Skip to main content

Scorning no-donation policy, FCR gives $58K to Assembly Campaign Committee (which doesn't need it)

Forest City Ratner, playing hardball in court and public relations, has now apparently reversed a pledge to refrain from campaign contributions, with a major unrestricted "soft money" donation last month: $58,420 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee's Housekeeping account.

The donation--allowed via a campaign finance law loophole Common Cause has decried--may be payback to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and an effort to ensure sympathetic legislators as Atlantic Yards proceeds, given that the Democrats are not about to lose their grip on the Assembly.

FCR consistently spends a lot of money on lobbying, but CEO Bruce Ratner years ago "sharply cut back" on campaign contributions, as a 2004 article from Newsday reported, quoting Ratner's friend Henry Stern: “He decided this was getting him into trouble, because every time he won a project, people would say it was because he gave money."

Then again, as I reported, brother Michael Ratner and sister-in-law Karen Ranucci, both Greenwich Village residents, have readily supported the Brooklyn Democratic machine, apparently doing Bruce Ratner's bidding.

"Soft money" for the Dems

A search on "Ratner" in the state campaign finance database shows that the company hadn't given any state political contributions in at least nine years until January 7, when the latest check was written. (The database only goes back to 1999.)

It was the third-largest contribution received since July, representing more than ten percent of the commitee's take for the Housekeeping account.

The "Housekeeping" loophole

And what's a Housekeeping account? As Common Cause reported in August 2006, it offers donors--corporations, organizations, etc.--a loophole, allowing unlimited donations for the vague concept of "party building" (aka "soft money"), despite a general $5000 annual limit on corporate contributions.
(Here's a list of contributors the New York Observer compiled at the time.)

Common Cause observed:
The size of these contributions, their origin and the fact that current or hopeful elected officials are involved in soliciting them raise serious concerns about the potential for corruption or its appearance.

The second major problem is that while the theory behind our state’s soft money loophole is that these funds will be used only for party building purposes and not for candidate elections, this legal barrier does not hold up in practice.


Common Cause's conclusion:
The potential it creates for corruption or its appearance means that New York State leaders must ban soft money.


Payback or pay forward?

Given that the Democrats have long controlled the Assembly and are in no danger of losing their majority, the contribution might be seen as payback to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who produced a crucial December 2006 approval vote for Atlantic Yards as a member of the Public Authorities Control Board.

The crucial test for Democrats in New York is control of the State Senate, long held by the Republicans in New York's peculiar "three men in a room" tradition of political spoils. The Republicans' three-seat edge is now in jeopardy. Will Forest City Ratner donate to the New York Democratic Senate Campaign Committee?

Then again, the contribution may be aimed to ensure that state subsidies, including housing subsidies, are made available, and that the Assembly be willing to consider future support for the project. (Extraordinary infrastructure, anyone?)

City contributions

A check of the city campaign finance database shows that Forest City Ratner gave contributions to candidates in city elections as late as 2002: the two most recent contributions were $4500 on 11/21/01 to Public Advocate candidate Betsy Gotbaum and $4500 on 1/10/02 to C. Virginia Fields, running for Manhattan Borough President. Gotbaum notably claimed to be against eminent domain while supporting AY.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…