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.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”726967″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726468″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”397777″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”718730″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727478″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727098″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”713066″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727493″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”725566″ /]

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.” ❖

[related_posts post_id_1=”727525″ /]


Stanley Friedman: Going Away Gifts

In January 1978, Stanley Friedman moved out of City Hall, where he’d been Abe Beame’s deputy mayor and principal political operative. There were some negative news stories about the fact that one of Beame’s last official acts was to name Friedman as lifetime chairman of the city’s water commission, a seldom-show, $25,000-a-year post, with extras like a chauffeured limousine. Jack Newfield had written in The Voice as early as No­vember 1977 that Friedman had also lined up another post for himself — he would become a partner in the law firm of Saxe, Bacon and Bolan, a firm noted for a name that does not appear in its corporate title — Roy M. Cohn. The firm acts as a kind of general counsel and adviser to [Donald] Trump and represents him on certain aspects of the Commodore. As predicted, Friedman not only joined Cohn’s firm that January but moved himself into Cohn’s office in the firm’s East 68th Street townhouse. Shortly thereafter, Stanley Friedman cashed in the chips he’d accumulated as dep­uty mayor and got himself elected Bronx Democratic county leader by vote of its district leaders. Roy Cohn at last had his own in-­house party boss.

[related_posts post_id_1=”713066″ /]

But before Friedman left the city to join his new firm, he had to clean up a few loose ends for longtime Cohn client Donald Trump. In the last two weeks of the Beame administration, Stanley Friedman frenetical­ly pieced together the final, extraordinary pieces of Trump’s Commodore deal and bound the city to it in ways that new mayor Ed Koch could not undo.

Friedman’s advance work for his new firm included forcing an “escrow closing” that ended on December 21, 1977, 10 days before the end of the administration. Hadley Gold, special assistant to the corporation counsel, told me it was “the only escrow closing I’ve ever been involved in or heard of in 11 years” of handling the city’s real estate transactions. The problem was that Trump was unable to close the deal because he hadn’t lined up his private financing. He didn’t have the bank’s $10 million to buy the hotel from Penn Central or the $60 million he needed to renovate it. Financing is usually an indispensable in­gredient for the closing of a real-estate transaction, but it was clear that Trump could not get his until after December 31, by which time Beame and Friedman would have left office.

No one was sure that the Koch administra­tion would accept the project on the same terms negotiated under Beame. In addition, Trump’s option with Penn Central had been timed to end 20 days after Beame left office. (The political timing of Trump’s options is now a familiar pattern — his options on the 30th and 60th street yards also ended with Beame.) The fear was that even Trump’s al­lies at Penn Central —because of the booming hotel market — might be forced to consider higher bids. A new developer might have been willing to renovate the hotel at less ex­pense to the city and state.

So, at Stanley Friedman’s hurriedly arranged escrow closing in late December, a three-party agreement was signed — between Friedman for the city, Richard Kahan for UDC, and Trump. The UDC lease and a host of other agreements with Trump were also executed and Friedman signed them as the mayor’s designee. All of these documents were placed in escrow with UDC anomeys, awaiting the final closing, when the agree­ments would be exchanged and the purchase price paid. The city and UDC were bound to the project. Trump could walk away if he failed to complete the financing. But if Trump got his financing, the new city ad­ministration could not change one word of the deal.

Participants described Friedman’s closing as “a marathon session that went on for days.” One said “Nobody knew what was coming next.” Another negotiator, who’s handled city real-estate transactions for 20 years, said he’d never known of any other es­crow closing and that the city would general­ly not participate in any, because it meant that the city would be taking all the risks, committing itself when the private develop­ers and lenders weren’t ready to make a commitment.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727478″ /]

Friedman told me he’d never been in­volved in an escrow closing before, either for the city or as a private attorney. He claimed he’d signed the agreements “on advice of city attorneys that everything was kosher” (so “don’t try to stick this thing on me,” he said). But participants in the closing said Friedman was pushing city attorneys, forcing them to complete their review of the docu­ments. “Sure I told them to move it,” Fried­man conceded, “but I don’t know if I’d call that pressuring them … my whole thing was to get it accomplished fast.”

In addition to the escrow closing, Fried­man, acting as the mayor’s designee, signed a lucrative franchise agreement — which he’d pushed through the Board of Estimate a month earlier — for Trump on December 29, two days before he left city government. The agreement permitted Trump to build a glass­-enclosed “Garden Room” restaurant 18 feet beyond the Commodore property line and extending over the city sidewalk. As part of the last-minute negotiations, the city’s Bu­reau of Franchises agreed to increase the length of the franchise from 10 to 25 years and cut Trump’s annual payments to the city in half for the first 10-year period, to a fixed $28,000 a year. Trump brought in Sandy Lindenbaum and Louise Sunshine to help Friedman push the franchise through.

Friedman told me that he “didn’t recall” discussing the Commodore with Cohn at the time and that “he didn’t know Trump was a Cohn client until the spring of 1978” (Cohn’s representation of Trump was front-page Times and Daily News copy). Friedman did acknowledge that he “may have met Trump at Cohn parties” before he’d arranged the es­crow closing and left the city.

[related_posts post_id_1=”725566″ /]

Friedman’s other line of defense was that the escrow closing and franchise agreement had also been approved by “those fancy law­yers up at UDC,” led by Richard Kahan, then the agency’s director of economic devel­opment. In addition to executing the escrow closing for UDC, Kahan — without the ap­proval of his board — also allowed the devel­oper to switch the Garden Room franchise from a city agreement with Trump to one be­tween the city and UDC, resulting in highly favorable terms for Trump. Kahan also wrote into the lease the provisions that per­mitted Trump to use the waived sales taxes on the project’s construction materials in ways that benefined Trump. Kahan told me that this significant grant of tax funds to Trump was already in place when he joined UDC in the summer of 1976; but there is no reference to it in the draft lease submined to the agency’s board that fall.

Kahan’s actions in this period occurred at a time, after both Ravitch’s and Cohen’s departure from UDC, when the agency, in effect, had no head. Kahan was also willing to remedy that problem: He became a candi­date for president of the agency. “I kept my candidacy to myself the first five months after Cohen’s resignation in October,” Kahan told me. “Then I had many discussions.” Among his principal supporters for the Carey appointment were Sunshine and Trump, the governor’s chief fund raiser and his second largest contributor.

Carey left the position vacant for eight months and then, a month after Kahan con­cluded the final closing on the Commodore, he appointed Kahan president. The 32-year­old Kahan had joined the agency only two years earlier as an assistant director of a sin­gle unit in the agency. Kahan’s selection can­not be simplistically attributed to his service of and support by Sunshine and Trump. He is a brilliant and resourceful bureaucrat and was also backed by people like Robert Wag­ner, Jr. What this record told me was that Kahan was willing to court political insiders, like Trump and Sunshine, even at the possi­ble expense of sound public policy.

[related_posts post_id_1=”632018″ /]

Under Kahan’s authority, a few days be­fore his appointment as president, condem­nation papers were served several of the ho­tel’s commercial tenants. In one case, Trump had actually signed an agreement with the tenant to give him a new lease, almost dou­bling his rent to $180,000 after threatening to use UDC condemnation powers. Six months later Trump was demanding $100,000 more per year and $100,000 cash up front. These demands were in effect enforced by a UDC condemnation order only a week after the owners refused to pay the increases.

Friedman and Kahan wound up indirectly back together on just this case, though nei­ther appeared in court. Friedman’s partner, Roy Cohn, had represented Trump in several aspects of the case against this particular ten­ant. In the condemnation proceeding itself, Trump was not a party (UDC v. Strawberry). Nonetheless, Cohn accompanied Trump to court as an observer. Indeed, after it was revealed that the judge in the case had met Trump at a recent party in Cohn’s home, she removed herself from the case and Cohn stopped visiting the proceedings. Cohn has, however, brought a separate damages suit for Trump against the tenant and, like the con­demnation, that case is also still being litigated. ❖


Koch’s Clan: The Way We Were

NEW HAVEN — It is worth remembering what might have been. If Ed Koch had been elected governor in 1982, Stanley Friedman would not merely be the boss of the Bronx. Governor Koch would have made him head of the state Democratic Party in early 1983. Later that year the governor and his party chief would have moved to elect Donald Manes mayor. Then Manes, as the Queens boss once promised his bagman Geoff Lindenauer, “would’ve really showed” Lindy “how to make money.” In Ed Koch’s city, Stanley Friedman and Donald Manes were the twin towers of insider trading, the most powerful of the mayor’s men. The just­-completed trial record of their crimes is in a sense Ed Koch’s third book — a can­did account, at last, of his government.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726468″ /]

It is also worth remembering what was. Twenty years ago, Donald Manes and Friedman’s codefendant Michael Lazar first assumed public office. In January 1966, they were sworn in as newly elected members of the City Council. At precise­ly the same moment, an unknown club­house lawyer from the Bronx, Stanley Friedman, got his first City Hall job as associate counsel to the City Council majority leader. A few months later, Ed Koch won the Village council seat in a special election and joined the other three in City Hall. The four became gi­ants in this city on virtually the same calendar — until Manes decided to cele­brate their mutual 20th anniversary of public prominence by slashing his wrist on January 10. Lazar was by then king of the clubhouse developers, cut in even on Times Square, while Friedman and Ma­nes owned entire counties. Koch, who be­came mayor in 1977 by running against an administration then dominated by Deputy Mayor Friedman, Transportation administrator Lazar, and Borough Presi­dent Manes, wound up giving pieces of his own government to these same per­manent pols, in exchange for a recurrent position on Manes and Friedman’s Elec­tion Day palmcards. Koch would now have us believe he was naïve. He says he didn’t know who he was dealing with.

Finally, it’s worth noting what’s to come. The Times‘s Josh Barbanel recent­ly reported that the city’s former taxi chief Jay Turoff, slated for trial in Febru­ary on federal bribery charges, may soon be reindicted, adding new charges. His trial will lift the curtain on the operations of another Koch agency ceded to the clubhouse: the Taxi and Limousine Com­mission. In addition, U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani told Gabe Pressman on a Sunday talk show that Friedman’s conviction is hardly the climax of the city scandal, that there are more cases to come. Giu­liani says that he has “concrete reasons” to expect the convictions to loosen other tongues. The most likely new government witnesses are two longstanding Friedman allies who, unlike most Friedman friends, never made a supportive appearance in New Haven: Bronx party secretary Mur­ray Lewinter and former city planning commissioner Ted Teah. Bronx beep Stanley Simon has been publicly volun­teering to go into a Giuliani grand jury. The brewing Giuliani cases revolve around cable, towing, and water tunnel contracts, as well as city economic devel­opment projects.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726967″ /]

Former city transportation chief Tony Ameruso has just been indicted, and fed­eral prosecutors in Brooklyn are closing in on the borough’s former Democratic boss Meade Esposito and Bronx con­gressman Mario Biaggi. The new U.S. at­torney in Brooklyn, Andrew Maloney, is still considering the long dormant case against Staten Island beep Ralph Lam­berti. Federal and state probers are also refocusing on the Brooklyn and Queens projects of developer Joshua Muss, whose special relationship with the city’s Public Development Corporation led to his des­ignation for two prime public sites.

There may also be more direct reper­cussions of the Friedman case. Manhat­tan District Attorney Robert Morgen­thau still has his own version of a Friedman case ready for trial. In addition to Friedman and his businessman code­fendant Marvin Kaplan, the state case involves three more principals of Citi­source, the Friedman computer firm whose city contract was the centerpiece of Giuliani’s case. Two of the state defen­dants, Martin Solomon and Kaplan’s brother Albert, regularly attended the trial in New Haven. Since Morgenthau is presently probing a state Citisource deal that involved the Biaggi law firm, this federal conviction may give the D.A. new leverage to cut a deal with the Kaplans that could protect the state defendants not nailed in New Haven.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727956″ /]

While there is no indication that either Kaplan would be willing to cooperate, an­other defendant in the Friedman case, Michael Lazar, went to a lawyer close to Giuliani and tried to negotiate a deal be­fore the trial began. He may well seek to lessen his time in federal prison by reap­proaching Giuliani before Judge Whit­man Knapp sentences him in March. A close friend of Manes’s, Lazar had exten­sive dealings with PDC, the department of Housing Preservation and Develop­ment, and other city and state agencies. Lazar’s trial strategy seemed to concede conviction on the two cash bribe counts and concentrate instead on undermining the two other, more arcane racketeering charges (involving Lazar’s alleged bribe of former PVB director Lester Shafran by offering him an investment opportunity in a mid-Manhattan real estate ven­ture and Lazar’s promise of an equity interest for Lindy and Manes in a collec­tion company, Miller & Rothman, that never got off the ground).

Had Lazar been convicted only on the cash bribes, he could have tried to get the whole case thrown out on appeal by argu­ing that the cash bribes should have been a single count and were arbitrarily split into two counts (under federal racketeer­ing statutes, a defendant must be nailed on at least two racketeering acts). But his conviction on the Miller & Rothman charges, as well as the cash bribes, leaves him with little to appeal (though he is reportedly considering using high-priced appellate attorney Alan Dershowitz). In­deed, the only defendant convicted in New Haven with appealable legal issues is Marvin Kaplan, who was convicted on only two racketeering charges that argu­ably might be regarded as the same act. But Kaplan was also found guilty on per­jury and mail fraud charges.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727098″ /]

Friedman was convicted on every rack­eteering and mail fraud count. The jury apparently had little difficulty making up its mind about Friedman since only one of their notes to the judge asked a question about his case (most of the jury notes required the readback of testimony related to Shafran and Lazar). The one note about Friedman had nothing to do with the allegations involving the Citi­source stock scam, which the jury accepted without question. Clearly the jury did not believe that Friedman, whose two days of testimony constituted virtually the entire defense case, was telling the truth.

So far the Friedman appeal discussions have focused on Judge Knapp’s decision to bar the testimony of an assistant dis­trict attorney who interviewed Manes im­mediately after the first suicide attempt and would presumably have testified that Manes initially lied about trying to kill himself. Friedman attorney Tom Puccio was going to use this testimony, together with a videotape of Manes in his hospital bed admitting he lied, to suggest that Manes had deceived Lindenauer about Friedman’s role in the Citisource scam. Such are the slim pickin’s of a Friedman appeal. ❖

Research assistance: Leslie Conner and Kathy Silberger 

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.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”727478″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726468″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”713066″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727515″ /]

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?

[related_posts post_id_1=”726967″ /]

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.)

[related_posts post_id_1=”727098″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”721001″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727525″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727532″ /]

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. ❖


Snapshots of Stanley’s City

Phone Log Fixes

The following snapshots of the polit­ical life of the city — some sinister, some bizarre — are taken from the appointment diaries and phone logs of convicted former Bronx Democratic boss Stanley Friedman. The Friedman records, seized by the feds ear­ly last year and released as part of his criminal case, were maintained by Fried­man’s longtime secretary, Rose Mintzer, at Friedman’s East Side law office.

Though they cover only a portion of 1985 and a couple of weeks in January 1986, the logs unveil the machinations of a remarkable range of prominent New Yorkers — from mobsters like Tony Saler­no and Tommy Gambino to publishing giant Si Newhouse and developer king Donald Trump. The sagas of Larry Kir­wan and Carlos Galvis reveal Friedman’s onetime legendary reach into state and city government, even though neither deal was achieved. And the tales of City Councilman Bob Dryfoos and Brooklyn beep Howie Golden’s daughter Michelle are commentaries on their characters, not Friedman’s. Remarkably, there are dozens more vignettes like these left in the Friedman volumes, revealing the dai­ly activities of a quintessential power broker.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727478″ /]

Ties to Fat Tony

Fat Tony Salerno, the boss of the Gen­ovese crime family, who is now doing a century on federal racketeering charges, and Vincent “Fish” Cafora, Sa­lerno’s constant companion who is under indictment with Salerno in a still pending case, apparently visited Friedman on Oc­tober 16, 1985. Salerno had long been a client of Friedman’s senior law partner, Roy Cohn, and a Cohn aide set up the meeting with Friedman the day before, leaving this message: “Tony and Fish coming at 2 on Wednesday to see Cohn and they’d like to see you too.” The entry in Friedman’s appointment diary for 2 p.m. on Wednesday simply says “Cohn.” A notation in the logs a couple of months later lists a phone number for “Fish.” When the Voice called the number and asked for “Fish” Cafora, a man who de­clined to identify himself, said, “He isn’t here anymore.” Law enforcement sources told the Voice that the references are to Salerno and Cafora, who were apparently on a first name basis with Friedman. Reached by the Voice, Friedman refused to answer any questions about his logs.

