Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sterling Inequities

The city's dramatic reversal of its grandiose-condemnation based-Willets Point development does not mean that it has emerged unscathed from controversy; not with its decision to include the the Mets and its real estate arm, Sterling Equities, in what amounts to the third incarnation of the city's plans to change the face of the Iron Triangle. The NY Daily News has the story: "The owners of the cash-challenged Mets are close to a deal with the city to build a mall at Willets Point over the objections of existing businesses in the grubby area next to Citi Field, sources said Wednesday."

Sterling Equities, the firm that was the driving force behind the Claire Shulman-led LDC that engaged in an illegal lobbying scheme still under investigation by the NYS Attorney General? How can that be? The city forwards $500,000 to the group made up of Sterling Equities and other real estate firms to lobby the city council in behalf of a project that the city now is awarding to Sterling to develop. Can you say fraud and conspiracy here?

The LDC was a not for profit in name only and the developers that helped to fund the entity had enough money of their own to lobby-they didn't need the taxpayers to front them the dough but doesn't it look better-oh so good government-when a benign sounding local development corporation acts in your interests?

But the Wilpons are no strangers to fraud. After all they were up at the top of the Bernie Madoff fraudulent ponzi scheme-so high up on the food chain that they were confidants of the world's biggest swindler. So it doesn't shock us to find that their real estate company is poised to benefit from the fraudulent lobbying conspiracy-the Wilpons keep getting better at this with practice, don't they?

The fact is that the Bloomberg administration-by picking Related and Sterling to do this development-has placed itself in double jeopardy. The Wal-Mart loving Related should be denied any application to develop this site unless they agree to a binding MOU on the Gateway Mall that excludes the bribery linked retailer. And there should be unanimity at the city council that the fraudsters at Sterling be kept away from profiting from their illegal machinations.

In any case the outlook for developing Willets Point is not a good one-at least not from the standpoint of Mike Bloomberg. What was to be his signature legacy project will now have a different legacy: fraud, deception, illegal lobbying, and a grasping overreach that found the diminutive chief objective biting off more than he could possibly chew.