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New York City’s short king is the most connected man in town.
- U.S. Marine
- Partner, Seddio & Carone
- New York City Taxi and Limousine Commissioner
- Attorney, Brooklyn Democratic Party
- Director, Hanover Community Bank
- Executive Partner, Abrams Fensterman
- Chief of Staff, New York City Mayor Eric Adams
- Founder, Oaktree Solutions
- Of Counsel, Abrams Fensterman
It’s October 2022 and Frank Carone, chief of staff to Mayor Eric Adams, is in Turkey speaking at a real estate conference. Carone had by then traveled all around the world as the mayor’s emissary, trying to scare up business for the City—an unusually freewheeling role for someone with so much work at home—but this would be his last international trip as a public servant. By the time he took the stage in Istanbul, he’d already announced that he’d be leaving the administration at the end of the year.
“The mayor has a great love of the country of Turkey, the Turkish people,” Carone tells the attendees. “In fact, he’s been here seven times and he has a deep connection to the culture, to the people, and he says it all the time.”
Carone’s there to talk about the “marketing of cities,” and his delivery is a little stiff, though he looks up from his notes when he starts talking about the electric helicopter ride he took the day before. “Many of the community members complained of the noise of helicopters but you know, technology responded, and there will now be a silent helicopter,” Carone says.
He delivers cliches about “force multipliers” and “breaking down silos,” the kind of generic business advice he offers in the book he co-wrote called “Everyone Wins! How You Can Enhance and Optimize Business Relationships Just Like Ultra-Wealthy Entrepreneurs” (Tony Robbins is one of Carone’s interests on LinkedIn).
“This administration is all about making New York City a city of yes,” Carone tells the audience. “Yes to innovation, yes to sustainability, yes to housing, yes to ideas, and yes to possibility.”
Slainte Whiskey donates all proceeds to BlueCheck Ukraine supporting the Ukrainian struggle for freedom! Thank you Liev Schreiber. @BluCheckUkraine @LievSchreiber @NYCMayorsOffice @scottsartiano pic.twitter.com/JHKGefuB44— frank v carone (@frankvcarone) October 28, 2022
Now, a little more than a year after that speech, Carone is back in private practice. He has said yes to developers who want to build a casino, yes to real estate dynasties that want his strategic advice, and yes to former government officials who want to join him at his global consulting firm. (Meanwhile, federal investigators have said yes, they will search the mayor’s electronic devices—reportedly to examine Adams’s ties to Turkey.)
As a fabulously wealthy guy, Carone is well-positioned to give business advice—he has a home with a pool in the tony Southern Brooklyn neighborhood Mill Basin, a condo in Boca Raton, a $2.2 million apartment in Manhattan’s Sutton Place, and investment portfolios worth millions more.
But that’s not what makes Carone unique. Plenty of New Yorkers are richer—but few have Carone’s connections, cultivated over decades of working with and for the City’s biggest power players in politics and real estate, raising eyebrows and ethical questions along the way. It all culminated in a close personal relationship with the 110th mayor himself.
Mayor Adams made Carone’s status clear when the Times reported his imminent departure from City Hall: “He’s the first person I speak with in the morning and the last person I speak with at night.”
After a stint in the U.S. Marines, graduating from Brooklyn Law School, and spending years as a law partner with longtime Brooklyn Democratic boss Frank Seddio, Carone took a job with the law firm Abrams Fensterman in 2011, and then his practice “exploded,” according to a comprehensive Politico story about Carone’s business interests that ran shortly after Adams won the 2021 mayoral primary. He secured lucrative City contracts for “reviled” developers, helped lobbyists navigate controversial rezonings, and represented nursing homes, hospital systems and taxi fleet owners.
While striking all these hard bargains on behalf of his business clients, Carone also worked for the Brooklyn Democratic Party as its legal counsel, picking judicial nominees and helping Seddio maintain his grip on the party machine. In the fall of 2018, when younger members of the party tried to challenge Seddio’s reign during a raucous five-hour meeting, Carone stood by Seddio and watched as his old law partner prevail. Carone later wrote an op-ed chastising the reformers. Under Seddio’s nearly decade-long leadership of Kings County Democrats, the party paid more than $100,000 to Carone’s wife for hosting fundraisers, according to extensive reporting in the Daily News. (A spokesperson for the party, who was paid $300,000 over that time period, said that the expenses to Carone’s spouse were not a secret.)
