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Capital Offense

No more Bear Mountain Compact: Albany’s days as Sin City are coming to an end.

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We big-city sophisticates tend to associate sin—the fun kind, like rampant sexing and boozing—with environs like our own: Paris’s Pigalle; Amsterdam’s, well, Amsterdam; and our own Times Square, pre-Rudy.

Fair enough. But ask any political person where the real dens of iniquity are, and the answer will come back: state capitals.

There are several reasons why. Capital cities are insular. They are smallish and, in the states dominated by larger cities, tucked away from the heat of media glare (Harrisburg, anyone?). They are full of young people and single people (although marital status is rarely a bar to licentiousness). The nature of the work requires lots of socializing. And, most important, everyone agrees to keep it all on the q.t.

In Albany, this unofficial concordat of the randy has long been known as the “Bear Mountain Compact,” by which downstate legislators have agreed that things that happened north of Bear Mountain (about the halfway point between New York and Albany) were never to be discussed south of it. It goes back to the days when the Democratic hotel was the De Witt Clinton, the Republican hotel was the Ten Eyck, and one didn’t pry too deeply into who was sleeping where.

Now Michael Boxley, a top aide to Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, has been arrested on a rape charge. The alleged victim is a young female aide to a Democratic assemblywoman. It is Boxley’s second sexual-assault allegation, and he faces up to 25 years in prison.

He is, of course, innocent until proven otherwise, but the charge alone tells us two things. One, the Bear Mountain Compact is no more. And two, while the compact may have opened the door to much good (if not exactly clean) fun over the years, it undoubtedly, from the female perspective, also papered over some nasty goings-on.

However this case turns out, it seems clear that tomorrow’s Boxleys will pay for the things that yesterday’s got away with. Some will call this unfair. But to many others, it’s just Clio, the muse of history, evening out her balance sheet.


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