Thursday, January 19, 2012

An imaginary dialogue between Bruce Ratner and Bruce Bender: how talking up transit (vaguely) might distract from the Ridge Hill case

Last March, after the charges surfaced against (now-guilty) state Senator Carl Kruger and lobbyist Richard Lipsky, including a profane exchange between Kruger and Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender, I wrote an imaginary dialogue between Bender and his boss, Bruce Ratner.

Maybe they've had another conversation recently.

BB: I have an idea.

BR: I'm listening--

BB: Did you hear about Richard Ravitch? Last week he said that the city's crumbling transit infrastructure is a huge problem, and business leaders lack public spirit, and I quote, "keeping the Bush tax cuts, keeping the government from regulating them and making sure they’re too big to fail."

BR: And what's wrong with that?

BB: Nothing's wrong with that, of course. (Chortles) That's what we do too, more or less. The last part, at least. (Beat) But we need the transit system.

BR: We're an urban company.

BB: Damn straight. We have offices and malls that rely on the subway. And--

BR: --an arena.

BB: An arena that needs subways and buses running well, more of them, in fact. And the LIRR.

BR: Especially the LIRR.

BB: We're not talking about the Islanders yet.

BR: Who said anything about the Islanders?

BB: So this is what we can do.

BR: I'm listening.

BB: Forest City Ratner comes out for transit.

BR: Of course we're for transit. (Beat) But what does that mean?

BB: We keep it fuzzy.

BR: Are you saying increase the payroll tax? That could piss off the Republicans in the Senate.

BB: I'm not saying--

BR: They could hold oversight hearings.

BB: They're not gonna hold oversight hearings. Marty Golden will manage it. He will be a firewall. (Chortles) Unless someone finally gets him for his catering hall business.

BR: Marty's against residential permit parking.

BB: Are we against residential permit parking?

BR: We're not sure. Tish James is for it, so--

BB: We're not going to back her. She's running for something.

BR: We muddle through one season, see how it goes. If the local electeds are screaming bloody murder, they can overcome Marty Golden.

BB: So this is what you can say.

BR: You're writing my speeches now? I like that.

BB: You say that "Forest City supports a robust transit system and is willing to work with all stakeholders."

BR: I like that. Very statesmanlike. But when do I say this?

BB: Well, that Ridge Hill trial is coming up.

BR: I know. And that Times guy Powell kinda put it back on the agenda.

BB: "Between legal clouds." Nice image. (Beat) But also a little icky. So glad Betsy Gotbaum set things straight: "highest ethical standards and behavior."

(Both chortle)

BR: I wasn't involved in any of that, it was all you.

BB: I know. But we're in this together.

BR: (Mutters) That was what Lipsky and Kruger said.

BB: What did you say?

BR: Nothing. (Beat) Yes, we're in this together. We'll pull through. We didn't get indicted. We didn't do anything wrong. We will say as little as possible.

BB: Except about the transit system. (Beat) Which reminds me...

BR: Yes?

BB: Ravitch, we lucked out there, too.

BR: That we did.

BB: I don't think he really loves Atlantic Yards. I mean, he's never said anything nice.

BR: He's never said anything negative, either. And aren't we lucky that--

BB: --his son worked on the sale of the team to Prokhorov.

BR: He sure did. A very good deal it was, I might say.

BB: Exactly. We got the Russian, and we neutralized Ravitch.

BR: Now he just talks about transit.

BB: And we support transit.

BR: Just not with specifics.

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