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Safir’s museum to open soon

March 29, 1999

The Oscars behind them, Police Commissioner Howard Safir and his wife, Carol, are soon to attend a premiere here in New York - the opening of Carol's police museum, which your tax dollars are paying for.

You remember Carol Safir's police museum. In return for Howard's opening a police substation near Wall Street - an area virtually crime-free - a fat-cat business group agreed to fund a new police museum, chaired by Carol.

After Giuliani nixed the linkage, Mrs. Safir began fund raising herself, with help from her hubby, Mr. Hollywood. Besides dispatching Todd Ciaravino, Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari's former valet who now earns $73,896 a year as Safir's professional coat-holder, Safir did some high-level shilling himself.

Last summer Safir met with PaineWebber Inc. CEO Donald Marron, a meeting arranged by PaineWebber's head of security, former NYPD chief Lugubrious Larry Loesch. According to a company spokesman, Marron asked Safir: "What can we do to help? What is your highest priority?"

Safir's answer: Carol's museum.

Not long afterward, PaineWebber received a solicitation letter from the police museum's executive vice president, Kathy Donahue, asking for a six-figure contribution. PaineWebber is still thinking it over.

Police sources say Safir brought his wife to a meeting with Merrill Lynch, arranged by its head of security, retired NYPD captain Charlie Connolly. A Merrill Lynch spokesman says Safir met with its general counsel Stephen Hammerman and its charitable foundation head, Paul Critchlow, who last year awarded $31 million in grants to various organizations. The spokesman refused to say whether Mrs. Safir attended, saying the meeting was "private."

Not long afterward, Merrill Lynch received Donahue's formal solicitation. They too are still thinking it over.

At the last meeting on March 2 at the offices of Sony Corp. executive Tommy Mottola, Safir sat at his wife's side and announced a $1 million award from the city's Department of Cultural Affairs. But there seems to be some confusion about the award. Cultural Affairs Commissioner Schuyler Chapin, who attended the meeting, told Newsday the $1 million is a "challenge grant" and that the museum must raise $3 million privately to receive it.

But Assistant Commissioner Kathy Hughes told Newsday the $1 million comes from the city's capital budget, meaning that the museum may not have to raise any money to get the grant. Mayoral spokeswoman Brenda Perez agreed the money came from the capital budget but said the museum must raise $4 million to receive it.

With opening day set for early April, the museum sits like an empty shell on the second floor of 25 Broadway. This, though, hasn't prevented Safir from assigning a half-dozen cops to full-time museum duty (mostly answering the phone), including Sgt. Tom Gambino, formerly of Safir's office and now the museum's executive director.

As might be expected, neither Howard Safir, Carol Safir, Donahue, Ciaravino, nor Gambino had anything to say about the museum. Police spokeswoman Marilyn Mode refused to confirm the number of cops assigned or to explain why the museum can't afford its own staff.

Past as Prologue.
When former police commissioner Bill Bratton was outed for taking out-of-town trips paid for by his millionaire friends, the mayor announced an investigation by then-corporation counsel Paul Crotty that he still refuses to release or discuss. Corporation counsel spokeswoman Lorna Goodman says she doubts an investigation was conducted "because we are not an investigative agency." Rather, she says, "I believe the corporation counsel talked with Bratton."

She referred further inquiries to current corporation counsel Michael Hess, who she said "was looking at the conflict of interest laws" regarding Safir's freebie trip to California from Revlon executive George Fellows and "is giving some kind of confidential opinion to the mayor." Neither Hess nor Crotty returned calls.

Street Crime's End.
Anyone obtuse enough to believe, as Saturday's headlines suggest, that commissioner Safir's ordering Street Crime cops into uniform is a "reform," an "overhaul" or a "shake-up" doesn't appreciate that Safir has in effect abolished the unit.

Without realizing it (probably because everyone at One Police Plaza is afraid to tell him), Safir has recreated the defunct and discredited Tactical Patrol Force, which roamed the city in uniform, like Street Crime free of precinct supervision, and like Street Crime, turned out at Randall's Island.

Benjamin Ward, the city's first black police commissioner, abolished the TPF in one of his first acts in 1984. The reason: its poor image in minority communities.

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© 1999 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.