Manfred Ohrenstein

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Manfred Ohrenstein (born August 5, 1925) is a lawyer and the senior partner of the New York law firm of Ohrenstein & Brown, LLP. He is a former member of the New York State Senate. A Democrat, he represented Manhattan from 1961 until 1994. From 1975 until 1994, he served as the New York State Senate Minority Leader. He is married to Dr. Marilyn Bacher and has two children, Nancy and David and four grandchildren.[1]

Biography[edit]

The son of a furniture merchant, Manfred "Fred" Ohrenstein was born in 1925 in Mannheim, Germany.[2] In 1938, Ohrenstein and his family, who were Jewish, fled Nazi Germany. Ohrenstein and his family settled in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Ohrenstein graduated from Brooklyn College in 1948 with a B.A Degree, Cum Laude. He thereafter attended Columbia Law School from 1948 to 1951, where he was designated as a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and graduated with the degree of Juris Doctor. From 1952 to 1954, Ohrenstein served in the U.S. Army as a First Lieutenant, Judge Advocate General Corps. After leaving active duty he continued to serve in the military as a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1954-1960. On leaving active duty he was appointed as an assistant district attorney by the Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan and served from 1954 to 1958.[3] He left the New York District Attorney’s Office in 1958 to resume the practice of law in New York City and in 1983 helped form the law firm of Ohrenstein & Brown, LLP.[4] In addition to New York State, he is admitted to practice before the Court of Military Appeals [5] and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He also became active in New York politics and in 1960 was elected to the New York State Senate representing the West Side of Manhattan. In 1975 he became the Democratic Leader of the New York State Senate.[6] In 1980 he also served as Chairman of the New York Delegation to the Democratic National Convention which nominated Jimmy Carter for President.

He left the New York Senate at the end of 1994 to resume the practice of law. Thereafter he was appointed by Mayor Rudy Giuliani as a member of the Mayor’s Task Force on the City University of New York [7] and subsequently to the Mayoral Task Force on the New York City Board of Elections.[8] He is the Vice Chairman of the Museum of Jewish Heritage,[9] and Vice President of the New York Insurance Federation.[10] Manfred Ohrenstein is a former member of the Board of the New York City Chapter of the American Jewish Committee and the Advisory Board of the Baruch School of Public Affairs.

Politics[edit]

In 1960, Ohrenstein emerged as one of the major leaders of the New York City Democratic Reform Movement. He joined forces with Eleanor Roosevelt [11] and former Governor and U.S. Senator Herbert H. Lehman to organize the Committee for Democratic Voters.[12] The New York Post called Manfred Ohrenstein a "standout example of the new young leadership that is spearheading the drive to reform the Democratic Party." [13] The principal objective of this organization was to oust the then Leader of the New York County Democratic Organization, Carmine DeSapio,[14] otherwise known as Tammany Hall and elect a Democratic Reform Leader as County Leader. To assist in achieving this objective and to elect a liberal to the New York State Senate, Ohrenstein became a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the 25th District of the New York State Senate against the incumbent State Senator John H. Farrell who was supported by DeSapio.

Ohrenstein defeated Senator John H. Farrell in the Democratic primary. Ohrenstein then won the general election with about 57 percent of the vote. In a 1965 editorial, The New York Times said "Senator Manfred Ohrenstein is an outstanding Reform legislator who puts principle first." [15] He easily won re-election (often by lopsided margins) until he retired in 1994. Ohrenstein briefly represented the 29th District after a special election in 1965 (when State Senate and Assembly district lines were reapportioned), but the following year was elected to represent the 25th District again. After district boundaries were redrawn after the 1970 Census, Ohrenstein began representing the 27th district, which he held until his retirement. He sat in the 173rd, 174th, 175th, 176th, 177th, 178th, 179th, 180th, 181st, 182nd, 183rd, 184th, 185th, 186th, 187th, 188th, 189th and 190th New York State Legislatures. In the Senate, Ohrenstein compiled a liberal voting record, supporting anti-discrimination measures for gays and lesbians and strict rent control laws.

