Spending Whatever It Takes

Spending Whatever It Takes

Who is Art Beroff, and what makes him think he can win Rep. Charles Schumer’s congressional seat? That’s what a lot of people are asking as Beroff, a 38-year-old investment banker from Howard Beach, Queens, makes the rounds.

The Queens school board member and self-made millionaire has been pressing the flesh lately at legislative breakfasts alongside more prominent elected officials. Those include Council members Anthony Weiner and Noach Dear and Assembly members Dan Feldman and Melinda Katz, who are running in the thus far all-Jewish Sept. 8 primary for Schumer’s Brooklyn/Queens seat.

Schumer is running for Alfonse D’Amato’s Senate seat.Beroff may not have his opponents’ name recognition and political experience. But Beroff, who favors cutting-edge, high-tech companies, may be the only one in the field who can come close to Dear when it comes to spending.

As of the last filing, Dear has raised a total of $900,159, more than Feldman, Katz and Weiner combined. Next in line is Feldman with $270,984.Beroff, 38, has raised no money, but is prepared to finance his own campaign. “The issue is how you spend the money,” says the business executive, who regularly takes over and retools small companies. “We’ll make sure we get value out of every dollar. Every dollar I spend will be effectively spent, because it’s not other people’s money.”

A Dear spokesman said he understood Beroff was not a candidate for Congress, but was challenging state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale). Dear declined to comment further.

Beroff says he was approached to run for the Senate seat, and has not ruled it out, but has been spending more of his time making contacts in Washington. “I am extremely interested and active,” he says.

The race, expected to be the most expensive in the area, continues to gather momentum. Katz, who is backed by City Comptroller Alan Hevesi and the Democratic county organization in Queens, opened her campaign headquarters this week. Meanwhile Feldman, raising his profile on national issues, called for stricter federal controls on students from terrorist countries who attend American universities.

# Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver won’t be on the chartered El Al flight carrying Gov. George Pataki, Comptroller H. Carl McCall and other top state officials to Israel next week. But, according to talk show host Leon Charney, he would have liked to be.

Charney says he was asked by Silver to intervene with the America Israel Chamber of Commerce and Industry — of which Charney is an advisory board member — to get Silver invited on the trip. The weeklong business delegation, which departs April 28, was coordinated by the chamber.

“Shelly expressed an interest in going,” said Charney. “He asked me if it could be proposed.” Charney says he put in a word to Ronny Bassan, executive director of the chamber. But Bassan said the list of participants was up to the governor’s office.

Sources said Silver wanted to go, if invited, while Pataki was willing to bring Silver if he asked to go. Neither side blinked.

“I don’t know that we ever received a request,” said Mike McKeon of the governor’s press office.

“He was not invited,” said Silver’s spokeswoman, Pat Lynch.

Expect some political fireworks during the governor’s trip. A visit to the West Bank has not been ruled out, if time permits, and a source tells us not to be surprised if he tours the Hasmonean tunnel in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The October 1996 opening of the tunnel, which is in close proximity to the Al Aksa Mosque, prompted days of bloodshed that left 76 Arabs and Jews dead.

Pataki and company will dedicate a new state business office — which will take advantage of Israel’s growing high-tech and computer industry — and celebrate Israel’s 50th birthday with government officials. n By the time Pataki’s plane lifts off, one of his Democratic rivals — City Council Speaker Peter Vallone — will already be back from Israel, sharing with the press his accounts of life in Hebron and other adventures. (See story on page 34.)

Vallone’s spokesman, Peter Ragone, insists that the timing of the trip — postponed since December — is not meant to upstage the governor.

“The reason why he went during this time period is that [Vallone] has to get back for the mayor’s budget and his response on Friday,” said Ragone. “It’s not political.”

Another Vallone aide said the trip had been postponed until the speaker was assured a meeting with Israeli officials, whose schedules tend to be crisis-prone.

Short Takesn Public Advocate Mark Green, a candidate for Senate, is to receive the endorsement of the First New York Conservative Democratic Club this week. At the same time, Green will endorse the Queens-based club’s president, Harvey Katz, in his bid for the Assembly seat to be vacated by Congressional candidate Melinda Katz (no relation.) The endorsement is for the Democratic primary while the club is reserving judgment for the general election. Katz says he’ll push for Green.

# Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who goes on trial for alleged corruption on May 11, is hosting his annual community leadership breakfast in Borough Park Sunday. Last year’s guest list included Schumer, Dear, Borough President Howard Golden and Rep. Jerrold Nadler. This year’s list was not available.

# Jerry Goldfeder, president of the Manhattan Division of the American Jewish Congress, is seeking the Manhattan state Senate seat vacated this week by veteran Franz Leichter. He faces Daniel O’Donnel, brother of talk-show host Rosie O’Donnel.

# Perhaps figuring that the best way to Jewish voters is through their stomachs, Councilman Kenneth Fisher (D-Williamsburg) has called on Shea Stadium to offer kosher food to observant Mets fans.

Responding to a concessionaire’s announcement that ethnic foods will soon be available, Fisher — a probable mayoral candidate in 2001 — said kosher catering “would allow Orthodox Jews to enjoy America’s pastime like everyone else.”

He added: “You don’t have to be Jewish to eat kosher.”

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