Saturday, April 19, 2014

Documentary Producer to Lead City’s Film Office

Cynthia López, named the new commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, says she wants to build on the legacy of her predecessor.

LV Mar Modern Latin Cuisine

LV Mar

Chef Manuel Martínez (no relation)  owner of L V MAR and Viga Restaurants in Redwood City California prepared a customer order of CEVICHE MITO. On this video the viewers could learn to prepared their own Ceviche Mito. L V Mar is located on the San Francisco Peninsula ( Between San Jóse and San Francisco) in Northern California, 27 miles of San Francisco. It is an ideal place to savor a relax diner.

Chef Mnuel Martínez learned his art in some of the most revered kitchens in the Bay Area. Working beside Michelin recommended masters, Chef Manuel embraced a world-class philosophy of gastronomy. Known for his no-nonsense approach, Chef Manuel understands that the race to creating the finest contemporary cuisine is one that has no finish line.
Always inventing, while respecting traditional palettes, Chef Manuel creates menus that are new, fresh, and yet familiar. Continuing his long list of successes that includes properties like Bucca Giovanni, One Market, The Left Bank, and (his own) La Viga, Chef would like to invite you to LV Mar…the same passions, the same expertise, taken to a new level.
LV Mar is the next evolution of Chef Manuel’s vision. A casual, up-scale experience, LV Mar is where comfortable atmosphere, and the finest in gastronomy meet. It’s all about the highest-quality ingredients, the most refined techniques, and a unpretentious environment where satisfied guests are not just clients…they’re a part of the recipe.

Video by Rafael Martínez Alequín

Video by Rafael Martínez Alequín

Celebrate Easter At LV Mar - Brunch 10am-2:30pm!

  • “The place is clean, modern and simple with a trendy casual vibe.” in 7 reviews
    Ambience: Trendy
  • “when he opened la viga early on and he was doing some of the yucatacan fare, it was awesome.” in 18 reviews
  • “Incredible combination of flavors (duck, cherries and wine reduction).” in 20 reviews
    Alcohol: Beer & Wine Only

Friday, April 18, 2014

Salsa music great José 'Cheo' Feliciano, 78, dies in car crash

NEW YORK, NY 10007

No. 160


“Puerto Rico, New York City and the world today lost a beloved artist. I’m saddened to learn that Cheo Feliciano died in a car accident this morning. A native of Ponce, Puerto Rico, Feliciano moved to New York City in 1952 and settled down in El Barrio. A vocalist for the Joe Cuba Sextet, he was the rare baritone among salsa singers, and his deep voice and quick wit as an improviser made him an icon of Latin American music. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. He will be missed, but his spirit will forever live among us through his music.”
SAN JUAN Thu Apr 17, 2014 1:28pm EDT
Puerto Rican salsa singer Jose ''Cheo'' Feliciano (R) embraces Panamanian singer Ruben Blades during Blades' initial concert of his new tour ''Todos Vuelven'' at the Puerto Rico Coliseum in San Juan, in this August 21, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Ana Martinez/Files
Puerto Rican salsa singer Jose ''Cheo'' Feliciano (R) embraces Panamanian singer Ruben Blades during Blades' initial concert of his new tour ''Todos Vuelven'' at the Puerto Rico Coliseum in San Juan, in this August 21, 2009 file photo.
Credit: Reuters/Ana Martinez/Files

Related Topics

(Reuters) - Puerto Rican singer José Luis "Cheo" Feliciano, who performed with some of salsa's top stars, was killed in a car crash in San Juan early Thursday morning, police said. He was 78.Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla declared three days of mourning for the widely admired salsero.
Feliciano died shortly after 4 a.m, according to Axel Valencia, a San Juan police spokesman. The El Nuevo Dia newspaper said his Jaguar hit an electricity pole.
"It appears as if he lost control while taking a curve," Police Inspector Jorge Hernandez Pena said, adding that he was not wearing a seat belt.
Not to be confused with the blind José Feliciano, the famed Puerto Rican guitarist and vocalist with hits including a rendition of The Doors' "Light My Fire," Cheo Feliciano was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico on July 3, 1935.
Tributes poured in on Thursday from fellow musicians and fans.
In a Twitter message, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Feliciano "always carried with him pride of his beloved Puerto Rico. He was Caribbean and gave us rhythm and poetry to fill our life."
Feliciano dropped out of school at 17 and moved to New York in 1952 to train with top salsa orchestras, according to
He started his career as a drummer and got his first shot as a singer with the Joe Cuba Sextet. He would go on to establish a solo career in the 1970s and performed with the legendary Fania All-Stars.
In 2008, he was honored with the Latin Grammy Awards' Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
In 2012, he released a collaboration with Panamanian singer Rubén Blades, "Eba Say Ajá."
Feliciano's contribution to salsa "has no expiration date," said Blades on his website. "He will always be remembered with fondness and admiration that the greats deserve."
Blades told El Nuevo Dia he started his career imitating Feliciano's style because he admired its "quality and elegance."
"He was a guide to all of us," said Enrique "Papo" Lucca, a pianist who played with Feliciano in the Fania-All Stars and was interviewed while visiting the family home on Thursday.
"He had enormous energy and was a very kind to everyone, as well as having impeccable artistic talent," he added.
(Writing by David Adams; Editing by W Simon)
City Room

In the Bronx, a Tribute to a Salsa Singer

A mural in progress in the Bronx honors Cheo Feliciano.
David Gonzalez/The New York Times
A mural in progress in the Bronx honors Cheo Feliciano.
Muralists are honoring the singer Cheo Feliciano, who died Thursday in a car accident in Puerto Rico.
City Room

In the Bronx, a Tribute to a Salsa Singer

A mural in progress in the Bronx honors Cheo Feliciano.
David Gonzalez/The New York Times
A mural in progress in the Bronx honors Cheo Feliciano.
Muralists are honoring the singer Cheo Feliciano, who died Thursday in a car accident in Puerto Rico.

