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CITY HALL ARCHIVES From The Archives NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Meade Esposito, Runnin’ Scared

State Supreme Court Judge Alvin Klein’s recent dismissal of a legal motion to unseat Brooklyn Democratic boss Meade Esposito was in part the result of a series of compromises and a lack of prosecutorial zeal by State Attorney General Robert Abrams.

Abrams, who inherited the complaint against Esposito from former Attorney General Louis Lefkowitz, cooperated with Esposito’s attorney in the selection of Judge Klein to hear the case, allowed Esposito to miss two default deadlines, failed to use important evidence he had gathered against Esposito, and did not even seek out other available and obvious evidence. Last week Abrams, who was supported by Esposito for attorney general in 1978, refused to answer specific questions about the case directly, despite repeated requests by the Voice. Instead, Abrams’s press aides selectively responded to some of the questions and issued a general denial, calling “any insinuation that the Esposito matter” wasn’t handled thoroughly and professionally “reckless and totally inaccurate.”

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The County Leader’s New Clothes
Klein’s decision itself represents a cynical attempt to isolate the law from the real world, surrounding Esposito with legal fantasies so bold as to nullify the last century of machine politics in this city. The essence of Klein’s ruling was that Esposito, who has become a caricature of the county party boss, is in fact no boss at all and thus cannot be penalized for breaking state laws that limit the commercial activity of a county leader.

The complaint alleged that Esposito violated a 25-year-old statute that requires public and party officials to forfeit their office if they do any business with a racetrack. Esposito was charged with sharing in the insurance and mortgage fees for the Parr Meadows racetrack in Suffolk County. (He was paid as a partner in two firms that represented the track.) Two weeks ago, Klein decided that Esposito couldn’t be required to give up the office of Brooklyn county leader on the novel ground that there is no such title in the Brooklyn party. A few hours after Klein’s decision was released, Abrams announced his intention to appeal. But indications are that Abrams contributed to the awkward result he is now challenging.

Klein based his decision on the fact that Esposito, like every other county leader in every borough for decades, holds the title of “chairman of the executive committee” of the Brooklyn organization. A strict reading of the rules of the organization, claimed Klein, reveals no reference to the term “county leader.” The language of the statute used against Esposito covers “county leaders” and a host of other titles, but does not specifically list the title “chairman of the executive committee.” So, concluded Klein, the law does not apply to Esposito. “He is not the county leader,” wrote Klein, “since no such position exists.”

Klein granted Esposito’s motion for summary dismissal of the case, meaning that the question of whether or not Esposito is a county leader is so beyond doubt that it is not a “triable fact.” Though Esposito’s attorney, James LaRossa, submitted an affidavit denying that Esposito was a county leader, Esposito himself was not even asked by Klein to do so. If Klein had asked, it would’ve blown the whole house of cards. Esposito wouldn’t have denied he was county leader in a sworn statement because that would’ve invited a perjury prosecution.

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Unless the appeal prevails and a trial before a jury is eventually ordered, Esposito may never have to admit in court that he is in fact the cigar-chomping, jowled, potbellied, gravel-voiced party boss he’s been playing these 10 years. If the facts stand as Klein left them, Brooklyn will have but a shadow leader, masquerading at Foffe’s Restaurant and on Court Street as a kind of historic replica of the old machine tradition. Klein has abolished the position in order to allow Meade to continue to hold it. But, after Klein’s decision, all Esposito will legally hold is an obscure and bureaucratic title having something to do with an executive committee. Brooklyn, the grand old county of organization politics, will have no official leader.

When I visited Klein and his law clerk, Steve Zarkin, I asked them why Esposito hired one of the most expensive criminal lawyers in town to defend a position he didn’t hold. Since the worst that could have happened to him under this statute was the forfeiture of the title “county leader” — not the loss of the executive committee chairmanship — why fight to keep a title that Klein insists doesn’t exist? Seemed to me, I said, that his willingness to pay to defend the title proved he had it. Klein looked bewildered. Zarkin laughed. “To tell you the truth,” said Zarkin, “we never thought of that.” Apparently neither did Bob Abrams. But then again, it might not be much of a legal argument. It makes too much sense. And Klein was bent on redefining the universe, turning his courtroom into an abstraction uncomplicated by the nuisance of real life.

There was a kind of “Free Meade” hysteria beneath the surface of both the decision and my interviews with Klein, Zarkin, and others about this case. The statute used against Esposito is viewed as ancient, and the violation as technical and ill­-matched to such a grand loss of power. As a result of this thinking, there were few limits on the willingness by Klein and others to invent frivolous dodges that sidestepped the obvious. But the statute is a sound and tested conflict-of-interest prohibition, and the clear intent of the 1954 legislature that adopted it was to bar political leaders able to influence racing legislation from acquiring an interest in those same racetracks.

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Picking the Judge
After years of watching election cases in Brooklyn courts, I learned that the critical moment in political cases is when the judge is assigned. I recall one case where countervailing political pressures twice succeeded in changing the judge assigned and, with each switch, the preordained winner also changed. Two powerful, regular Brooklyn organizations were battling over the assignment and, once the judge was finally in place, the leaders who lost the assignment battle never even appeared for the hearing. Everyone knew how the county had decided the case would go.

In his last month in office, prodded by insistent revelations in Newsday concerning Esposito’s interests in the racetrack, Lefkowitz brought the case against Esposito in Manhattan Supreme Court. The technical grounds he used to bypass Brooklyn courts was that the attorney general’s office is in Manhattan. Lefkowitz’s choice of venue was an implicit indictment of the Brooklyn judiciary. But the chances of finding an independent judge in Manhattan to handle so extraordinary a political case were only slightly better than in Brooklyn.

The Manhattan judicial district includes the Bronx, and Alvin Klein became a judge after a lifetime of politics in the Bronx regular Democratic organization. For 14 years he was personal secretary to the legendary Bronx county leader and congressman, Charles Buckley. In 1963 Buckley decided to reward Klein with a civil court judgeship. But Buckley’s antagonist, then mayor Robert Wagner Sr., balked momentarily, in part because the bar association had rejected Klein as unqualified. So county leader Buckley called a meeting of the Bronx executive committee, which he chaired, and they anointed Klein as the party candidate anyway. Wagner was subsequently forced to agree. So Klein knows something about executive committees and county leaders: that’s how he became a judge.

Esposito is the heir to a boss tradition symbolized by Buckley and his Manhattan ally, Carmine DeSapio. The best example of Buckley’s style of leadership was his boast once at a dinner honoring the Bronx district attorney that every assistant DA in the Bronx for the previous 50 years had been recommended by his district leader. “They were not Liberals or reformers,” he said, “they were honest-to­-God Americans.” It was a couple of decades of subservience to that kind of organizational mentality that prepared Klein for his decision in the Esposito case.

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I asked Klein if he regarded his former mentor Buckley as a county leader and whether Buckley held the same executive committee chairmanship as Esposito. Klein said yes to both questions, then conceded: “He was in the same position as Esposito.” Catching his own slip, he corrected himself: “I may have looked at Mr. Buckley as the county leader … But suppose 50 people call somebody a boss. Suppose the newspapers call somebody a boss. That doesn’t mean he’s a boss.” As one attorney familiar with both the case and the judge told me: “Klein couldn’t do anything but decide that way. His whole life has led him to certain feelings about these institutions — the party, the leadership. No one would have to buy a contract to persuade him. The instincts of a lifetime would only permit one result.”

If anyone should’ve known that about Alvin Klein, it was Bob Abrams. Abrams got his start as a Bronx reform assemblyman in the mid-‘6os, fighting against the Buckley machine. Klein says that he and Abrams met in Bronx politics and have known each other for years. Pat Cunningham, who came out of the same Bronx club as Buckley and Klein and eventually became Bronx county leader, used to call Abrams the “Hirohito of the Bronx reform movement” — meaning its kamikaze pilot, its cutting edge. It was Abrams’s archfoe Cunningham who elevated Klein to a Supreme Court judgeship at the 1972 judicial convention. Indeed, when I first talked with Abrams’s aides about the Esposito case, they were openly contemptuous of Klein’s machine roots and his shabby legal reasoning in this case. All of this made it only the more surprising when I later read the full court file on the case and discovered that Abrams had acquiesced in the selection of Klein.

Judge-shopping in Manhattan courts begins in something called Special Term Part I, where much civil litigation is processed. Judges are assigned to Special Term on a weekly, rotational basis by Administrative Judge Edward Dudley. As certain pretrial proceedings are filed in Special I, they are marked on the calendar of whatever judge happens to be sitting in Special Term when the papers are ready for what’s called “final submission” (that is to say when both sides are ready to have the matter heard). The judge who gets a case while in Special Term may often be the judge who eventually decides it.

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Alvin Klein was assigned to Special Term a total of five weeks in his first five years in the Supreme Court, far less than many of his colleagues. He has mostly worked the criminal courts, where he has never had any difficulty recognizing felons or understanding legislative intent. Klein was assigned to begin his first week of service as a Special Term judge this year on May 14. One of the first cases submitted to Klein the morning of his first day on the bench was Abrams v. Esposito.

What got the case before Klein was a stipulation signed on May 9 by Abrams and LaRossa, Esposito’s counsel, which specified that even though the case would not be ready for submission until June 6, both sides would accept May 14 as the submission date, putting the case squarely in Klein’s lap.

The scenario that preceded the stipulation makes it even more difficult to understand why Abrams agreed to it: Abrams filed the complaint on April 10, giving LaRossa the required 20 days to answer or default. The 20 days expired and LaRossa hadn’t answered. So Abrams gave LaRossa a five-day extension.

LaRossa filed his motion to dismiss the complaint on May 4 and, in his papers, set the return date as May 14. LaRossa could’ve picked any day for the next couple of months as a return date. He picked Klein’s first day. In leaving only 10 days between the filing of his motion and the date for final submission, LaRossa was giving Abrams the shortest amount of time to reply permissible under the rules of the court. Presented with this rushed deadline and having already granted LaRossa an extension, Abrams had a sound legal basis for requesting and getting an adjournment of the May 14 date, putting the case before a judge other than Klein. A check of the court calendar revealed there were several brighter prospects: Judge Oliver Sutton, whose leanings in a case like this are certainly less predictable than Klein’s, was scheduled for the next week; Judge Martin Stecher, one of the city’s most respected and independent jurists, was set for the second week in June, almost exactly to the day the final papers really were submitted.

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Instead of seeking another date, Abrams executed the stipulation, and on May 14 the stipulation was filed with Klein, giving him custody of the motion. Because the hearing date had been adjourned by agreement, no appearances were made by either side, and there were no submissions of any papers. Abrams met the deadlines set in the stipulation and submitted his final papers opposing the motion on May 31. LaRossa didn’t, and once again Abrams gave him an extension.

Abrams’s press aide told me they signed the stipulation because “the alternative was to throw ourselves at the mercy of the court” and go before Klein on May 14 “with the possibility that the judge would refuse the adjournment and not give us the time we needed.” This explanation, especially in view of LaRossa’s delays and the short response time, seemed implausible to the lawyers I asked about it. Abrams’s aide added that the attorney general didn’t want to ask for an adjournment because Newsday editorials had criticized Lefkowitz for his delay in bringing the case, and they didn’t want to open themselves to the same criticism. This argument doesn’t say much for Abrams’s willingness to take possible short-term flak to achieve long-term success. It is also a little silly since the stipulation was signed by Abrams and constituted a postponement anyway. Presumably Newsday might’ve been persuaded that some judge-shopping delays were justified.

Though Abrams’s press aides did their best to portray Abrams as having been forced to take Klein, the judge volunteered to me that he “understood that Abrams wanted this case before me.” Klein contended: “I wasn’t looking for this case. They signed a stipulation to put it before me. It is my understanding that Abrams’s office initiated the stipulation because Abrams knew I would decide this case solely under the law as I saw it.” After hearing this, I called Abrams’s office, informed them of the judge’s “understanding,” and asked if they’d “initiated” the stipulation. They never got back to me with an answer.

There are only two possible explanations why LaRossa and Abrams might’ve wanted the same judge: either Abrams miscalculated and, despite Klein’s background, thought him a worthy trier of this sensitive matter, or both sides were after the same result.

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Proving the Obvious
In an extensive reply-brief and affidavit, Abrams’s staff managed to devote no more than a handful of paragraphs to the issue of Esposito’s role as county leader. The document went on for pages on the intricacies of the Parr Meadows transactions and submitted an inch-thick stack of documents and exhibits supporting their analysis of these aspects of the case. But their only evidence establishing that Esposito is a county leader was a collection of half a dozen news clips. You don’t have to be a lawyer to know the probative value of a Daily News story calling him a county leader. Abrams also resubmitted the evidence Lefkowitz originally offered: a 1975 state Red Book listing Esposito as a “county chairman.” That was all Abrams could marshal to prove the pivotal fact in the case.

I thought he could have done better. I went to the archives of the Kings County Democratic organization at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. Archivist Arthur Konop said that no one from the attorney general’s office had ever reviewed any of his records, including the minutes of every meeting of the executive committee from the 1880s to 1969. I started with 1969 and worked my way back to 1920. The record made it unmistakably clear that the titles of county leader and chairman of the executive committee are historically indistinguishable. In these records, every chairman of the executive committee in this century has been described — or has even described himself — as county leader.

The archives’ records end when Esposito became county leader. But since then, there haven’t been any rule changes that would alter the equation of titles that is already a century old. Nonetheless, I decided to try to see the recent records and called Bill Gary, secretary of the county organization (once listed by Jack Newfield among the 25 worst hacks in city government; Voice, December 8, 1975). When Gary did not return my calls, I went to see him at the party’s Court Street headquarters. He would not let me in his office, but I did make it into the reception area, where I could see him and he could see me. We shouted back and forth at each other. Gary, who is Brooklyn borough president Howard Golden’s former law partner and was editor of the City Record under Abe Beame, told me that the minutes of the largest county political party in the state are “not public record.” He sneered, laughed, and snapped: ”You’re not gettin’ anything outta here.” (The Voice has asked the New York Public Interest Group and the ACLU to examine the possibility of bringing suit to unlock the apparently private records of the Brooklyn Democratic Party.)

