Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Schneiderman Aftermath: Further Considerations

The enforcement action by AG Eric Schneiderman has a number of broad implications-and generates a number of further questions as well. What needs to be said at the top, however, that all of this is a direct result of the actions of the Little Engine that Could-the intrepid band of Willets Point irregulars at WPU. Never has one powerless group been able to accomplish so much against overwhelming odds.

What the attorney general has done is to tar the city's chief economic development agency with illegal lobbying-and by doing so calls into question the legality of the entire Willets Point development scheme. Not only that. What this also exposes is that EDC-and by extension the mayor's office-has been lying about this all along.

Let's go back to the original NY Times story that WPU initiated and listen to what the city said in response to Ray Rivera's exposé:

"The administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg says that it never encouraged Ms. Shulman to lobby and that the $450,000 it gave to the group was not used for that purpose.

“The city regularly partners with local organizations that promote growth and economic development,” said David Lombino, a spokesman for the Economic Development Corporation. In the case of Ms. Shulman’s group, he added, “we are funding a scope of work that includes public outreach, organizing community support and proposing and advocating for area improvements.”

This was a flat out lie-as Schneiderman's agreement fully exposed:

"For example, the agreement said the EDC directed the Queens group to use its fax machine to send a letter drafted by city officials about the Willets Point project to Council members because, in the words of one city official, "we felt this letter coming from our fax machine would have been lobbying." Other lobbying activities included ghostwriting op-eds and preparing testimony, according to the agreement."

Not only that, but throughout the eminent domain proceeding that NYC EDC claimed on the record-in response to WPU's accusations of illegal lobbying-that it had fully complied with all relevant laws. Throughout there was lying and subterfuge, all part of an effort to cover-up what was really going down-as the Times points out:

"Andrew Brent, a Bloomberg spokesman, pointed to a letter Mr. Doctoroff sent Ms. Shulman three weeks after their first meeting. It outlined the goals of her group, including conducting and leading “outreach, public relations and marketing efforts” to support the proposed redevelopment in Willets Point, but it never mentioned lobbying elected officials."

And the covering up and subterfuge was replicated by Shulman who failed to register as a lobbyist and told the Feds that her group wasn't lobbying: "In its 2007 federal tax returns, the group claimed it had spent no money on lobbying. The group has hired a lawyer to help it comply with all laws and regulations."

But Shulman's statement to the paper of record is the icing on this rancid cake-underscoring the extent to which a conspiracy existed between EDC and her LDC: "Ms. Shulman, borough president from 1986 to 2001, provides a starkly different account. “We hired lobbyists from the time we began, because we were told it was something we were supposed to be doing,” she said." (emphasis added)

So this entire development is a house of cards, built on dissembling and conspiracy to defraud the tax payers and the property owners. Our properties were put at risk by an illegal scheme and we were forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect our Constitutionally protected rights against a municipality and its front group engaged in activities that were rife with fraud. We demand, and fully expect, that the Bloomberg administration will institute the proper corrective actions.