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Chief of Staff rallies Democrats behind Sheldon Silver

Written By kom nampuldu on Minggu, 25 Januari 2015 | 20.49

As Sheldon Silver faced criminal charges in Manhattan last week, other Assembly Democrats gathered in a closed-door session in Albany to mull his future — but his eyes and ears were still in the room.

The Thursday meeting was supposed to be lawmakers-only, but Silver's longtime chief of staff Judy Rapfogel was allowed to stay, a source told The Post, calling her presence inappropriate.

And when lawmakers emerged from the 90-minute powwow, they announced their support for Silver.

"She is extremely powerful. People are afraid to mess with her," a political insider said of Rapfogel, who earned $172,211 in 2013, more than double the salary of an Assembly member.

On Monday, Assembly Dems will hear from Silver himself — at a closed-door conference.

Even candidates who wish to succeed him will grant him the courtesy, an Assembly Democratic insider said.

Rapfogel's husband, William, is a close pal of Silver's who himself landed in hot water. He was sentenced to 3¹/₃ to 10 years in prison in July after pleading guilty to running a $9 million kickback scam at the non-profit he headed, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, which gets millions in taxpayer money from the state.


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Wall Street inhaling tobacco stocks

New Yorkers who want to spend money on tobacco products might consider buying stocks instead of smokes.

An investor who bought stock in tobacco giant Reynolds American last year — priced at a little over 4 packs of smokes per share — would have already generated a 39 percent return.

Reynolds, the maker of Camel, Pall Mall, Kool, Winston and Salem cigarette brands, is still a top pick with Wall Street analysts this year because of strong revenue and profit growth.

Marlboro maker Altria is also landing on some recommended buy lists, thanks to its dividend and forays into the $3 billion electronic cigarette market.

"Stars [are] aligned for the US tobacco sector," wrote Wells Fargo's Bonnie Herzog in a new report on the $100 billion industry.

Still, the best investment may come from quitting the habit and the industry altogether, according to a study released on Thursday.

The average New York state nicotine addict is sending $1.5 million up in smoke.

It only makes sense that in the state with America's most expensive city — where everything from the roof over your head to the food on your plate costs more than it would elsewhere — the guilty pleasure of a cigarette is higher, too.

In fact, costs for tobacco, health care and lost income related to smoking are so high that New York smokers torch a $2 million hole in their savings during the course of a lifetime of lighting up.

Cigarettes are more expensive here than in any other state except Alaska, according to a new survey by Wallethub.com.

"It's getting very expensive to be a smoker in New York, and harder, too, with all the laws in effect," said a spokeswoman for WalletHub.

More limits are likely for smokers nationwide as the FDA gets set to weigh in on the health benefits of raising the legal age for buying cigarettes to 21 from 18 — already a growing trend in cities from New York to California.

Smoking kills an estimated 443,000 people a year, and harms millions more. Aware of the health risks, Gov. Cuomo and other lawmakers are cracking down on e-cigarettes, which have become tobacco sellers' newest growth engine.


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How an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man became a transgender activist

To the world, he was Jeffrey Smith, an ultra-Orthodox Jew and spiritual leader teaching the Torah to hundreds of students in Jerusalem's Hasidic community. But inside, Smith was keeping a secret.

"Since I was 5 years old, I really thought I was a girl," Smith, 63, told The Post in an interview last week from Israel, where she has been living for the past two years — as an Orthodox Jewish woman — following sex-reassignment surgery.

As a boy growing up in Patchogue, LI, Smith knew early on that something was amiss. But there was no Internet to tell her what being transgender was all about.

Whatever it was, Smith instinctively knew to keep quiet about it.

"How does a 5-year-old in 1956 tell his mother he's really a girl?" she said.

At Patchogue HS on Long Island, Smith dated women, but relationships were short-lived. "I loved ­being with them, going to movies, but I always felt like I had to do more — and it didn't feel right," she said.

Smith later attended George Washington University and, while pursuing a master's degree at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1974, embraced the Chabad-Lubavitch branch of Judaism.

"I was drawn to the part about my soul and not about my body so much," said Smith, who was born Jewish but not raised religiously.

