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Queens Chronicle

35th Anniversary Edition: News Makers (1985) Manes sets stage for final desperate act

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Posted: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 2:29 pm, Thu Nov 14, 2013.

Donald Manes had been a man in a hurry.

The Queens prosecutor was 31 in 1965 when he became the youngest person ever elected to the City Council until then. In 1971 he won a special election to became the youngest Queens borough president in history.

And in November 1985 he was elected to his record fifth term in a landslide. The “King of Queens” was one of the most powerful people in the city, and seen as a likely mayoral candidate.

But the machinery that would bring him down was already in motion long before Election Day.

And just a few days after Manes was sworn in for his historic term in January 1986, he would be pulled over by police in his car, covered in blood, a deep gash in his wrist.

After an unbroken string of successes, he had lost public support with his plans to build a Grand Prix race track and a domed football stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, both rejected.

He was being investigated for receiving bribes and kickbacks from contractors working with the Parking Violations Bureau, and the feds also had placed the awarding of cable television franchises in Queens under scrutiny.

One by one, as 1985 drew to a close, Manes’ aides and associates either were being arrested or forced to resign as U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani closed in, the crusading federal prosecutor drawing steadily shrinking circles around his target.

The one thing standing between Manes and a federal corruption indictment was his longtime friend Geoffrey Lindenauer.

And Lindenauer had decided to talk.

Manes, who originally told police that the wounds he received came from two unknown men who had been waiting in his car, admitted a few days later in a press conference from his hospital bed that he had slashed his own wrist.

He resigned on Feb. 11, giving way to his deputy, Claire Shulman, with many thinking that the sad coda to his public career.

But prosecutors kept closing in, and Lindenauer agreed to cooperate on or about March 9.

On March 13, 1986, Manes, who had been suffering from depression as the scandal grew, was on the phone in his Jamaica Estates home with his psychiatrist. Manes’ wife was upstairs on an extension taking part in the conversation.

They were discussing treatment when the doctor was called away and put Manes on hold.

Manes, whose father had committed suicide, then grabbed a large knife from a kitchen drawer and stabbed himself in the heart. His daughter discovered him on the kitchen floor, but help summoned by a 911 call was too late.

The probe that drove Manes mad would eventually ensnare Bronx Borough President Stanley Simon, Bronx Democratic leader Stanley Friedman and former congressman Mario Biaggi among others.

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