The Failure of Desegregation

April 17, 2014
In 1952, an African-American woman named Sarah Bulah filed a lawsuit challenging the segregated education system in her home state of Delaware. Bulah lived near a spacious, modern, whites-only high school, but her daughter, Shirley, was forced to attend a decrepit, single-room school. The state provided transportation only for white students, so Bulah had to drive her daughter to and from school each day, even though the bus route ran right past her home. Hundreds of other black parents in the area faced the same situation, yet Bulah’s decision to mount a legal challenge was met with scorn. Her neighbors disagreed with her, while local black teachers voiced their own disapproval. Bulah’s pastor doubted the wisdom of her actions. “I was for segregation,” he later remarked.
Bulah won her case, and, for the first time, a court ordered a whites-only public school to accept black students. After the state appealed the decision, the lawsuit, Bulah v. Gebhart, became part of a cluster of cases heard by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education. Sarah Bulah, who had acted against the wishes of many in her community, was partly responsible for helping to dismantle the infrastructure of legal segregation in the United States.
But, as we approach the sixtieth anniversary of the Brown decision, next month, the landmark case seems, in hindsight, like a qualified victory. Racially homogenous schools remain a fact of American life. There may be no contemporary analogue to the violent resistance in the nineteen-seventies against school busing programs, but in recent years even voluntary-desegregation plans have been met with legal challenges. There may be no better example of the ongoing scandal of school segregation than the New York City public-school system, which a recent report by the Civil Rights Project at U.C.L.A. found to be one of the most segregated in the country. Black and Latino students in New York have become more likely to attend schools with minimal white enrollment, and a majority of them go to schools defined by concentrated poverty. Three-quarters of the city’s charter schools, which were a key component of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts at education reform, have fewer than one per cent white enrollment. At Stuyvesant, the most exclusive of the city’s specialized public high schools, where admission is determined by a competitive exam, only seven black students and twenty-one Latino students were offered places in next year’s freshman class. New York is simultaneously the most diverse city in the United States and the most glaring indicator of integration’s failures.
When I graduated from Jamaica High School, in Queens, in 1987, the school was recognized for both its high academic performance and its diverse student body, which mirrored the polyglot neighborhood that surrounded it. (In 1985, it was honored by the U.S. Department of Education as one of the nation’s “outstanding” public secondary schools.) Among my four closest African-American friends from high school—only one of whom had college-educated parents—two went on to get Ph.D.s, and the other two have M.B.A.s. By 2009, however, the graduation rate had slumped below fifty per cent, and the school was slated for closure by the city, owing to its poor academic achievement and high levels of violence. It had already long ceased having the mélange of ethnicities that I remembered. But the reversion toward segregation was not the cause of the school’s academic decline: both were symptoms of the concentration of poverty that has come to define public schools across most of New York City.
The meaning of the ongoing resegregation of our public schools becomes clearer if we look back at the campaign to integrate them—which was concerned less with race than with resources. We like to think of the men and women whose struggle led to Brown v. Board of Education as democratic idealists, but their motivations were more complex: if the efforts to upend Jim Crow reflected idealism, it was a cynical idealism. The damning images of Southern resistance to integration, and Northern riots against busing, obscure the fact that the decision to fight segregation was as fraught for African-Americans as the prospect of desegregation was for the whites who most violently opposed it. In the decades prior to Brown, the civil-rights establishment had fought a fierce and futile battle for the equal distribution of resources between black and white schools. It was only after attempting to force school districts to uphold the latter part of “separate but equal” proved to be a failure that the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund changed its tactics, and attacked separation itself. (It was for this reason, incidentally, that the effort to dismantle educational apartheid in the South came to involve Linda Brown, of Topeka, Kansas—a city where there was a parity of resources between black and white schools.) The tactical shift was not universally welcomed by African-Americans: critics like Zora Neale Hurston howled at the implication that black learning could be insured only by proximity to white children. Elijah Muhammad warned, ominously, that “only a fool allows his enemies to educate his children.” But decades of fruitless lawsuits seeking equal resources for black and white students had taught the N.A.A.C.P.’s lawyers that the only way to secure a fair distribution of resources was to literally sit the black children in the same classrooms as the white ones.
The architects of Jim Crow were fixated by notions of white racial purity, but black people subjected to that dictatorship of pigment were concerned with a different question: In a hostile society, is it better to be isolated from those who view you with contempt or in close proximity to them? In retrospect, it is easy to see segregation as a moral evil unanimously despised by black people, but even its fiercest critics betrayed ambivalence about what its end would mean. In the thirties, W. E. B. Du Bois inspired rancorous debates within the N.A.A.C.P. by arguing, in his writing, that there were important economic benefits—the built-in market for black businesses, for instance—that came with segregation. James Nabrit, Jr., an attorney who handled a school-desgegration suit in Washington, D.C., that became one of the cases grouped with Brown, went on to become president of Howard University, a job that entailed the seemingly paradoxical task of preserving and furthering an all-black educational institution. Three of the other attorneys who worked on Brown, including Thurgood Marshall, had, in fact, met as students at Howard’s law school, and they began their desegregation work under the tutelage of Charles Hamilton Houston, the school’s dean. Black teachers in South Carolina, where another of the desegregation suits had been filed, worried, with some cause, that integration would end a state of affairs in which black children, though deprived of equal resources, at least benefitted from teachers who did not calibrate their expectations according to the color of their students’ skin.
The Supreme Court decision on Brown, in 1954, marked a moral high point in American history, but the practice that it dispatched to the graveyard had already begun to mutate into something less tangible and far more durable. What would, in the end, preserve the principle of “separate inequality” was not protests like the one staged by Orval Faubus, the governor of Arkansas, who deployed the National Guard to Little Rock’s Central High School, in 1957, in order to keep black students out. Instead, it was policies like the Interstate Highway Act, whose passage one year earlier helped spawn American suburbia. In the wake of Brown, private schools, whose implicit mission was to educate white children, cropped up throughout the South. The persistent legacies of redlining, housing discrimination, and wage disparity conspired to produce segregation without Jim Crow—maintaining all the familiar elements of the past in an updated operating system.
To the extent that the word “desegregation” remains in our vocabulary, it describes an antique principle, not a current priority. Today, we are more likely to talk of diversity—but diversification and desegregation are not the same undertaking. To speak of diversity, in light of this country’s history of racial recidivism, is to focus on bringing ethnic variety to largely white institutions, rather than dismantling the structures that made them so white to begin with.
And so, sixty years after Brown, it is clear that the notion of segregation as a discrete phenomenon, an evil that could be flipped, like a switch, from on to off, by judicial edict, was deeply naïve. The intervening decades have shown, in large measure, the limits of what political efforts directed at desegregation alone could achieve, and the crumbling of both elements of “separate but equal” has left us at an ambivalent juncture. To the extent that desegregation becomes, once again, a pressing concern—and even that may be too grand a hope—it will have to involve the tax code, the minimum wage, and other efforts to redress income inequality. For the tragedy of this moment is not that black students still go to overwhelmingly black schools, long after segregation was banished by law, but that they do so for so many of the same reasons as in the days before Brown.
Photograph by Thomas J O’Halloran/Universal History Archive/Getty.

