Frank Carone, Mayor Adams’s Former Chief of Staff, Knows How to Get Paid
Carone is arguably the most connected man in town.
1:52 PM EST on January 2, 2024
It's been a little over a year since Frank Carone stepped down as Mayor Eric Adams's influential chief of staff, but his name is still all over the news.
A few days before Christmas, the Daily News reported that GEICO had sued companies co-founded by Carone in federal court, alleging that they had stolen more than $3 million in an insurance fraud scheme. Carone, who wasn't named in the lawsuit, told the paper he was just an investor, and that he had "no role whatsoever" in what was being alleged.
Around the same time, City & State reported that the global consulting and lobbying firm Carone started, Oaktree Solutions, had added another recent public servant to its roster: Ariel Palitz, who was Bill de Blasio's "nightlife mayor," and who also worked under Mayor Adams. As Hell Gate has previously reported, in his first year outside of the Adams administration, Carone has been hired by New York City real estate titans and would-be casino builders, and has insisted all along that he isn't violating any laws by taking their money.
Mayor Adams seems unfazed by the moves Carone has made in the private sector, and recently said he still wants him to work on his 2025 reelection bid.
But who is Carone? And how did he earn the mayor's unwavering trust? For more, we turn to The Eric Adams Table of Success, the interactive site Hell Gate released last month that explores dozens of people who are in the mayor's orbit, their connections to each other, and why it all matters.
Carone has a seat at the table—here's a selection of his entry.
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."
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.
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.
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