Skip to main content

"Congeniality over conscience": Jewish leaders, including Ratner, wrote letters in support for criminal Rapfogel

In City and State NY's LOVE LETTERS FOR WILLIE RAPFOGEL, subtitled "The 'Prince of the Jews' Is Saluted By The Mighty On His Way To Jail," Wayne Barrett (ex-Village Voice) does the work no one else would do, uncovering the unseemly support from many--including Bruce Ratner--for a brazen, hypocritical criminal:
William Rapfogel, the city’s legendary giant of the Jewish nonprofit world and good friend of indicted ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, is in prison for looting $9 million from the organization he ran for two decades, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.
A reverse Robin Hood for poor Jews, the 59-year-old Rapfogel, who pocketed $3 million and was caught with $420,000 in cash, appeared unlikely to prompt much support when he pled guilty last year. Exploiting a mine lode of public subsidies funneled mostly through Silver, Rapfogel admitted to financing what court papers called “a lavish lifestyle” by taking up to $30,000-a-month from an insurance company his organization deliberately overpaid. Every dollar consumed by this scam was a dollar less for services to the poor.
Nonetheless, 70 Rapfogel backers, including 19 rabbis, several politicians, and some of the city and country’s most prominent leaders of Jewish organizations, petitioned Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to go easy on Rapfogel, who the New York Times said was frequently called the “prince of the Jews.” The letters—sent shortly before his April guilty plea—were obtained by City & State under the Freedom of Information Act. They are a triumph of congeniality over conscience, with the call of the club taking precedence over the betrayal of the mission. The Jewish poor are invisible in this correspondence.

..Developer Bruce Ratner attended Rapfogel’s son’s bar mitzvah, partnered with a Rapfogel housing company, gave a million dollars to Met Council on Jewish Poverty, and hired Rapfogel’s son at the same time that Silver and Rapfogel supported his effort to take over a prize Lower Eastside site.....At least two of the letter-writers were major donors to Schneiderman: Bruce Ratner and his wife gave $37,500...
The rest of the piece is here.

As I've written, some questions regarding the Ratner-Rapfogel relationship were never explored. While William Rapfogel's co-defendent David Cohen asked their co-conspirator at insurer Century Coverage Corporation to make campaign contributions--using straw donors, in some cases--there's no explanation regarding specific acts.

It didn't make sense for College Point, NY resident Deborah Auletta, a Century employee, to give $175 to Delia Hunley-Adossa's longshot 2009 challenge to popular 35th District Council incumbent Letitia James, the leading Atlantic Yards opponent.

Also, the Barclays Center chose to give the Met Council--and a music camp--profits from a 2/28/13 cantorial concert. I thought investigators might look into any ulterior motives, like buffing the developer's relationship with Silver as a prelude to that Seward Park bid, but apparently they didn't go that far.

More on the Rapfogel deal

In a separate article on the settlement, Barrett writes:
Rapfogel, who is in Wallkill medium security prison until at least December 2016 (when he gets his first parole hearing), was not compelled to forfeit from his own pocket the equivalent of the $3 million he stole. He instead raised the bulk of the restitution from supporters who gave to a fund whose donors remain shrouded in secrecy. [Defense attorneys] Shectman and Vinegrad refused to say anything about where these contributions came from, how they were collected or what percent of the total was anonymously donated.
Since Sheldon Silver was still Speaker of the Assembly when the restitution was solicited (he has since been indicted on corruption charges and stepped down) and Rapfogel’s wife Judy was, and still is, Silver’s chief of staff, good-government crusader Schneiderman surely must have understood that contributors to the fund might be seeking favor with two of the most powerful people in Albany. In fact, had Rapfogel been unable to raise much of the millions from supporters, he and his wife might have lost their valuable Grand Street co-op, their modest Monticello cottage or other assets, surely making the effort to collect these undisclosed donations a family imperative.
Schneiderman’s restitution remedy actually opened the door to the kind of insider horsetrading that the Attorney General has long condemned and that still dominates the state capital. The Rapfogel fund is so insulated from oversight that Schneiderman’s office claims it has no documents related to it and did not answer numerous questions about it—such as whether the prosecutor had the power to require disclosure of donors. (A top former state prosecutor says he did).
The office could have attempted to collect the full restitution by seizing Rapfogel's assets or forcing him to sell them. Instead, all it did was secure what [AG spokeswoman] DeBold said was a “significant portion” of the $3 million from Rapfogel’s “personal assets.” At another point, she said it was “substantial,” carefully chosen words that conceal more than clarify.

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 (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in November 2017, 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 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.

The previous graphic, from August 2017 (without the ghost B1)

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…

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 …