As Preet Bharara probes Albany corruption, will his investigations roll up to REBNY ?

By LOUIS FLORES

Before U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara asked that the now-shuttered corruption fighting panel known as the Moreland Commission preserve its investigation files, prior to eventually taking possession of the files, the panel had been probing the influential Real Estate Board of New York, according to a report by Zack Fink.  

Mr. Fink's report had been preceded by a bombshell report published by The New York Times, in which it was revealed that Lawrence Schwartz, the former hand of the governor, personally interfered with the workings of the Moreland Commission to thwart, amongst other actions, the issuance of a subpoena to the powerful board, known as REBNY.  Ultimately, after Mr. Schwartz's action, no subpoena was ever sent by the Moreland Commission to REBNY. 

As U.S. Attorney Bharara continues his prosecution of political and campaign corruption, a common denominator points to wealthy campaign contributors, who are members of REBNY, chief amongst them, Leonard Litwin, the owner of Glenwood Management.  For example, Mr. Litwin has funneled approximately $1 million to Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-New York) through a series of limited liability companies.

Mr. Litwin's influence also extends to City Hall.  

Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City), who has received large campaign contributions from real estate firms, which had been reported targets of investigation by the now defunct Moreland Commission, had appointed Mr. Litwin's to the city's unsuccessful 2016 Democratic National Convention host committee.

Another real estate development corporation that is a member of REBNY, Extell Development Company, has reportedly been the target of an investigation by U.S. Attorney Bharara's office over the developer's receipt of beneficial 421-a tax breaks.  The tax breaks were granted by special state law as the developer was making large campaign contributions to elected officials with the power to approve the special state law.

As previously reported by Progress Queens, information obtained by Progress Queens indicated that federal authorities had to review whether Mayor de Blasio may have had any role in the Extell tax break, as well.  Principals or employees of Extell had collectively made over $18,000 in campaign contributions to Mayor de Blasio's successful 2013 campaign committee.  Extell also benefited from support by Mayor de Blasio, when he was a municipal legislator, that granted approval for the controversial use of "poor doors" for affordable housing tenants in some of Extell's residential developments.

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