Thursday, April 02, 2015

Dissecting Bruce Ratner's fatuous, shameless letter to AG supporting leniency for Rapfogel

City & State has published the letters from numerous supporters of disgraced charitable CEO William Rapfogel of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, who Wayne Barrett described as "reverse Robin Hood for poor Jews... who pocketed $3 million and was caught with $420,000 in cash."

Barrett called the letters a "triumph of congeniality over conscience, with the call of the club taking precedence over the betrayal of the mission. The Jewish poor are invisible in this correspondence."

Developer Bruce Ratner's letter is a prime example of that, so much so that it deserves annotation, which I have provided in italics.

The letter

Dear Attorney General Schneiderman,

I am writing this letter to support Willy Rapfogel in his quest for leniency in the upcoming sentencing. At the outset, I understand the gravity of what Willy has done and the harm that he has caused to so many people and to one of the premier institutions devoted to poverty in our city. My comments emphasize the positive aspects of Willy while still recognizing the seriousness of the crime committed.

How exactly does Ratner understand the gravity of what Rapfogel has done? Ratner hasn't issued any criticisms. The only gravity is the fact that Ratner and the Met Council lost out on a bid for the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area.

I have known Willy for over 15 years and I was profoundly shocked and deeply dismayed when I heard the reports of his wrongdoing. I have always found Willy to be uniquely kind, humble and generous: a man who, despite a very serious transgression, has always been committed to making New York a more humane, caring city.

Except for the part about $420,000 in cash, right? Or the misleading acts and "lack of contrition" from Rapfogel that prosecutors noted.

In addition to calling Willy a friend, I have worked with him on professional and charitable endeavors. In his capacity at the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty we worked together to raise money for the organization, as partners in discussing ways to do affordable housing, and in finding office space for his organization. I was proud to serve as the honoree at the Met Council's annual dinner one year and was pleased to help him raise money for this worthy cause. We most recently partnered again to host a charitable concert at Barclays Center with Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot raising funds to support Met Council and The Perlman Music Program.

Didn't those charitable endeavors also help bolster the relationship with Rapfogel's former close friend, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, whose Chief of Staff is Rapfogel's wife Judy? And didn't Ratner want to stay on Silver's good side?

I also have experience working with Willy in the business realm. The Met Council and our company worked jointly to propose a mixed use development project at Seward Park. Willy has developed hundreds of affordable housing units; he is an expert in this desperately important area and has presided over one of the few not-for-profits that has been able to build successfully on a consistent basis. Met Council originally began its efforts in the area of housing with a 12-unit shelter for homeless families in the Bronx in 1985. In a large part due to Willy's leadership, the agency's housing portfolio has grown to almost 2,000 units under management, in construction or in the development process. This record of accomplishment was why my company was proud to work with him to respond to a city RFP. Throughout all this work, Willy was hard working and passionately dedicated to the mission of providing affordable homes to low-income New Yorkers.

Also dedicated to providing $350,000 in stolen funds to one of his sons for his own version of affordable housing.

At no time through our charitable and business efforts did I ever see anything which gave me any doubt as to Willy's integrity. In fact, there were instances when he would bend over backwards to make sure that everything was done in a way that his organization could be proud of.

Could it be that Bruce Ratner's personal and corporate history of--shall, we say--imperfect integrity might blind him to others falling short?

Finally, Willy has been a friend of mine for a long time and I know his family well. I remember fondly attending the bar mitzvah of his son, whom Willy has always been so proud of, and felt all along that I knew Willy thoroughly. While it is clear that one cannot know everything about a friend, in this case I think we were all surprised to learn of his actions. I strongly urge you to consider leniency when deciding his sentence.

Also, Ratner must remember hiring one of Rapfogel's sons, as well, in a move seen as currying favor with Silver.

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