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Weiner’s office evacuated after receiving letter with white powder

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U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-Forest Hills) office in Kew Gardens received a threatening letter that contained an unidentified white powder Thursday, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.

The letter made reference to the health care legislation supported by Weiner and signed into law by President Barack Obama Tuesday, according to FBI spokesman Richard Kolko.

“My first priority is the safety of my staff and neighbors, and the authorities are currently taking steps to investigate and resolve the situation,” said Weiner, who was not in his Kew Gardens office when the letter arrived.

The New York Police Department and the FBI were investigating the incident that prompted Thursday’s evacuation of the fifth floor of the office building at 80-02 Kew Gardens Rd., where Weiner’s office is located. Nobody was hurt, but Kolko did say nine individuals — five men and four women — working in Weiner’s office had to be “decontamin­ated” but refused medical treatment. He did not say how or if those individuals came into contact with the white powder.

The rest of the large office building that sits just off Queens Boulevard was not evacuated.

The NYPD Emergency Services Unit was investigating the white powder, Kolko said. Officials tested the substance at the office Thursday and were expected to send it to a lab in Westchester soon. The white powder has not yet been identified, officials said.

The FBI was looking into the threatening content of the letter, which Kolko said was opened by a person working in the mailroom. Federal officials have launched several investigations into retaliations against congressional members who voted for the health care reform that has been a priority of the Obama administration, Kolko said.

“The FBI responds to several hundred of these types of letters a year,” Kolko said. “They’re not usually harmful.”

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn denounced the threats as “vile” and “truly disturbing.”

“The root of these threats is like poisonous venom that will continue to spread unless we continue our efforts to combat hate violence and other violence,” Quinn said. “The anti-black, anti-gay and anti-Semitic language that was used in these threats was disgusting and reprehensible. When we hear threats of physical violence against anyone, a line has been crossed. Threats such as these since the vote on the health care reform bill will not be tolerated in our neighborho­ods.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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