In the following three months, as clean-up crews continued to clear debris and body parts from his office roof, Friedman dreamed up ways to help, wary of the numerous charitable organizations that had cropped up.
When Florio suggested that with his physique, Friedman could easily impersonate Santa, the idea "just seemed pretty obvious," says Friedman, who immediately purchased his first costume.
"They had a range from the $19 special to a high-end suit of about $600 ... We pulled out the top-of-the-line suit and I said 'OK, I'll take that one'." Friedman now owns five suits, four custom made.
His next move was setting up the "Laws for Claus" program to collect toys for the families of 9/11 victims and first responders. "This was going to be their first Christmas without loved ones or people that they knew," says Friedman. "So my goal was to go out there, do my job as Santa and get out. Who knew that 12 years later, I'd be the head of New York Santa?"
New York Santa is not a registered non-profit. Since it accepts no donations, Friedman pays expenses out of pocket and doesn't claim them as tax write-offs. But he says he'll get around to it one of these days.
When he started, Friedman had little idea what the role involved. "A Jewish kid from Brooklyn really had no foray into Santa," he says.
In 2005, he enrolled in a course at the International University of Santa Claus, an online school that teaches "Santa 101 as a business," says Friedman. Over two intensive days, he learned skills like how to talk to children and move a line along, plus basic safety issues.
Friedman's public Santa appearances eventually included department stores, hospitals, private parties and even a brief stint on the David Letterman's show.
St, Mary's Hospital in Bayside, N.Y., is always the last stop of the season. The staff there can't even remember how or when he first appeared.
"Just like Santa, he's always kind of just been there," says Leslie Johnson, a hospital spokeswoman. "All of our children are from post-acute or intensive care, and for those who have to spend Christmas here, Dana makes their stay that much more special."
Wherever Santa goes, his 11-year-old son, Sean, follows. Sean Friedman's job is to keep the adults entertained with jokes and prevent them messing with Santa's facial hair, because "more adults pull on the beard than children," says Friedman.
A sensitive boy with brown eyes and olive skin inherited from his Puerto Rican mother, Sean has been making the rounds with Santa since the second grade. He's outgrown his elf costume, so Friedman recently devised a reason for Sean to wear his own Santa suit. The character Lil' Claus, an apprentice elf that Santa will train for the next 20 to 30 years, will take over when Santa retires, explains Friedman.
Sean has assumed the role of Lil' Claus willingly, but does he want to take over his father's title one day? "For Santa maybe, but for a lawyer, no," says Sean, who wants to be a meteorologist. And what does his mother think about it all?
"My mom thinks it's a great thing," says Sean. "But she's praying for us to end this very soon."
"She's not too keen on me being Santa," says Friedman of his wife, whom he calls Pinkie. "I think she sees it as taking a lot of time away from family, which it does."
It doesn't look like Pinkie's prayers will be answered anytime soon, however. Somewhere on his desk, beneath stacks of pleadings and a pair of back-up Santa gloves, Friedman locates a 600-page manual he's been drafting called, "Who is This Kris Kringle Guy and What is He Doing in My Chimney?"
The manual presents common sense instructions for wannabe Santas: how to bleach your hair white, how to avoid Santa butt crack and how to protect your lap from leaky diapers. It also reflects Friedman's legal expertise, with an appendix containing booking agreements, contracts and a Santa film waiver sheet.
Friedman also plans to launch his own online Santa business school in the coming months. At that point, he says, he might give up the legal gig entirely and finally surrender to his inner Claus.