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"Why should people get to see plans? This isn't a public project."
Bruce Ratner in Crain's Nov. 8, 2009

Ratner Advocate, Former NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, Defends Her Developer Chum

This story tells you everything you need to know about politics in New York City where the most strident advocacy the city's former Public Advocate has done is in defense of her power elite buddy Bruce Ratner and his development firm.

Betsy Gotbaum the former toothless NYC Public Advocate and perhaps the most ineffectual elected official in world history has penned a ludicrous Times letter to the editor in defense of her chum Bruce Ratner after Times columnist Michael Powell last week had the temerity to point out the developer is involved in two federal indictments. Powell wrote, "The Brooklyn and Yonkers cases are not simply about wayward politicians. The cases share an intriguing tie to the developer Bruce Ratner, who in project after project deploys lobbyists and politicians to change zoning ordinances and chase down rich packets of subsidies."

Powell then wonders aloud how Ratner, whose development firm and chief lobbyist Bruce Bender are clearly at the center of and the beneficiary of the Yonkers Ridge Hill bribe(s) that led to the indictments that go to trial in the coming weeks, has managed to walk "between the legal raindrops."

How dare he, this Powell, is the summation of the former Public Advocate's letter. We have no idea what Gotbaum was up to as Public Advocate (though she said she opposed eminent domain she supported Atlantic Yards because the developer, her trusted friend, told her he "would not use eminent domain"), and we certainly don't know what she has been up to since, but clearly she has at the very least continued to schmooze with chums such as Bruce Ratner. We don't remember her doing any meaningful public advocacy as Public Advocate but she sure hopped to it as Ratner Advocate when Ratner called.

We can imagine the phone calls Bruce made after Powell's column:

Betsy? It's Bruce. Did you see how nasty that Powell guy was to me in the paper? Could you...er, maybe, write a letter to the editor?

Sure Bruce. But just want to make sure, did you do anything wrong?

Nope. Thanks Bets! Any chance you could get Mayor Bloo—

Don't push it Bruce.

Wouldn't it be fascinating to see the list of those chums of Bruce's who were wise enough not to oblige him?

Here's the former Public Advocate's letter to the editor:

Praise for a Developer
To the Editor:

I disagree with Michael Powell ("A Developer Between Legal Clouds," Gotham column, Jan. 10) that two bribery investigations with ties to the developer Bruce Ratner and his company, Forest City Ratner, suggest misdeeds on his part.

More important, the professional investigators have not found that the company or its employees behaved in an illegal manner.

While I do agree that we have an unprecedented amount of corruption among elected officials, lobbyists and others, you cannot and should not assume that a developer is guilty of the same behavior because, well, he's a developer.

As a former New York City public advocate and during many years in public service, I have had the honor to work with Mr. Ratner. He has always demonstrated the highest ethical standards and behavior. As consumer affairs commissioner and as a developer, he has worked to improve the city and help those with greatest needs.

New York, Jan. 11, 2012

Oh, professional investigators haven't found Ratner behaving in an "illegal manner?" That must mean Ratner Ratner has the "highest ethical standards." And since Ratner's firm is the beneficiary of the bribe at the heart of the Ridge Hill indictment—yet only the briber who received a no-show job with Forest City after the bribee city councilwoman flipped her no vote and the bribee have been indicted—perhaps the former Public Advocate would understand that maybe, just maybe, the "professional" investigators got Bruce Bender to speak in order to indict the Yonkers councilwoman and/or that there just wasn't enough evidence to indict Bender and/or federal prosecutors prefer nabbing the politicians over the connected developers. But we are not surprised that the former Public Advocate with subpoena powers who never issued a single subpoena isn't exactly the sharpest legal beagle in the kennel.

As for Bruce Ratner's ethical standards we could spend all day transcribing a litany of his unethical behavior but we won't. We'll just point to the latest one in the press, the fact that years after promised Ratner has not hired an independent compliance monitor (ICM) to hold the developer accountable for the commitments he made in the "Community Benefit Agreement" which including the hiring of that monitor.

It was that noted ethicist Bruce Ratner who said in 2007, "Atlantic Yards is setting a new standard for inclusion and community involvement for a development, and the ICM will be everyone's watchdog to ensure we reach all of the goals and benefits we have agreed to in the CBA."

As for working "to improve the city and help those with greatest needs," Gotbaum must have different definitions for those words than conventionally held. Is a billion dollar money-losing arena surrounded by a once thriving now demolished neighborhood and future parking lots in the middle of housing crisis an improvement for the city and helpful to those with the greatest needs? Only if one consider's Ratner to be the one with those greatest needs.

Finally, Gotbaum wrote, "While I do agree that we have an unprecedented amount of corruption among elected officials, lobbyists and others, you cannot and should not assume that a developer is guilty of the same behavior because, well, he's a developer. "

Does she not realize that the corruption plaguing politicians, lobbyists and others is frequently in the service of developers such as Ratner? Of course she does. But one should not assume that just because one is called a Public Advocate doesn't mean that one is doing public advocacy.

To come out of the woodwork to defend the ethics of one of the most ethically challenged developers around is just plain astounding...but its what you do for an ol' chum.

Posted: 1.18.12
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