February 1st, 2017

NYC Crime Fiction, Amy Grech

FDNY Stephen Cassidy, “Fake News” Architect of Gary Suson NY Post Stories Removed from Fire Union

Part 2 of a 2 Part Series. Read Part 1.

9/11 Families Step Up for Suson

Quickly, big names in the FDNY stepped up via the New York Daily News to protect Gary Suson after the Post’s “Fake News" stories ran: John Vigiano, who lost both his sons at the World Trade Center, Lee Ielpi, President of the 9/11 Families Association who founded Tribute Center and Daniel Nigro, the former FDNY Chief of Department who is now the current FDNY Fire Commissioner. One by one, firefighters stepped up to denounce the Post’s fake stories, which were orchestrated by the UFA’s Stephen Cassidy. After that, a multi-million-dollar lawsuit commenced: Gary Suson vs. the New York Post with many testifying on Suson’s behalf. One of the New York Post’s defense witnesses was none other than Stephen Cassidy, who upon being grilled by attorney Jared Lefkowitz, admitted under oath he never worked at Ground Zero, had no knowledge of anything having to do with Ground Zero, was not in office while Suson was documenting for the UFA at Ground Zero and furthermore, didn’t even know who Gary Suson was. In a comical moment, Cassidy even stated he had no idea why in 2004 his Sergeant at Arms Phil McCardle issued Gary Suson an Official UFA serial numbered parking placard for his car, usually given only to active NYC firefighters. All this confusion, yet Cassidy had his Press Officer Thomas Butler call the AP and tell Verena Dobnik that Gary Suson was never the Official Photographer at Ground Zero for the UFA. Gee, that makes sense. Suddenly he is an expert on Gary Suson. UFA Press Officer Thomas Butler admitted under oath that every time the UFA was in the news or press, his office received notifications – or “press clippings.” Gary Suson was in the news almost every day, over 100 times from The New York Times, CNN to Fox News after the Recovery Period ended in June of 2002, yet UFA PR rep Thomas Butler continued Cassidy’s game, stating under oath he didn’t know who Gary Suson was. Wow, that is a miracle. Why didn’t they protest this “title” for all those years Suson was in the news? Because there was no Sanfilippo-Cassidy War then. One by one and under oath, lies at deposition were told in order to save political lives and tabloid reporter’s lives. Post Reporter Cynthia Fagen was caught in so many lies in deposition by attorney Jared Lefkowitz that her defense attorney Slade Metcalf called a recess and ordered her to say “I don’t recall” which she did over 150 times on the record. That may even be a world record. Coincidentally, when asked in deposition if he ever spoke to any New York Post reporters about Gary Suson, Steve Cassidy kept answering, “I don’t know” or “I don’t recall.” Amnesia is like a virus. New York Post reporter Stephanie Gaskell came into deposition and broke down crying when confronted with the fact that she lied about her follow-up story that falsely stated that Mayor Bloomberg had personally denounced Gary Suson. Mayor Bloomberg never said anything personal about Gary Suson. Fagen was eventually terminated by the New York Post and Gaskell moved on to greener pastures. Tabloids and lawsuits were apparently not her thing. The only thing that Cassidy did admit to on record was having bad blood between him and Rudy Sanfilippo.

