Friday, March 11, 2011

Two unanswered questions in the Kruger case: Does the ESDC still trust FCR? Why did FCR try to get the state to pay for its bridge obligation?

The New York Times, to its partial credit, follows up on the charges against Carl Kruger and Richard Lipsky with an article headlined, at least online, Developer Among Cast of Characters in Kruger Case.

There's not much there that wasn't in this blog yesterday, but the Times did get a quote in the developer's defense:
Forest City Ratner did not deny that Mr. Bender was the person to whom Mr. Kruger was speaking. “I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that the person in charge of government relations at Forest City Ratner speaks to government officials,” said Joe DePlasco, a spokesman. The complaint, he said, “does not suggest that Forest City Ratner behaved in any way that’s inappropriate.”

Mr. Bender lives in Brooklyn, Mr. DePlasco said, “and I assume he likes Prospect Park.”
DePlasco's partly right--there's no evidence that Forest City Ratner instructed Lipsky to pass on lobbying fees to Kruger.

Weaseling out of bridge obligation?

But Forest City, arguably, did behave inappropriately, though not criminally. The developer, as of last June, was supposed to pay $16 million of the $40 million cost of the Carlton Avenue Bridge reconstruction.

The taped conversation shows that Forest City was trying to get $9 million in state funds to reduce its obligation. If the developer is still scrounging, what does it say about its commitment to rebuilding the bridge?

Good corporate citizen?

Another question lingers: Can the Empire State Development Corporation repeat its statement, in response to my queries about Ridge Hill, that they "remain confident in Forest City as a developer and as a good corporate citizen"?

I posed that question directly to the ESDC yesterday and didn't get an answer. The Times should have asked that question too.

A gap in the Ridge Hill story


The Times article ended with a Ridge Hill reference:
Although the complaint contained no evidence that Mr. Bender believed Mr. Kruger was taking bribes, longtime opponents of Atlantic Yards were dismayed that no one from the company had been charged.

“I find it sad that politicians are expendable, but rich developers are not,” said Candace Carponter, the legal director of the group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

She said the case echoed one in Yonkers: Sandy Annabi, a member of the City Council, had long opposed a Forest City Ratner project there — until she abruptly changed course. In January 2010, she was indicted on charges of dropping her opposition to that and another project in return for almost $167,000 in cash and gifts from Zehy Jereis, the former chairman of the Yonkers Republican Party. A trial for Ms. Annabi and Mr. Jereis, who was also indicted, is set for June 20.
Actually, in Yonkers, the developer clearly benefited from the changed vote, and the developer never explained or justified the no-show contract it gave Jereis, a detail unmentioned in the Times.

The Kruger case is more murky--less a quid pro quo than a chummy relationship. The developer clearly has benefited from Kruger's blustery advocacy, but the charges made public yesterday do not document that.

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