Patronage Outrage

'Wired' Official Neglected Sidewalk Safety Outside School Where Child Died

Zhao was outside the school on January 9--waiting for a friend--when two bricks holding down a tarp over the entrance struck her on the head, and cut a 10-year-old girl standing nearby. "We believe there should have been a shed there the entire time," Buildings Department spokeswoman Ilyse Fink said when the incident occurred.

An SCA spokesman was also quoted in January as saying that the fence was taken down because, even though the roof work was ongoing, masonry work on that side of the building was finished. Sources in the D.A.'s office say that SCA officials specifically declared that a sidewalk shed would have to be built as part of the job at a bidders conference in January 1996--prior to Marrone's arrival at the agency. Yet Marrone never required one.

Patronage has become synonymous with Pataki over the last three and a half years. An extraordinary Daily News series has suggested that even paroles may be purchased.

Paul Atanasio, the Pataki appointee at the heart of the Marrone scandal, has made Bear Stearns, his current employer, the number one bond house in state government. Atanasio's first big killing in the Pataki era was at the Port Authority, where he secured a $100 million noncompetitive offering. The Authority executive director who approved the deal was George Marlin, the onetime mayoral candidate of the Conservative Party.

More recently, Atanasio won the senior management position on the $7 billion Long Island Power Authority bond issue, the biggest in history. Bear was also the agency's financial adviser structuring the offering. LIPA deputy director Patrick Foye is another active Conservative Party leader who, according to Andrea Bernstein in The New York Observer, encouraged Bear's selection as adviser.

As damning as this big bucks influence peddling is, the public price tag does not include a young life. But at the SCA, it may well have.

It apparently was clear a year ago that Gary Marrone was not doing his job at P.S.131, and everyone around him was afraid to act. If they had, Yan Zhen Zhao might still be alive.

Research: Tracie McMillan and Jarrett Murphy

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