Gabriel García Márquez: An Appreciation

April 18, 2014
At the beginning of “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Macondo’s patriarch, José Arcadio Buendía, wants to move the idyllic yet isolated community he founded to another, more accessible location. And since no one else wants to go with him, he decides that he and his wife, Úrsula, and their son should leave by themselves.
“We will not leave,” his wife tells him, reminding him that Macondo was their son’s birthplace.
“We have still not had a death,” he tells her. “A person does not belong to a place until there is someone dead under the ground.” To which his wife replies, “If I have to die for the rest of you to stay here, I will die.”
This was the first thing that came to mind when I heard that Gabriel García Márquez had died. I have always loved that scene. For anyone who’s been forced, or has chosen, to start a new life in a new place, these words seem to provide at least two possible markers by which one can begin to belong. By Úrsula’s definition it is through life. By her husband’s it is through death.
I remember thinking when my oldest daughter was born that, after nearly a quarter century of living in the United States, I finally had an unbreakable bond with the place. When my father, who had once imagined that he’d be buried in Haiti, was actually buried in Queens, New York, those ties became even stronger. After all, if pushed out, we can always take the living with us. However, unless we happen to be in a Gabriel García Márquez story, the dead can prove less mobile. Nothing seemed truer to me after my father’s death than the fact that he, and all of my other hardworking U.S.-buried immigrant relatives, had sacrificed everything so that the rest of my family could stay here.
In October, 2003, I was invited to participate in a PEN America tribute to Márquez. The title of the evening was “Gabriel García Márquez: Everyday Magic.” The great man himself wasn’t there. He was already ill, I think. Among the other speakers that evening were the writers Francisco Goldman, Salman Rushdie, Paul Auster, William Kennedy, and President Bill Clinton, on video.
That night I was reminded of not just the breadth of Márquez’s work, but also his personality. The fact that he counted both Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro among his friends astounded and outraged the woman sitting next to me.
The writers, however, focussed on his work.
Francisco Goldman mentioned a study that had found that, aside from the Bible, Márquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera” was the book you were most likely to find in the possession of Latin American sex workers. Salman Rushdie pointed out the many similarities between Márquez’s world and the one he’d grown up in.
“It was a world,” he said, “in which there were colossal differences between the very poor and the very rich, and not much in between; also a world bedeviled by dictators and corruption.”
Rushdie, like many of the other speakers that night, rejected the idea that Márquez’s fiction was “fantastic.”
And I agreed.
I am often surprised when people talk about the total implausibility of the events in Márquez’s fiction. Having been born and lived in a deeply spiritual and extraordinarily resourceful part of the Caribbean, a lot of what might seem magical to others often seems quite plausible to me.
Of course a woman can live inside her cat, as the character Eva does in Márquez’s 1948 short story “Eva Is Inside Her Cat.” Doesn’t everyone have an aunt who’s done that? And remember that neighbor who died but kept growing in his coffin as in the 1947 story “The Third Resignation”? What seems implausible to me is a lifetime of absolute normalcy, a world in which there are no invasions, occupations, or wars, no poverty or dictators, no earthquakes or cholera.
I had always felt that Márquez’s short stories often took a back seat to his longer works, and that his deadpan dark humor was not discussed often enough, so that night I read an excerpt from one of my favorite of his short stories, a story called “One of These Days.”
In the story, the town mayor, a military torturer, shows up in absolute agony at the office of Aurelio Escovar, “a dentist without a degree.” The mayor is in so much pain from an abscess in his mouth that he’s unable to shave half his beard. Yet he still announces that he will shoot the dentist if he refuses to help him. The dentist, seeing an opportunity to avenge the recent death of twenty of his neighbors, tricks the mayor into letting him pull the diseased tooth out without anesthesia. But the dentist does not quite get the revenge he seeks. When he asks the mayor whether he should send the bill to him personally or to the town, the mayor exclaims that “it’s the same damn thing.”
This story, like so many others, shows how Márquez’s famously unbridled imagination was also used to depict somewhat common, yet unbearable realities.
Still, I can’t help but keep returning to José Arcadio Buendía and his desire to leave. José Arcadio had hoped to guide his people toward the “invisible north,” only to discover that Macondo was completely surrounded by water. But he would not despair forever. There was still more work to do. And he had not yet experienced death, and the light rain of tiny yellow flowers that would fall to mark his passing. He had not yet seen that silent storm, and the cushion of petals that had to be cleared with rakes and shovels as his funeral procession went by. And neither had Gabo. Until now.
Edwidge Danticat is the author of several works of fiction and nonfiction. Her most recent book is “Claire of the Sea Light,” a novel.
Photograph by Alan Riding/The New York Times/Redux.

Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014)

Double Take

April 17, 2014

Gabriel García Márquez, the winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature, died on Thursday, at the age of eighty-seven. The New Yorker was lucky enough to publish a number of his short stories, starting with “The Sea of Lost Time,” in 1974. In 1999, Jon Lee Anderson wrote a Profile of the novelist, called “The Power of García Márquez.” The article focussed on García Márquez’s unique role in Colombia, and in Latin America more generally:
“Gabo” is what García Márquez is called by nearly everyone in the Spanish-speaking world. That or el maestro, or, in Colombia, Nuestro Nobel, our Nobel Prize winner.
But, of course, García Márquez was special to the rest of us, too: few writers are so intimately associated with a literary style or an imaginative world. You can see everything that García Márquez published in The New Yorker here; his story “The Autumn of the Patriarch” (an excerpt from the novel of the same name) is available to everyone online. In “The Challenge,” from 2003, a Personal History about his early days as a writer, García Márquez recalls seeing his first story in print: “I read it in a single breath, hiding in my room, my heart pounding.” We’ve unlocked “The Challenge” as well.
Above: Gabriel García Márquez in Cartagena, Colombia; February 20, 1991. Photograph by Ulf Andersen/Getty.