When I questioned Abrams’s office about why they hadn’t pursued these records, they called back with an answer that raised new questions. An aide said that Abrams had “substantial, additional evidence” to prove Esposito’s county leader role, but refused to say what the evidence was. He just described it several times as substantial and then said they didn’t submit the evidence to Klein because “it was not necessary at the initial stages of the case.” We all have to wonder what they are saving it for.

Of course, the evidence they chose not to use, as well as the archive records they never reviewed, cannot now be added to their appeal. The Appellate Division will only have whatever evidence Klein had. That makes it at least conceivable that the appeals judges will reach the same conclusion. Of course, they may be more willing than Klein to open the case to a common-sense nose test about Esposito’s county leadership. In that case, the paucity of the evidence won’t matter that much. But even if the Klein decision is reversed on appeal, Esposito has, at the very least, bought time.

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A Background of Relationships
Joe Conason (Voice, June 26, 1978) covered the state Democratic convention that nominated Abrams for attorney general. Conason described how reformer Abrams entered the convention with 76 percent of the delegate vote, including the support of almost all the regular party leaders, and then barely held on to the majority he needed. When Governor Carey, Queens county leader Donald Manes, and upstate party leaders subtly moved away from Abrams, and some of them lined up behind Abrams’s opponent, Delores Denman, Abrams was able to keep two county leaders behind him: Esposito and the Bronx’s Stanley Friedman. When Conason asked Esposito about Abrams becoming a regular, Esposito laughed and said: “He’s just come out of the closet, that’s all.” Esposito explained his persistent support of Abrams as “following his conscience.”

Conason also described the increasingly close political relationship between Abrams and Bronx leader Friedman. Friedman, who has spent his career working for Brooklyn regulars like city council majority leader Tom Cuite and Mayor Beame, is the county leader closest to Meade. Their recent two­-county partnership is the talk in regular party circles.

Judge Klein has a long-standing friendship with Friedman and Friedman’s law partner, the omnipresent, sometimes Esposito counsel Roy Cohn. Klein described Cohn to me as “a close personal friend for many years” and said he’d attended several of Cohn’s parties.

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Klein said, however, that he never discussed the case with either Cohn or Friedman. Cohn said he’d had nothing to do with the case, but the minute I asked him about Klein, Cohn went directly to the question of Abrams: “I never had a case with the attorney general’s office,” claimed Cohn, “where the AG didn’t have a strong say in picking the judge. He usually controls when it comes up.” These shifting relationships — Klein, Cohn, Friedman, Abrams, Esposito — form the important backdrop to this case.

The other leading Bronx reformers of the Abrams period — Jay Goldin and Herman Badillo — have become, respectively, an embodiment of the bus­-shelter scandal and a silenced, outcast deputy mayor. Their Manhattan and Queens reform colleagues, Manfred Ohrenstein and Jack Bronston, are now collecting legal clients such as shelter-scandal magnate Saul Steinberg. Brooklyn’s reform linguist Shirley Chisholm has become a fund-raiser and political bulwark for convicted felon and former councilman Sam Wright, as well as Esposito’s brightest black star. Ed Koch, the reformer who beat Carmine DeSapio 16 years ago, has a special relationship with Canarsie district leader Tony Genovesi, who comes from Esposito’s home club and has been chosen by Esposito to succeed him as county leader.

And now Bob Abrams has prosecuted Esposito on a dual track. For public consumption, he refiled the Lefkowitz complaint and is now doggedly appealing his loss. But on another level, he has left a trail of subtle omissions and gentlemanly concessions which allowed Esposito to win.

Reform in this town is but a phase in the political maturation process. When those who successfully use it grow up and reach an appropriately lofty height, they allow themselves to become the compromised, but still temporarily respectable, veneer for the same power relationships they previously campaigned to “reform.” ❖

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CITY HALL ARCHIVES From The Archives NYC ARCHIVES Uncategorized

After Stanley Friedman’s Fall

It’s Time For The Governor To Act

I once saw Stanley Friedman cry. It wasn’t last Tuesday morning in New Haven when the jury foreman said he was guilty of racketeering. It was a night long ago in the Hunter College gym, when Stanley Friedman’s mistake cost City College a basketball game. It was the only time I ever saw Friedman show any weakness or vulnerability. He was 20 years old then, and his wiseguy nickname was already Bugsy.

About three months ago, a partial ad­mirer of Friedman asked me why I never wrote anything kind about him. I replied that the only sincere compliment I could pay him was to say that “Friedman proves there is honor among thieves.”

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Stanley Friedman was probably the only honorable crook that Donald Manes and Geoffrey Lindenauer could trust to hold 50,000 shares of Citisoursce stock for an indefinite period of time. He was the person Datacom trusted to broker bribes. Witnesses against Friedman called him “a stand-up guy” who had “brass balls.” For this he deserves a cer­tain grudging respect — and about 10 years in prison.

As a defendant, Friedman behaved with a kind of arrogant cynicism that can easily be mistaken for dignity. He had the chutzpah to lie on the witness stand, and concoct a sentimental alibi that he was holding the bribery stock for his chil­dren — and then denounce prosecutor Ru­dolph Giuliani for bringing his 10-month­-old son, whom Giuliani hadn’t seen for weeks, to the courthouse during jury deliberations.

Friedman was the exact opposite of his co-conspirator Donald Manes. Manes re­membered right from wrong, and when he was about to be found out, felt such guilt and pain that he killed himself. To have killed himself, Manes had to have been mentally disturbed. But he was able to feel disgrace, because at some level he understood that taking bribes in the uri­nal of his public office was a shameful act. He felt he couldn’t survive it and grow a new skin.

Manes had started in politics as an idealist. He named the political club he founded after his hero, Adlai Stevenson; he probably was gradually corrupted over the course of his career by power, by envy, by feeling he owned the office he occupied for 15 years.

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I don’t think Friedman was ever an idealist. He was a cynic who thought he was a philosopher about where the line was drawn between cunning and crime. He was in politics and government to enrich himself and his bribery ring, and he didn’t care what happened to the citi­zens of Morrisania, Hunts Point, and the South Bronx. In one sense, this indiffer­ence to his community is among his worst felonies. There is no cable TV in the Bronx, and a scarcity of cabs, because Friedman represented the interests of his clients instead of his constituents.

And he was in politics to get even as well as rich. He grew up in the South Bronx, the only child of a poor family. His father was a taxi driver, and for the last several years, Friedman controlled the taxi industry as the lobbyist for the fleets and power broker at City Hall. He paid taxes on $914,000 in income for 1985, and he acted like that wasn’t mon­ey enough to heal the hurts of his childhood.

Friedman was defiant about his amo­rality. He couldn’t feel the shame Manes must have felt, because he didn’t think his kind of white-collar gangsterism was outside the law. He didn’t see the differ­ence between extortion and politics. He even tried to cultivate the look of a semi-­hood with his fat cigar, his eyeglasses with rhinestone initials on the rims, his flashy style of dress, and devilish goa­tee — before he tried to disguise himself as a dentist on the eve of his trial.

There was one moment in the trial when I became convinced Friedman was going to be convicted. Rudolph Giuliani asked him if he had made $10,000 for making two influence-peddling phone calls to Donald Manes. “No, just one call,” Friedman corrected — his warped sense of government hitting the Hartford jurors in the teeth.

During the trial two witnesses testified that Friedman, rather than speak and risk being taped, wrote incriminating things on pieces of paper, and then ripped and burned the paper like a pro­fessional mobster. These anecdotes reinforced a story a journalist told me several years ago about Friedman.

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During the last week of the Beame ad­ministration, Friedman, who was then deputy mayor, had promised the journal­ist some documents. But Friedman failed to deliver them and time was running out. So the journalist left a note for Friedman on his desk, reminding him of the promised papers. A few minutes later an irate Friedman rushed into the press room, waving the note, and screamed at the journalist: “Goddamn it, I told you, never put anything in writing. Never.”

The people never chose Stanley Fried­man to be Democratic county leader. He was not even a district leader. He only moved to the Bronx after he became county leader. He wasn’t elected. His im­mense power had nothing to do with de­mocracy or elections. His power came from Ed Koch’s persuading the elected district leaders to name him county lead­er, and from getting hundreds of patronage jobs from City Hall, and millions of dollars in contracts from City Hall for his clients. Most of Friedman’s power de­rived from Koch and the three tainted enforcers of Bronx politics — Ramon Velez, Joe Galiber, and Mario Biaggi­ — whose influence made him the county leader.

Perhaps because he hadn’t faced the voters, Friedman wanted his trial moved to New Haven, with a jury pool from Hartford. He didn’t trust the people of the city he’d looted from a backroom. He was convicted by a jury he selected. Friedman had no respect for ordinary New Yorkers, and that is one reason why he was able to steal and lie with no guilt.

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There is an element of tragedy to Friedman’s fall. He had authentic leader­ship qualities, particulary intelligence, and the capacity to be loyal and inspire loyalty from others. He reminds me of the cops who get medals for bravery and then turn crooked, and get a lot of youn­ger cops to follow them into corruption because they are so effective on the street.

There are also two other ways of look­ing at the city scandals that have tragic dimensions.

One involves Mayor Koch, who every few months declares the scandal finished and behind him, and then has to distance himself from each new “shock.” Koch continues to treat the historic and sys­temic corruption as an annoyance to be­ dealt with by wishful thinking and public relations.

I remember Koch’s early campaigns for district leader against Carmine DeSapio in the 1960s, when Koch ran on promises to eliminate all clubhouse patronage, and root out conflicts of interest, and award city contracts on merit.

If Koch hadn’t betrayed his own best principles, his city government wouldn’t have become the cesspool it now is. In fact, there is an almost Greek tragedy in Koch’s odyssey from the conqueror of DeSapio to the defender of Friedman’s Citisource contract at the City Club in 1984. The need to acquire power made him close his eyes. Ambition made him choose to act naive. He took power, not money. What is the difference?

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The roots of these scandals go back to the Sunday morning in September 1977 when Ed Koch received Meade Esposi­to’s commitment to throw the Brooklyn machine behind him instead of Mario Cuomo in the runoff for mayor. Cuomo wouldn’t even ask Esposito for support, because he knew the price would be too high — that when Esposito said “respect,” he meant patronage. Koch, who needed to win more than Cuomo did, promised to make Anthony Ameruso and Jay Thr­off — Esposito’s clubhouse stooges — city commissioners. Koch bargained his soul to get what he desired. If he had kept faith with the ideas and values in his 1963 speeches, he might have lost the election, but the city would be better off today. And even Koch might be more at peace with himself today, and less fright­ened of tomorrow’s newspapers.

The other tragic element in all this is the absence of visible public outrage. Perhaps the ordinary working people of this city have no way of expressing anger, and we are only seeing powerlessness rather than apathy, or fatalism, or indifference.

Since the scandal started to evolve in January, nothing fundamental has changed. Because of Warren Anderson’s obstructionism, the state legislature did not enact any of the more serious ethics reforms proposed by the governor and the attorney general. The city council has not acted to change the way no-bid, sole-­source contracts are given out to campaign contributors, or to ban county lead­ers from holding an interest in companies that receive city contracts. (Remember, with the convictions of Friedman, Pat Cunningham, Matthew Troy, Carmine DeSapio, and the ghost of Donald Manes at New Haven, the crime rate among Democratic Party bosses is higher than the crime rate of the Hell’s Angels.)

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None of the opportunities for corrup­tion have been abolished. Tom Manton (who left the country to avoid testifying in New Haven) became the party leader in Queens even though he also holds pub­lic office — the same mixing of govern­ment and patronage that Manes abused. Joe Galiber has been reelected to the state legislature while he is on trial in the Bronx for crimes involving the mob. The decision by The New York Times to en­dorse Al D’Amato for reelection showed that even the establishment doesn’t take ethical government all that seriously.

The drastic reforms that need to be adopted are not secret. They are all listed in the excellent reports issued by the So­vern Commission; in press releases from Robert Abrams, Franz Leichter, and Ruth Messinger; in speeches by Rudolph Giuliani. They are in Ed Koch’s 1963 campaign leaflets. What’s missing is pres­sure from the people, and anger pointed directly at Koch, Warren Anderson, Howard Golden, Tom Manton, Stanley Simon, Denny Farrell, Peter Vallone, and others who still practice business-as-usu­al. An hour after Friedman was convict­ed, Vallone put out an oddly irrelevant statement about the appeals process. He did not mention public financing of cam­paigns. Or Carolyn Maloney’s bill lan­guishing in his city council to prohibit politicians from simultaneously holding public and party office. Vallone is the Rosemary’s baby of New York politics — ­the offspring of the final deal between Manes and Friedman.

One of the lessons we learned from the Watergate hearings and the Knapp Com­mission hearings and Andrew Stein’s nursing home hearings is that the best way to educate the public to feel con­structive anger is through the drama of televised testimony. These instructive hearings did not prejudice the trials that occurred subsequently. The truth may make us free — if enough people see it in their living rooms. That’s what we need now in New York. The time has come for Governor Cuomo to appoint a Seabury-­type commission, with broad subpoena powers, to hold public hearings and com­pel those responsible for the shame of our city to testify under oath about exactly how they did it.

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A commission modeled on Seabury could be chaired by politically sophisti­cated but independent statesmen like federal judge Eugene Nickerson, federal judge Jack Weinstein, former U.S. attor­ney Paul Windels, or presiding appellate judge Milton Mollen.

