I cannot let go of this story and none of you should do either. It represents both sound government and an organization, Forest City, that appears so venial and grasping, that both the development and management of our City and its moral imperative is threatened.
There are existing blogs on TOTS namely "Bribes, Intimidation, etal" and "Contemplating the Roles of Development, etal" that will give you a background into the continuing story of Forest City and its relationships to communities and, potentially, even likely if the current administration has its way regarding Echo Bay.
Dwight Worley and colleagues are doing a first class job in bringing this organization to our attention. For several years you have also read about Forest City, its principal Ratner, and others associated with their business proposition. Their methods, community disruption, heavy-handed, and questionable business practices have appeared in printo here and elsewhere concerning work in Brooklyn, Yonkers and other locations. We had a taste of it ourselves, when Abe Napersink (I think) and others steamrooled City Hall, offered a huge plan for remaking Echo Bay, took over the communication function from the City and began the process of "winnjjing hearts and minds" through selective campaign contributions and careful wooing of Council Members via two party meeting sheltere from the eyes of the community through some aberration in interpretation of Open Meeting Laws. To put a dot on the period, I think we leaned that this massive planned undertaking would provide no noticeable relief to New Rochelle regarding its property tax burden. Rather, it would further drain resources, tear down an Armory beloved by a considerable number of residents, and require the City to foot the bill on other aspects of the project and its pre-pre-preparation stages. In short, a lose, lose for New Rochelle except for the hubris attendant to those in office who favor it, possibly some longer term gain as yet unspecified, and some improvements to the recreational part of our environment.
but, along came the economy and at least it provided the blessing of delay. But, like the swallows returning to Capistrano, "they're baaaack." So, what have they been up to? You ought to read the next installment in the Journal News today under Jonathan Bandler's by-line.
Before looking at one or two points in Bandler's article, it is not at all unfair to postulate that you come away at the end with one of three end-state conclusions which are: (1) Forest City is composed of managerial incompetents, (2) Forest City was active in Ridge Hill in ways that you would, minimally ground your children for, were they guilty of something similar in the playground or (3), they received some form of immunity from the US government in favor for testifying for the prosecution against some rather benign defendents in office at the time in Yonkers. If the latter turns out to be the case, it makes one wonder whether the AG's District Office is somewhat influenced in ways I can only speculate on given what appears to be the evolving substance of this case. Maybe Eric Holder knows more, but I am not sure when this action was initiated.
But I am sure that there are several things that literally jump out from the pages upon reading this article.
1. forest City hired someone called Zehy Jereis, ostensibly, defendent Sandy Annabi's "cousin" as a "consultant." Look at this guy and read about this guy. What the hell would he qualify for as a consultant? There is only one answer and that is to get Annabi to change her opposition to Ridge Hill.
2. The two Forest City principles, EVP Bender (who said he was "uncomfortable" with the arrangement and and Cantone who said that he was hired becuse "he got them access to Annabi." Great job fellows. However you both agreed to hire this guy despite the fact that you concede being very unclear what this guy Jereis could do for you and ostensibly being concerned about how such a hiring "would look."
You perhaps take heart by Forest City's hiring of current mayor Spano who was put on the Forest City's payroll to "convince" Annabi to change her mind and to ask his brother, Senator Nick Spano to help in this effort.
Actually it got worse, as there are allegations that Jereis stated he had an affair with Annabi, his cousin, and apparently, this has something to do with something. It is more likely based on a visual inspection of the photos of Annabi and Jereis, that this is yet another way of muddying the waters while impugning Annabi. There is nothing to suggest Forest City had a part in this, but this is such a twisted and convuluted set of evil deeds and innuendo, that nothing seems out of the ordinary for these folks.
The defense clainms that Annabi changed her vote based on her ability to allegedly negotiate concessions for $10 million dollars over 3 years in real estate taxes, and a half a milllion dollars for a traffic mitigation study. Maybe so, who knows!
but, defense has a series of Emails that between Bender and, OMG, Bruce Ratner, sent prior to a June 2006 meeting with Annabi that suggests that money must be put aside for the real estate tax concession as well as other money for City Counsel President Lesnick (who after opposing Ridge Hill in 2005, came around to supporting it in 2006).
What a mess and for comic relief consider that those Forest City rocket scientists, Bender and Cantone, are shortly to form an independent consulting partnership and I, for one, would love to read their separation agreements.
Yesterday, somewhat tongue in cheek I volunteered to accept a consultant contract for $1.00 a year if 4 or 5 conditions were met by Forest City directed at restoring our downtown business district as well as bring forth a police facility to Main Street, etal. Maybe I was in the ballpark here. Only time, good lawyering by the defense, and solid reporting by the Journal News in the days and weeks ahead, will validate my offer or invalidate it.
But what do I know?
Here is what I know! We have a business and moral imperative not to do business with Ratner and his organization under any terms. If any member of the administration or the community has accepted any contributions from Forest City, they should return them immediately.
Surely what you know as citizens of New Rochelle, as parents, neighbors, and voters must suggest that support for this type of enterprise violates basic urban development need as well as community values, integrity, and decency. But, if you have seen enough of hard times and will accept help from most any level, then your only moral justification lies in the realm of the greater good and that is simply to receive ample funds for restoring downtown, providing safety and support and yes, one other thing.... no Napersink two off meetings, no taking on the communication role, and full, repeat FULL council oversight and control.
If you do not do that, you deserve the government you get period!