The indictment pending against Cafora and Salerno, who was recently convicted in the commission case, contains a count against one of their alleged racketeering partners, Milton Rockman, which says that he “misrepresented and concealed” from a federal pretrial agency in the mid­west his reason for three trips to New York while out on bail pending a trial in Kansas City. The indictment says he was meeting with Salerno and other members of the Genovese family “under the guise of consulting” with an attorney, Cohn. The indictment also indicates at least one area of interest where Friedman and Sa­lerno activities overlapped — concrete.

According to the indictment, S&A Concrete and its affiliates, owned by Sa­lerno and other Genovese crime family members, controlled all concrete con­struction contracts in Manhattan exceed­ing $2 million. One of the rigged bids cited in the indictment is a $30 million contract for the just completed conven­tion center. An earlier companion case, brought by State Attorney General Rob­ert Abrams, charged that S&A and an­other concrete company close to Fried­man, Dic Underhill, rigged the convention center bid so that S&A would win it at a price 27 per cent higher than the prebid price estimates.

A Dic Underhill affiliate, S&D, was represented by Friedman and won a $7 million city contract to repair broken parking meters (that contract is now the focus of a federal probe). Two Dic Under­hill principals, Bernard Jereski and Wal­ter Goldstein, appear on Friedman phone logs and appointment diaries half a dozen times. Dic Underhill has given $12,000 to Friedman’s Bronx Democratic commit­tees in recent years, while S&A Concrete gave $1400 to a Friedman committee and Bronx beep Stanley Simon.

[related_posts post_id_1=”713118″ /]

A Cuomo Lease

State Democratic chairman Lawrence Kirwan holds no state government position, but according to Friedman log entries he was in the middle of a 1985 effort to steer a Department of Motor Vehicles office into a building owned by a big donor to the Bronx organization and borough president Stanley Simon.

On November 6, Friedman was called by party secretary Murray Lewinter and urged to call Kirwan “to speak to Motor Vehicle Com’r — would like White Plains Road for Motor Vehicle office.” Lewinter left Kirwan’s Albany telephone number for Friedman. Later that day, and again on the following day, Kirwan, who was handpicked by Governor Cuomo, left messages informing Friedman that the DMV office “will happen” on White Plains Road.

The proposed DMV site, 2078 White Plains Road, is owned by Violet Camac, who, along with her son Howard, donated $2250 to Simon’s 1985 reelection cam­paign and has given $3150 to the Bronx organization since 1982. The Camacs company, Yankee Lumber, also provided material for a rehabilitation of Democrat­ic headquarters on Williamsbridge Road. Howard Camac said that he “mentioned” to Friedman that he was interested in the state lease, but did not ask for help in securing it. Camac’s lawyer, Richard Gugliotta — whom Friedman unsuccess­fully ran for civil court judge three times — said that community opposition eventually led to DMV rejecting the White Plains Road site. “It came as a surprise to Mr. Camac that Larry Kirwan was involved,” Gugliotta said.

Friedman’s datebook shows three meetings with Camac in 1985, two of which included Kathy Zamechansky, the former head of the Bronx Overall Eco­nomic Development Corporation and a key party fundraiser. His phone logs refer to a fourth meeting in November, the day before the series of Kirwan messages re­garding the rental. The records also re­veal that Kirwan met frequently with Friedman, whose Bronx organization was one of the chief contributors to the state party (one notation refers to a $20,000 check Friedman was sending Kirwan’s state committee).

The DMV office was originally sched­uled to be located in Pelham Bay in space owned by a local businessman with no political ties. However, pressure from Si­mon, the late Republican state senator John Calandra, and Congressman Mario Biaggi forced DMV officials to withdraw the site from consideration. The White Plains Road site was the state’s next choice, but this time — despite Kirwan and Friedman’s support for the Camac lease — protests from civic and neighborhood groups led DMV officials to drop the location.

Kirwan did not return numerous Voice phone calls about the deal. DMV officials have now decided to lease space near Fordham Plaza owned by the Metropoli­tan Transit Authority.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727515″ /]

Cohn’s Demise: A Ghoulish Golden Grab

In November 1985 newspaper stories de­tailed the disbarment proceedings against Roy Cohn as well as the late attorney’s battle with what he described as liver cancer, but later was revealed to be AIDS. Since he left city government in 1978, Friedman has been affiliated with Cohn’s law firm, Saxe, Bacon, and Bolan.

As Cohn’s legal and terminal medical problems appeared in the papers, Mi­chelle Golden, the 27-year-old daughter of Brooklyn borough president Howard Golden, began calling Friedman at Saxe, Bacon, and Bolan’s headquarters, a five­-story townhouse at 39 East 68th Street. Michelle Golden, a real estate salesperson with Cushman and Wakefield, left a mes­sage on November 22 stating she was “anxious to carry” the townhouse and wanted to know what was happening with it. “She read that Roy Cohn was sick and that he had some legal problems,” Mortimer Matz, Golden’s spokesman, said. “That’s what real estate people do.”

Golden, who left seven messages about the building and met with Friedman twice, was also interested in helping the firm find new office space if it decided to leave the townhouse, Matz said, adding, “Nothing ever happened.” Golden’s sense that the townhouse may have been on the block appears accurate: property records reveal that the ownership corporation took out a third mortgage — this one for $178,000 — on the townhouse in April 1986 to apparently allow the law firm to stave off bankruptcy. The money was used by the corporation to pay off a legal judgment against Saxe, Bacon, and Bo­lan, which is described in a rider to the mortgage as being unable even to pay its rent.

[related_posts post_id_1=”725566″ /]

Donald’s Deals

One Friedman client who dominates his logs is Donald Trump. Though Trump conceded through a spokes­man that Friedman did represent him on occasion, he contended that Friedman was representing the other side of the deal he and Friedman discussed the most during this time period: Trump’s near acquisition of the air rights over the Parkeast Synagogue at 163 East 67th Street (Koch’s synagogue, and also May­or Beame’s). Friedman was in constant touch with Rabbi Arthur Schneier about the sale and arranged meetings with Trump. A date was set for the closing on this deal, but it conflicted with the major­ity leader election in the city council so it was canceled. A couple of days later the scandal exploded. Trump, who says it was Friedman who approached him and who had no specific plan for the air rights, dropped the deal.

Friedman did represent Trump in ne­gotiations with the state’s Division for Housing and Community Renewal con­cerning Trump’s attempt to empty a rent-stabilized building at 100 Central Park West that he acquired some years ago. Trump says that “Stanley suggested that he might be able to negotiate a set­tlement,” so Trump said that he should go ahead. Friedman then began an ex­traordinary series of at least a dozen calls and meetings with Manny Mirabal, the DHCR deputy commissioner who had a tenant complaint on the building before him. Mirabal is recorded as having at­tended meetings with Friedman at Fried­man’s townhouse office. After initially confirming the conversations with Fried­man, Mirabal ducked a series of follow-up Voice calls pointedly asking about the meetings. In the end, Trump settled with the tenants.

On November 27, 1985, Friedman and then Bronx city planning commissioner Ted Teah, who operated a law practice out of Friedman’s office, attended a meeting at Trump’s office that the logs recorded as involving Trump’s grandiose Lincoln West project. Trump says that the purpose of the meeting was a private presentation to Teah of Trump’s plans for the West Side, which were then before the planning commission. Friedman was clearly given the job of getting the undependable Teah to the meeting, as mes­sages like this one from Trump’s office suggest: “Ted must show on time.” Trump insists that Friedman was not there representing him, but was included because Friedman had represented Francisco Macri, the previous Lincoln West developer who had sold this prime stretch of waterfront land along the West 60s to Trump a year earlier. A spokesperson for the Macri interests said they could not recall if Friedman represented the project.

Suitably enough, Friedman is also list­ed as attending a meeting regarding the Hyatt Hotel with Trump and department store operator Michael Modell of the Mo­dell’s chain. It was Friedman, as deputy mayor, who approved, in the final days of the Beame administration, a series of tax abatements and other benefits that en­abled Trump to build the Hyatt — his first Manhattan deal. Trump contends that Friedman was representing Modell in the meeting, which concerned the store’s sub­-lease in the Hyatt. Modell told the Voice that he’d never retained Friedman but that Friedman was a close friend and that Friedman was helping him in his meeting with Trump. Trump was so friendly with Friedman that he once left a message providing his “direct line to his Aspen room,” and when Friedman’s candidate won the council majority leadership last January, congratulated him, adding, “He is so proud of you: hope the papers do right by you.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”713066″ /]

Helping Gambino’s Buddy

Thomas Gambino, the son of the late mob chief Carlo Gambino and himself a member of organized crime, called Friedman on behalf of Sal Carrera, a friend seeking a real estate broker’s license.

On October 1, Carrera called Friedman and said that “Gambino told him to call” and that he was calling about a package of papers “to go to Albany.” A subse­quent message reveals that the papers concerned a real estate broker’s license for Carrera. Four weeks later, Carrera called again and Friedman’s secretary left the following message: “Sent paperwork to Albany. From Tom. What’s the sta­tus?” Gambino called Friedman on No­vember 8, “re his friend. Also he’ll call Jackie,” Friedman’s wife. The following day, Jackie Friedman, who works in the mayor’s office, left a message reminding her husband about “1) Reservation PR 2) Gambino.” The first message refers to a trip the couple took to Puerto Rico last winter.

Thomas Gambino owns one of the gar­ment district’s largest truckers, Consoli­dated Carriers (his messages to Friedman included Consolidated’s number). While he has no criminal record, Newsday re­ported last September that Gambino was identified by a police detective in federal court testimony as a captain in the Gam­bino crime family. An FBI court affidavit contends that Gambino is a soldier. Car­rera received his broker’s license last Sep­tember through Ketrec Management on East 40th Street, where he was reached last week. Asked about Friedman and Gambino, Carrera said “That’s none of your business” and hung up. Gambino, too, hung up when the Voice called.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726967″ /]

Stanley’s City Council Mole 

Eastside city councilman Bob Dryfoos, who double-crossed the rest of the Manhattan delegation last January and cast the decisive vote that elected the Friedman/Manes-backed Peter Vallone majority leader of the council, made his first appearance on the Friedman logs on October 9. His initial message was wedged in between two from Brooklyn borough president and county leader Howard Golden, who ultimately allied himself with the Manhattan delegation in an attempt to keep the majority leader­ship in Brooklyn (it was the retirement of former leader Tom Cuite, a Brooklyn councilman, that created the vacancy).

Golden’s first message read: “wants to meet with you next week — early part — ­just you and he — when? where?” Since Golden, Friedman, and Manes met regu­larly, this message was probably an at­tempt by Golden to sound out Friedman alone about the possibility of supporting a Brooklyn candidate against the front­runner, Vallone, who as a Queens coun­cilman was Manes’s candidate. Fried­man’s control of the six Bronx votes made him a pivotal player in any contest between Queens and Brooklyn. The very next message that day was from Dryfoos: “Yes — meet — drink coffee here one hour — reorganization of City Council and thereto, before you talk to Howard.” A short while later, Golden called again: “Don’t do anything — OK — Howie Gold­en — talk to him.” Friedman’s diary lists an October 15 lunch with Golden at Friedman’s office and an October 21 meeting with Dryfoos. Neither Golden nor Dryfoos returned Voice calls.

After this initial exchange, several mes­sages suggest a growing relationship be­tween Friedman and Dryfoos. In early November, Dryfoos called while Fried­man was vacationing in Puerto Rico and was given Friedman’s number there. Next he called for Friedman’s mailing address. Then another meeting was set in early December. As the tight race headed for its early January showdown, Dryfoos, who kept attending meetings of the Man­hattan delegation and pledging his sup­port to its candidate (Brooklyn’s Sam Horowitz), became a Friedman mole. On December 27, he called while Friedman was once again vacationing in Puerto Rico, said he “heard some news you should be aware of,” and left Friedman his own vacation number at an upstate hotel. Messages from a Bronx council­-member, June Eisland, indicate that Dry­foos met with them on January 3. On January 8, Dryfoos coolly assured his fel­low Manhattan members, moments be­fore the vote, that he was with them, and then publicly announced his vote for Vallone.

The logs also suggest that Friedman was looking for some last minute insur­ance. Council President Andrew Stein, who had no vote on the matter unless the council members deadlocked, has con­firmed that he met with Friedman and others the night before the vote. Stein insists that the meeting was only to dis­cuss the parliamentary rulings he would make the next day and that he was deter­minedly neutral. But two sources deeply involved in the process told the Voice that Stein told them he preferred Val­lone, and one of them says that the meet­ing with Friedman “might have been” to lock in Stein’s vote in case of a tie. Stein told the Voice that he met with Golden too, but in fact he met only with Golden technicians. Indeed Stein met with tech­nicians from both sides the morning of the vote. Friedman was unlikely to per­sonally attend an emergency meeting with Stein the night before the vote to discuss innocuous parliamentary decisions.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726468″ /]

Si’s Slip is Showing

Roy Cohn’s aide Sue Bell called Fried­man on October 10, 1985 and asked Friedman to try to get “a boatslip for S.I. Newhouse III (known as Sam) begin­ning mid 1986” for Newhouse’s 42-foot yacht, Diver Master. Publishing heir Newhouse, whose family owns Vogue, Glamour, Vanity Fair, The Staten Island Advance, Random House, and dozens of newspapers and cable TV stations across the country, wanted the boat berthed at the city’s only active Manhattan mari­na — at East 23rd Street. Cohn and Ne­whouse’s father were lifelong friends.

A series of subsequent messages indi­cate that Friedman called a top city offi­cial who ran the city’s ferry bureau and asked for help. But the ferry bureau didn’t run the marina; the city’s Depart­ment of Ports & Terminals did. So the ferry chief called Audrey Lasher, P&T’s leasing director, who supervised the city’s sublease with Skyports Inc., the company that operated the marina under an agree­ment with the city. Lasher agreed, ac­cording to the ferry chief, to talk to Sky­ports. Despite what sources say is an “exceedingly long waiting list,” Newhouse got his slip — only one of 27 — at the mari­na. Both Lasher and the ferry chief have since left the city. P&T spokesperson Marcia Reiss said that the agency’s lease with the marina operators does not per­mit the agency “to interfere in the alloca­tion of slips” and that any action taken by Lasher would not be a matter of agen­cy business.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727525″ /]

The Kiss of Death

A 1983 Daily News story reported that the mayor had contacted the four county leaders close to him, including Friedman, to seek their recommendations before appointing a new Ports & Termi­nals commissioner. A two-to-two tie re­sulted in Koch naming Susan Frank, who had not been favored by any of the party bosses. So when Koch began the search for a replacement for Frank after his re-­election in 1985, it was widely assumed that Friedman would once again play a role. A spokesman for Deputy Mayor Alair Townsend, who was overseeing the selection of a new commissioner for the mayor, confirmed that Friedman had called Townsend on behalf of a candi­date: Carlos Galvis, a Princeton graduate who had worked in the Lindsay adminis­tration and for Congressman Les Aspin. The phone logs indicate that Friedman did not know Galvis personally, but was contacted in late December by Robin Farkas, whose family owns Alexander’s. After Farkas talked with Friedman, Gal­vis sent Friedman a résumé.

Galvis told the Voice that both Farkas and two friends of his at the Real Estate Board suggested that he contact Fried­man for help in getting the job. While he declined to say who at the Real Estate Board pointed him in Friedman’s direc­tion, he said they also suggested that he contact Donald Manes. He added that he has known Farkas since the ’60s. Fried­man gave Galvis an appointment, and Galvis went to Friedman’s law office at 11 a.m., January 10, the morning of Ma­nes’s first suicide attempt. Galvis said that Friedman’s secretary mistook him for a senator and ushered him right in, observing that otherwise he might not have been able to see Friedman, who “was having a very busy day.” Galvis saw Friedman for about 20 minutes and re­called that throughout the interview an “unruffled” Friedman was making and receiving calls. Friedman told Galvis that “he was trying to get a car to go see his best friend in Queens, who was in the hospital.” Friedman promised: “I will call on your behalf.”