She soon took on the outward appearance of orthodoxy — flowing beard and dark suits.

"It's one thing that I have to look like a guy — that was bad enough. But now I have to look like a ­Hasidic man," she recalled. "I felt I traded my soul to get a soul."

And she acted like a man, too — marrying in 1973.

"When I saw [my wife] coming to the chuppah [the Jewish wedding canopy] all I wanted to do was run . . . Especially because I felt that I should have been in the wedding gown," she said.

Smith wanted to make her marriage work — starting a big family might fix her, she thought. The couple had three boys and three girls.

"I kept thinking, maybe these feelings would go away — but of course that never happened."

Smith declined to discuss her current relationship with the children or her ex-wife, whom she divorced after nearly 18 years in 1991. She's still close to her parents, but family matters, she said, "are difficult . . . strained."

The break-up put a scarlet letter on Smith's talis — the Chabad educational center did not want a ­divorcée teaching there anymore.

She left Judaism entirely for a few years, moved to the West Coast, worked at a Starbucks and dated men for the first time, at first as a man and later dressed as a woman. At age 50 she committed to taking the plunge.

Starting in 2001, she lived as a woman for a year, began hormone-replacement therapy and legally changed her first name to Jessica, in Hebrew, Yiscah, which means "to see."

Surgery in 2005, she said, was a natural conclusion. "I wanted to get it over with already just to be right with my body."

Smith, who is single, has written a memoir, "Forty Years in the Wilderness: My Journey to Authentic Living." She moved back to Israel in 2013.

She's no longer part of the same Chabad-Lubavitch community, but still teaches classes, attends synagogue and prays at the Western Wall — finally at peace in the women's section.

"I never thought it would be this good," she said.


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Baby dies after sleeping with mom and sisters in same bed

A Bronx infant died early Saturday after her mother took her to bed with two siblings, police said.

The baby's 31-year-old mom told investigators that 17-day-old Leah Trent was crying Friday night, so she brought the girl and her two sisters, ages 6 and 13, into the same bed.

The family fell asleep, and the mother awoke in the morning, to the crying of the older girls. She realized her infant wasn't breathing, sources said, and immediately dialed 911.

The mom was being questioned, but had not been charged with a crime. The medical examiner will determine the cause of death.


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Elderly woman found fatally stabbed in apartment

A 58-year-old woman was found fatally stabbed in her Seagate, Brooklyn, apartment Saturday night, authorities said.

Neighbors discovered the woman unconscious on the living room floor of her West 37th Street basement apartment at approximately 9:30 p.m., cops said.

The victim had a stab wound to her torso and a laceration on her head. She was declared dead at the scene, cops added.

Police are investigating and the medical examiner will determine the cause of death.

The identity of the woman was being withheld Saturday night pending family notification.


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Obama’s response to terror: A shrug

President Obama used his State of the Union address to urge Americans not to fear terrorists: "We lead best, when we don't let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents."

But his words reached Americans when the Gallup Poll notes that 40 percent of Americans are very or somewhat worried that they will become a victim of terrorism — a higher percentage than when Obama took office in 2009.

They have reason for concern. From Day One, this administration has downplayed the terrorist threat from Islamic extremists. It declared the terrorist attack at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 as "workplace violence."

It pulled all US troops out of Iraq, allowing ISIS to move in and create a training ground for terrorists. Protracted negotiations with Iran have allowed that rogue nation to fortify and proliferate its nuclear facilities.

Even Sen. Robert Menendez, former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a Democrat, says President Obama's statements on the issue "sounds like talking points coming out of Tehran."

President Obama even had to apologize for not sending a high-level official to the unity rally in Paris protesting the murders at Charlie Hebdo by Islamic terrorists.

Much has been made of the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder was actually in Paris at the time of the rally, yet he also skipped the march.

That failure brings up the fact that the attorney general was in France to meet with officials on methods to counteract terrorism. But the smartest thing the French could do would be to ignore any advice Holder gave them and do the exact opposite.

