Phone Log Fixes
The following snapshots of the political life of the city — some sinister, some bizarre — are taken from the appointment diaries and phone logs of convicted former Bronx Democratic boss Stanley Friedman. The Friedman records, seized by the feds early last year and released as part of his criminal case, were maintained by Friedman’s longtime secretary, Rose Mintzer, at Friedman’s East Side law office.
Though they cover only a portion of 1985 and a couple of weeks in January 1986, the logs unveil the machinations of a remarkable range of prominent New Yorkers — from mobsters like Tony Salerno and Tommy Gambino to publishing giant Si Newhouse and developer king Donald Trump. The sagas of Larry Kirwan and Carlos Galvis reveal Friedman’s onetime legendary reach into state and city government, even though neither deal was achieved. And the tales of City Councilman Bob Dryfoos and Brooklyn beep Howie Golden’s daughter Michelle are commentaries on their characters, not Friedman’s. Remarkably, there are dozens more vignettes like these left in the Friedman volumes, revealing the daily activities of a quintessential power broker.
Ties to Fat Tony
Fat Tony Salerno, the boss of the Genovese crime family, who is now doing a century on federal racketeering charges, and Vincent “Fish” Cafora, Salerno’s constant companion who is under indictment with Salerno in a still pending case, apparently visited Friedman on October 16, 1985. Salerno had long been a client of Friedman’s senior law partner, Roy Cohn, and a Cohn aide set up the meeting with Friedman the day before, leaving this message: “Tony and Fish coming at 2 on Wednesday to see Cohn and they’d like to see you too.” The entry in Friedman’s appointment diary for 2 p.m. on Wednesday simply says “Cohn.” A notation in the logs a couple of months later lists a phone number for “Fish.” When the Voice called the number and asked for “Fish” Cafora, a man who declined to identify himself, said, “He isn’t here anymore.” Law enforcement sources told the Voice that the references are to Salerno and Cafora, who were apparently on a first name basis with Friedman. Reached by the Voice, Friedman refused to answer any questions about his logs.
The indictment pending against Cafora and Salerno, who was recently convicted in the commission case, contains a count against one of their alleged racketeering partners, Milton Rockman, which says that he “misrepresented and concealed” from a federal pretrial agency in the midwest his reason for three trips to New York while out on bail pending a trial in Kansas City. The indictment says he was meeting with Salerno and other members of the Genovese family “under the guise of consulting” with an attorney, Cohn. The indictment also indicates at least one area of interest where Friedman and Salerno activities overlapped — concrete.
According to the indictment, S&A Concrete and its affiliates, owned by Salerno and other Genovese crime family members, controlled all concrete construction contracts in Manhattan exceeding $2 million. One of the rigged bids cited in the indictment is a $30 million contract for the just completed convention center. An earlier companion case, brought by State Attorney General Robert Abrams, charged that S&A and another concrete company close to Friedman, Dic Underhill, rigged the convention center bid so that S&A would win it at a price 27 per cent higher than the prebid price estimates.
A Dic Underhill affiliate, S&D, was represented by Friedman and won a $7 million city contract to repair broken parking meters (that contract is now the focus of a federal probe). Two Dic Underhill principals, Bernard Jereski and Walter Goldstein, appear on Friedman phone logs and appointment diaries half a dozen times. Dic Underhill has given $12,000 to Friedman’s Bronx Democratic committees in recent years, while S&A Concrete gave $1400 to a Friedman committee and Bronx beep Stanley Simon.
A Cuomo Lease
State Democratic chairman Lawrence Kirwan holds no state government position, but according to Friedman log entries he was in the middle of a 1985 effort to steer a Department of Motor Vehicles office into a building owned by a big donor to the Bronx organization and borough president Stanley Simon.
On November 6, Friedman was called by party secretary Murray Lewinter and urged to call Kirwan “to speak to Motor Vehicle Com’r — would like White Plains Road for Motor Vehicle office.” Lewinter left Kirwan’s Albany telephone number for Friedman. Later that day, and again on the following day, Kirwan, who was handpicked by Governor Cuomo, left messages informing Friedman that the DMV office “will happen” on White Plains Road.