In late January, when Galvis was told he had not been hired, the city scandal had already exploded and Friedman was at the center of the storm. “Even if I was the best candidate, I had become taint­ed,” he said. “After all this started I felt like crap. I felt like the guy who got nominated for supreme court justice on the day the president got impeached.” But city officials insist that Michael Huerta, who is the now the P&T com­missioner, had already been selected by the time Friedman and Galvis met. Huer­ta was reportedly offered the job on Jan­uary 6 and the city was merely conclud­ing terms with him.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727098″ /]

Mr. Fixit

Friedman’s phone was the political Ac­tion Line. Requests from friends and fellow pols came in regularly for tick­ets to Broadway plays (Cats and The Odd Couple) and the Palladium (from Stanley Simon on behalf of his daughter Suzette, and from Councilwoman June Eisland). Bronx county clerk Leo Levy called ask­ing for four hotel rooms (with dinner and a show) for New Year’s Eve at Trump’s Castle in Atlantic City. Trump’s secre­tary called wanting to know, “Are they heavies at the table?” since it was a “hardship” to give up the rooms. Fried­man eventually informed Levy that he could not swing the rooms. Levy also called on behalf of Norman Goodman, the New York county clerk, asking for four tickets to a Carnegie Hall concert. Friedman also got requests for tickets to Midnight Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral as well as local football games. Jet tickets were no problem, the logs reveal, but Friedman did not have a hook in with the Giants. He could get judges to perform weddings, though.

Lillian Delgado called in September, 1985 asking for help locating an apart­ment for $700 in Manhattan or down­town Brooklyn. Friedman put Delgado, a friend of a friend, in touch with Lew Katz, the owner of the Uncle Charlie’s chain of gay bars and a friend of Roy Cohn’s. Katz, who also helped get Fried­man’s step-daughter a job, was charged last May with stabbing to death a 37- year-old man during an argument, and is currently free on $400,000 bail. Delgado said that Katz did not find her an apart­ment. “I ended up paying a big broker’s fee,” she added.

One deal Friedman was not able to complete — through no fault of his own­ — concerned the securing of hangar space for attorney Richard Friedman’s airplane. Richard Friedman called three times in October, 1985 asking Friedman to “make the case” with officials of the Port Au­thority. Then, on December 9, the search was called off. On that day, Lewinter left the following message: “Richard Fried­man, re: plane storage. Forget it — he crashed plane & was killed.” ❖


How Ed Koch Handed Over City Hall


“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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727478″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726468″ /]

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.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”726967″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”721001″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”418247″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727493″ /]

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.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”725990″ /]

• 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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”721462″ /]

• 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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”721023″ /]

• 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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”718566″ /]

• 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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”722370″ /]

• 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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”725734″ /]

• 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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”714416″ /]

• 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.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”727098″ /]

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. 

[related_posts post_id_1=”727000″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”722698″ /]

• 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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”725621″ /]

• 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. ■

[related_posts post_id_1=”727515″ /]

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.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”713066″ /]

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.

[related_posts post_id_1=”397777″ /]

• 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.” ■

[related_posts post_id_1=”727525″ /]

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



How To Win Contracts and Influence People

Stanley Friedman and Donald Manes, the twin towers of insider trading during the Koch years, are now the twin tar­gets of the probes that have marred the mayor’s reign. The two Demo­cratic county leaders emerged as heavyweights in the political life of the city while Abe Beame was mayor — Friedman was Beame’s “Deputy Mayor for Politics,” as Ed Koch put it in Mayor, and Manes, already Queens bor­ough president, became party leader in 1975 when Beame pushed the county’s district leaders to pick him. But the two men did not rise to the highest levels of city influence until Koch, who’d campaigned against Beame’s clubhouse rule in 1977, made them his friends. These partners in public plunder discovered that all they had to do to make the mayor their chump was put him on their palm­-cards. No matter what he was running for — governor, or mayor forever.

Manes and Friedman own homes in the Hamptons that are just a few minutes apart, enabling them to plan the pillage of the city in seaside comfort. Friedman’s long-time secretary at Saxe, Bacon & Bo­lan, Rose Mintzer, is a Democratic state committeewoman from Manes’s home as­sembly district in Queens, where he is still the Democratic district leader. Dur­ing the Beame years, Manes delivered key Board of Estimate votes for patron­age contracts wired by Friedman, while Friedman steered plums for Manes’s friends through city agencies. But these workouts were just preparations for the day when they went after $22 million computer contracts and switched bagmen wound up with the best goody Manes’s PVB store had to offer. And he may have been the only Manes customer who didn’t have to pay for a prize. Now they and their closest associates are in a prose­cutorial steam bath.

Manes has watched both his state su­preme court judge, William Brennan, and his fat-farm sidekick, Geoff Lindenauer, get nailed in recent weeks. Richard Ru­bin, the law secretary of the Queens par­ty, has yet to explain why lawyers who received surrogate patronage write him checks. Developer Mike Lazar, who lived at Manes’s side and has never cut a truly private real estate deal, is suddenly as invisible as his mentor. And Manes re­sponded to the heat with two pre-emp­tive strikes on himself — savaging his own wrist and surrendering his public posts.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726468″ /]

Friedman has already lost the contract he’d won for Citisource, his phantom computer company, and is expecting a double hit from Manhattan district attor­ney Robert Morgenthau and U.S. Attor­ney Rudolph Giuliani. Friedman’s two closest aides, Paul Victor and Murray LeWinter, are sweating through a federal investigation of a printing firm they set up in Yonkers that did no printing but got a quarter of a million dollars in pay­ments from campaigns that Friedman ran for Bronx Borough President Stanley Simon and four judges. Friedman’s black right hand, State Senator Joe Galiber, has already been indicted, and his Latin strong man, Ramon Velez, is facing various probes. Ted Teah, the City Planning Commissioner who shares a Manhattan law office with Friedman, and Frank Lu­govina, the chairman of Friedman’s Democratic county committee, are busy ex­plaining what they did with $300,000 in fees paid by the do-nothing cable compa­ny that won the Bronx franchise. Teah, who managed Simon’s campaign and rarely allows the comatose beep to appear in public without him, also faces federal grand jury questions about the [ed. note: line cut off] tor and LeWinter. Indeed Simon, the knob on Friedman’s door and master of the dunce defense, may be the only major Bronx player untroubled by the current probes.

Of the two leaders, Koch was closest to Friedman, one of a select few that the mayor invited to his private inaugural ceremony just a couple of months ago. This is the story of how Friedman has finessed the Koch years, angling for deals in the nooks and crannies of city govern­ment. His influence is seen through four clients — a landlord in search of city leases, a developer hunting bonuses, and two bus company executives pursuing franchises. The relationship between Friedman and Koch began in 1978, just when Koch helped round up the district leader votes that made Friedman county leader. By 1981, they were so close that the mayor attended Friedman’s marriage to Jackie Glassman, and later made the bride his $47,000-a-year deputy director of special events. Had Ed Koch been elected governor in 1982, Friedman would likely have become the state Dem­ocratic chairman.

A city commissioner told the Voice that at a Bronx organization dinner dance a couple of years ago, Koch looked at the two dozen top city officials sitting at the front table, and opened his speech with this line: “At least I know where my commissioners are tonight.” One of the commissioners at the dinner was trans­portation czar Tony Ameruso, who was then overseeing the Manes-run PVB sub­sidiary that gave Friedman his Citisource bonanza. According to top Board of Esti­mate sources, Ameruso personally lob­bied for the contract with at least one board member, making a highly unusual visit to the board’s chambers the day of the vote. The only one of the currently mentioned probe targets from a Brooklyn clubhouse (Borough President Howard Golden’s), Ameruso retired just before recent Voice revelations that he was in the private parking business with a mob­ster and fixer judge Brennan.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727493″ /]

Nothing prior to Friedman’s current problems seemed to affect Koch’s public warmth for this unambiguous rogue. Friedman went straight from government to Saxe Bacon, the law firm run by Roy Cohn, the four-times-indicted, self-advertised tax dodger who is both the tour guide and historian of public corruption in New York. Neither Friedman’s linkup with Cohn, nor the eventual news of the dirty business their “clients” did with city agencies, seemed to damage his rela­tionship with the mayor. The conviction, and then the mob-style murder, of a city director, Rick Mazzeo, who’d delivered concessions to Saxe Bacon clients while being represented by the firm himself, also left City Hall undisturbed. And when Friedman re-created Ramon Velez, the South Bronx poverty baron who Koch had described as a poverty pimp in his 1977 campaign and defunded at the start of his first term, the mayor allowed his Human Resources Administration to pump millions into Velez’s hands and a $209,000 salary directly into his pocket.

As the $7000-a-month lobbyist for the taxi industry, Friedman blocked every mayoral attempt at reform, while making more from that single client every 30 days than the average Bronx citizen earns a year. No one even noticed that Friedman’s lobbying, which kept the number of taxi medallions at 1937 levels, was in conflict with his role as Bronx Democratic leader. He was preventing the borough’s blacks and Latins from ever breaking into the lucrative cab industry — or any Bronx resident from ever getting adequate service.

When Friedman championed Galiber, who Congressman Koch had gone to fed­eral prosecutors about in the mid-’70s, and turned the Democratic line over to Republican boss and State Senator John Calandra, who had gay-baited Koch dur­ing the 1977 mayoral election, Koch re­sponded, by endorsing Calandra himself and giving Galiber’s mob-tied trucking company dirt and dumping contracts.

[related_posts post_id_1=”713066″ /]

Friedman became the symbol of the mayor’s shifting mores. In Mayor, Koch accurately depicts Friedman as Beame’s chief patronage dispenser, yet turns an episode about Friedman’s wholesaling of youth jobs into an excuse for praising him as “one of the smartest, ablest, most loyal people I know.” In the sequel, Poli­tics, he admiringly quotes Friedman as offering to get a thousand people to a Koch dinner dance if the mayor would only “give me a thousand jobs” (Koch called this sort of quid pro quo with the public payroll “the regular glue of poli­tics”). The mayor, who preaches merit at the mere mention of affirmative action, wound up endorsing Simon last year against a capable pro-Koch minority challenger, Assemblyman Jose Serrano. The only possible explanation — especial­ly since the mayor had touted Serrano as a future mayor — was that Koch was Friedman’s captive, a mouthy shill for an amoral shell.

Even now, the mayor who shouted crook at Manes barely mentions Fried­man, who is the one actually accused of having misled the Koch administration about his personal interest in a city con­tract. Indications are that Friedman’s de­fense, should he be charged with having defrauded the city, will be that the ad­ministration was well aware of his per­sonal stake in the company. City officials are already arguing that they thought Citisource was merely one more Fried­man client using the county leader’s clout — apparently an everyday occur­rence inside Koch’s City Hall. The ad­ministration seems to accept influence-­peddling, just so long as there isn’t a capital gain.

A Voice investigation has uncovered a few choice examples of the Friedman lob­bying style at work during the Koch years. Since none of these examples involve companies actually owned by Friedman, this is a list of still approved activities.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727478″ /]


In late November 1982, 40 Worth Street, a 16-story office building a few blocks north of City Hall that has long housed several city agencies, changed hands. The new owners, Newmark & Company, wanted the city to remain in the over 500,000 square feet that the city was then renting in their musty, deterio­rating building. They also wanted to ter­minate 230,000 square feet of existing, cheap leases as much as a year and a half before they expired. Then they wanted to lock the city into new 10-year leases — at more than double the previous rent — at a time when the city was signing other downtown leases for only half that long (they also sought two-year cancellation clauses as opposed to the single year that was frequently being offered by the city). The switch to shorter downtown leases was partially prompted by Board of Estimate members Manes and Howie Golden, who vote on every city lease and who were talking about moving agencies out to the boroughs.

Newmark seemed to have little trouble getting what it wanted. By January 1983, only a month after the purchase, leases for four city agencies were up for Board of Estimate approval. But the leases hung there for nine months, laid over again and again by Manes. Joined by Council President Carol Bellamy and Comptroller Jay Goldin, Manes turned the leases for 40 Worth into a war cry for outer borough (particularly Queens) rentals. The city kept putting the leases on the calendar, but seemed to back away from them at times. On July 25, Depart­ment of General Services Commissioner Robert Litke wrote Bellamy, conceding: “We have not moved on the package of 40 Worth leases because we have not yet reached firm conclusions regarding the feasibility of relocating the affected agencies.”

It is not clear exactly when Newmark turned to Stanley Friedman for help, though it is clear that they did. One per­son who says so is the city’s former leas­ing director, Alex Liberman, who pleaded guilty in a multi-million dollar federal extortion case. Liberman, who is now do­ing 12 years in a federal pen, has recently begun talking to prosecutors and the FBI, reportedly telling them that Fried­man pressured him and others to stick with the Newmark leases despite the opposition.

[related_posts post_id_1=”722698″ /]

In the midst of the 40 Worth debate, the mayor, at Bellamy’s insistence, insti­tuted policies requiring agency heads seeking Manhattan renewals to submit written justifications. The tenant seeking the largest renewals was the Department of Transportation, whose commissioner, Ameruso, waited to complain in writing about horrendous conditions in the building until a month after the leases were approved. The next largest tenant was the Department of Environmental Protection, whose leasing director, Ed Gitkind, is close to Friedman. Signing the requisitions to remain at 40 Worth for the third largest agency, the Department of Personnel, was First Deputy Commissioner Nick LaPorte Jr., the son of the Staten Island county leader. LaPorte told the Voice he was unaware that Friedman had anything to do with the rental and that his sign-off was a routine matter; neither Gitkind nor Ameruso returned Voice calls.

Though Howard Rubinstein, the publi­cist who represents Newmark, confirmed that the company retained Friedman to lobby for the leases, primarily at the Board of Estimate, neither Bellamy nor Goldin were approached by Friedman. Both Bellamy and a Goldin spokesman told the Voice that it was “news” to them that Friedman was involved. Manes isn’t talking, of course, and his deputy, Claire Schulman, who laid the item over meet­ing after meeting, says that “as far as I can recall I never heard that Stanley Friedman had any involvement with 40 Worth.” In September, Manes’s opposi­tion suddenly evaporated. Goldin and Bellamy followed his lead, and the 11 leases were unanimously passed. The os­tensible reason for Manes’s shift was giv­en in a joint statement he and Koch is­sued on September 15, the day the 40 Worth leases passed (and two days after Liberman was arrested in the bribe scandal).

The statement announced that five city agencies would be “moving to sites in Jamaica, Queens, leasing a total of 124,000 square feet.” Manes was quoted as claiming that the “new city offices” would bring “hundreds of new employ­ees” to Queens. Strangely though, one of the agencies listed as part of the deal was already located in Queens. A second, the Environmental Control Board, had an­nounced in 1981 that they would be set­ting up small offices in all the outer bor­oughs and had already made the Brooklyn move. The other three agen­cies — including Parks, Human Re­sources, and General Services — never moved and are not now planning to relo­cate. Subterranean lobbyist Friedman, whose Bronx party position should’ve put him at the head, of the line demanding outer borough move-outs, had apparently cajoled Manes to end the longest lasting Board of Estimate resistance to Manhattan’s monopoly for nothing.

[related_posts post_id_1=”397777″ /]


Harry Macklowe is the builder whose demolition company, hurrying to tear down two 44th Street buildings in Janu­ary 1985 to beat the effective date of a new law banning the conversion of SRO hotels, forgot to turn off the gas. Both Macklowe’s vice president and his demo­lition company were indicted for the raid, as was Sol Goldman, who sold the build­ings to Macklowe, but Macklowe himself escaped with a $2 million civil penalty. A major Manhattan office and residential builder, Macklowe has long been repre­sented by Stanley Friedman. Though next to no one knew it, Friedman was a closet counsel on Macklowe’s other con­troversial project — a 462-unit, 39-story, rental tower at York between East 72nd and 73rd Streets that displaced 22 light manufacturing and other businesses.

Asked why Friedman’s representation was largely invisible, Macklowe said: “Stanley wasn’t familiar with the public process. I used him on other issues where his advice and counsel were more ger­mane, where I needed a more respected voice.” Macklowe said he uses Friedman because Friedman is “an influential man” who can “deal with the morass of red tape” and “guide us through the proper departments.” He refused to say what departments Friedman was most helpful with and declined to specify a single legal document that Friedman had ever prepared for him.

Though Friedman never surfaced pub­licly, he helped the 72nd Street project when it was initially approved in Febru­ary 1983 by the City Planning Commis­sion. Macklowe’s up-front counsel was Jesse Masyr, who’d just stepped down as Manhattan Borough President Andy Stein’s deputy to join the law firm head­ed by Donald Manes’s closest sidekick, Sid Davidoff. Masyr says that he doesn’t know what Friedman did to help push the project. According to a source close to the negotiations, Friedman was on the phone to chairman Herb Sturz, pressing for a settlement of the commission’s tough demands on the developer.