I want to hear Geoffrey Lindenauer ex­plain how he — a pathological liar with a fraudulent degree, who had sex with his patients at a phony clinic that went bankrupt — got himself appointed by Mayor Koch to be deputy director of the Parking Violations Bureau in July 1980, a job for which he had no qualifications or experience.

I want to see Stanley Simon, in front of the cameras, asked why he wouldn’t waive immunity and testify before a Bronx grand jury after he promised that he would. I want to hear Simon explain why he successfully pushed Cablevision to get the Bronx franchise after the com­pany had promised to pay $3 million in “fees” to Friedman, Mario Biaggi’s for­mer law firm, Ramon Velez, and other clubhouse sponges.

I want Meade Esposito to explain how he became a millionaire in the insurance and printing business through his abuse of political influence. I want Esposito to explain to the people of this city why he was such intimate friends with a hood named Fritzie Giovenelli, who walked around with a loaded gun and murdered a New York City police officer last January.

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Let’s hear Anthony Ameruso explain to the people who pay rent and mortgages and day-care fees where he got the money to secretly invest $20,000 in a parking lot while he was transportation commission­er, and what he did with the $140,000 profit he took out of the lot while he was still a city official. (Ameruso was indicted yesterday for lying about how he invested the money he took out of the parking lot.)

Put Ramon Velez under oath and on television and ask him to tell us how he has come to control $16 million in anti­poverty funds, placed in his custody by the Koch administration.

And put Stanley Friedman and Mike Lazar in the hot glare of the TV lights. Warn them that unless they tell us everything they know about cable television, midtown development, the taxi industry, the water-tunnel cost overruns, towing contracts, and the making of judges, they will both receive substantial prison terms.

We need to know what has happened. Our history also has been stolen from us. Only a commission whose mission is edu­cation, not prosecution — appointed by the governor — can disclose the facts that will bring about the outrage that is the necessary prologue to reform.

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Televised hearings would help reveal to the voters the nature and values of the men who rule the city, in the way that Friedman’s testimony at the trial re­vealed his mentality to the jurors. Let the whole city see Velez, Simon, Esposito, and Ameruso the way they really are.

In late 1930, Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed Judge Sam Seabury to investigate corruption in the courts. Three years later, after dramatic public hearings at which Mayor Jimmy Walker testified under oath, the mayor was forced to resign, just as the governor was about to remove him from office.

Walker was followed into City Hall by Fiorello La Guardia because the Seabury hearings had informed and outraged the people. Unless some forum is created to convert fatalism into fury, nothing, in the long run, will change.

The ultimate remedy for corrupt gov­ernment is participatory democracy. Peo­ple who are now apathetic have to become politicized. We need to change the methods of government, not just the faces at the top. The problems are the alliance between the clubhouse and the contractors that can turn city agencies into racketeering enterprises; the domi­nance of campaign money over public policy; and the capacity of outside power brokers like Friedman, Lazar, Esposito, and Velez to manipulate the contract and franchise decisions of elected government by delivering votes and contributions.

The real tragedy would be if two years from now, Friedman and Lazar are in prison, the Sovern Commission reforms are forgotten, and Ed Koch, Howard Golden, Peter Vallone, and Denny Far­rell are the leading candidates for mayor. ❖

Categories
CITY HALL ARCHIVES From The Archives NYC ARCHIVES

How Ed Koch Handed Over City Hall

Violation! 

“After eight years of charisma and four years of the clubhouse, why not try competence.”
— Koch slogan, 1977 mayoral race

Ambitious people of­ten become the thing they hate. His­tory is full of young idealists obsessing about some en­trenched evil and then replicating that evil when they come to power. The Aya­tollah has become the Shah. George Bush spent the 1970s fighting right-wing extremists and now he wraps himself in extremist icons like William Loeb, Jerry Falwell, and Ferdi­nand Marcos. And Ed Koch, who first achieved fame by conquering Tammany Hall boss Carmine DeSapio in the early 1960s, has become Carmine DeSapio.

Not the DeSapio who later went to prison, but the DeSapio of the early 1960s and late ’50s, who Koch opposed as the personification of patronage, conflicts of interest, and cynical abuse of the pub­lic trust. Koch has also become the Abe Beame he defeated for mayor in 1977, the incumbent he accused of abdicating gov­ernance to the political machines.

This city is now witnessing the start of the largest municipal scandal since the revelation of police corruption in the ear­ly 1970s. It’s not just that Donald Manes is accused of extortion, or that the depu­ty director of the Parking Violations Bu­reau, Geoffrey Lindenauer, has been ar­rested for taking a bribe in a public urinal. Bronx Democratic leader Stanley Friedman is also under criminal investigation by U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giu­liani, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Voice has learned that in December Friedman dumped a large amount of his stock in Citisource — the company for which he got a $22 million Parking Violations Bu­reau contract in 1984 — apparently be­cause he was tipped off about the federal investigation.

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The Friedman probes focus on allega­tions of insider trading and fraudulent misrepresentation of his role in Citi­source. (No one has so far suggested that Manes’s crew at PVB had the temerity to charge Friedman for his contract; it may have been the only freebie Lindenauer, et al. handled.) Friedman and Manes are the two county leaders closest to Koch and have been bulwarks of support for his last three races, including the 1982 gubernatorial primary when Manes re­jected Queens’s hometown candidate, Mario Cuomo, in favor of Koch.

The recent conviction of Queens Su­preme Court judge William Brennan for taking payoffs to fix cases from mob defendants, and the separate federal probe of Richard Rubin, the executive secretary of the Queens Democratic party, for taking kickbacks by check for court guard­ianships and receiverships, suggest that the county party is an organized crime enterprise in a literal sense. The mayor suggests, that he thought Friedman and Manes were altar boys until this burst of revelations, but at least two prior Manes­-recommended city appointees and one Friedman associate have been involved in similar scams.

The Taxi and Limousine commissioner from Queens, Herb Ryan, pleaded guilty to taking a bribe from an undercover agent in 1982, and Nick Sands, who was apparently recommended by Manes for mayoral appointment to the board of the city’s Public Development Corporation, wound up surviving nine bullets in a mob hit and was convicted twice of embezzle­ment. Not as lucky as Sands was Rick Mazzeo, the Friedman and Roy Cohn-­connected distributor of multimillion dollar leases for city-owned parking lots, newsstands, and other concessionaires. During the first couple of years of the Koch administration, Mazzeo, who man­aged to put $564,934 into a private com­pany he started while a $15,000-a-year civil servant, ran the real estate section of Marine & Aviation, a subsidiary (like PVB) of the city’s Department of Transportation. Mazzeo was convicted and sent to jail once by the feds; but when he faced a second indictment in 1983, his body was discovered in the trunk of a car parked in Brooklyn.

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The PVB brand of civic service is inev­itable when the mayor awards whole city agencies or sections of them to DeSapio’s descendents — party bosses like Fried­man, Manes, former Brooklyn honcho Meade Esposito, Staten Island’s Nick La­Porte, as well as their top soldiers such as South Bronx kingpin Ramon Velez. Con­tracting out to the clubhouses is the root cause of the current sensational revela­tions. A mayor who does not recognize that these career party businessmen are mere vendors of the public weal is wearing blinders.

The continuation of clubhouse patron­age was a clause in the Faustian compact that Koch made with much of the city’s old-line party leadership during the run­off campaign of 1977, when he got Espo­sito, Friedman, and others to back him against Mario Cuomo. He’s renewed that pact time each time he’s run, always with the support of every county leader but Manhattan’s. Koch’s acceptance of club­house patronage is what opened the door to corruption, because it based hiring on connections and party loyalty rather than merit. It is hardly surprising that these appointees then began to award contracts and leases based on the same consider­ations that got them their jobs.

It was Meade Esposito, for example, who gave Koch his worst previous scan­dal: Alex Liberman, the city’s director of leasing, who was the “Man of the Year” in Esposito’s Canarsie club and who (almost unnoticed by the media) pleaded guilty in 1984 to extorting more bribes — $2.5 million — than anyone ever previously in­dicted by a federal prosecutor anywhere in America. Memos filed by both sides in the Liberman case concluded that Liber­man “would have been unable to wield such tremendous arbitrary authority without the complicity of others in the Brooklyn Democratic machine.” Yet in his current book, Politics, Koch describes Esposito in loving terms as someone who “has always been helpful to me,” and his administration is still filled with other Esposito appointees. “After Koch was elected, he called us to City Hall,” Espo­sito once told reporters. “He gave us some doughnuts. The powder came off on my pants and he said he wanted to work with us. He catered to us, in patronage, whatever.”

The Koch administration has also giv­en Esposito contracts. The prime clients of his small insurance company are city contractors, and they’ve made Esposito a rich man. “I’ve been very successful in business,” Esposito told the News in 1980, “and I owe it all to politics.”

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No Goodies for Crooks

Throughout the Manes explosion, Koch repeatedly said that the public would forgive anything except criminal­ity. Since the mayor believes he is the embodiment of the public’s common sense, he meant that he was comfortable with anyone but a crook. That is now the moral standard for a mayor who spear­headed a crusade against DeSapio long before DeSapio became a felon.

The most disgraceful and self-serving indicator of Koch’s no-rap-sheet heroes was his embrace of Staten Island beep Ralph Lamberti, who he endorsed for re­election in 1985 even after his own Inves­tigations Commissioner Pat McGinley had publicly reported that Lamberti had committed five misdemeanor violations of the city charter, one of which provided for the forfeiture of his office. A Staten Island grand jury ultimately refused to indict Lamberti, but the record is clear that Lamberti greased the delivery of a 50-acre parcel of prime city-owned land to a developer who was his own private partner. The mayor described Lamberti as “an honest man,” a “partner,” and a “friend,” adding that he was “shocked” by McGinley’s charges. McGinley must’ve been shocked that Koch had be­come Lamberti’s leading media character witness.

Ed Koch is not personally corrupt. And he hasn’t turned his entire government over to hacks. Fritz Schwarz, Stanley Brezenoff, Torrence Moan, Henry Stern, Robert Wagner Jr., Gordon Davis, Jo­seph Hynes, Haskell Ward, James McNamara are just some of the honest public servants he’s empowered. He’s appointed many judges of distinction.

But at the same time, he’s given the clubhouses custody of agencies like the mammoth Department of Transportation and the Taxi and Limousine Commis­sion. He’s given them hidden little shops, where the leases and contracts that feed machines are processed, like PVB, Liber­man’s leasing office inside the Depart­ment of General Services, Mazzeo’s Ma­rine & Aviation, some Tax and Planning Commission appointments, the Civil Ser­vice Commission, and pieces of such key, obscure entities as Ports & Terminals, the Public Development Corp., and the Board of Standards & Appeals. And then he’s looked the other way.

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The other way has most often been somewhere in the direction of a mirror. Koch could always look at himself and see clean hands. He could stand in front of a Gracie Mansion mirror with his arms raised triumphantly above his head and know he had done no wrong. He could mistake himself for his government. And then he could turn on the tube. His ad­diction is power, not money. Lesser poli­ticians develop an appetite for gambling, drugs, women, and a lavish lifestyle. Koch lives on the narcissistic need to watch himself every night on the televi­sion news. To be on the news, he has to be in power. And he has long been pre­pared to allow others to do just about anything if they would permit him to keep power. That is the bargain that is only now beginning to haunt him, be­cause finally it, too, is playing on the television news.

He has manufactured his press confer­ence answers. I-am-not-responsible, he sometimes intimates, because I only ap­point commissioners. The commisioners hire everyone else. This is a myth. May­oral assistant John LoCicero has been publicly identified for eight years as the mayor’s patronage chief. What has he been doing all that time if the mayor’s claim is to be believed? And what has the best kept secret of the Koch years — Joe DeVincenzo — been doing?

DeVincenzo is identified in the Green­book as a special assistant to the mayor, but no one except people who hustle city jobs has ever heard of him. A leftover from the Beame administration, DeVin­cenzo occupies a basement office in City Hall. He sits on the dais of the Brooklyn Democratic organization dinner dance. City personnel officials say he is in charge of something called the mayor’s talent bank. One former Koch commis­sioner told the Voice: “I couldn’t hire anyone without the Joe D. letter.” He has been processing jobs for Koch — every­where in city government — since Koch became mayor. A half dozen sources have told the Voice about having to go to Joe D., even for raises.

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Remember Candidate Koch, running against Cuomo, in 1982? Remember how he decided to play hardball after Cuomo rapped him in the first debate? Remem­ber that Koch made a TV commercial about Cuomo’s aide Bill Cabin, who had hidden five no-shows on the lieutenant governor’s payroll, copped the checks himself, and gotten indicted? Remember Koch snarling that he ought to be im­peached if he ever carried five phantoms on his payroll? The same Koch is now saying he never met Geoff Lindenauer. He says he neither selected nor knew the PVB crew — an entire agency handling millions in city funds. He says he just looked at the revenue bottom line and saw it going up. He says he always thought Stanley Friedman was in the holy water business. He says it’s “news to me” that Anthony Ameruso, the trans­portation commissioner who oversees PVB and several other past and future scandals, is identified with the Brooklyn Democratic organization. He says it’s also news that Ameruso has stacked his agen­cy with hacks from every county party.

Our mayor, after 25 years of public life and two books about politics, is a babe in the woods, a shock absorber. He can only shake his head in surprised chagrin. He can only argue that the question is not whether his government caused this scandal, but what it is now doing to cor­rect it. He can actually say that the scan­dal “is not a major problem for me or my administration.” He can announce that he wouldn’t have visited Mane’s at the hospital if he’d known what Jimmy Bres­lin was about to write, suggesting that all those he calls friends may only be a head­line away from nowhere. Or worse still, a headline away from being called a crook.

The mere existence of the Michael Dowd contract, earning $2 million from the city in six years, is the best evidence of just how much the mayor will tolerate to satisfy powerful friends. Koch names Dowd in his own book as the man who managed Cuomo’s 1977 race and hired a private detective to probe Koch’s sex life. Yet the mayor who says he never forgets a slight has, indirectly, been making Dowd rich. Once Manes was given an agency, he was allowed to reward whom­ever he would reward. The legendary long memory gave way to Manes’s large pockets. Everything else dissolves when Koch’s power needs are at stake.