The proposed DMV site, 2078 White Plains Road, is owned by Violet Camac, who, along with her son Howard, donated $2250 to Simon’s 1985 reelection campaign and has given $3150 to the Bronx organization since 1982. The Camacs company, Yankee Lumber, also provided material for a rehabilitation of Democratic headquarters on Williamsbridge Road. Howard Camac said that he “mentioned” to Friedman that he was interested in the state lease, but did not ask for help in securing it. Camac’s lawyer, Richard Gugliotta — whom Friedman unsuccessfully ran for civil court judge three times — said that community opposition eventually led to DMV rejecting the White Plains Road site. “It came as a surprise to Mr. Camac that Larry Kirwan was involved,” Gugliotta said.
Friedman’s datebook shows three meetings with Camac in 1985, two of which included Kathy Zamechansky, the former head of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation and a key party fundraiser. His phone logs refer to a fourth meeting in November, the day before the series of Kirwan messages regarding the rental. The records also reveal that Kirwan met frequently with Friedman, whose Bronx organization was one of the chief contributors to the state party (one notation refers to a $20,000 check Friedman was sending Kirwan’s state committee).
The DMV office was originally scheduled to be located in Pelham Bay in space owned by a local businessman with no political ties. However, pressure from Simon, the late Republican state senator John Calandra, and Congressman Mario Biaggi forced DMV officials to withdraw the site from consideration. The White Plains Road site was the state’s next choice, but this time — despite Kirwan and Friedman’s support for the Camac lease — protests from civic and neighborhood groups led DMV officials to drop the location.
Kirwan did not return numerous Voice phone calls about the deal. DMV officials have now decided to lease space near Fordham Plaza owned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Cohn’s Demise: A Ghoulish Golden Grab
In November 1985 newspaper stories detailed the disbarment proceedings against Roy Cohn as well as the late attorney’s battle with what he described as liver cancer, but later was revealed to be AIDS. Since he left city government in 1978, Friedman has been affiliated with Cohn’s law firm, Saxe, Bacon, and Bolan.
As Cohn’s legal and terminal medical problems appeared in the papers, Michelle Golden, the 27-year-old daughter of Brooklyn borough president Howard Golden, began calling Friedman at Saxe, Bacon, and Bolan’s headquarters, a five-story townhouse at 39 East 68th Street. Michelle Golden, a real estate salesperson with Cushman and Wakefield, left a message on November 22 stating she was “anxious to carry” the townhouse and wanted to know what was happening with it. “She read that Roy Cohn was sick and that he had some legal problems,” Mortimer Matz, Golden’s spokesman, said. “That’s what real estate people do.”
Golden, who left seven messages about the building and met with Friedman twice, was also interested in helping the firm find new office space if it decided to leave the townhouse, Matz said, adding, “Nothing ever happened.” Golden’s sense that the townhouse may have been on the block appears accurate: property records reveal that the ownership corporation took out a third mortgage — this one for $178,000 — on the townhouse in April 1986 to apparently allow the law firm to stave off bankruptcy. The money was used by the corporation to pay off a legal judgment against Saxe, Bacon, and Bolan, which is described in a rider to the mortgage as being unable even to pay its rent.
One Friedman client who dominates his logs is Donald Trump. Though Trump conceded through a spokesman that Friedman did represent him on occasion, he contended that Friedman was representing the other side of the deal he and Friedman discussed the most during this time period: Trump’s near acquisition of the air rights over the Parkeast Synagogue at 163 East 67th Street (Koch’s synagogue, and also Mayor Beame’s). Friedman was in constant touch with Rabbi Arthur Schneier about the sale and arranged meetings with Trump. A date was set for the closing on this deal, but it conflicted with the majority leader election in the city council so it was canceled. A couple of days later the scandal exploded. Trump, who says it was Friedman who approached him and who had no specific plan for the air rights, dropped the deal.
