I went to Carter - there were about 200 people at that dinner - I said, "Mr. President, I want you to autograph for me the peace treaty," and he says, "I'm not going to do it for anybody tonight. There are 250 people and I can't do it." I said, "Well, if I'm anybody, don't do it." He said, "Give it to me." I had a special pen. He wrote down the whole thing in English. Then I asked Sadat, and Sadat wrote down a whole story in Arabic and English, and Menachem Begin, who was sitting to my left, wrote down the whole story in Hebrew and English, and every museum wants it, and my wife won't give it to anybody.

So being a member of the Electoral College certainly represents a bigger office than being commissioner of Miami Beach. My wife was on the board of the Kennedy Center. I was a member of the Tri-State Regional Planning Commission, which is New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, comprising about 30 million people. I was the president of Democrats for Reagan.

People ask me, "What are you?" And I tell them, "I am a liberal Republican, a conservative Democrat, which makes me a Hypo-crat, which most Americans are, because they vote either way all the time." What's on my lung is on my tongue. Americans generally vote individually. I think it's a wonderful system, because it gives them a choice to vote the political party or to vote individually. Gives them freedom.

The Bible says you should divide your life into three: into family, into business, and into charity and public service. There are guys who like to gamble, there are guys who like to go with prostitutes, there are guys who like to go to racetracks. There are guys who like to drink. My hobby is to go in politics. And I get to help people.

How is it in the best interest of a community to have you, a big businessman, involved in the day-to-day operations of their city as a hobby, and to protect his own investments?

Look, it's only good business. Government is the people's business. It's a business of analyzing the expenses, the income. Spending their money, not wasting their money. Getting the right results for the monies that the people are paying in their taxes and in other increments.

Why did you choose to come to Miami?
All my life, my formula of business was buying into neglected communities and into communities where the prices are at the rock bottom, and then bring my knowledge and improve the neighborhood, and everything grows with it. It's almost like the Bible saying, those who sow with tears cut with joy. And when you come in a place where everything is neglected - and yet in my opinion, we have visited countless places all over the universe, I would say maybe 70 percent of the places - I really believe that the territory of Miami Beach is the nicest I have seen anywhere.


At an age when many people would be considering a life of quiet retirement, Hirschfeld arrived in Miami Beach in 1987 and plopped down $14.5 million cash for what was then the Konover Hotel at 5445 Collins Avenue. He spent another ten million dollars renovating the eighteen-story, 484-room resort, renamed it the Castle, and basked - albeit briefly - in local glory. He discussed the hotel with anyone who would listen, and was especially smitten with its 1000-seat theater, which he named after himself. But a union strike, lawsuits, numerous personnel changes, and building-code violations turned Hirschfeld's Castle into a palace under siege. This past July, days before attorneys for the city planned to ask a federal judge to order that the hotel be shut down, Hirschfeld closed the Castle's doors himself.

In the meantime, in 1989, Hirschfeld managed to win a seat on the Miami Beach City Commission; helped by the public's strong anti-incumbent sentiment, he scraped past Commissioner Ben Grenald by a total of 21 votes.

"We painted him as a prominent businessman from New York," says public relations consultant Robert Goodman, who made the most of Hirschfeld's friendship with Donald Trump, featuring the billionaire in his candidate's campaign advertisements. Goodman also distributed free copies of Hirschfeld's self-published autobiography, An Accidental Wedding, July 4, and he spent money - a lot of money. Hirschfeld shelled out $110,000 of his own funds campaigning for the $6000-per-year position against Grenald, the Herald-endorsed candidate.

The Miami Beach commission triumph was Hirschfeld's second successful stab at politics. In 1946 he was elected vice mayor of B'nai Brak, a small town near Tel Aviv, Israel, where he had lived since his family fled Tarnow, Poland, in 1933. In Israel Hirschfeld met and married Zipora, his wife of 47 years, fathered two children, and prospered as a metal importer, bringing aluminum, brass, copper, and other metals into the newly formed nation.

In 1950 Hirschfeld moved from Israel to New York City, and amassed a fortune constructing multilevel parking garages. Before he arrived, Manhattan parking garages were completely enclosed structures with heating, ventilation, and windows. Hirschfeld opted for a more Spartan architectural strategy: floors, walls, and parking spaces. No climate control, no windows, no frills at all - just parking. The idea, in Hirschfeld's words, "revolutionized the world."

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