In 1998, New York made history by enacting a bill that put some very serious research dollars
into the search for a cure for spinal cord injury (SCI) paralysis. Assemblyman Edward Griffith of Brooklyn and Senator
Vincent Leibell of Westchester County sponsored the bill and got it passed in record time. Governor George E. Pataki
pledged to sign it even before it passed.
Actor Christopher Reeve gave the bill a needed push late in the Session. And DEA Administrator Tom Constantine, who was born in 1938, the same year as Superman, rallied law enforcement leaders to speak out on behalf of the bill, which would benefit many paralyzed victims of violence and motor vehicle accidents. We had a tremendous success. Now we are asking Mr. Reeve to work that Superman magic for us again.
23 December 2000
Christopher Reeve, President
The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation
500 Morris Avenue
Springfield, New Jersey 07081
Dear Mr. Reeve:
I join you in celebrating Governor George E. Pataki’s announcement of the first $3.6 million in research grants from New York's Spinal Cord Injury Research Trust. These grants will do exactly what we wrote into the bill that created this program two years ago -- bring us much closer to a cure for paralysis.
Working with Paul Richter to get our bill passed was one of the most satisfying initiatives I've ever taken on. Many years of learning how to make the legislative process work paid off in the biggest imaginable way and also helped benefit a dear friend who has lived with SCI since 1973. I'll never forget the experience and I thank you for coming to our aid at the 11th hour in June 1998. This success was also the crowning achievement of the long and distinguished career of Assemblyman Edward Griffith, who is retiring next week after twenty eight years in the Assembly.
Mr. Griffith, Senator Vincent Leibell and Governor Pataki have also taken great satisfaction in the cascade of similar laws in other states that followed our lead.
We now face another challenge; one that has strong links to the effort to get the SCI bill enacted. And I'd like to ask for your help.
One of the big guns who came to our aid in the campaign for the SCI bill was Paul Richter's 1962 State Police Academy classmate Tom Constantine. Tom rose to become head of the state police and later served for five and a half eventful years as head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration. In his retirement, he has taken on the daunting task of overseeing major reform of Northern Ireland's Royal Ulster Constabulary, an essential component of the Good Friday Peace Agreement that has brought hope to that strife-torn province. Tom is also a professor at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, a distinguished graduate school of our state university system.
I have been much affected by my friendship with Tom Constantine and Paul Richter. These are men who resolutely take on challenges others deem impossible. Paul believes that SCI will be cured and Tom believes that drug trafficking and sectarian violence can be faced down and defeated. I believe something, too -- that we can face down and defeat the emerging global conspiracies of organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorism -- an unholy trinity that poses the greatest contemporary threat to our democratic institutions, the free market and to the well-being of many of our neighbors. I have been working to build support for creating an endowed program at Rockefeller College that would spearhead an effort to organize the intellectual resources of New York's institutions of higher learning in support of law enforcement in the struggle against them.
I am convinced that the best part of the endowment for this initiative -- as much as $3 million -- could be raised at a single event in Manhattan not unlike the "Cure" event that's been held for Dr. Wise Young's SCI research at Rutgers in recent years. We'd be after a broader spectrum of the business and financial community to participate, as well as law enforcement, government and the diplomatic community, but it would basically be a similar, though one-time, event. We would use as a theme the conviction shared by people like yourself, Tom and Paul that there is no problem that we cannot solve and no illness or injury we cannot cure if we go after them with the kind of faith and determination that you guys have shown.
In addition to your participation, you could help us in another very special way. New York is the home of a lot of significant firsts in law enforcement. We're very proud of them and this proposal is built upon that legacy. The 1999 comedy hit Analyze This, starring Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal, opened with a re-enactment of one of the most significant events in the history of our struggle against organized crime. That was the 1957 event known as the Apalachin Incident wherein two New York State Police investigators, Edgar D. Croswell and Vincent R. Vasisko, brought the existence of organized crime out into the light of day for the first time and forced the federal government to begin doing something to fight it. That was a proud day in the history of the New York State Police, the organization that Tom Constantine and Paul Richter served so well. If you were to help us secure the participation in our event of Messrs. DeNiro and Crystal and other film and television personalities who have told the story of organized crime, it would draw a crowd and help to raise both the endowment we seek to create and additional monies ] for SCI research.
Thank you for your consideration.
TERRY O'NEILL, Esq.
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CONSTANTINE'S CIRCUS, INC.
PO Box 7223
Albany, NY 12224-0223