[related_posts post_id_1=”721462″ /]

In exchange for the commission’s ap­proval of the variances necessary for the Macklowe project, Sturz and his staff were requiring Macklowe to make im­provements on the esplanade between the FDR Drive and the East River from 72nd to 81st Street. Macklowe was “hag­gling about everything,” the source said, especially contesting “the extent of the esplanade improvements” and the plan­ning commission’s explicit connection of the improvements to building permits and occupancy certificates for the new tower. The negotiations between Mack­lowe and the commission staff reached “a very intense period,” lasting until 4 a.m. one February morning, when Macklowe “would periodically leave the room to take calls” from Friedman and commis­sion member Ted Teah. “Teah and Friedman would then call Sturz at home,” said the source.

Macklowe acknowledged that it was “possible” that Friedman had acted as an intermediary between him and Sturz, but said he “didn’t recall conversations with Teah,” adding that if he did talk to Teah, the conversations weren’t “anything outstanding, not anything of moment.” Sturz did not return Voice calls, and Teah denied that he’d discussed the proj­ect with Sturz. There is no denying, how­ever, that Teah voted for the Macklowe permit, even while his officemate Fried­man was lobbying for its approval.

Teah’s device for avoiding this appar­ent conflict is his emphatic contention, which he repeated in a Voice interview, that he has not been associated with Friedman’s firm for five years. But Teah’s financial disclosure statement with the city, which was filed in July 1984 and covers 1983, lists the East 68th Street penthouse where the firm is locat­ed as a source of Teah’s income (up to $100,000), describing him as an “attorney proprietor” working there. That is exactly how Friedman describes himself in the disclosure form filed by his wife. Roy Cohn, who mastered the trick of paying no taxes by earning almost no income and living on expenses, has apparently invented a law firm without partners — all the prominent names are sole propri­etors. A notice on the planning commis­sion secretary’s wall lists Teah’s contact number as care of Rose Mintzer, Fried­man’s secretary. And one commission of­ficial told the Voice that the way they reach Teah now is to call Saxe Bacon. When they ask for Teah, said the official, they are “routinely switched into Fried­man’s office.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”725566″ /]

After the project was approved in Feb­ruary, Macklowe had to return two more times to the planning commission. That October, he easily got commission ap­proval to modify the plans. But in 1985, when Macklowe sought another approval, the commission learned that the “pro­posed” modifications — ranging from floor area changes to window size — had already been completed. Sturz told the Times: “We cannot be in a position to have a developer go ahead and do some­thing in violation of a special permit.” An angry Sturz, supported by several other disturbed commissioners (but not Teah), delayed approval for months of what is technically labeled a minor modification, threatening at one point to find that the changes were major. Such a finding would’ve forced Macklowe to go through the city’s entire review process again, blocking the opening of the building.

Friedman’s previously covert represen­tation of Macklowe suddenly became open. Friedman went to a commission meeting in June 1985 to press Sturz and the staff to permit the modification. Asked why Friedman was brought in, Masyr replied: “The client felt I needed help. I think Stanley was tremendous. He was very articulate in the chairman’s of­fice. He created the atmosphere for a dis­cussion to take place. He said the obvious thing, that we did not come down to ar­gue about the violation. We came down to make amends. He had the authority to make a deal.” Friedman claimed that Macklowe had new tenants waiting in ho­tels to move in, saying they couldn’t until the certificate of occupancy was issued.

Sturz pressed Friedman for 22 more blocks of esplanade improvement, from 103rd Street to 125th Street. Friedman left the room to call Macklowe and re­turned, saying: “OK, you got it.” Mack­lowe says now that Friedman “tried to reach me,” before saddling Macklowe with the $4 million obligation, but “I wasn’t available.” Macklowe would not reply when asked if Friedman had acted beyond his authority. When the planning commission finally approved Macklowe’s modifications a couple of days later, Friedman’s friend Teah was recorded as present, and raised no objection. Neither did any other commissioner. Macklowe got his temporary occupancy certificate, allowing his tenants to move in, four days after the commission approved the modi­fication. He has since made five submis­sions to the commission containing plans for his latest esplanade improvement, some of which were so skimpy they were described by a city official as “laughable.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”418247″ /]

Macklowe stubbornly submitted the same plan three different times, but he will not get a final certificate of occupan­cy until he comes up with a proposal that meets with the commission’s approval. His esplanade delays have also held up a multi-million dollar, 10-year, 421A tax abatement for the building, which won preliminary approval from the city’s Housing Preservation and Development Agency a couple of weeks before Mack­lowe’s assault on 44th Street. (In a schiz­oid decision, HPD awarded the tax break only to the 72nd Street half of the pro­ject, where no businesses would be dis­placed. The agency obviously can’t en­courage half a project; it either gives an incentive to a developer or it doesn’t.)

Friedman’s influence on Macklowe’s behalf was apparently felt in at least one other agency, the Department of Transportation, where Friedman apparently pushed for approval of the first phase of esplanade improvements in 1983. Steve Abend, the special assistant to DOT’s general counsel Robert Shaw, told the city’s Department of Investigations in a 1984 sworn deposition that he overheard Shaw and Friedman in phone conversa­tions “about maintaining an esplanade from 71st Street to 81st Street in which Friedman represented the builder, Harry Macklowe.” Abend told the Voice that he saw Shaw, a longtime activist in Simon’s Riverdale Democratic club and a Fried­man-backed school board member in Community District 10, pressure another DOT official, Jerry Blaustein, to approve Macklowe’s esplanade work despite Blaustein’s concerns about the soundness of the seawall. When reached by the Voice, Blaustein attempted to minimize his connection with the esplanade work, asserting that he was only concerned with “a traffic circle” near Macklowe’s 72nd Street site. But agency documents reveal that Blaustein was intimately involved in every stage of the esplanade process and that he played a pivotal role in approving Macklowe’s planned improvements (DOT is officially listed as the walkway’s landlord because it abuts the FDR Drive). Through his attorney, Shaw re­fused to answer Voice questions.

Rebecca Robertson, the planning com­mission’s Manhattan director, told the Voice that Blaustein “verbally assured” her by phone that the seawall of the es­planade was sound, justifying the work on the walkway. She said Blaustein sent her test borings of the wall that were completed by an engineer selected by Macklowe. In fact, the report indicates that the test was of the subsurface of the center of the walkway. David Sobel, who heads the Department of Ports & Termi­nals permit division and examined the Macklowe esplanade work, says that no surveys were done of the seawall (Masyr concurs).

[related_posts post_id_1=”713393″ /]

A visual inspection by engineers hired by Macklowe three weeks before the final agreement was signed in February 1983 did conclude that the seawall was so damaged by tidal pressure that it “must be repaired” in various places. Macklowe passed this damage report on to Sturz, then sought and got an indemnification for liability on any damage to the seawall. “We thought the whole project was fol­ly,” Macklowe told the Voice. “We ques­tioned it then and we question it now.” The planning commission reacted to these warnings as if they were simply attempts to avoid doing the improve­ments. Since Macklowe was merely the first in what has become a series of devel­opers who will get zoning bonuses from the city in exchange for improvements from one end of the esplanade to the other, the city’s lack of interest in wheth­er it is cosmetically improving a walkway that is washing out to sea is mystifying.

Once the city and Macklowe signed the agreement, Macklowe had to give the comptroller irrevocable letters of credit totaling almost $1.5 million-the esti­mated cost of the first 10 blocks of im­provements plus 25 percent. If he failed for any re􀀤son to finish the walkway after that, Macklowe would lose his deposit plus interest. The developer who weeks earlier condemned the project had be­come its champion. That is when Abend contends that Friedman and Shaw pressed for DOT approvals. DOT offi­cials sent two letters, one in September and one in October, authorizing Ports & Thrminals to issue a work permit for the project. The pressure had apparently eroded any doubts.

[related_posts post_id_1=”718172″ /]


Ed Arrigoni, whose New York Bus Tours Inc. controls most Bronx express bus franchises and school bus contracts, may be Stanley Friedman’s most cher­ished client. Arrigoni has bankrolled such pivotal Friedman-backed campaigns as the first Simon race in 1979, when he put up $50,000 to cement Friedman’s county leadership against a strong reform chal­lenge, and Assemblyman John Dearie’s 1981 comptroller race, when Arrigoni, his wife and his companies donated $141,000 to a challenge to incumbent Jay Goldin, who was then in a blood feud with Fried­man partner Roy Cohn.

Friedman escorted Arrigoni to the VIP section of the Democratic national con­vention in 1980 and sat with him during Jimmy Carter’s acceptance speech. Arri­goni has designed several buses with rear platforms and sound systems for use in campaigns, and regularly lends them (to­gether with a driver) to Board of Esti­mate members Simon, Andrew Stein and David Dinkins — the same people who vote on his franchise renewals.

As Beame’s deputy mayor during the mid 70’s, Friedman actually signed some contracts granting franchises to Arrigoni. Since he left government, Friedman has helped Arrigoni win a host of public benefits. Henry Dachinger, the deputy director of the city’s Bureau of Fran­chises, told the Voice that Friedman has appeared at the bureau pushing fare in­creases and increased state subsidies for Arrigoni’s company and Liberty Lines, another private bus client that also has express franchises, primarily in West­chester. (Liberty’s owner Arthur Bernacchia is Friedman’s second largest political giver.) “When Friedman came in, it in­volved both companies,” said Dachinger. “Sometimes he was an attorney and sometimes he indicated he was a public servant. I can’t differentiate which times he appeared· as a public servant and which times as an attorney.”

As a critical part of the renewal pro­cess, the Department of Transportation writes the Board of Estimate and the franchise bureau supporting or opposing each bus line’s application. Dachinger says that DOT’s Ameruso, during his eight-year term as commissioner, never objected to Liberty or NYBT applica­tions, though Ameruso has regularly writ­ten to oppose others. Dachinger said that DOT “doesn’t like express buses because they create a traffic problem and can take away revenue from the MTA.” Yet Ameruso supported the authorization of a new NYBT route from City Island to Manhattan in 1979, backed a renewal of its franchises in 1983, and raised no ob­jection last year when the company was granted extensions on its midtown routes to Wall Street — a major boon for the company. Ameruso similarly backed franchise extensions for Liberty in 1983, giving it a series of route changes, includ­ing one that had been rejected by Ameru­so’s predecessor in 1976 “because it duplicated service provided directly by the subway system.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”726967″ /]

While Ameruso has not been con­cerned about the traffic problems prompted by NYBT and Liberty’s com­bined 326 express buses a day, he wrote a 1984 letter objecting to the renewal of a 12-year-old franchise for Inter-County Coach, a line that Dachinger says sends two buses a day between Brookhaven and midtown. Ameruso complained that “the buses compete for scarce street space in midtown and create pollution and con­gestion.” The franchise bureau and State DOT opposed Ameruso, and Inter-Coun­ty’s route was renewed.

Ameruso has also been involved in the federally subsidized purchases of new buses for these and other lines, starting with the 1979 acquisition of 41 buses for the two lines. While the earlier acquisi­tions were in accordance with a federal formula, the city is now preparing to use federal subsidies to buy another 106 bus­es for the two lines, doubling the initial number reserved for these express com­panies. In addition to the purchases and renewals, DOT has discretionary author­ity over just what stops are permitted along private bus routes, but after weeks of requests at DOT, the Voice was not permitted access to records about stops granted NYBT or Liberty.

Steven Abend, the former special assis­tant who testified at the Department of Investigations in 1984 about Friedman’s influence at DOT, claimed that Friedman and Arrigoni frequently called Abend’s boss, Robert Shaw, the agency’s general counsel and a Bronx clubhouse activist, about the purchases and decisions re­garding stops. Jack Lusk, the mayor’s mass transit advisor, says the agency ex­ercises no discretion in the purchase ar­rangement, but records obtained by the Voice reveal that Shaw participated in negotiations with federal authorities over the bus purchase agreement.

Lusk acknowledges that the city and state have dramatically increased the lev­el of state subsidy for the two lines, which went from zero in 1982 to over $4.2 mil­lion for 1984. A 1981 Goldin audit re­vealed that Arrigoni had juggled his books to obtain at least $32,000 in excess subsidies, and recommended that future subsidies be withheld pending a criminal investigation (no prosecution ever oc­curred). Lusk, who praised Arrigoni’s company as one of the most efficient, says these subsidy levels are a result of a formula pegged to each bus line’s profit­ability and the total mileage their buses travel. Lusk brushed off questions about Friedman’s involvement, saying he “might have attended a meeting.” Arri­goni returned our call and announced that he would not answer questions, say­ing that he doesn’t think the Voice “is an honorable newspaper.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”727098″ /]


The Newmark, Macklowe and Arrigoni sagas are snapshots of Stanley Friedman at work. A recent Newsday story recount­ed how he collected a $25,000 fee as a lobbyist for the Metropolitan Motion Pictures Theatre Owners, who used him to beat back a 1983 city sales tax on admissions. Friedman’s firm also man­aged to represent the Clean Air Cab Cor­poration, the only recipient of new cab medallions, awarded in spite of the nu­merical limit that Friedman’s other cli­ents, the large fleets, pay him to defend. And of course, there is the story broken by the Times some weeks ago of Fried­man’s role in putting together two wings of the current scandal — the towing com­panies, now under investigation by Bronx District Attorney Mario Merola, and the collection kingpins. In its way, that deal, too, has an intriguing Manes/Friedman intertwine. It turns out that the Tow Op­erators Association, and many of its indi­vidual members, have been represented by the Queens law firm of Baron & Vesel, whose senior partner, Martin Baron, is the treasurer of Manes’s campaign committee.

A source close to the PVB investiga­tions said that Friedman appeared when the negotiations stalled in 1983, “like a ghost out of the machine,” without even indicating who he was working for (it was Datacom, a PVB collection company). Friedman hosted four meetings, accord­ing to the source, most of which featured Geoff Lindenauer. The first meeting was at the Atrium Health Club, followed by meetings at Saxe Bacon and Friedman’s Bronx county headquarters, and closing with a lunch session. The result was that Friedman’s client got the contract to tow scofflaw cars, which Datacom then sublet to actual towing firms in each county. Datacom told the News that they hired Friedman in 1983 because he had “very, very good government and political experience.”

The inside track has been Stanley Friedman’s currency since he began working in the city council more than 20 years ago. He advertises it. He may have inherited it-his first scandal was a 1972 ticket-fixing charge that involved him and his father, who then worked at PVB. His street savvy has kept him atop a county that is three quarters minority; he is elected every two years by 20 district leaders who are predominantly black and Latin. Even now, while Manes hides, Friedman goes to meetings of the Demo­cratic National Committee and dines with the Inner Circle of the city’s press corps, taking the cigar, the smile, and his slight tremble with him. This week he sent out invitations to a May, $250-a­head Bronx organization fund raiser that could become an indictment party. Fried­man must sense, with the Lindenauer turn-around, that his old beach and Board friend Donald Manes may wind up on a witness stand against him. But no one who knows Friedman expects him to wilt or whine. The tragedy of Friedman is that he knows who he is and he likes himself. ■

Research assistance by Janine Kerry Steel and Leslie Conner 


Election ’79: The Cohnheads Are Restless

Led by Bronx Democratic boss Stanley Friedman and his law partner, Roy Cohn, and backed by patronage from the court of Surrogate Marie Lambert, a horde of mi­nor politicos is seeking to topple the re­formers who have dominated the Manhattan Democratic Party in the past dec­ade. These people are the leftovers of the old Tammany machine, reinvigorated by amoral young hacks like Gary Nicholson and William Todd.

Most people pay no attention to intra­party contests for district leader and judi­cial delegate any more. With Ed Koch as mayor — and for some time before — the ro­mance has left the reform movement. Re­form Democrats have become a local sym­bol of lesser evilism, elitism, and hypocri­sy. This year the Cohnheads are poised to take advantage of Democratic apathy and thus gain power and patronage for them­selves. Roy Cohn denies any personal in­volvement in Manhattan politics.

Cohnhead methods, as developed by Lambert, Nicholson and their troops, em­phasize the last-minute smear, the appeal to ethnic prejudice, and the judicious use of patronage. One longtime regular leader in Manhattan, who has little use for re­formers, told me that he’s frightened by the Cohnheads’ influence on local politics. “These people are haters. They’ll stop at nothing and they’re crazy.”

