By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
The incident occurred on August 23, 2001, at Brioso's, a restaurant in the island's New Dorp section so popular with the wiseguys that investigators bugged their regular table. Seated around it that day were Ciccone, Scollo, and a beefy Gambino thug named Primo Cassarino, who had earlier been recorded telling Ciccone that Calcagno (the gangsters uncharitably referred to him as "Chubby") wanted to see the captain regarding "a problem" at Howland Hook.
When Calcagno entered the restaurant, Ciccone stepped away from the table to speak with him at the bar. A few minutes later, the gangster returned, muttering to his pals about the contractor. "Who the fuck does this guy think he is?" Ciccone was heard to say, "You and your politician pals think you were there before us? We were always there."
No one ever explained exactly what the dispute concerned, but investigators said the episode clearly showed that Calcagno recognized Ciccone's hidden role in the terminal. But the borough president said he didn't have a problem with it. "I don't know what he's done that's wrong," Moli-naro told the Advanceafter the incident was reported. "There's nothing there that to me as a human being is disturbing."
Apparently not. Shortly after he took office in 2002, Molinaro disclosed for the first time, on a filing with the city, that he holds a half-interest in a $600,000 condominium in Siesta Key in Sarasota County, Florida, that is listed in real estate records as owned by Molinaro and Calcagno. In a series of tangled financial transactions involving the unit, former borough president Guy Molinari, along with his daughter Susan, the ex-congresswoman, and her husband, powerful D.C. lobbyist (and also ex-congressman) Bill Paxon, held ownership as well at one point. Records show that Susan Molinari and Paxon sold their shares for $300,000 to Calcagno in April 2002.
The Molinaris refused to answer questions about the property. Calcagno's attorney, Michael Rosen, said the transactions were based on "fair market value." He said a separate deal involving vacant residential property that Molinaro bought from a Calcagno-tied firm on Carteret Street on Staten Island's south shore for $10,000 and that was sold last year for $400,000 was also legitimate.
Molinaro has also shown no disappointment in his friend Ragucci. The executive was ousted from the container port, but with Molinaro's support, he has remained chairman of the island's Conservative Party. This summer, election records show, Ragucci helped gather signatures to secure the party's nomination for Molinaro's re-election. He performed an even more crucial favor for Molinaro's friend the mayor. When Republican Tom Ognibene sought the Conservative endorsement to challenge Bloomberg this Novembervowing to expose the mayor as a liberalRagucci voted as county chairman to deny him the nomination.
Bloomberg has shown his gratitude. On March 7, a couple of weeks after he called the embattled Molinaro the most honest man he'd ever met, Bloomberg threw a campaign fundraiser for the borough president at his lavish East Side townhouse. The party netted more than $100,000. The largest check written that night, for $3,850, came from the mayor himself. That made Bloomberg at the time the second biggest donor to Molinaro's campaign. Only Sal Calcagno and his family gave more.