By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Industry officials insist that the companies were the victims here. Some may well have been. Charges against Spike Bernstein state that he had his extortion down to a formula: Operators had to pay $1,000 per bus route. One school-bus executive told the FBI that he had shelled out between $200,000 and $300,000 to Spike since the early 1980s.
All of this went on under the noses of several city administrations, including that of ace mob-buster Giuliani. Last week, Richard Condon, the city's special commissioner for schools investigations, asked for and received a copy of the report. He was too busy reading it to say why none of this had been investigated in the past.
Meanwhile, the worst news for the industry is that Spike Bernstein, who is 84, has apparently decided to spill what he knows (the feds are keeping his plea agreement secret). One of the stories he will tell is how he and Battaglia shook down the owner of a medical center located in the local's headquarters on Woodside Boulevard in Queens. Clinic owner Mark Antin has testified that he made monthly payments to the local's mob overseers. When his lease came up for renewal in 1997, Bernstein demanded $100,000. Antin paid.
After the FBI questioned Antin in 2005, Battaglia came to ask him what was going on. The union president wasn't taking any chances. Battaglia, Antin said, "started to feel my body. I said, 'Sal, I don't blame you.' And he started to check me for, what you see in the moviesthat someone is checking you for a wire. As he was talking to me, he was patting me down, and then he what they call 'goosed you.' He went and touched my testicles and everything. I said to him, 'Sal, I don't blame you.' "
Investigator Richard Mark tried to goose the 11 remaining members of the local's executive board, demanding they tell whatever they knew about these goings-on. The union executives blew him off. Today, they are back at their desks. The local has been a little racially off- kilter in recent years: The board is all white; about 70 percent of the members are minorities, many of them Haitian.
"What we need right now is a secret democratic ballot for a new election," says Brijida Pilgrim, a member of the dissident caucus who dug out the report. "We need to put an end to this nonsense.