Gabriel García Márquez, Conjurer of Literary Magic, Dies at 87
Mr. García Márquez, a Colombian who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, wrote fiction rooted in a mythical Latin American landscape of his own creation.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Nation Stunned to Learn Congress Accomplished Something Fifty Years Ago

The Borowitz Report

April 13, 2014

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Millions of Americans were in a state of shock this past week after learning that Congress had accomplished something fifty years ago.
Although the incident was widely reported throughout the week, the revelation that Congress had achieved something positive and substantial for the country a half century ago left many incredulous and baffled.
Adding to their disbelief were reports that the accomplishment came as the result of collaboration between a Democrat in the White House and Republicans in Congress.
Making the scenario even more far-fetched, politicians of both parties came to an agreement without the interference of corporate paymasters operating them like puppets.
Tracy Klugian, thirty-four, was one of many Americans who found “the whole thing hard to swallow.”
“I searched for it on Google, and it’s true: Congress did actually get something done for the good of the country and all,” he said. “Still, when I first heard about it, it sounded like a hoax.”
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Above: President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act, 1964. Photograph courtesy Cecil Stoughton, White House Press Office.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Working Life
Saying Farewell to a Business That Turned Into an Identity
J&R Music, the famous store in Lower Manhattan, closed last week after 43 years, forcing employees like Marty Singer, who had worked there since he was 19, to move on.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Frank Rich on the National Circus: Colbert Can Bring Life to Dying Late-Night

Future and past.
Every week, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich talks with contributor Eric Benson about the biggest stories in politics and culture. This week: how Letterman and his new replacement can still matter; Obama, Clinton, Bush, and Carter rush to embrace LBJ; and what Jeb Bush's comments say about the GOP and immigration.
CBS just announced that Stephen Colbert will take over Late Show when David Letterman retires at the end of 2015. Letterman is the longest-running host in the history of late-night, but he was only rarely a ratings king and the desk-and-guest talk-show is hardly the cultural epicenter it once was. Does Letterman's departure still matter? And will Colbert be a worthy successor?
Letterman’s departure, though inevitable, certainly matters to those of us who have long admired him and still do. Hell, I still miss Carson, whose weird mixture of midwestern eccentricity, wry disengagement, clownish daring, and brilliant comic timing found their only late-night heir in the equally brilliant and mercurial Letterman.
But no television time slot is the epicenter of American culture anymore — not late-night, not the evening news, not the morning shows, and not prime time. Appointment-viewing and the domination of broadcast networks have been on the road to extinction for a long time now, and will be completely gone once the boomers and their elders have faded. While there is still a ratings race of sorts in late-night (as in all these time slots), it will keep mattering less and less as audiences mix and match multiple shows on multiple networks, often not in real time and often not on television screens. Les Moonves, the CBS impresario, and Lorne Michaels, now presiding over Jimmy Fallon’s successful ascension of The Tonight Show at NBC, are likely the last combatants to invest so much emotional and corporate capital into a form whose end is discernible (if not imminent).
That said, it's hard to imagine a better choice than Colbert, whose talents are many and will be even more apparent once he's liberated from his Colbert Report character. Though I confess there was part of me that was still hoping that Joan Rivers would yet get her rightful shot.
President Obama and former Presidents Clinton, Bush (43), and Carter have flocked to the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library this week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Johnson's presidency was once viewed through the lens of the disaster of the Vietnam War. Now it's more often linked to massive legislative accomplishments and progressive policies. Why has LBJ's legacy undergone such a transformation? And what does it say about our current political moment that we emphasize his domestic successes over his foreign-policy failures?
To quote LBJ’s reviled successor, Richard Nixon, let me make one thing perfectly clear: The festivities, hagiography, and historical revisionism accompanying this week’s festivities in Austin tell us almost nothing about Johnson’s actual historical status and everything about our current political moment. That’s what makes it fascinating, actually. Vietnam cannot be expunged from Johnson’s record: It was the most costly failed war in our history — costly not only in American and Asian lives and treasure, but costly in how it cracked America in half culturally and politically, setting the table for the polarized America we have today.
That LBJ’s positive achievements, and they are huge, are being emphasized this week is precisely because they are now under attack. A conservative Supreme Court and the present-day GOP are doing everything they possibly can to undermine the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its 1965 companion piece, the Voting Rights Act. Even as the Great Society’s achievements, including Medicare, are being celebrated in Texas, Paul Ryan is leading the charge in Washington to gut Medicare and further unravel the federal safety net.
We wouldn’t be emphasizing LBJ’s domestic achievements today in the same way if there were still a Republican Party supportive of some of them — a GOP with moderates (Nixon) and even liberals (e.g., New York’s Jacob Javits and Nelson Rockefeller). And if President Obama had decided to pour more troops into Afghanistan and Iraq upon arriving in office and had intervened militarily in Iran, Syria, and/or Russia, we probably would be talking exclusively about Vietnam instead, just as we did when George W. Bush got bogged down in Vietnam-esque folly in Iraq. (Though even the Iraq fiasco didn’t match the catastrophic scale of the Vietnam debacle.)
One other factor distorting the historical reading of LBJ’s presidency this week: the epic, multi-volume Robert Caro biography, perhaps one of the most compelling books ever written on any modern American president. The last two volumes to be published, Master of the Senate and The Passage of Power, coincide with the periods of LBJ’s greatest triumphs in the Senate and the White House. Caro is still working on his final volume, dealing with LBJ’s Vietnam years, and such is the power of his work that the eagerly awaited last installment is likely to swing the pendulum back again to a more balanced view of one of country’s most ambitious and tragic leaders.
Jeb Bush declared on Sunday that undocumented immigrants are not felons and often come to this country as an "act of love" for their families. Not surprisingly, a host of conservative commentators and politicians cried bloody murder, with some arguing that Bush's comments torpedoed a potential presidential run. The Republican right knows that immigration reform is generally popular in this country but clearly sees no profit in supporting it. Will that change in the foreseeable future?
No, it’s not going to change in the foreseeable future. The Republican base is against anything that might be recognized as serious immigration reform, period, which is why it remains a dead issue in Congress. But the reaction of that base to Jeb Bush’s moderate view on the subject — not a new position for him or, for that matter, his brother — is yet another example of the huge divide between the Party’s old establishment, or what remains of it, and the grassroots.
I seriously doubt that Jeb Bush, who has been out of politics for more than a decade, is going to run for president, despite the desperate hope of his Wall Street fans that he’ll reemerge as some kind of political Rip Van Winkle; he’s only being talked about now because the Establishment’s chosen candidate, Chris Christie, is toxic. If Bush were to run, it would bring his Party’s civil war to a true boil for however much time he lasted in primary season. Bush is not just a moderate on immigration, but a supporter (as was his brother) of federalized education standards. As Ben Smith of BuzzFeed has pointed out, Jeb also sits on the board of Michael Bloomberg’s foundation, which will taint him with Bloombergian positions on gun control, environmental issues, and raising taxes on junk food. The base would go nuts. (Actually, it already is: Speaking for his many followers, the radio host Mark Levin labeled Bush’s “act of love” soliloquy as “liberal crap speak.” Rush Limbaugh and Bill Kristol have been only slightly less fiery.)
Though it’s only a 2014 snapshot, the Suffolk University poll of GOP voters in Iowa released this week gives a picture of that base. The top 2016 candidates in the survey were Mike Huckabee (11 percent), Bush and Rand Paul (10 percent each), Ted Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson (9 percent each), and Christie (7 percent). Or to put it another way, the Establishment candidates were favored by a total of 17 percent, while 39 percent wanted those to their right.
David Letterman and Stephen Colbert on “Late Show” in May 2011.
CBS/World Wide Pants, via Associated Press

