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Kerik's pals also had rooms with a view

January 28, 2005

Bernard Kerik wasn't the only police official provided with a Ground Zero apartment for his personal use after 9/11.

His NYPD chief of staff, John Picciano, also got one.

And there are indications that other top-ranking officials of Kerik's inner circle received them, as well.

Picciano, like Kerik, received his apartment through Anthony Bergamo, the head of a law enforcement support group of fat cats called the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation. Earlier this month, Pat D'Amuro, the FBI's New York City head, dissociated his agency from the foundation for reasons that have not been made public.

Bergamo is the vice chairman of Milstein Properties, whose owners, Howard and Edward Milstein, are among the largest real estate brokers in the city.

George Arzt, a spokesman for Bergamo, confirmed that Picciano's apartment was one of 20 to 30 provided by the Milsteins in the days after the World Trade Center attack to such agencies as the FBI, Red Cross and NYPD. The apartments were to have been used by emergency workers.

"It was done with the best of intentions," said a ranking police official knowledgeable about the situation. "The apartments were to be used by cops and bosses who were working around the clock. But they became just pure spoils."

Both Kerik's and Picciano's apartments were on a top floor of Liberty View in Battery Park City, two people familiar with the apartments, one of them a ranking police officer, told Newsday. Kerik's apartment was a penthouse with a harbor view. Picciano's had a terrace.

Both kept their apartments long after they left the NYPD and joined Giuliani Partners, the firm founded by former mayor Rudolph Giuliani in 2002. Both men left Giuliani's firm after Kerik withdrew his nomination for secretary of Homeland Security following revelations about his past - including his tenure as police commissioner.

Bergamo said through Arzt that Kerik and Picciano paid for their apartments. But three people who spoke to Newsday, all of whom requested anonymity, said Kerik and Picciano were loaned their apartments for free.

Bergamo refused to provide copies of checks or receipts or the dates during which the men had the apartments.

"They don't want to get into it," Arzt said of Bergamo and the Milsteins. Arzt said neither Kerik nor Picciano was currently in possession of the apartments.

Sources both inside and outside the Police Department have told Newsday and other news organizations that Kerik, who was married at the time, used his apartment to entertain at least two girlfriends, former correction officer Jeanette Pinero and his publisher, Judith Regan.

Picciano, who worked under Kerik at the Department of Correction before Kerik became police commissioner, is not only one of Kerik's closest aides but also is regarded as his "go-to" guy. It was Picciano who arranged the purchase of four high-tech doors at One Police Plaza for $50,000 each. The doors became the subject of an internal police investigation last year.

Kerik's successor, Ray Kelly, claimed that no paperwork existed to explain the purchase of the doors. No charges have been filed.

Picciano also served as the chief operating officer of Giuliani-Kerik, the security arm of Giuliani partners.

In 2002, "Pitch," as he is known, traveled to Mexico City as part of a $4.3 million contract, paid for by wealthy Mexicans, to reduce crime there.

Picciano - who has faded from public sight since leaving Giuliani Partners - could not be reached for comment. Kerik's spokesman, Robert Leonard, did not return calls seeking Picciano's whereabouts.

And Giuliani's spokeswoman Sunny Mindel did not return calls.

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© 2005 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.