February 14th starts the federal corruption trial involving Bruce Ratner's Ridge Hill project in Yonkers, in which his now-former top lobbyist Bruce Bender is the unnamed and unindicted co-conspirator in a case where the briber and the bribee were indicted while the beneficiary of the bribe, Bruce Ratner's firm, wasn't.
On the eve of the trial's start The Times's columnist Michael Powell's second column on the Ratner ties to the trial pulls no punches. Powell is the first mainstream journalist, as far as we can tell, to pull the mask off Bruce Ratner and his "left-liberal" abettors such as former public advocate Betsy Gotbaum:
Here's where Powell's column gets real interesting:
Tracking the Tentacles of Corruption
By Michael Powell. The New York Times
YONKERS — A tang of corruption has settled on the hills and valleys of Westchester.
On Friday, former State Senator Nicholas A. Spano, scion of the county's most powerful family, took a legal bullet, acknowledging in federal court that, yes, yes, he tried to sidestep paying taxes. His affect — he joked with reporters before entering court — suggested he might have expected worse. And this week, the curtain rises on a political bribery trial in Manhattan. It might appear a strictly Off Broadway production, as federal prosecutors ensnared a Democratic former Yonkers councilwoman, Sandy Annabi, and a couple of obscure operatives close to Mr. Spano.
But the trial is tantalizing for where its tentacles extend — linking political corruption in Westchester to that in Brooklyn, and touching on the curious fashion in which real estate developers pursue their chosen game.
Important details are shadowed in pretrial murk. Ms. Annabi stands accused of taking bribes to cast deciding votes for two large developments in Yonkers. But in the largest of these developments, Bruce Ratner's 81-acre Ridge Hill project, prosecutors have not said how much money was forked over.
Read the full column.
All of which brings us to the role of the politically wired developer, whose projects are catnip to politicians. No prosecutor has implied that Mr. Ratner or his aides played a corrupt role. In Brooklyn, where he has a 22-acre development known as the Atlantic Yards, he was mentioned in the corruption case last year that toppled a Brooklyn Democratic power, State Senator Carl Kruger. Prosecutors called Mr. Ratner "Developer No. 1." In Yonkers, he appears in Ms. Annabi's indictment as "Developer No. 2."
After I wrote last month of Mr. Ratner's entanglements, several left-liberal sorts, not least former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, wrote to object that I had besmirched a fine fellow. The developer is a patron of liberal causes. He has set aside a significant number of apartments in his Atlantic Yards project for working-class tenants.
Much of this is true, as is this: Mr. Ratner wrangled $726 million in subsidies and benefits from the city and state, and he fights for even more by the week. (He was the developer of The New York Times building.) His willingness to tuck affordable apartments into his gleaming towers is perhaps a reasonable political tradeoff rather than a testament to his character.
Mr. Ratner relies, too, on phalanxes of former top officials to make his case. The less polite might call them fixers. So he hired Bruce Bender, a former top City Council aide and south Brooklyn Democratic power, as his senior vice president, and put Scott Cantone, a former Giuliani aide, in another post.
In Yonkers, which now resembles nothing so much as "Chinatown" by the Hudson, word is that at least one of Mr. Ratner's aides could take the witness stand and testify about events that could prove deeply embarrassing.