By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
"It was such a poorly written document that it's almost malpractice," said Ramon Jimenez, a Bronx lawyer who often jousts with the local establishment.
For starters, it took the panel more than 18 months to convene, so the Yankees' initial donation was considerably delayed. When the money finally came in, the chairman of the fund—a banking executive named Serafin Mariél—deposited it into a no-interest account in his own bank. The money stayed in the National Bank of New York for all of 2008 and much of last year.
This self-serving arrangement continued until Michael Drezin, a veteran Bronx attorney who had been named the fund's administrator, blew the whistle. Drezin filed suit last spring, asserting that Mariél was mismanaging the fund. Mariél has denied it, but refuses to answer questions. Last week, he ducked phone and e-mail messages. He hung up on The New York Times' Fernanda Santos when she reached him last April.
Like Schlein, Mariél is another Bronx fixture. Back in the late '80s, the banker's name surfaced during what was then the borough's worst scandal: A local military supply company named Wedtech was found to have bribed its way to success. Two congressmen and a borough president went down in the ensuing investigation. Although never charged, testimony at trial revealed that Mariél had handed the debt-ridden Wedtech owners a briefcase stuffed with $500,000 in cash, money supplied by a local mob-tied businessman—at 100 percent interest. It was an interesting performance for a banker, and not exactly a résumé-builder for someone heading a fund slated to receive $24 million.
The Yankees insist that all of this has nothing to do with them. They have made two years of payments into the fund and are readying a check for the third round. The team still retains Schlein as its consultant, despite his own problems. Two years ago, he was found to have used a city commission as his private office. He's also barred from serving as a court-appointed guardian due to another series of abuses. But this is the Bronx, where scoundrels prosper, while those laboring to do even small good deeds push against the tide. Cary Goodman says he has one more idea for a place to house his little skating rink. "I think there's room right there on the plaza by the new stadium," he said last week, pointing downhill. He is waiting for the team's response to this idea.