Eric HolderPhoto: AP

Obama and Holder have implemented the politically correct view of coping with terrorism by shifting to a weaker, criminal model of prevention — the kind that miserably failed during the Clinton administration, when Holder was the No. 2 official in the Justice Department. It was Holder who decided that terrorists should be read Miranda rights.

In fact, he boasted in 2010 that failed shoe bomber Richard Reid, who was not an American citizen, was "advised of his right to remain silent and to consult with an attorney within five minutes of being removed from the aircraft."

Holder had no concern over losing the opportunity to interrogate Reid in depth about his backers, as well as other possible terrorist attacks.

It was Holder who decided that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his coconspirators should be tried in a civilian courtroom in New York City, just blocks from where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood.

Counterterrorism experts say that would have been a propaganda coup for al Qaeda and a security nightmare for the city.

Former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who as a federal judge presided over the successful prosecutions of the terrorists involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, said that this decision made "it look like amateur night" at the Justice Department and made the US "look weak."

Mukasey pointed out what Eric Holder doesn't seem to understand: "It is a mockery of the rule of law to take people who are charged with violating all the rules of war and put them in a situation that's better than the one they would have been in if they followed the rules of war."

Eric Holder thinks (from left) Nidal Hasan, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Richard Reid pose the same threat as common criminals.Photo: AP (3)

Holder was unmoved by the protests about the millions of dollars for security a trial would cost, or concerns that the city would be a prime target for terrorist acts designed to disrupt the trial.

It took an act passed by a Democratic Congress withholding any federal funds to house the terrorists in New York that forced Holder to reverse his decision.

From his first day in office, Holder began reshaping the Justice Department's attitude towards terrorism. That included hiring many attorneys who, during the Bush administration, had worked strenuously on a volunteer basis to help terrorist detainees in Guantanamo Bay escape justice and to severely weaken the comprehensive security measures that had been implemented by the federal government after the horrific events of 9/11.

Many of the detainees who were eventually released from Guantanamo have reengaged in terrorism.

One of those lawyers Holder hired once said that freeing dangerous terrorists was an "assumption of risk" that must be taken to "cleanse the nation of Guantanamo's moral stain."

She and others with similar viewpoints should not have been given the authority to direct policy on the prosecution of terrorists. It would be like hiring mob lawyers to fight organized crime.

Through his hiring of biased, hostile lawyers and his treatment of terrorists as ordinary criminals; his orchestrated, ideological attack on the intelligence community; and his highly selective prosecutions of government leaks, Eric Holder has weakened national security.

Sadly, the last thing the French and other allies should do is to take any advice the Obama administration has to give on fighting terrorism.

John Fund is the national affairs correspondent for National Review Online. Hans A. von Spakovsky is a former Justice Department lawyer. They are coauthors of "Obama's Enforcer: Eric Holder's Justice Department" (HarperCollins/Broadside 2014).


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Democrats defend Silver because they profit from his corrupt system

Photo: NY Post Photo Composite

The ink was scarcely dry on the federal fingerprint pad last week when the usual suspects began lining up behind the biggest fish US Attorney Preet Bharara has hauled in to date: New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

"I've always known Shelly Silver to be a man of integrity," announced Mayor de Blasio, without an atom of irony.

"There is no one in public life in New York who has fought more effectively, for decades, for almost everything I care about in public policy than Sheldon Silver," Richard Gottfried of Manhattan, one of the Assembly's longest-tenured members proclaimed with a straight face.

"I want to see the facts before I have an opinion," said Gov. Cuomo — ominously for him, also an object of curiosity to the feds.

So there you have it.

Bharara convincingly accuses the most powerful person in New York government over the past 20 years of taking $4 million in exchange for no work whatsoever — in effect, selling his office, if not his soul — and the insiders are afraid to say boo.

Could anything be more typical of the attitude New York's morally bankrupt political establishment brings to such matters? For all the players — overt crooks and fellow travellers alike — the relevant query last week seemed to be this:

Why is everybody picking on poor Shelly Silver all of a sudden?

Sad to say, that's a rational question.

For it may have taken a five-count federal corruption indictment alleging millions in kickbacks and other corrupt practices for everyday New Yorkers to twig to the fact that the Lower East Side's favorite son is — in the fullest Nixonian sense of the word — a crook.

