Who Built Rudy's House in the Hamptons?
Mitt Romney went after Rudy Giuliani on his immigration record during a debate in St. Petersburg, Florida, in November. Romney accused Giuliani of running a "sanctuary city" for illegals.
But Giuliani fired back that Romney "had a sanctuary mansion" landscaped by illegal immigrants, echoing the findings of a The Boston Globe investigation.
Romney defended himself by insisting that all he'd done was hire a contractor. "If you hear someone with a funny accent, you, as a homeowner, are supposed to go out there and say, 'I want to see your papers.' Is that what you're suggesting?"
"It just happens," Giuliani replied, "you have a special immigration problem that nobody up here has. You were employing illegal immigrants. That is a pretty serious thing. They were under your nose."
Giuliani was not only making a clean-hands claim for himself, he was making one for the other six candidates onstage. But, in fact, it had already been reported that one of them, Tom Tancredo, the national mouthpiece for immigrant intolerance, had hired a home-improvement contractor who employed illegals.
"Are you suggesting, mayor," demanded Romney, "that if you have a company that you hired, you are now responsible for going out and checking the employees of that company?"
That did seem to be what Giuliani was suggesting. Was he sure that he hadn't, through a contractor, hired illegal workers of his own? Had he even checked?
Well, whether or not he had, we thought we'd check on our own.
In December 2004, Rudy and Judi bought a 6,000-square-foot, tan, cedar-shingled traditional house in Water Mill, a tiny village of seaside mansions in the Hamptons. The builder was Joe Farrell, whose small Bridgehampton-based company is so successful that the Washington-based Carlyle Group, where George H.W. Bush and many other powerful Republicans have landed, was reported in 2007 to have decided to pump $100 million in equity investment into the firm. Farrell became such a firm friend of Giuliani's that he and other members of his family have maxed out in donations to his presidential campaign, contributing $14,000 and throwing a major fundraiserwith VIP tickets costing up to $2,300at their own Water Mill home . Although the Lopers Path home that Farrell sold to Giuliani was advertised for $3,950,00, Giuliani bought it at a $750,000 discount, even after a number of what a newspaper account called "additions" were lumped in, including a gym, full landscaping, and a cigar room complete with a humidor for the one-time cover boy of Cigar Aficionado.
Farrell has made a name for himself by building custom homes fast. He bought the land for Giuliani's house for $815,000 in April and got a certificate of occupancy by November. The star of a The Wall Street Journal article about accelerated construction, Farrell was quoted as saying that it's not uncommon for him to have 70 people work on a job site in a single day. "We pay our bills every week, so subcontractors flock to us," Farrell told the The Journal. And "all" of Farrell's work, as he explained in a The Voice interview, "is done by subs." Farrell says he only directly employs 11 project managers and office staff. The Hamptons is famously awash with illegals, particularly in the construction and landscaping business, and the larger your subcontracting workforce, the more likely you are, industry sources say, to employ them. When asked if any of the numerous subcontractors he does business with on his expedited jobs employs undocumented workers, Farrell initially insisted that they didn't, but then offered ambiguous answers.
At first, he said Giuliani told him: "Joe, only hire U.S. citizens." He later changed that story, saying that one of Giuliani's security peopleJohn Huvane, a former member of Giuliani's NYPD detailwas the person who had given him that advice. Farrell says that he followed that instruction and used only documented workers on the house, but he later conceded: "I don't know if they are or aren't." Much like Romney, Farrell distanced himself from the practices of his subcontractors. "Do I think they employed illegals?" he asked. "No, I don't think so."
Visits to several ongoing Farrell jobs in December found a work force that was entirely Latino except for the project manager directly employed by Farrell. At one major site on Halsey Lane in Bridgehampton, an Ecuadorian who was working on the roof of a guesthouse insisted that he and his two non-English-speaking companions were legal. Employed by a roofing company called Cedar Design, he said that he thought "all of the other people here are illegal." Asked how he knew that, the worker said that the Americans stopped working at noon on Friday, three hours before the The Voice visit. Pressed as to who was illegal, he pointed in the direction of a dozen or so people, all of whom appeared to be Latino, who were working on the foundation of the main house.
Sister Margaret Smyth, a Catholic nun who works with undocumented workers in the Hamptons, said that she'd recently won a $1,000 claim against a subcontractor, Hampton Brick Works, who hired a bricklayer to build a 42-foot chimney for a Farrell house and then refused to pay him. The bricklayer was undocumented. Farrell acknowledged that he used the contractor, though he said he'd only recently begun giving the firm business. Brick chimneys are a signature feature of Farrell's homes, and Giuliani's house has three of them. Tom Wedell, a leader of the Anti-Illegal Immigrant Association, says that he's seen Hampton Brick Works come to the 7-Eleven store in Southampton and pick up illegal workers. Wedell, whose organization consists of local contractors who say they won't hire illegals, has led frequent protests at the store, where as many as 200 laborers gather daily and are recruited to do a variety of jobs. The message machine at Hampton Brick Works wouldn't take messages, and the company did not respond to an e-mail.
A Farrell subcontractor who worked on Giuliani's house said that undocumented workers were employed there. "Yeah, what's the problem?" he said, refusing to identify himself. "All the work was done before [Giuliani] bought it. I think you're digging somewhere you don't want to go." (He later called back and said he wasn't sure there were illegals on the job.) Farrell made a similar argument: He said the house was built on spec and that Giuliani didn't buy it until three months after it was finishedsuggesting that even if illegals were used, the former mayor wasn't involved at the time. Aside from the inconsistency of this assertion with the instruction that he claims to have received from either Giuliani or Huvane ("Joe, only hire U.S. citizens"), Farrell doesn't dispute that he has continued to work on the house after he and Giuliani went to contract; he even stipulated that "if the paint cracks" or any other work is needed to this day, "no one is allowed to work on it but us." It's also unclear how much work was done on the house after Giuliani agreed to buy it. The project manager, Richard, told us that Giuliani decided to buy the house when it was "three-quarters done." Farrell tries to minimize the "additions" that were announced at the time of the sale for promotional purposes, insisting that the house was "bought completely finished" without defining whether "bought" is a reference to the December closing. He concedes that he put the cigar room in "as a gift to Rudy" and insists the gym consisted of equipment that Giuliani had purchased.
Farrell says that Giuliani first came to him "a year and a half to two years" before he bought the house, inquiring about a possible purchase. Farrell says he got to know Giuliani by driving him around to other sites, and that Giuliani worked his way up from the $1 million price range to the $3.2 million that he ultimately paid. That kind of protracted contact gave Giuliani plenty of opportunity to make the same sort of observations about Farrell's workforce as the The Voice did over the course of a couple of weeks.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.