Stanley Friedman’s Banana Republic

“As in a colony, the Bronx's leadership positions are all held by outsiders (who are also white males), including the office of Democratic county leader, the borough presidency, the office of the district attorney, the Surrogate, and the majority of seats on the Democratic County Exec­utive Committee”


The Bronx as One Man’s Land

They are businessmen who demand that others call them “political leaders.” To them la Colonia of El Bronx is a busi­ness and allegiance to the business is more important than loyalty to any par­ty. They are mostly Democrats but they do business with Republicans. A few of them are Republicans but do business with Democrats. They are lawyers; they own pieces of construction firms; they control cable television companies; they are consultants. These are the business­men who control the colony of the Bronx.

The jefe of the colonialists, the man who makes most of the decisions affect­ing the Bronx from his Manhattan pent­house office, is Stanley Friedman, Demo­cratic county leader. He makes these decisions, which affect thousands of Lat­ins and Blacks, while making big profits for his own business ventures. This is possible because of Friedman’s control and influence over the Democratic Coun­ty Committee, the office of borough pres­ident, local planning boards, and “eco­nomic development” community agen­cies. He exploits them all.

Friedman’s friends and fellow colonial­ists include his famous law partner, right-­wing Republican Roy Cohn. His other associates, some of whom have been de­scribed by Norman Adler, political action director of District Council 37, as “the dobermans in Animal Farm,” include Paul Victor, law chairman for the Bronx Democratic County Committee, and two members of the Democratic County Committee of the Bronx, Murray Lewin­ter and Stanley Schlein.

Along with these individuals there are State Senator John Calandra represent­ing the Republican Party, and last and perhaps least, the Bronx borough presi­dent, Stanley Simon. Excluding Calan­dra, these white males control the Bronx Democratic County Committee — its funds, appointments, nominations, and all its activities — despite the fact that the Bronx is over 70 per cent Black and Latino.

Unlike his predecessor Patrick Cun­ningham, who refused to understand that to maintain his power he had to “adjust” to changing times, Friedman does include some minority representation in his group. Friedman has found some natives who are most willing to support him in return for relatively small rewards.

Crazy Joe Gallo, famous underworld figure, who was known for his attempts to include Blacks and Latinos in “la Fami­lia,” understood that to keep his opera­tion strong in poor communitites, he had to change his strategy to fit new realities. Friedman has recognized the same changes in the Bronx and that they called for a similar strategy in his organization. He found individuals like South Bronx boss Ramon Velez and State Senator Jo­seph Galiber to legitimize his power in the Black and Latino communities of the Bronx. Velez and Galiber basically act as overseers to make sure that Blacks and Latins who challenge the power relation­ships in the “banana republic” do not obtain any power. For Friedman’s purposes, Velez and Galiber serve to create the illusion that power is shared in the Bronx.

Recently, Friedman has also supported minority candidates such as Larry Sea­brook, who defeated incumbent Vincent Marchiselli this fall in the 82nd Assembly District. This kind of support is only giv­en, however, when the incumbent is anti­-Friedman and anti-machine, as Marchi­selli has always been, and when the challenger indicates a willingness and commitment to work with “County” and cooperate with Friedman.

As in a colony, the Bronx’s leadership positions are all held by outsiders (who are also white males), including the office of Democratic county leader, the borough presidency, the office of the district attorney, the Surrogate, and the majority of seats on the Democratic County Exec­utive Committee. El Jefe keeps it this way by running a well-organized, tight-knit group, exercising control over the office of borough president, controlling judgeships and maintaining an intimate relationship with Mayor Koch, who has provided the Democratic county leader with numerous city jobs. Through the use of patronage Friedman has developed a loyal group of followers and hundreds of others who are hoping to get something from the Democratic boss.

Friedman’s control over the office of Bronx borough president began with his early contributions to the first borough presidency campaign of Stanley Simon in 1979. Friedman, his law partners, and some of his clients made substantial loans to Bronx borough president Simon during this campaign. A 1979 Voice arti­cle detailed these loans and showed how Simon’s campaign was almost completely dependent for its initial financing on the Friedman/Cohn law firm, Saxe, Bacon and Bolan. In return, Friedman has been rewarded with patronage on the staff of the borough president, in the planning boards, and in agencies like the Bronx Development Corporation.

Friedman has used this patronage to find jobs for district leaders and other “community activists” who are key play­ers in minority communities. It is be­cause of this patronage that Friedman has been able to guarantee that the dis­trict leaders who elect the county leader continue to choose him. Although 11 out of 20 of the district leaders are minor­ities, Friedman was just recently reelect­ed by 19 of the 20.

