Skip to main content

Another corruption case, another potential domino leading to Forest City Ratner: Melvin Lowe mentioned (not charged)

I speculated 4/5/13 whether the political corruption charges against Queens state Senator Malcolm Smith could eventually touch Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, given the close connection between Smith and former business partner, Darryl Greene, who works as a consultant for Forest City on minority contracting.

Well, it's been a busy month. Brooklyn state Sen. John Sampson, who once held a fundraiser at FCR offices, was charged last week with embezzlement, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.

Then came the revelation that Queens state Sen. Shirley Huntley, in an effort to reduce an expected sentence for her own corruption, had surreptitiously recorded meetings with seven elected officials and two political operatives, one of whom has worked for Forest City. 

The information came from Huntley's lawyer, not law enforcement officials, so the release of names cannot be seen as suspicion of guilt--and many of those recorded have responded that they're clean. As the Daily News reported, federal prosecutors said "the Huntley recordings produced evidence 'useful to law enforcement' regarding three of the seven — without naming names."

Along with Sampson and Smith,  the other Democratic Senators taped were Eric Adams of Brooklyn, Ruth Hassell-Thompson of Mount Vernon, José Peralta of Queens, and Velmanette Montgomery of Brooklyn. Queens Council Member Ruben Wills was recorded, as were former Senate employees Curtis Taylor and Melvin Lowe.

Who's Melvin Lowe?

The Post reported today:
The fact that the feds directed Huntley to try to tape Lowe — whom Sampson brought in as his political guru during his brief but stormy tenure as the Senate leader — had state capital insiders buzzing that more bombshells could drop in the Albany corruption investigation.
Lowe made a tidy sum during his one-year tenure. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee [DSCC] paid his two firms — G&L consulting and Prestige Strategic Communications — a combined $250,000 in 2009-10.
Around the same time, Sampson paid Lowe an additional $150,000 from his personal campaign committee — even though the Brooklyn pol did not face a tough re-election fight.
Senate Democratic insiders snickered that Lowe was being overpaid and wondered what he actually did for the money.
“There was shock that Lowe was getting paid through two different companies. The whole thing was highly irregular and fishy,” said one Senate source.
Capitol Tonight had it first, reporting 5/8/13:
At the time he was added to the DSCC roster, Lowe was also a consultant to developer Bruce Ratner on the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn – a connection that made some members of the Democratic conference (not to mention opponents of Atlantic Yards) veryunhappy.
While working for Ratner, Lowe was also involved in the Ridge Hill development project in Yonkers and was among the people mentioned in subpoenas that came out of the local U.S. Attorney’s office related to the passage of that project.
Democratic conference members were also not happy to learn in 2010 that Lowe had earned over $300,000 from the DSCC through two companies that were set up to appear as separate entites but were actually run and solely operated by Lowe himself.
City&State reported in 2010 that Lowe’s past also includes a stint as the chair of the CUNY Student Senate in the 1980s in which he was involved in some questionable financial dealings at the time, had to be brought to court to compel him to call a new election and was ultimately forced to resign from the position after it was revealed that he was serving in the position, which came complete with stipend and staff, while no longer actually registered as a student at CUNY.
Campaign contributions, and a curious donation comes up in court

My coverage last year rounded up some previous coverage of Lowe, including the curious information that he worked for former Council Member Tracy Boyland when she challenged Atlantic Yards opponent Montgomery in 2006, as well as made large campaign contributions to a number of people, including AY supporter Council Member Darlene Mealy.

Lowe's name came up tangentially in the federal corruption trial last year involving former Yonkers Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political mentor Zehy Jereis.

Bruce Bender, who'd recently resigned as chief of external affairs for Forest City, was on the stand, being queried by Annabi's attorney, William Aronwald, as reported 2/29/12.

"Are you familiar with a company known as Westchester Invaders?" Aronwald asked. "Isn't it true Forest City Ratner made a contribution of $10,000 to Westchester Invaders at Council Member [Patricia] McDow's or [FCR lobbyist] Melvin Lowe's request?"

"I can't recall," Bender said.

Westchester Invaders is a drum and bugle corps that McDow has saluted, but I couldn't find corroborating evidence of a Forest City Ratner contribution. Then again, it would not be out of line with company practices in Brooklyn, which however questionable, remain legal. At another moment in the trial, Aronwald pointed out that Lowe was tasked with getting McDow's support.

Was that nefarious? Not necessarily. But if the feds have something on Lowe, like any other defendant, he might seek leniency through cooperation.

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…

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…

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…

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.


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…