Skip to main content

The Culture of Cheating: Forest City's effort, through Kruger, to get taxpayer money to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge

Remember how a Forest City Ratner executive, asked in July 2009 if the would seek more subsidies, responded, “Forest City does not expect to ask for more subsidy?" Not only did Executive VP later request $10 million more in housing subsidies, so too did Executive VP Bruce Bender try to get state funds to repair the Carlton Avenue Bridge the developer was supposed to fund.

The corruption charges that surfaced in March 2011 against then-state Senator (and now-imprisoned) Carl Kruger portrayed a chummy relationship between Kruger and Bender, who not only tried to get money for the bride but also for the Lakeside Center project in Prospect Park. (Bender's wife is on the Board of Directors of the Prospect Park Alliance.)

Though the conversation between Kruger and Bender occurred in December 2010, the charges cast in new light some of Kruger's over-the-top support for Atlantic Yards, including his Brooklyn aria at an August 2006 environmental review hearing and his accusation in May 2009 of Metropolitan Transportation Authority intransigence regarding a renegotiation of the Vanderbilt Yard deal.

And they showed Forest City's relentless--if, in this case, unsuccessful--push to offload its obligations on the public. That's savvy business, but its closer to the "culture of cheating" than to "civic developer" status that Bruce Ratner professes.

Kruger, who got bribe money funneled through lobbyist Richard Lipsky (who had FCR among his clients, though there was no evidence he acted on FCR's behalf), was willing to help Bender on some requests, but not the $9 million Bender wanted for the repair and reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge.

The bridge, which went out of service in January 2008 supposedly for two years, was instead expected to reopen in "summer 2012" and now will open around Sept. 24, which, technically, is the third day of autumn.

Dealmaking on wiretap

As stated in the complaint (below), intercepted phone calls reveal conversations Kruger had beginning 12/28/10 with Bender, Forest City's "Vice President of Governmental Affairs and Public Relations."
Kruger and his chief of staff discussed three real estate projects for which Bender had requested state funding, including a project at Mill Basin ($2 million), "Lakeside" (the Prospect Park renovation, for $4 million), and the Carlton Avenue Bridge ($9 million).

The city is paying $24 million of the $40 million bridge reconstruction costs; Forest City, according to an Empire State Development Corporation document, was supposed to pay the remaining $16 million on its own.

According to the document, Kruger learned that "Senate Leader #1" had indicated there was only $4 million. "The Vice President said he needed a 'combo of two projects... the park and Carlton Avenue Bridge." Kruger said "the bridge is out," and asked Bender to choose:
The Vice President said that he did not know and that "this" was "bad." KRUGER said, "I guess the park, fuck the bridge." The Vice President said that "my dilemma is as you know, I don't mind fucking the bridge, I can't fuck it right now, I've got to leverage that bridge, what's my value?"
(It's unclear exactly what Bender meant here by "fucking the bridge," but perhaps neighbors wondering when it would re-open already had an inkling.)

Kruger said he was only the middleman; Bender asked Kruger, as chair of the Finance Committee, to get more money from Senate Leader #1. Kruger apparently backed away, saying he could direct money to community organizations:
The Vice President said, "Carl, I love you, but this is what I used to do and I know...." KRUGER said that he had a call into the Senate Staff Member and that Kruger would call the Vice President back later.
Kruger later talked to a Senate Staff Member, learning that an additional $500,000 was available:
Kruger reiterated that the Senate Staff Member should allocate $500,000 to the Vice President's "Prospect Park" project."
Letting it go

When Kruger reported back to Bender that the park project would be funded, Bender said "You're cute. You're good. You're good Carl," but complained it still wasn't enough. Then, according to the document:
Kruger and the Vice President discussed the major real estate project in Brooklyn, affordable housing and parking issues. The Vice President talked about getting more money. KRUGER said that the Prospect Park project would get funded, but not "anything to do to build bridges... let [Real Estate Developer #1's CEO] build his bridges." The Vice President laughed again and said, "I love you. I really do actually." KRUGER said, "I really don't know anything about this stuff. I told him, 'whatever.'... The couple of bucks that I had, I don't know what the hell to do with it anyway. Take it. Come Monday, I won't have it. So take it and enjoy it."
That was apparently a reference to the fact that the Republicans were about to become the Senate Majority in 2011 and Kruger would lose his influence.

When Kruger resigned and pled guilty 12/20/11, it apparently included admitting that he helped deliver state funds to a cause championed by Bender. Lipsky, who later pleaded guilty without mentioning the Forest City connection. He awaits sentencing.

Click on graphics to enlarge



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…