A longtime reform kingmaker, no friend of the regular quoted above, said much the same thing last fall. He called a judicial campaign engineered by Nicholson and Todd “the dirtiest thing I’ve seen in 20 year of Manhattan politics.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”725566″ /]

The idea of a countywide effort by the Cohnheads is no paranoid delusion. One day last week, several candidates — Nicholson, Todd, Charles Bayor from the East Village, Cora Shelton from East Harlem, and Scott Stringer from Washington Heights — all represented by Cohnhead at­torneys went to the Board of Elections to keep opposing candidates off the Septem­ber ballot and insure their own positions. The group sat together, consulted togeth­er, and used the same lawyers — Harry Pollak and Vincent Catalfo. Like most good Cohnheads, Catalfo and Pollak both worked overtime for Marie Lambert’s sur­rogate campaign in 1977. Both have re­ceived court patronage from her since. Readers may remember Catalfo as the attorney who admitted forging his client’s signature to legal document and a check. He was suspended from practicing law for two years — a lenient sanction. Last year Catalfo got more than $20,000 in Lam­bert’s court, most of it awarded after he went to court to avoid testifying about her campaign methods before the state Com­mission on Judicial Conduct. (The largest chunk of Lambert patronage received by Catalfo, incidentally, came from a mil­lion-dollar-plus estate, of which one ex­ecutor was Roy Cohn.) Catalfo is Nich­olson’s campaign treasurer.

After a long day with their political problems at the Board of Elections, Catalfo and Nicholson adjourned to Lam­bert’s Surrogate’s Court across from City Hall. Around 7 p.m. they accompanied Lambert herself down the courthouse steps to a car parked nearby. Engaged in serious talk with the distinguished judge­ — who has herself done quite a bit of election law — all three got into the car and Nich­olson drove it away. Of course, judges are not supposed to be involved in politics. No doubt Nicholson, Catalfo, and Lambert were discussing the weather.

Manhattan Democrats who will be vot­ing in the September election ought to know something about the backgrounds of their district leader candidates, something more than their literature is likely to dis­close. This is particularly critical with regard to the Cohnheads, since their liter­ature tends to be filled with distortions, omissions, and outright lies. So here is a brief examination of some of the Cohnhead candidates, by district.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726967″ /]

Know Your Cohnhead

The man who dreams of becoming Manhattan county leader is Gary L. Nicholson, who hails from the upstate town of Oxford. Nicholson is in a three-­way race for district leader in Chelsea. His devotion to the politics of ethnicity and religion is best demostrated by his latest ploy: Nicholson is billing himself as a Catholic; he has even begun attending mass. Those who know him well, like the pastor of the United Church of Oxford, remember Gary as a Protestant who came to church for organ practice.

But religious “conversion” may be the least of Nicholson’s offenses. He has to his credit, in a young career, two of the most offensive judicial campaigns in recent memory. In 1977, Nicholson managed Marie Lambert’s successful campaign for surrogate, a race marked by strong-arm funding solicitations from lawyers who practice in Surrogate’s Court; misleading and irrelevant ethnic campaign mailings; and a schizophrenic hypocrisy on issues of court reform. Last year, though ultimately unsuccessful, Nicholson outdid the ex­cesses of the Lambert campaign when he helped manage Helen E. Goldstein’s cam­paign for a Manhattan Civil Court nomi­nation in the Democratic primary.

Goldstein, who lives in Brooklyn, al­lowed Nicholson to put out vicious mail­ings calculated to appeal to bigotry and Jewish fear, under the phony rubric of the “Manhattan Chapter of the Zionist Com­mittee for Israel.” The mailing’s attack on reform candidate Shirley Fingerhood, for belonging to the National Lawyers Guild, was reminiscent of McCarthyism at its worst. And Nicholson’s use of a phony name and address, not only on the liter­ature itself but on Post Office documents, appears to have violated the law.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726468″ /]

Nicholson signed his own name to a bulk-rate postal form for the phony Zion­ist committee. The delegate slate which used this mailing was endorsed by another phony, “non-political” outfit, the “Com­mittee for Integrity in Judicial Selection.”

Lately Nicholson has spent a lot of time at the Board of Elections, accusing his opponents of submitting election petitions “permeated with fraud” and “forgeries.” Not so long ago, Nicholson himself was facing similar charges of fraud after he had collected petition signatures for a can­didate and it was discovered that he had voted in two places the same year. Because Nicholson had voted in his home­town of Oxford that year, a court referee found that “Gary L. Nicholson was not a duly registered voter in the 70th Assembly District at the time he witnessed signa­tures and gave his own signature on the … designating petition.” By stating that he was a duly registered voter on the petition, Nicholson left himself open to charges of fraud.

Nicholson’s source of income for his current campaign is mysterious. His most recent “employment” was a no-show job in the office of former Assembly Minority Leader Perry Duryea — a Republican pa­tronage job provided to Democrat Nicholson by Vincent Albano. Albano is a good friend of the Cohnheads, and his lawyer cronies have been suitably rewarded with patronage by Marie Lambert. Nicholson’s no-show with Duryea, for which the tax­payers lost $250 a week, ended when Duryea was replaced by James Emery as minority leader.

[related_posts post_id_1=”713066″ /]

By press time, Nicholson’s campaign committee had failed to file a financial disclosure statement with the Board of Elections; one was due more than a week ago. Last spring he held an unheard of $50-a-head fundraiser at the posh Galleria on 57th Street, but not that many people showed up.

Yet somehow Nicholson can afford the constant legal attention of Vincent Catalfo to help throw his opponents off the ballot, though Catalfo has stated in Surrogate’s Court papers that his time is worth $125 an hour. At one point, Nicholson and Catalfo even brought in a handwriting expert at a cost of $80 per hour. This expert told Nicholson’s opponents that he has worked for Roy Cohn.

Nicholson is facing two primary oppo­nents thanks to his contempt for the vot­ers: After living in Chelsea less than a year, he came to one of the local Demo­cratic clubs and demanded nomination as their candidate for leader against the incumbent reform leaders. The club refused and eventually expelled Nicholson. He of­fered them a deal: He would run for male leader, and they could nominate the female leader. They told him no.

Gary Nicholson has been challenging a subpoena from the Commission on Judi­cial Conduct for more than a year. Enormous sums of money have been spent so that he won’t have to testify under oath about apparent violations of judicial eth­ics committed in the Lambert campaign. During the litigation surrounding his re­fusal to testify, Nicholson complained that the commission inquiry might “chill” a person’s interest in politics. Unfortunate­ly, it didn’t chill his.

[related_posts post_id_1=”718172″ /]

Working most closely with Nicholson in many of these endeavors has been Wil­liam F. Todd, although Todd has always taken the back seat. Ironically, Todd is almost certain to be a Harlem district leader now because incumbent leader Matt Turner dropped out of the race under mysterious circumstances. (Nicholson’s race is anything but settled, and he is considered likely to lose.)

Todd began as a volunteer in the Lam­bert campaign, handing out literature. The Cohnheads promoted him to a paid position in the Goldstein campaign a year later, giving him the title of campaign manager although Nicholson was really running the show. At $150 a week, wasn’t paid much, either. He had another source of income, though: He was on home relief.

Todd’s welfare status was discovered last October, when he was about to go on the payroll of Manhattan borough president Andrew Stein — another Cohnhead friend — as a “business development spe­cialist” at $14,000 a year. When Stein learned that the able-bodied Todd had been getting welfare checks since 1976, he withdrew the job offer. At the time of Todd’s firing, his file at the St. Nicholas Welfare Center was still active. It no long­er is.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727478″ /]

Running for district leader on the Lower East Side is Mitchell Mund, brother of Gary and son of Walter. The Munds were among the most active workers in the Lambert campaign; they contributed money, and Walter and Gary received legal patronage from Lambert. Walter Mund prepared a lengthy opinion on the question of soliciting campaign funds. Eventually, Gary Mund also received a $17,000-a-year job in the Surrogate’s Court from Lambert. According to the petitions filed by Mitchell, his brother Gary collected more than 100 signatures on June 19 — a Tuesday when he was supposedly working in the court. Under ques­tioning by an opposing attorney, he couldn’t remember whether he had gone to work that day.

The Cohnheads’ man in Washington Heights is Scott Stringer, the offspring of former councilmember Arlene and former Beame counsel Ronald. His mother’s los­ing primary campaign in 1977 was closely allied with the Lambert effort, and his own campaign for a state committee post in 1978 was enmeshed with the Goldstein campaign. In fact, Scott’s campaign re­ceived a $2000 fee from Goldstein for its work on her behalf, and the Stringer peo­ple helped mail out the “Zionist Commit­tee” smear piece against Shirley Finger­hood.

Cohnhead allies running in the next district below Stringer, south of 181st Street on the West Side, Hansi Pollak and Harry Fotopoulos. Pollak and her son were diligent campaign workers for and contributors to Lambert, and the son received Lambert’s patronage. Fotopoulos is a wealthy insurance broker who has pre­viously run for office as a Republican-Con­servative. He only recently became a Democrat.

[related_posts post_id_1=”725990″ /]

Apparently affiliated with the Cohnheads in the East Village are Charles Bayor and Theresa Bussichio. Bayor and Bussichio are trying to oust the incum­bents Phil Wachtel and Katherine Wolpe. Bayor is a longtime friend of and contributor to Lambert. He and his wife, Rita, who once lived in the same building as Lambert, worked hard for her victory. On the night before the primary last fall, Nicholson took care of the printing for a last-minute smear of Carter Burden which was handed out by members of Bayor’s club, the East Village Community Demo­crats.

Bayor is also a member of Community School Board One, where he has run true to Cohnhead form, using ethnic tensions to bolster himself. As usual, this has only hurt the community: a large federal grant for bilingual education was rejected by the board, although a huge number of Board 1’s kids speak Spanish. 

This isn’t a complete picture of the district leadership races in Manhattan — to give that would take much more space than is available, and would probably bore anyone but the most fanatical politico.

The reason for writing about these races is not that they have net importance, nor that the reformers are a wonderful group deserving of eager support. It’s that the Cohnheads are dangerous, lacking any political ideology or morality other than desire for influence and patronage. They out-reform the reformers, making un­founded accusations of corruption; they out-regular the regulars, telling old-line district leaders they have the backing of Carmine DeSapio, the mob-linked leader of Tammany Hall. Rarely, if ever, do they raise an issue, and when they do it’s likely to be spurious. Unless they’re defeated, this borough’s politics are about to become sleazier. We can’t afford that. Politics in New York are sleazy enough. 

[related_posts post_id_1=”727098″ /]

Heeling the Wards 

District Leaders are small fry, but they matter. From among themselves they elect the county leader. They also select mem­bers of the party’s judicial screening panels, which in turn examine and select candidates for the bench. They represent the Democratic party in each neighbor­hood, which can be very significant in trying to solve a community problem, in sanitation, housing police or fire protec­tion. In a Democratic city where neighbor­hoods have terrible problems, a good dis­trict leader may make the difference. A bad one doesn’t, because he or she is too busy making deals to climb higher. A bad district leader spends more time getting judges appointed than worrying about dir­ty streets or decaying parks. Sometimes, as Wayne Barrett revealed about Stanley Friedman’s Bronx leaders (Voice, August 13), the worst ones don’t even live in New York City, let alone the neighborhood. That’s an indication of what can be ex­pected from the Cohnheads.

One good district leader is Kathy Freed, now seeking re-election in the Low­er Manhattan area. She has been aggressive in pursuing her constituents’ complaints about poor services, rapacious loftlords, and lack of parks and other amenities, even while she tried unsuc­cessfully to win last year’s primary race for the Assembly. Freed has been more de­voted to her constituents than to the party line, an attitude which hasn’t been politi­cally rewarding for her. She’s more in­terested in issues than in patronage. 

Of course, that’s not the only kind of decent district leader in Manhattan. The more traditional type is represented by Jim McManus, who has led the Eugene E. McManus Democratic Club in Hell’s Kitchen (named for his father) since 1963. McManus sees the main task of the leader as “delivering the vote for the party’s candidates.” In his neighborhood, that means “getting down to the nitty gritty: a personal favor here, a personal favor there.” But nobody doubts McManus’s concern for the people who live in his neighborhood. And the difference between a “personal favor” and a “neighborhood problem” is sometimes slight.

Judicial delegates run on slates, usually in tandem with a candidate for district leader. After they’re elected, the delegates from Manhattan join with those from the Bronx to nominate candidates for Su­preme Court in New York’s First Judicial Department, which includes both coun­ties. Last year, Stanley Friedman’s Cohnhead allies in Manhattan ran on ju­dicial slates all over the borough, hoping to give Friedman and Cohn control of the judicial convention. They were badly defeated, and the reformers retained control of the Supreme Court nominations. Right now, it seems unlikely that the Cohnheads will do much better this year. But they’re making gains. ■ 


Stanley Friedman’s Banana Republic

The Bronx as One Man’s Land

They are businessmen who demand that others call them “political leaders.” To them la Colonia of El Bronx is a busi­ness and allegiance to the business is more important than loyalty to any par­ty. They are mostly Democrats but they do business with Republicans. A few of them are Republicans but do business with Democrats. They are lawyers; they own pieces of construction firms; they control cable television companies; they are consultants. These are the business­men who control the colony of the Bronx.

The jefe of the colonialists, the man who makes most of the decisions affect­ing the Bronx from his Manhattan pent­house office, is Stanley Friedman, Demo­cratic county leader. He makes these decisions, which affect thousands of Lat­ins and Blacks, while making big profits for his own business ventures. This is possible because of Friedman’s control and influence over the Democratic Coun­ty Committee, the office of borough pres­ident, local planning boards, and “eco­nomic development” community agen­cies. He exploits them all.

Friedman’s friends and fellow colonial­ists include his famous law partner, right-­wing Republican Roy Cohn. His other associates, some of whom have been de­scribed by Norman Adler, political action director of District Council 37, as “the dobermans in Animal Farm,” include Paul Victor, law chairman for the Bronx Democratic County Committee, and two members of the Democratic County Committee of the Bronx, Murray Lewin­ter and Stanley Schlein.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726967″ /]

Along with these individuals there are State Senator John Calandra represent­ing the Republican Party, and last and perhaps least, the Bronx borough presi­dent, Stanley Simon. Excluding Calan­dra, these white males control the Bronx Democratic County Committee — its funds, appointments, nominations, and all its activities — despite the fact that the Bronx is over 70 per cent Black and Latino.

Unlike his predecessor Patrick Cun­ningham, who refused to understand that to maintain his power he had to “adjust” to changing times, Friedman does include some minority representation in his group. Friedman has found some natives who are most willing to support him in return for relatively small rewards.

Crazy Joe Gallo, famous underworld figure, who was known for his attempts to include Blacks and Latinos in “la Fami­lia,” understood that to keep his opera­tion strong in poor communitites, he had to change his strategy to fit new realities. Friedman has recognized the same changes in the Bronx and that they called for a similar strategy in his organization. He found individuals like South Bronx boss Ramon Velez and State Senator Jo­seph Galiber to legitimize his power in the Black and Latino communities of the Bronx. Velez and Galiber basically act as overseers to make sure that Blacks and Latins who challenge the power relation­ships in the “banana republic” do not obtain any power. For Friedman’s purposes, Velez and Galiber serve to create the illusion that power is shared in the Bronx.

[related_posts post_id_1=”718606″ /]

Recently, Friedman has also supported minority candidates such as Larry Sea­brook, who defeated incumbent Vincent Marchiselli this fall in the 82nd Assembly District. This kind of support is only giv­en, however, when the incumbent is anti­-Friedman and anti-machine, as Marchi­selli has always been, and when the challenger indicates a willingness and commitment to work with “County” and cooperate with Friedman.

As in a colony, the Bronx’s leadership positions are all held by outsiders (who are also white males), including the office of Democratic county leader, the borough presidency, the office of the district attorney, the Surrogate, and the majority of seats on the Democratic County Exec­utive Committee. El Jefe keeps it this way by running a well-organized, tight-knit group, exercising control over the office of borough president, controlling judgeships and maintaining an intimate relationship with Mayor Koch, who has provided the Democratic county leader with numerous city jobs. Through the use of patronage Friedman has developed a loyal group of followers and hundreds of others who are hoping to get something from the Democratic boss.

