Skip to main content

The "most powerful" Jonathan Rosen, Mayor de Blasio, and the Forest City connection

On Wednesday came NY1 Exclusive: Who is Jonathan Rosen? The Most Powerful Man in Politics – Outside City Hall, a long report by Grace Rauh on the founder of BerlinRosen, who represents the mayor and then sometimes adversaries like real estate client Two Trees, a "place often rife with conflict."

BerlinRosen's reach is astonishing, working with 15 City Council Members (including Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“It's a very tight interconnected web of influence because you've helped to elect the candidates to elected office and you are also helping to have the groups that you represent influence the actions of those elected officials. And controlling so much of that process does pose tremendous opportunities for conflict,” Dick Dadey of the Citizens Union told NY1. Susan Lerner of Common Cause said the problem was not unique to BerlinRosen.

The report raises significant reason for concern--BerlinRosen claims not to lobby, which would require more disclosure, but the line between communications consulting and lobbying is "gray." But it finds no smoking guns.

The AY connection

Rauh got a quote from a BerlinRosen client. “Our company has always felt that having outside PR firms brings a great external presence and a great external set of ideas. A consultant has a way of looking at a project that we are knee-deep in from a little distance,” Forest City Ratner’s Ashley Cotton told NY1.

What's unmentioned is the situation involving a project like Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, when various parties are all on the general same team. BerlinRosen represents not only de Blasio and Forest City, but has represented community partners like ACORN.

That leads to harmony in the message being put before the public rather and likely leads to less scrutiny.

It also makes me wonder how the BerlinRosen connection affects a client like Council Member Brad Lander, a de Blasio ally (and successor in Council seat) who once was much more critical of Atlantic Yards.

Remember how in November 2013 I annotated a New York Times graphic about de Blasio's Circle of Power by showing the connection between Rosen, Lewis, and Forest City Ratner.

A history of warnings

Consultant and gadfly Gary Tilzer, in his TrueNews blog, pointed out, among much more:
The Goo Goos In the NY1 Reporter Have Never Said A Word About Berlin Rosen in the 3 Years True News Has Been Writing About Them
True News Reported Over A Year Before NY1 About the Conflict of Interests of Berlin Rosen Working for Both the Mayor and Developers like Two Trees, Domino Sugar
Note that after I tweeted the need to credit Tilzer and others, Rauh later offered credit and noted that de Blasio ducked her questions about BerlinRosen.

Other warnings, and a reform not enacted

Last September, Crain's New York Business's Chris Bragg wrote Just don't call these consultants lobbyists: They move government without having to disclose their activities. Call them clever, call them stealthy. From the article:
Ms. [Jennifer] Cunningham is part of a growing industry of strategic consultants who do not register as lobbyists yet nonetheless have close ties with New York politicians and represent clients (including elected officials) with interests before the government. These nonlobbyists—at firms such as SKDKnickerbocker, or SKDK, and BerlinRosen—get many of the lucrative paychecks accorded their registered peers without the hassles and scrutiny that come with having to disclose their frequent interactions.
Regarding BerlinRosen, he wrote:
Like Ms. Cunningham, Mr. Rosen is not a registered lobbyist. Yet he regularly meets with government officials. The mayor's schedule from his first five months in office shows Mr. Rosen was in at least nine meetings and on two calls.
Shortly after Mr. de Blasio became mayor, Mr. Rosen's firm was also hired to advance one of the mayor's pet causes: securing funding for universal prekindergarten. Rather than advocate directly on behalf of the mayor, however, the company represented a nonprofit group set up to lobby on the issue. That organization, Campaign for One New York, was founded by former de Blasio campaign manager Bill Hyers to lobby the state for pre-K funding. Campaign for One New York paid BerlinRosen $363,000 through June, according to its lobbying disclosure.
In helping to control the media message around the pre-K funding effort, BerlinRosen acted as if it were part of the administration. The company returned reporters' calls made to the City Hall press office about pre-K, while Mr. Rosen closely advised government officials on pre-K talking points, according to email messages obtained through a records request.
In May 2013, Ross Barkan wrote in City Limits, When Campaign Aides Are Lobbyists, Questions Mount:
Besides Parkside, Sheinkopf Ltd., MirRam Group and the Advance Group are all major firms that lobby and consult on political campaigns simultaneously. Statewide, Berlin Rosen, a firm that consults and lobbies, was the biggest recipient of campaign money in the 2010 election cycle among firms that perform both functions, according to NYPIRG. (In a statement, BerlinRosen's Michael Rabinowitz-Gold stresses that the firm "never communicates directly with elected officials on legislative or regulatory issues" but registers as a lobbyist because it creates websites and 800 numbers to facilitate constituent contact with officeholders.). 
Barkan pointed to a potential reform:
Citizens Union recommended in their 2011 report that candidates who participate in New York City's campaign finance program should be prohibited from using matching funds to purchase campaign consulting services from firms that also provide lobbying services. The recommendation has not been adopted.


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…