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March 28, 2007

Forest City Ratner Gives to Coney Island Carousel, Other Bloombergian Public Projects

The donation was for ‘causes close to Mayor’s heart,’ says watchdog

The New York Observer
By Matthew Schuerman

This is a must-read article if you've been wondering how Bruce Ratner does it. How does The Brucester get every top politician on his side, though he's been telling everyone for years that he no longer contributes to political campaigns*?

Ratner-Bloomie-NYO.jpg

In December 2005, right as the debate over the Atlantic Yards complex was heating up and before the city made several crucial decisions about the project, Forest City Ratner gave between $450,000 and $1 million to a nonprofit closely associated with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The donation came six months after a meeting with Mr. Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner reported was a lobbying contact—although the parties now dispute that it should have been characterized as such.

What makes the contribution stand out is how unusual it is: Mr. Ratner, Forest City’s chief executive, tends to shun any of the civic glitz that other developers put on in order to “give back” to the communities in which they build. Mr. Ratner, a former city consumer-affairs commissioner, eschews campaign contributions and doesn’t even serve on the Real Estate Board of New York, preferring to allow his senior employees and paid lobbyists to exert influence on his behalf instead.

The best one-liner in the article comes from Ratner PR flack "Joey from Cobble Hill" DePlasco:

“Bruce and Forest City Ratner have indeed supported the rehabilitation of that amusement, and they are guilty of thinking it will be much loved again by kids and their families,” Mr. DePlasco said.

So why isn't this a conflict of interest?

But part of Mr. Bloomberg’s obligation, in order to raise money for these good causes, has been to abide by one stipulation handed down by the city’s Conflict of Interest Board in a May 2003 ruling: officials soliciting on behalf of city-affiliated nonprofits must refrain from asking “a prospective donor who the official knows or should know has a specific matter either currently pending or about to be pending before the City official or his or her agency, where it is within the legal authority or the duties of the soliciting official to make, affect or direct the outcome of the matter.”

By the time that June 2005 meeting happened between Mr. Ratner and the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor, Mr. Bloomberg had already pledged his support and $100 million of city funds for Atlantic Yards, a 22-acre complex that’s supposed to consist of 6,430 apartments and an arena to house the Nets basketball team.

article

NoLandGrab: So, AFTER the City pledged $100 million towards Atlantic Yards and AFTER the June, 2005 meeting, the City pledged an additional $105 million for "land acquisition." Why this wouldn't be a matter for the Conflict of Interest Board is unclear. Maybe the Public Advocate can look into it.

* Ratner's funding for political campaigns goes through family members, as reported by Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report in 2006, on: * September 5 * September 8 * September 13 * November 29

Posted by lumi at March 28, 2007 7:54 AM