At a recent New Rochelle City Council meeting, newly-seated Council Member Ivar Hayden caused New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson to visibly squirm in his seat by mentioning a recent New York Times article during a discussion of Forest City/Ratner's MOU for Echo Bay. For those who missed it, Times reporter Michael Powell documents the many crooked twists and turns by which various Forest City/Ratner projects have been advanced by corrupt politicians and the convictions obtained by the U.S. Attorney. Yonkers is up next.
Last week, the lobbyist Richard Lipsky stood in a courtroom to acknowledge bribe-making. His partner in crime, Carl Kruger, the former state senator and a Brooklyn Democrat, had taken his tear-soaked turn two weeks earlier. They face years in prison.
A few weeks from now, in the same courthouse, a Democratic Yonkers councilwoman and her cousin, the city’s Republican Party chairman, are expected to stand trial. They are accused of bribery, extortion and tax evasion.
The Brooklyn and Yonkers cases are not simply about wayward politicians. The cases share an intriguing tie to the developer Bruce Ratner, who in project after project deploys lobbyists and politicians to change zoning ordinances and chase down rich packets of subsidies.
The article shows on Ratner used his political connections to make deals based on massive special public events which turned his "public-private partnerships" into money losers for local municipalities but big winners for him and his friends.
Powell says the Federal probes into Ratner's business associates and political contacts give the public a glimpse into "politics served raw." He highlights tapes entered as evidenced by Federal prosecutors in which Forest City/Ratner Vice President Bruce Bender ,"a stalwart of the Democratic Party’s powerful Thomas Jefferson Club in south Brooklyn", makes a deal with a Carl Kruger, a former state senator fro, Brooklyn:
In December 2010, Mr. Bender, who faces no allegations of wrongdoing, sought $9 million to pay for a bridge at the Atlantic Yards development. Mr. Kruger turned him down.
But he promised to help Mr. Bender — what are friends for? Tapes show Mr. Kruger and an aide to Mr. Sampson agreed to give Mr. Bender, who is not elected, “$4 million for him to allocate as he saw fit.” (Mr. Bender directed the money to the Prospect Park Alliance, where his wife serves on the board, to help pay for a new skating rink.)
As Mr. Kruger said to Mr. Bender: “Take it and enjoy it.”