Sunday, September 25, 2016

So, when developers in Syracuse and Buffalo get an RFP crafted for them, there's an indictment

As reported in the 9/23/16 New York Times,  Ex-Cuomo Aides Charged in Federal Corruption Inquiry, the corruption charges against former aides to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Joseph Percoco and Todd R. Howe, as well as state official Alain Kaloyeros involve the award of “lucrative projects to a few favored developers."

That involved cooked requests for proposals, or RFPs. And that made me think of the way the Metropolitan Transportation Authority 's Vanderbilt Yard, the key property in the Atlantic Yards project site, was awarded to Forest City Ratner.

The comparison isn't exact, but the special treatment in both cases was blatant. As the Times put it regarding the recent case:
In one instance cited in the complaint, prosecutors say Mr. Howe sent an email to Dr. Kaloyeros saying he had “vitals for Buffalo and Syracuse friends.” He was working with a prominent corporate donor, LPCiminelli, a builder based in Buffalo, to create a request for proposals that effectively made LPCiminelli the only eligible bidder.
Or, let's go to the press release from U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Preet Bharara:
More specifically, in or about October 2013, Fort Schuyler issued requests for proposals (“RFPs”) to solicit bids from interested and qualified developers for the Syracuse and Buffalo projects. KALOYEROS, with HOWE’s assistance, oversaw the drafting of the RFPs and, unbeknownst to Fort Schuyler, KALOYEROS and HOWE secretly solicited from AIELLO, GERARDI, CIMINELLI, LAIPPLE, and SCHULER qualifications of the Syracuse Developer and Buffalo Developer to put in the RFPs so that the RFPs would request qualifications specifically held by those companies. For example, the Syracuse RFP requested the use of specific project management software used by the Syracuse Developer. After HOWE emailed GERARDI and AIELLO a draft of the Syracuse RFP approximately two weeks before its public issuance, GERARDI sent back to HOWE and AIELLO a handwritten mark-up of the draft RFP, on which GERARDI had, among other things, underlined the software names and wrote “too telegraphed?? I would leave out these specific programs.” For its part, the Buffalo RFP, as initially issued, required 50 years of experience by a local developer – a qualification touted by the Buffalo Developer in promotion materials provided to KALOYEROS. This requirement was later changed and claimed to be a “typographical error.” The Buffalo Developer also was provided internal State documents to use in its submission.
From the complaint; click to enlarge
(Emphases added)

The Vanderbilt Yard comparison

OK, there's no evidence of bribery in Brooklyn, but how different was this, in a material way, from the Vanderbilt Yard RFP? As the Brooklyn Paper reported 7/16/05:
Even the MTA request for proposals seemed tailor-made to Ratner, stating that the “City of New York’s designated Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area developer has proposed a high density mixed-use project for the site and surrounding parcels including an arena.” 
Indeed, the RFP stated:
The subject property is adjacent to the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA). The City of New York’s designated ATURA developer has proposed a high density mixed-use project for the Site and surrounding parcels, including an arena. Additionally, it is contiguous to the recently expanded Downtown Brooklyn Special Purpose District, which provides for C6-4 zoning, allowing for an FAR of 10.
Just because the city had a "designated" developer for the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA) didn't mean that the developer deserved to win the RFP. But in the Brooklyn case, the irregularity was even more blatant: there was already a project proposed. 

How an after-the-fact RFP was not considered tainted remains an enduring mystery of Atlantic Yards.

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