1st Deputy Commissioner Dina Simon's Appointment: A Tri-Focus Bridge
Connecting Black and Women's History Months and DOC FDC History

Focusing the CorrectionHistory.Org website spotlight on the recently-appointed NYC Department of Correction (DOC) First Deputy Commissioner, Dina Simon, serves well to connect both 2016's Black History Month (February) and Women's History Month (March). It also provides opportunity to look into the history of the First Deputy Commissioner (FDC) position itself.


Above: FDC Dina Simon, as per the official DOC photo, with the obligatory flag and city seal.


The above photo of Dina Simon appeared on the Kreyolicous website with a story about her initiating a travel services endeavor in response to the devastating January 2010 earthquake that hit Haiti, her native land. She sought to help restortation of the Caribbean island nation through socially concerned tourism. An excellent story on that undertaking appeared in Travel Weekly.
In becoming the first woman in DOC history formally named to serve in that post, Ms. Simon thereby also became the first woman of African-American heritage to hold the agency's First Deputy Commissioner title, initially as Acting FDC by appointment in October 2015 and since Jan. 5, 2016, as full FDC without the "Acting" designation.

When these historic "firsts" are pointed out to her, Ms. Simon -- who came to the U.S. from her native Haiti at age 9 and grew up in Brooklyn and later eastward on Long Island -- is wont to add proudly "and the first Caribbean FDC too." She does so, flashing a winning smile.

Some Black Commissioners, Deputy
Commissioners, Asst. DCs in DOC History

A number of men and women of African-American heritage have served as DOC Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners and Assistant Deputy Commissioners. The 1989 72-page glossy souvenir journal, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the NYC Correction Guardians, lists some early ones, including


The above reduced-size image of a page of photos from the 1989 Correction Guardians' 50th anniversary journal spotlights past trail blazers. Click to double image size. Use your browser's back button to return.

  • Benjamin Malcolm, the first African-American Commissioner (1/24/72 -- 11/1/77). He also had been the first African-American FDC.

Also cited in the Correction Guardians' journal were

  • Commissioners Benjamin Ward (8/13/79 -- 12/31/83), who went on to become the first African-American NYPD Commissioner, and
  • Jacqueline McMickens (1/18/84 -- 9/22/86), the first -- and so far the only -- African-American woman appointed Commissioner.

Deputy Commissioners and Assistant Deputy Commissioners mentioned included

  • DC Pat Gatson (1970 - 1972),
  • DC Alphonso Ford (1978 -- 1980),
  • DC Frank Headley (1985 -- 1986) and
  • ADC Evelyn Bridges (1984 -- 1985).
Being then current, and therefore listed without dates, were
  • Program Services DC Janie Jeffers,
  • Custody Management DC Thomas Jacobs,
  • Public Affairs DC Ruby Ryles and
  • ADC Labor Relations Frank Leslie.

During brief periods when the First Deputy Commissioner is away, such as on personal holiday or a few days illness, a Deputy Commissioner sometimes is designated to function as the FDC temporarily.

But that's without formal appointment as Acting FDC in pay title.


The above reduced-size image of a page of photos from the 1989 Correction Guardians' 50th anniversary journal spotlights past trail blazers. Click to double image size. Use your browser's back button to return.

Click the above reduced-size image of the front cover of the 1989 Correction Guardians' 50th anniversary journal to access the CorrectionHistory.Org 10-part presentation of more than 100 images of African American DOCers from past decades. The click brings the reader to the part featuring the photos immediately above this one and also those on the immediate left. At the bottom of that pasge are links to other pages in the 10-pqart presentation. Use your browser's back button to work your back here. Enjoy.
So one or more of the female as well as male DCs mentioned above may have, at one time or another, functioned temporarily in the FDC role on such occasions.

But during those transitory stints in that capacity, they remained DCs on DOC's employment rolls.

Not intending to diminish in any way the efficacy of the important services which they rendered in that role, one might nevertheless say, figuratively speaking, each was an "acting FDC" with a small "a."

Ms. Simon's appointment in October 2015 as Acting FDC came with a cap "A" from the get-go.

The "Acting" was dropped from her title the first week of 2016.

By the way, extensive excerpts from the DOC Correction Guardians' 50th anniversary journal can be accessed from the CorrectionHistory.Org website, thanks to Monroe College Professor Errol D. Toulon making a copy available for that purpose some years ago.

A former Correction Academy Deputy Warden, Toulon had been, among many other distinctions, also a COBA first vice president.

And oh, yes, he is the father of the current DOC Deputy Commissioner of Operations, Dr. Errol D. Toulon Jr., himself like his dad, a veteran of decades of DOC uniformed service.

FDC Simon Has Extensive Background in Labor Relations, Human Resources


At the March 11th, 2014, City Hall ceremony announcing Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte's appointment, among others, Mayor Bill de Blasio went out of his way in the course of his remarks to look over to FDC Marc Cranston and speak directly to him, thanking him for his service of more than three months as Acting Commissioner after the departure of former Commissioner Dora B. Schriro. It was the longest such Acting Correction Commissioner service by a FDC in recent memory.
As FDC, Ms. Simon serves as a senior advisor to Commissioner Joseph Ponte on all aspects of administration and planning, and directly supervises Administration, Budget and Planning, Human Resources, Information Technology, Facilities Planning and Support Services, and Labor Relations.