Friedman did represent Trump in negotiations with the state’s Division for Housing and Community Renewal concerning Trump’s attempt to empty a rent-stabilized building at 100 Central Park West that he acquired some years ago. Trump says that “Stanley suggested that he might be able to negotiate a settlement,” so Trump said that he should go ahead. Friedman then began an extraordinary series of at least a dozen calls and meetings with Manny Mirabal, the DHCR deputy commissioner who had a tenant complaint on the building before him. Mirabal is recorded as having attended meetings with Friedman at Friedman’s townhouse office. After initially confirming the conversations with Friedman, Mirabal ducked a series of follow-up Voice calls pointedly asking about the meetings. In the end, Trump settled with the tenants.
On November 27, 1985, Friedman and then Bronx city planning commissioner Ted Teah, who operated a law practice out of Friedman’s office, attended a meeting at Trump’s office that the logs recorded as involving Trump’s grandiose Lincoln West project. Trump says that the purpose of the meeting was a private presentation to Teah of Trump’s plans for the West Side, which were then before the planning commission. Friedman was clearly given the job of getting the undependable Teah to the meeting, as messages like this one from Trump’s office suggest: “Ted must show on time.” Trump insists that Friedman was not there representing him, but was included because Friedman had represented Francisco Macri, the previous Lincoln West developer who had sold this prime stretch of waterfront land along the West 60s to Trump a year earlier. A spokesperson for the Macri interests said they could not recall if Friedman represented the project.
Suitably enough, Friedman is also listed as attending a meeting regarding the Hyatt Hotel with Trump and department store operator Michael Modell of the Modell’s chain. It was Friedman, as deputy mayor, who approved, in the final days of the Beame administration, a series of tax abatements and other benefits that enabled Trump to build the Hyatt — his first Manhattan deal. Trump contends that Friedman was representing Modell in the meeting, which concerned the store’s sub-lease in the Hyatt. Modell told the Voice that he’d never retained Friedman but that Friedman was a close friend and that Friedman was helping him in his meeting with Trump. Trump was so friendly with Friedman that he once left a message providing his “direct line to his Aspen room,” and when Friedman’s candidate won the council majority leadership last January, congratulated him, adding, “He is so proud of you: hope the papers do right by you.”
Helping Gambino’s Buddy
Thomas Gambino, the son of the late mob chief Carlo Gambino and himself a member of organized crime, called Friedman on behalf of Sal Carrera, a friend seeking a real estate broker’s license.
On October 1, Carrera called Friedman and said that “Gambino told him to call” and that he was calling about a package of papers “to go to Albany.” A subsequent message reveals that the papers concerned a real estate broker’s license for Carrera. Four weeks later, Carrera called again and Friedman’s secretary left the following message: “Sent paperwork to Albany. From Tom. What’s the status?” Gambino called Friedman on November 8, “re his friend. Also he’ll call Jackie,” Friedman’s wife. The following day, Jackie Friedman, who works in the mayor’s office, left a message reminding her husband about “1) Reservation PR 2) Gambino.” The first message refers to a trip the couple took to Puerto Rico last winter.
Thomas Gambino owns one of the garment district’s largest truckers, Consolidated Carriers (his messages to Friedman included Consolidated’s number). While he has no criminal record, Newsday reported last September that Gambino was identified by a police detective in federal court testimony as a captain in the Gambino crime family. An FBI court affidavit contends that Gambino is a soldier. Carrera received his broker’s license last September through Ketrec Management on East 40th Street, where he was reached last week. Asked about Friedman and Gambino, Carrera said “That’s none of your business” and hung up. Gambino, too, hung up when the Voice called.
Stanley’s City Council Mole
Eastside city councilman Bob Dryfoos, who double-crossed the rest of the Manhattan delegation last January and cast the decisive vote that elected the Friedman/Manes-backed Peter Vallone majority leader of the council, made his first appearance on the Friedman logs on October 9. His initial message was wedged in between two from Brooklyn borough president and county leader Howard Golden, who ultimately allied himself with the Manhattan delegation in an attempt to keep the majority leadership in Brooklyn (it was the retirement of former leader Tom Cuite, a Brooklyn councilman, that created the vacancy).