CBS Crowns Colbert as Letterman Successor

Stephen Colbert will succeed David Letterman as host of “Late Show,” CBS’s flagship late-night franchise, when Mr. Letterman retires next year, the network said Thursday.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

49 Percent of New Yorkers Approve of de Blasio’s Performance, Poll Says

A survey by The New York Times, NY1 and Siena College shows a gap between the mayor’s expectations and his day-to-day ability to make social progress.

Interactive Graphic: Mixed Marks for the Mayor’s First 100 Days

The New York Times, NY1 and Siena College asked New York City residents to assess Mayor Bill de Blasio and how he has been dealing with issues that range from education to unemployment.

An Ex-Councilman Upstages the Mayor at His Own Event

Mayor Bill de Blasio was heckled at a news conference in Brooklyn on Monday by Charles Barron, a former City Council member whose political style is heavy on theatricality.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Al Sharpton

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Draft FBI Affidavit

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FBI Affidavit I

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McCalla NYPD

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Curington Complaint

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DEA Report

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Sylvia Rhone

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Sylvia Rhone Transcript

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Curington Deposition

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Buonanno Complaint

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Buonanno Cross

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Pagano FBI Memos

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Dangerfield Warrant

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Buonanno FBI Memos

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Pertinent Intercept

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Canterino FBI Memo

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FBI Affidavit II

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Morris Levy FBI

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Giovanelli Transcript

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Sharpton Letter

  • Sharpton Letter
APRIL 7--When friends and family members gathered recently at the White House for a private celebration of Michelle Obama’s 50th birthday, one of the invited partygoers was a former paid FBI Mafia informant.
That same man attended February’s state dinner in honor of French President Francois Hollande. He was seated with his girlfriend at a table adjacent to President Barack Obama, who is likely unaware that, according to federal agents, his guest once interacted with members of four of New York City’s five organized crime families. He even secretly taped some of those wiseguys using a briefcase that FBI technicians outfitted with a recording device.
The high-profile Obama supporter was also on the dais atop the U.S. Capitol steps last year when the president was sworn in for a second term. He was seated in front of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, two rows behind Beyonce and Jay Z, and about 20 feet from Eric Holder, the country’s top law enforcement officer. As head of the Department of Justice, Attorney General Holder leads an agency that once reported that Obama’s inauguration guest also had La Cosa Nostra contacts beyond Gotham, and engaged in “conversations with LCN members from other parts of the United States.”
The former mob snitch has become a regular in the White House, where he has met with the 44th president in the East Room, the Roosevelt Room, and the Oval Office. He has also attended Obama Christmas parties, speeches, policy announcements, and even watched a Super Bowl with the First Family (an evening the man has called “one of the highlights of my life”). During these gatherings, he has mingled with cabinet members, top Obama aides, military leaders, business executives, and members of Congress. His former confederates were a decidedly dicier lot: ex-convicts, extortionists, heroin traffickers, and mob henchmen. The man’s surreptitious recordings, FBI records show, aided his government handlers in the successful targeting of powerful Mafia figures with nicknames like Benny Eggs, Chin, Fritzy, Corky, and Baldy Dom.
Later this week, Obama will travel to New York and appear in a Manhattan hotel ballroom at the side of the man whom FBI agents primarily referred to as “CI-7”--short for confidential informant #7--in secret court filings. In those documents, investigators vouched for him as a reliable, productive, and accurate source of information about underworld figures.
The ex-informant has been one of Obama’s most unwavering backers, a cheerleader who has nightly bludgeoned the president’s Republican opponents in televised broadsides. For his part, Obama has sought the man’s counsel, embraced him publicly, and saluted his “commitment to fight injustice and inequality.” The president has even commented favorably on his friend’s svelte figure, the physical manifestation of a rehabilitation effort that coincided with Obama’s ascension to the White House. This radical makeover has brought the man wealth, a daily TV show, bespoke suits, a luxury Upper West Side apartment, and a spot on best seller lists.
Most importantly, he has the ear of the President of the United States, an equally remarkable and perplexing achievement for the former FBI asset known as “CI-7,” the Rev. Al Sharpton.
A lengthy investigation by The Smoking Gun has uncovered remarkable details about Sharpton’s past work as an informant for a joint organized crime task force comprised of FBI agents and NYPD detectives, as well as his dealings with an assortment of wiseguys.
Beginning in the mid-1980s and spanning several years, Sharpton’s cooperation was fraught with danger since the FBI’s principal targets were leaders of the Genovese crime family, the country’s largest and most feared Mafia outfit. In addition to aiding the FBI/NYPD task force, which was known as the “Genovese squad,” Sharpton’s cooperation extended to several other investigative agencies.
TSG’s account of Sharpton’s secret life as “CI-7” is based on hundreds of pages of confidential FBI affidavits, documents released by the bureau in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, court records, and extensive interviews with six members of the Genovese squad, as well as other law enforcement officials to whom the activist provided assistance.
Like almost every other FBI informant, Sharpton was solely an information source. The parameters of his cooperation did not include Sharpton ever surfacing publicly or testifying on a witness stand.