Rudy Sanfilippo
UFA Rudy Sanfilippo. An Internal War with
Stephen Cassidy.
Truth is, no one expected Suson to actually file a lawsuit — they thought he would crawl away into a corner with his Museum and die. At one point, the former UFA President Kevin Gallagher – friends with Stephen Cassidy – falsely testified that the Official UFA Letter introducing Suson to the Press – signed by Gallagher himself and praising Suson’s work shooting on the UFA’s behalf at Ground Zero was “probably a forgery” — that maybe someone in some wild conspiracy — broke into his office and stole his signature stamper along with official stationary. Wild conspiracy claims at best. They all scurried to save themselves from Suson’s lawsuit and in the end, everyone was caught in an outlandish lie. Ground Zero was the most secure crime scene in the world with every entrance/exit guarded by NYPD. Civilians were not allowed in. The I.D. entry tags were changed every thirty days to stop anyone from sneaking in. Cameras were banned and even rescue workers were asked not to shoot images. No press was allowed in. Gary Marlon Suson was in Ground Zero for over 6 months, 19 hours per day, 6 days a week. He was well-known within the WTC site and close with the firefighters. The only reason he was there was because he was officially sanctioned to be there for the Uniformed Firefighter’s Association — to document with his camera. That is why his story is so compelling and why his images were called “Rare Photos” by The New York Times. I am writing this story because it needs to be out there. Stephen Cassidy and his New York Post tabloid friends abused their power and tried to frame an innocent kid from an Illinois farm — Gary Suson. They tried to fool the public into believing that Suson snuck into Ground Zero every day for 7 months and went unnoticed by FDNY Chiefs and NYPD as he shot sensitive images, both above and below Ground Zero – perhaps … with a Harry Potter invisibility cloak? There is so much documentation, both by video and still cameras of Gary Suson working at Ground Zero that for Steve Cassidy and the New York Post to try and come up with such fake news was delusional. Suson has appeared on CNN before those Post stories ran and well after they ran – because legitimate media knows the difference between fact and fiction. When asked about Stephen Cassidy by phone, Suson stated, “I don’t really have much to say about him. I want to forget him. He is a very dangerous politician who has his hands in all the tabloids. He hurts people. He stole over 10 years of my life, cost me numerous opportunities, humiliated me and put my life at risk with those fake stories. Everything always come out in the wash. It just takes time. We all have to live with our demons. He must live with what he did to me simply so he could get even with Rudy Sanfilippo.”
Stephanie Gaskell
Writer Stephanie Gaskell: Fake News
Writer, New York Post

Immediately after the New York Post stories ran, FDNY Fire Marshals and inspectors gave Suson’s Ground Zero Museum Workshop a clean bill of health. They found nothing wrong with the contents; there were never any “victim’s belongings” in Suson’s Museum. When Post writer Cynthia Fagen was asked under oath if she ever printed a follow-up stating the Museum had been approved by Fire Marshals, she said this. FDNY Lieutenant Brian Bonsignore, a supervisor in the GPS Unit at Ground Zero testified under oath that he personally gave Suson permission to remove artifacts that appeared in Suson’s photographs – glass – steel – a calendar page – a clock; items that would have been otherwise tossed away and lost to history had Suson not saved them. Artifacts were also secured by the New-York Historical Society in droves. Curator Amy Weinstein, now with the 9/11 Memorial – would spend hours on end at St. Paul’s Chapel near the WTC site and ask recovery workers if they would please bring her artifacts to take with her. Photographer Joel Meyerowitz admitted on video for the History channel that he removed a Bible page fused to a piece of WTC steel with no permission and that he has archives of 9/11 artifacts taken without any authorization. He claims this “Bible” page – which suddenly surfaced in 2013 and appears nowhere in “Aftermath” – a 9/11 photo book by Mr. Meyerowitz – was miraculously “given” to him as a gift by an FDNY firefighter who found it in the rubble in 2001 and came barreling down a dirt hill at Ground Zero towards him to bestow this gift….to Meyerowitz. Hogwash. None of his story is substantiated, of course. No proof that Bible Page came from Ground Zero.

It is a fact that hundreds of firemen, cops and politicians have World Trade Center steel artifacts – so it was acceptable for non-personal artifacts to “leave” Ground Zero, on all levels. In his deposition, Cassidy played dumb on that also. Lee Ielpi, President of the 9/11 Families Association gave a concrete signed court affidavit that denounced the New York Post stories as lies and that Suson never did anything unethical and it was well-known at Ground Zero that Suson was the Official Photographer at the WTC site for the UFA. Daniel A. Nigro, now the FDNY Commissioner, gave a signed court affidavit that stated Suson was indeed the Official Photographer for the Uniformed Firefighters and Fire Officer’s Association at Ground Zero and never did he see any artifact in Suson’s Museum that should not have been removed from the WTC Recovery site. Gary Suson settled his case for an undisclosed sum. The fallout from those who believed the Post stories was immediate in 2005. Death threats were received – sponsors backed out or shunned the Museum and vicious emails were received. Says Suson, “I always wondered what security guard Richard Jewell felt like when he was accused of planting a bomb in Olympic Park in 1996 and was later exonerated. They wanted to kill him. Fake stories ruin lives. His case is considered an example of the damage that can be done by false reporting based on unreliable or incomplete information. Now I know what that is like. When I read those lies about myself in the New York Post, I wanted to die – I cried. My girlfriend got up with me at 5:00 a.m. for three days straight – probably while Steve Cassidy was fast asleep in his cozy bed – and we bought all the New York Post papers in the Meatpacking District for $700.00 and threw them in the Hudson River so my neighbors wouldn’t see them. I will never forget these memories.” No other New York papers ever picked up or ran with the Post’s fake news stories pertaining to the Museum or Suson. Ground Zero Museum Workshop went on to win almost every top award in travel, from USA Today Travel to Trip Advisor to U.S. News and World Report Travel. It is now known as the “kid-friendly” 9/11 museum.