Friedman’s control over the office of Bronx borough president began with his early contributions to the first borough presidency campaign of Stanley Simon in 1979. Friedman, his law partners, and some of his clients made substantial loans to Bronx borough president Simon during this campaign. A 1979 Voice arti­cle detailed these loans and showed how Simon’s campaign was almost completely dependent for its initial financing on the Friedman/Cohn law firm, Saxe, Bacon and Bolan. In return, Friedman has been rewarded with patronage on the staff of the borough president, in the planning boards, and in agencies like the Bronx Development Corporation.

Friedman has used this patronage to find jobs for district leaders and other “community activists” who are key play­ers in minority communities. It is be­cause of this patronage that Friedman has been able to guarantee that the dis­trict leaders who elect the county leader continue to choose him. Although 11 out of 20 of the district leaders are minor­ities, Friedman was just recently reelect­ed by 19 of the 20.

[related_posts post_id_1=”718172″ /]

Friedman has also exercised his influ­ence in the borough president’s office to gather friendly votes at the Board of Es­timate. Friedman was influential in pro­viding support for Koch in 1981 and has been able to sway most minority politi­cians in the Bronx to his side. This, in turn, has helped Friedman get favorable votes for his “projects” on the Board of Estimate.

Referring to this control Friedman has over Simon, former Bronx borough presi­dent Herman Badillo stated, “Bronx bor­ough president Stanley Simon has al­lowed his office to be used, controlled, and dominated by the county leader. Si­mon has turned his powers over to Fried­man.” When asked to respond to this accusation and other charges in the arti­cle, Bronx borough president Simon as well as Democratic county leader Fried­man refused to comment.

Israel Ruiz, state senator and district leader in the South Bronx and often the sole dissenting voice in county meetings, has described Friedman as “a county leader who uses his position solely to fur­ther his business interests. Friedman forces anyone doing business in the Bronx, whether it be building highways, housing construction or developing mar­kets, to do business with his law firm or one of his ‘favored’ law firms.”

Describing the loyal support that mi­nority district leaders have lavished on Friedman, Norman Adler stated, “Stan­ley Friedman is like a corpse being car­ried around by vampires. He is like a dead man who is being propped up.”

Saxe, Bacon and Bolan’s Bronx clients include: the New York Bus Express Ser­vice Company, that allows the white mid­dle class of the Bronx to avoid mingling with the poorer nonwhite residents of the South Bronx; the New York Yankees; and the Metropolitan Taxi Board. Ac­cording to State Senator Ruiz, the firm recently acquired as a client the architec­tural design company of Daniel Mann, Johnson and Mendenhall, a group con­tracted to do a feasibility study for the new Bronx prison.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726468″ /]

Ruiz has documented a whole history of shady dealings involving Mann, John­son and Mendenhall. According to this documentation, the firm was convicted and fined by a Massachusetts state court for paying bribes for contracts. The firm has also had construction and design problems in Baltimore, New Orleans, and Niagara. Despite this track record the State Office of General Services awarded this firm a design contract for the pro­posed Metro North Prison.

Talking Turkey, a new progressive newspaper in the city, recently revealed that Friedman is the largest stockholder in a company which was awarded the contract to produce and maintain a new system called Summons Issuance Device of New York, hand-held computers to be used by parking enforcement agents to find out if a ticketed car belongs to a scofflaw. This contract, unanimously granted by the Board of Estimate to a brand new company with no significant resources, netted Stanley Friedman, as largest stockholder, a capital gain of $1.3 million dollars. Among those companies rejected by the Board of Estimate were Motorola Corporation and a subsidiary of McDonnell Douglass Corporation.

In the most recent edition of Talking Turkey Friedman denies that his compa­ny received any special treatment from the Board of Estimate.

Friedman’s law firm itself is an excel­lent example of how colonialistas of the major political parties unite around prof­it. Saxe, Bacon and Bolan includes, in addition to Roy Cohn, Tom Bolan, a leading force in the Conservative Party. Both Cohn and Bolan have done legal work for the Catholic Archdiocese and have ties to conservative Archbishop John J. O’Connor. This same type of col­lusion between Democrats and Republi­cans is reflected in la colonia’s politics.

[related_posts post_id_1=”725566″ /]

South Bronx powerbroker Ramon Ve­lez supported Ronald Reagan in his re­election bid. Not only did Velez’s com­munity programs like Bronx Venture receive federal money before this en­dorsement, but so did an economic devel­opment agency called Bronx Develop­ment Corporation, an organization directly controlled by Bronx boss Stanley Friedman and Borough President Stan­ley Simon.

Last month State Senator Galiber, a strong Friedman ally who at all times makes himself available to help divide Blacks and Latinos and reelect whites, was indicted with Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan, a Reagan appointee. Joseph Galiber, until last week the ranking mi­nority member of the State Senate’s Eth­ics Committee, was indicted for grand larceny in the second degree and falsify­ing business records in the first degree. He has also been linked to William Mas­selli, a well-known mobster; they were co-­owners of JoPel Contracting and Truck­ing, a firm which frequently did business with Donovan’s company, Schiavone Construction Company.

Politicians like Congressman Robert Garcia who cooperate with Friedman and local Bronx Republicans are often given the Republican line while leading conser­vative Republicans like John Calandra go unchallenged by Friedman’s County Committee. Calandra remains unchal­lenged by the Bronx Democrats although Democratic members in the state senate have identified him as one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the state senate. It was Calandra who helped give Koch the GOP line in the 1981 mayoralty race, and who is already lobbying for the Republicans to give Koch the line in 1985. In return for his support, Calandra, the leading Republican in the Bronx, wins such rewards as the $1 million he received in the April 1984 supplementary budget for programs in his area. While Calandra obtained his million, in com­parison, areas like the South Bronx got crumbs.

Stanley Simon, Roy Cohn, John Calandra, Ramon Velez, Freddy Ferrer, Rafel Castaneira Colon, Joseph Galiber, Stanley Schlein

The Bronx colonialistas not only do business with “opposing” political par­ties, but have provided legal representa­tion to underworld figures who feed from the same field.

Friedman’s law partner, Roy Cohn, has represented reputed mobsters like Vin­cent DiNapoli, one of the most powerful builders in the Bronx. DiNapoli was con­victed in 1982 for extortion and labor racketeering. Before sentencing DiNapoli received letters of support both from As­semblyman Jose Rivera and from State Senator Calandra, who described DiNa­poli as “an individual who has always responded to community needs.”

Friedman’s ally State Senator Joseph Galiber not only was joint owner of Jo­Pel Trucking with underworld figure William Masselli, who is now serving sev­en years in prison on federal hijacking charges, but has also politically support­ed Louis Moscatiello, widely reputed to be the “son” of Vincent DiNapoli. It was DiNapoli who began Plasterers Local 530, the union of which Moscatiello be­came president.

[related_posts post_id_1=”725990″ /]

Moscatiello, whose mob ties have been detailed in previous Voice articles, is now on the payroll of State Senator John Ca­landra. It was Moscatiello who inspired the recent civil court judge candidacy of Richard Gugliotta, the candidate Stanley Friedman tried to ram down the throats of Bronx voters. Gugliotta’s background includes once having been a serious scoff­law, a tax dodger, and a man whose clos­est allies have been people like Louis Moscatiello.

Friedman pulled out all the stops to try to get Gugliotta elected. Although Gugli­otta lost the primary, Friedman attempt­ed to get him placed on the ballot through the nomination of the Democrat­ic County Committee. Most of the dis­trict leaders went along with Friedman, and if Vincent Marchiselli hadn’t filed a successsful lawsuit, Gugliotta would have been on the Democratic line.

Other members of the Democratic County Executive Committee have done business with reputed mobsters. In 1982 the Voice revealed that Paul Victor, law chairman of the Bronx Democratic Coun­ty Committee and parliamentarian of the Executive Committee, represented Sonny Guippone on major narcotics selling charges. Guippone was known to federal authorities as a drug dealer responsible for moving millions of dollars of heroin throughout the Bronx, especially the South Bronx. He was convicted for nar­cotics trafficking and sentenced to 30 years.

[related_posts post_id_1=”713066″ /]

Friedman and his friends have been very successful in creating a total monop­oly of political power in the Bronx. Un­like Brooklyn and Manhattan where there are real battles between regulars, reformers, and Black and Brown political movements, the Bronx, even now, has no organized antimachine group. Reformers in the Bronx are few, unorganized, and in recent years most willing to make deals with Boss Friedman.

The big loser is the Bronx Democratic Party. “Since Friedman and his cohorts are only interested in doing business, we have a weak party with little connection to the concerns and problems of the Bronx,” explained State Senator Ruiz in  a recent interview.

The Democratic Party in the Bronx is not concerned with registering new voters who could create a challenge to the status quo. As long as there are few voters and low voter turnouts, the candidates the Bronx Party supports — who offer the voters so little — can continue to be re-­elected, thus perpetuating the power held by Friedman and his associates.

Generally, politicians who have been opponents of the machine, like Al Vann, Major Owens, Basil Patterson, and Her­man Badillo, have tended to be more pro­gressive and more responsive to their communities.

Politicians like Joseph Galiber, Rafael Castaneira Colon, Hector Diaz, or Enoch Williams, all sponsored by the machine, have tended to be weaklings with very little interest in empowering their com­munities. It is therefore very important how a minority politician comes to pow­er — whether through the efforts of orga­nized community people or simply as the machine’s choice.

[related_posts post_id_1=”721462″ /]

The one-party rule in El Bronx will be doing business as usual in the 1985 elec­tion for Bronx borough president and for City Council. In return for the machine supporting Latino incumbents, it is ex­pected that councilmen Rafael Casta­neira Colon and Freddy Ferrer, along with Ramon Velez and Joseph Galiber, will support the reelection of Stanley Si­mon for borough president and Ed Koch for mayor. The 1985 election in the Bronx may in fact be a referendum on one-party rule in the Bronx.

Most recently in the Bronx there have been some independent stirrings in the Black and Latino community. Surely the campaign of Jesse Jackson, pitted against the machine and Latino politicians who supported Mondale, began to produce the elements needed for an emergency rescue mission.

The 1985 opposition to Friedman will come from the activists of the Jackson campaign, from the reformers who were successful in electing Alexander Delle Cese to civil court judge and from unex­pected sources like Assemblyman Jose Serrano, who recently broke away from Koch, Friedman, and Simon, and an­nounced his support for Herman Badillo along with his own candidacy for Bronx borough president.

Signs of what is coming were seen in this past election year; independent forces began opposing the incumbents who are loyal to Friedman. In the North Bronx, young Black activist David Brush initiated a campaign to capture the 82nd Assembly District. Although knocked off the ballot (with a little help from Fried­man) he certainly intends to run again. In this same area, Black activist Alice Tor­riente will be running against Friedman ally Councilman Jerry Crispino.

[related_posts post_id_1=”718566″ /]

In the Fordham Road/Kingsbridge area of the Bronx, a number of progres­sive Blacks and Latinos supported the candidacy of Reuben Franco against As­semblyman George Friedman. Although Franco was defeated with room to spare, these Blacks and Latinos are now devel­oping their own independent political club. It is expected that this club will identify a serious challenger to run against Councilman Freddie Ferrer.

In the South Bronx, Soundview, and Parchester areas of the Bronx, a group of Black and Latino community organizers have developed the Bronx Rainbow Club. This group is emphasizing the importance of Black and Latino unity in de­feating Friedman’s machine and is plan­ning to run progressive candidates this year. It appears that Roberto Marrero, longtime tenant activist, will be their candidate against Councilman Rafael Castaneira-Colon.

There are many other independent ef­forts now being planned in the Bronx. Some of these emerging movements are guided by new progressive ideas while others simply seek to replace Friedman or one of his friends in order to seize power and use it in the Friedman/South Bronx tradition.

It is important to note that Black and Latino independents, reformers, and pro­gressives have yet to develop a long-range strategy for the seizure of power in the Bronx. Too many have been co-opted by the immediate crumbs. Both short and long-range strategies are needed. As long as these kinds of plans are neglected, Friedman’s power will indeed be secure.

[related_posts post_id_1=”397777″ /]

Herman Badillo has suggested that the prime strategy of all reformers, indepen­dents and progressives in 1985 should be to replace Bronx borough president Stan­ley Simon. “We cannot have a borough president who allows his position, his staff, and his vote on the Board of Esti­mate to be used by party powerbrokers that are only interested in enriching their legal practices,” says Badillo. Simon re­fused to comment.

“We must get rid of Stanley Simon,” said Badillo, “and instead elect a borough president who will be independent.” Oth­ers have agreed with Badillo that if Friedman loses control of the office of Bronx borough president he will lose con­trol of significant patronage, of the vote at the Board of Estimate, and access to information for business dealings.

If Serrano can unite with a Black/ Puerto Rican/Labor/Liberal citywide ef­fort to support Herman Badillo, and then link up with serious challengers like Tor­riente and Marrero, the Friedman ma­chine may indeed face its first serious challenge.

Friedman’s colonial machine is clearly prepared for such challenges. If a Puerto Rican runs for Bronx borough president the machine will find a Black like Joe Galiber, in hopes that he will divide the vote. If a Black runs, South Bronx caudi­llo Ramon Velez will certainly help them find a Puerto Rican to divide the vote. They will use all the power they have with the Board of Elections to make sure that any challenger is knocked off the ballot. They will call in Paul Victor, Stanley Schlein, and Murray Lewinter to represent incumbents and to pose legal challenges to the independent candi­dates. Friedman appoints the commis­sioner on the Board of Elections from the Bronx, so you can expect the board will cooperate with the machine.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727098″ /]

If a reformer is able to survive the chal­lenges from the Friedman forces, he or she will then face an election day in which all the poll watchers and personnel at the polling sites are part of the Fried­man machine. Irregularities will flourish. In a very recent race for district leader where a young Puerto Rican named Jose Rivera (unrelated to the assemblyman) ran against the incumbent in the 78th A.D., numerous illegal practices were cited in a lawsuit challenging the results.

Attorneys for Rivera, provided by State Senator Israel Ruiz, found that many inspectors were not members of ei­ther party, in clear violation of the law; in many of the election districts there were no inspectors at all; Republicans were al­lowed to vote in a Democratic primary, and unregistered voters were allowed to vote.

The Friedman colonialistas will do ev­erything and anything to remain in pow­er. They are businessmen first, second, and always, but they prefer to be called “political leaders.” Every day they obtain new Bronx clients and begin new con­struction companies, housing manage­ment corporations, consultant groups, and other types of enterprises. They do business with Republicans, reputed mob­sters, and “cooperative” Blacks and La­tinos. They successfully run a one-party state, ready to take on those who seek the independence of the Bronx.

But natives are beginning to stir. One small group after another is forming and the word is being spread: “Stanley Simon must go, and then, Stanley Friedman.” As the independent movement begins to develop, as they begin to unite, as re­formers begin to realize they must work with independent Blacks and Latinos, Stanley Friedman will go the way of all colonialistas, and independencia will soon arrive in the Bronx … ■


The Mayor Who Didn’t Want To Know

The Mayor Who Didn’t Want To Know — And the Whistleblowers Who Tried To Alert Him 

Perhaps the fairest way to judge the competence, integ­rity, and character of a government is how it responds when credible information about misconduct is brought to its attention. Any adminis­tration can suffer a scandal, because the susceptibility to temptation has been part of human na­ture since the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Any of us can be fooled or betrayed by a subordinate. Even Rudy Giuliani had to prosecute one of his own assistants who had become corrupt.

The fundamental question about the Koch administration is no longer why the mayor gave power to so many crooks, but exactly what happened years ago when whistleblowers, law enforcement investiga­tors, and private citizens first tried to warn him of questionable contracts and commissioners who smelled of graft. Nothing reveals the heart of the Koch administration better than its treatment of these prophetic individuals who discov­ered clues to criminal or unethical prac­tices, spoke out, and were punished or crushed for their idealism and honesty.

Over the past month I have interviewed a dozen people, including a former high city official who was fired while investigat­ing former transportation commissioner Anthony Ameruso; a city contract manag­er who was demoted for trying to audit a suspicious boondoggle; a woman harassed out of the taxi industry after she went on TV to call for an investigation of the Taxi and Limousine Commission chairman Jay Turoff; a cable TV businessman who went bankrupt after refusing to pay a bribe to Donald Manes; and three former prosecu­tors who were prevented from setting up a sting operation to catch Manes in 1982.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726468″ /]

These people provided new evidence of just how serious and broad an effort was made between 1982 and 1985 to warn Mayor Koch of corruption within his ad­ministration. Together, they paint a pic­ture of a mayor and an administration willfully indifferent to vital informa­tion — almost Reaganesque in not want­ing to know.