Genovese squad investigators--representing both the FBI and NYPD--recalled how Sharpton, now 59, deftly extracted information from wiseguys. In fact, one Gambino crime family figure became so comfortable with the protest leader that he spoke openly--during ten wired face-to-face meetings--about a wide range of mob business, from shylocking and extortions to death threats and the sanity of Vincent “Chin” Gigante, the Genovese boss who long feigned mental illness in a bid to deflect law enforcement scrutiny. As the mafioso expounded on these topics, Sharpton’s briefcase--a specially customized Hartmann model--recorded his every word.
Task force members, who were interviewed separately, spoke on the condition of anonymity when describing Sharpton’s work as an informant and the Genovese squad’s activities. Some of these investigators provided internal FBI documents to a reporter.
Records obtained by TSG show that information gathered by Sharpton was used by federal investigators to help secure court authorization to bug two Genovese family social clubs, including Gigante’s Greenwich Village headquarters, three autos used by crime family leaders, and more than a dozen phone lines. These listening devices and wiretaps were approved during the course of a major racketeering investigation targeting the Genovese family’s hierarchy. 
A total of eight separate U.S. District Court judges--presiding in four federal jurisdictions--signed interception orders that were based on sworn FBI affidavits including information gathered by Sharpton. The phones bugged as a result of these court orders included two lines in Gigante’s Manhattan townhouse, the home phone of Genovese captain Dominick “Baldy Dom” Canterino, and the office lines of music industry power Morris Levy, a longtime Genovese family associate. The resulting surreptitious recordings were eventually used to help convict an assortment of Mafia members and associates.
Investigators also used Sharpton’s information in an application for a wiretap on the telephone in the Queens residence of Federico “Fritzy” Giovanelli, a Genovese soldier. Giovanelli was sentenced to 20 years in prison for racketeering following a trial during which those recordings were played for jurors. In a recent interview, the 82-year-old Giovanelli--now three years removed from his latest stint in federal custody--said that he was unaware that Sharpton contributed in any fashion to his phone’s bugging. He then jokingly chided a reporter for inquiring about the civil rights leader’s past. “Poor Sharpton, he cleaned up his life and you want to ruin him,” Giovanelli laughed.
While Sharpton’s acrimonious history with law enforcement--especially the NYPD--rankled some Genovese squad investigators, they nonetheless grudgingly acknowledged in interviews that the activist produced for those he would go on to frequently pillory.
Genovese squad members, however, did not share with Sharpton specific details about how they were using the information he was gathering for them. This is standard practice since FBI affidavits in support of wiretap applications are filed under seal by Department of Justice prosecutors. Still, Sharpton was briefed in advance of his undercover sorties, so he was well aware of the squad’s investigative interest in Gigante and his Mafia cronies. 
Sharpton vehemently denies having worked as an FBI informant. He has alleged that claims of government cooperation were attempts by dark forces to stunt his aggressive brand of civil rights advocacy or, perhaps, get him killed. In his most recent book, “The Rejected Stone,” which hit best seller lists following its October 2013 publication, Sharpton claimed to have once been “set up by the government,” whose agents later leaked “false information” that “could have gotten me killed.” He added, “So I have been seriously tested in what I believe over the years.”
In an interview Saturday, Sharpton again denied working as a confidential informant, claiming that his prior cooperation with FBI agents was limited to efforts to prompt investigations of drug dealing in minority communities, as well as the swindling of black artists in the recording industry. He also repeatedly denied being “flipped” by federal agents in the course of an undercover operation. When asked specifically about his recording of the Gambino crime family member, Sharpton was noncommittal: “I’m not saying yes, I’m not saying no.”
If Sharpton’s account is to be believed, he was simply a concerned citizen who voluntarily (and briefly) joined arm-in-arm with federal agents, perhaps risking peril in the process. The other explanation for Sharpton’s cooperation--one that has uniformly been offered by knowledgeable law enforcement agents--presents the reverend in a less noble light. Worried that he could face criminal charges, Sharpton opted for the path of self-preservation and did what the FBI asked. Which is usually how someone is compelled to repeatedly record a gangster discussing murder, extortion, and loan sharking.
Sharpton spoke for an hour in an office at the House of Justice, his Harlem headquarters, where he had just finished addressing a crowd of about 200 people that included his two adult daughters and his second wife (from whom he has been separated for ten years). A few minutes into the interview, Sharpton asked, “Are you taping this?” A TSG reporter answered that he was not recording their interview, but had a digital recorder and wished to do so. Sharpton declined that request.
In the absence of any real examination/exhumation of Sharpton’s past involvement with the FBI and the Mafia, his denials have served the civil rights leader well. Scores of articles and broadcast reports about the Obama-era “rehabilitation” of Sharpton have mentioned his inflammatory past--Tawana Brawley, Crown Heights, Freddy’s Fashion Mart, and various anti-Semitic and homophobic statements. But his organized crime connections and related informant work have received no such scrutiny.
In a “60 Minutes” profile aired three months before the August 2011 launch of Sharpton’s MSNBC show, correspondent Lesley Stahl reported on the “tame” Sharpton’s metamorphosis from “loud mouth activist” to “trusted White House advisor who’s become the president’s go-to black leader.” As for prior underworld entanglements, those were quickly dispatched: “There were allegations of mob ties, never proved,” Stahl flatly declared.
As host of MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation,” Sharpton now reluctantly identifies himself as a member of the media, if not actually a journalist. He spends his time at 30 Rockefeller Plaza surrounded by reporters, editors, and researchers committed to accuracy and the exposure of those who violate the public trust. In fact, Sharpton himself delights in a daily feature that seeks to expose liars, hypocrites, and others engaged in deceit (his targets tend to be Republican opponents of the Obama administration). As he wraps this segment, Sharpton points his finger at the camera and addresses his quarry: “Nice try, but we gotcha!”
In addition to his MSNBC post, Sharpton heads the National Action Network, which describes itself as a “Christian activist organization.” Obama, who refers to Sharpton as “Rev” or “Reverend Al,” is scheduled to deliver a keynote address Friday at the group’s annual convention in New York City. Mayor Bill DeBlasio will preside Wednesday over the convention’s ribbon cutting ceremony, while Holder and three Obama cabinet secretaries will deliver speeches.
