But the trial is tantalizing for where its tentacles extend — linking political corruption in Westchester to that in Brooklyn, and touching on the curious fashion in which real estate developers pursue their chosen game.(Where was Powell, say, at the March 2010 arena groundbreaking, or the August 2006 hearing on the Draft EIS, both of which were prime fodder for columns? Well, he's been a columnist since only May 2011. But no other columnist had a clue? Shame.)
The "politically wired developer"
All of which brings us to the role of the politically wired developer, whose projects are catnip to politicians. No prosecutor has implied that Mr. Ratner or his aides played a corrupt role. In Brooklyn, where he has a 22-acre development known as the Atlantic Yards, he was mentioned in the corruption case last year that toppled a Brooklyn Democratic power, State Senator Carl Kruger. Prosecutors called Mr. Ratner “Developer No. 1.” In Yonkers, he appears in Ms. Annabi’s indictment as “Developer No. 2.”Powell may be a little too generous, since Ratner's "willingness to tuck affordable apartments into his gleaming towers" has been called into question by the delays in getting the first building started and his failure to meet the promise that 50% of the subsidized units (in square feet) would be devoted to larger apartments.
After I wrote last month of Mr. Ratner’s entanglements, several left-liberal sorts, not least former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, wrote to object that I had besmirched a fine fellow. The developer is a patron of liberal causes. He has set aside a significant number of apartments in his Atlantic Yards project for working-class tenants.
Much of this is true, as is this: Mr. Ratner wrangled $726 million in subsidies and benefits from the city and state, and he fights for even more by the week. (He was the developer of The New York Times building.) His willingness to tuck affordable apartments into his gleaming towers is perhaps a reasonable political tradeoff rather than a testament to his character.
Powell mentions the tax evasion plea last week by powerful Yonkers pol Nick Spano to the corruption trial, which starts tomorrow (today's a pre-trial conference) in federal court and involves two developments, one Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill.
The operatives in Yonkers seem to know each other. Former Spano aide Anthony Mangone was indicted along with former Council Member Sandy Annabi and lobbyist Zehy Jereis, and has already pleaded guilty to bribery regarding the other project, Longfellow.