A Sheldon Silver Mystery: Did He Betray New York Renters?

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York When New York enacted a major rent regulation law in 2011, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver celebrated the passage of the legislation as a victory over real estate interests.“Despite fierce and well-financed opposition to working families in New York City, we were able to secure important victories for tenants,” he said at the time.But the bribery case against Silver unveiled by prosecutors last week raises questions about whether Silver pulled his punches in negotiations on that 2011 bill, potentially at the expense of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who live in rent stabilized apartments.A little-scrutinized section of the criminal complaint alleges a luxury developer implicated in the Silver bribery scheme requested changes to the law. The changes were ultimately adopted.The complaint has tenant advocates who lobbied on the bill, known as the Rent Act of 2011, wondering what really happened. For now, it’s a mystery: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara hasn’t specified what change Silver made on behalf of a developer who was part of the alleged bribery scheme.“It’s hugely important,” says Benjamin Dulchin of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development. “I hope Preet Bharara tells us someday.”The complaint itself provides only a bit of detail.With the legislation pending, it says, “the Lobbyists met, on behalf of Developer 1, with Silver in his State office to advocate for certain proposed terms for the new Real Estate Legislation. The legislation that was enacted included Developer 1’s recommendations in substantial part.”“Developer 1” is widely reported to be Glenwood Management, the politically influential firm of centenarian developer Leonard Litwin.So what might Glenwood have wanted out of the legislation?The heart of the fight that year centered on rent regulation, which limits rent increases on about a million units in New York City, including some of Glenwood’s. The state law governing rent regulation comes up for renewal periodically.Landlords can deregulate apartments and begin charging market-rate rents under certain circumstances, such as when an apartment becomes vacant and its rent passes a threshold, at the time $2,000. As a result, over 200,000 units have become deregulated over the past 30 years. In the 2011 negotiations, tenant advocates wanted to stem the flow of units out of the program by tightening the rules. Another focal point was the formula that governs how much landlords can raise rent on regulated apartments when they invest money in improvements.There were other matters the legislation dealt with that could have been of interest to Glenwood Management, including tax exemptions for new development. The firm did not respond to a request for comment.Silver has said he will be vindicated when the case is aired in court. His lawyers did not respond to a request for comment.The ultimate rent deal struck in 2011 among Silver, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the state Senate did not please tenant advocates.“Both Cuomo and Silver tried to spin the 2011 bill as a great victory for tenants when in fact there were very minor improvements,” says Michael McKee, the treasurer of the Tenants Political Action Committee, who lobbied on the bill.He says even at the time—long before the alleged bribery scheme between Silver and the developer was known—it wasn’t clear where exactly Silver stood.“Silver was not forthcoming about what he was working to achieve,” McKee says. “Silver always presented himself as pro-tenant, but who knows what happened behind closed doors?”While Silver is seen as more pro-tenant than many others in Albany, including Republicans in the state Senate, tenant advocates have long viewed him as an unreliable ally.The New York Times story reporting the eleventh hour deal on the 2011 law noted that it fell “well short of what many Democrats and tenant activists had hoped for.” Silver was also quoted saying it was time to stop fighting for a stronger package. “I think the days of pushing are over,” Silver said.In last week’s criminal complaint, prosecutors also quote an internal memo from an unnamed real estate developer association.  The memo concluded “in connection with the 2011 rent regulation reauthorization that Silver was considerably more favorable to the real estate industry than expected.” The memo said that “though he may never be the owners advocate, given that the Governor wanted [certain proposals] off the table and wanted to restore his reputation with tenants, it would appear that he (Silver) could have successfully pushed for more.”If the Silver case goes to trial, prosecutors will likely have to flesh out the episode.“Some more favorable treatment specifically by Mr. Silver towards the developers in question will have to be proven, something more concrete than speculation that he was less unfavorable towards the real estate industry in general than he could have been,” says Robert Walker, a government ethics law specialist at Wiley Rein.Have information about this story or a tip? 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Wawrinka through to last four Down Under

first_imgShe defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets overnight to book her place in the last four. He defeated Jo Wilfred Tsonga in straight sets and could now face Roger Federer for a place in the final.The former world number one takes on Mischa Zverev in his quarter-final later this morning.Earlier Venus Williams qualified for the women’s semi-finals for the first time in 14 years.last_img

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Virat Kohlis Pakistani fans bail plea dismissed

first_imgFrom M ZulqernainLahore, Feb 19 (PTI) Notwithstanding a police clean chit, a Pakistani court has dismissed the bail plea of a young die-hard fan of ace cricketer Virat Kohli who was arrested on treason charges for hoisting the Indian flag atop his home.Umar Daraz, a 22-year-old Kohli lookalike, is facing an imprisonment of up to 10 years for hoisting the Indian flag atop his house in Okara district in Punjab province.District court judge Anique Anwar announced his verdict yesterday.”We are disappointed and will challenge the decision in the sessions court,” said Darazs counsel Aamir Bhatti.Police officer Aziz Cheema told reporters he had said in his report that no evidence was found that Daraz committed “treason”.However, the judge dismissed his bail plea.Daraz, a tailor by profession, was arrested from his house on January 25 in a village about 200 kilometres from Lahore. The police registered an FIR against him under section 123-A of Pakistan Penal Code and 16 Maintenance of Public Order.The section 123-A (acts of damaging the sovereignty of the country) carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in jail or fine or both.Earlier Bhatti told the court that his client was innocent as he hoisted the Indian flag only to support his favourite cricketer who was playing against Australia at the time.He said Daraz committed the mistake without knowing the implications. “This is not a case in which someone was hoisting the flag of any country for its love. During football World Cup matches people here used to hoist Brazil and Argentina flags and nobody minds it because the gesture is seen in a sports perspective. This is a similar case.”advertisement”I am a big fan of Virat Kohli. I support the Indian team because of Kohli. Hoisting of Indian flag on the rooftop of my house only shows my love for the Indian cricketer,” Daraz had said.He said he had no idea that he committed a crime, urging the authorities to pardon him as he should be seen as “an Indian cricketers fan and not as a spy.”Large photographs of Kohli were found on the walls of Darazs house. He was arrested the day India beat Australia in a T20 match and Kohli was adjudged man of the match.Some civil society activists and journalists have raised their voice for his release and termed his gesture purely that of a sports lover. PTI MZ ABH AKJ ABHlast_img read more

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