Friedman has also exercised his influ­ence in the borough president’s office to gather friendly votes at the Board of Es­timate. Friedman was influential in pro­viding support for Koch in 1981 and has been able to sway most minority politi­cians in the Bronx to his side. This, in turn, has helped Friedman get favorable votes for his “projects” on the Board of Estimate.

Referring to this control Friedman has over Simon, former Bronx borough presi­dent Herman Badillo stated, “Bronx bor­ough president Stanley Simon has al­lowed his office to be used, controlled, and dominated by the county leader. Si­mon has turned his powers over to Fried­man.” When asked to respond to this accusation and other charges in the arti­cle, Bronx borough president Simon as well as Democratic county leader Fried­man refused to comment.

Israel Ruiz, state senator and district leader in the South Bronx and often the sole dissenting voice in county meetings, has described Friedman as “a county leader who uses his position solely to fur­ther his business interests. Friedman forces anyone doing business in the Bronx, whether it be building highways, housing construction or developing mar­kets, to do business with his law firm or one of his ‘favored’ law firms.”

Describing the loyal support that mi­nority district leaders have lavished on Friedman, Norman Adler stated, “Stan­ley Friedman is like a corpse being car­ried around by vampires. He is like a dead man who is being propped up.”

Saxe, Bacon and Bolan’s Bronx clients include: the New York Bus Express Ser­vice Company, that allows the white mid­dle class of the Bronx to avoid mingling with the poorer nonwhite residents of the South Bronx; the New York Yankees; and the Metropolitan Taxi Board. Ac­cording to State Senator Ruiz, the firm recently acquired as a client the architec­tural design company of Daniel Mann, Johnson and Mendenhall, a group con­tracted to do a feasibility study for the new Bronx prison.

Ruiz has documented a whole history of shady dealings involving Mann, John­son and Mendenhall. According to this documentation, the firm was convicted and fined by a Massachusetts state court for paying bribes for contracts. The firm has also had construction and design problems in Baltimore, New Orleans, and Niagara. Despite this track record the State Office of General Services awarded this firm a design contract for the pro­posed Metro North Prison.

Talking Turkey, a new progressive newspaper in the city, recently revealed that Friedman is the largest stockholder in a company which was awarded the contract to produce and maintain a new system called Summons Issuance Device of New York, hand-held computers to be used by parking enforcement agents to find out if a ticketed car belongs to a scofflaw. This contract, unanimously granted by the Board of Estimate to a brand new company with no significant resources, netted Stanley Friedman, as largest stockholder, a capital gain of $1.3 million dollars. Among those companies rejected by the Board of Estimate were Motorola Corporation and a subsidiary of McDonnell Douglass Corporation.

In the most recent edition of Talking Turkey Friedman denies that his compa­ny received any special treatment from the Board of Estimate.

Friedman’s law firm itself is an excel­lent example of how colonialistas of the major political parties unite around prof­it. Saxe, Bacon and Bolan includes, in addition to Roy Cohn, Tom Bolan, a leading force in the Conservative Party. Both Cohn and Bolan have done legal work for the Catholic Archdiocese and have ties to conservative Archbishop John J. O’Connor. This same type of col­lusion between Democrats and Republi­cans is reflected in la colonia’s politics.

South Bronx powerbroker Ramon Ve­lez supported Ronald Reagan in his re­election bid. Not only did Velez’s com­munity programs like Bronx Venture receive federal money before this en­dorsement, but so did an economic devel­opment agency called Bronx Develop­ment Corporation, an organization directly controlled by Bronx boss Stanley Friedman and Borough President Stan­ley Simon.

Last month State Senator Galiber, a strong Friedman ally who at all times makes himself available to help divide Blacks and Latinos and reelect whites, was indicted with Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan, a Reagan appointee. Joseph Galiber, until last week the ranking mi­nority member of the State Senate’s Eth­ics Committee, was indicted for grand larceny in the second degree and falsify­ing business records in the first degree. He has also been linked to William Mas­selli, a well-known mobster; they were co-­owners of JoPel Contracting and Truck­ing, a firm which frequently did business with Donovan’s company, Schiavone Construction Company.

Politicians like Congressman Robert Garcia who cooperate with Friedman and local Bronx Republicans are often given the Republican line while leading conser­vative Republicans like John Calandra go unchallenged by Friedman’s County Committee. Calandra remains unchal­lenged by the Bronx Democrats although Democratic members in the state senate have identified him as one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the state senate. It was Calandra who helped give Koch the GOP line in the 1981 mayoralty race, and who is already lobbying for the Republicans to give Koch the line in 1985. In return for his support, Calandra, the leading Republican in the Bronx, wins such rewards as the $1 million he received in the April 1984 supplementary budget for programs in his area. While Calandra obtained his million, in com­parison, areas like the South Bronx got crumbs.

