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Ratner’s Kruger connection! Bruce had dealings with arrested senator

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The biggest developer in the borough — whose Atlantic Yards project is the biggest in Brooklyn history — is now linked to the biggest pay-to-play story in years.

Federal wiretaps show that a lobbyist for Forest City Ratner, which is building the Barclays Center arena as part of the 16-tower apartment and retail complex, paid hundreds of thousands in bribes to state Sen. Carl Kruger (D–Brighton Beach), the former Finance Committee powerhouse.

The lobbyist, Richard Lipsky, was charged by federal prosecutors with Kruger and several others last week, for his role in the scandal, which included funneling $252,000 to Kruger, who in turn provided state funding to projects being developed by Forest City and other clients.

No one from Forest City was indicated or charged — and it is unclear if the company knew what Lipsky was allegedly doing.

But Forest City Vice President Bruce Bender was caught on the federal wiretap negotiating with Kruger, who has steered millions in state money to the $4-billion project.

“I love you. I really do, actually,” Bender told Kruger on Dec. 28, 2010, after the senator pledged to allocate $4 million to the project, plus $500,000 for the Lakeside Center in Prospect Park.

Forest City isn’t officially involved in that project, which will restore several acres of parkland and replace the Wollman skating rink, but Bender’s wife is a member of the Prospect Park Alliance’s Board of Directors, and the couple lives in Park Slope.

Calls to the Alliance for comment were not returned. The New York Post reported that the Alliance has not received Kruger’s would-be donation and don’t expect it anytime soon now that Kruger’s been arrested. A member of the board of directors told the Post that Bender embarrassed the Alliance by hitting up Kruger for the cash.

“He has dragged our name through the mud,” the unnamed Alliance member said.

Bender had asked Kruger for much more, prosecutors say:

• $9 million in state money to replace the Carlton Avenue bridge, which was demolished as part of the arena construction.

• $2 million for the Four Sparrows Retail Center, which Forest City is developing in Mill Basin.

• $4 million for the Lakeside project.

That’s where the haggling began: Kruger told Bender he couldn’t have it all.

“Kruger told [Bender] that he had to choose what project he wanted to get done because [Bender] was asking for ‘about $12 million worth of projects’ and ‘they’re not all going to get done,’ ” the complaint states.

“The bridge is out,” Kruger told Bender. “There is $4 million in total. What do you want done?”

The news didn’t sit well with Bender.

“This is bad,” Bender said, asking Kruger to ask Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson for more money.

Kruger said there was no more money and asked Bender to put the bridge project of his mind — but in the casual way close friends often speak to each other.

“I guess the park, f—k the bridge,” Kruger said.

Bender agreed.

“I don’t mind f—king the bridge, [but] I can’t f—k it right now,” Bender said. “I need to leverage that bridge.”

Upon hearing that Lipsky was arrested, Forest City fired the 63-year-old lobbyist.

“Forest City Ratner Companies appears as an unnamed developer in the complaint because of [Lipsky’s] alleged activities and also because our head of Government Affairs had several conversations with the state Senator regarding two projects in Brooklyn,” said company spokesman Joe DePlasco. “The complaint in no way says or suggests that we behaved in an inappropriate manner.”

For years, Forest City has been paying Lipsky $4,000 a month to help line up legislative support for its many real estate development projects. Lipsky was paid an additional $2,750 a month to promote the Atlantic Yards project.

Updated 1:38 pm, March 16, 2011: Includes information about the Prospect Park Alliance.
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Reader Feedback

Norman Oder from Brooklyn says:
I reported on the Kruger/FCR connection beginning March 10; the Times had a story March 11.

One key issue, unmentioned in the story above, is that FCR was said by the Empire State Development Corporation to assume the remaining $16 million obligation to fund the bridge. Instead, the developer tried to get the state to pay.

http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2011/03/two-unanswered-questions-in-kruger-case.html
March 16, 2011, 6:24 am
Daniel Goldstein from P. Slope says:
“The complaint in no way says or suggests that we behaved in an inappropriate manner.”

Really? Is f--king the bridge, aka screwing the public what Joey Deplasco would call appropriate behavior?
March 16, 2011, 7:28 am
Joey from Clinto Hills says:
payoffs to politicians seems to be business-as-usual for Ratner. This house of cards will fall!
March 16, 2011, 10:58 am
Ace from New Utrecht says:
Quack Quack

"No one from Forest City was indicated or charged "

"For years, Forest City has been paying Lipsky $4,000 a month to help line up legislative support for its many real estate development projects. Lipsky was paid an additional $2,750 a month to promote the Atlantic Yards project."

“The complaint in no way says or suggests that we behaved in an inappropriate manner.”
March 16, 2011, 11:49 am
Nate from Ft. Greene says:
Somehow FCR never gets investigated, no matter how many bribery investigations in which it's mentioned as "Developer Number 1." Why? Because they have BILLIONS of dollars to tie up anything in court forever! Instead, they just shovel their "lobbyists" under the bus. Like Richard Lipsky, who clearly had this coming.

But now an FCR VP,employee BRUCE BENDER, is on tape negotiating with Kruger! Or is it just time to throw him under the bus too?

Somebody rat out this corrupt organization NOW!
March 16, 2011, 1:01 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I find it an irony that Kruger was against the Columbia expansion and Willets Point, but was all in favor of the Atlantic Yards. What was so special about this one? It could have been because it was going to be in Brooklyn, where he lives. I am not surprised that any politician that supports Ratner gets endorsed by him for being a good friend in helping him get his way. I hope that this can lead to hammering a nail in the coffin for that project and stop the Nets move to Brooklyn altogether.
March 16, 2011, 6:50 pm

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