Sharpton has been a leading supporter of Holder, who spoke at the National Action Network’s 2012 convention and saluted the reverend for “your partnership, your friendship, and also for your tireless efforts to speak out for the voiceless, to stand up for the powerless, and to shine a light on the problems we must solve, and the promises we must fulfill.” Last Friday, Sharpton appeared on a panel at a Department of Justice forum led by Tony West, the agency’s third-ranking official. West thanked Sharpton for his “leadership, day in and day out, on issues of reconciliation and community restoration.”
According to its most recent IRS return, which Sharpton signed in mid-November 2013, the National Action Network pays him $241,402 annually for serving as president and CEO. In return for that hefty salary, Sharpton--who hosts a three-hour daily radio show in addition to his nightly cable TV program--reportedly works a 40-hour week for the not-for-profit (which lists unpaid tax liabilities totaling $813,576).
For longtime observers, the “new” Sharpton’s public prominence and West Wing access is bewildering considering that his history, mob ties included, could charitably be described as checkered. In fact, Obama has banished others guilty of lesser transgressions (see: Wright, Jeremiah).
Sharpton now calls himself a “refined agitator,” an activist no longer prone to incendiary language or careless provocations. Indeed, a Google check confirms that it has been years since he labeled a detractor a “faggot,” used the term “homos,” or derisively referred to Jewish diamond merchants.
* * *
As an “informant in development,” as one federal investigator referred to Sharpton, the protest leader was seen as an intriguing prospective source, since he had significant contacts in politics, boxing, and the music industry.
Before he was “flipped” in the course of an FBI sting operation in 1983, Sharpton had established relationships with promoter Don King, various elected officials, and several powerful New York hoodlums involved in concert promotion, record distribution, and talent management. At the time, the music business was “overrun by hustlers, con artists, black and white,” Sharpton recalled in his 1996 autobiography. A federal agent who was not part of the Genovese squad--but who also used Sharpton as an informant--recalled that “everyone was trying to mine” his music industry ties.
In fact, by any measure, Sharpton himself was a Mafia “associate,” the law enforcement designation given to mob affiliates who, while not initiated, work with and for crime family members. While occupying the lowest rung on the LCN org chart--which is topped by a boss-underboss-consigliere triumvirate--associates far outnumber “made” men, and play central roles in a crime family’s operation, from money-making pursuits to more violent endeavors.    
For more than four years, the fact that Sharpton was working as an informant was known only to members of the Genovese squad and a small number of other law enforcement agents. As with any Mafia informant, protecting Sharpton’s identity was crucial to maintaining the viability of ongoing investigations. Not to mention keeping him alive.
For example, an episode recounted by TSG sources highlighted the sensitive nature of Sharpton’s cooperation with the FBI/NYPD task force.
In advance of seeking court authorization to bug a pair of Genovese family social clubs and a Cadillac used by Gigante and Canterino, a draft version of a wiretap affidavit was circulated for review within the Genovese squad, which operated from the FBI’s lower Manhattan headquarters. The 53-page document, which detailed the “probable cause” to believe that listening devices would yield incriminating conversations, concerned some investigators due to the degree to which the activities of Sharpton were described in the document.
While the affidavit prepared by FBI Agent Gerald King and a federal prosecutor only referred to Sharpton as “CI-7,” the document included the name of a Gambino mobster whom Sharpton taped, as well as the dates and details of five of their recorded meetings. Such specificity was problematic since the possibility existed that the affidavit’s finalized version could someday be turned over to defense lawyers in the discovery phase of a criminal trial.
Investigators fretted that Sharpton could easily be unmasked by the Gambino member, who, if ever questioned about his meetings with “CI-7,” would surely realize that Sharpton was the wired informant referred to in the FBI affidavit. That discovery, of course, could have placed Sharpton’s life in grave danger. The Gambino wiseguy, too, likely would have faced trouble, since he was recorded speaking about a wide range of Mafia matters, including Gigante’s illegal operations. The Genovese power--rightly paranoid about bugged phones and listening devices--famously forbid fellow gangsters from even speaking his name. In fact, if a wiseguy had to refer to Gigante during an in-person meeting, a quick stroke of the chin was the acceptable means of identification.
In response to concerns about the King affidavit, the draft, which a source provided to TSG, was rewritten to carefully shroud Sharpton’s work with government agents. The affidavit’s final version--which was submitted to two federal judges--no longer included the disclosure that “CI-7” had “consensually recorded his conversations” with a gangster. The wiseguy’s name was also deleted from the document, as was any reference to the Gambino family or the informant’s sex.
Instead, the revamped affidavit simply noted that “CI-7 reported” to the FBI various details of Genovese family rackets. The actual source of that valuable intelligence about Gigante & Co. had been carefully obscured. As were the details of how that information was obtained via Sharpton’s battery-powered valise.
But despite efforts like this to protect Sharpton, some details of his informant work leaked out in January 1988, when New York Newsday reported that the civil rights activist had cooperated with federal investigations targeting organized crime figures and Don King. Though he reportedly made incriminating admissions to the newspaper, Sharpton quickly issued vehement denials that he had snitched on anyone.
While acknowledging contact with law enforcement officials, Sharpton--then involved in the early stages of the Tawana Brawley hoax--said he sought the help of investigators to combat the crack cocaine epidemic ravaging New York’s poorest communities. Sharpton also claimed to have contacted agents (and pledged his assistance) after a Mafia associate allegedly threatened him over a music industry dispute.
Sharpton asserted that a phone installed in his Brooklyn apartment by federal investigators in mid-1987 was there to serve as a “hotline” for the public to report drug dealing. He flatly denied recording phone conversations at the direction of law enforcement agents. In one radio interview, Sharpton even declared, “We have an ethical thing against wiretapping.”