Senate Minority Leader[edit]

In 1975, Ohrenstein was elected Senate minority leader by his Democratic colleagues. He held the position until his retirement. This was a major victory for the New York City Democratic Reform Movement. He was opposed in this election by the Democratic Governor Hugh Carey and by the Chairman of the New York State Democratic Committee, Patrick J. Cunningham.[16] Several of the new Democratic Members of the New York Senate had prevailed as challengers to the incumbents in the Primary Election of 1974 and voted for Senator Ohrenstein despite the opposition of the then state leadership of the Democratic Party.[17]

Legislative Achievements[edit]

Senator Manfred Ohrenstein was a major advocate of Legislation to abolish the Death Penalty in New York. On March 16, 1965 he introduced Bill S.639 to that effect.[18] In working with other members of the Senate and the Assembly, the Legislature abolished the Death Penalty on May 12, 1965. Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed this Legislation into law on June 1, 1965.[19]

Senator Manfred Ohrenstein was also a chief sponsor of the Legislation legalizing Abortions in the State of New York.[20] He introduced Bill S.8556 on March 5, 1970 to that effect. It was co-sponsored by Senator D. Clinton Dominick III, a Republican. It passed the Senate on March 18, 1970 and an amended version of the Bill was subsequently passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Nelson on April 11, 1970.[21] Three years later the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide and cited the New York Legislation as a major reason for its decision.[22]

Senator Ohrenstein became the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Mental Health in 1965. He was instrumental in passing legislation (Bill A.6033)[23] to provide greater state aid for the construction of local mental health facilities.[24] It was signed into law by the Governor on August 2, 1966.[25]

Senator Manfred Ohrenstein was also Chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on Higher Education. Under his leadership this Committee achieved major reforms (Bill A.6125) in the administration and financing of the City University of New York.[26] A New York Times editorial supported Senator Ohrenstein's recommendations: "After much vacillation Governor Rockefeller has come to the support of the well-conceived legislative plan to assure the fiscal soundness of the City University. The bill follows closely the recommendations that emerged from hearings conducted by State Senator Manfred Ohrenstein." [27] In his thirty-four years of public service, Senator Manfred Ohrenstein also championed rent regulations,[28][29][30] welfare and civil rights reforms.[31]

Bailout of New York City[edit]

Immediately upon taking office as Minority Leader on January 1, 1975, Senator Ohrenstein, now as one of the four Legislative Leaders representing the Senate and Assembly, became involved in the successful bailout [32] from near bankruptcy of the New York State Battery Park Authority and later of the City of New York itself during the 1975/76/77 Legislative Sessions.[33][34] In his Public Papers, Governor Carey acknowledges Senator Ohrenstein’s efforts: “I fully support the efforts of Senator Ohrenstein and the Democratic minority of the Senate to provide New York City with the taxing authority it needs to maintain the services so essential to its well-being.” [35] Senator Ohrenstein and the Republican Majority Leader of the Senate Warren Anderson, successfully achieved bipartisan support for these landmark measures.[36] These measures also included the creation of the New York State Financial Control Board [37] and other reforms of the New York City Budget Process.[38]

Indictment and Dismissal[edit]

On September 16, 1987, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau indicted Ohrenstein on 564 counts of conspiracy, grand larceny, and other charges related to a scheme to use hundreds of thousands of dollars in state money to assist Democratic State Senate candidates in 1986.[39] Morgenthau alleged that Ohrenstein and his two co-defendants, Democratic State Senator Howard E. Babbush of Brooklyn, and Frank Sanzillo, a top aide employed by Ohrenstein, used public money to pay for campaign workers, and that legislative staffers continued to collect their salaries while working full-time on political campaigns. Despite the indictment, Ohrenstein, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, was easily re-elected in 1988 and continued to serve as minority leader.