(These are not the witnesses discov­ered by the Martin Commission, who vol­unteered significant leads in 1982 about corruption in the Parking Violations Bu­reau — and were ignored. Those highly credible whistleblowers included a police officer and James Rose, the PVB comptroller.)

Gordon Haesloop, the former city dep­uty investigations commissioner, was ordered to stop a productive investigation into transportation commissioner Am­eruso in early 1985 and then was fired a few weeks later. Department of Environ­mental Protection whistleblower Edward Nicastro, a contract manager, suffered a demotion, harassment, was almost fired, and then was reassigned to the equivalent of a gulag — a garage in Queens — by a Friedman crony after seeking permission to audit a Friedman client.

To understand more fully the political, bureaucratic, psychological, and moral context of these five stories of rejected early warnings, it is useful to first summarize some recent history. It is helpful to recall all the signals and messages that the highly popular mayor was sending at the time to his commissioners, to the political culture, to the opinion makers, and to those seeking city contracts.

• To become mayor in 1977, Koch reached an accommodation with Brook­lyn Democratic Party leader Meade Esposito. In his second book, Politics, Koch explained that part of his deal was that Esposito, whom Koch knew to be a friend of racketeers, must keep his per­sonal backing a secret. Koch wrote: “We made it clear that one thing we didn’t want him [Esposito] to do was endorse me in any public way … he agreed to pull strings very discreetly … I must say he has always been very helpful to me.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”726967″ /]

In return for this covert institutional and financial backing, Koch gave Espo­sito hundreds of jobs for clubhouse hacks exempt from civil service merit exams. He also gave Esposito at least two com­missioners: Jay Turoff and Anthony Ameruso. The Ameruso appointment was the very first message Koch sent to all of us, even before he was sworn in. Esposito wanted Ameruso, his personal protege, who had been the mediocre highways commissioner in the Beame administra­tion, to be promoted to transportation commissioner by Koch. When an independent screening panel of transit ex­perts, including Sally Goodgold, Joel Harnett, and Theodore Kheel, recom­mended six other people and found Ameruso unqualified, Koch immediately dissolved and denounced the screening panel and named Ameruso, saying, “I be­lieve he will prove that my judgement is right.” (Ameruso is now under indict­ment for perjury by Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau.)

• In 1985, the mayor’s own Depart­ment of Investigations released a report that concluded that Staten Island bor­ough president Ralph Lamberti had vio­lated the conflict-of-interest provisions of the City Charter, and had committed five misdemeanors. The next day Koch held a press conference, endorsed Lamberti for reelection, and called him an “honest man” and “a partner.”

• Koch gave Donald Manes and Stan­ley Friedman control over hundreds of patronage jobs and let them convert low-­visibility city agencies into clubhouse fiefdoms. As a favor to Manes, Koch ap­pointed Geoffrey Lindenauer deputy commissioner of the Parking Violations Bureau in July 1980, despite Linden­auer’s lack of qualifications and sordid past as a phony sex therapist. Koch al­lowed Manes to control the bidding pro­cess for cable television in Queens — an abdication that created backroom deals and an opportunity for extortion.

• Koch gave Friedman the Citisource contract for hand-held computers that was worth $2 million to Friedman. He appointed Friedman’s law partner, Ted Teah, to the City Planning Commission; he named Friedman crony Paul Victor to the Conciliation and Appeals Board; he authorized $15 million in city contracts to groups under the control of poverty blimp Ramon Velez; and he named Fred Carfora deputy commissioner of the De­partment of Environmental Protection, in which position Carfora demoted and then tried to fire whistleblower Edward Nicastro.

[related_posts post_id_1=”397777″ /]

Koch hired Friedman’s wife, Jackie, for a City Hall job exempt from civil service requirements and invited Friedman to be one of a dozen guests at his private swearing-in on’New Year’s Eve of 1985 — a signal of intimacy that city contractors surely noticed.

When publisher/gadfly Jim Smith questioned Koch at the City Club in Oc­tober 1984 about the legalities of Fried­man’s assetless company getting the prof­itable no-bid hand-held computer contract, Koch insulted Smith, defended Friedman, and said: “How dare you say those terrible things about him … It’s so easy to libel people.”

Ambition drove Koch to make a deal with a steep price. The political structure kept its bargain. It gave Koch a working majority on the Board of Estimate and loyalty on election day. And Koch gave the clubhouse system patronage and con­tracts. Koch got what he wanted: power, a stage, celebrity. And the rulers of the system got what they wanted: wealth and power.

For eight years, almost everyone was satisfied — the buyer, the seller, the pub­lic, the media. Just by doing their jobs, the whistleblowers were a threat to this sordid compact against the public interest.

[related_posts post_id_1=”721001″ /]

EDWARD NICASTRO WAS THE DIREC­TOR of procurement and contract manager for the Department of En­vironmental Protection in 1984. He was everything the public, and the mayor, could want a city employee with a responsible job to be. He was a graduate of St. John’s University and the Universi­ty of Bridgeport Law School. He was an expert at modernizing and administering contracts. He had a profound sense of civic virtue, partially rooted in his desire to repay a debt of gratitude fo the city that sheltered his father from Sicily.

Nicastro had been given the highest possible job ratings by his supervisors, and about 30 employees worked under his supervision. His staff had saved the city hundreds of thousands of dollars when it discovered padded bills and underweighted deliveries from asphalt contractors. He was also a true believer in Ed Koch as an honest, independent mayor; Nicastro’s wife had been a full-time worker in Koch’s victorious 1977 campaign for mayor, and she knew Koch personally.

Early in 1984, Nicastro became suspi­cious of waste and bid-rigging in the con­struction of City Water Tunnel Number Three, being built between Manhattan and Queens, which, has now become the focus of a major investigation by U.S. attorney Rudy Giuliani. All Nicastro knew in 1984 was that there were mil­lions of dollars in cost overruns, apparent collusion in the bidding by two consor­tiums, and that no independent audits were being conducted, because his office was being excluded from the review pro­cess. He could see that there was no ac­countability for the bids and contracts on the biggest project ever done by the DEP.

Motivated more by a conscientious concern for cost-effective management than by any dramatic thoughts of a con­spiracy, Nicastro politely expressed his concerns to his two immediate superiors in March 1984. They were deputy com­missioners Jeffrey Sommer and Fred Carfora. He told them his office should be analyzing the water tunnel bidding procedures and billing practices and that the exemption of such contracts from re­view was a direct violation of city rules. He warned Sommer and Carfora that the absence of accountability could lead to corruption.

[related_posts post_id_1=”719876″ /]

Carfora assured Nicastro that he would get his oversight authority by the end of the fiscal year, in June 1984. When this did not occur as promised, Nicastro car­ried his warnings to the Department of Investigations in October 1984, when Patrick McGinley was commissioner.

“DOI was polite, but they never did anything,” Nicastro says now. “Four or five months after I went to them, I called them up to find what was happening with the investigation. That’s when they told me the the case had already been closed.”

Nicastro was aware that Sommer and Carfora were both clubhouse appointees loyal to Bronx Democratic boss Stanley Friedman. He knew Sommer had worked for Friedman when Friedman was deputy mayor, and he had heard that Carfora’s mother had been a Bronx district leader, and that Carfora had gotten his job through the party organization. And as someone experienced in politics himself, Nicastro was aware of Friedman’s power to control jobs and contracts in the Koch administration.

What he did not know until much later was that Friedman was also the lawyer who was being paid a six-figure fee to represent a consortium of companions with 90 per cent of the contracts to build Water Tunnel Number Three. And that one of Friedman’s clients he had wanted to audit had already paid almost $5 mil­lion in fines for bid-rigging outside of New York.

Nicastro is a self-described “tough Si­cilian,” and he did not back off from his position that the water tunnel needed to be audited, since it already had $31 mil­lion in cost overruns, and was 20 years behind schedule.

[related_posts post_id_1=”718598″ /]

That’s when the attempt to crush Ni­castro began. His job performance ratings mysteriously began to decline from “out­standing” to “marginal.” In October 1984, deputy commissioner Carfora tried to fire him, falsely claiming that Nicastro had submitted fraudulent time sheets. At that point, Nicastro told the DOI he was being  fired because he was a “whistleblower,” and Carfora put his request to fire Nicas­tro on hold. In November, Carfora trans­ferred Nicastro to the agency’s gulag — a garage in Maspeth, in a dead-end job as purchasing agent in which he didn’t begin to utilize his skills.

On November 15, 1985, Nicastro sent a registered letter to Koch, with a copy to deputy mayor Stanley Brezenoff, explain­ing in detail what was being done to him, and repeating his “concern about DEP’s contract procedures, which violate City Charter rules as well as controller’s directives.”

Nicastro’s letter to Koch reminded him: “Your Mayoral Memorandum of May 2, 1984, clearly states that all retal­iatory actions [against whistleblowers] are to be investigated.”

On November 22, Nicastro received a reply from Dean Silverberg, then deputy counsel to the mayor, saying: “I have forwarded your materials to the Depart­ment of Investigations for their review of your concerns.”

Nicastro was now in the realm of Kaf­ka, where faceless bureaucrats toyed with his future. On December 2, 1985, he was informed that his salary was being re­duced by $1000 retroactively to the previ­ous August. At the same time, other man­agers in DEP were getting $4000 raises. Nicastro was told that this punishment had been authorized by Joe DeVincenzo, the mayoral assistant officially in charge of “salaries and job classifications” but unofficially the patronage liaison to the Democratic county leaders, including Friedman.

Nicastro was in despair working in the Maspeth garage for less money, and con­stantly trying to explain to his coworkers that he was right and his bosses were wrong.

He went through a trauma that scars many whistleblowers forever. David Durk and Frank Serpico went through the same kind of experience when they were trying to expose police corruption in the late 1960s and no one was listening. In retrospect, people like Durk, Serpico, and Nicastro might look like steadfast heroes. But they pay a large psychic price in fear, anger, and depression before they are ab­solved by history. And sometimes by a movie.

[related_posts post_id_1=”721023″ /]

During 1985, Nicastro was drinking a lot and coming home after his two young children went to sleep. There were severe strains on his marriage.

“I was very unhappy and I felt like my life was coming apart,” he recalls now. “I became a different person. I was in a rage all the time. I thought I was being fol­lowed and I worried about my family’s safety.”

On December 2, 1985 — the day his sal­ary was cut — Nicastro’s wife, Alice Horo­witz, feeling that all other options were exhausted, wrote a personal letter to Koch. It began:

“Back in 1977 during your first mayor­al campaign, if you recall, I was your advance person. I advanced you all over the entire city and became a dedicated follower of yours; I believed in your policies.”

Alice Horowitz-Nicastro’s letter then went on to inform the mayor of her hus­band’s fate as a whistleblower: his de­grading demotion for trying to save the public money and alert his supervisors to potential fraud and bid-rigging. The let­ter ended with a personal appeal to the man she admired and had helped elect:

“Ed, is this the way a man is rewarded for his honesty and dedication? My hus­band loves working for the city. In his years with the Department of Environ­mental Protection he has saved the city hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, because of his honesty.

“This constant harassment has not only taken a monetary toll on him, but a mental and physical toll on him and the rest of us, including my children, who are too young to understand why their daddy is always so angry.

“Please, Ed, please help me. It has tak­en me a very long time to write this letter. I really hoped it would not get to this, but the survival of my family de­pends on it.

“Thank you for your precious time.”

On December 17, 1985, Alice Horowitz­-Nicastro got an impersonal, one-para­graph letter back from Dean Silverberg. It said:

“Your December 2nd letter has been referred to me. I anticipate that your husband will be contacted shortly by the Department of Investigation.”

On March 24, 1986 — 10 days after the suicide of Donald Manes, with a new moral climate in the media, and in the city — Edward Nicastro’s story was told in Newsday by reporter Leonard Levitt. The article was accompanied by a lengthy, well-documented exposé of the cost overruns and collusive bidding prac­tices on Water Tunnel Number Three.

In July 1986, after a thorough review by a new investigations commissioner­ — Kenneth Conboy — Carfora was demoted for unlawfully harassing and trying to fire Nicastro, and making false charges against him. His salary was cut from $71,000 to $60,000. Carfora resigned rather than accept this mild sanction.

Today Edward Nicastro has a dull job in DEP that has nothing to do with his proven career expertise: monitoring con­tracts, a skill the Koch administration would seem to need.

[related_posts post_id_1=”725990″ /]

GORDON HAESLOOP WENT TO WORK for the city Department of Inves­tigations in 1979 as general coun­sel. From May 1981 until the spring of 1985 he was the depart­ment’s deputy commisioner. Like most able investigators, he has a stubborn, in­dependent temperament. He supervised five or six staff attorneys and several detectives. He had been in charge of the undercover project that led to the convic­tion of Brooklyn city councilman Louis Olmedo.

In February 1985, Haesloop was con­ducting a multifaceted investigation of transportation commissioner Anthony Ameruso. DOI had a sworn deposition from a Transportation Department em­ployee, given in September 1984, charg­ing that Ameruso had taken “envelopes stuffed with cash” and that he had per­formed “special [parking] favors for Ma­fia restaurants.” A city contractor had complained to DOI that Ameruso was harassing his armored car company and showing favoritism in awarding parking meter collection contracts to a competi­tor, which had no gun permits or insur­ance and had organized crime ties. There were also several allegations that Amer­uso was secretly living outside the city, in violation of Section 3 of the Public Offi­cers Law, even though he had given City Hall a Brooklyn phone number at which to reach him in case of emergencies.

Moreover, by the winter of 1985, Haes­loop was convinced that PVB was mis­managed and probably corrupt, and since PVB was part of Ameruso’s responsibility as transportation commissioner, he sus­pected that Ameruso might become part of the PVB inquiry as well. One reason Haesloop felt something was rotten at PVB was quite personal. He had received a dunning letter from Bernard Sandow’s collection agency, demanding $2000 for parking tickets he had paid a long time before.

So, approximately in February 1985, Haesloop assigned DOI detectives to begin a surveillance of Ameruso, primarily to develop evidence of his violation of the residency law. Haesloop recalled:

“Such types of surveillance usually last for about two weeks. With Ameruso, after three or four days of tailing him, we es­tablished that he lived on Roslyn, Long Island. Each morning his son would drive him along the service road to the city line at Queens. At that point Ameruso would get into his waiting city car, and his city driver would take him to work. This fact by itself could have warranted his being fired by the mayor.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”725566″ /]

Haesloop continued:

“Next I wanted to install a pen register on Ameruso’s Brooklyn phone — a device that does not require a court order or a search warrant — that would track phone calls and prove if he had a Call Forward­ing device on the Brooklyn number to his Long Island home. Pen registers were a routine investigative tool in the office. We had installed about 15 of them — some in noncriminal investigations — over five years … [DOI senior staff attorney] Su­san Ross and I together told Commis­sioner McGinley that Ameruso was vio­lating the residency rule and that I wanted to install the pen register. But McGinley ordered me not to use it and ordered me to terminate the surveillance. He never gave me a reason. McGinley fired me about four weeks later.”

(McGinley has denied he was told Ameruso was living outside the city, but Susan Ross has verified that McGinley was informed of that fact. A third former DOI official has also confirmed Haes­loop’s recollections.)

When I asked Haesloop why he didn’t go directly to the mayor when the investi­gation was halted, he replied:

“There was a general perception in city government that Ameruso was favored and protected at City Hall. On top of that, I felt that Koch fired deputies who went to him to complain about their  bosses …

“In June 1985, after I was fired and just before I left the office, I did speak to McGinley. I asked him to tell the mayor that something fundamental was wrong with PVB and the Department of Trans­portation, and that Ameruso was a po­tential embarrassment to the mayor. McGinley didn’t say if he would commu­nicate that message for me …

“The separate PVB investigation was in my mind. I couldn’t understand how the mayor, even at that point, wasn’t doing more to hold Ameruso accountable for all the embarrassing problems at PVB. The city was losing millions of dol­lars on the percentages the collection agencies were keeping on their con­tracts — 40 per cent on some. The place was badly mismanaged. I just sensed that Ameruso was protected, and I would be perceived as disloyal.”

I asked Haesloop, who is now in pri­vate practice, if he had been upset about being dismissed by McGinley.

“No, I was happy to go. I was fed up arresting some poor inspector for taking $100 just before he became eligible for his pension. I felt demoralized that I could only go after the small fish. I was frus­trated I couldn’t investigate a full com­missioner like Ameruso. If I couldn’t pur­sue an Ameruso case, then I didn’t want to work there anymore.”

