$weetest deal for Domino lobbyists

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A development firm hoping to build nine luxury condo towers on the Williamsburg waterfront has paid lobbyists more than a half-million dollars to convince city officials to approve its plan.

Over the past two years, Community Preservation Corporation paid the firm Herrick Feinstein at least $537,000 to prod the city to OK the zoning change necessary to build the $1.2-billion, 2,400-unit project on an 11-acre Domino Sugar site currently set aside for manufacturing.

The rezoning application is pending.

Lloyd Kaplan, a spokesman for CPC, told The Brooklyn Paper that lobbying is “a necessary function of doing business with the city” for developers.

“It’s as essential to development as a blueprint,” Kaplan said. “And what New York City calls lobbying, other places call lawyering. The city takes a very broad view on who has to register as a lobbyist.

“Herrick Feinstein is doing legal work that relates to the rezoning and development process,” he added. “These are land-use lawyers who have the skills needed to navigate the complexities of the city’s land-use policy. They’re not influence peddlers.”

Perhaps, but Herrick Feinsten does boast on its Web site about how its “network of government contacts” helps secure “land-use permits” for clients.

And New York Public Interest Research Group lawyer and spokesman Gene Russianoff says lobbyists often exploit connections with the government offices they are paid to lobby.

“It’s a sad fact of New York life that developers feel like they have to hire lobbyists to dot their i’s and cross their t’s on their paperwork, especially the ones that use their former connections with city government to influence decisions,” Russianoff said. “The community, by contrast, often doesn’t have the resources or the connections to hire lobbyists and it creates the feeling of a David and Goliath situation.”

Before its latest lobbying work, Herrick Feinstein helped grease the wheels for Muss Development’s 850-unit Oceana Condominium and Club in Brighton Beach, where two-bedroom condos start at $680,000 and three-bedroom penthouses go for as much as $1.9 million. Muss shelled out more than $237,000 in lobbying fees to Herrick Feinstein from 2000–2005.

Those lobbying figures pale by comparison to Forest City Ratner, which spent more than $2 million to lobby state and local officials to support the Atlantic Yards project in 2006, state records show.

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Reader Feedback

Mike says:
Lobbying is simply a way to get the attention of city officials. That Domino plant was significantly less valuable to the city than housing will be. Moreover, it was more an eye sore. Who in that community would rather have that disgusting old manufacturing plant (that, to my knowledge, is not employing local resident) over new condos to house those who work in New York.

Lobbying is a big part of government and it is how to get the ear of the local government. Yes, people spend a lot on lobbying. But the value of speaking with government officials is priceless. These corporations do not have as many votes as the public, and if the change was that significant, the local representatives should be voted out of office for not preventing it from happening. Good luck.
Oct. 6, 2007, 10:10 pm

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