Monday, February 13, 2012

Consultant Melvin Lowe: another Forest City Ratner connection who may be mentioned in Ridge Hill corruption case

Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender's name is expected to come up during the Yonkers corruption trial beginning this week, which includes the developer's Ridge Hill project. Bender might even testify.

What about Melvin Lowe, a consultant connected to Forest City, who's had a surprisingly central role in state Democratic politics, thanks to his links to Brooklyn powerbrokers?

It's unclear whether he'll be mentioned in the trial, but it's worth a quick look back at his history with Ridge Hill, Forest City Ratner, and local politics. There are a lot of seeming connections.

Consulting work for FCRk

As I wrote 8/31/09, Liz Benjamin of the Daily Politics pointed to Lowe, a new staffer for the fianlly-in-the-majority Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) staffer, who "has provided consulting services to developer Bruce Ratner on the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn."

That was a role I haven't seen confirmed elsewhere.

A 5/6/08 article in the Journal News, headlined "Forest City Ratner lobbying campaign for Ridge Hill," described a somewhat limited role for Lowe:
The latest subpoenas sought... e-mails sent and received by Councilwoman Patricia McDow related to Ridge Hill, Forest City Ratner, consultant Melvin Lowe, and another development, the Longfellow project.
McDow, D-1st District, a supporter of Ridge Hill, described Lowe as a lobbyist for Forest City Ratner whom she had met with individually and with other representatives of the developer. McDow said she had assumed that Lowe had been assigned to lobby her because they are both black.
Several current council members and one former member yesterday said they either did not know Lowe or said he did not play a major role in their meetings with developers.
Sampson, Boyland, Ratner?

I pointed out 7/22/10 an article in City Hall News headlined Largely Unknown DSCC Consultant Cleared $300k In Last Year:
The Democratic State Senate Committee and Conference Leader John Sampson have spent over $300,000 with two companies run by the same consultant, a shadowy operative named Melvin Lowe who had worked on only a few campaigns prior to being brought on in the wake of the Senate coup last year.
...Several people familiar with the DSCC and Lowe have expressed mystification at what his position entails to justify being paid this sum, and the DSCC itself declined to provide details.
Lowe, who was brought on to provide oversight for the DSCC, is the principal of both Prestige Strategic Communications and G&L Consulting, which, as reported on Wednesday by Liz Benjamin on the State of Politics blog, share an address at 350 West 110th Street...
Before the massive influx of money to the campaigns in the last 12 months, Lowe had retained only a handful of clients... $16,000 paid to him by former Council Member Tracy Boyland in her 2006 race against State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery that was paid to Prestige...
Immediately before starting with Sampson and the DSCC, Lowe was a lobbyist for Forest City Ratner Companies, helping lobby on behalf of the Atlantic Yards. While at that job, Lowe got involved in the Ridge Hill development in Yonkers and is among the people mentioned in subpoenas that came out of the local U.S. Attorney’s office related to the passage of that project.
Keep in mind that in October 2009, a lobbying firm hosted a fundraiser for Sampson at Forest City's headquarters.

And why was Boyland--for whom Lowe worked--running against Montgomery, an opponent of Atlantic Yards? Unclear, since she hardly campaigned, but there was circumstantial--and more--evidence of a Ratner connection.

She used the same consulting firm--Knickerbocker SKD--that FCR used for its deceptive Atlantic Yards mailers. A push-poll from Pacific Crest Research, which had conducted a previous push-poll on Atlantic Yards, seemed to steer listeners to Boyland. Crain's reported that Forest City executive Bruce Bender was helping Boyland raise money.

Lowe's state campaign contributions

Below are some contributions from people named Melvin Lowe, from different addresses, including Conyers, GA, which makes it difficult to assess for sure whether it's the same person.

However, it's interesting to see the Georgia-based (or Harlem-based) Lowe contributing to a Southern Brooklyn politician like Alan Maisel. The latter came out of the powerful Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club, as did Sampson.



Lowe, FCR contributions to Maisel

As noted in the disclosure report below, Lowe's contribution to Maisel came on the same day contributions were received from Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner, his wife Pam Lipkin, and FCR executives Bruce Bender and Joanne Minieri (click to enlarge).



The Recchia connection

Melvin Lowe and Deborah Lowe of Conyers, GA, were among the largest contributors to City Council Member Dominic Recchia's putative 2008 run for Congress.

It turns out they gave the maximum contribution on 12/28/07, one day before a maximum contribution from Dorothy Lipsky of Nanuet, NY, who just happens to be the wife of lobbyist Richard Lipsky, who worked for, among others, Forest City. (Lipsky last month pleaded guilty to corruption charges.)


Lowe's city campaign contributions

It's interesting to see how Lowe gave such a large contribution to City Council Member Darlene Mealy, an Atlantic Yards supporter.


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