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A hidden camera catches the underside of a Brooklyn pol's personal housing deal

In the case of the allegedly bribe-pocketing assemblywoman from East New York, Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes went straight to the videotape last week as he announced her indictment.

The D.A.'s office released a TV-ready DVD containing several conversations recorded between October 2004 and November 2005 with Diane Gordon, 56, who represents one of the city's poorest sections. On the videos, Gordon is heard telling an unidentified developer exactly how big the house that she wants him to build for her should be, allegedly in return for Gordon's support of his acquisition of city-owned land worth $2 million in her district.

"Subtle this was not," commented city investigations commissioner Rose Gill Hearn, whose office launched the probe after a city housing aide reported suspicions of wrongdoing.

View video tape
image: Kings County D.A.

On the tapes, Gordon is seen seated in her office beneath a poster of Martin Luther King Jr., apparently spelling out how her support for his project was dependent on the developer building her a new home, to her precise specifications, down to the square footage of the bathrooms.

The three-term assemblywoman appears relaxed and cheerful, as though she were picking out wallpaper patterns at Janovic Plaza. "Um, can it just be a little, I was thinking, maybe a little dark like, y'know, that burgundy wood like this?" she says at one point on the tapes, tapping the desk at which she is seated.


Assemblywoman Diane Gordon
"One Hand Washes the Other, House for Land"
image: Kings County D.A.
View video tape
"I want a lot of things," she tells the developer after he has politely coaxed her into spelling out her needs. "I want these things to be delivered to you where I can get the home almost for little to nothing, and I just pay the taxes. . . . And I don't want a mortgage. You know what I mean?"

Elsewhere on the videos, Gordon voices a stream of clichés that, despite her plea of not-guilty at her arraignment last week, suggest that she was well aware of how to conduct a mutually beneficial and discreet exchange of favors.

"I see this as, y'know, kind of one hand . . . washing the other," she says on another tape.

"If you want a dream to come true, you gotta keep your mouth shut," Gordon says as well. "You show people the dream after it's finished," she says, a knowing smile on her face.

She then turns serious and leans toward the developer, her eyebrows arched: "I haven't even discussed this, to be honest with you, I haven't said one word to Mr. Headley."

The developer, who is always out of camera range, agrees with her. "That's how I would like you to keep it," he says in a soft South Asian accent.

The reason not to tell "Mr. Headley," Gordon goes on to say, is because "he's a person that's manipulative . . . try to pick things out of you."

Although he is not mentioned in any of the legal filings made by the D.A. last week, it's not hard to figure out who Gordon is talking about: DeCosta Headley is a powerhouse in the politics of east Brooklyn. He is a former Democratic Party vice chairman and party district leader who has been a longtime political backer of Gordon.

After becoming a power among Kings County Democrats, Headley went into the development business, where his firm has benefited from his political ties. Diversified Inch by Inch, Headley's company, has frequently been hired by major developers as a minority subcontractor or joint-venture partner in government-subsidized projects, ranging from the new Baruch College campus in Manhattan to health clinics in Brooklyn.

Last year, while the secret Gordon investigation was underway, Headley was on the verge of winning approval for what would have been one of his biggest projects yet: a 69-apartment, $15 million home for senior citizens on Riverdale Avenue in Brownsville. At the last minute, however, after low-income tax credit financing had been approved by state officials, city housing investigators abruptly pulled the plug on the project, without spelling out their reasons.

"I don't know what happened, but I know I wasn't the problem," Headley said last week in his Court Street office crowded with plaques and photographs of himself with political figures, including Governor Pataki, whom Headley backed for re-election four years ago.


Assemblywoman Diane Gordon
"Put the House in My Mother's Name"
image: Kings County D.A.
View video tape
Headley's partner in the failed senior-citizens deal was a residential housing developer named Ranjan Batheja, whose company, Stoneridge Homes, has built one- and two-family houses in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island. Known as "Raj" to friends and associates, Batheja teamed up with Headley several years ago, and the two have built small-homes projects in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville.

Batheja told the Voice last week that Headley had introduced him to many people on the Brooklyn political scene, including Gordon. Batheja quickly became one of the assemblywoman's biggest boosters, giving a total of $2,750 to her election campaign committees over a one-year period, making him her largest single contributor.

Last week, the district attorney's office and the city's department of investigation refused to identify or discuss the developer in the videotaped discussions with Gordon, other than to acknowledge that his cooperation in carrying a secret mini-camera into the meetings had resulted in the crystal-clear audio and video recordings.

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