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The Koch Machine

Pol-businessmen like Stanley Fried­man are so arrogantly confident that the voters will never get in the way of their public profits that they put themselves up front in the collection business, seem­ingly the last place a politician would want to be. The letters we get dunning us to pay our parking tickets have become the unlikely prism through which we can all finally see, with sudden clarity, the nature of our leaders and our govern­ment. But PVB is only one of the ma­chine haunts in the Koch years. Here are a few others:

• Top Koch officials have been leaking stories that Transportation Commission­er Anthony Ameruso is on his way out for at least the last four years. They said it because they thought it was true. Then, magically, Ameruso would ride out the rumors. He was appointed commissioner when Koch became mayor. Koch ignored the advice of his own screening panel, which opposed the appointment of Amer­uso, who comes out of the Boro Park club of Brooklyn beep and county leader Howard Golden. His other rabbis are Esposito and Bronx congressman Mario Biaggi. Ameruso not only survived the Mazzeo scandal during the first couple of Koch years, he then went job hunting for the discredited Mazzeo in other city agencies.

Ameruso was the target of two 1981 probes by the State Investigation Com­mission. SIC reports obtained by the Voice (and written about in a 1983 NYC column) say that the investigations “fo­cused on the awarding by the NYC DOT of the midtown tow-away contracts to TRW Transportation Inc.” and on the granting of “no parking anytime signs” to the mob-owned SPQR Restaurant in Lit­tle Italy. In the SPQR investigation, wired agents were sent to interview Ameruso himself about the decision, in violation of city regulations, to treat mobster Matty the Horse Ianniello’s lat­est swank restaurant as if it were a church: John Culhane, an SIC commis­sioner who did parking lot business with Continued from preceding page Ameruso, helped kill these inquiries into his conduct.

At a press conference last week, Koch emphatically denied that he’d ever been urged to appoint or retain Ameruso by any Brooklyn political leader. But Espo­sito told the authors of I, Koch (a biogra­phy written by the Times, News and UPI bureau chiefs): “There were rumblings that Tony was going to be dumped. I saved him by telling Koch that he’s my guy, he’s a good man, don’t drop him.”

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• Taxi and Limo chairman Jay Turoff, a Brooklyn regular out of the Benson­hurst club led by Howie Golden aide Marcy Feigenbaum, was originally ap­pointed on the final day of the Beame administration in 1977. But Koch reap­pointed him in 1982, making him his own. The SIC is currently in the midst of a year-long probe of Turoff, investigating a possible hidden interest he may have in a car service and an allegation that he has several lines of credit in Atlantic City casinos. Other Koch appointees to the nine-member commission include party regulars Douglas McKeon from the Bronx and John Russell Sr. from Staten Island.

• Housing Preservation and Develop­ment commissioner Anthony Gliedman is an active member, coordinating election day activities, of Canarsie’s Thomas Jef­ferson Club in Brooklyn. He is close to both Esposito and district leader Tony Genovesi. “I recommended him for a job,” Esposito told the authors of I, Koch about Gliedman. “I spoke to LoCicero and told him to take care of this guy because he’s good.” When another club member, Mo Silver, lost his state job in 1983 and went to work for the nonprofit Wildcat Services Corporation, he imme­diately began negotiating new contracts for Wildcat with Gliedman, who employs his wife, Sheila Silver, another club-­member. Gliedman’s agency has also de­livered countless housing projects and community consultant contracts to neighborhood groups controlled by ma­chine loyalists, including multimillion dollar sponsorship deals to hacks like for­mer city councilman Luis Olmedo, who recently got out of jail on federal extor­tion charges, and Ramon Velez, the well­heeled prince of Bronx poverty who is Friedman’s prime minority property.

• The newly named Environmental Protection (DEP) commissioner, Harvey Schultz, is, like Gliedman, a competent machine bureaucrat. But Howie Golden, who is now to Brooklyn politics what Ma­nes is to Queens (wearing both the party and public hats of dual dominance), knows he has someone he can count on. Schultz has been Golden’s top assistant so long that many Brooklynites think he’s been the borough president. The agency he inherits already has its other party players, like deputy commisioner Fred Carfora, a Friedman regular. The PVB scandal has already hit a subsidiary of DEP, the Environmental Control Board, which uses many of the same col­lection companies as PVB. The Board’s collection chief, Joseph Scelzo, was con­victed of taking bribes to kill tickets last year.

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• When Manuel Bustelo was named Employment Commissioner in 1985, Ra­mon Velez and his two business partners, Jorge Batista and Frank Lugovina, threw a party celebrating the appointment. Bustelo earned his appointment as pub­lisher of El Diario, which he turned into a Spanish version of the Post, swinging an endorsement of Koch even in 1982, when he lost every Latin assembly dis­trict to Mario Cuomo. But it didn’t hurt that the Velez crew loved him (including Lugovina, whose company, Mobicentrics, has multi-million dollar, for profit, train­ing contracts with Bustelo’s agency). Ve­lez also threw a party when Batista was named by Koch to head the South Bronx Development Organization, the city’s planning arm there. Batista, whose conflict of interest ties with Velez and Lugo­vina [“How Ramon Velez Bleeds the Bronx,” Voice, Dec. 31, 1985] are now under investigation by the city’s Depart­ment of Investigation, is also Koch’s Loft Board chairman. The combination of the two posts has given Batista a commis­sioner level status. Lugovina was recently named by Koch to the Water Finance Board.

• Two days before Manes was discov­ered on Grand Central Parkway, Koch named a new chairman of the screening panel that recommends city marshals to him for appointment. The chairman, Peter Rivera, who says he has a “friendly and cordial relationship” with Velez, is a contributor to Velez’s sidekick, Assem­blyman Hector Diaz, and represented Ve­lez’s wholly owned subsidiary, City Coun­cilman Rafael Castenaira Colon, in an election law matter last year. Rivera’s partner represented a Velez backer charged with assaulting the wife of a can­didate running against Colon. Rivera, who has a $7 million collection contract with the city’s Health and Hospitals Cor­poration, and has also been appointed to the Off-Track Betting board, says he is tied to Latin pols unconnected to Velez, like Bronx State Senator Israel Ruiz.

City marshals are among the juiciest organization plums — potentially six-fig­ure jobs that require nothing more than a high school diploma. New York is virtual­ly the only major city that relies on such bounty hunters to collect court judgements. Their annual income (as much as $300,000) is determined by how many people they evict, how many salaries they garnish.

A lifelong opponent of the marshal sys­tem, Koch introduced a bill to abolish it when he first became mayor, lost in the assembly, and then gave up. After Stan­ley Fink became speaker in 1979, Koch never even asked him to back an aboli­tion bill. Instead, Koch adopted the win­dow dressing of a screening panel. Voice stories over the years have listed the numerous new marshals who’ve climbed out of clubhouses, as well as the party ties of some of Koch’s panel members. The most prominent duo were Carlos Castellanos and Elba Roman, two Luis Olmedo-des­ignees, both of whom were suspended for pocketing collections and not reporting them to the city. Castellanos also wound up nabbed in the Olmedo extortion case and trooped off to the federal pen with the man Koch used to call his favorite councilman (another shock).

Of course, in recent days, Koch has made ex-Queens marshall Sheldon Chev­lowe even more notorious than Castel­lanos, calling him “a bag man.” It was at Chevlowe’s funeral that Manes allegedly approached Dowd and asked him to switch the payoffs from Chevlowe to Lin­denauer. As Post stories have estab­lished, Manes tried to penetrate the screening process Koch created for marshalls with a few phone calls to City Hall. Chevlowe’s wife was quickly appointed, rushed past hundreds of other applicants.

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• The transportation department (DOT) is loaded with high and low level patronage. The agency’s chief counsel, Robert Shaw, is a Friedman appointee, out of Stanley Simon’s Riverdale club. The job was handled in classic patronage fashion — Shaw replaced another Bronx jobholder, George Salerno, who won a more significant state post. The chief of Legal Affairs is Michael Mondshein, an active Jeff Club member from Brooklyn. Deputy Commissioner Julian Prager, who’s now overseeing PVB, has been ac­tive in the Village Reform Democratic Club, an invention of Koch and LoCi­cero’s designed to counter the anti-Koch Village Independent Democrats

Felice Saccone, an assistant commis­sioner who now handles all of DOT’s leas­ing and facilities management, is also ac­tive in VRDC, together with his wife Joanna. Both are close to LoCicero and, ironically, to Carmine DeSapio. Saccone and DeSapio repeatedly share tables at the dinner dances of the Brooklyn and Bronx Democratic parties, and stayed for a private dinner together after the Man­hattan organization’s recent Tavern on the Green affair. Sources indicate that Joanna Saccone babysits for DeSapio’s daughter’s child. Felice Saccone was orig­inally named to replace Mazzeo as real estate director in Marine & Aviation in 1980, but she has been promoted twice since and now handles the entire agency’s facility portfolio.

• DOT Assistant Commissioner Leon­ard Piekarsky, a Friedman friend and primary day worker who is also a member of the Rockaway club in Queens, became Saccone’s boss at Marine & Aviation in 1980, which was renamed the Bureau of Ferries and General Aviation in the after­math of the Mazzeo scandal. Piekarsky replaced Leon Tracy, another Jeff Club captain who was tainted by Mazzeo and burned in a series of city comptroller’s audits. Though Piekarsky made substan­tial improvements in the agency, he also delivered at least one notorious conces­sion to a Cohn/Friedman-represented newsstand firm, after negotiating the terms with a Cohn associate already under indictment in a videotaped bribe case   involving an Amtrak contract in Washington. Piekarsky says he didn’t know about the indictment at the time.

Piekarsky was recently dumped by Ameruso, and Staten Island beep Lamberti has reportedly laid claim to name his successor. Lamberti and party boss LaPorte already have dozens of patron­age employees in the bureau, including the beep’s brother James, who is part of the ferry police force, district leaders Diane DiAngelus and Carl Berkowitz, La­Porte gopher Al Smith, and Lamberti campaign aide and contributor Robert Massaroni. Two Lamberti cousins also worked there, but left in the last year or so.

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• The unit at DOT that inspects pot­holes caused by utility companies has long been a Brooklyn patronage preserve. East New York district leader Everett George is a pothole supervisor; so was former Brownsville leader Edith Broth­ers. Jeff Club officers Lucy Schwartz, Claudia Shapiro, and Gerdie Gerst have also worked in the unit in recent years. Another top Jeff Club official, Frank Seddio, who is Genovesi’s business part­ner in a travel agency, was hired last year as an administrator in the traffic depart­ment. A Golden club member, Sam Aza­dian, is the DOT’s ombudsman. Two oth­er longtime Brooklyn clubhouse activists, Rita Levinsky and John Nelson, also have agency jobs. Ameruso’s executive assistant, Joel Stahl, is reportedly tied to the Queens organization and was impli­cated in the Liberman scandal. The fed­eral indictment of Liberman details how he used two letters signed by Stahl pre­tending that DOT was doing a feasibility study about a municipal parking lot to extort a $5000 bribe.

• Koch’s appointments to the Civil Service Commission have been bipartisan clubhouse, including Bronx regulars Harry Amer and Stanley Schlein, former Brooklyn Republican district leader Frank Gargiulo, and Juanita Watkins, the chairperson of the Queens Democrat­ic County Committee. Similarly, he named Nick LaPorte Jr., son of the Stat­en Island county leader, who goes to par­ty dinners and was once active in the county party, as first deputy of the city’s personnel department. By law no person­nel department officials are supposed to be connected with political organizations.

• Ted Teah, a partner in Stanley Friedman and Roy Cohn’s law firm, is a Koch-appointed City Planning Commis­sioner from the Bronx. And planning commissioner John Gulino, whose ap­pointment in 1978 was vigorously op­posed by the American Institute of Ar­chitects, is the former law chairman of the Staten Island Democratic party. Gulino shares his three-story office building on the island with LaPorte’s county headquarters, and he is the lawyer for several developers doing business with the city.

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• Harold Fallick, another Brooklyn pol out of Marcy Feigenbaum’s clubhouse, is an assistant commissioner at Ports & Terminals and processes some contracts. Throughout much of the first Koch term, the agency was notoriously tolerant of lease abuses and rent arrears at a city-­owned pier facility by operators tied to Tony Scotto, the convicted Longshore­man Union leader and Gambino crime family member. The ILA and its leaders have given the once scornful Koch $69,000 since 1978.

• Steven Spinola, the president of the increasingly powerful Public Develop­ment Corporation (PDC), was selected after getting votes of approval from both Manes and Esposito. PDC’s vice presi­dent in charge of the sale of city-owned property is Margaret Guarino, a longtime Esposito ally whose husband is active in the Jefferson Club and is a regular con­tributor to Golden and the Brooklyn par­ty. Spinola was taken to a pre-appoint­ment interview with Esposito in his Brooklyn office by Guarino. “Meade said he would put in a good word for me,” Spinola told the Voice in 1983. Two sons of Guarino’s brother-in-law, who runs fu­neral homes with Guarino’s husband, were murdered in mob hits in 1982, one while acting as a pallbearer. Federal orga­nized crime strike force sources told the Voice that Anthony Guarino, Margaret’s brother-in-law, is an associate of Tom Lombardi, a capo in the Genovese crime family.

Staten Island beep Lamberti’s land­-grab for a business partner was quietly processed through PDC. And minutes of a clandestine 1985 meeting obtained by the Voice reveal that Ramon Velez and his partners Lugovina and Batista tried to steer a piece of city property out of the agency that controlled it and into PDC, because they believed they could get Spi­nola to turn it over to them.

