Skip to main content

Assemblyman Joe Lentol, some curious connections, and the Ridge Hill/Yonkers corruption trial that resumes today

So, who knew Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lentol had played a key cameo in the machinations that led to passage of Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill development in Yonkers? Not until testimony last Thursday in a federal corruption trial did that surface, and only glancingly so.

The upshot: Lentol, an Atlantic Yards supporter, seems closer to Forest City than most people knew.

The reasons? Unclear, but Lentol's close relationship with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, himself a key Forest City ally, probably doesn't hurt. (Lentol chairs the Brooklyn delegation and the Codes Committee, both key positions.)

The linkage? The go-between who connected Lentol, Forest City, and defendant Zehy Jereis--charged with bribing Council Member Sandy Annabi to change her vote--said he knew the Assemblyman from the very mainstream Lions Club.

But both the go-between, Joseph Galimi, and Lentol also have been reported to have connections, however indirect, with organized crime figures, factoids that should be filed away in case more information surfaces.

Trial resumes; grant of immunity?

The trial resumes today with Forest City Ratner executive Scott Cantone on the stand and his former boss Bruce Bender--so close they're starting a lobbying firm together--waiting in the wings.

It will be interesting to learn whether, for example, the witnesses are testifying under a grant of immunity from prosecution. Forest City of course has not been charged, and it is not a target or subject of the probe.

But if there were even ambiguous evidence against Forest City regarding criminal (rather than ethical) wrongdoing, it's possible that attorneys for the developer's witnesses early on negotiated a grant of immunity, just in case.

Also see coverage in today's Journal News, Trial highlights Jereis-Annabi ties, which highlights the curiously close relationship between Democrat Annabi and Republican Jereis, despite their surface party differences:
[Jereis] pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor after he and two other Yonkers political figures were accused of forging signatures on Conservative Party nominating petitions in 1996. That didn’t stop him from being hired a few years later for a top job at the Westchester Board of Elections.
He later worked on Nicholas Spano’s Senate staff for three years, although in 2006 he left after Mangone told him he had become too controversial.
The year before, Jereis had been accused by a gangster-turned-government-informant of taking payoffs to pass along information about investigations by the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office.
Jereis landed on his feet, with a $100,000 job at the Yonkers Chamber of Commerce, arranged by Spano.
Lentol's role, and a question mark

During brief but tantalizing testimony last week, we learned how Forest City relied on a skein of connections to meet Jereis, but not exactly how it was set in motion.

Lentol was an old friend of Joseph Galimi, described in court as a former Department of Public Works in Yonkers but also, as noted by the Journal News, a figure who's been investigated for organized crime ties. Galimi said he'd worked for Lentol in the 1980s, part-time for seven years and full-time for six months.

And Galimi knew Jereis well, from Yonkers political activities, talking regularly, "a couple of times a week," about "general things, politics."

In a meeting at Tiro A Segno, a private club in Manhattan, Lentol brought up Ridge Hill to Jereis and Galimi, and Jereis agreed to meet with Forest City.

But how did that meeting come about? We didn't quite learn. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Halperin asked Galimi if, in April 2006, "did Assemblyman Lentol raise an issue about Ridge Hill?"

The answer was yes. Galimi was at Tiro A Segno with Lentol, Jereis (who'd driven the car from Yonkers), and another friend, Victor Gartenstein. (A search suggests Gartenstein lives either in Brooklyn or Manhattan, but no identifying information, not even a clear spelling, was offered.)

But we weren't told who set up the meeting, or whether it was an accidental encounter with Lentol, who presumably was coming from Brooklyn.

(In a 2/24/12 Journal News article Forest City known for tough political skills around region, Lentol praised Forest City because they "definitely have a good track record as developers as far as efficiency and getting things done”--a statement that leaves a lot hanging out there--but would not comment on his role in the Galimi meeting.)

Galimi then set up a lunch at Marco Polo Ristorante in Carroll Gardens, with Jereis, Lentol, Bender, and Cantone, whose name he didn't remember.

At the lunch, Jereis said he could probably arrange for a meeting between Forest City and Annabi. And that set in motion actions that led to federal charges against Jereis and Annabi.

Mob ties suggested

Marco Polo is a nice place to eat. It also has a reputation, as the Daily News reported 12/5/08, in Mob-tied Brooklyn restaurateur avoids jail with help from Marty Markowitz:
Reputed Gambino crime family soldier Joseph Chirico won't serve a single day in prison: He was sentenced to six months' house arrest - and can spend 10 hours a day at his Marco Polo restaurant in Carroll Gardens - without even wearing an ankle bracelet.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Brownell said Chirico passed $1,500 in tribute money from a mob associate to another Gambino soldier. "Organized crime has been a curse, especially in counties like Brooklyn and Queens," Brownell argued.

Federal Judge Jack Weinstein gave Chirico a tongue-lashing for swearing an oath to the Mafia - but let him off after Chirico's lawyer read glowing letters from [Borough President Marty] Markowitz and former Brooklyn beep Howard Golden.
Lentol, it turns out, has sent his own letters on behalf of some accused of mob ties. In an 8/6/04 article headlined B'klyn Pol Goes To Bat For Mob Slay Suspect, the Daily News reported:
A TOP STATE lawmaker asked a federal judge to free a reputed Bonanno crime family associate charged with two gangland slayings, the Daily News has learned.

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn) is defending the letter he wrote last May in praise of Patrick (Patty Muscles) Romanello and his application for bail.

Lentol, who chairs the Assembly committee that evaluates all criminal justice legislation, said he knew Romanello was facing racketeering charges, but was unaware of the murder raps...

"It's pretty tough to walk away from somebody when they're not asking you to do something wrong," Lentol said. "He hasn't been tried and convicted. You don't turn your back on a friend."
Lentol told the newspaper he had long known Romanello's family, as they operated an auto body shop in Greenpoint, within his district. "He has a very good reputation throughout my community for doing quality and honest auto body repair work," Lentol wrote to the judge.

What happened to Romanello? In the sidebar to a 10/29/10 New York Times article about a mafia turncoat, Salvatore Vitale, we learned that Romanello had gotten a ten-year sentence related to murder.

A Department of Justice document describes Vitale's cooperation, and on p. 85 (or the 91st page in the overall document), Romanello's crimes are described: racketeering conspiracy, and "predicate acts concerning the 1983 conspiracy to murder, and murder of, Enrico Mazzeo and the 1990 conspiracy to murder, and murder of, Louis Tuzzio... Romaello served as a backup shooter on Mazzeo's murder and fired at Mazzeo after Mazzeo was first shot by another participant in the murder."


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 …

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

This graphic, posted in November 2017, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won't be so cheap.


The passing of David Sheets, Dean Street renter, former Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality

David Sheets, longtime Dean Street renter, Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality, died 1/17/18 in HCA Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green, KY. He was 56.

There are obituary notices in the Bowling Green Daily News and the Wichita Eagle, which state:
He was born in Wichita, KS where he attended public Schools and Wichita State University. He lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY, and was employed as a legal assistant. David's hobby was cartography and had an avid interest in Mass Transit Systems of the world. David was predeceased by his father, Kenneth E. Sheets. He is survived by his mother, Wilma Smith, step-brother, Billy Ray Smith and his wife, Jane all of Bowling Green; step-sister, Ellen Smith Alexander and her husband, Jerry of Bella Vista, AR; several cousins and step-nieces and step-nephews also survive. Memorial Services will be on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm with visitation from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday at Johnson-Vaughn-Phe…

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 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…

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…