Skip to main content

Dissecting Bruce Ratner's fatuous, shameless letter to AG supporting leniency for Rapfogel

City & State has published the letters from numerous supporters of disgraced charitable CEO William Rapfogel of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, who Wayne Barrett described as "reverse Robin Hood for poor Jews... who pocketed $3 million and was caught with $420,000 in cash."

Barrett called the letters 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's letter is a prime example of that, so much so that it deserves annotation, which I have provided in italics.

The letter

Dear Attorney General Schneiderman,

I am writing this letter to support Willy Rapfogel in his quest for leniency in the upcoming sentencing. At the outset, I understand the gravity of what Willy has done and the harm that he has caused to so many people and to one of the premier institutions devoted to poverty in our city. My comments emphasize the positive aspects of Willy while still recognizing the seriousness of the crime committed.

How exactly does Ratner understand the gravity of what Rapfogel has done? Ratner hasn't issued any criticisms. The only gravity is the fact that Ratner and the Met Council lost out on a bid for the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area.

I have known Willy for over 15 years and I was profoundly shocked and deeply dismayed when I heard the reports of his wrongdoing. I have always found Willy to be uniquely kind, humble and generous: a man who, despite a very serious transgression, has always been committed to making New York a more humane, caring city.

Except for the part about $420,000 in cash, right? Or the misleading acts and "lack of contrition" from Rapfogel that prosecutors noted.

In addition to calling Willy a friend, I have worked with him on professional and charitable endeavors. In his capacity at the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty we worked together to raise money for the organization, as partners in discussing ways to do affordable housing, and in finding office space for his organization. I was proud to serve as the honoree at the Met Council's annual dinner one year and was pleased to help him raise money for this worthy cause. We most recently partnered again to host a charitable concert at Barclays Center with Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot raising funds to support Met Council and The Perlman Music Program.

Didn't those charitable endeavors also help bolster the relationship with Rapfogel's former close friend, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, whose Chief of Staff is Rapfogel's wife Judy? And didn't Ratner want to stay on Silver's good side?

I also have experience working with Willy in the business realm. The Met Council and our company worked jointly to propose a mixed use development project at Seward Park. Willy has developed hundreds of affordable housing units; he is an expert in this desperately important area and has presided over one of the few not-for-profits that has been able to build successfully on a consistent basis. Met Council originally began its efforts in the area of housing with a 12-unit shelter for homeless families in the Bronx in 1985. In a large part due to Willy's leadership, the agency's housing portfolio has grown to almost 2,000 units under management, in construction or in the development process. This record of accomplishment was why my company was proud to work with him to respond to a city RFP. Throughout all this work, Willy was hard working and passionately dedicated to the mission of providing affordable homes to low-income New Yorkers.

Also dedicated to providing $350,000 in stolen funds to one of his sons for his own version of affordable housing.

At no time through our charitable and business efforts did I ever see anything which gave me any doubt as to Willy's integrity. In fact, there were instances when he would bend over backwards to make sure that everything was done in a way that his organization could be proud of.

Could it be that Bruce Ratner's personal and corporate history of--shall, we say--imperfect integrity might blind him to others falling short?

Finally, Willy has been a friend of mine for a long time and I know his family well. I remember fondly attending the bar mitzvah of his son, whom Willy has always been so proud of, and felt all along that I knew Willy thoroughly. While it is clear that one cannot know everything about a friend, in this case I think we were all surprised to learn of his actions. I strongly urge you to consider leniency when deciding his sentence.

Also, Ratner must remember hiring one of Rapfogel's sons, as well, in a move seen as currying favor with Silver.


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 January 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 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't be so cheap.

As …

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…