On November 27, 1990, the New York State Court of Appeals dismissed 445 counts against Ohrenstein, stating that "the point we are making in this case is that at the time the defendants acted, their conduct was not prohibited in any manner." [40] [41] On September 5, 1991, at Morgenthau's request, a state judge in Manhattan dismissed the remaining counts against Ohrenstein.[42] In 1992, New York State Controller Edward V. Regan awarded Ohrenstein $1.3 million in legal costs (but disallowed $480,000).[43]

After Politics[edit]

Ohrenstein decided not to seek re-election in 1994.[44] Since leaving elected office he has engaged in the full-time practice of law at his firm, Ohrenstein & Brown, LLP.[45] The firm specializes in business and corporate consulting and litigation. Mr. Ohrenstein heads the firm's Government Affairs Department. In 1994 Senate Minority Leader Manfred Ohrenstein was honored in the Congressional Record by U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney. She called him a brilliant intellect who is “driven above all by what he believes is right. His progressive values are rock solid. In 34 years of public service, his commitment to equal opportunity for women and minorities, a woman's right to choose, education and civil rights has never wavered.” [46]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The New York Red Book. Albany, N.Y.: Williams Press. 1961. p. 86. ISSN 0196-4623. 
  2. ^ New York Times. "Ohrenstein: A Career That Began With Reform" (September 17, 1987)
  3. ^ The New York Red Book. Albany, N.Y.: Williams Press. 1961. p. 86. ISSN 0196-4623. 
  4. ^ Ohrenstein & Brown, LLP Web site
  5. ^ Renamed in 1994 as the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
  6. ^ Greenhouse, Linda (January 4, 1975). "State Democrats Name Ohrenstein Leader in Senate". New York Times. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  7. ^ Mayor's Advisory Task Force on the City University of New York NYC.gov Web site
  8. ^ Mayor Giuliani Announces The Formation Of A Taskforce To Evaluate Needs Of The NYC Board Of Elections Press Release NYC.gov Web site
  9. ^ Museum of Jewish Heritage Leadership Web site
  10. ^ Board of Directors of the Insurance Federation of New York, Inc Web site
  11. ^ Phillips, Wayne (May 30, 1960). "De Sapio and Insurgents Clash in West Side Contests". New York Times. Retrieved October 8, 2015. 
  12. ^ Dales, Douglas (April 7, 1960). "Rep.Teller's Bid Assailed by Ryan". New York Times. Retrieved October 10, 2015. 
  13. ^ Uhlig, Mark A. (September 17, 1987). "Ohrenstein: A Career That Began With Reform". New York Times. Retrieved October 17, 2015. 
  14. ^ Phillips, Wayne (May 30, 1960). "West Side Primary a Test For Lehman and De Sapio". New York Times. Retrieved October 8, 2015. 
  15. ^ "The State Senate". New York Times. October 25, 1965. Retrieved October 16, 2015. 
  16. ^ Lynn, Frank (January 6, 1975). "Ohrenstein's Victory Is a Major Defeat for Carey". New York Times. Retrieved October 16, 2015. 
  17. ^ Greenhouse, Linda (January 4, 1975). "State Democrats Name Ohrenstein Leader in Senate". New York Times. Retrieved October 16, 2015. 
  18. ^ New York Legislative Record and Index. 100 South Swan Street, Albany, N.Y.: The Legislative Index Company. January 6, 1965. 
  19. ^ Journal of the Senate of the State of New York. Albany, N.Y.: William Press, Inc. January 6, 1965. p. 1769. 
  20. ^ Farber, M.A. (January 24, 1973). "Abortions at Any Time Sought in State". New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2016. 
  21. ^ New York Legislative Record and Index. 100 South Swan Street, Albany, N.Y.: The Legislative Index Company. January 7, 1970. 
  22. ^ Perez-Pena, Richard (April 9, 2000). "'70 Abortion Law: New York Said Yes, Stunning the Nation". New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2016. 
  23. ^ New York Legislative Record and Index. 100 South Swan Street, Albany, N.Y.: The Legislative Index Company. January 5, 1966. p. 1041. 
