The Fonz's Pitch

Open door policy

The first time Transport Workers Union Local 100 president Roger Toussaint sat down with Peter Kalikow was a get-to-know-you meeting in Kalikow's midtown skyscraper at 101 Park Avenue in early 2001. Both men were newcomers: Toussaint was elected in December 2000, and Kalikow, a real estate mogul, had been named Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman by Governor Pataki just a couple of months earlier. Along with Toussaint was union secretary-treasurer Ed Watt.

Not long after the three men started chatting, according to sources familiar with the meeting, one of Kalikow's neighbors popped his head in the door. Ex-senator Alfonse D'Amato, who has his own suite of offices on the building's 25th floor, said he just wanted to say hello. According to the sources, Kalikow seemed to think nothing was amiss as D'Amato proceeded to tell the men that he had once represented a local of the Transport Workers Union on Long Island, and suggested that he could be helpful to the newly elected officials as well. It wouldn't have been the first time D'Amato represented clients with business before the MTA. A D'Amato client won a huge subway car contract, and the ex-lawmaker once earned $500,000 for helping MTA's downtown landlord. Currently, D'Amato lobbies the MTA board on behalf of the subway supervisors association, records show.

When Toussaint reported the overture to union officials, some advisers urged him to hire the influential lobbyist. Toussaint, however, passed on the offer. "It didn't feel right," a source said. D'Amato and an MTA spokesman declined comment.

 
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