Lobbyist details Sheldon Silver's June 2011 rent laws renewal Glenwood shaped with grease of donations

By LOUIS FLORES

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Lower East Side) allegedly conformed the June 2011 renewal of rent regulations, including in respect of the controversial 421-a tax abatement program, to the lobbying of real estate giant, Glenwood Management, according to a report filed by the journalist Colby Hamilton for POLITICO New York.

The package of June 2011 rent laws renewal, adopted by the state legislature, included two provisions that Glenwood Management was willing to accept, according to Mr. Hamilton's report :

"They would accept the threshold for ending rent regulation on an individual apartment to increase from $2,000 to $2,500 a month, and for the luxury deregulation related to a tenant's yearly income to be raised from $175,000 to $200,000 a year."

Glenwood Management's lobbying position, made known to Assemblymember Silver, was in contravention to the position of the landlord-lobbying group, the Rent Stabilization Association, according to Mr. Hamilton's report.

The revelations, made in trial testimony in the federal corruption trial against Assemblymember Silver, point to the possible influence of money in politics.

Even though the lawyer, Richard Runes, was known to lobby the former Assembly speaker on behalf of Glenwood Management, Assemblymember Silver nonetheless attempted to solicit campaign contributions from Glenwood Management to benefit the state's Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee, a state Democratic Party committee fundraising account used to augment Assemblymembers' election efforts.

When Mr. Runes initially offered to ask Glenwood Management to make a potential contribution of $25,000, Assemblymember Silver allegedly countered that Glenwood should contribute $125,000.  In due course, five of Glenwood Management's limited liability company affiliates each made $25,000 campaign contributions to the state party committee account.  

In the background, Assemblymember Silver was earning lucrative legal referral fees from work that Glenwood Management had engaged to be done by the law firm of Goldberg & Iryami, P.C.  Federal prosecutors have alleged that the law firm reportedly paid $700,000 in referral fees to Assemblymember Silver, monies that have been characterized as "undisclosed bribes and kickbacks," according to a report broadcast by WNBC-Channel 4 News.

During negotiations in June 2011, key nonprofit tenant advocacy groups demonstrated at the state capitol, pressing for greater gains for tenants of rent-regulated apartments.  Two state legislators, Assemblymember José Rivera (D-The Bronx) and State Senator Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan), were arrested in an act of civil disobedience on June 6, 2011, for having participated in a sit-in outside the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-New York), according to a report filed by the journalist Thomas Kaplan at that time then and published by The New York Times.  Notwithstanding the public protest machinations of key nonprofit tenant advocacy groups and state legislators, former Speaker Silver and Glenwood Management's lobbyists were hashing out the final version of the rent laws renewal that month in a manner that was completely independent of tenant advocacy efforts -- all because of the reported influence of Glenwood Management's expected campaign donations to the state party committee account. 

In a statement made to Progress Queens, John Fisher, the founder of TenantNet, a tenant resource Web site, wrote, "Sheldon Silver's marriage with Glenwood Management and developer Leonard Litwin should not be seen as a mere footnote to his ongoing corruption trial.  Indeed, what Silver did over several rent law renewal cycles was :  a) the gutting of rent regulation with vacancy decontrol in 1997 and beyond, and b) the supercharging of the 421-a tax abatements, making development of luxury towers that much easier for developers." 

Mr. Fisher added, "The two work together.  Luxury development of that sort would not likely occur in an atmosphere of strong rent regulation, and tax abatements and the Bloomberg/de Blasio Inclusionary Zoning bulk bonuses give developers huge incentives to force long-term tenants out."

Trial testimony by Mr. Runes, the Glenwood Management lobbyist, is expected to resume on Monday, according to a report filed by the journalist Susanne Craig for The New York Times.

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