conference. Each member was rewarded by the Republican majority with plum committee chairmanships.

“We were called corrupt, opportunists, socialist,” Diaz said. “Klein and his group copied us, and they’re called smart politicians.”

But those familiar with Espada, Monserrate and Kruger, know this: when you rebel against the mud in Albany, you had better be clean.

jgonzalez@nydailynews.com


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