She joined DOC in 2014 as the Deputy Commissioner of Human Resources. Prior to coming to DOC, she served as Director of Human Resources for the Office of the NYC Comptroller.

Ms. Simon's work background in human resources and labor relations includes positions with the NYS Education Department, NYS Office of Developmental Disabilities, Norfolk State University, and the Navy Exchange Service Command Center.

She holds a Master's in Public Administration from Long Island University, C.W. Post and a Bachelor's of Science from SUNY Brockport.

Ms. Simon succeeded James E. Dzurenda who resigned in October 2015.

At one point in her professional career, she engaged in travel services with strong social and civic features.

The Haitian Roundtable, a group of Haitian-American professionals engaged in civic and philanthropic endeavors to benefit the people of that struggling Caribbean island nation, has reported:

"With Haiti in her heart, [Ms. Dina Simon] founded the My Haiti Travels agency shortly following the devastating earthquake of January 2010 to support the resurgence of tourism and investment in Haiti, and to promote the patronage of local businesses, hotel and resort establishments and restaurants."

Simon Not First FDC to Have Acquired Personnel Relations Experience


Richard J. Koehler, FDC under Correction Commissioner Ben Ward who became NYPD Commissioner, left DOC in 1983 to become NYPD chief of personnel. Koehler returned in 1986 to serve as Correction Commissioner, one of six former FDCs ever to take the top spot.
She is not the first DOC FDC to have acquired extensive professional experience in personnel relations. So did Richard J. Koehler, who served from October 1981 to April 1983 as FDC under then Correction Commissioner Ben Ward. But the height of Koehler's acquisition of professional experience in that management field came after leaving his FDC post at DOC to become NYPD's Chief of Personnel.

Koehler returned to DOC in September 1986 to become Commissioner, succeeding McMickens. Later, he helped establish a law firm which for many years has represented correction-related and other unions and their leaderships.

Of the 30 or so men who have served as FDCs in the 120 years since DOC emerged from the Department of Public Charities and Correction as a separate municipal agency, Koehler is among the six who eventually received appointment to the top post. The other five and their relevant dates are:

  • Bernard B. Kerik (FDC 1995, Commissioner 1/1/98 -- 8/21/00),
  • Benjamin Malcolm (FDC 1970, Commissioner 1/24/72 -- 11/1/77),
  • Dr. Peter Amoroso (FDC 1940, Acting Commissioner 10/16/40, Commissioner 1/1/42 -- 12/27/46),
  • David "Mickey" Marcus (FDC 1934, Commissioner 1/16/40 -- 10/15/40 ), and
  • Burdette G. Lewis (FDC 1914, Commissioner 12/27/15 -- 12/31/17).

Some other FDCs served as interim Commissioners during periods -- ranging from weeks to months -- between the departure of one Commissioner and the appointment of a successor. These interim Commissioners -- a few of whom even received the formal title of Acting Commissioner -- included

  • Mark J. Cranston, the 1/6/2014 -- 4/7/2014 interim;
  • John J. Antonelli, the 8/1/2009 to 9/20/2009 interim;
  • Gary M. Lanigan, the 8/22/2000 -- 11/8/2000 and the 12/15-31/2002 interims;
  • and Robert Lee Tudor, the 10/1/32 -- 5/25/33 interim.

1st 5-boro Commissioner Named 2 Deputy Commissioners (first ones)

The earliest DOC formal usages of the term First Deputy Commissioner which this website's research has so far been able to find occurred in the 1930s with telegrapher - turned - publisher - turned - Tammany politican - turned - civil servant, Richard Lee Tudor. DOC did not start out having a Deputy Commissioner, much less a First Deputy Commissioner.


First DOC Commissioner Robert J. Wright, left, had no staffer designated Deputy Commissioner. Second Commissioner Francis J. Lantry, right, had two.
When the Department of Correction emerged as a separate agency from the dual Department of Public Charities and Correction Jan. 1, 1896, its first Commissioner, Robert J. Wright, had no staffer with the job title Deputy Commissioner.

Under terms of the law mandating the Jan. 1, 1896 start for new and separate departments for Public Charities and Correction, Mayor William L. Strong had until Dec. 21, 1895, to name his appointees to run the two emerging departments. He did so 11 A.M., Dec. 21, by designating Wright to head Correction as a single Commissioner and named three Commissioners for Public Charities. Wright had been Mayor Strong's appointee to the old combined Charities and Correction board and was already familiar with Correction operations. His background was business; his politics, Republican. Apparently he considered having a Deputy Commissioner would be unnecessary and not having one would be frugality.

But his successor, Francis J. Lantry, had a decidedly different personal style and background, and faced a different situation. He was DOC's first commissioner after New York changed from a one-county city into a multi-county city in 1898. Lantry had not one but two Deputy Commissioners: one just for the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, and one with five-borough jurisdiction.


