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February 8, 2012

Forest City Departures, New Firm In Offing

Capital Tonight
by Liz Benjamin

The bridge-shtupping, scene-stealing surprise star of Battle for Brooklyn is movin' on...

A reader called to report two departures from the Brooklyn-based developer, Forest City Ratner, whose name has become synonymous with the Atlantic Yards project: Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone are striking out on their own to create a new political consulting firm.

Apparently, there’s no ill will involved here. The duo felt that after a decade with Forest City, it was simply “time to go.” They’ll be doing a little of everything – consulting, lobbying etc. – and focus largely on NYC, although there might be some forays up to Albany, too. This enterprise is so new, it doesn’t even have a name yet.

Prior to joining Ratner, Cantone served as former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s director of legislative affairs. Bender was a longtime aide to former NYC Council speaker Peter Vallone Sr.

Bender got some unwanted press recently when he was caught on the federal wiretap negotiating for state funds for a non-Ratner project with former Sen. Carl Kruger, who lost his seat after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Report: Bender, Cantone leave Forest City for new consulting firm; could pending Ridge Hill corruption trial be the spur?

Capital Tonight's Liz Benjamin had a scoop today about the departure of two key Forest City Ratner executives, but didn't connect the dots to a pending federal corruption trial that likely will mention--and perhaps involve--one of those executives.

[I've queried Forest City for confirmation. This would mean that four of five key executives listed as lobbyists in 2006 are gone.]
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There may be no overt "ill will," but why would these top executives leave Forest City before their achievement--the arena--comes to fruition? Why would they leave Brooklyn's most powerful developer?
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The Kruger case must have been embarrassing for Bender--he was caught on wiretap not only cajoling (with foul language) Kruger for money to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge (and then agreeing "I don't mind fucking the bridge"), he sought support for his wife's charitable project, the Lakeside Center in Prospect Park.

That must have raised a few eyebrows at Forest City offices, but that case is done. However, on February 14, the federal corruption trial involving Forest City's Ridge Hill retail/residential project in Yonkers begins.

Atlantic Yards Report, Executive departures from Forest City pile up: four of five listed as key lobbyists in 2006 are gone

Sure, CEO Bruce Ratner's still around, as is Senior VP Jane Marshall, and Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin surely has stepped up to run Atlantic Yards, but it's remarkable how four of Forest City Ratner's key executives working on the project have left, and under not-always-clear circumstances.
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Jim Stuckey, the company's Atlantic Yards point man, left abruptly in June 2007 "to pursue new challenges." Last year, the New York Post reported that the departure, as with a more recent one from NYU was spurred by allegations of sexual harassment. Stuckey and NYU have since been sued regarding such allegations.

In March 2011, FCR president and Chief Operating Officer Joanne Minieri left for her own consulting venture, and was not replaced. Was she nudged out in an effort to save on personnel costs?

Now we've learned that government relations officials Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone are apparently leaving to start their own consulting venture. Though a source asserted it was simply “time to go,” that seems odd, given that they'd presumably want to celebrate the opening of the Barclays Center later this year. I suspect that the upcoming Ridge Hill corruption trial, in which Bender is likely to be mentioned, might have been the spur.

True News, Media Black Out Shake Up At Forest City Ratner Surrounded in Kruger Corruption

Posted by eric at February 8, 2012 11:45 AM