Posted by Curt on 9 August, 2016 at 10:23 am. 2 comments already!


Micah Morrison:

In New York City, the controversy plagued Atlantic Yards development appears to be heading for trouble again. That could create problems for Mayor Bill de Blasio and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. Allies of both Democrats have profited mightily from the project.

For over a decade, Atlantic Yards has been at the center of heated disputes over power, profit and privilege in New York. Does the site serve the needs of the taxpayers who financed its development?  Or is it primarily a giant boondoggle generating torrents of cash for well-connected insiders?

The 22-acre, $5 billion Brooklyn site of planned residential, commercial and park space is home to the Barclays Center sports arena and sixteen high-rise buildings in various stages of development. According to recent news reports from Moscow, Barclays Center owner  Mikhail Prokhorov is under Kremlin pressure to sell all his Russian assets. Prokhorov’s U.S. holdings could be next. Prokhorov’s fall would reverberate from Moscow to New York, where U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is making development deals a centerpiece of a sweeping anti-corruption crusade.

New Yorkers have been here before.

“I seen my opportunities and I took ’em,” the plain-speaking Tammany Hall politician George Washington Plunkitt said in 1905. The corrupt Tammany political machine dominated New York City politics for a century, its chicanery extending into every corner of civic life. Bribes, kickbacks, fraud, extortion and graft were the order of the day. Today, New York is witnessing the birth of a new Tammany Hall. Plunkitt’s heirs are seeing their opportunities and taking them on a colossal scale.

The center of the new Tammany is Mayor de Blasio’s City Hall. But de Blasio is no Boss Tweed, old Tammany’s criminal genius. De Blasio has emerged as more pawn than prince of the city: insecure, in over his head, buffeted by moneyed players he cannot seem to resist and presiding over accelerating pay-to-play scandals that have cast a pall of political death over his administration.

Atlantic Yards offers a case study of how the new Tammany system has evolved. It’s local: extending from dealmakers to a cadre de Blasio calls his “agents of the city” and to Albany’s notorious “three men in a room.” It’s international: the deals stretch from New York and Washington to Russia and China. And it’s sophisticated, powered by the global economy, the influential New York real estate industry, and non-profit entities manipulated for personal and political gain.

But the central scam of the new Tammany system would not be unfamiliar to old Tammany’s Plunkitt: public money for private profit. Plunkitt called it “honest graft”—gaming the system to the benefit of the powerful and well-connected, with crumbs for the common folk.


Real estate developer and Democratic Party heavyweight Bruce Ratner is the central figure in the battles over Atlantic Yards. Smart, tough and tireless, Ratner is a master of honest graft. He has been charged with no crimes, but has repeatedly courted controversy with unfulfilled promises of public benefits, multi-million-dollar paydays, and links to crooked politicians and their enablers.

Ratner has close ties to de Blasio and Clinton. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign headquarters is in a Ratner building in Brooklyn. Ratner and de Blasio lobbied hard to bring this year’s Democratic National Convention to the Barclays Center. De Blasio was an important early supporter of Ratner’s Atlantic Yards bid. A longtime donor to Democrats, Ratner backed de Blasio’s mayoral campaign. Ratner figured in the 1996 Bill Clinton campaign finance scandal as a guest in the Lincoln Bedroom and at a White House “coffee” event. Harold Ickes—the powerful Clinton adviser and lobbyist identified by federal prosecutors as “the Svengali” behind the campaign-finance scandal—is an influential mentor to de Blasio.

The City of New York is Ratner’s biggest tenant, leasing over one million square feet of office space, according to federal filings. The federal government is his fourth largest tenant.

The go-between for de Blasio and Ratner is Jonathan Rosen, a political consultant and a central figure in the mayor’s “agents of the city” controversy. In May, de Blasio rejected a media request for email correspondence between the mayor and Rosen, as well as four others associated with his political campaigns. Four of the five now work as consultants or lobbyists with business before the city. The fifth, Patrick Gaspard, is the U.S. ambassador to South Africa and a former political operative at the powerful Service Employees International Union Local 1199—the  only major union group to back de Blasio’s 2013 mayoral bid.

According to published reports, Rosen is under investigation by Bharara and Manhattan DA Cy Vance in connection with de Blasio fund raising and the mayor’s non-profit organization, Campaign for One New York. Rosen’s firm, BerlinRosen, was paid about $700,000 by de Blasio-related entities. Rosen also has been on Bruce Ratner’s payroll for years as a spokesman and adviser for Atlantic Yards. In 2012, Crain’s New York Business noted that Rosen was a “top strategist” for Ratner.

De Blasio is fighting disclosure of the activities of the five men, advancing the novel claim that they are “agents of the city” whose communications with the mayor should be private. Judicial Watch has filed Freedom of Information Law requests for the Rosen and Gaspard emails, but has been rebuffed in its requests for timely production of the material. “We have appealed the decision of the mayor’s office and will take it to court if necessary,” said Judicial Watch Director of Litigation Paul Orfanedes. “Clearly in this case, the public has a right to know.”


Rosen, the strategist for Ratner and de Blasio, also was a top adviser to a major figure in the annals of New York corruption: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Silver played a key role in Atlantic Yards. He was one of the notorious “three men in a room”—the governor, speaker, and senate majority leader—wielding power in Albany.

“If you’re one of the three men in a room, and you have all the power and you always have and everyone knows it,” U.S. Attorney Bharara said following Silver’s arrest on corruption charges, “you don’t tolerate dissent because you don’t have to. You don’t allow debate because you don’t have to.”

Read more

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x