But insiders have known better for many, many years.

Shelly Silver is the man with a thumb in every cup of soup; he's a superbly talented manipulator who can, and does, make things happen on all levels of government to the benefit of his friends, his allies and — Bharara now alleges — himself, too.

By virtue of his status as top Democrat in the Albany Legislature, Silver:

  • Controls appointments to the state Board of Regents, which sets policy for New York's multibillion-dollar education establishment; not for nothing did Silver put a lifelong friend, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, in charge of the whole enterprise. And not for nothing do the teachers unions — and their lavishly funded political action committees — love Shelly Silver.
  • Put Jonathan Lippman, another boyhood buddy and a fellow trial lawyer, in command of New York's courts — from the lofty Court of Appeals down to the lowest justice of the peace. So no wonder New York is one of the most aggressive anti-tort-reform jurisdictions in America; no wonder that Silver's association with one of the state's most prominent trial-law firms, Weitz & Luxenberg, is integral to the indictments handed up against him on Wednesday.

And the above merely are side dishes.

For Silver's day gig — Assembly speaker — has him in the catbird seat regarding the disposition of billions upon billions of tax dollars every year. The special interests understand this, and boost the campaign accounts and electoral prospects of Silver's allies, while damaging his adversaries, accordingly.

New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, center, is driven by federal agents to federal court Jan. 22.Photo: AP

The speaker didn't invent this game, of course, but longevity has a quality of its own: Shelly Silver's 20-plus-year tenure as speaker — he first went to the Legislature in 1976 — allow him to shape the process to his personal advantage in some unique ways.

Hardly anybody challenged him along the way; those who did came swiftly to regret it.

Reasonably strong governors (George Pataki and Andrew Cuomo), a weak governor (David Paterson) and an insane governor (Eliot Spitzer) only rarely made waves on Silver's pond — and when the turbulence settled the speaker was always stronger than ever.

Whether Silver wriggles off the hook this time is an open question. Bharara's indictments allege some pretty egregious behavior; then again, nothing in the particulars seems really out of character for the speaker.

Fundamentally, they involve corrupt payments for work not performed — and greasing the skids for lawyers involved in New York's notoriously seamy practice of adjusting commercial property-tax assessments.

Going at Silver means attacking the very essence of New York political corruption.

It's a big-bucks business — and Silver certainly isn't the only one stained by the skid-greasing. The real-estate industry generally is a cash-pump for politicians. (Cuomo himself last year collected as much as $1 million in campaign cash sifted through several limited-liability corporations by a single contributor, real-estate titan Leonard Litwin.)

Given all this, that $4 million really is couch-cushion coin — at least to practitioners of the smarmy arts Silver has so clearly mastered.

To Bharara, on the other hand, the decision to take on Silver could not have been arrived at lightly. The speaker may not be the only big dog in the game — but they don't come any larger, they don't bite any harder, their memories aren't any longer, and they sure as hell aren't any smarter.

Going at Silver means attacking the very essence of New York political corruption.

Which explains the lineup of Democrats eager to attest to his "integrity." If Silver goes down, it threatens the whole system of kickbacks to unions, favored nonprofits and real-estate donations.
Bharara may not win this case — but he had the nerve to bring it and that has to count for a lot.

"Stay tuned," the prosecutor said Friday morning.

How many spines shivered at that?


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‘Apprentice,’ ‘Hell’s Kitchen,’ ‘Top Chef’ reveal torture behind scenes

Last Sunday, two former contestants on "The Biggest Loser" revealed to The Post the torture, starvation and anguish that goes on behind the scenes of the popular reality show.

Since publication, a number of former contestants on other shows reached out to the Post to tell stories of utter devastation: physical, mental, financial. Some have since changed their names; some have had to change careers.

"Reality stars are treated with less consideration than a non-speaking actor brought in off the street," says one veteran, who asked to remain anonymous. "You walk in and they own you. The contracts they make you sign absolve the networks of any responsibility whatsoever — but what they don't tell you is that they intend to inflict physical and emotional harm on you."

