"Loconik" Defense: Roy M. Cohn
Not long after he introduced the tour service, Brody found himself in trouble with City authorities:
Train in ‘Village’ Faces Bumpy Ride
A Salvador Dalí sight-seeing train that tours Greenwich Village daily may find its track bumpy with litigation in the future. The Village restaurateur who owns the train – and advertises on it – promised as much yesterday after a court appearance. He said he would take his difficulties with the policy to the United States Supreme Court if necessary.
Joseph Brody, owner of the Albert French Restaurant at 42 East Eleventh Street, appeared in Manhattan Arrest Court to answer three summonses issued for operating the vehicle without benefit of hack or sight-seeing license. The summonses were issued on July 24 against the train’s driver, Chester Collins, 50 years old, of 31 West Seventy-first Street.
Mr. Brody said afterward that so far he had received a total of twenty-two tickets for assorted violations involving the multi-colored vehicle, had ignored them all and would continue to ignore them. He maintained that the train was operated as a community service. He makes no charge for riding tourists and residents around some of the Village’s most interesting streets.
In asking for a postponement, Mr. Brody told Magistrate Samuel J. Ohringer that he was trying to obtain Joseph N. Welch of Boston as counsel. Mr. Welch, who recently added to his fame in the Senate’s McCarthy hearings with a role as a judge in the motion picture “Anatomy of a Murder,” is now in Europe. Judge Ohringer agreeably put the trial over to Nov. 6.
The train made its entrance on the Village scene last March when it led the Greenwich Village Spring Parade. The locomotive was designed by Salvador Dalí and the two cars by Russell Patterson and Dean Cornwell.
Mr. Brody said the train cost him $16,000 and the upkeep amounted to $12,000 a year. The liability insurance alone, he said, costs $1,500. The train is similar to those that tour fairs and amusement parks.
The train starts its tour each day at University Place near Eleventh Street and visits Eleventh, Gay, Grove, Bleecker and Eighth Streets and Sheridan and Washington Squares. It starts at 1 P.M. and gets in about seven trips before halting at 7 P.M. On weekdays two cars are used, on week-ends three.
To the two main Village newspapers Mr. Brody is a legendary figure who boasts of employing six press agents.
For a man with such a solid sense of public relations, Mr. Brody yesterday offered to make the ultimate sacrifice
“To make a public service to the community is not a crime,” he said in a heavy French accent. “But if they want I’ll even take the advertising off the cars.”
When Brody was unable to engage Joseph Welch – Senator Joe McCarthy’s nemesis in the infamous Army-McCarthy trials, famous for his challenge to the senator: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” – he simply hired, instead, McCarthy’s own counsel, Roy Cohn.
Roy M. Cohn, the late Senator McCarthy’s chief assistant, has been retained by Joseph Brody, proprietor of the Albert French Restaurant, to represent Mr. Brody in the “Loconik” trial scheduled for the Manhattan Arrest Court on Nov. 6…. Mr. Cohn told Mr. Brody that he was interested in the case because of his feeling about Greenwich Village. “The Village is the best part of the five boroughs,” Mr. Cohn said. “I’d like to do what I can to help.”
Cartoon from The Villager, October 8, 1959
The trial was put off again until November 20th. As reported in The Villager, “Mr. Brody believes that the Nov. 20 hearing will be a ‘showdown.’”
Cohn’s help was successful – Brody won his showdown:
Village restaurateur Joseph Brody won the celebrated “Loconik Trial” at the City Magistrate’s Court last Friday. Supported by Village civic leaders, the legal talents of Roy M. Cohn and Louis H. Solomon, and a group of actors from “An Enemy of the People” sporting signs reading “Loconik brings business to the city but ‘gets the business’ from city cops” – Mr. Brody arrived at the 151st St. courthouse aboard his Salvadore [sic] Dali sightseeing train.
…The basic question in the case was whether or not a free sightseeing train could be operated without a special sightseeing franchise and license. Representing Mr. Brody, Mr. Cohn told Magistrate Edward J. Chapman, “If Mr. Brody’s Loconik needs a special license than I need a special license to drive a friend in my private car up to see the Empire State Building.” Mr. Cohn added that there were a number of people in the courtroom who could testify that Mr. Brody operated the train as a public service. He said Mr. Brody had not derived any profit from the tours.
The Magistrate replied: “I don’t think Mr. Brody is doing this for the good of the people of Greenwich Village. Of course, I don’t blame him. But suppose ten other fellas tried to do what Mr. Brody is doing. Then we’d have a problem.” Magistrate Chapman added, “The administrative code should be changed to cover such a situation, but as it is I don’t think I can find Mr. Brody guilty of anything. Case dismissed.”
…“My business is my hobby,” said Mr. Brody… “But they expect a businessman to be as corrupt as they are. They don’t understand a man who sincerely wants to do something for his community – with no strings attached.” He said that the Loconik would continue its hourly rounds of the Village as usual. He had removed all advertising from the train and he said that rides would continue to be “free and without obligation.”