The mayor’s durable faith in Ameruso was indeed extraordinary. Even when Ameruso resigned in January 1986, after the PVB corruption was becoming known, Koch said at Ameruso’s farewell press conference: “He’s impeccable. I rec­ommend him without reservation.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”714847″ /]

BARBARA MEYERS GREW UP IN THE East New York section of Brook­lyn and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1959. During the 1960s, she was a nurse and a self-described “hippie antiwar marcher.” By 1975, after working in the shipping industry for a few years, she was contemplating a career change and decid­ed to drive a taxi while doing her thinking.

Meyers found she enjoyed driving a cab. “I loved the variety of experience, the sense of freedom, the interaction with other people, the sense of adventure,” she says. By 1976, she had borrowed money, purchased two taxi medallions for $23,000 each, and started running the Silver Eagle Cab Company. Gradually, Meyers became a reformer within the taxi industry, a vocal defender of her rights, and a critic of the taxi commission.

On April 7, 1982, Barbara Meyers par­ticipated in a taping of the Eyewitness News Conference on ABC-TV, with re­porter Milton Lewis and Richard Smith, who had authored a report for the mayor on the taxi industry. The show was to be aired on Sunday, April 10, 1982.

During the taping, Meyers charged that the taxi commission was “corrupt,” and that the giving out of 100 free taxi medallions for a diesel fuel experiment was “a fraud.” (The number of medal­lions had been frozen at 11,700 since the 1930s.) She also criticized Mayor Koch and Taxi and Limousine Commission chairman Jay Throff in harsh terms.

“I did it because I needed help,” Mey­ers says now. “I was looking for the pow­er of the press to help me clean up the industry. I didn’t have the specific evi­dence to prove a criminal case, but I knew something was rotten, and I knew where to look … I remember when I said the word ‘corruption,’ the moderator [Lewis] interrupted me and asked if I realized what I was saying. I told him I did.”

The day after the taping — two days before the show went on the air — Barbara Meyers was called by Ronald Russo, deputy commissioner of the Department of Investigations.

[related_posts post_id_1=”721906″ /]

“He approached me in a very hostile way,” Meyers says. He tried to intimidate me and make me feel like I was the prob­lem. He said that what I said about Tur­off at the taping was inflamatory. He said I’d better come down to his office, and if I didn’t that he would subpoena me. I felt like I was the criminal and Throff was the whistleblower.”

On April 14, 1982, four days after her criticism of Turoff was on television, Meyers was the victim of Taxi and Lim­ousine Commission harassment.

“Three TLC inspectors stopped my cab, ripped the medallion off my hood, and gave me three tickets for no reason,” Meyers told me. “I won my appeal against the tickets, but I lost a few days of work. I felt it was an obvious reprisal. I also started to get threatening phone calls at home saying I knew what happens to rats.”

On May 6, 1982, Meyers testified for two hours under oath to the Department of Investigations, with a stenographer present. She made a clear case for further investigation of the way the 100 medal­lions were given to a few favored fleets on the basis of the fraudulent diesel experiment.

She said: “There are 100 medallions in the street earning enormous amounts of money, amounting to millions, in a very favored way for the operator of those medallions … I want to know why, why not me? I would be happy to participate in an experiment of that nature … How were they chosen? What arrangements?”

(What Meyers didn’t know at that point was that the 100 medallions were awarded to the Research Cab Corpora­tion, and other companies owned by Donald Sherman and represented by Stanley Friedman as a lawyer-lobbyist.)

[related_posts post_id_1=”713118″ /]

Meyers risked her career by going on television and giving a deposition to the Department of Investigations. As a re­ward, her attorney received a letter from investigations commissioner McGinley, dated August 2, 1982, scolding Meyers. The letter said:

“Ms. Meyers presents herself to the public as a highly responsible taxi-owner operator … In view of this, I consider her deliberate and public use of terms like ‘corruption’ and ‘corrupt’ to have been unhelpful to say the least.”

McGinley now claims he did not write this letter, that it was written for him by his former first deputy commissioner, Ronald Russo. But Russo told me:

“McGinley is not telling the truth. I did not write that letter. I left the Depart­ment of Investigations on July 9, 1982. I opened my private practice on July 12, 1982. I was not there in August. McGinley is looking for scapegoats.” Russo refused to comment on the record about his conversation with Meyers.

On April 10, 1986, the State Investiga­tions Commission (SIC) held a public hearing on corruption at the TLC. It was four years to the day that Barbara Mey­ers had gone on ABC television urging the world to notice the diesel-medallion hoax. The hearing began with SIC chair­man David Trager making a formal statement:

“Our investigation has led us to the firm conclusion that the diesel test pro­gram was, from its inception, a fraud designed to provide medallions worth more than $3.7 million per year to Re­search Cab … Former TLC chairman Jay Turoff played a central role in exe­cuting this scheme … He acted to con­ceal, steal, or destroy records of the TLC relating to medallions issued to Research Cab. He personally directed that 123 me­dallions — 23 more than authorized — be issued to Research Cab.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”722370″ /]

During the April 10 hearing, Robert Mackasek, the inspector general for the TLC, testified. He admitted that after Meyers made her original charges on tele­vision, his entire investigation consisted of asking his boss, Jay Turoff, if they were true. Turoff had said the charges were rubbish. Mackasek also conceded that Turoff helped arrange for him to received a $71,000 loan from the HYFIN credit union — a loan cosigned by Turoff.

Finally, Mackasek admitted that he had gone to Stanley Friedman’s law of­fices, and tipped Friedman that his cli­ent — Research Cab — was under investi­gation by the SIC. Mackasek testified that Turoff — who set up the meeting­ — and Research Cab Corporation president Donald Sherman were also present when he told Friedman everything he knew of the investigation.

One of the last questions the State Investigations Commission asked Macka­sek was whether he was active in politics. He said that in 1985, when he was in private practice, Turoff had called him, and in response he had raised money for Koch from taxi industry companies, and lined up cabs to transport pro-Koch vot­ers to the polls on election day.

Unwittingly, Barbara Meyers had chal­lenged the nexus of power in New York City in 1982. She was shining a light into the eye of the tiger. Jay Turoff owed his job to Meade Esposito. Turoff was per­forming significant money-making favors for Stanley Friedman’s clients. And Tur­off was raising substantial sums of cam­paign money for the mayor from the in­dustry he was supposed to be regulating.

Turoff’s trial on felony bribery and fraud charges begins February 17 in fed­eral court.

Barbara Meyers is now out of the taxi business. She has written a book for children on how to deal with the death of a pet, and runs a car service that trans­ports pets that are sick.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727000″ /]

IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS, THREE Queens power brokers have been in­dicted on charges involving manipula­tion of the cable television franchise in Queens: administrative judge Fran­cis Smith, realtor John Zaccaro, and po­litical consultant Mike Nussbaum. All three were charged with acting in concert with Donald Manes to extort bribes from bidders seeking to wire Queens for cable. In addition, U.S. attorney Rudy Giuliani is now in the final stages of his investiga­tion into the Bronx cable TV franchise, where the targets of the grand jury in­clude Stanley Friedman, Ramon Velez, Frank Lugovinia, and Tod Tuah.

Queens businessman Al Simon had been trying to warn the proper authori­ties since at least 1981 that the way the city was awarding cable TV franchises was a process designed to be corrupt, because it was secretive, immune to mer­it, and controlled by Manes in Queens and Stanley Friedman in the Bronx. But the mayor insisted the system was “fair and open,” and nobody paid much notice to Al Simon, even when his company, Ortho-Vision, went bankrupt in 1983. He was treated as just another civic crank.

Al Simon, now 54, grew up in Wil­liamsburg, dropped out of high school, went into the army, and then attended the NYU School of Commerce at night for six years.

He became a kind of cable television visionary, and first applied to the city for a cable franchise back in 1972. In 1977, Simon’s company submitted a bid for the Queens franchise, but lost out to the Knickerbocker Communications Corpo­ration, a subsidiary of Time Inc. with power broker lawyers, publicists, and consultants. Simon filed a taxpayer’s suit that alleged Knickerbocker’s franchise was illegal because the contract differed materially from its petition for the con­tract. Simon won his lawsuit, and the franchise was withdrawn.

In 1981, the fight was on to wire Queens. Cable was a hot, futuristic indus­try, with everyone thinking gigantic prof­its were inevitable. Simon, viewed as an outsider and maverick entrepreneur, was competing against corporate giants like Warner-Amex, which was paying power­broker lawyer Sid Davidoff more than $150,000 in legal fees. Simon wrote up proposals, went to community planning boards, and convinced several of them to pass resolutions supporting his native Queens company. But Davidoff was Don­ald Manes’s best friend. He could walk into Boro Hall and act like he was co­-borough president. The corporate chair­man of Warner’s was Steve Ross, another friend of the borough president’s.

[related_posts post_id_1=”714416″ /]

In October 1981, Simon says he was visited by Mike Nussbaum, a political consultant who had managed most of Donald Manes’s campaigns and was one of the four or five people closest to Ma­nes. Nussbaum reportedly asked Simon for a $250,000 cash bribe. He said he was relaying a message from Manes through Manes’s deputy, Richard Rubin. He as­sured Simon that if the money was paid, he would get a portion of the Queens market.

“I told him no,” Simon says. “I thought I could win it on my own, on the merits. I never realized that when I wouldn’t pay off, they would freeze me out completely, and force me out of business.

“I was naïve. I never believed Koch would let Manes control the whole deci­sion. There were two years of public hearings, hundreds of meetings, docu­ments, minutes, records, and I never thought Manes by himself could wipe me out because I wouldn’t commit a crime. But Koch let it happen that way.”

(Simon finally told the bribe story to a Queens grand jury last year and Nuss­baum is now under indictment.)

1987 Village Voice by Jack Newfield article on ways Mayor Koch silenced whistle-blowers

In 1982, with the bidding process still going on, and Simon still thinking he would get fair treatment in an open pro­cess, he was asked to fill out a questionnaire by the city’s Department of Investi­gations. In a cover letter accompanying his completed questionnaire, Simon wrote a subtle request for a serious inves­tigation into the bidding process:

“It is interesting to note,” he wrote to commissioner Stanley Lupkin, “that the mandate from the Board of Estimate is limited to a background review of the applicants, and does not request a review of the process by which these applicants were targeted. Especially in light of a number of unanswered questions regard­ing the results to date.”

Simon never received a reply to his letter, which was dated February 12, 1982.

When asked why he didn’t report the Nussbaum-Manes extortion attempt at that point, Simon says: “I was afraid. I was also naïve. I thought I could get the franchise on my own. I lived in Queens. I had been in the cable television business since 1963. A couple of planning boards had voted for me. I had the necessary financial resources. I kept thinking I would get something on the merits … ”

[related_posts post_id_1=”725734″ /]

In 1983, the Board of Estimate, at the direction of Manes, divided the Queens market, with Warner-Amex getting all the best middle-class and and upper-mid­dle-class neighborhoods as part of its prize franchise. And Al Simon’s company went broke. He gave interviews pointing out the conflict of interest between Ma­nes and Davidoff, but few stories were written.

On October 8, 1984, Simon filed a law­suit against Manes, Warner-Amex, and the rest of the Board of Estimate. Al Simon’s legal papers were a cry of, “Stop, Thief.” They said:

“The office of borough president [Ma­nes] was an active participant along with defendant [city franchise director] Mor­ris Tarshis in perpetuating on the public the fraud that the cable franchise selec­tion and negotiation process was based on the merits … Tarshis and the bor­ough president’s office knew that the po­litical process was more important than all the paper and all the promises and all the public hearings. Both acted to pre­serve the political process and to subvert the public hearing and the airing of the contracts. They wanted to reassert politi­cal control over the granting of lucrative franchises in the City of New York …

“Public hearings were held on the irrel­evant proposals, but the contract itself was kept from the local community boards … Defendants Tarshis and the borough president were determined that the only meaningful negotiation process should be the one they personally con­ducted. The office of borough president selected the cable companies that were targeted for negotiations. The decision was rubber-stamped by the mayor, comp­troller, and City Council president.”

When the lawyers at the city corpora­tion counsel’s office, and the lawyers at City Hall, read the blunt claim of civic fraud in Simon’s brief, they did not start an investigation and they did not contact Al Simon. They went into court and op­posed Simon’s lawsuit. Simon wants to reopen the bidding in Queens, and the Koch administration, despite three in­dictments, is opposing that effort in liti­gation now pending before the Appellate Division, First Department.

Steve Kramer, who is representing the city against Simon’s suit, says: “Simon is a disgruntled bidder. This was a com­pletely open process.”

But Al Simon remembers the extortion attempt: “Nussbaum wouldn’t talk in my office. So we walked around the block of my office in Astoria, down Thirty-Sev­enth Avenue and up 32nd Street. Nuss­baum said Donald wanted $250,000 up front. I would have to have it in an at­taché case, or there might be a Swiss bank account involved. He said the mon­ey would guarantee me the franchise. He said the message was coming from Ri­chie, who was speaking for Donald.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”713710″ /]

IN MARCH 1982, HERB RYAN WAS A member of the city’s Taxi and Limou­sine Commission. He had been an aide to Donald Manes and president of Manes’s home political club, named after Adlai Stevenson. He had been appointed to the taxi commission on Ma­nes’s recommendation.

On March 12, 1982, Ryan took a bribe from the legendary undercover detective Eddie Gruskin, who was posing as a crooked car service dealer. The payoff was made in a parked car, and was audiotaped and videotaped by law-enforcement agents. During the transaction with Gruskin, Ryan said: “I want to introduce you to Donald. I want you to get to know Manes because he is running for mayor.”

(At that point Koch was running for governor with Manes’s backing and was the favorite to defeat Mario Cuomo in the primary. If Koch had won, Manes would have run for mayor.)

On March 20, 1982, Ryan took a sec­ond bribe from Gruskin in a meeting that was also recorded. Ryan was a small fish caught in a wide net. The prosecutors wanted the higher-ups.

In late March there was a meeting be­tween United States attorney Edward  Korman (now a federal judge); Stanley Lupkin, the city’s commissioner of inves­tigations; and Tom Puccio, then the chief of the organized crime strike force. All three agreed that Ryan might lead them to Manes in a brief period. Law enforce­ment agencies only had suspicions about Manes at the time, although evidence in­troduced at Stanley Friedman’s trial in New Haven showed that Manes had been extorting bribes since at least 1979 and was a thoroughly corrupt public official in 1982.

Korman, Lupkin, and Puccio agreed that Ryan should either be reappointed by the mayor or kept in a holdover posi­tion for a brief period so that the under­cover agent could get a face-to-face meet­ing with Ryan’s mentor, Donald Manes.

[related_posts post_id_1=”713066″ /]

Lupkin presented this unanimous rec­ommendation by three law enforcement officials to Mayor Koch in early April. He informed the mayor that Manes had been named on the undercover tape. But the mayor terminated the investigation by refusing to allow Ryan to remain in a holdover position, in which he already had been serving since January 31. Koch insisted that Ryan be arrested at once.  (In April 1982, Koch was running for governor against Mario Cuomo and Ma­nes was supporting Koch even though Cuomo was a native son of Queens.)

In February 1986, as the Manes scandal was unraveling, NBC-TV reporter John Miller played on the air a portion of the undercover videotape of Ryan taking the bribe and boasting of his ties to Ma­nes. The next day Lupkin, now a lawyer in private practice, told reporters he was “disappointed” that Koch had refused to permit the sting to proceed. He said he had argued with the major that Ryan should be kept in place.

At first, Koch responded by claiming to reporters that no one had ever told him that Manes’s name had come up, or that Manes was in any way considered a po­tential target of the investigation. The next day he improved his recollection and conceded that he had been informed by Lupkin that Manes’s name had been used by Ryan on the tape.

Herb Ryan never cooperated with prosecutors. He was arrested, pleaded guilty, and served four months of a lenient, six­-month sentence, imposed on him by U.S. district judge Mark Costintino.

After Ryan got out of prison, he re­mained close to Manes. Manes’s phone logs, placed in evidence in New Haven, showed that Ryan left 57 phone messages for Manes during 1984 and 1985.

If Ed Koch had really wanted to know if the immense trust he placed in Donald Manes was justified, he would not have aborted the Herb Ryan sting, and he would not have overruled three law enforcement professionals.

ED KOCH IS THE MAN WHO ACTED naive out of cynicism. He is the man who chose to gaze into a mirror instead of out the window. He is the man who didn’t want to know. ■