Breakfast Of Champions

Ruben Diaz

July 07, 2009

By Elizabeth Benjamin: The Daily Politics

The four amigos broke bread again today, this time meeting for their version of a power breakfast at the restaurant in Albany's Crowne Plaza hotel.

The foursome was hard to miss, since Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. sent out a press release announcing they would be meeting for the second time in less than 24 hours to "continue negotiations" on how to put an end to "this torment in the New York State Senate."

Diaz Sr. boldly predicted the gridlock would be resolved "no later than the end of this week."

The amigos met yesterday for lunch, although no significant deals came out of that get-together. Last night, the three who remain in the Democratic fold walked out of a closed-door conference in a huff - a move apparently fueled by a bout of Sen. Pedro Espada Jr.-bashing by the other members.

The reverend might have touted this meal, but he isn't much of a breakfast eater. He was the only one with nothing in front of him when I arrived slightly after the appointed time (9 a.m.) to catch the amigos in action.

I was met by my LCA colleague, Gannett's Joe Spector, who informed me the senators weren't in a chatty mood, although they did allow us to snap a few photos.

Sen. Carl Kruger seemed particularly annoyed by our presence, noting somewhat wistfully that there was a time back in the day when photographers who had dared to take photos in a hotel restaurant would have had their cameras smashed. (He wasn't suggesting anything untoward, he assured me, just pointing out an historical fact).

Sen. Hiram Monserrate, the only suitless amigo (he was wearing a warm-up jacket), had nothing to say except to comment on the quality of his upstate bagel, which, as a New York City resident, he found sadly lacking.

Espada said nothing at all. He just sat back and smiled his Cheshire cat smile.

Diaz Sr. made sure that Spector and I took note of the fact that there was another breakfast meeting underway not far from the amigos' corner table. (The Crowne Plaza's restaurant is turning into the Michael's of Albany. Who knew?)

Sure enough, Sen. Jeff Klein was seated at a booth with Stanley Schlein, the lobbyist and attorney who has been representing Espada during leadership negotiations.

They were joined by Robert Mujica, (sans suit jacket, but wearing his usual tie-and-suspenders uniform), finance secretary for the Senate Republicans, whose Mansion Neighborhood home has turned into a sort of clubhouse for the coup planners.

The threesome - all of whom were tucking into hearty breakfasts of eggs and toast (and, in Klein's case, cheese grits), joked that the point of the meeting was to lure Mujica back to the Bronx.

When I remarked on the sizable meals the trio was consuming, Mujica dryly noted that this might be the only meal he has a chance to eat all day.