Carone was also pals with the most powerful Democrat in town: Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I have been friends with the mayor for many years,” Carone told the Daily News. Hundreds of emails obtained by the News showed that Carone enjoyed lots of access to City Hall, peppered various agencies with questions and requests on behalf of his clients, and forwarded resumes of people he thought worthy of a City job—including Seddio’s son-in-law, whom the de Blasio administration later hired. In 2019, Carone attracted more scrutiny after he helped broker a deal between notorious landlords and the City, in which the de Blasio administration agreed to pay $173 million for 17 buildings—more than triple the initial appraisal price—to turn them into affordable housing. Carone, who represented the landlords, was also helping the mayor raise money for his presidential campaign. (Carone and de Blasio insisted nothing was amiss.)
As Carone nurtured his relationship with de Blasio, he reportedly had a similar dynamic with then-Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, whom he helped elect in 2013 by challenging the petitions of Adams’s only opponent, who was then forced to drop out of the race. Carone regularly emailed Adams’s deputy, Ingrid Lewis-Martin, asking the BP’s office for help navigating regulatory hurdles for his clients, including Avant Gardner’s Billy Bildstein. And he was ready to assist the BP when he could: When Adams’s marquee concert series ran into financial trouble in 2019, Carone and his law partner Howard Fensterman cut a check for $50,000 as a no-interest loan to bail it out. “When others fail, Howard and Frank deliver,” Lewis-Martin wrote in an email obtained by the Daily News.
Carone and members of his familial and legal circles have contributed more than $80,000 to Adams’s campaigns over the years. Adams and Carone have spent Thanksgiving together, and Carone invested in a bizarre bit of police technology the then-BP once touted. (Carone is also friends with the Petrosyants twins, representing their bar when the state yanked its liquor license and investing in business deals with them.)
So when Adams officially announced his campaign for mayor, Carone was, naturally, there to help raise tens of thousands of dollars from his South Brooklyn neighbors and wrangle votes from crucial Kings County blocs. He also let Adams rent his office space in Downtown Brooklyn for less than $700 over the course of a year and a half (Carone finally charged Adams rent the same day Politico asked for receipts). After Adams won the general election, the mayor-elect first named his close friend to lead his transition team, then made him his chief of staff with a $251,000 annual salary.
When ethics watchdogs and news outlets pointed out that Carone had represented literally dozens of clients with business before the City, Adams responded with a Yogi-ism: “He had a lot of clients. And so if he had a lot of clients, then just about every area, he’s going to have clients in.” Photos of Carone’s City Hall desk projected the appearance of diligence, of a guy who studies lots of papers with colorful charts and uses a task management tool called the Eisenhower matrix. The Mayor’s Office insisted Carone was recusing himself whenever necessary.
Carone himself told reporters that he expended great efforts to divest from his old law firm, in order to ensure that there would be no conflict of interest, or even the appearance of conflict, with his previous clients and his new job as the mayor’s eyes and ears.
Adams stood by Carone, and his other controversial appointments. In a 2022 profile of the mayor, Carone boasted about the administration’s willingness to embrace staffers others had shunned. “We have totally canceled cancel culture,” he said.
As Adams’s chief of staff, Carone was out of town a lot—he took trips to Sweden, South Korea, and Israel, as well as the aforementioned Turkey visit. In photos from these trips that he posted to his Twitter account, Carone is always impeccably dressed—a short king ambassador for the City of Yes.
Great meeting with @Frankvcarone Chief of Staff to @NYCMayor and Senior Advisor @Joeleisdorfer visiting Israel as a part of the @POTUS official delegation. We discussed many opportunities in tourism and way to strengthen our bilateral cooperation.@AmbAsafZamir @globalnyc pic.twitter.com/kAeOwcJoye— 🟠Yoel Razvozov | יואל רזבוזוב (@YRazvozov) July 14, 2022
Adams’s chief of staff also found time at City Hall to meet with Daryl Morey, the president of the Philadelphia 76ers, for some reason.
Nine months after he took the job, Carone announced he’d be stepping down at the end of Adams’s first year in office. “I wanted to recruit the team, take a deep dive into agencies and build a culture for that team of no drama and getting things done,” Carone told the Times, adding that he’d always planned on staying for just one year.
Among the main accomplishments that Carone touts from his time at City Hall: brokering the deal between the City, state, CUNY, and private labs to bring a life science and research campus to Kips Bay; announcing a plan to eventually come up with a plan to do something about the crumbling Brooklyn-Queens Expressway; unsuccessfully promoting New York City as the destination for the 2024 Democratic National Convention; and closing a deal to bring a $780 million soccer stadium and 2,500 units of affordable housing to Queens.