Golden’s first message read: “wants to meet with you next week — early part — just you and he — when? where?” Since Golden, Friedman, and Manes met regularly, this message was probably an attempt by Golden to sound out Friedman alone about the possibility of supporting a Brooklyn candidate against the frontrunner, Vallone, who as a Queens councilman was Manes’s candidate. Friedman’s control of the six Bronx votes made him a pivotal player in any contest between Queens and Brooklyn. The very next message that day was from Dryfoos: “Yes — meet — drink coffee here one hour — reorganization of City Council and thereto, before you talk to Howard.” A short while later, Golden called again: “Don’t do anything — OK — Howie Golden — talk to him.” Friedman’s diary lists an October 15 lunch with Golden at Friedman’s office and an October 21 meeting with Dryfoos. Neither Golden nor Dryfoos returned Voice calls.
After this initial exchange, several messages suggest a growing relationship between Friedman and Dryfoos. In early November, Dryfoos called while Friedman was vacationing in Puerto Rico and was given Friedman’s number there. Next he called for Friedman’s mailing address. Then another meeting was set in early December. As the tight race headed for its early January showdown, Dryfoos, who kept attending meetings of the Manhattan delegation and pledging his support to its candidate (Brooklyn’s Sam Horowitz), became a Friedman mole. On December 27, he called while Friedman was once again vacationing in Puerto Rico, said he “heard some news you should be aware of,” and left Friedman his own vacation number at an upstate hotel. Messages from a Bronx council-member, June Eisland, indicate that Dryfoos met with them on January 3. On January 8, Dryfoos coolly assured his fellow Manhattan members, moments before the vote, that he was with them, and then publicly announced his vote for Vallone.
The logs also suggest that Friedman was looking for some last minute insurance. Council President Andrew Stein, who had no vote on the matter unless the council members deadlocked, has confirmed that he met with Friedman and others the night before the vote. Stein insists that the meeting was only to discuss the parliamentary rulings he would make the next day and that he was determinedly neutral. But two sources deeply involved in the process told the Voice that Stein told them he preferred Vallone, and one of them says that the meeting with Friedman “might have been” to lock in Stein’s vote in case of a tie. Stein told the Voice that he met with Golden too, but in fact he met only with Golden technicians. Indeed Stein met with technicians from both sides the morning of the vote. Friedman was unlikely to personally attend an emergency meeting with Stein the night before the vote to discuss innocuous parliamentary decisions.
Si’s Slip is Showing
Roy Cohn’s aide Sue Bell called Friedman on October 10, 1985 and asked Friedman to try to get “a boatslip for S.I. Newhouse III (known as Sam) beginning mid 1986” for Newhouse’s 42-foot yacht, Diver Master. Publishing heir Newhouse, whose family owns Vogue, Glamour, Vanity Fair, The Staten Island Advance, Random House, and dozens of newspapers and cable TV stations across the country, wanted the boat berthed at the city’s only active Manhattan marina — at East 23rd Street. Cohn and Newhouse’s father were lifelong friends.
A series of subsequent messages indicate that Friedman called a top city official who ran the city’s ferry bureau and asked for help. But the ferry bureau didn’t run the marina; the city’s Department of Ports & Terminals did. So the ferry chief called Audrey Lasher, P&T’s leasing director, who supervised the city’s sublease with Skyports Inc., the company that operated the marina under an agreement with the city. Lasher agreed, according to the ferry chief, to talk to Skyports. Despite what sources say is an “exceedingly long waiting list,” Newhouse got his slip — only one of 27 — at the marina. Both Lasher and the ferry chief have since left the city. P&T spokesperson Marcia Reiss said that the agency’s lease with the marina operators does not permit the agency “to interfere in the allocation of slips” and that any action taken by Lasher would not be a matter of agency business.
