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Eric Ulrich

Gambling, corruption, tow trucks, pizza: the Manhattan DA’s indictment against Ulrich, who was only DOB commissioner for six months, has it all. Ulrich landed the job after bundling money for Adams’s campaign. A few months before Ulrich’s arrest, Adams reportedly told the 38-year-old, “Watch your phones.” HMMMMMM


  • Commissioner of Buildings
  • Mayoral Adviser
  • Adams Campaign Bundler
  • City Councilmember


  • Felony defendant

Eric Ulrich is a son of Queens, a political prodigy, a key figure in Eric Adams’s election and administration, and, to date at least, the only member of his administration to be indicted.

And what indictments they are! In September—was it only September?—Ulrich was arrested on 16 felony corruption charges spread across five indictments, alleging that for years, first as a City Council member and then in the Adams administration, he had used his public office to trade favors for bribes totaling more than $150,000. What does it take to bend NYC government to your will? Ulrich, according to the indictment, could be swayed by, among other things, a suit, a painting by a guy who studied under Salvador Dalí, and Mets tickets. Ulrich, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg alleged, “monetized each and every elected role that he held in government.”

The full story is a juicy and tangled one, going back years. In 2009, Ulrich won a special City Council election on the Republican ticket to represent his home neighborhood of Ozone Park in southern Queens. He was just 24. He stayed on the City Council for more than a decade until he was finally term-limited out.

There were early signs that Ulrich rubbed shoulders with sketchy figures. He wrote letters vouching for a Bonnano-family-associated loan shark and for Gambino soldier “Old Man Willy” Pazienza, who was found guilty of trafficking Eastern European women into New York strip clubs. “I have known the defendant for the past seven years,” Ulrich wrote of Pazienza in 2011, “and consider him a personal friend.” Ulrich also had spoken about his history of alcohol abuse on social media, and his enthusiasm for gambling was documented in public disclosures.” 

But Ulrich was also in a position to help Eric Adams win votes and campaign donations in his section of southern Queens. Ulrich hosted multiple fundraisers for Adams’s mayoral campaign, raising more than $175,000. Cohosting were pizza restauranteur brothers Joe and Anthony Livreri, as well as Mike Mazzio, who was facing indictments in connection with his tow-truck company and had had his license to operate the company revoked for alleged bid-rigging. Mark Caller, a Brooklyn developer, also attended.

When Adams won his mayoral election, Ulrich became an influential adviser to his transition. Around the same time, unfortunately for virtually everyone involved, law enforcement got a wire up on Ulrich’s phone. What that wiretap revealed, according to the indictments, was that many of the people Ulrich had enlisted to support Adams’s campaign wanted something in return. The Livreris wanted health code violations at their pizzeria to go away, and wanted a vacate order at their bakery resolved. Mazzio wanted back in the tow truck game (and was already suing the City to get there, using the law firm where Eric Adams’s soon-to-be chief of staff, Frank Carone, worked.) Caller, the real estate developer, wanted his projects fast-tracked and wanted the City to push through a zoning change in Rockaway Park. Victor Truta, a former NYC corrections officer, wanted his relatives hired by the Department of Environmental Protection. A permit expediting consultant, Paul Grego, wanted his clients’ projects expedited, and wanted certain inspectors hired or reassigned. 

The indictments allege that Ulrich worked to make sure all these wants were addressed, in exchange for accepting pricey Mets tickets, a suit, a sweet apartment, and, most bizarrely, a painting by an apprentice of Salvador Dalí. Ulrich was apparently planning on giving the painting to his girlfriend, Rhonda Binda, a lawyer who worked on Adams’s transition team before landing a position leading the mayorally controlled Gracie Mansion Conservancy. Ulrich also allegedly received cash to gamble with—throughout this time, according to the indictments, Ulrich was spending time and money at an illegal Queens gambling operation run by the Livreris. Ulrich did not respond to requests for comment made to his lawyer.

In May of 2022, Adams made Ulrich commissioner of buildings, vastly increasing his power to deliver on the wants of his associates. A few days after the appointment, Adams pulled Ulrich aside, had him hand his phone to a member of the mayor’s security detail, and walked him a little ways away, warning him that “a little birdie” had told him a friend of Ulrich’s was involved in illegal gambling. “Watch your back and watch your phones,” Ulrich would later tell prosecutors the mayor warned him. (Mayoral spokesperson Fabien Levy denied that the mayor told Ulrich to leave his phone with anyone during any conversation between the two.) Ulrich took the warning to heart: A few days later, according to the indictment, meeting with Mazzio and another friend at a Queens diner, the party put their phones on a windowsill ten feet away before beginning their conversation. 

Adams may have been concerned enough about Ulrich to warn him about his phone use, but he wasn’t concerned enough to fire him. Ulrich remained as buildings commissioner, resigning only on November 3, 2022—two days after law enforcement seized his phone. At the time of his resignation, his background check still wasn’t complete. 

A little over ten months later, five separate and distinctly wild indictments were brought against Ulrich, also naming as defendants Mazzio, Caller, the Livreri brothers, Truta, and Grego. Not indicted: Eric Adams. After the indictments, Adams didn’t directly answer whether he regretted appointing Ulrich. “You become knowledgeable about information of an individual and then people say do you regret doing A, B or C — like, you don’t have that information in front of you,” he told the Daily News. “What was in front of me was a young City Council [member], energetic, that worked hard.”

It hasn’t been all bad news for Ulrich over the last two years, though. Last summer, he wrote a children’s book entitled “If Pets Could Vote.”

Last updated: 12/18/2023


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