Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Silverstein Places Big Bet on Spitzer Over Ground Zero

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 07:38:26 -0500
From: "Tenant" tenant@tenant.net
Subject: Spitzer the developer

NB - Sure, Pataki is horrible and Suozzi (even if he has a chance) hasn't said anything to warm our hearts, but Spitzer's background and record -- when it comes to issues surrounding tenants and preservation of neighborhoods -- is questionable.

He failed to take a position on the WS stadium until after it was all over and has said he supports Hudson Yards. I don't know if he has opined on Eminent Domain or on Atlantic Yards, but look at some of his campaign contributors below (Witkoff, Durst, Milstein, etc), all of whom have major projects planned for the West Side, and the prospects are frightening.

As for tenant protections, I can't recall him every doing anything substantial to protect tenants' rights in his eight years in office.

So even if he has a lock on the election, intense scrutiny and pressure are more than warranted.

(and while it hasn't really been mentioned, Silverstein's money for the WTC site mostly came from Lloyd Goldman, one of NYC's worst landlords).

New York Sun
March 21, 2006 Edition > Section: New York > Printer-Friendly Version

Silverstein Places Big Bet on Spitzer Over Ground Zero
BY DAVID LOMBINO - Staff Reporter of the Sun
March 21, 2006
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/29467

Larry Silverstein, the developer who has had a public clash with Governor Pataki over plans for building at ground zero, is preparing himself for the post-Pataki era in Albany by reaching out to the camp of Eliot Spitzer, the Democrat who hopes to succeed Mr. Pataki.

The next governor of New York, who will be elected in November and take office in January, will have an extraordinary amount of influence on what develops at ground zero.

Real estate experts say it was with that in mind that Silverstein Properties recently retained a lobbyist and political consultant, Roberto Ramirez. Mr. Ramirez, a former state assemblyman and leader of the Bronx Democratic Party, now heads the Mirram Group. He is a former political adviser to Mr. Spitzer and is said to have a close relationship with him. It is Mr. Ramirez who reportedly engineered Mr. Spitzer's early endorsement of another Mirram client, Fernando Ferrer, in last year's mayoral primary.

The suggestion is that Mr. Silverstein is looking past Mr. Pataki to a new negotiating partner.

The director of the Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College, Henry Wollman, said: "The state is in the middle of these issues in a formidable way."

"Someone as smart as Larry Silverstein may feel that he may do better with a new administration," Mr. Wollman said. "It would not surprise me if there were a strategy in the back of his mind."

A senior fellow at the Fiscal Policy Institute, David Dyssegaard Kallick, who follows ground zero, said: "It seems to me that the lease has to be renegotiated. How much gets done now and in the next nine months, and how much after that, is an open question.

"As it gets closer to the election, clearly the dynamics at the site will change," he continued.

The developer, the state, the city, and the Port Authority are at an impasse over how to redevelop the site. Negotiations between Mr. Silverstein and the Port Authority broke off last Tuesday night. Officials for the Port Authority said they would release a new proposal this week.

If negotiations are deadlocked until next year or a drawn-out legal battle ensues, then the next governor could be pivotal in renegotiating the current lease. The new governor also will have the right to appoint six of his own representatives as commissioners of the Port Authority, the bi-state agency that owns ground zero.

Mr. Silverstein has a 99-year lease on the site.

A spokesman for Silverstein Properties, Bud Perrone of the public relations firm Rubenstein Communications, said: "The Mirram Group was recently retained to serve as part of the team that is working to communicate Larry Silverstein's commitment to New York, as well as his ability to rebuild the World Trade Center and help ensure downtown's future as a dynamic, mixed-use district."

He said, "They were brought in to work with us in the here and now."

Mr. Spitzer has said there has been a "profound failure of leadership" on the redevelopment of the former World Trade Center site, but he has yet to lay out a detailed plan of his vision for the 16-acre area in Lower Manhattan.

Neither of the leading Republican challengers, William Weld and John Faso, has presented strong opinions on the future of ground zero.

Mr. Spitzer's main Democratic challenger, Thomas Suozzi, recently said he backed Mayor Bloomberg's proposal for more residential development at ground zero, but that point does not seem critical now to the negotiations, which could lead to a complete rearrangement of development rights on the site or even a buyout of Mr. Silverstein.

In an interview last month, Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff predicted "in the short run a flurry of activity to advance projects before the governor leaves office, and that is a good thing."

Mr. Spitzer, whose father was a developer, has already received large contributions from the city's biggest real estate developers, who could be betting with Mr. Silverstein that Mr. Spitzer will soon take over from Mr. Pataki.

According to the state's campaign finance records, developer Stephen Ross of Vornado Realty Trust, one of the city's most active firms, gave Mr. Spitzer $25,000 last May. The attorney general's campaign received $20,000 from the Witkoff Group, about $20,000 from the Durst family, about $10,000 from a Queens builder, Muss Development, and more than $100,000 from members of the Milstein family.

The Mirram Group has given about 20% of the $43,000 it has doled out in state races since 1999 to Mr. Spitzer's campaign for governor.

Mr. Kallick, of the Fiscal Policy Institute, said that Mr. Spitzer may be more willing to scratch plans for the Freedom Tower, which is widely known to be Mr. Pataki's creation. Many real estate experts now say it is the least commercially attractive building slated for the site.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that it doesn't make economic sense and that Silverstein doesn't want to build it," Mr. Kallick said. "There is a good chance the next governor is going to be deciding these key issues."

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