The Bronx colonialistas not only do business with “opposing” political par­ties, but have provided legal representa­tion to underworld figures who feed from the same field.

Friedman’s law partner, Roy Cohn, has represented reputed mobsters like Vin­cent DiNapoli, one of the most powerful builders in the Bronx. DiNapoli was con­victed in 1982 for extortion and labor racketeering. Before sentencing DiNapoli received letters of support both from As­semblyman Jose Rivera and from State Senator Calandra, who described DiNa­poli as “an individual who has always responded to community needs.”

Friedman’s ally State Senator Joseph Galiber not only was joint owner of Jo­Pel Trucking with underworld figure William Masselli, who is now serving sev­en years in prison on federal hijacking charges, but has also politically support­ed Louis Moscatiello, widely reputed to be the “son” of Vincent DiNapoli. It was DiNapoli who began Plasterers Local 530, the union of which Moscatiello be­came president.

Moscatiello, whose mob ties have been detailed in previous Voice articles, is now on the payroll of State Senator John Ca­landra. It was Moscatiello who inspired the recent civil court judge candidacy of Richard Gugliotta, the candidate Stanley Friedman tried to ram down the throats of Bronx voters. Gugliotta’s background includes once having been a serious scoff­law, a tax dodger, and a man whose clos­est allies have been people like Louis Moscatiello.

Friedman pulled out all the stops to try to get Gugliotta elected. Although Gugli­otta lost the primary, Friedman attempt­ed to get him placed on the ballot through the nomination of the Democrat­ic County Committee. Most of the dis­trict leaders went along with Friedman, and if Vincent Marchiselli hadn’t filed a successsful lawsuit, Gugliotta would have been on the Democratic line.

Other members of the Democratic County Executive Committee have done business with reputed mobsters. In 1982 the Voice revealed that Paul Victor, law chairman of the Bronx Democratic Coun­ty Committee and parliamentarian of the Executive Committee, represented Sonny Guippone on major narcotics selling charges. Guippone was known to federal authorities as a drug dealer responsible for moving millions of dollars of heroin throughout the Bronx, especially the South Bronx. He was convicted for nar­cotics trafficking and sentenced to 30 years.

Friedman and his friends have been very successful in creating a total monop­oly of political power in the Bronx. Un­like Brooklyn and Manhattan where there are real battles between regulars, reformers, and Black and Brown political movements, the Bronx, even now, has no organized antimachine group. Reformers in the Bronx are few, unorganized, and in recent years most willing to make deals with Boss Friedman.

The big loser is the Bronx Democratic Party. “Since Friedman and his cohorts are only interested in doing business, we have a weak party with little connection to the concerns and problems of the Bronx,” explained State Senator Ruiz in  a recent interview.

The Democratic Party in the Bronx is not concerned with registering new voters who could create a challenge to the status quo. As long as there are few voters and low voter turnouts, the candidates the Bronx Party supports — who offer the voters so little — can continue to be re-­elected, thus perpetuating the power held by Friedman and his associates.

Generally, politicians who have been opponents of the machine, like Al Vann, Major Owens, Basil Patterson, and Her­man Badillo, have tended to be more pro­gressive and more responsive to their communities.

Politicians like Joseph Galiber, Rafael Castaneira Colon, Hector Diaz, or Enoch Williams, all sponsored by the machine, have tended to be weaklings with very little interest in empowering their com­munities. It is therefore very important how a minority politician comes to pow­er — whether through the efforts of orga­nized community people or simply as the machine’s choice.

The one-party rule in El Bronx will be doing business as usual in the 1985 elec­tion for Bronx borough president and for City Council. In return for the machine supporting Latino incumbents, it is ex­pected that councilmen Rafael Casta­neira Colon and Freddy Ferrer, along with Ramon Velez and Joseph Galiber, will support the reelection of Stanley Si­mon for borough president and Ed Koch for mayor. The 1985 election in the Bronx may in fact be a referendum on one-party rule in the Bronx.

Most recently in the Bronx there have been some independent stirrings in the Black and Latino community. Surely the campaign of Jesse Jackson, pitted against the machine and Latino politicians who supported Mondale, began to produce the elements needed for an emergency rescue mission.

The 1985 opposition to Friedman will come from the activists of the Jackson campaign, from the reformers who were successful in electing Alexander Delle Cese to civil court judge and from unex­pected sources like Assemblyman Jose Serrano, who recently broke away from Koch, Friedman, and Simon, and an­nounced his support for Herman Badillo along with his own candidacy for Bronx borough president.