"Top Chef: Just Desserts"

Contestants: Heather Chittum, Yigit Pura, Zac Young, Danielle Keene and Seth CaroPhoto: Getty Images

This competitive reality show — along with its sister program "Top Chef" — is considered among the genre's classiest. It's taken seriously by the food industry and has the ability to launch major careers.

New Yorker Seth Caro thought he was prepared — he knew people who'd done the show, and they'd warned him it could be manipulative. "But they also said, 'If you ride the wave correctly, you will benefit.'"

As with many reality shows, semifinalists are locked up in hotel rooms, and their cellphones, laptops, wallets and IDs are confiscated. Caro says he met with three psychotherapists throughout the audition process. "It doesn't feel like prison," Caro says. "It still feels like opportunity."

Once selected, Caro and the rest of the cast were flown to LA and boarded a double-decker bus. They rode on top while camera crews filmed, and while driving through an overpass, a standing crewmember's camera flew into a female contestant's face. "It blew the top of her forehead open," Caro says.

They all drove to the nearest hospital, and the contestants were left to sit on top of the bus, in the sun, for four hours while the injured woman was treated. "She had 26 stitches, from her forehead to her nose," Caro says. "She was in shock, afraid of disfigurement, but they wouldn't let her call her family. She was given an ultimatum: She could either compete on the show or leave, but she would have to sign a non-disclosure agreement and never sue — and she had to decide now." She stayed.

Contestant Seth CaroPhoto: Getty Images

"The first few days in, I'm thinking, 'Is this fun, or is this a cruel experiment?' " Contestants, he says, average two hours of sleep a night, are fed at the whims of production, and can't talk to each other during breaks in filming— and those breaks can last six hours.

Caro says he tried to leave several times, but was pressured by the show's psychotherapists and producers to stay. His castmates, he says, "fell in love with their tormenters. It's like Stockholm syndrome. Everyone's saying, 'Don't rock the boat; it's a great opportunity.'"

Finally, Caro broke down during a challenge: he asked for his phone and his wallet back so he could leave. "I was physically prevented from doing so," he says. "This producer had three cameras shoved two feet from my face. I literally slumped down in the corner and started crying."

Caro was put in a separate room, where he suffered a panic attack. EMTs were called, and it was all filmed. Caro demanded to leave. "They said, 'Will you film one final challenge?' I said no. 'Will you go on camera and say your goodbyes?' 'No.' Will you do a final on-camera interview?' 'No — I want to go home and never be on camera again.' "

After production put him in a van, Caro says he spotted a cameraman hiding in the trees. He jumped out of the van and was tackled by show security. "They took me back to the hotel — I was never arrested — and then they took me to a mental hospital, where I was put on a 5150 [involuntary psych hold] for three days. I was in my chef's jacket and socks. I didn't have my phone. No one from the network or the show came to see me."

Caro called his father from a pay phone, who flew in from New York to collect his son. Today, Caro says, his life is ruined: He can't get a job in the culinary industry. His father supports him financially. He's in the process of changing his name so that potential employers, friends and significant others won't be able to Google him. His season, like so many others, lives forever on the Internet.

"They are playing with people's lives," he says. "I've been destroyed by the experience."

"The Apprentice: Martha Stewart"

Donald Trump and Martha StewartPhoto: AP ; NBC Universal

This spin-off of the Donald Trump reality show ran for one season in 2005. "One of my fantasies is a class-action lawsuit against Mark Burnett Productions," says a former castmember. She spoke on the condition of anonymity, because she's terrified of a network lawsuit. "These shows survive solely, solely because of their gag orders."

She too was put through extreme stress: no cellphone, no money, scant food, sleep, or bathroom time. Before filming began, she says, a hotel suite was converted into a virtual doctor's office, where contestants were given full physicals, STD screenings — "they want hook-ups" — and five hours of psychological tests.

"And then they set you up with a Mark Burnett production psychiatrist named Richard Levak. He says, 'I'm going to tell you a little bit about yourself.' I felt like, 'This guy just took a walk around my brain.' Meanwhile Mark's sitting there with a deck of cards that have our faces on them — and he's shuffling the deck and flipping the cards face-up and face-down. He's hand-casting right there."

