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March 15, 2012

Powell on pause? Crusading Times columnist sits out Yonkers corruption trial (involving Forest City Ratner) that he put on the agenda

Atlantic Yards Report

Michael Powell was on a roll. The Times's crusading "Gotham" columnist, who since his debut last May has challenged the mayor, the governor, and other pillars of the power structure, had Brooklyn developer Forest City Ratner--tinged but not charged in two political corruption cases--in his sights.

After Powell's January 10 column (A Developer Between Legal Clouds), former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum even wrote a letter to the Times, insisting that developer Bruce Ratner "has always demonstrated the highest ethical standards and behavior."

Powell, a one-time tenant organizer and political reporter, was undeterred, despite Ratner's ties to his Times bosses. In Powell's February 14 column (Tracking the Tentacles of Corruption), he raised an eyebrow at Gotbaum's letter, suggesting that Ratner's "willingness to tuck affordable apartments into his gleaming towers [at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards] is perhaps a reasonable political tradeoff rather than a testament to his character."

Shortly after that, Powell, on Twitter reported that three Forest City executives could testify in the corruption trial regarding the developer's Ridge Hill retail/residential project in Yonkers. It passed only after a City Council Member Sandy Annabi, long opposed to the project, flipped her vote, allegedly because she had long been taking cash from political ally Zehy Jereis, who later got a no-show job from Forest City.

After that, silence.

People asked me: Why did he sit it out? Did someone get to him?

When I queried him last week, Powell said he has complete editorial freedom, but had to make some choices for his weekly column under time pressure.

Keep reading — it's well worth it.

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Posted by eric at March 15, 2012 1:08 PM