Rockland’s most powerful felon—the man who brokered the pardon of the New Square Four—is making his presence felt more and more (and more)
BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
A decade after doing time in federal prison on corruption charges, nobody can deny former Rockland County Democratic Chairman Paul Adler is all-the-way back.
While he never completely lost his influence behind the scenes, in the past few years Adler has reestablished himself publicly as a major fixture in Rockland County’s power grid of business, philanthropy and politics. The once malignant aura of Adler has abated, apparently, and he is now at ease flaunting his connections with the highest levels of power in New York and beyond.
How high does his influence reach? Lest we forget, Adler was reported in NYC newspapers as the man whom brokered the infamous Clinton pardon of the New Square Four: Benjamin Berger, David Goldstein, Jacob Elbaum and Kalman Stern.
Those were the four who took the fall for New Square’s scheme to defraud $30 million from federal, state and county taxpayers through the RCC Judaic Studies Program.
Adler was known as the go-between for the Clintons and New Square at the time. Ultimately, following a special meeting with the grand rabbi, Hillary received the New Square bloc vote and The Four were “coincidentally” pardoned by President Bill Clinton.
Adler’s big connections couldn’t get him off of corruption charges, however. The feds nailed the former party chief in 2000 for failure to report taxes on wages from a consulting job for the Pyramid Group during construction of the Palisades Mall, as well as mail fraud, for bribing a Clarkstown official with a job in return for favored votes on a land swap, and other charges. In 2002, he pled guilty to the two charges mentioned, and served over a year in federal prison.
For several years following his release, Adler was known to be a mover and shaker behind the scenes in Rockland County, but he maintained a low public profile. That low profile has steadily become not-so-low in the last three years. His big coming out party may have been when he was named the 2011 Philanthropist of the Year by the Rockland Development Council.
While we haven’t seen Adler cavorting with the Clintons recently, it seems Governor Andrew Cuomo is unashamed to be in his close stead. At a recent Tappan Zee Bridge event held in Tarrytown, attended by Governor Andrew Cuomo, House Rep. Nita Lowey, and other political luminaries, Adler helped People to People Executive Director Diane Serratore to gain a one-on-one audience with the governor.
Serratore posted a picture of Cuomo and herself to Facebook and wrote, “Honored as all get-out to speak with Governor Cuomo at a recent event held in Tarrytown. Thank you, Paul Adler!”
Only two years ago when Adler donated a mere $500 to David Carlucci’s political fund, Gannett’s Politics on the Hudson blog reported that the act “raised eyebrows.” Now, in the blink of a political eye, we see Adler as an open escort to none other than Governor Cuomo, and this is an apparently casual and uncontroversial occurrence.
More and more, the outer reality is growing to reflect the inner truth: Paul Adler is one of the most powerful men in Rockland County. And at a mere 52-years-old, Adler is in the prime of political life.
It would seem Adler worked his way back into the good graces of Rockland’s insider community through philanthropy. One positive philanthropic work Adler accomplished in recent years was bringing money in for the JCC headquarters in West Nyack.
But Adler remains controversial. Just as he had his hand in the Palisades Mall cookie jar in the 1990s, Adler is rumored to have been a key player in making the Provident Bank Ballpark project come to fruition in the Town of Ramapo.
At this time Adler serves on the board of directors of the following organizations: Rockland Community Foundation, Holocaust Museum & Studies Center, Nyack Branch of the NAACP, Rockland Jewish Family Services & State of Israel Bonds. Adler’s Facebook profile notes that in 2013, “Paul was awarded the prestigious Prime Minister’s Award by State of Israel Bonds for his three decades of service.” The business community also has recognized Adler, as he received the 2012 Pinnacle Award for Service to the Rockland Business Association.
Adler is a VP at Rand Commercial Services. Strangely enough, former Republican Assemblyman and Senator Nick Spano of Yonkers, one of the other most notorious felons amongst the lower Hudson Valley political community, also was a longtime employee of Rand. Spano recently is still dealing with the criminal justice system, and while he continues to be a lobbyist for the gambling industry, it is not clear if he will resume his job at Rand anytime soon.
Adler’s public profile states that in 2012 he discontinued working at two longtime employers: an environmental remediation firm Blackacre Partners OPS, LLC and a Yonkers-based film and sound-stage company, Hudson River Stage.