The Kiss of Death
A 1983 Daily News story reported that the mayor had contacted the four county leaders close to him, including Friedman, to seek their recommendations before appointing a new Ports & Terminals commissioner. A two-to-two tie resulted in Koch naming Susan Frank, who had not been favored by any of the party bosses. So when Koch began the search for a replacement for Frank after his re-election in 1985, it was widely assumed that Friedman would once again play a role. A spokesman for Deputy Mayor Alair Townsend, who was overseeing the selection of a new commissioner for the mayor, confirmed that Friedman had called Townsend on behalf of a candidate: Carlos Galvis, a Princeton graduate who had worked in the Lindsay administration and for Congressman Les Aspin. The phone logs indicate that Friedman did not know Galvis personally, but was contacted in late December by Robin Farkas, whose family owns Alexander’s. After Farkas talked with Friedman, Galvis sent Friedman a résumé.
Galvis told the Voice that both Farkas and two friends of his at the Real Estate Board suggested that he contact Friedman for help in getting the job. While he declined to say who at the Real Estate Board pointed him in Friedman’s direction, he said they also suggested that he contact Donald Manes. He added that he has known Farkas since the ’60s. Friedman gave Galvis an appointment, and Galvis went to Friedman’s law office at 11 a.m., January 10, the morning of Manes’s first suicide attempt. Galvis said that Friedman’s secretary mistook him for a senator and ushered him right in, observing that otherwise he might not have been able to see Friedman, who “was having a very busy day.” Galvis saw Friedman for about 20 minutes and recalled that throughout the interview an “unruffled” Friedman was making and receiving calls. Friedman told Galvis that “he was trying to get a car to go see his best friend in Queens, who was in the hospital.” Friedman promised: “I will call on your behalf.”
In late January, when Galvis was told he had not been hired, the city scandal had already exploded and Friedman was at the center of the storm. “Even if I was the best candidate, I had become tainted,” he said. “After all this started I felt like crap. I felt like the guy who got nominated for supreme court justice on the day the president got impeached.” But city officials insist that Michael Huerta, who is the now the P&T commissioner, had already been selected by the time Friedman and Galvis met. Huerta was reportedly offered the job on January 6 and the city was merely concluding terms with him.
Friedman’s phone was the political Action Line. Requests from friends and fellow pols came in regularly for tickets to Broadway plays (Cats and The Odd Couple) and the Palladium (from Stanley Simon on behalf of his daughter Suzette, and from Councilwoman June Eisland). Bronx county clerk Leo Levy called asking for four hotel rooms (with dinner and a show) for New Year’s Eve at Trump’s Castle in Atlantic City. Trump’s secretary called wanting to know, “Are they heavies at the table?” since it was a “hardship” to give up the rooms. Friedman eventually informed Levy that he could not swing the rooms. Levy also called on behalf of Norman Goodman, the New York county clerk, asking for four tickets to a Carnegie Hall concert. Friedman also got requests for tickets to Midnight Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral as well as local football games. Jet tickets were no problem, the logs reveal, but Friedman did not have a hook in with the Giants. He could get judges to perform weddings, though.
Lillian Delgado called in September, 1985 asking for help locating an apartment for $700 in Manhattan or downtown Brooklyn. Friedman put Delgado, a friend of a friend, in touch with Lew Katz, the owner of the Uncle Charlie’s chain of gay bars and a friend of Roy Cohn’s. Katz, who also helped get Friedman’s step-daughter a job, was charged last May with stabbing to death a 37- year-old man during an argument, and is currently free on $400,000 bail. Delgado said that Katz did not find her an apartment. “I ended up paying a big broker’s fee,” she added.
One deal Friedman was not able to complete — through no fault of his own — concerned the securing of hangar space for attorney Richard Friedman’s airplane. Richard Friedman called three times in October, 1985 asking Friedman to “make the case” with officials of the Port Authority. Then, on December 9, the search was called off. On that day, Lewinter left the following message: “Richard Friedman, re: plane storage. Forget it — he crashed plane & was killed.” ❖
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 21, 2020