Monday, April 09, 2012

Forest City Ratner's 2011 city/state lobbying: 50% jump, with big contract to Kasirer; in Congress, D'Amato's firm lobbied for EB-5, and even got paid for not lobbying

Forest City Ratner may not be among the state's top ten in lobbying expenditures any more, but the firm still dished out more than $500,000 in 2011 to influence legislation and official action in Albany and New York City. The total represents a nearly 50% increase over its spending in 2010, according to online lobby data.

What did the money buy? Well, it aimed to stymie the creation of a new Atlantic Yards governance entity (so far successful); usher in mixed martial arts at venues including the Barclays Center (not yet successful); influence the Department of Buildings, presumably on modular construction (unclear, but the DOB chief is a supporter); stymie (presumably) eminent domain reform (so far successful); and even address ticket scalping, aka "resale" (inconclusive).

Such lobbying expenditures put into perspective the $60,000 contract for a no-show job the firm gave "consultant" Zehy Jereis in 2006 after he helped get Yonkers Council Member Sandy Annabi to flip her vote in favor of Forest City's Ridge Hill project, the subject of a recent corruption trial. If they can spend half a million bucks on lobbyists, the thought might be, what's another $60K?

New firm prominent: Kasirer Consulting

In 2011, Forest City continued to spread the wealth, hiring eight lobbying firm, with the largest contract, $240,000, going to a firm that had not previously worked (as far as I can tell) for the developer: Kasirer Consulting.

The firm is run by Suri Kasirer, who Crain's New York Business last year called "New York's most successful lobbyist" (and deemed the city's 46th most powerful woman). Kasirer, married to lawyer Bruce Teitelbaum, once Mayor Rudy Giuliani's Chief of Staff, has an enormous client list and worked with p.r. firm BerlinRosen, which also works on Atlantic Yards, on Cornell University's successful tech campus bid.

The Daily News reported that Kasirer was banned from lobbying the mayor's office in 1998, because she'd lobbied City Hall to provide free street parking for Goldman Sachs without registering as a lobbyist. The ban has expired.

"She doesn't shut off," William Rapfogel, head of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, told Crain's. "She's extraordinarily ambitious, and she mixes that with this burning commitment to work and the causes she cares for." (Rapfogel, of course, is quite close to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and his son works for Forest City.)

The city/state totals

Forest City's Atlantic Yards Development Company spent $503,000, while Forest City itself spent $15,000 on an outside lobbyist, former Brooklyn Assemblyman Carl Andrews, and nearly $3200 in additional compensation for staff lobbyists.

In 2010, Forest City spent about $345,000 on lobbying, down from the the 2009 total of $1,127,598 in city and state lobbying, perhaps the largest sum for any real estate developer.

Federal lobbying, for EB-5

Also, in each of the past three years, Forest City Ratner--or parent Forest City Enterprises, on its behalf--has spent $160,000 on Park Strategies, a lobbying firm run by former Senator Al D'Amato, whom former Village Voice investigative reporter Wayne Barrett recently called "the most ethically compromised politician" he ever covered (with "no fucking competition for this").

What did Park Strategies lobby about?

For the first quarter of 2011, the subject was: "Atlantic Yard Development project." For the second quarter, the subject was "funding for real estate-linked transportation projects; real-estate project infrastructure development."

For the third and fourth quarters, the subject was: "EB-5 visa program; guidance regarding EB-5 certification of certain real estate development projects funded via EB-5 program." But it's quite possible all those descriptions encompass EB-5.

In 2010, Park Strategies' third quarter report stated that the subject was "EB-5 visa program."

However, the firm reported "no lobbying issue activity" for the first, the second, and fourth quarters, but was still paid its quarterly $40,000, as indicated in the document at right.

A retainer with no actual lobbying looks a lot like a no-show job, right?

NY rankings

Here's the latest state report on lobbying, which does not rank any real estate developer in the top 10,  listed below.

Still,  there are many real estate developers in the Committee to Save New York, which far outdistanced any other client in spending and was set up to boost Gov. Andrew Cuomo's agenda. See this AP article and this Times article for more analysis of the spending.

The topics

The Atlantic Yards Development Company lobbied on:
LAND USE IN CONNECTION WITH THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT OF THE ATLANTIC YARDS PROJECT IN BROOKLYN; , BUDGET, REGULATORY & LEGISLATIVE ISSUES PERTAINING TO REAL ESTATE, CONSTRUCTION & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT,
(Further explanation below)

Its targets were:
EMPIRE STATE DEV. CORP., NYC ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORP, MEMBERS OF BROOKLYN COMMUNITY BOARDS #2,#6,#8; S NYS EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATIVE BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT, DEPARTMENT OF BUILDINGS,
The firms

To lobby the state, Forest City's AYDC spent $60,000 on Park Strategies and $32,000 on State & Broadway.

To lobby both the city and state, the firm spent $36,000 on Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker; $48,000 on Locicero & Tan; $18,000 on Carey Group; $69,000 on Geto & DeMilly; and $240,000 on Kasirer Consulting.

Forest City lobbying

Separate from the Atlantic Yards Development Company, Forest City also spent $15,000 on Carl Andrews & Associates, mainly regarding the following bills:
  • A01820 Authorizes the Urban Development Corporation to create a subsidiary corporation for the oversight of the Atlantic Yards project
  • A04146A Establishes protocols for combative sports; authorizes mixed martial arts events in this state
Both are still pending.

AYDC lobbying

Several of the bills lobbied on were budget bills. None of the others below passed, except for the last one. I include a few notes on eminent domain and Atlantic Yards governance bills.

The list:
A01307 Enacts the "Atlantic Yards Governance Act"
A01785 Enacts the New York city department of buildings community accountability act
A01820 Authorizes the Urban Development Corporation [aka Empire State Development] to create a subsidiary corporation for the oversight of the Atlantic Yards project (passed Assembly, died in Senate, no vote there)
A02253 Provides for the regulation of contractors
A02472 Alters tax exemption programs for the development of new and affordable housing --would extend 421-a
A02525 Provides for the establishment of a state eminent domain ombudsman and provides for the powers and duties thereof; enacts the "eminent domain ombudsman act"(hasn't passed, but has 27 co-sponsors of 150 in Assembly)
A02529 Creates a temporary state commission to consider the scope and effectiveness of eminent domain laws and balance society's needs with the people's rights; appropriation (hasn't passed, 31 sponsors, though not Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver)
A03300 Provides an expedited review process for the Atlantic Yards arena and redevelopment project and subjects such project to urban land use procedures
A03366 Requires the preparation of a comprehensive economic development plan for the use of eminent domain when the primary purpose is economic development
A03616 Requires approval of the governing body of a city prior to the approval of payments in lieu of taxes for the repayment of debt (
A03993 Establishes requisite quorum for public hearings at all times on uniform land use review matters; New York city planning commission
A04188 Relates to the resale of tickets to places of entertainment; repealer
A04642 Revises application process and eliminates certain filing requirements regarding the industrial and commercial incentive program in N.Y. city; repealer
A05281Addresses environmental and community concerns regarding the size, scope and density of the Atlantic Yards arena and redevelopment project
A05362 Creates a sustainable development task force to study the feasibility of adopting a regulatory system to achieve goal of sustainable development
A05479 Establishes a study commission to report on the effectiveness of regulation of the sale of tickets; repealer
A06856A Extends certain provisions of law relating to the resale of tickets to places of entertainment -- (passed, extends current rules until May 2012)


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