Responding to press accounts, Koch asked DOI this week to investigate an­other PDC-negotiated deal: Manes’s de­livery of the air rights over the municipal parking garage behind Queens Borough Hall to developer Joshua Muss. Muss, who plans to build a 28-story tower there, gave Manes a $10,000 contribution at the time, exceeding the $5000 legal limit. A related Muss company and employees gave over $21,000 since 1981 to Brook­lyn’s Golden (one contribution of $7500 was also illegal), who’s spearheading a Muss-developed hotel for downtown Brooklyn through PDC.

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• Virtually every city tax commission­er has been tied to party organizations — ­none more so than Brooklyn’s Sandy Rozales, who is related by marriage to Shir­ley Weiner, Esposito’s longtime vice chair of the county party and former Canarsie district leader. Rozales got swept up in the flurry of investigations in Brooklyn in recent years, and Koch did not re-ap­point him when his term expired in 1984. But Koch did not replace him, either, so Rozales has remained a holdover commissioner, exercising a wide latitude of judgement over tax reductions granted in the borough. Rozales was the law partner of another Weiner relative, Spencer Lader, who was convicted of stealing $600,000 in an array of scams, and then became a federal and state witness. Wei­ner herself became a target of the Lader inquiry and wound up pleading guilty to a state charge that her deputy court clerk position in Brooklyn State Supreme Court was a no show.

Ed Rappaport, the president of Gol­den’s Boro Park club and the man Howie chose to replace him in the city council when he left it almost a decade ago, has been interviewed by top city officials and is awaiting appointment to one of the two Brooklyn tax posts, probably not Rozales’s.

• Sanitation Department clubhouse appointees include Roger Fortune, a dep­uty commissioner in charge of real estate and the son of Brooklyn district leader Tom Fortune, and Ralph Uzzi, a Jeff Club official who is the sanitation depart­ment’s director of administration for the Office of Resource Recovery. The Build­ings Department long featured Deputy Commissioner Blaise Parascandola, and Chief Engineer Leonard Dwoskin, both Brooklyn regulars who recently resigned. Former Manhattan city councilman (and Koch backer) Robert Rodriguez was named to a fire department deputy commissioner post when he lost his seat but gave it up when the Alvarado scandal forced many of the ex-chancellor’s East Harlem allies to run for cover. He was succeeded at the fire department by for­mer mayoral aide Rafael Esparra, who has his own Velez and Esposito ties.

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• Jeff Club leader Marvin Markus chaired the Rent Guidelines Board for years and Board of Standards and Ap­peals vice-chair Vito Fossella is a long­time Staten Island regular with strong Friedman connections. Fossella, the brother of a recently defeated Staten Is­land councilman, put Mazzeo in place initially at Marine & Aviation but has survived this and at least one other em­barrassing DOI probe. Longtime Esposito ally Steven Aiello is now the chairman of the city’s Youth Board and ran the Edu­cation Construction Fund through much of the Koch era. Carpenters’ union boss and Koch backer Teddy Maritas was named to the PDC board where he served until he was indicted in a 1981 racketeer­ing probe. Tapes played at his trial re­vealed him boasting of his relationship with Koch, but he was murdered before he could be convicted.

• Koch is the third mayor to allow Esposito to turn the 261-acre, city-owned Brooklyn Navy Yard into an Esposito playground. Every pier and every naval vessel that docks there for repairs is in­sured by Esposito. Esposito’s firm, Serres, Visone, and Rice, is the prime broker for a minimum of $50 million worth of insurance covering the dry­docks, and shipyard building leased on a 40-year basis by his principal client, Coastal Drydock, headed by Charles Montanti. Esposito personally pressured David Lenefsky, the Koch-appointed chairman of the yard’s board, to deliver the no-bid, extraordinarily favorable lease to Montanti, who’s been the subject of two federal probes. Lenefsky told the Voice that Esposito did not disclose his insurance interest in Montanti’s contract when he called to complain about “why it was taking so long to get the negotiations finished.”

Both Coastal and the city corporation that runs the yard have been heavy pa­tronage employers as well, with Coastal carrying another Weiner in-law as per­sonnel director and a longtime Esposito district leader employed as the Lenefsky board’s secretary. Koch did not name Lenefsky to begin the clean-up of the corporation until a couple of weeks after he was re-elected in 1981 — leaving the management of the Navy Yard firmly in the hands of Esposito cronies until then. A Brooklyn Supreme Court judge, who was asked to rule on a pay claim submit­ted by the the yard’s executive director through most of the first Koch term said that conditions there, which led to sever­al indictments, made “the corruption of the Tweed Courthouse architects look amateurish.”

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One top executive at the yard during the early Koch years, Charles LoCicero (not related to John LoCicero), was an associate in the Columbo crime family; his father was a consiglieri in the same family and was machine-gunned to death. Hired ten days after he finished a six-year jail term, LoCicero got a series of rapid promotions until he held two of the five highest executive posts there. LoCi­cero was eventually indicted in 1980 on 190 counts of bribe receiving, grand lar­ceny, forgery, falsifying business records, and theft of services, but he is still a fugitive. One of his scams [“Pirates Plunder the Piers,” Voice, Dec. 20, 1983] in­volved the theft of hundreds of thou­sands of dollars in Navy Yard checks written to fictitious individuals and con­tractors that were endorsed by the hot dog vendor who parked his wagon at the yard. The vendor turned the payments over to LoCicero. The LoCicero scandal was a second or third wave at the yard (a previous executive director was convicted of conspiracy to sell $1.6 million in stolen cashiers’ checks); but nothing deterred the Koch administration from treating the port as Meade’s motherland. Even Lenefsky’s current board and adminis­tration has its Esposito players and favors.

Four More Years

For years Ed Koch has prospered by manipulating the press, baiting blacks, taking credit for things he didn’t do (like solving the fiscal crisis), and governing effectively from the point of view of the richest third of the city. But the scandal that started with a slashed wrist could change everything. It has, at least tempo­rarily, persuaded the public that its gov­ernment is in trouble. What will it mean for Koch in the end?

We put that question to one of the city’s most astute powerbrokers this week. His reply was: “No fourth term. And a very messy third term.” The PVB scandal has put things in perspective. It’s illuminated the recent past. It’s revealed a flaw in Ed Koch’s character that may become his fate. A year from now he will look at thlie government of this city and not see a lot of the present faces. He will look into a mirror and see a face that has aged, that has sagged, like Dorian Gray’s.

No fourth term is what this is all about. ❖

Research assistance by Janine Kerry Steel and Leslie Conner. 

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Manes’s Patronage and Plunder Zones

When Donald Manes announced his candidacy for governor in April 1974, he was flanked by Peter Smith, his cam­paign manager, and lawyers Sid Davi­doff and Donald Evans. Manes said he would spend $90,000 on radio and televi­sion commercials, a buy that would be paid for by loans co-signed by council­man Eugene Mastropieri and Ann Groh, the wife of deputy borough president and Sanitation Commissioner-designate Robert Groh. The candidate unveiled his campaign slogan (“Manes — He’s For Real”) and told 50 supporters at the Roosevelt Hotel, “I have looked after the needs of more people than the governors of 19 other states.”

The Manes campaign disintegrated quickly, but it signaled that the borough president was a pol in a hurry, content to do deals with the dreck of the Queens organization:

• Smith, Koch’s first Department of General Services (DGS) Commissioner, was bounced after it was revealed that he embezzled money from the law firm he worked for before joining the Koch administration. Smith, who helped orga­nize various Manes campaigns, was eventually convicted in the swindle and served time. He now runs the Partner­ship for the Homeless, a not-for-profit organization funded by Koch adminis­tration grants.

• Mastropieri was backed by Manes and the county organization until he was booted from the city council after being convicted in 1980 on federal corruption charges. Back in 1978, the Voice and the News detailed Mastropieri’s history as a  scofflaw, council truant and compromised hack. At the time, Jack Newfield wrote that Mastropieri “is a public servant seemingly imbued with the tastes of ­a drug lawyer — a Mercedes-Benz, a yacht — but without the guile necessary to support his greed.”

• Sid Davidoff is as close to Manes as any pol. Davidoff visited Manes’s hospital room the night he tried to kill himself — six hours before police were allowed in. Soon after the bedside visit, Davidoff began interviewing attorneys to represent the borough president; he eventually chose former Knapp Commission counsel Michael Armstrong. Davidoff was a special assistant to John Lindsay and later doled out patronage for Abe Beame. In 1976 Davidoff was indicted on charges of failing to pay the state taxes he withheld from employees of  a restaurant he owned. His company agreed to plead guilty to grand larceny, pay a $1000 fine and $33,000 in back taxes in exchange for criminal charges against him being dropped. Davidoff represented Warner Amex in its success­ful bid to get the lucrative Queens cable television franchise and has also served as counsel for the Jamaica Water Com­pany, which has, for years, successfully fought off city takeover attempts.

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• Robert Groh, a Manes protégé, was indicted in 1977 on charges that he ex­torted $7000 in political payoffs from a Queens businessman in exchange for a zoning variance. The money went for the purchase of tickets to Manes fundraisers in 1972 and 1973, when Groh was still an  aide to the borough president. Groh was acquitted of the extortion charges in 1979 and continues to serve as a civil court judge.

But while Manes’s discredited main backers in the short-lived 1974 gubernatorial race remained close to him for years thereafter, they are hardly the only close associates who could have given Ed Koch reason to temper his enthusiasm about the Queens boss:

• Herbert Ryan, another Manes pal, was convicted of taking a $1400 bribe from an undercover cop while serving on the Taxi and Limousine Commission. In 1982, New York magazine reported that federal law enforcement officials claimed that city officials “torpedoed a potential sting operation — called ‘Cabscam’ — that was inspired” by Ryan’s arrest. The magazine reported that federal authorities believed if they could “turn” Ryan it would be a “way to open a wide-ranging” probe of the Queens Democratic ma­chine. However, Koch and then-Depart­ment of Investigation commissioner Stanley Lupkin nixed the idea and pushed for Ryan’s prosecution. At the time of his indictment, Ryan held a $7400-a-year part-time patronage job with Queens councilman Morton Pov­man. Appointed to the commission in 1975, Ryan owed his spot to Manes and former county leader Matty Troy, an­other Queens convict. Ryan is still a member of Manes’s home club, Flush­ing’s Stevenson Regular Democratic Club.

• Richard Rubin, the county organi­zation’s lawyer, is the target of a federal probe into a kickback scheme involving court appointments and receiverships. Rubin, a longtime Manes adviser, him­self collected $20,050 in legal fees from Queens Surrogate Louis Laurino over the past 21 months. Laurino has en­riched numerous organization lawyers and pols, including State Senators Emanuel Gold ($7000) and Jeremy Weinstein ($3500) and district leaders Jay Bielat ($7450) and Charles Cipolla ($4250).

• A close friend of Rubin’s, lawyer Abbey Goldstein, landed a spot on the city Tax Commission in 1982, thanks to his organization ties. Commission mem­bers meet once a week and are paid $21,000-a-year to rule on tax exemptions and aaseeaments. Like most member of the commission, Goldstein is politically active: a former reformer, he ill now a regular in Manes’s Stevenson Club.

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• David Love is a Lindsay-Republi­can turned-Queens-clubhouse-regular. He attends most county dinners and made noise about running for Ben Ro­senthal’s seat after the congressman died in 1983. Love resigned as first deputy commissioner of the Department of Transportation in December 1981 as part of a department shakeup. At the time, Koch said he was “not happy with the bottom line on what the transporta­tion department” accomplished during his first term. Love has worked as a counsel for EDP Medical Computer Sys­tem, a collection agency which held a small contract with the PVB until it was cancelled in 1984, and still has larger contracts with the Environmental Con­trol Board (ECB) and other city agen­cies. A source familiar with the compa­ny’s contracts told the Voice that PVB officials recommended that another agency hire the company to collect out­standing fines.

• Former Taxi and Limousine Com­mission (TLC) chairman Michael Lazar traveled with Manes to the 1984 Demo­cratic National Convention in San Francisco and can often be seen at Manes’s shoulder during county political dinners. His real estate business is booming, thanks to his ability to land city and state development deals, one of which has resulted in a state investigation while others have spawned numerous lawsuits. One of the suits is aimed at “politically influential individuals” who scored big in the Times Square deal. An example of Lazar’s political sway was the 1980 purchase of the Candler Build­ing on 42nd Street. Lazar and partners paid $1.3 million for the building in 1980 and resold it for more than $14 million in 1984. The building, which houses the offices of the agency Lazar once headed, was one of only two buildings in the 13- acre project area not slated for demoli­tion. Lazar, one lawsuit claims, was “the only apparent reason for not condemn­ing the Candler Building.” Manes was an early supporter of the Times Square redevelopment project and voted for it at the Board of Estimate.

The state investigation arises from Lazar’s rental, to New York State, of office space in Jamaica’s Gertz Building. The head of the World Trade Center relocation task force, Joseph Siggia, rec­ommended that the state transfer offices from Manhattan into Lazar’s building. Siggia has now admitted receiving $23,625 in “commissions” from Lazar a few months after retiring in May 1983 from his post at the state Office of Gen­eral Services (OGS). A State Investiga­tions Committee report on Siggia and Lazar is due aoon.