Cynthia Fagen
Cynthia Fagen: New York Post
Fake News Master.

In 2013, the New York Post’s Susan Edelman, a "fake news" specialist in New York, decided to take a new stab at Gary Suson, this time writing a fake story that claimed his Museum only donated a “paltry” 4% of proceeds to 9/11 charities in 2009. The truth was – and according to his accountant – that Suson’s 9/11 Museum Workshop donated a whopping 50% of all year-end remaining cash to FDNY and 9/11 related charities for three years solid. Edelman is very crafty and calculated the donation percentage from the Museum’s yearly gross proceeds as opposed to the net Proceeds — what’s left after the Museum has paid all of its bills. No one does that when calculating donation percentages — except Susan Edelman when she is trying to make someone look like a very bad person. The smoke screen here is that 9/11 nonprofit charities are not required to donate to anyone. Yet Edelman gave readers the false perception that they are required to donate and furthermore, Suson simply just didn’t give enough. It’s called misinformation. Reached for comment in New York, former UFA Manhattan Trustee Rudy Sanfilippo stated, “Politics is a very dirty and dangerous game in New York City and sometimes innocent people get unwittingly caught up in the spokes — they are casualties of war. I never thought Steve Cassidy would use an innocent guy like Gary Suson to try and hurt me. Gary didn’t deserve this and perhaps one day an apology will be in order from Stephen to Gary. What Gary has done for the world with his camera at Ground Zero and for charities should be commended. He has upheld the integrity of of this tragic event and given the shirt off his back to assist 9/11 families. That is why they support him. He is one of the good guys.” Says Gary Suson from New York, “What happened to me falls under two categories. First it is called an abuse of power. Steve Cassidy and the Post using their power in society to hurt others. Secondly, it is considered an example of the damage that can be done by reporting based on unreliable or incomplete information. Putting aside the fact that the whole thing was a set-up, Cassidy and the New York Post don’t even know the difference between an 9/11 artifact and a 9/11 victim’s belonging. They are clueless. They were outsiders at Ground Zero and have no idea what went on inside — procedures, nothing.”

Gary Marlon Suson
Gary Marlon Suson’s
Iconic “Oscar Prays at Sunrise”
Gary Suson is an FDNY Honorary Battalion Chief and continues to live in New York City. His Ground Zero Museum Workshop is currently the #4 Highest Rated Museum in New York City on Trip Advisor and was recently voted into Trip Advisor’s Hall of Fame for being a 5-Star rated Museum for five years in a row. Suson takes zero salary as the director. His kid-friendly, non-graphic Museum has been the only 9/11-themed Museum to donate and raise monies for FDNY charities in New York City. He was diagnosed with Pulmonary Injury by the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund / U.S. Department of Justice and no longer shoots photography. He is in a full-time health program. In 2015, he entered into a merchandising deal with Billionaire Kevin Harrington of Shark Tank. Stephen Cassidy is now the head of the FDNY Fire and Pension Fund. Rudy Sanfilippo is retired from the FDNY and spends most his time with his many grandchildren. Post reporter Susan Edelman continues to criticize anything related to 9/11. Stephanie Gaskell is now the managing editor of Defense One. No one knows what happened to Cynthia Fagen. FDNY Chief Daniel Nigro is now the FDNY Fire Commissioner. FDNY Firefighter Lee Ielpi is a board member at the 9/11 Memorial and runs the Tribute Center. FDNY Lt. Brian Bonsignore is retired from the FDNY. FDNY Captain John Vigiano is retired and a full-time grandpa in Long Island, New York.

NYC Crime Fiction, Amy Grech

FDNY Stephen Cassidy, “Fake News” Architect of Gary Suson NY Post Stories Booted from Fire Union

New York, NY — January 21, 2017
Stephen Cassidy
UFA Stephen Cassidy: Fake News Architect
Used Gary Suson as Pawn to Exact a Political
Vendetta in 2005.

