by Suzanne Eovaldi
Andrew Cuomo, who received $150,000 from developers looking to build out billionaire towers of new condos, was the biggest recipient of cash donations to his political pockets in Albany horse trading. (1) “Overall, …four companies gave more than $1.5 million to state elected officials, political parties, and real estate PACs between 2008 and 2012.” The question must be asked: Was an uncomfortable discussion of politically connected cash cows the real reason the Governor shut down his own, appointed group of state investigators called the Moreland Commission? As Sheldon Silver slides out of Albany this week, will Cuomo’s currency take a hit as well?
Two years ago the Cuomo, Silver, Albany group “‘quietly passed” huge tax breaks for a new, big bucks real estate expansion of luxury condo towers, real estate and commercial enterprises using the 421 passageway, even though New York’s homeless may never see any affordable housing. Yet very wealthy types and coincidentally, generous donors to important politicians, may get subsidies they don’t actually need. The program, originally touted as a vehicle to require developers to set aside 20% of their new units for “affordable” housing for NY needy, is now said to have “outlived its usefulness and effectiveness, and now essentially subsidizes luxury housing.” (2) The staid WALL STREET JOURNAL is asking its own questions about the abruptly disbanded Moreland Commission: “Did Cuomo and/or his staff direct the Moreland Commission to not refer cases to the district attorney for prosecutions?” (3) The convenient device of attorney-client privilege precluded outside scrutiny, thus political steering, pay-play, and donor largesse remained hidden for many years.
Following are the five companies allegedly under scrutiny: One57, known as Billionaires’ Tower. “Extell and its principals, owners of One57, accounted for $229,262 of the 2012 total of “campaign contributions” to NY politicos. Owners of the two penthouses each selling for $90 million, will pay $2.4 million LESS in city taxes for ten years! (4) The Larry Silverstein Tower at 99 Church Street, 30 Park Place, and Thor Equities at 520 Fifth Ave. are also hoping to pick up on these huge tax breaks. But so far, not every developer has utilized 421. The fourth mega development involves sale by the NYSE of property it owned at 78-86 Trinity Place and 18-22 Thames Street, the latter slated for a tear-down to erect a 60 story luxury condo tower. (5) No information about building plans or tax benefits is available for the 109 Nassau Street property, being financed by NYS Housing Finance Agency. (6) Total lost property tax revenue on these ventures is not available because construction is not complete. But safe to estimate, for the next ten years, NY taxpayers will be picking up the tab by way of tax increases, decreased services and lost opportunities. The state is number one for highest taxes in the country.
Sheldon Silver was in Albany when all of this stuff walked through chambers, but as his fate now is in the hands of federal prosecutors, does the attention shift to Governor Andrew Cuomo? Shutting down the never before shut down subway system may not be as hard as shutting down scrutiny into how he conducts his business. Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara’s team allege Speaker Silver “used his secret affiliation with a small real estate legal firm, whose lead partner is his former Assembly counsel, to pocket at least $700,000 for steering property tax cases its way.” (7) Stay Tuned says the federal lawman as he has merged his investigation with Cuomo’s shuttered Moreland Commission. (Coming from the Chicago area, I might also suggest that the lawman ask for his own office stipend to re-locate to Mumbai for the duration; IOWs stay out of dark alleys, dark stair wells and by all means, hire a food taster.) “Very big people” now are in his crosshairs, and since Silver was the biggest guy in Albany, any and all other “people” must fall in line behind him. What an unbelievable hot mess, and the names of Democrat Party elites are all over it.
SOURCES: (1) (2) (4) http://metcouncilonhousing.org/news_and_issues/tenant_newspaper/2013/ju. (3) www.wsj.com/articles/federal-investigation-looks-at-cuomo-and-moreland-commission-referrals (5) (6) http://commercialobserver.com/2012/03/thor-closes-on-130-million-5th-avenue and http://ny.curbed.com/places/99-church-street http://ny.curbed.com/places/157-west-57th-street ( 7) NEW YORK POST, January 23, 2015, pg. 2.4 this file also provided info: http://www.nyshcr.org/assets/documents/100611HFAfinance&program. . .pdf