Volume 20, Number 31 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 14 - 20, 2007

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Trust appointee’s wife is on Pier 40 parents group

By Josh Rogers

Gov. Eliot Spitzer has turned to a Downtowner whose children use Pier 40 to serve on the Hudson River Park Trust’s board, but the appointee’s connections to a local group could prevent him from weighing in on the Trust’s next big decision.

Paul Ullman, 49, a founding partner of the Highland Financial Holdings Group hedge fund, said Monday that he knows many members of the Pier 40 Partnership, which is working on a new plan for the pier, but he did not have a conflict because he has not given the group money and is not a member.

“I think the Trust board and the Pier 40 Partnership are on the same side,” he said in a telephone interview. “They’re both trying to do something great for Pier 40.”

Although he was asked generally about his wife, Donna Zaccaro, he did not mention that she is a member of the Partnership. Rich Caccappolo, one of the Partnership’s leaders, said Zaccaro is one of about a dozen members who meet regularly to discuss the pier, but she has not given any money to the group.

The Partnership, made up of local parents, is trying to maintain the pier’s current uses while finding low-impact revenue sources to maintain it. The group plans to submit its plan to the Trust Monday, and the state-city authority hopes to make a decision on the pier at the end of January. Two other development teams have also submitted plans to the Trust.

Partnership members have said they can raise between $10-$30 million to cover the pier’s short term repair costs. Ullman said the Partnership did not ask him for money and he did not find that odd even though he knows many members, has an interest in the park and has a well-paying job.

It’s possible his marriage will not constitute a legal conflict of interest since Zaccaro is not likely to profit if the Trust’s board picks the Partnership plan. A Trust spokesperson said it will take some time for Trust lawyers to evaluate the legal questions involved.

Ullman did not return a call for comment Tuesday. His spokesperson said Wednesday that Ullman had no comment on how his wife’s connection to the Partnership may affect his Pier 40 deliberations.

On Monday, Ullman said Diana Taylor, the Trust’s chairperson, has sent him plenty of documents to review for the Pier 40 decision. “I’ve got a lot of homework to do,” he said.

He did say that his appointment to the Trust was in the works for some time and it was finalized last Friday during a meeting with Spitzer. Ullman said the governor told him: “Congratulations. Good luck.’”

Partnership members praised Ullman’s appointment because he is a local person who uses the park. “Paul is a great, great choice,” said the group’s Fred Wilson. “He is a member of the community, a parent, and a smart businessman who is caring.”

Ullman currently lives in the central Village and said he has lived in various sections of the neighborhood the better part of the last 23 years. His children, 11 and 13, attend schools in the neighborhood that he declined to name for privacy reasons.

Ullman said his family has used the park for many years — he runs along the water — and he has taken more of an interest in the policy issues connected to the park in the last few years. He declined to discuss specifics.

He replaces Trip Dorkey, the Trust’s former chairperson and an appointee of former Gov. George Pataki. Taylor was a Pataki appointee whom Spitzer moved into the chairperson slot after Dorkey left in the summer.

Julie Nadel, a Trust board member, said she did not know if Ullman has a conflict, but if it is determined that he does, his nonvote is unlikely to affect the final outcome on Pier 40 since it will probably be a consensus decision. The governor and mayor share effective control of the Trust.

If there is a conflict, it will not be the first time a spouse’s activities have affected a Zaccaro family member’s public life. Zacarro is the daughter of Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice presidential nominee, and John Zaccaro, a real estate broker who pleaded guilty to a defrauding scheme in 1985. His business dealings were issues in Ferraro’s national and statewide campaigns. One important distinction for Donna Zaccaro is she is not accused of any wrongdoing.

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