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The warehouse has become another focus of the probe, investigators said. Ragucci and his son Christopher, who helped run the terminal, initially tried to supervise the construction of the so-called banana house themselves. But the project quickly turned into a fiasco of delays and cost overruns, according to a former official of the Port Authority, which holds the lease on the terminal and funded the effort. "It was unbelievable. We cut it off and said no more," he said.
Calcagno told the Advancethat he earned more than $2 million on the project. "I did nothing wrong," said the builder.
The bungled warehouse project wasn't the only example of troublesome business practices that investigators discovered. An ex-NYPD detective and former Republican assembly candidate named Glenn Yost has acknowledged that he paid $1400 per month rent in cash to Ragucci for a now defunct imported water company that was headquartered at the terminaland never got receipts. Yost is the son-in-law of Richard Addeo, owner of Adco Electric, a major contractor that raised $5250 for Molinaro's campaign. Adco officials said they had no involvement in Howland Hook.
Molinaro didn't respond to requests for comment. But records show he has given other contributors the benefit of the doubt as well. He accepted $2100 from Philip Castellano, a son of ex-Gambino boss Paul Castellano and the owner of Scara-Mix, a large island concrete firm. The company poured much of the concrete for the new Staten Island Yankees ballpark that was pushed through by former mayor Rudy Giuliani. Even Giuliani returned Scara-Mix contributionsafter Newsdayreported them.
Politically tinged development scandals are nothing new on Staten Island, and the common perspective from Manhattan sophisticates is that the borough is little more than a suburban backwater. But island voters have been the crucial difference for the last two mayors. They put former Giuliani over the top in 1993. Last fall, Mike Bloomberg collected 80 percent of the votes there, with those 85,000 ballots amounting to more than his margin of victory over Democrat Mark Green.
In testament to those numbers, a grateful Mayor Bloomberg traveled to the island in February to attend the Conservative Party dinner. Bloomberg praised Molinaro as "a valuable ally in the mayoral campaign" as Ragucci sat nearby on the dais.