Stephen Cassidy, President of the Uniformed Firefighter’s Association from 2002 to 2016 and who masterminded a series of “Fake News Stories” in 2005 about Official Ground Zero Photographer Gary Suson in a desperate ploy to get even with rival union member Rudy Sanfilippo — was recently given the boot by his fellow board members of the Uniformed Firefighter’s Association after learning they had been betrayed.

On September 19, 2016 Steve Cassidy was labeled a “turncoat” by his fellow Fire Union Board Members for engaging in secret meetings and negotiations with the City of New York to become Executive Director of the new Fire Pension Fund without even so much as consulting with the Board of the Uniformed Firefighter’s Association of which he served as President. After accepting the high-paying position, the Fire Commissioner announced Cassidy’s new role, which infuriated the Uniformed Firefighter’s Association as well as firefighters around the U.S.A. Under the UFA’s “Turncoat Provision” – passed 20 years ago – union officials are barred from going to work for the city in most capacities for three years after stepping down from their duties. The UFA Board taken by surprise — voted 9-1 to have Mr. Cassidy leave office effective immediately with no salary as opposed to finishing up his work ending on November 1, 2016, which was the date he would start his new position at Fire and Pension. The only board member who voted “For” Cassidy to stay on was his long-time friend and UFA colleague James Slevin, who will temporarily fill the position of President. The next election for UFA President will be in March, 2017 – and one of the candidates for that position will be Kenny Specht, Founder of the Brotherhood Foundation.

This is not the first-time Cassidy has been caught up in scandal. As reported in “The Chief” newspaper in April of 2004, President Cassidy locked horns with fellow Fire Union Trustee Rudy Sanfilippo, who attempted to bring his own union’s President up on in internal charges for allegedly abusing Pension Funds for personal use. Sanfilippo called it “questionable spending” after it was revealed on a monthly financial statement that Cassidy was using pension funds to make personal car payments for his driver John Mixon. (Mind you I did a lot of digging on microfiche at the public library to find all this!) This resulted in a massive internal union war between Cassidy and Sanfilippo. “We started asking questions, and we started getting bad answers,” Mr. Sanfilippo said. In the end, it was decided by an internal union investigation and vote that the payments Cassidy authorized were indeed against regulations and Cassidy had to pay the fund back, which he did. Why he was not voted out of office for theft back then nobody knows. This is politics.

Character Assassination Courtesy of Stephen Cassidy

One unlikely and innocent victim of this war was the acclaimed photographer Gary Marlon Suson, who spent seven months documenting the Ground Zero “Recovery Period” for the Uniformed Firefighter’s Association in 2001 and 2002 — prior to the arrival of Stephen Cassidy to the Union. Suson became known in FDNY circles as “Rudy’s Kid” since Sanfilippo discovered Suson and set the wheels in motion for Suson to get the coveted job to document on the front lines at Ground Zero after 9/11 for the UFA. The 2004 war between Sanfilippo and Cassidy was well-known in FDNY circles and only grew stronger into 2005, up until Sanfilippo would leave the UFA. Needless to say, anytime Gary Suson was in the news for his work at Ground Zero — CNN, NY1, Fox News or others – Rudy Sanfilippo was either with him or his name was brought up, infuriating Steve Cassidy who didn’t want Sanfilippo receiving any type of positive press. From 2001 – 2005, whenever a major media outlet wanted to interview Suson, they always called the Fire Union to confirm Gary Suson’s Official Photographer for the UFA title before putting him on the air or in the news. That is standard procedure. Coincidentally, the New York Post did just that two times and confirmed Suson’s official title in the newspaper. In light of the fact that the UFA had confirmed Suson’s title over 100 times by the time 2005 rolled along, his title was now solidified in American history and a matter of public record. That is until Stephen Cassidy came along…

On September 7, 2005 — only 30 days after UFA Manhattan Trustee Rudy Sanfilippo had vacated the Fire Union — Official Ground Zero Photographer Gary Suson opened up his tiny Ground Zero Museum Workshop in the Meatpacking District so visitors and 9/11 families could learn about the special stories that took place inside Ground Zero after 9/11. It was to be a place of healing and education; however, the timing could not have been more horrible. What Suson – who hails from Chicago – didn’t realize was that he was now “fair game” for Cassidy – he was an open target for a brutal politician who wanted some payback on Rudy Sanfilippo. In late August, 2005, when a national press release came out that Mr. Suson was opening a 9/11-themed Museum in NYC, it traveled fast in the media and appeared quickly on the Fox News ticker in Times Square. Media response was enormous and Suson was flooded with PR requests, however he agreed to give the first interview to the Associated Press.

