“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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.”
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.
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.
• 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.
• 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. ■
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.”
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.
• 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.” ■
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
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 21, 2020