Skip to main content

And who's the state's new Chief Judge? Sheldon Silver's pal

Wayne Barrett points out in this week's Village Voice cover story, headlined Paterson Duped Again: Shelly Silver Gets Childhood Pal Jonathan Lippman State's Top Courts Job, points out something very unseemly in the judicial selection process.

(Graphic by Robin Eley)

Barrett writes:
In fact, the story of how Lippman reached this pinnacle has its shabby side. He exudes an above-politics reform aura, but he did not climb to the top of the state's judiciary without making some stops in the dark along the way. His ally, Silver, helped clear that path to power, working a system whose anti-democratic ways have been rebuked by two federal courts.

Lippman has been a hardworking ambassador and manager of the courts for decades, visiting almost all of the system's 343 locations and acquainting himself with virtually every one of its 1,300 judges. But he has also been its consummate political player, seemingly more interested in influence than law.


Notably, the only time Lippman ran for judicial office, in Westchester, he was nominated on all five ballot lines, facing no opposition, thanks to a deal generated by Silver (and endorsed, among others, by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a crusader on issues regarding public authorities). Once in office, he deftly practiced judicial patronage politics, helping establish new judgships and enabling a system that doled out lucrative assignments to insiders as "court evaluators" in competency cases.

Then a panel including two Lippman associates recommended him to Paterson as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals. Barrett asserts that Paterson agreed to the appointment as long as Silver dropped his opposition to Caroline Kennedy's Senate candidacy. In the end, Paterson dropped Kennedy and got the short end of the stick.

And who cares?

New York Civic's Henry Stern contrasted Barrett's article with a New York Times piece on Lippman:
The Times this morning gives a more complimentary portrait of Lippman in a story by John Eligon that starts on pA25. It deals with a number of the issues Barrett raises, but in a matter-of-fact way, as if there were nothing unusual about what happened.

Stern observes:
Wayne Barrett is probably the city’s best investigative reporter. He and his journalism-school interns get information that mainstream dailies, other weeklies and bloggers fail to dig up. There is a problem in that his stories are too detailed and specific for some people to read, particularly those who pick up the Voice primarily for the entertainment coverage and the skin ads that fill its back pages. The facts he brings to light deserve wider recognition, but it is the habit of many papers that if we didn’t break the story, there can’t be a story. That helps the bad guys.

In the present situation, neither Lippman nor Silver has been accused of a crime or any corrupt or immoral act. It does show how far reaching is the Speaker’s influence, and how the Governor is not fully aware of facts that might help him make a sound judgment.


On the Voice's web site, some commenters piled on the criticism, with some even chide the Voice for not publishing the expose before Lippman's ascension was a fait accompli.

Lippman was approved by the state Senate Wednesday, the day the Voice hit the streets (though the article was released a day earlier on the web. As the Times reported Thursday, three abstaining senators expressed qualms, not about the Silver connection but the mostly white male panel of candidates presented to Paterson by the State Commission on Judicial Nomination.

An AY role

Lippman, as Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department, was on the panel that in September heard the appeal of the case challenging the AY environmental review; he asked some thoughtful questions and didn't betray his hand.

A ruling in that case is awaited. Should the defendant Empire State Development Corporation prevail, an appeal is automatic only if there are two dissenting judges.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…