• But it is the role of Manes’s former executive assistant, Daniel Koren, in the attempt to organize Grand Prix races at Flushing Meadows Park that might be the most disturbing Manes-wired, and Koch approved, city deal of recent mem­ory. As the Voice reported in May, 1983, Koren started organizing the race while he was still on the Manes payroll. Then he left to become the company’s chief executive officer. With Manes running interference, Koren’s company whipped through the city approval process, brushing past widespread editorial and community opposition. Manes was so committed to Koren’s project that he personally presided over a raucous, six-­hour borough board meeting at which he rammed the project through. In addition to Koren, two other Manes cronies — Sid Davidoff and Michael Nussbaum, the borough president’s political strategist — also had a piece of the Prix action. Only the subtle roadblocks, invisibly built by Koch subordinates who dared not open­ly oppu,e the project, slowed the race down. With Manes’s demise, the scam may also disappear. ■

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Friedman: The Bronx “Scofflaw”

Bronx county leader Stanley Fried­man’s reputation, and the attention it has brought him, are well-earned. His list of political operatives includes Ra­mon Velez, Joe Galiber, and Stanley Si­mon. Friedman is a law partner of Roy Cohn (who Ed Koch once called “the most vile person in New York”), and until John Calandra’s death last week, Friedman divvied up the borough with the ultra-conservative Republican state senator as if he were a brother Democrat.

The first of many blights on Fried­man’s record came in 1972, when the city Department of Investigations (DOI) found that Friedman — then an assistant to council leader Tom Cuite — ­sent a few parking tickets to his father Moses, an administrative assistant at the Parking Violations Bureau’s (PVB) Bronx office. DOI investigators deter­mined that Friedman’s father, instead of forwarding them to a hearing officer, marked “dismissed” on the summonses. Friedman told DOI that he did not know how his father was disposing of the tickets.

In an internal report obtained by the Voice, then-DOI Commissioner Robert Ruskin wrote that Friedman’s explana­tion “strains credulity.” Ruskin con­cluded that if Friedman’s father had not died during the investigation, the case would have “certainly been re­ferred to the district attorney’s office.”

The following year, Friedman left Cuite’s office to become Abe Beame’s Albany lobbyist, and a year later he was appointed deputy mayor for intergov­ernmental relations — Beame’s patron­age czar. During the final 10 days of the Beame administration, the city awarded a mammoth tax abatement to Donald Ttump. The $160 million abatement — ­which Friedman shepherded through the city bureaucracy and which typified his blatant self-dealing — went to Trump for the construction of the Hy­att Hotel, although the developer had not even arranged financing and did not yet have legal title to the property. Friedman had already agreed to join Cohn’s firm, Saxe, Bacon and Bolan, while he was securing the Hyatt abate­ment. Trump, as Friedman surely knew at the time, was already a Cohn client. The Hyatt package, Barron’s conclud­ed, was “the most generous package of tax abatements in state history.”

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Since becoming county leader in May 1978, Friedman, whose wife Jacqueline holds a $47,000 post in Koch’s office, has lorded over a massive political cesspool The low points have included:

• The political partnership Friedman has entered into with Ramon Velez and State Senator Joe Galiber. This pact has delivered patronage and contracts to these minority fronts, while Fried­man gets their support and the assur­ance that empowerment is an ideal left for the other boroughs. Galiber is cur­rently under indictment — for grand lar­ceny and falsifying business records — ­along with former Labor Secretary Ray­mond Donovan in connection with a scheme to defraud the Transit Author­ity of $8 million. The current charge stems from Galiber’s business dealings with mafia hoodlum William Masselli, the twice-convicted felon who was Galiber’s partner in the Jopel Contracting and Trucking Corporation. Despite the fact that, according to a DOI report, “the City of New York probably had information sufficient to disqualify Jo­pel as a subcontractor based on William Masselli’s criminal record, plus the on­going investigation against him … ” the city awarded Jopel two excavation and hauling contracts worth $1.6 million. FBI tapes caught Masselli saying that, “I don’t think that this Koch you could do business with him on this level.” However, Masselli did not rule out the possibility of cutting deals without Koch: “Maybe the people around him I say yes.”

Galiber-controlled community groups are also favorites of Friedman and Koch — one, the Mid-Bronx Council, re­ceives more than $6 million in antipov­erty funds. Despite Galiber and Velez’s sleazy records, both Friedman and Koch have refused to break with the pols.

• Friedman has delivered patronage plums to friends of borough president Stanley Simon, including Stanley Wolf’s $58,000 commissioner post on the Board of Standards and Appeals, and Robert Moll’s spots on the Tax Commission ($21,000 a year for attend­ing weekly meetings) and the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Moll and Wolf are members of Simon’s political club.

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• In 1981, Koch proposed an 8 per cent tax on the sale of taxi medallions. A group of taxi owners paid Friedman $15,000 to work his magic with the may­or and administration officials. After some lobbying, Friedman had the tax cut to 5 per cent, thus saving his clients $3 million annually. At the time, Fried­man said that people like the taxi own­ers “want to feel like they’re getting an edge. That’s what life is all about.”

• Friedman’s wired Citisource deal has prompted a city investigation into how he was awarded the contract and a federal probe into possible insider trading by Friedman of the company’s stock. Friedman reportedly owned 25 per cent of the company’s stock at one point. He then quietly dumped much of his stock last month at the midway point in the stock’s fall from $14 a share to $2 a share. Friedman also has repre­sented another PVB contract holder, Datacom, which had its contracts stripped by the city last week. A No­vember 1982 DOI report ripped Data­com’s contract performance and at­tacked PVB’s contract monitoring. On December 13, 1984, Ed Koch received contributions of $5000 from Datacom, $5000 from Citisource’s parent compa­nies and $5000 from Friedman’s Bronx county committee. Both Citisource and Datacom had lucrative contracts ap­proved months earlier.

Friedman, like Manes, has always re­alized that in return for political sup­port, Ed Koch would provide plums. In October 1983, both leaders refused to endorse Koch in the 1985 mayoral race despite pleas from the incumbent. At the same time Friedman was rejecting an early Koch endorsement, he was lob­bying city officials to approve a multi­million dollar contract for hand-held, ticket-writing computers from his new company, Citisource. Friedman ex­plained that he did not want to come out for Koch two years before the may­oral primary, because if he did, “pots of money” available in the following two years “would not go to the borough that’s already in somebody’s pocket.” ■

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Mayor Meese

The mayor of New York City is a lawyer. Indeed, in his selfless years, his knowledge of civil rights and civil liberties law made him persistently effective in those areas in Congress.

Now, after eight years of intoxicating sovereignty, Koch has jettisoned his history as an advocate for and defender of the Constitution. In publicly declaring Donald Manes guilty of having “engaged in being a crook” — and then insisting he be imprisoned — Koch has allied himself with the nation’s preeminent enemy of civil rights and civil liberties: the Attorney General of the United States. Edwin Meese, too, has proclaimed publicly that if someone, anyone, is a suspect, he or she must be guilty.

Koch says, “In the case of Donald Manes, we clearly know he was corrupt … in the court of public opinion.”

We have a Bill of Rights to prevent people from being lynched — before indictment and trial — “in the court of public opinion.”

Nothing Ed Koch has done in his time as mayor has so dismayed those who remember him as a courageous defender of the presumption of innocence than this self-­transmogrification into Joseph McCarthy.

And, in view of the Mayor’s widely publicized prejudicial pre-trial judgment of Manes, if there is a trial, where can fair-minded jurors be found? Not in the city of New York.

— Nat Hentoff

 

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From The Archives Housing NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Memories of Meade and the Mob

Bugging Mr. Big

After 15 years of investigations that fiz­zled in dead ends, federal investigators are now confident they have enough evi­dence to prosecute former Brooklyn Democratic boss Meade Esposito. Sources in the FBI and the Justice De­partment say they can prove conspiracy, stock fraud, and possibly mail fraud against the legendary 79-year-old politi­cal figure. For the past five months, the FBI has had bugs and wiretaps in Esposi­to’s offices, authorized by four federal judges. The FBI’s code name for the in­vestigation was “Runnymede.” Perhaps it will lead to a Magna Carta for Brook­lyn politics.

Esposito’s machinations around two corporate enterprises are the focus of the investigation. One company is Coastal Drydock, a ship-repair firm based at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Coastal is the big­gest client of Esposito’s insurance bro­kerage company, Serres, Visone & Rice. SVR is the sole broker for liability insur­ance for ships being repaired by Coast­al — insurance valued at about $1.8 mil­lion a year. Last month, Coastal declared bankruptcy after a long fight with the Department of the Navy over millions of dollars in disputed funds.

Federal investigators contend that Esposito improperly used his influence to try to bail out Coastal. Coastal owed SVR $613,000 in commissions at the time it went bankrupt.

A television report last week said that Bronx congressman Mario Biaggi was also being investigated for accepting a free vacation at a Florida spa in return for helping Coastal. But Biaggi has made available to the Voice an American Ex­press bill and cancelled checks that show he paid for the vacation himself.

Biaggi acknowledges interceding on Coastal’s behalf to help solve some of the company’s problems, but says he did so because of his friendship with Coastal’s president, Charles Montanti, not because of Esposito.

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Esposito is also under investigation for his dealings with LoPat, a New Jersey chemical company which was marketing an environmental cleanser that it claimed could remove asbestos and other pollut­ants. Investigators are inquiring into allegations that Esposito tried to manipulate LoPat’s stock and use his influence to obtain government contracts.

Two weeks ago, federal judges Leonard Sand and Leo Glasser signed search war­rants for FBI agents and New York City police officers to raid three of Esposito’s business offices to seize financial records. Normally, federal judges do not sign search warrants without credible evi­dence of possible crimes being presented to them first.

Perhaps of equal significance to any possible crimes, the federal probe has do­cumented Esposito’s 40-year friendship with gangster Fritzie (Carbo) Giovanelli. Giovanelli is now in jail, accused in the murder of plainclothes police detective Anthony Venditti on January 21 in Ridgewood, Queens. Venditti was the fa­ther of four daughters, including a one-­month-old baby. Esposito, who has made 60 or 70 judges in his political career, spoke with Giovanelli several times every week and socialized with him on a regular basis. Giovanelli was involved in the Lo­Pat stock deal with Esposito, and Gio­vanelli’s son worked for Esposito’s insur­ance company.

According to testimony given in court by FBI and police intelligence experts, Giovanelli is a member of the Genovese crime family and controls a gambling and loan-sharking cartel with a gross annual income of “more than $20 million.” Gio­vanelli has a record of 11 arrests and three misdemeanor convictions. He had $4700 in cash in his pockets when he was arrested for Detective Venditti’s murder.

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In April, Queens Supreme Court Jus­tice Sidney Leviss outraged the law en­forcement community by setting bail of more than $1 million each on Giovanelli and two co-defendants. Previously, Judge William Earlbaum had ordered Giovan­elli held without bail. According to the Queens DA’s office and the police depart­ment, no accused cop killer in the last 20 years had been granted bail.

Within three days, Giovanelli’s friends came up with $3.7 million to set him free. At a subsequent court hearing, evidence was presented that much of the bail mon­ey came from criminal rackets controlled by Giovanelli.

After the hearing, Judge Leviss changed his mind and revoked bail for Giovanelli and his co-defendants. Last week, FBI agents questioned Judge Le­viss about whether anyone had ap­proached him about giving Giovanelli bail. Leviss said no one had spoken to him.

Esposito’s intimate connections with organized crime have been known for more than 20 years. They are part of his myth and maybe part of his power.

For years while he was Brooklyn Dem­ocratic leader, Esposito met regularly with mob boss Paul Vario. Henry Hill, Vario’s protégé, and the federal infor­mant who is the subject of Nick Pileggi’s best-seller, Wiseguy, told the FBI that Esposito was the only person Vario in­sisted on meeting alone, often on a bench in Marine Park. Hill was in on all of Vario’s other meetings.

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The 71-year-old Vario is now in federal prison for four years as a result of Hill’s testimony. But during his career as a mob boss, Vario twice received suspiciously le­nient treatment from state judges close to Esposito. In 1967, Vario was arrested for conspiracy and bribery. The maxi­mum sentence he could have received was 15 years. But Justice Dominic Rin­aldi allowed Vario to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and let him go with a $250 fine.

In 1976 Vario was convicted by a jury of conspiracy and “rewarding official misconduct” as part of the famous “Gold Bug” investigation into a Canarsie junk­yard. Justice Milton Mollen sentenced Vario to the maximum four years in pris­on. But in February 1977, the conviction was reversed by an appellate panel that included Esposito’s friend, the late Vin­cent Damiani. Not only was Vario’s con­viction reversed, but the indictment was dismissed for “insufficient evidence.” Justice Mollen had rejected a defense motion to dismiss the case on the same grounds before it went to jury.

In the January 3, 1974, Village Voice, I wrote an article called “Meade, the Mob, and the Machine” that sketched Esposi­to’s ties to organized crime.

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Meade Esposito is a cunning and self-­centered con man. He has outwitted prosecutors and journalists for a genera­tion. He has a routine of illusions that has worked. He intimidates the well-bred with vulgarity and he plays the primitive with a heart gold for the masses. He has been a survivor.

For example, when his then friend and political ally Alex Liberman got caught extorting millions of dollars in bribes from landlords as director of leasing for the city, Esposito told everyone that he knew all along Liberman was a crook, and had “warned” mayors Beame and Koch about him. The fact is that Esposito had recommended Liberman for a high-level job in writing during the Koch transition and later sought pay increases for him. And Esposito quietly arranged for letters to be written by religous leaders asking for leniency for Liberman. At the same time, Esposito told me that Liberman “should rot in jail.”

My first exposure to Esposito the con artist came in 1972. I had written two articles accusing his friend, Brooklyn Su­preme Court Justice Dominic Rinaldi, of going easy on drug dealers and mob de­fendants, including Paul Vario. Esposito had an intermediary invite me to lunch with him at Foffe’s restaurant near the Brooklyn courthouse.

At lunch, Esposito made an emotional appeal for mercy and human sympathy. He said Rinaldi and his wife were suicidal because of my articles. He said Rinaldi’s son was in a mental hospital, and that was contributing to the grief in the Rin­aldi family. He said that if I had any decency at all, and if I didn’t want a suicide on my conscience, I ought to find another subject to write about.