By the time they were filming the second episode, this contestant says she went to a producer and begged to leave. 'I said, 'Do what you need to do to get me out of here. I can't take it anymore.' "

She says contestants were made to shower, use the bathroom and sleep communally. At night, there would be no heat and all the lights were left on. There was never a day off and never time to eat.

Here, too, Stockholm syndrome set in: "You're so obsessed with not being perceived as the weak link that stepping away to eat is not an option," she says. "It's a pack mentality: 'If you can't hang with the big dogs, go home.' You don't want to be the person who has to use the bathroom, so we wouldn't drink water. You're dehydrated, malnourished, exhausted, and told 'don't speak.' There was a guy whose wife gave birth while he was on the show. He did not participate in the birth at all because it would impact him negatively."

At one point, she says, her team collapsed in the lobby of a Times Square hotel. "There were bodies everywhere, guests stepping over us," she says. It was common to go three days without changing clothes or underwear — another tactic so that production, she says, could slice whatever a castmember did over three days into one event.

Finally, she was eliminated.

"The second you get fired, a production coordinator puts you in a van, and they drive you to a five-star restaurant, where they bring the shrink in and do a debrief and let you vent," she says. "Then you go up to your hotel room and lay down and stare at the ceiling and say, 'What just happened?' "

She was still kept in isolation with the other eliminated contestants, she says, until filming ended — no laptop or cellphone or wallet.

Now married, she has changed careers. She was mortified to learn that her season went up on YouTube last year. "I have friends from the show who are traumatized to this day," she says. "Ninety percent of participants are supremely f—ked up. It's a PTSD situation for people who are humiliated — and most people are humiliated."

"Hell's Kitchen"

Gordon RamsayPhoto: FOX

Jen Yemola is the first to admit she was naïve about reality TV. "I'm from a small town," she says. "I was starry-eyed and dreamy about the whole thing." So when put through the isolation and the battery of psychological tests, she went along, trusting that the show was a true talent competition.

Jen Yemola

She quickly realized how fake it all was: The double-sided mirrors hiding camera crews, the second, hidden "mystery" kitchen, the earpiece that host Gordon Ramsay wore so producers could feed him lines. How he was never around anyway.

Her cast, too, had no sleep, little food, and no emotional support from the show's shrinks.

"One of my castmates said, in his confessional, 'I know what you're doing to me. I know this is rigged.' And they axed him."

Jen Yemola in the kitchen while filming "Hell's Kitchen."

Tek Moore, who competed in season 6, also says the show is rigged. "Production would come in and mess with ingredients, swap out your salt and sugar — so people would look like complete f—king assholes," she says. "And it was just an unhealthy environment. There were two toilets — like, public stalls — for 16 people. There were three showers with inadequate water heating. I used to watch the show and wonder, 'Why are all these cooks sitting around in their dirty clothes?' That's why."

Yemola's humiliation came during a last-minute challenge; desperate, she grabbed pasta that had been in the garbage and cooked it. "I was just sick about it," she says. "I tried to talk to them about it. I was like, 'This is my career, this is everything I've worked for. My life is over.' They never sent anyone to talk to me."

Yemola made it to third place, but returned home a broken person. "I didn't get my period for six weeks after I left," she says. 'My doctor said it was stress. I became borderline suicidal after the show — certain things about it made me feel poorly about myself."

To this day she's mortified by the pasta incident, yet Yemola says she'd still consider doing another reality show.

"Any exposure," she says, "is good exposure."


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Women compete for New York City’s top bottom

These booties are ahead of the curve!

Dozens of well-endowed women flaunted their big assets in Chelsea Saturday in a contest seeking to crown New York's best butt.

A total of 68 ladies — some naturally "gifted," others who toil at the gym — faced off for a $2,000 cash prize and modeling gig at Drift Studio, contestants said.

"My butt is so soft, which makes it the best butt. People I've been intimate with tell me it's voluptuous," boasted Brenda Monks, 21, a model and dancer from Washington Heights.

Brenda MonksPhoto: Angel Chevrestt

"All those compliments went to my head, and that's why I'm here — to steal the win!"

