New York has a new hero in the form of 32-year-old realtor Jason Haber, the guy who told Moammar Qaddafi's representatives that he would only find them a lavish Upper East Side New York abode if they returned the convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to Scotland and the prison he was sentenced to for life. (Megrahi was given a hero's welcome in Libya when released by the Scots on compassionate grounds on August 20th, as part of an alleged oil deal between Britain and Libya.)
But thanks to Haber, when Qaddafi arrives here for the UN General Assembly this week, the Libyan leader will have to make do with his more humble country's mission on 48th Street.
Haber, 32, first received a call from someone in Qaddafi's entourage around Labor Day weekend. Haber had seen the footage of Megrahi's welcome and, like most Americans, was appalled. Still he made no connection at this point between his new client and the news as, strangely, the person claimed to be representing a senior person in the "Dutch" delegation.
This person said the "Dutch" wanted a triplex on East 78th Street. They wanted it fully furnished with very high-end furniture. Haber explained there were problems with this, since the building in question has only one leasable floor -- for $28,000 a month. Another floor is being renovated. And a third has just been leased.
The "Dutch" person on the phone was clearly not used to being told "no." Haber was rudely told "sort it out, now" and the person hung up on him.
More phone calls in this vein continued -- until Haber, to his shock, suddenly found himself on the phone with "some person in Washington" at the Libyan embassy.
All sorts of alarm bells rang.
If the Libyans hoped to strong-arm a young ignorant realtor they'd missed their mark. Haber happens to hold a Masters in International Affairs from Columbia; as an undergrad he majored in political science at George Washington University and -- oh -- he ran for City Council in New York in 2001.
The Libyans gave him the opportunity to play politics. "I will find you a house if you return Al-Megrahi to Scotland," he told the person on the phone in Washington. The phone went dead.
"At least I consider I did my part for the victims' families," Haber told me yesterday, referring to all those who lost their lives on Pan Am flight 103.
Next time perhaps the Libyans will check more carefully into the background of a New York realtor they want to bully.
And I think Haber should run again for political office.