While Carone was in City Hall, his firm scrubbed his name and image from the website. “I went through all that trouble on purpose, and whether the firm does well or the firm just disappears in bankruptcy, it’s of no moment to me,” Carone said. “That’s a previous life. I still have fond relationships with friends, but that’s a different world I live in now.”
Months after he left City Hall, however, Carone rejoined his old law firm, and his face and name are now back on its website, though he’s not a partner anymore. He also built a global consulting business called Oaktree Solutions, with his brother Anthony; former New York Congressmember Max Rose; Daniel Tietz, a former Hochul administration official; and Gary Jenkins, the former head of social services under Adams who resigned in early 2023 after the Department of Investigation began looking into allegations that he covered up shelter violations. (“I don’t think it looks bad at all,” Jenkins said of his new job.)
Carone is now reportedly working for House Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, and a raft of clients who have business before the City. The Durst Organization, which was fighting the climate legislation that Carone worked to enact, hired Carone to “assist with business strategy.” SL Green, which is seeking to build a casino in Times Square, hired Carone, the person who met with would-be New York City casino builders on behalf of City Hall. Related Companies, which is developing the Queens soccer development and the affordable housing that Carone helped create, hired Carone, who helped usher that project into existence. (“When you spoke to him, you clearly felt like you were speaking to the mayor,” a Related VP said of Carone’s involvement in the deal.)
How is it okay for Carone to bounce from clients with City business, to the highest heights of City Hall, back to clients with City business? Carone’s reps claims he is not a lobbyist, and therefore not subject to the one-year prohibition on former public servants lobbying on projects they used to work on. But Carone is supposed to abide by a rule issued by the City’s Conflict of Interest Board, which states, “Former public servants may never work on a particular matter (for example, a contract) for a non-City employer if they worked on that same matter during their City employment.” While Carone’s consulting clients undoubtedly have business before the City, it is not clear that any of it is the same business he handled in his City role, which again, was to act as one of the mayor’s most trusted advisors.
Regardless, the COIB has no investigative authority, and must refer potential violations to the City’s Department of Investigation, an agency that is increasingly ignored by the government agencies it is supposed to be policing. (The COIB is prohibited by the City Charter from saying whether a former official has sought their advice, whether a complaint has been filed regarding their conduct, or if COIB referred their complaint to DOI.) In a city where mayors carve out secret channels to discuss City business with private interests, and where the former City Council speaker dives headfirst into the lucrative world of lobbying, the COIB’s emphasis on never feels quaint, like your parents telling you to never disobey them.
“I will not interact with City Hall at all,” Carone told Politico in early 2023. “I fully intend on going beyond what the law requires, because I don’t want bad optics or a bad image.”
As for whether Carone is involved with the FBI’s probe into the mayor’s relationship with Turkey, Carone tweeted last month that he and Adams did nothing wrong—though he did not directly answer a question posed to him about whether he had spoken to federal investigators. He later told the Daily News that he’d be donating the maximum allowed under the law to the mayor’s legal defense fund, $5,000.
As you know, Gerson, when I was chief of staff I had an open door policy with reporters. That's still true. If you have questions, you know where to find me. But if all you have is comment then so do I – it simply is: the mayor has done nothing wrong, nor have I. Full stop.— frank v carone (@frankvcarone) November 12, 2023
As Carone’s numerous relationships with powerful business interests continue to grow, so will his relationship to Mayor Adams: The mayor’s former chief of staff was “expected to chair” Adams’s reelection campaign, according to a Politico story from this past June.
But will he? Through a spokesperson, Carone declined an interview request with Hell Gate, and also declined to directly answer whether he would be an official part of Adams’s reelection campaign.
“Frank looks forward to continuing to support Mayor Adams in 2025 and beyond,” an Oaktree spokesperson wrote in a statement. “And he’s proud that in less than a year, Oaktree Solutions has become a go-to public affairs firm providing joy, value, and understanding to dozens of clients across the world.”
- Frank Carone: the Well-Connected Lawyer Who Has Eric Adams’s Ear | Politico
- After Hiring Frank Carone, a Reviled Brooklyn Landlord Won a Multimillion-Dollar Windfall from the City |The CITY
- Eric Adams’s Former Chief of Staff Is Working for Big Real Estate But Definitely Not Working on Big Real Estate’s Effort to Kill NYC’s Climate Law | Hell Gate
Last updated: 12/18/2023
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Working on SL Green's casino bid, which is run by
Doing business consulting for
Has a working relationship stretching back years with
Former attorney for a restaurant owned by