Lawrence Tell, a Tribeca leader, 52, dies


By Albert Amateau

Diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1998, he became seriously ill last April, said his wife, Meredith Kane, a lawyer and member of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

About 400 mourners attended the funeral service at Riverside Memorial Chapel on Jan. 6, including Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, a pallbearer. Tell worked as an investigator for Kelly when the commissioner headed the New York office of a corporate investigation group.

An investigative journalist for many years, Tell worked for several publications including the New York Law Journal, Barron’s and Business Week. As a young man out of college, he was a Congressional staff member and after law school ran a Congressional subcommittee investigating the Central Intelligence Agency’s role in the overthrow of President Allende of Chile.

“Larry was exposing corporate scandal before the phrase was coined,” said Steven Polan, a friend since 1968 when both were freshmen at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

A member for the past six years of Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan, Tell was active on the Tribeca, World Trade Center, youth and education and waterfront committees.

“Larry was a very sweet, intelligent and devoted board member who will be missed,” said Madelyn Wils, chairperson of C.B. 1. “Just before his last operation in April he told me he would be back working on the board in two weeks. But even though that was not to be, he remained involved and came to a July board meeting in a wheelchair with his wife.”

“He was a consensus-builder who focused on listening to whatever people were saying and coming to rational conclusions,” said Albert Capsouto, a fellow member of the board’s Tribeca committee.

Judy Duffy, assistant district manager of the board and former vice president of the Downtown Little League, recalled him as a Little League coach during the time his son was playing in the league. “Whenever I had a problem with a kid or a coach, Larry would take care of it,” said Duffy. “He had a way of disarming conflict.”

Tell and his wife, an attorney with the Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison law firm, were introduced by friends in 1983 and were married in 1985. “He sent me a note inviting me to a Public Works Forum meeting – a public policy discussion group he had organized – but I threw it away,” Kane recalled. “We met really for the first time a year later, fell in love and got married.”

Born in Clifton, N.J., the son of Ralph and Ruth Tell, Larry Tell was editor of his high school newspaper and later of the Tufts Observer, the university undergraduate daily paper. As a summer intern in Congress, he worked for U.S. Rep Michael Harrington, and Harrington’s then chief of staff, now Congressmember Barney Frank. The young Tell was also deeply involved in opposition to the Vietnam War.

Larry then went on to Columbia Law School, and although he had no intention of practicing law, he was designated a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. He then returned to Harrington’s staff in Washington where he ran the C.I.A.-Allende investigation. In 1978 Larry went to Chicago to work for the Chicago Reporter, a journal focusing on urban affairs and race relations. He came to New York in 1980 and worked for the law journal and then for business-oriented publications. He won a Knight-Bagheot Fellowship in economics and business journalism, a year-long program run jointly by Columbia’s journalism and business schools.

In the early 1990s he switched to private investigation and worked for the Investigative Group, a private firm where Kelly was chief of the New York office. Tell started his own firm, Intersource International, at the end of 1997.

The owner of a summer home in Columbia County, N.Y. he organized the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association, seeking to convert the unused Harlem Line to public recreation under the federal Rails to Trails program. “It’s been very successful,” said Kane. “Several miles of the old rail line in Dutchess County are already in the program and we’re working on Columbia County now.”

In addition to his wife, a sister, Eileen, and a son, Zeke, 16, and a daughter, Alex, 13, survive him.

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