Photographer Gary Suson
9/11 Photographer Gary Suson.
A Victim of Fake News.
The Museum Opens and The Fix Was In

On the weekend of August 26, 2005 the AP ran a world-wide story on how Gary Suson’s visit to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam inspired him to create another tiny Museum in New York —  the Ground Zero Museum Workshop. The Museum was slated to open September 7, 2005. Unfortunately, the AP story also caught the eye of Stephen Cassidy, the President at the Firefighter’s Union and his PR spokesman Thomas Butler, who noticed that Rudy Sanfilippo was also included the story. Cassidy, looking to settle an old score with Sanfilippo clearly decided that Gary Suson would be a wonderful pawn to achieve this goal. According to my interview with Gary Suson, he explained that on Sunday, August 28, 2005, around 8:00 a.m., he received a phone call from AP writer Verena Dobnik, who informed him (as a favor) that Thomas Butler, PR spokesman on behalf of the UFA and Stephen Cassidy — had contacted her and told her that “Gary Suson was never our Official Photographer at Ground Zero. He’s a fraud — a liar.” Cassidy demanded the story be yanked from the AP and a retraction issued. Suddenly, 30 days after Sanfilippo leaves the UFA – as well as almost five years and 100 stories later on Suson, Steve Cassidy wanted to re-write history (Keep in mind Cassidy didn’t work at Ground Zero and had no affiliation with the Fire Union when Suson was working for the UFA at Ground Zero). The Associated Press re-investigated Gary Marlon Suson and his title, spoke to high ranking officials in the FDNY and by that Monday had issued a decision: They were sticking with the original story. Gary Suson, according to one of the most respected news reporting agencies in the world, was indeed the Official Photographer of Record at Ground Zero for the Uniformed Firefighters Association and Fire Officer’s Association. The AP was not buying what Stephen Cassidy and his new union were selling. Something was clearly amiss and they wanted no part of it.

John Vigiano
9/11 Family Member John Vigiano Defended Gary Suson
after New York Post Fake News Story.

Infuriated, Stephen Cassidy then contacted his long-time ally, Cynthia Fagen of the New York Post, a tabloid queen and top “fake news” specialist in New York. Whenever Cassidy needed stories run or spun in the Post, he always went to Cynthia Fagen, Susan Edelman and Stephanie Gaskell. Cassidy’s mentality worked like this: He knew a character attack on Gary Suson, a patsy — would upset Rudy Sanfilippo. The character assassination hit was ‘on' for Gary Suson and Fagen did her work quickly and rather well. On August 30, 2005, Fagen falsely told Suson’s PR rep Carmen Group Communications she wanted to do a nice story on the Museum and asked to send over a photographer, who suckered Suson into posing for photos in his Museum, which had not yet opened to the public. Once the photos were in hand, Cynthia Fagen called Suson and began accusing him of stealing 9/11 victim’s belongings, lying about his “Official UFA Photographer at Ground Zero” title and of not raising monies for 9/11 charities. Reached in New York, Gary Suson stated, “It was horrifying. She was hurling accusations left and right. She refused to even visit the Museum. She knew exactly what she was going to write even before she called. The whole thing stunk of a set-up. It was so clear what was happening. I said to her you’re going to write very bad things about me – lies – aren’t you? Fagen responded with you should have known this would happen to you when you decided to open up a 9/11 Museum.” For three painful days, Suson weathered fake story after fake story, having to read in horror things that made him look like a villain. The New York Post called him a grave-robber, a mongrel dog, a phony, a scammer, a thief, and more. Death threats began coming in and sponsors pulling out. He received a call from friend and famed gossip columnist George Rush, who told him, “Gary you’re an important guy, but not that important that you would be in the Post three days in a row. Who set you up? Who is doing this to you and why?” Suson knew the answers. The New York Post was actually gearing up to run a 4th fake story after they intentionally and secretly sent in to the Museum a Mr. Charles Wolf, an outspoken 9/11 family member who lost his wife on 9/11 and didn’t like 9/11 exploitation. What the Post hadn’t banked on was Mr. Wolf was an intellectual and brutally honest. He later told Suson that he reported back to the New York Post that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the Museum’s contents. There was no story here and he was not going to be used to perpetuate lies. Good one on Charles Wolf.

Read Part 2.