  24. ^ Special to the New York Times (July 11, 1965). "Laws Modernized On Mental Care; Governor Signs Bills to Help Community Facilities". New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2016. 
  25. ^ Journal of the Senate of the State of New York, Volume II. Albany, N.Y.: William Press, Inc. January 5, 1966. p. 3088. 
  26. ^ New York Legislative Record and Index. 100 South Swan Street, Albany, N.Y.: The Legislative Index Company. January 5, 1966. p. 1051. 
  27. ^ Editorial (June 24, 1966). "Educational Gateway". New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2016. 
  28. ^ Fowler, Glen (January 26, 1977). "Albany Rent Bills Seeks to Continue Stabilization on 45,000 City Units". New York Times. Retrieved January 30, 2016. 
  29. ^ New York Times. "45,000 Mid-Income Housing Units Get 80% City Tax Exemption" (October 10, 1969)
  30. ^ New York Legislative Record and Index. 100 South Swan Street, Albany, N.Y.: The Legislative Index Company. January 9, 1974. p. S 872. 
  31. ^ Illson, Murray (June 11, 1972). "Civil Liberties Hails 4 in Legislature for Vote Record". New York Times. Retrieved January 30, 2016. 
  32. ^ Lachman, Seymour P. (2014). Mr. New York: Lew Rudin and His Love for the City. Albany, N.Y: Excelsior Editions/ State University of New York Press. p. 74. ISBN 9781438451978. 
  33. ^ Lachman, Seymour P. The Man Who Saved New York: Hugh Carey and the Great Fiscal Crisis of 1975. Albany, N.Y: Excelsior Editions/ State University of New York Press. pp. 162–163. ISBN 9781438434537. 
  34. ^ Pérez-Peña, Richard (August 7, 2011). "Hugh Carey, Who Led Fiscal Rescue of New York City, Is Dead at 92". New York Times. Retrieved Aug 7, 2011. 
  35. ^ Public Papers of Hugh L. Carey, Fifty-First Governor of the State of New York. Albany, N.Y.: State of New York. June 29, 1975. p. 1014. 
  36. ^ Greenhouse, Linda (July 4, 1977). "Albany Compromise Gives City $330 Million in Taxes". New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2016. 
  37. ^ "State of New York Financial Control Board". Retrieved January 31, 2016. 
  38. ^ "Mission, Financial Control Board, New York State". Retrieved January 31, 2016. 
  39. ^ New York Times "Legislator Charges in 564 Counts in New York Payroll Abuse Case" September 17, 1987
  40. ^ The People &C., Appellant,v. Manfred Ohrenstein, Et Al. 77 N.Y.2d 38, 1 No. 181 page 52 (Court of Appeals of the State of New York November 27, 1990) (“the point we are making in this case is that at the time the defendants acted, their conduct was not prohibited in any manner”).
  41. ^ New York Times "New York Court Limits Grounds for Prosecuting a Top Legislator" (November 28, 1990)
  42. ^ New York Times "Judge Drops Final Charges For Legislator" (September 5, 1991)"
  43. ^ New York Times "Partial Reimbursement for Ohrenstein Legal Bills" (November 26, 1992)
  44. ^ Sack, Kevin (April 20, 1994). "Ohrenstein Will Give Up His Senate Post in Albany". New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2016. 
  45. ^ Ohrenstein & Brown, LLP Web site
  46. ^ Hon. Carolyn B. Maloney (October 6, 1994). "Senate Minority Leader Manfred Ohrenstein Honored For Lifetime Of Service". Thomas Congressional Record 103rd Congress. Retrieved January 31, 2016. 

External links[edit]

New York State Senate
Preceded by
John H. Farrell
New York State Senate
25th District

1961–1965
Succeeded by
William T. Conklin
Preceded by
Joseph E. Marine
New York State Senate
29th District

1966
Succeeded by
Eugene Rodriguez
Preceded by
William T. Conklin
New York State Senate
25th District

1967–1972
Succeeded by
Paul P. E. Bookson
Preceded by
Sidney A. von Luther
New York State Senate
27th District

1973–1994
Succeeded by
Catherine Abate
Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph Zaretzki
Minority Leader in the New York State Senate
1975–1994
Succeeded by
Martin Connor