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February 20, 2012

Yonkers corruption trial to offer look inside Westchester politics

Ridge Hill probe likely to call many lawmakers and builders to testify

The Journal News
by Jonathan Bandler

The Yonkers federal corruption trial set to continue Tuesday will offer a rare behind-the-scenes look into a world of closed-door politics and lucrative development deals.

The trial of former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and her cousin Zehy Jereis will feature cameo appearances by lawmakers, political fixers, super-rich builders and even a disbarred lawyer.

As many as six current and former members of the City Council could testify, as could new Mayor Mike Spano; a former Yonkers mayor, Westchester’s county executive and New York lieutenant governor, Alfred DelBello; and four executives from Forest City Ratner, the developer of the $650 million Ridge Hill development for which Annabi cast the deciding vote despite her earlier staunch opposition to the project.

Jurors also will hear about four executives from the Ridge Hill developer – Bruce Bender, Scott Cantone, Richard Pesin and John Swagerty – some or all of whom will testify. Bender and Cantone recently left Forest City Ratner to start their own consulting firm.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Testimony in Yonkers corruption trial, including Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project, begins tomorrow

The defense in both cases for Annabi is that the developers changed the projects so as to remove her objections. However, as the article concludes:

Ridge Hill drew much criticism from Annabi in her first term in office, particularly that the developer, which she famously once called “probably richer than God,” was getting too much in tax breaks. She, John Murtagh and Dee Barbato were the three opponents on the council. That ordinarily would not have been enough to defeat the project, except that Ridge Hill needed zoning changes that required a supermajority. Halperin said Annabi, after one meeting on the Ridge Hill project, turned to Murtagh and Barbato and essentially told them “(the developers) need five votes — if we stay strong we can win this.”

Posted by eric at February 20, 2012 10:32 AM