Monday, August 02, 2010

738 East Harlem To Rhinebeck

738 East Harlem to Rhinebeck

He was a simple businessman, Anthony Salerno, but they called him "Fat Tony" and Fat Tony was the alleged boss of the alleged Genovese Crime Family, which we all know didn't and doesn't exist. All that stuff about the numbers racket and loan sharking and such was a bunch of made up baloney and it all happened because he was a regular at the Palma Boys Social Club up in East Harlem and the cops all thought it was a mob hangout -- or at least, that's what they said.

Fat Tony had a nice apartment in Gramercy Park and a nicer house in Miami Beach and a 100 acre horse farm in Rhinebeck, Duchess County, New York, a quaint little Dutch Settlement that's been around since the 1600s. Tony had a little stroke in 1981 at about the age of 70, and went up to the horse ranch to recover, which he did. A little later that year, another businessman, Frank Tieri died and that's when they started saying "Fat Tony" took over the Genovese Crime Family, which we all know didn't and which doesn't exist. Of course, Tony was only the front man. Since his death in 1992 we have learned that the real boss was Phillip "Benny Squint" Lombardo. Benny Squint did not have a 100 acre horse farm in Rhinebeck.

Fat Tony's house wasn't the only mansion in Rhinebeck. Democratic Party fundraiser Kathleen Hammer and her real estate mogul husband Arthur Seelbinder have one, too. And that's where the Chelsea Clinton-Marc Mezvinsky wedding took place -- at the oh so properly named Astor Court, because it once was owned by John Jacob Astor IV. Beautiful countryside if you don't look to close. Old stone churches, old wooden restaurants on ancient sidewalks.

So, John J. Astor IV, Fat Tony Salerno and others have or had these big, ritzy digs in a tiny upstate village where the train doesn't stop anymore. There are something like 4,000 people in Rhinebeck. About ten percent of them live below the poverty line. If you count the nearby communities of Rhinecliff, Red Hook and Tivoli, you will find a lower percentage of grand estates and a much, much higher percentage of the impoverished.

So let's hope that between the clinking of champagne glasses and the downing of caviar, Bill and Hillary Clinton got a tour of the region, much of which is Tobacco Road, something with which he, at least, is familiar. The wedding was an idiotic extravagance, even if Mommy is the Secretary of State and Daddy is a former US President. But maybe a trip through the region by these luminaries will end with some much-needed aid coming to this desolate and depressed area.

Neither Fat Tony nor JJA IV ever got to see any of that poverty first hand. The former might not much care. The latter might have. The Clintons (and the Mezvinskys) probably would as well if some one let them see it.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

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