Skip to main content

Forest City Ratner project in Mill Basin, touched by corruption indictment, "has been withdrawn;" indicted developer had role in City Point, whose lead developer didn't pay bribes but made gifts to Markowitz charities

The mayor's office has quietly indicated (as per Queens Crap) the demise of Forest City Ratner's Four Sparrows project, once touted as housing a Wal-Mart:
The Four Sparrow Marsh Retail Center at Mill Basin project has been withdrawn as of September 2011.
It's unclear why, but the project has been tainted by corruption charges.

About 15 acres were to be retail, including an existing Toys 'R' Us, and 46 acres formally mapped as parkland. This fit into Forest City's m.o.: getting the inside track on potentially valuable public property and then getting the zoning changed.

Here's the Draft Scope for an environmental impact statement and here's the Environmental Assessment Statement. Here's a photo of the vacant city-owned site, by Adrian Kinloch, which shows why environmental and park advocates were alarmed. Here's some previous coverage of the issue.
Touched by corruption charges

Does "withdrawn" mean "dead"? Unclear.

Yesterday I queried the NYC Economic Development Corporation, source of the map, but didn't hear back. Their Four Sparrows web page has not been updated, as it says "Construction expected to begin in 2014.

But if the project comes back, there will have to be some new players.

Consider that state Senator Carl Kruger and developer Aaron Malinsky in March were both indicted on corruption charges that included, among several counts, the Mill Basin project. Malinsky was charged with bribing Kruger. Forest City was not charged, though it was enmeshed in an effort to wangle state funds from Kruger.

The Wall Street Journal, in a 6/6/11report, suggested a potential snag:
Also, a plan to develop a 15-acre swath near Four Sparrow March [sic] in Mill Basin, Brooklyn into a car dealership and retail center is working its way through environmental review. That long-delayed project, however, might run into further problems because it has been tied into the corruption case involving State Sen. Carl Kruger.
Forest City asks for money

According to p. 22 of the complaint (below), wiretaps revealed that Kruger and his Chief of Staff discussed three real estate development project for which "the Vice President of Real Estate Developer #1," aka Forest City Ratner's Bruce Bender, had sought state funding.

Bender wanted $2 million for Mill Basin; $9 million for the Carlton Avenue Bridge, part of the Atlantic Yards project; and $4 million for the Lakeside project, a project not connected to Forest City but to his wife's advocacy for Prospect Park. After Kruger told him to narrow his request, Bender eliminated Mill Basin--perhaps because it was years away--and eventually agreed on funding the park.

Kruger reported efforts to help

According to p. 26 of the complaint (below), wiretaps revealed that Kruger had helped Malinsky, another defendant, and his firm P/A Associates regarding the "Mill Basin Retail Center," aka Four Sparrows.

Malinsky wanted to develop a non-big-box store at the retail center, which was being developed by "Real Estate Developer #1," aka Forest City Ratner.

Malinsky and lobbyist Richard Lipsky, another defendant, discussed Malinsky's plans to "flip" the department store to Forest City. Kruger earlier had spoken to "the Vice President of Real Estate Developer #1," encouraging him to support Malinsky's plan.

Kruger had publicly stated that he supported specialty retail rather than big-box retail, thus furthering Malinsky's plan.

(To some degree, the debate over Wal-Mart was a sideshow, since the fundamental question is not the identity of the tenant--though big-box retail does have different impacts--but the change in site use and Forest City's inside deal. I have not seen documentation of the price for the land or whether it was ever put out for bid.)

According to one wiretapped conversation, when a Forest City employee referred to as "Debbie" told Kruger that Bender wanted Kruger to meet with him and Malinsky together, the Senator responded, "[O]h no, never. Never. I'd never do that." To the feds, that was portrayed as another effort to conceal the relationship Kruger had with Malinsky.

Kruger also spoke the project with (as per the FBI) "intimate associate" Michael Turano, who controlled the shell corporation through which Malinsky and others allegedly paid Kruger.

Michael Turano's mother, Community Board 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano, in 2001 opposed a proposed new mall at Belt Parkway and Flatbush Avenue--apparently the source of the now-standalone Toys 'R' Us--but this year expressed support for the Four Sparrows project as a whole but opposed a Wal-Mart. She was thus in congruence with Malinsky and Kruger.

Dorothy Turano, long described as Kruger's companion but now thought by some to have been a "beard," was not charged. The New York Times reported 3/20/11 on the curious relationship between Kruger and the Turano family:
Mr. Kruger vaulted the Turanos into his spheres of power and influence, prosecutors say, landing Dorothy a plum job and, later, funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into her sons’ bank accounts to finance a $200,000 Bentley and pay down a $1.2 million mortgage.

The Turanos, in turn, provided the senator companionship, and prosecutors say the brothers helped conceal his growing payoffs from lobbyists and corporations.
The City Point contrast

As the Real Deal reported, after the charges surfaced in March, Malinsky's firm "was removed by Acadia Realty Trust as a partner at City Point, a mixed-use high-rise tower" in Downtown Brooklyn.

However, Acadia has spent big bucks, in a process that's questionable but apparently legal, to move City Point forward. As the New York Times reported this week, two years ago, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz went to bat for the project, supporting it among nearly 50 projects:
City Point received the financing, and around the same time, the lead developer on the project, Acadia Realty, gave $50,000 to a charity run by Mr. Markowitz.
That's not the same as (alleged) bribery, but isn't it in the same spirit? In both cases, money greases the wheels.
kruger-carl-et-al-complaint

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming (post-dated pinned post)

Click on graphic to enlarge. This is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change, and the project is already well behind that tentative timetable.


Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…