Neuville Osgood Fanning (above), better known as N.O. Fanning, was in effect the "first" de facto First Deputy Commissioner because, of the two Deputy Commissioners appointed in 1898 by Commissioner Francis J. Lantry, the other DC was designated for the Boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn and had his office in the latter. Fanning's jurisdiction was citywide and his office was with the Commissioner at DOC hq in Manhattan. Born at St. Charles, Ill., March 17, 1865, Fanning began newspaper work when 16, learning the mechanical aspects first but quickly other facets as well until at the age of 19 he owned of a paper in Dakota. About 1896 he moved to NYC and worked at various major newspapers, including the NY Times. A confidant of Grover Cleveland and, though not a "Tammany man," admired by Boss Croker who urged his appointment (unsought) to Mayor VanWyck, Fanning was widely respected for his intellect and his reporting accurately on even the most complicated subjects and issues.
Given that pecking order, the citywide deputy would seem to have outranked the other, and therefore could be considered to have been the first de jure FDC. His name was N.O. Fanning, a 33-year-old newspaper reporter, and friend of Tammany Hall boss Richard Croker who reportedly himself chose Fanning to be Lantry's top aide. Perhaps the Tammany boss, a shrewd judge of men, saw them as well matched. After all, Lantry was quite visibly a successful politician -- a district leader and Alderman -- not adverse to interacting with the press to promote himself, his own candidacy and that of others, his party and his causes.

For Lantry seems have been the consummate politician from youth. Apprenticed as a butcher's helper, he became active in the trade union movement, rising through the organizational structure to the high rank of Master Workman in his local Knights of Labor's assembly and for years served as its representative to the powerful District Assembly 49 in NYC.

DA 49's contingent to the 1886 K of L's national convention in Richmond, Va., kicked up a social storm

  • by including among its 60 delegates a "colored man," Frank Ferrell,
  • by refusing to be separated from him in hotel and theatre accommodations,
  • by insisting he be permitted to address the huge gathering and
  • by proudly proclaiming sentiments later summarized thusly: "In the field of labor and American citizenship, we recognize no line of race, creed, politics or color."

At the time, Lantry was about 27, had been employed in the NYC meat industry since age 19, and much involved in DA 49 Knights of Labor activities. Regardless of whether Lantry was actually member of that trail-blazing DA 49 national contingent himself (a conceivable and interesting possibility), its high visibility and vitality as an activist labor organization was very much part of the political environment which helped shape his character and propel him to seek public office. In 1892, he ran for Alderman as a Tammany Democratic candidate and was narrowly elected. Re-nominated in 1894, he was elected, again narrowly. The district pre-Lantry had been consistently Republican. Lantry was Tammany Hall leader for the district, home to Robert Van Wyck, the first mayor of 5-borough Greater New York.

Robert Lee Tudor, earliest found DOC usages of FDC title


Robert Lee Tudor: His signature as DOC First Deputy Commissioner is on document sealed in Rikers Island Penitentiary (JATC) cornerstone. Among earliest found formal DOC usages of the FDC title.
We know that the functional recognition of the primary Deputy Commissioner role had developed into a formal DOC title by at least the 1930s: The caption of a 1930 DOC's Prison Keepers Training School graduation ceremony photo so identifies Robert L. Tudor. A 1931 document sealed into the Rikers Island Penitentiary cornerstone was signed by all three DOC Deputy Commissioners listing their ranking designations after their signatures:

  • ROBERT L. TUDOR, First Deputy Commissioner.
  • ISAAC GOLDBERG, Second Deputy Commissioner.
  • JOSEPH F. FISHMAN, Third Deputy Commissioner.

Those appear the earliest DOC usages of the FDC title, at least so far as this website has come up with, but research continues. We may yet find an earlier DOC use of the term. Often first usages will be found in newspapers, almanacs, and directories of the day. Then (as today) those publications were less constrained by considerations of salary grades or political and personal sensitivities when "assigning" job titles, rankings or standings to government officials. While their job title references may initially have been unofficial and informal, the colloquial frequently has dominated and become official parlance.

Incidentally Tudor is also believed to be the FDC to serve longest as an Acting Commissioner, eight (8) months, this taking place between Sept. 27, 1932, when Commissioner Richard C. Patterson (who had overseen the start of Rikers Penitentiary construction) left to May 25, 1933 when the William J. Cahill was named successor to head DOC by Mayor John P. O'Brien.

Prior to his long career in Correction, which spanned from 1918 to 1934, Tudor had first been employed on railroads as telegrapher and station/ticket agent, and later as publishing house rep. He entered Tammany Hall politics in the early 20th Century, eventually becoming president of the Tammany Central Club of the 14th Assembly District which he represented in a Albany as an Assemblyman for four years before accepting appointment, first as Secretary to the Commissioner and then as Deputy Commissioner.

When an Assemblyman, Tudor succeeded getting passed and signed in law his bill -- daringly enlightened for its era -- requiring that whenever a physical exam would be a condition of employment, the employer must provide a prospective female employee the option and opportunity to be examined by a female doctor.


Home Page
History Menu
To Correction
Starter Page
Home Page
Home Page