Skip to main content

Crain's columnist David: Forest City's getting a break from light coverage of Yonkers corruption trial

Crain's New York Business columnist (and former editor and Atlantic Yards cheerleader) Greg David implicitly criticizes his own publication and nearly all the New York press by pointing to the light coverage of the Yonkers corruption trial.

In Forest City in the woods in Yonkers: Developer's reputation takes a hit in Westchester scandal, David writes:
One of the most eye-opening exposés of political corruption in New York is getting very little attention—and at least one local player, Forest City Ratner, can only be relieved about that because the developer's reputation is taking a big hit.
The revelations are coming in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, where Sandy Annabi, a Yonkers city councilwoman, and Zehy Jereis, a political operative and Forest City consultant, are on trial for bribery, extortion and conspiracy. The charges say that Mr. Jereis bribed Ms. Annabi, his cousin, to change her vote and swing the council in favor of Forest City's $842 million Ridge Hill development in that city. Only the Journal News of Westchester has covered the case in detail.
David notes the defendants' claims, as well as the testimony by key witness Anthony Mangone, who has "shone a spotlight on two powerful Republicans," former Sen. Nick Spano, who was part of "a vote-fraud scheme more than a decade ago" and state Sen. Tom Libous, who got Mangone's law firm to hire his won.

The Forest City revelations

David writes:
As for Forest City, its efforts to win approval have been detailed at great length in the trial. Here's the bottom line. To push the project, it hired the most powerful people in Westchester—namely Al Pirro (ex-husband of former Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro) and Mr. Spano. When the firm had already invested some $78 million in Ridge Hill and the council seemed unwilling to approve its plan, Forest City became desperate. It hired Mr. Mangone and eventually gave Mr. Jereis a no-show job in hopes they could change Ms. Annabi's vote. That's just what she did.
Forest City has done many good things in New York, and no one has suggested that it did anything illegal. But it pursued a project in a city where the politically astute developer knew there was a history of corruption, hired people with questionable bona fides and didn't ask what they did.
Forest City executives admitted in court they were uncomfortable with their deal with Mr. Jereis. Yet its approach? See no evil, hear no evil.
My posted comments

My first comment:
I've covered this trial at length in my blog, AtlanticYardsReport.com, plus pieces for New York magazine and City & State.

My blog coverage includes some revelations Greg David didn't get to, including the fact that, after hiring Jereis, one Forest City staffer balked at his inadequate invoices, but the two people most involved in hiring the consultant, Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone, pushed the payment through.

Bender has left the company and Cantone will soon be leaving the company.

The case is surely meaningful to Forest City: it had three people in the room watching the testimony of the above witnesses, and still has one staffer monitoring the trial.
My second comment:
Just be clear, Jereis was hired *after* Annabi's vote, though the testimony is quite intriguing. Forest City reps said they strung him along, trying to leave the impression he would be hired, but unwilling to commit to hiring him, recognizing that would look bad.
They said that the hiring took place a couple of months after Annabi's July 11 vote, though Jereis's one-year contract was backdated to August 1. But Mangone--admittedly an unreliable witness--testified that the draft contract for Jereis was circulating right around the time of Annabi's vote.
More here.

Comments

  1. And I should add that Forest City did "not* hire Mangone. It hired Jereis. The Longfellow developer hired Mangone.

    But Mangone was Nick Spano's close aide, and Forest City hired Spano's brother Mike--and at one point expected Mike Spano to get Mangone to help.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

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.


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 …

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…