Skip to main content

Report: Bender, Cantone leave Forest City for new consulting firm; could pending Ridge Hill corruption trial be the spur?

Capital Tonight's Liz Benjamin had a scoop today about the departure of two key Forest City Ratner executives, but didn't connect the dots to a pending federal corruption trial that likely will mention--and perhaps involve--one of those executives.

[I've queried Forest City for confirmation. This would mean that four of five key executives listed as lobbyists in 2006 are gone.]

In Forest City Departures, New Firm In Offing, she wrote:
A reader called to report two departures from the Brooklyn-based developer, Forest City Ratner, whose name has become synonymous with the Atlantic Yards project: Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone are striking out on their own to create a new political consulting firm.

Apparently, there’s no ill will involved here. The duo felt that after a decade with Forest City, it was simply “time to go.” They’ll be doing a little of everything – consulting, lobbying etc. – and focus largely on NYC, although there might be some forays up to Albany, too. This enterprise is so new, it doesn’t even have a name yet.
Well, could that "reader" be someone close to Bender or Cantone who wanted to make sure to spin this the right way?

There may be no overt "ill will," but why would these top executives leave Forest City before their achievement--the arena--comes to fruition? Why would they leave Brooklyn's most powerful developer?

The Kruger case, or Ridge Hill?

Benjamin referenced Bender's most recent misstep:
Bender got some unwanted press recently when he was caught on the federal wiretap negotiating for state funds for a non-Ratner project with former Sen. Carl Kruger, who lost his seat after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges.

Lobbyist Richard Lipsky, who represented Ratner, also pleaded guilty in the pay-to-play probe. Federal prosecutors said he paid hundreds of thousands in bribes to Kruger, the former Senate Finance Committee chairman.

No one from Forest City was indicated or charged in the case, and it is unclear if the company knew what Lipsky was up to.
The Kruger case must have been embarrassing for Bender--he was caught on wiretap not only cajoling (with foul language) Kruger for money to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge (and then agreeing "I don't mind fucking the bridge"), he sought support for his wife's charitable project, the Lakeside Center in Prospect Park.

That must have raised a few eyebrows at Forest City offices, but that case is done.  However, on February 14, the federal corruption trial involving Forest City's Ridge Hill retail/residential project in Yonkers begins.

Forest City's point man

With Ridge Hill, Forest City needed a rezoning, but it didn't have the votes--and then it did. And Bender was apparently involved, if not implicated in the process of getting to yes. City Council Member Sandy Annabi, not long after she said the developer was “robbing the city blind,” changed her vote in 2006 to approve the project.

Annabi, who had a taste for luxury goods and apparently lived well beyond her means, was charged in early 2010 with accepting bribes regarding Ridge Hill and another (non-FCR) project, known as Longfellow. Her cousin, Zehy Jereis, then chairman of the Yonkers Republican Party, was charged for giving bribes regarding Ridge Hill and Longfellow. Anthony Mangone, also charged in the Longfellow case, has already pleaded guilty.

FCR, which shortly after Annabi’s vote hired Jereis for an apparent no-show job as a “real estate consultant,” was not charged and issued a statement that federal prosecutors said that neither it nor its employees was a "target" of the investigation.

FCR has never explained or justified that no-show contract, but it benefited significantly. Given the developer’s apparent cooperation with federal investigators, it will be interesting to see who will say what on the stand.

And if Forest City got immunity from prosecution, how will it look for an executive--say Bender, FCR's Ridge Hill point man--explaining in court exactly how business got done?

Former FCR lobbyist (and longtime Assemblyman) Mike Spano was elected Yonkers mayor last year, despite his opponent John Murtagh’s efforts to tie him to the unresolved charges regarding Ridge Hill.

Spano introduced Jereis to Forest City Ratner, specifically Bender. Murtagh has further said that Bender was with Zereis when the latter pressured him to change his vote on Ridge Hill, given that Annabi had turned.



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…

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…

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…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

For Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting Sept. 19, another bare-bones agenda (green wall?)

A message from Empire State Development (ESD) reminds us that the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting--which aims to update community members on construction and other issues--will be held:
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 6 pm
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 The typically bare-bones, agenda, below, tells us nothing about the content of the presentation. One thing to look for is any hint of plans to start a new building on the southeast block of the project by the end of the year.

If not, ESD is supposed to re-evaluate a longstanding request from project neighbors to move back a giant wall encroaching on part of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. It's said to enclose construction activity, but, in recent months, has significantly served to protect worker parking.

Also, by the way, if you search for Atlantic Yards on Google or the ESD website, it leads to this page for the Atlantic Ya…