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I was sufficiently troubled by Esposi­to’s pleading that I went straight to the chambers of a judge I knew and told him what Esposito had said to me. The judge, a good friend of Esposito’s, started to laugh uproariously. He then informed me that Judge Rinaldi’s son was “a little strange” but that he was not in any men­tal institution. He was, in fact, a peace officer, with a gun, in that very courthouse, courtesy of Esposito patronage, and he was furious at me, and looking for me — and I had better leave immediately, with the judge as a personal escort.

Esposito played a decisive role in Ed Koch’s winning the run-off for mayor against Mario Cuomo in 1977. Esposito threw the support of the Brooklyn club­house organization behind Koch, as part of a deal in which Koch promised to make Brooklyn hacks Anthony Ameruso and Jay Turoff city commissioners. Sub­sequently, Koch’s own screening commit­tee found Ameruso unqualified, so Koch disbanded the screening panel and appointed Ameruso anyway.

In his book Politics, Koch described the deal in more general terms: “… we made it clear that the one thing we didn’t want him [Esposito] to do was to endorse me in any public way … he agreed to pull strings very discreetly.” This meant Esposito delivered money, palm cards, and workers from the machine.

Koch went on to add that Esposito “has always been helpful to me.” Koch more than reciprocated this generosity by giving jobs to dozens of Esposito’s friends. And last week, when news of this new scandal first began to seep out Koch jumped to Esposito’s defense. Attacking the messenger, Koch told the Citizens Crime Commission: “Do you think that’s fair? Let’s assume that he is never indicted. Do you think that he will ever recover from that story?”

Esposito, the artful con man, was able to flatter Koch, and made Koch feel like a regular guy. And Koch, who prefers gazing into the mirror rather than out the window, chose not to see Esposito for what he really is — a venal intermediary between the world of judgemakers and the world of bookmakers.

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But the mayor is not the only person Esposito has fooled. Because of the six grand juries that Esposito outsmarted over the years, he has received a predom­inantly positive press.

On December 10, 1972, The New York Times Magazine ran a favorable cover profile of Esposito by Rick Hertzberg.

When Esposito retired as county leader in January 1984, the New York Post paid tribute to him in a sentimental editorial that concluded: “They don’t make politi­cians like Meade anymore, and we can’t imagine the prospect of being without his earthy wit and wisdom. Politicians, mere mortals, come and go. The Meade Espo­sitos, for whom a man’s word is his bond, go on forever.”

The same week, Roger Starr wrote a signed editorial farewell to Esposito in The New York Times. With some naive­te, Starr wrote: “Many are incredulous that Mr. Esposito was content with the rewards of power, prestige, and friend­ship, instead of wealth … this boss was not brought down by scandal.”

Starr wrote a vale­dictory to a disguise. The fact is that Esposito has a vast appetite for wealth and has accumulated four homes, a yacht, an insurance company, and a printing business. Esposito has associ­ated in a secretive way with vicious criminals, while at the same time plac­ing some men of no merit and doubtful integrity on the bench. As party boss, Esposito pro­moted the ambitions of corrupt black pol­iticians like Sam Wright and Vander Beatty, and ostra­cized independent and honest black lead­ers like Major Owens and Al Vann. Espo­sito’s insurance bond was his bond; his word was unreliable.

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When he held party office and con­trolled elected officials, Esposito did some good things. He was a complex man of occasional underdog sympathies. He backed George McGovern for the Demo­cratic nomination in 1972. He helped John Lindsay defeat Mario Procaccino for mayor in 1969. He supported the gay­-rights bill for years before it became law.

Meade Esposito is a shrewd manipula­tor who has worn many masks. Even the trademark cigar he always held in his hand was a mere prop for the role of Boss. He never lit the cigar.

Now, at 79, the bill is coming due. The FBI knows Esposito was in business with a hood who killed a cop. And they think they have enough proof to prosecute him.

Over the last few months and years, we have discovered how many of our leaders have lived secret lives, pretending to be statesmen or lovable rogues in public, while behaving like gangsters in private. After hearing Watergate tapes of Richard Nixon and John Mitchell, who among us should be surprised by what politicians do in secret? After hearing the tapes of “labor leader” Anthony Scotto taking payoffs in a men’s room to reduce work­men’s compensation claims, or seeing the Abscam videotapes of congressmen stuff­ing cash into their pockets and suitcases a few hours after quoting Jefferson and Madison, who can be shocked?

Most recently we have seen, this phe­nomenon with Donald Manes.

Meade Esposito is probably just one more leader who has lived a double life. ■

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Meade, the Mob, & the Machine

Meade Esposito, the powerful Democratic Party leader of Brooklyn, is currently under active investigation by four separate law enforcement agencies — special anti-corruption prosecutor Maurice Nadjari, the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Strike Force, the IRS, and the SEC.

The SEC probe involves fraud and manipulation of a stock called Frigitemp. Two of Esposito’s closest friends — Bernard Deutsch and Joe Marando — have already been indicted in the case and an SEC complaint mentions Esposito’s personal lawyer, George Meisner. Meisner is also a Brooklyn district leader. And Deutsch was honorary chairman or a dinner that honored Esposito on January 7, 1970.

In addition to these four active investigations. Esposito was questioned by two grand juries last year, and an earlier IRS audit was terminated under suspicious cir­cumstances. At that time, several IRS agents complained of a cover­up.

The earlier IRS audit of Esposito’s finances was so inadequate and incomplete that the late U.S. Attorney Robert Morse, and Dennis Dillon, chief of the Organized Crime Strike Force, refused to sign the final report, ac­cording to documents on file in Washington.

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The original IRS audit of Esposito’s finances was closed out late in 1972.

Esposito had several secret meetings with former Attorney General John Mitchell during the autumn of 1972. These meetings were never listed on any of Mit­chell’s official office logs, and were at first denied by Esposito. However, after Nelson Rockefeller disclosed he arranged the first of the meetings, Esposito then admit­ted he did in fact meet secretly at least twice with the Republican Attorney General. Esposito says the subject of those meetings with the now indicted Mitchell is “private.”

The meetings with Mitchell not only coincided with the IRS audit, but also with the inexplicable vote of Brooklyn congressman and Esposito protege Frank Brasco against investigating the Watergate scandal while the 1972 Presidential campaign was still in progress.

On October 3, 1972, the House Banking and Currency committee voted in executive session against giving its chairman, Wright Pat­man, subpoena power to launch a full-scale Watergate inquiry.

Brasco was the only Northern urban Democrat to vote with the Republicans successfully and block the investigation. Brasco is the politician personally closest to Esposito in the whole city. Esposito got Brasco his nomination for Congress in 1966. Esposito had a no-show $500-a-month job on Brasco’s congressional payroll during 1967 and 1968. And Brasco’s cousin, also named Frank, is Esposito’s personal chauffeur. Brasco would do anything Esposito asked him to do.

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Moreover, John Dean has told the staff of the Select Senate Watergate committee that there were several long and anxious White House meetings on how to prevent the banking committee inquiry. According to Dean, at one of those meetings, Mitchell said he could “take care of one of the Democrats from New York” on the committee. Brasco was the only New York Democrat to vote against the Watergate inquiry.

About a month after Brasco’s vote, the IRS audit of Esposito was halted over the objections of Morse and Allan.

According to a source in IRS, before the Esposito audit was terminated, three agents went secretly to U.S. Attorney Morse to say there was a cover-up in progress, and that they were not being permitted to conduct a thorough professional investigation of Esposito.

The IRS agents said they were ordered by their supervisors not to interview and investigate judges, or to explore the financial records or the Brooklyn Democratic county organization, or to analyze the books of Grand Brokerage, the in­surance agency Esposito owns with Stanley Steingut.

Sources in IRS say that the area of judicial investigation was crucial because there had been allegations that Esposito had accep­ted undeclared cash in the sale of judgeships.

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The current IRS investigation of Esposito’s finances began six weeks ago, and is expected to take at least nine months to complete. It is being conducted by a special team of agents and accountants that had nothing to do with the suspicious 1972 audit.

If Mitchell did, in fact, stop the inquiry into Esposito, it was probably not the first time the for­mer Attorney General manipulated justice. There is also considerable evidence that Mitchell improperly interfered with the ITT, Dairy Cooperative, Robert Vesco, and Robert Abplanalp investigations, and played politics with the par­dons granted Jimmy Hoffa and Mafia boss Angelo “Gyp” De Carlo.

Congressman Brasco, meanwhile, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiring to accept $27,500 in il­legal cash pay-offs from a truck leasing company owned by Mafia capo John Masiello.

One of Esposito’s 1972 grand jury appearances also involved a Mafia capo — Paul Vario.

It turns out that Esposito’s name was “all over” the famous tapes made in the bugged junkyard trailer the Mafia used in Canarsie during 1972. The junkyard tapes led to the conviction of 40 Mafia mem­bers and 21 policemen.

Esposito’s name was used frequently in the trailer by Vario, who has since been indicted six times by Brooklyn D. A. Gene Gold as a result of the trailer bug. Vario was recorded saying things like “Ask Meade a bout that,” and “Meade’s a good guy.”

Esposito’s appearance before the Brooklyn grand jury was carefully arranged so that the press never found out about it. The county leader admitted under oath that he knew Vario “very well” for more than 15 years, and that he had first met Vario (who has a record of 27 arrests and a conviction for rape) while he was “in the bail bonds business.”

Esposito, however, said he could­n’t possibly imagine why Vario would so freely drop his name in private conversations with other mobsters.

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***

Meade Esposito is by far the single most powerful Democratic county leader in the state. The Brooklyn Democratic organization has produced, and can claim loyalty and patronage from Mayor Abe Beame, City Council Majority Leader Tom Cuite, State Comptrol­ler Arthur Levitt, Assembly Minority Leader Stanley Steingut, more than 40 Supreme Court Justices, Surrogate Nathan Sobel and Borough President Sam Leone.

Esposito controls more than 1000 jobs. He’s made more than 25 Brooklyn judges, and approves the appointment of every law secretary in Brooklyn Supreme Court. Through Tom Cuite, Esposito in­fluences the committee assignments and chairmanships or the City Council. Through his close friendship with Nelson Rockefeller, Esposito was able to secure a favorable re-appor­tionment of the state legislature in 1972. Dozens of appointments to the Beame administration have to be “cleared with” Esposito. People think he can influence tax asses­sments, liquor licenses, zoning decisions, government contract and judicial decisions.

Every candidate for state-wide of­fice next year will seek Esposito’s private, if not public, support. Ted Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, and George McGovern have all publicly praised Esposito as a great party leader. The New York Times, in a nattering magazine cover story in December 1972, described Esposito as “a new breed of party leader,” and compared his power to that of Mayor Daley or Chicago.

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***

Esposito was born in Ocean Hill 64 years ago. He quit Manual Trades High School at the age of 14 to become an office boy in an in­surance company owned by old­-time Brooklyn Democratic boss James Powers.

In 1947 Esposito went into the bail bonds business with Ronnie Carr. (Carr is now a law assistant to Brooklyn Surrogate Nathan Sobel even though he is not a lawyer.)

Esposito admits that many of his bail bond clients were mobsters, in­cluding Joe Colombo, Jimmy Napoli, and Apples McIntosh.

In 1958 Esposito ran as an in­surgent for district leader in Canarsie and lost by 200 votes. In 1960, he was elected with the public endorsement of Eleanor Roosevelt and Herbert Lehman. Esposito named his home club after Thomas Jefferson. And he quickly arranged for his campaign manager — Mike Kern — to become a judge.

In 1960 Esposito suddenly became assistant vice-president of the Kings Lafayette Bank, despite no apparent experience as a banker. His friends say Esposito knew he could never become county leader while a bondsman: the bank title gave him the respec­tability needed to acquire party power.

At the time Esposito was hired by the bank as an executive, the single biggest depositor in the bank ($2 million) was the ILA, which many law enforcement agencies believe is Mafia-dominated. It is suspected that the ILA used its in­fluence to get Esposito the job.

In 1970. U. S. Attorney Robert Morgenthau said that while Esposito was vice-president of the bank, he arranged for ILA leader Anthony Scotto’s family to obtain a $250,000 unsecured loan. Morgenthau further stated, “This loan went to buy a country club in New Jersey that became a prime meeting place for members of organized crime.”

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Esposito claims he severed all his ties to the Kings Lafayette Bank in 1970. But an investigator for Special Prosecutor Nadjari told me this week: “Esposito’s relation­ship to the bank still exists. Only now it is more disguised, more cir­cumspect, and more sinister.”

Over the last year, five Mafiosi have been convicted of receiving il­legal loans from the Kings Lafayette Bank.

Esposito is also a vice-president and part owner with Stanley Steingut of Grand Brokerage, an insurance company now located at 70 Broadway. Law enforcement agencies are now trying to discover if Grand Brokerage has sold in­surance policies to politicians who became judges, or received other favors from Esposito.

Grand Brokerage, mysteriously, refuses to provide any information about its finances to Dun and Brad­street. A normal insurance com­pany would depend on a good rating from Dun and Bradstreet for customers and credit. Grand is run on politics, not merit or business acumen. Esposito has of­ten told friends: “I don’t need graft. I got premiums.”

Esposito also was quoted by Tim Lee of the New York Post as saying: “There’s no sense kidding myself — the people wouldn’t be bringing their insurance business to me if I wasn’t county leader.”

Investigators are also looking into the finances of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, Brooklyn regulars estimate that the organization raised more than $400,000 last year — $140,000 of it at one dinner at the Waldorf — and there has been no public accounting of those funds. As the result of a loophole in the state’s election law, party organizations do not have to report these receipts and expen­ditures even to the IRS, or to city and state tax authorities.

The county organization does provide expenses, a limousine, and a chauffeur for Esposito.

Also, Esposito admits that Brooklyn Supreme Court candidates are asked to contribute at least $10,000 to the party campaign fund although with multi-party endor­sement no significant campaign is conducted. Frank Vaccaro, who received a Supreme Court judgeship from Esposito last year, says his district leader was told by Esposito that a $10,000 contribution “would be an appropriate amount.”