Women at the "casting call" — mostly ­aspiring actresses and dancers from around the state — stuck it out as judges peppered them with questions about why their bottoms were the tops.

Each had plenty of cheeky answers — from, "The tighter the better," to, "I don't even work out."

"Every once in a while, I catch glimpses in the mirror and notice how nice it is to have a small waist with a big butt. It's important to me!" said Chelsea Simone, a 24-year-old personal trainer.

Chelsea SimonePhoto: Angel Chevrestt

"I'm feeling confident in my butt abilities."

Finalist Darby Puckett, 20, of Virginia, explained her bottom line this way:

Darby PuckettPhoto: Angel Chevrestt

"My secret is a combination of gymnastics and Hardee's chicken biscuits. I'm from the south. You get enough fat in there and you'll get this butt."

But having a perfect booty can sometimes be a bum deal, other ladies admitted.

"My butt is . . . a blessing and a curse because when I try to dress professionally it's loud, but when I'm in the club it's LOUD!" said Tammy Chrisphonte, 32, preschool teacher from Queens.

Tammy ChrisphontePhoto: Angel Chevrestt

Mattie Jo Cowsert, 24, who moved from Missouri to New York to be an actress, said she couldn't resist entering. "I sent it to my mom and told her to pray for me," she joked.

Mattie Jo CowsertPhoto: Angel Chevrestt

All women competing were required to have natural bottoms — no butts about it. Those with cosmetic enhancements were not allowed, said a rep for the event.

Lexington Plastic Surgeons, which staged the contest with celebrity cosmetic surgeon Dr. Michael E. Jones, plans to feature a photo of the winner in ads for the firm.

The field was narrowed down to 13, a baker's dozen of buns. Judges plan to crown a winner by the end of the month.

More contestants for New York's best butt:

Modal Trigger
Thalia Castillo

Angel Chevrestt

Sullybeth Maximo

Angel Chevrestt

Contestants Melisa Vlasaty, Ashley Ceneus and Marissa Zandonella.

Angel Chevrestt

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Here‘s how you’re really supposed to wear a scarf


'How to wear a scarf' is the most Googled fashion question. Wrap up your style with these cool answers.

The Waterfall


HOW TO: Drape scarf around neck so that three-fourths of the scarf hangs to one side. Wrap that side around neck twice, then take one corner of that end and tuck it in at the side of the neck.

 

The Wrap


HOW TO: Open Scarf completely, then wrap around shoulders and upper arms. Toss one end over opposite shoulder, scrunching scarf at the neck to relax.

Classic Drape (with Belt)


HOW TO: Drape scarf evenly around neck and let ends fall in front. Add a thin belt to keep scarf in place and show off your waist.

The Braid


HOW TO: Fold scarf in half, lengthwise. Drape folded scarf evenly around neck and slide the two ends through the loop created by the fold. Grab loop again and twist to create a second, smaller loop, then slide the ends through that loop, too.

The Infinity


HOW TO: Drape scarf evenly around neck. Tie ends together in a knot. Twist scarf once to form a figure-eight – one loop already around your neck and the other in your hands – and place second loop over your head.

The Mira


HOW TO: Drape scarf around neck so that three-fourths of the scarf hangs to one side. Take long side and twist while wrapping around neck twice, then tuck that end under lower neck loop, leaving the end hanging out. Tuck the remaining loose end under at the back of neck.

The Toss


HOW TO: Drape scarf evenly around neck. Toss one side of scarf across the opposite shoulder so it falls behind you.

The X


HOW TO: Drape scarf evenly around neck. Cross the two sides, creating an "X," and wrap ends once around neck. Slide one end through the wrapped scarf from top to bottom and the other end from bottom to top, leaving two short ends hanging in front.

European Loop


HOW TO: Fold scarf in half, lengthwise. Drape folded scarf evenly around neck and slide the two ends through the loop created by the fold. Slide to adjust knot.

 
 
Crew Credits: Photos by Tamara Beckwith/NYPOST; Stylist: Johannah Masters; Hair: Sylvester Castellan/ ba-reps; Makeup: Jasmine Ashcraft for Make Up For Ever/ JUMP; Model Kira/ ADAM Models


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