Signs of what is coming were seen in this past election year; independent forces began opposing the incumbents who are loyal to Friedman. In the North Bronx, young Black activist David Brush initiated a campaign to capture the 82nd Assembly District. Although knocked off the ballot (with a little help from Fried­man) he certainly intends to run again. In this same area, Black activist Alice Tor­riente will be running against Friedman ally Councilman Jerry Crispino.

In the Fordham Road/Kingsbridge area of the Bronx, a number of progres­sive Blacks and Latinos supported the candidacy of Reuben Franco against As­semblyman George Friedman. Although Franco was defeated with room to spare, these Blacks and Latinos are now devel­oping their own independent political club. It is expected that this club will identify a serious challenger to run against Councilman Freddie Ferrer.

In the South Bronx, Soundview, and Parchester areas of the Bronx, a group of Black and Latino community organizers have developed the Bronx Rainbow Club. This group is emphasizing the importance of Black and Latino unity in de­feating Friedman’s machine and is plan­ning to run progressive candidates this year. It appears that Roberto Marrero, longtime tenant activist, will be their candidate against Councilman Rafael Castaneira-Colon.

There are many other independent ef­forts now being planned in the Bronx. Some of these emerging movements are guided by new progressive ideas while others simply seek to replace Friedman or one of his friends in order to seize power and use it in the Friedman/South Bronx tradition.

It is important to note that Black and Latino independents, reformers, and pro­gressives have yet to develop a long-range strategy for the seizure of power in the Bronx. Too many have been co-opted by the immediate crumbs. Both short and long-range strategies are needed. As long as these kinds of plans are neglected, Friedman’s power will indeed be secure.

Herman Badillo has suggested that the prime strategy of all reformers, indepen­dents and progressives in 1985 should be to replace Bronx borough president Stan­ley Simon. “We cannot have a borough president who allows his position, his staff, and his vote on the Board of Esti­mate to be used by party powerbrokers that are only interested in enriching their legal practices,” says Badillo. Simon re­fused to comment.

“We must get rid of Stanley Simon,” said Badillo, “and instead elect a borough president who will be independent.” Oth­ers have agreed with Badillo that if Friedman loses control of the office of Bronx borough president he will lose con­trol of significant patronage, of the vote at the Board of Estimate, and access to information for business dealings.

If Serrano can unite with a Black/ Puerto Rican/Labor/Liberal citywide ef­fort to support Herman Badillo, and then link up with serious challengers like Tor­riente and Marrero, the Friedman ma­chine may indeed face its first serious challenge.

Friedman’s colonial machine is clearly prepared for such challenges. If a Puerto Rican runs for Bronx borough president the machine will find a Black like Joe Galiber, in hopes that he will divide the vote. If a Black runs, South Bronx caudi­llo Ramon Velez will certainly help them find a Puerto Rican to divide the vote. They will use all the power they have with the Board of Elections to make sure that any challenger is knocked off the ballot. They will call in Paul Victor, Stanley Schlein, and Murray Lewinter to represent incumbents and to pose legal challenges to the independent candi­dates. Friedman appoints the commis­sioner on the Board of Elections from the Bronx, so you can expect the board will cooperate with the machine.

If a reformer is able to survive the chal­lenges from the Friedman forces, he or she will then face an election day in which all the poll watchers and personnel at the polling sites are part of the Fried­man machine. Irregularities will flourish. In a very recent race for district leader where a young Puerto Rican named Jose Rivera (unrelated to the assemblyman) ran against the incumbent in the 78th A.D., numerous illegal practices were cited in a lawsuit challenging the results.

Attorneys for Rivera, provided by State Senator Israel Ruiz, found that many inspectors were not members of ei­ther party, in clear violation of the law; in many of the election districts there were no inspectors at all; Republicans were al­lowed to vote in a Democratic primary, and unregistered voters were allowed to vote.

The Friedman colonialistas will do ev­erything and anything to remain in pow­er. They are businessmen first, second, and always, but they prefer to be called “political leaders.” Every day they obtain new Bronx clients and begin new con­struction companies, housing manage­ment corporations, consultant groups, and other types of enterprises. They do business with Republicans, reputed mob­sters, and “cooperative” Blacks and La­tinos. They successfully run a one-party state, ready to take on those who seek the independence of the Bronx.

But natives are beginning to stir. One small group after another is forming and the word is being spread: “Stanley Simon must go, and then, Stanley Friedman.” As the independent movement begins to develop, as they begin to unite, as re­formers begin to realize they must work with independent Blacks and Latinos, Stanley Friedman will go the way of all colonialistas, and independencia will soon arrive in the Bronx … ■

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 14, 2020