Skip to main content

As Silver steps aside, future cloudy, Lentol among those stepping up; real estate focus; anecdotes of avarice; reforms suggested; Golden next?

Embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, is stepping aside in the wake of corruption charges, as the knee-jerk support he got from see-no-evil members has begun to erode. After all, the press has (finally) been brutal. The Times reports:
In an unusual arrangement, Mr. Silver would not quit his post. Instead, he would temporarily delegate his duties as speaker to a group of senior Assembly members.
...Under the tentative plan developed on Sunday, the Assembly majority leader, Joseph D. Morelle of the Rochester area, and the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, Herman D. Farrell Jr., Democrat of Manhattan, would assume responsibility for budget negotiations.
Three other senior Democratic members — Carl E. Heastie of the Bronx, Catherine T. Nolan of Queens and Joseph R. Lentol of Brooklyn — will round out the leadership team.
Yes, that's veteran Joe Lentol of that mysterious cameo in Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill case. The Buffalo News suggests:
The likelihood of Silver temporarily stepping aside and then somehow returning if he is cleared of the corruption charges is next to zero.
The Post editorializes, Eric [Schneiderman] the silent:
If what US Attorney Preet Bharara alleges is true — that for years Assembly Speaker Silver “monetized public office” — why should it have taken a federal prosecutor to bring him down? Why wasn’t it New York’s attorney general?
Impact on DNC bid?

The Daily News reports:
When New York Democrats pledged their delegate votes to President Obama at the party convention in 2012, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver took the mic as the Empire State’s spokesman.
With the national party on the verge of picking a convention city for 2016, Silver is again in the spotlight — but this time, he’s the target of a stunning corruption probe that could tarnish the Big Apple’s chances of beating out Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio.
...A DNC official wouldn’t comment on the impact Silver’s arrest would have on the bid, but said that the “decision will be based primarily on logistics, financing and security.”
Silver and real estate

The Commercial Observer takes a look at some of the real estate issues involving Silver:
  • The World Trade Center Complex
  • West Side Stadium
  • Moynihan Station
  • Scaffold Law
  • Superstorm Sandy
Let's not forget that, as a member of the Public Authorities Control Board, he gave his blessing to Atlantic Yards, at least in part because Forest City Ratner traded office space--which might compete with his Lower Manhattan constituency--for housing.

The Post reports:
US Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating the massive tax breaks granted to Midtown’s luxury One57 condo building, where a mystery buyer just paid a record $100 million-plus for the duplex penthouse, sources told The Post on Sunday.
And the Times offers Developer Who Keeps Low Profile Is Embroiled in Silver Scandal:
Unlike many other New York developers, Leonard Litwin, a shy, soft-spoken, compact billionaire, has never sought the limelight.
Yet Mr. Litwin and his company, Glenwood Management, have always stood out, for the number of luxury residential towers they have added to Manhattan’s skyline and the exceptionally generous donations Glenwood has made to state lawmakers.
Now, in his 101st year, Mr. Litwin is embroiled in a very public corruption scandal that is rocking the real estate industry and the state’s political establishment.
When Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York State Assembly, was arrested on federal charges on Thursday, the criminal complaint against him included accusations that he used his powerful position to reap millions of dollars in graft by steering real estate developers, among others, to law firms that gave him a slice of their fees.
Glenwood is one of the two developers cited but not named in the complaint, according to people familiar with the matter.
Here's the tastiest passage:
While neither of the developers is accused of wrongdoing, Glenwood’s part in the case has stunned Mr. Litwin’s colleagues in the real estate industry, where he is a revered figure who, friends say, has always sought to avoid controversy. He and the company declined to comment for this article.
He's a revered figure? That's because the real estate industry has no problem with legal if ethically questionable activity like this:
His company has been a prodigious political donor, contributing over $10 million to political candidates and party committees since 2005, according to the complaint against Mr. Silver. In 2014, Glenwood also spent a total of $900,000 on eight different firms to lobby state officials, including Mr. Silver. Other developers have typically left lobbying to the real estate board.
More on Silver

Consider this handy chart from DNAinfo regarding Silver's reported and unreported income. On
Friday, the Post's Fred Dicker reported a telling anecdote:
For the better part of a decade during the 2000s, Silver told an associate, he would routinely send a $100 check each year to the campaign committee of former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
“I knew he didn’t need the money,’’ Silver told the associate with a nervous laugh.
“But I wanted to see if he would cash my check. If he did, then I knew I wasn’t in any trouble because if he was investigating me, he wouldn’t have taken the money.’’
Dicker added:

Silver didn’t knock down the suspicion that he was about making as much money as possible a few years ago when he began defending his bizarre practice of flying on the state’s dime from New York City to Albany via Washington, DC, or some other distant spot so he could pick up a few extra frequent flier miles for his personal use.
That's a bizarre story, as the Post reported in 2013:

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver spent $20,219 in taxpayer money over the past three years jetting from New York City to Albany — but the top-flight pol turned easy 150-mile, one-hour jaunts into epic 500-mile, five-hour odysseys in a greedy quest to rack up frequent-flier miles, according to sources and expense records.
Instead of finding cheap flights that connect directly from New York City to Albany, or taking less-costly trains or automobiles, the second-most powerful man in the state takes long, expensive detours through Philadelphia or Washington, DC.
“He brags about his ability to build up mileage,” said one Albany insider.
What needs to be done

Paul Newell, a former Silver challenger and a District Leader in Lower Manhattan district, wrote an op-ed in Saturday's Daily News, observing that "elected officials say progressive, pro-community things in public forums" but "the developers and landlords get their way behind closed doors," as with Silver's actions.

He notes that the solutions are well-known, including:
  • A ban on all outside income for New York’s legislators.
  • Public financing of elections. 
  • An open and transparent legislative process. 


Golden's moment?


U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is reportedly looking into the records of several other legislators, including Republican Sen. Marty Golden of Brooklyn, who has a curious history of directing campaign cash to the catering call his brother runs, and for which he is the landlord, as the Village Voice reported in 2008.

If Golden gets charged, that would make yet another Atlantic Yards booster in ethical trouble. 

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 …

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).

As…

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…