In fact, Sharpton had been cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn as part of an investigation targeting Don King. According to a source involved with that probe, federal agents “ran him for a couple of months,” during which time Sharpton “did some recordings” via his new home telephone. But the nascent Department of Justice operation was abruptly shuttered in the wake of the New York Newsday story.
The Brooklyn investigators were introduced to Sharpton in late-1987 by Joseph Spinelli, one of the reverend’s former FBI handlers (and one of the agents who initially secured his cooperation with the bureau). While Spinelli had left the FBI for another government post, he still helped facilitate Sharpton’s interaction with other investigators. “Joe was shopping him around,” one source recalled.
For example, in July 1987, Spinelli called a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles and offered Sharpton’s assistance with a matter the lawyer was handling. The case involved Salvatore Pisello, a mobbed-up music industry figure who had just been indicted for tax evasion (and whom Sharpton had previously accused of threatening his life).
Referring to Sharpton, ex-prosecutor Marvin Rudnick said in an interview, “I didn’t know who he was” when Spinelli called. In subsequent conversations with Rudnick, Sharpton provided information about Pisello and a related music industry matter that was being scrutinized by Justice Department investigators.
While Sharpton would not prove particularly helpful to Rudnick, the attorney clearly recalled his brief, unorthodox dealings with the New York activist. “I remember having to go to a pay phone to take the call because he didn’t want it to be traced,” Rudnick laughed.
* * *
So why did Sharpton agree to become an FBI informant? And why was he willing to risk the dangers inherent in such cooperation?
“He thought he didn’t have a choice,” one Genovese squad agent recalled.
In the course of an investigation being run by Spinelli and his partner John Pritchard, Sharpton was secretly recorded in meetings with an FBI undercover agent posing as a wealthy drug dealer seeking to promote boxing matches.
As previously reported, Colombo crime family captain Michael Franzese, who knew Sharpton, enlisted the activist’s help in connecting with Don King. Franzese and Sharpton were later surreptitiously filmed during one meeting with the undercover, while Sharpton and Daniel Pagano, a Genovese soldier, were recorded at another sit-down. Pagano’s father Joseph was a Genovese power deeply involved in the entertainment industry (and who also managed the crime family’s rackets in counties north of New York City).
During one meeting with Sharpton, the undercover agent offered to get him "pure coke" at $35,000 a kilo. As the phony drug kingpin spoke, Sharpton nodded his head and said, “I hear you.” When the undercover promised Sharpton a 10 percent finder’s fee if he could arrange the purchase of several kilos, the reverend referred to an unnamed buyer and said, “If he’s gonna do it, he’ll do it much more than that.” The FBI agent steered the conversation toward the possible procurement of cocaine, sources said, since investigators believed that Sharpton acquaintance Daniel Pagano--who was not present--was looking to consummate drug deals. Joseph Pagano, an East Harlem native who rose through a Genovese crew notorious for narcotics trafficking, spent nearly seven years in federal prison for heroin distribution.
While Sharpton did not explicitly offer to arrange a drug deal, some investigators thought his interaction with the undercover agent could be construed as a violation of federal conspiracy laws. Though an actual prosecution, an ex-FBI agent acknowledged, would have been “a reach,” agents decided to approach Sharpton and attempt to “flip” the activist, who was then shy of his 30th birthday. In light of Sharpton’s relationship with Don King, FBI agents wanted his help in connection with the bureau’s three-year-old boxing investigation, code named “Crown Royal” and headed by Spinelli and Pritchard.
The FBI agents confronted Sharpton with the undercover videos and warned that he could face criminal charges as a result of the secret recordings. Sharpton, of course, could have walked out and ran to King, Franzese, or Pagano and reported the FBI approach (and the fact that drug dealer “Victor Quintana” was actually a federal agent).
In subsequent denials that he had been “flipped,” Sharpton has contended that he stiffened in the face of the FBI agents, meeting their bluff with bluster and bravado. He claimed to have turned away Spinelli & Co., daring them to “Indict me” and “Prosecute.” Sharpton has complained that the seasoned investigators were “trying to sting me, entrap me…a young minister.”
In fact, Sharpton fell for the FBI ruse and agreed to cooperate, a far-reaching decision he made without input from a lawyer, according to sources. “I think there was some fear [of prosecution] on his part,” recalled a former federal agent. In a TSG interview, Sharpton claimed that he rebuffed the FBI agents, who, he added, threatened to serve him with a subpoena to testify before a federal grand jury investigating King. After being confronted by the bureau, Sharpton said he consulted with an attorney (whom he declined to identify).
Following bureau guidelines, agents formally opened a “137” informant file on Sharpton, a move that was approved by FBI supervisors, according to several sources. Agents anticipated using Sharpton in the “Crown Royal” case focusing on King, but during initial debriefings of their new recruit, it became clear that his contacts in the music business were equally appealing.
Sharpton had met James Brown in the mid-70s, and became extremely close to the R&B superstar. He worked for and traveled with the mercurial performer, married one of Brown’s backup singers, and wore the same processed hairdo as the entertainer. Like Brown, Sharpton would sometimes even wear a cowboy hat atop his tribute conk.
It was first through executives at Spring Records, a small Manhattan-based label affiliated with Brown, that Sharpton--who worked from the firm’s office--was introduced to various wiseguys, including Franzese. His circle of mob contacts would grow to include, among others, the Paganos, Carmine DeNoia, an imposing Pagano associate known as “Wassel,” and Joseph “Joe Bana” Buonanno, a Gambino crime family figure involved in record distribution and production.
At one point before he was “flipped,” Sharpton participated in a mob scheme to create a business front that would seek a share of lucrative Con Edison set-asides intended for minority-owned businesses. That deal, which involved garbage collection contracts, cratered when the power company determined that Sharpton’s silent partner was Genovese captain Matthew “Matty the Horse” Ianniello. Details of the Con Ed plot emerged at a federal criminal trial of Ianniello and his business partner Benjamin Cohen. It was Cohen, who worked across the hall from Spring Records, who recruited Sharpton for the mob garbage gambit.