Eric Adams Will Name Frank Carone His Chief of Staff

Eric Adams Will Name Frank Carone His Chief of Staff 1

Frank Carone, a prominent lawyer for the Brooklyn Democratic Party whose business dealings have drawn scrutiny, will serve in a critical role at City Hall.

Mayor-elect Eric Adams plans on Thursday to name Frank Carone, a prominent power broker in the Brooklyn Democratic Party who helped fuel Mr. Adams’s rise in politics, as chief of staff in his new administration.

Mr. Adams, who takes office on Saturday, is known to value loyalty, and Mr. Carone has been his trusted friend and adviser for years. But some of Mr. Carone’s business dealings have drawn scrutiny, including his representation of landlords involved in an affordable housing deal with the city while he was fund-raising for Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In preparation for joining the Adams administration, Mr. Carone resigned from the Kings County Democratic Committee and from Hanover Bank, where he served on the board. He is putting his assets in a blind trust, according to his spokesman, George Arzt. The law firm Abrams Fensterman, where Mr. Carone served as an executive partner and had a 9 percent share, is buying him out.

Mr. Carone, 52, is expected to play a role that will be similar to the one that Emma Wolfe, Mr. de Blasio’s chief of staff and one of his most trusted advisers, has played in the current administration. Ms. Wolfe, who stayed for all eight years of Mr. de Blasio’s tenure, worked on key priorities like universal prekindergarten and the pandemic response.

She described Mr. Carone as a friend who brought “compassion and energy” to every project he worked on.

“He clearly has an incredibly close relationship with the mayor-elect, which will serve him well,” Ms. Wolfe said. “That bond and the tether they have will be critical in 2022 and beyond.”

Mr. Carone, who has been closely involved in filling key appointments in the Adams administration, said in an interview that he believed in Mr. Adams and wanted to help him succeed.

“Working in politics for so long, it’s rare to find someone who is as selfless as he is,” Mr. Carone said. “He just wants to solve problems.”

The first challenge they will face is helping New Yorkers navigate the latest wave of coronavirus cases. Mr. Adams, a former police captain who emphasized public safety during his campaign, has also pledged to reduce violent crime, but it is not entirely clear what other issues he might prioritize in his first 100 days.

Mr. Adams is turning to his inner circle for top jobs in his administration. David C. Banks, a longtime friend, was named schools chancellor, and Ydanis Rodriguez, a city councilman who was a key part of his campaign, will be transportation commissioner.

Howard Wolfson, a close adviser to former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said that he was impressed with the quality of Mr. Adams’s appointments so far and noted that several deputy mayors had experience in both the de Blasio and Bloomberg administrations.

As for Mr. Carone, Mr. Wolfson said he had “solid judgment.”

“He’s a straight shooter, he’s savvy, his word is good when he gives it to you,” Mr. Wolfson said. “He delivers on what he says he’s going to do.”

Another top appointment, deputy mayor for public safety, has been delayed after ethical concerns were raised about Philip Banks III, the brother of David Banks and a former top police chief who resigned in 2014 while under federal investigation. Mr. Adams said this week that he was still considering candidates for the position.

As Mr. Adams ran for mayor, Mr. Carone was often by his side at fund-raisers and celebrated with him on election night at his nightclub of choice, Zero Bond. Mr. Adams’s use of office space belonging to Mr. Carone’s firm, which he did not initially disclose in campaign filings and obtained at an inexpensive rate, was highlighted in news reports during the Democratic primary. After questions were raised, he produced records that showed he had paid for the space.

Mr. Carone said he met Mr. Adams around 2004 before Mr. Adams ran for the State Senate. He has aided Mr. Adams’s political career since at least 2013, when as Mr. Adams’s lawyer, he helped his client knock a rival off the ballot when Mr. Adams was running for Brooklyn borough president.

Mr. Carone, who grew up in the Canarsie neighborhood in Brooklyn and received his law degree from Brooklyn Law School, served on the city’s taxi commission, where he called for more wheelchair-accessible taxis. He also founded a mortgage bank, Berkshire Financial Group Inc., and served in the United States Marine Corps from 1993 to 1995, according to a biography posted by his law firm.

In 2008, Mr. Carone started a law practice with Frank R. Seddio, a former police officer and state assemblyman. The two men joined Abrams Fensterman in 2011, starting the firm’s Brooklyn office, and Mr. Seddio became chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Party in 2012. Mr. Carone, as counsel to the party, was seen by many party members as the true source of power behind the organization.

Mr. Carone has mostly kept a low profile, but his work has sometimes exploded into public view, most prominently in 2019, when he represented a pair of notorious landlords who sold 17 buildings in Brooklyn and the Bronx to the city to be used as affordable housing.

The city agreed to pay $173 million to the landlords, Stuart and Jay Podolsky, who are brothers, for the buildings, which were rife with code violations. The amount was $30 million more than an appraisal had determined the buildings were worth.

While the negotiations were underway, Mr. Carone donated and solicited donors for a political action committee that Mr. de Blasio was using as he planned his run for president. At the time, both Mr. Carone and Mr. de Blasio said they had not discussed the real estate deal.

To assist with divesting his assets so that he could serve in the Adams administration, Mr. Carone retained a lawyer, Claude Millman, and spoke with an ethicist, Mr. Arzt said. Mr. Carone said he attended an online legal training on Wednesday morning with other future staff members that was led by Brendan R. McGuire, who will serve as Mr. Adams’s chief counsel.

Mr. Adams views the chief of staff job as one of the most important in his administration. He and Mr. Carone have discussed two books with staff members at recent team meetings, Mr. Carone said: Daniel Coyle’s “The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups,” and “The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency,” by Chris Whipple, which Mr. Carone suggested.

“Eric and I have exchanged books for many years,” Mr. Carone said. “I recommended it to the mayor-elect, and he read it with gusto.”