Skip to main content

Yonkers trial update: Council President says Annabi said she'd never gotten benefit from Jereis, and that people erroneously thought he controlled her vote

Though neither defendant in the ongoing Yonkers corruption trial apparently will testify, the character of former Council Member Sandy Annabi, and the nature of her political reliance on her mentor--and alleged briber--Zehy Jereis, was raised during federal court testimony yesterday.

The main afternoon witness was Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnick, a lawyer who testified in a calm, agreeable manner. Under questioning from Annabi's lawyer, William Aronwald, Lesnick agreed that Annabi's district was the poorest district, with the highest unemployment rate.

That, presumably, is fodder for Aronwald's argument that Annabi's about-face on Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project was not because she was influenced by a pattern of some $174,000 in gifts and cash from Jereis over the years, but rather concessions aimed toward the city and the needs of her district.

(Then again, another Council Member testified that the additional $10 million pledge she gained from Forest City was "peanuts.")

Jereis contends he was motivated by the desire for a romantic relationship with Annabi, not to steer her vote.

Making Ridge Hill work

Lesnick said that, when running for Council President, he distinguished himself from the incumbent, a Ridge Hill supporter, by saying he opposed the process--an effort to override the supermajority requirement, which had riven the Council--and believed more needed to be done to address traffic concerns.

One of the first meetings he held after taking office in 2006, Lesnick said, was with Bruce Ratner himself and some associates. Together they helped organize a charrette, a design planning exercise, explained Lesnick, who also has a degree in urban planning.

And after that exercise, Lesnick said, "By April or May, I was a supporter. I felt the traffic concerns had been addressed."

Forest City, he said, was willing to pay for the charrette, but decided against it for legal reasons. Then, in a sign how business gets done in Yonkers, funds were secured via state Senator Nick Spano, who Lesnick said "made a member's item grant through on the the state agencies." Spano, a local Republican powerbroker, was the brother of Forest City lobbyist Mike Spano, now the mayor of Yonkers.

In previous testimony, it was clear that Forest City Ratner made a calculation that concessions to Lesnick were affordable--and might be avoided. A 6/10/06 email from Forest City executive Bruce Bender to his boss Bruce Ratner stated, in part, "Let's see if we can bring this home this month. We may have to put some funds away for Lesnick and traffic. There's a good chance that this money will never be drawn down."

(A Forest City spokesman told the Journal News that referred to money for the traffic mitigation study and a settlement  reached with the neighboring town of Greenburgh.)

Lesnick, in his testimony, also explained how, in a memo, he cited the "$10 million that Sandy negotiated."

Conflicts of interest, and Annabi's reliance on Jereis

Lesnick, who explained early in his direct testimony almost as an aside that he ran on an ethics platform, found himself questions about ethics issues under cross-examination. Under questioning from prosecutor Jason Halperin, Lesnick agreed that Council Members should err on the side of disclosing potential conflicts of interest.

He agreed he didn't know that Jereis was conferring financial benefits to Annabi and that Jereis had asked Forest City Ratner for a consulting contract. (Forest City strung Jereis along in June and July 2006, but in October gave him a one-year, $5,000/month essentially no-show contract backdated to August 1, for which he was paid for three months: $15,000.)

"You would agree that these are facts that you, as Council President, would have wanted to know?" Halperin asked.

"Correct," Lesnick replied.

Halperin asked Lesnick about a conversation he once had with Annabi about whether she'd gotten financial benefits from Jereis.

"I don't recall," Lesnick replied. "I may have."

Halperin showed Lesnick his grand jury testimony, in which he was asked if Annabi had ever gotten anything from Jereis or others doing business with the city. "Quite the contrary," Lesnick told the grand jury. "She told me she hasn't gotten anything from anybody.

On redirect, Aronwald pointed out that Lesnick also told the grand jury that Annabi had said people thought Jereis controlled her vote, but in reality he just boasted that her decisions came from listening to him.

The theory of the case

Judge Colleen McMahon has questioned but not dismissed of the bribery charges regarding Ridge Hill, given that there was no explicit quid pro quo regarding Annabi's changed vote.

One commenter on Yonkers Tribune pointed out that Annabi's lawyer has an argument, and that Forest City Ratner is the winner:
if annabi was bought and paid for l.why oppose the project in the first place and hold out until the very end when the developer sweetened the pot for the city.if jeries owned the vote she should have been onboard from the get go... and one other thing mr arronwald needs to ask the jury to consider who got the benefit of the change in vote...jeries? certainly not if he paid 174,000 and got 15,000 in consulting it was the developer who got the benefit...but the developer got a pass
Annabi's residence

On direct examination, Lesnick that he knew Annabi lived in an apartment Rumsey Road, in her district, because it was on her nominating petitions, at least one Democratic caucus meeting was held there, and once he stopped by with little notice to pick something up and Annabi was wearing a bathrobe, with her hair in curlers.

However, Annabi filled out mortgage applications for houses outside her district saying they would be her primary residences. She did not reveal that Jereis had provided money for the down payments.

On cross-examination, Lesnick allowed that he didn't know where Annabi lived before 2006, after she took office, beyond the petitions.

"A bribe was expected"

Also testifying was FBI Special Agent Rosemary Karaka, who discussed the other case in the trial, Longfellow, about which witness Anthony Mangone--an admitted liar and felon testifying under a cooperation agreement--has already testified he delivered a bribe from the developer to Jereis.

Karaka confirmed that, according to her notes, Longfellow developer Franco Milio had asked  Mangone, "What the fuck does it take to get this woman on board? Does she need something?"

On cross examination, she added that, according to her notes, "Mr. Milio said he felt like the bribe was expected."

What next?

Aronwald said that, after one more witness, another FBI agent, he will rest his case. That means Annabi won't testify.

Thus the defense for Jereis should begin today, setting up the potential for closing arguments on Monday or Tuesday.

The Longfellow case

I only caught the afternoon testimony. In the morning, according to the Journal News, Alfred DelBello, former attorney on the Longfellow project, testified that he had no knowledge of any bribes and did not know that Mangone was involved in the project until it was approved.

But, under cross-examination, DelBello acknowledged that he was unfamiliar with two concessions announced when the project eventually passed. Regarding Longfellow, Annabi also contends that her changed vote was contingent on the concessions.


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 + FAQ (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in February 2018, 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--but not yet approved--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…

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…

Some skepticism on Belmont hockey deal: lease value seems far below Aqueduct racino; unclear (but large?) cost for LIRR service

As I wrote for The Bridge 12/20/1, The Islanders Say Bye to Brooklyn, But Where Next?, the press conference announcing a new arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders was "long on pomp... but short on specifics."

Notably, a lease valued at $40 million "upfront to lease up to 43 acres over 49 years... seems like a good deal on rent for the state-controlled property." Also, the Long Island Rail Road will expand service to Belmont.

That indicates public support for an arena widely described as "privately financed," but how much? We don't know yet, but some more details--or at least questions--have emerged.

An Aqueduct comparable?

Well, we don't know what the other bid was, and there aren't exactly parcels that large offering direct comparables.

But consider: Genting New York LLC in September 2010 was granted a franchise to operate a video lottery terminal under a 30 year lease on 67 acres at Aqueduct Park (as noted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo).


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…