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***

Esposito’s immense power even awes some of the men who are now diligently investigating him. This is how one federal investigator talked this week:

“I think we will eventually make a case against Esposito, but I’m afraid of what happens after that. I know he was able to protect himself all these years. He’s more than lucky. I can’t prove it, but I’m convinced that John Mitchell protected him. That’s got to be the reason the original IRS audit was covered up. I know how many friends Esposito has, from the lowest hood up to the Rockefellers.

“It worries me. After we get the evidence, then we need a prosecutor to impanel a grand jury and actually sign an indictment. Then we need an honest jury, and honest judge to try the case and give him a sentence. Then we need five appellate judges who can’t be fixed to affirm the conviction.

“I know how much the judges and appellate judges hate Nadjari, for example. I know how many judges, and appellate judges, are friends of Esposito.

“Back during the 1960s, when Joe Hoey was the U. S. Attorney and when Aaron Koota was the D. A., no politicians were ever in­vestigated in Brooklyn. The borough was wide open

“But now, after Watergate, and Agnew and the Knapp Commis­sion, things are changing. At least now we can get permission to go after an important politician, at least now we have a chance.

“But I’m still scared. We’ll work our ass off for the next six months to make a case. We’ll  work 18 hours a day. But I admit it. I’m afraid of what happens after that. This guy Meade has more power than the Pope.”

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***

The current law enforcement probes into the Brooklyn Democracy should be viewed, and understood in the larger context of the recent wave of indictments for political corruption in Brooklyn, and in the historic connection bet­ween the Brooklyn Democratic Party and organized crime.

During the last six months, cor­ruption indictments have been voted by grand juries against seven prominent Brooklyn Democratic political figures.

Brooklyn Congressman Ben Podell was indicted on charges or conspiracy, bribery, and perjury after a two-year investigation by the Department of Justice and the PRI. The 10-count indictment alleged that Congressman Podell had accepted $41,350 in bribes in exchange for using his influence to obtain a route to the Bahamas for Florida Atlantic Airlines.

Brooklyn Congressman Frank Brasco was indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to receive a $27,500 bribe for helping a Mafia truck leasing company win government contracts. This investigation was carried by Mike Shaw, chief of the Organized Crime Strike Force.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Dominic Rinaldi was indicted on three counts of perjury by Special State Prosecutor Maurice Nadjari.

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Brooklyn Civil Court Judge Ross Di Lorenzo was indicted for per­jury in a case involving organized crime.

William Steinman, a long-time Brooklyn political figure, who is administrative assistant to State Comptroller Arthur Levitt, was in­dicted for attempted bribery, con­spiracy, and grand larceny. The in­dictment alleges that Steinman tried to fix a criminal case in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

Brooklyn Assemblyman Calvin Williams was indicted for bribery by Brooklyn D. A. Eugene Gold.

Brooklyn City Marshal Irving Sable was indicted for grand lar­ceny by extortion, also by Gold’s office.

Also, Norman Levy, former president of the City Tax Commis­sion and chairman of the John V. Lindsay Association of Brooklyn, was convicted two weeks ago, of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and tampering with public records. Levy Faces a sentence of up to nine years in prison for his role in a system of fixing about 2000 parking tickets for Brooklyn politicians.

In addition, four Brooklyn judges are now under investigation by Special Prosecutor Nadjari’s of­fice.

Nadjari’s staff of 65 investigators and 24 lawyers currently has more investigations active in Brooklyn than in any other borough.

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***

Municipal corruption seems historically endemic to specific places — Chicago, Miami, New Jer­sey, and Brooklyn.

In his wonderful book. “The Great Bridge,” David McCullough describes the graft of the “Brooklyn Ring” while the Brooklyn Bridge was under con­struction after the Civil War. Millions were stolen by Boss Hugh McLaughlin, “a former waterfront gang leader”; William Kingsley, “Brooklyn’s most prosperous con­tractor”; and Henry Murphy, founder of the “Brooklyn Eagle and Kings County Democrat.”

Almost a century later, the Kefauver Committee’s televised crime hearings exposed the sophisticated connection between the Brooklyn Democratic Party and organized crime. The Third In­terim Report of the Kefauver com­mittee, released in May 1951 said:

“Mobster Joe Adonis’s influence upon the Kings County Democratic organization may go far to explain why neither he, nor a major subordinate like Anthony Anastasia, was ever subjected to prosecution or punishment …

“William O’Dwyer (D. A. of Brooklyn from 1941 to 1945) failed to take effective action against the top echelons of the gambling, nar­cotics, waterfront, murder, or bookmaking rackets. His defense of public officials who were derelict in their duties, and his failure to follow-up concrete evidence of organized crime, particularly in the case of Murder, Inc., and the waterfront, have contributed to the growth of organized crime, racketeering, and gangsterism in New York City.”

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In recent years, the publicly available cumulative evidence of the influence of organized crime on Brooklyn politics should trouble any thoughtful citizen.

Two Brooklyn Democrats have been indicted in connection with attempts to use their public trust in behalf of the Mafia — Congressman Frank Brasco, and Civil Court Judge Ross Di Lorenzo.

A careful analysis of judicial decisions in Brooklyn suggests at least a pattern of favoritism toward organized crime.

The staff of the Joint Legislative Committee on Crime has studied the disposition of 147 felony cases in Brooklyn Supreme Court involving Mafia defendants between 1960 and 1970. Sixty-three per cent of all the organized crime defen­dants won dismissals in Brooklyn. This compares with a 15 per cent dismissal rate for all other types of defendants. Only five per cent of the mobsters indicted actually went to prison. The 63 per cent dismissal rate in Brooklyn com­pares with less than 40 per cent in the four other boroughs for mob­sters.

In the last two years, one Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice — Joseph Corso — threw out indictments against five different Mafia defendants, and all five of his dismissals were later reversed on appeal by the Appellate Division.

Last year, the State Commission of Investigation twice called in Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice John Monteleone to explain, under oath, why he dismissed an indict­ment against an alleged Mafioso named Frank Cangiano. Mon­teleone’s dismissal was later unanimously reversed by a higher court.

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Judge Monteleone is now under intensive scrutiny by the staff of Special Prosecutor Nadjari. Monteleone was elevated to the State Supreme Court by Meade Esposito in 1970.

Aaron Koota was District Attor­ney of Brooklyn from 1964 to 1968, and is now a Supreme Court Justice.

In July of this year Gerald Mar­tin Zalmanowitz testified in public before Senator Henry Jackson’s Permanent Sub-committee on In­vestigations. Zalmanowitz, who grew up in Brooklyn, is a federal informer whose testimony helped convict Mafia boss Angelo De Carlo in New Jersey in 1970.

Zalmanowitz testified that two cases — one involving Joe Colom­bo — were “fixed” in the D. A.’s office while Koota was D. A. of Brooklyn. One case was fixed for $5,000 and the other with a free Buick from a dealership Colombo covertly owned.

Local 1814 of the ILA, and its president Anthony Scotto, are im­portant pillars of the Brooklyn Democracy. The union provides money, printing presses, and man­-power in every election. The ILA ‘s support was clearly the difference in John Rooney’s narrow primary victory over Allard Lowenstein in 1972.

The Justice Department, as a result of information from two informants, officially lists Anthony Scotto as a captain in the Carlo Gambino family.

Scotto seems an especially am­biguous figure. He is married to the daughter of Anthony Anastasia, and no one gets to be the leader of Local 1814 at age 26 if he is not somehow connected to wise guys. But Scotto has no criminal record and is a college graduate.

But some Mafia experts are not fully convinced of Scotto’s real role. One respected journalist, who has covered the mob for 15 years, put it this way:

“Anthony is half a wise guy. He’s wired to them, but he would never shoot anybody, or do anything violent. The waterfront is control­led by the mob. He exists in that environment. I think he wants to get out of the mob world before he gets hurt. The really bad mob guys think he’s gone legit with Lindsay. They don’t trust Scotto. Anthony just exists in some twilight zone between two worlds.”

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Scotto was first named as a Gambino captain in 1966 during testimony in executive session before Congressman John Rooney’s subcommittee. Rooney, who has been supported by Scotto’s union in every election since 1946, refused to make the FBI listing public.

But in 1969, the Senate committee of John McClellan released Scotto’s name. Scotto was listed as a Gambino captain on the basis of information provided by two infor­mants, one of whom was Joe Valachi. There is no wiretap cor­roboration.

The Brooklyn waterfront mean­while, without ambiguity, remains a center for smuggling, loan­sharking, extortion, union racketeering, pilferage, contraband cigarettes, and bookmaking.

On Monday night, December 10, Michael Cosme was in the Shorefront Democratic Club, 320 Brighton Beach Avenue. Cosme was a bookmaker and a member of the Joe Colombo family. Two men wearing ski masks walked into the clubhouse, stood Cosme against the wall, and killed him with automatic pistols. Police found $4700 in cash and sports betting slips in Cosme’s coat pocket.

The Shorefront Democratic Club has a charter from the Kings County Democratic Party, and Cosme apparently used the clubhouse as his bookmaking office.

The introduction of private immigration bills for aliens is one way politicians can do favors for organized crime. In 1972, the Immigration and Naturalization Service prepared an analysis of these private bills.

The INS study named Brooklyn Congressman Frank Brasco as one of three Representatives who in­troduced private bills for aliens “close to organized crime.”

A further analysis disclosed that Brasco introduced a dozen bills for clients of one Brooklyn lawyer — Thomas Lentini — who was convicted of immigration fraud. Lentini was also chairman of a Brasco fund-raising dinner at Vic­toria House in Brooklyn in 1967.

The Kings Lafayette Bank (17 branches and $23 million in total capital funds) seems an important institution to both the Kings County Democrats and organized crime.

Meade Esposito was an officer of the bank for 10 years, and is believed by law enforcement to still have a covert connection to the bank.

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John Lynch for years has been chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic county committee. For more than 30 years the Brooklyn Democratic organization has banked its own funds at Kings Lafayette. John Lynch is also honorary board chairman of the bank.

State Comptroller Arthur Levitt, a member of the Brooklyn organization’s Madison Club, has deposited large sums of interest-­free state deposits in the Kings Lafayette Bank. During 1973, an average balance of $1.6 million in interest-free public money was placed in the bank by Levitt, which is more than was deposited in banks of equivalent size and capital. The bank also received more than $5 million in time deposits from Levitt.

Last year, directors of the Kings Lafayette Bank purchased two tables for $2000 to the annual dinner of the Kings County Democrats.

At the same time, the bank has had significant contact with organized crime.

Over the last year, five alleged mob members and associates have been convicted of receiving false and illegal loans from Kings Lafayette: Natale Marcone, Caesar Vitale, Ilarie Pisani, Joseph De Cicco, and Barry Mancher. Five others have been indicted and are awaiting trial. A bank branch manager, Louis Mellini, was indic­ted for bribery and loan-sharking, but he later agreed to cooperate with law enforcement agencies.

In 1970, after lengthy hearings, the bi-state Waterfront Commission denied a stevedoring license to the CC Lumber Company because Anthony Scotto had used improper in­fluence to get an unsecured $250,000 loan for the company from the King’s Lafayette Bank.

Scotto’s union had $2 million in pension fund deposits in Kings Lafayette at the time. The CC Lumber Company is owned by relatives of Scotto.

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The State Court of Appeals, in upholding the Waterfront Commis­sion decision in December 1972, concluded in a majority opinion:

“There was sufficient evidence for the Waterfront Commission to find that Anthony Scotto breached his fiduciary obligation as a union officer under Section 723 of the State Labor Law.”

The Kings Lafayette Bank is cur­rently under investigation by the staff of Senator Jackson’s Per­manent Investigations Subcommit­tee as a possible money wash for securities stolen by organized crime.

An investigator for the Jackson committee told me this week: “Kings Lafayette is what you might call a family bank.”

There are at least four reasons for the disproportionate amount of political venality and cynicism in Brooklyn.

One is that Brooklyn is a one-party borough, and the organization Democrats have been uninterrupted in power since Boss McLaughlin started getting rich from the Brooklyn Bridge project in 1867.

Second is the historic roots the Mafia has in Brooklyn, especially on the docks, and in neighborhoods like Canarsie and Red Hook. Three organized crime families — Gambino, Colombo, and Gallo — are based in Brooklyn, and five more derive some income from various rackets in the borough. Joe Hynes of the Brooklyn D. A.’s office estimates that 2500 members of organized crime families now work and live in Brooklyn.

Third the dubious quality of the Brooklyn judiciary is a direct consequence of the control the political structure maintains over the courts and the Brooklyn Bar Association. Until law and justice become separated from patronage and politics, the Brooklyn judiciary will remain a fertile ground for Special Prosecutors and muckrakers.

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And last, there is so much corruption in Brooklyn because there is almost no scrutiny of that borough by the media. Brooklyn has 2.6 million residents dispersed over 80 miles. It is the fourth largest city in the nation. But since the demise of the Eagle, Brooklyn has been without a daily newspaper. The Times, the Post, and the local television news shows continue to report on Manhattan with much more curiosity than on bigger, badder Brooklyn. The Times covers Bangladesh better than it covers Brooklyn.

The future, as always, is inscrutable.

The appropriate remedies, as usual, appear obvious.

Investigation, exposure, analysis, endurance, idealism, and leader­ship will, hopefully, inspire citizen participation in the democratic process.

Meade Esposito, Stanley Steingut, John Rooney, Frank Brasco, Bert Podell, Dominic Rinaldi, Tom Culte, and James Mangano will all be up for re-election in 1974.

If the prosecutors don’t catch them, perhaps the people will. ♦

1974 Village Voice article by Jack Newfield about Democratic machine politician Meade Esposito's ties to the mob

1974 Village Voice article by Jack Newfield about Democratic machine politician Meade Esposito's ties to the mob