From the NY Times:
In late 2006, as the Bloomberg administration girded for what promised to be a bruising rezoning fight over the Willets Point section of Queens, it enlisted the help of Claire Shulman, the former Queens borough president.
At a meeting in City Hall that December, Ms. Shulman and Daniel L. Doctoroff, then a deputy mayor, agreed to form a nonprofit group with city and private money. Its primary purpose, Ms. Shulman said, would be to lobby on behalf of the mayor’s plan to turn the long-neglected area near the New York Mets stadium into a thriving hub of shops, hotels, condominiums and a convention center.
The group, the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation, eventually received hundreds of thousands of dollars in public and private money, and spent much of it to help push the plan through the City Council.
It hired the Parkside Group, one of the city’s best-known lobbying firms. It brought in the Glover Park Group, the powerful political consulting firm, to bolster its media campaign. And Ms. Shulman, as the organization’s president, made countless personal appeals, promising to meet with every member of the City Council as it prepared to vote on the plan last fall.
“That was the whole idea,” Ms. Shulman said in an interview. “The idea I had with Dan Doctoroff was that we would help the city do what the mayor wanted, to clear Willets Point and develop it in the best interest of the city, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do.” In other words, Ms. Shulman added, “We lobbied the city for the city.”
Local development corporations like Ms. Shulman’s have been around for decades. Ranging from tiny neighborhood groups to giant quasi-public agencies like the city’s Economic Development Corporation, these loosely regulated organizations are designed to encourage businesses and industry to invest in local areas.
But one thing they are not supposed to do is lobby.
State law says local development corporations are not permitted to “influence legislation by propaganda or otherwise.” Ms. Shulman’s group eventually reported spending $450,000, roughly half its total budget, on lobbying, city records show.
Half the group’s revenues came from the Economic Development Corporation, which is also barred from lobbying. The other half came from corporate sponsors, including the Mets organization, which has long eyed the property, and several developers and construction firms that are expected to vie for lucrative redevelopment contracts when the city puts out requests for proposals in coming months.
The group, known as Willets Point United, has asked Andrew M. Cuomo, the state attorney general, to investigate the organization’s lobbying efforts.
“They knew what they were doing,” said Gerald Antonacci, the leader of Willets Point United and the president of Crown Container, one of the area’s more than 250 companies that will be required to move when construction begins. “This was all planned out. They knew she was hiring lobbyists. This wasn’t a mistake.”
The attorney general’s office is reviewing the complaint. In recent months, the office has been looking into lobbying by local development corporations, and has identified a “small but not insignificant set” of groups that appear to be improperly lobbying, said a person briefed on the attorney general’s initial review.
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.
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.
Ms. Shulman, an 83-year-old veteran of Queens politics, seemed a natural ally for the city. After retiring from office, she remained well regarded in the community and continued to serve on various boards. And she had long had her sights on Willets Point.
As borough president in the early 1990s, Ms. Shulman rejected as shortsighted a city economic development study that said development would flourish on its own if the city provided sewers and basic services to the area.
Instead, she proposed her own plan, which included a pavilion for international trade.
But like various redevelopment plans dating back to the era of Robert Moses, who unsuccessfully sought to turn the area into a park and parking lot for the 1964 World’s Fair, her vision went unrealized.
Harry Giannoulis, president of the Parkside Group, which lobbying records show got $125,000, said Ms. Shulman hired it to lobby, among other duties.
So to recap:
Claire not only admits that she illegally lobbied but that she was told to do so by Bloomberg's deputy mayor (who later left to work for Bloomberg LP).
Parkside backs her up on this.
EDC denies everything.
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating and he's rumored to be running for governor next year so he may actually do something about this.
A Federal investigation is sure to come.
And one more thing...
THIS IS WHY BLOOMBERG DOESN'T WANT PUBLIC AUTHORITIES REFORM.
(See previous post.)
Photo from Times Ledger