Friday, March 14, 2008

Influence Peddlers Cash In Big Time On Manhattan's West Side Properties

By Brian Kates Daily News Staff Writer

Politically wired influence peddlers pocketed more than $5 million from 2004 to last year from developers pushing plans to build a midtown metropolis on the borough's last major swath of available real estate.

A Daily News review of city, state and federal records uncovered a West Side gravy train funded by:
  • Madison Square Garden, which would move across Eighth Ave. into the western portion of what's now the Farley Post Office building.
  • Developers bidding on Hudson Yards, a huge residential and retail community planned to rise over the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's West Side railyards.
  • The Venture, a partnership of Steven Roth's Vornado Realty Trust and Stephen Ross' Related Companies, picked to transform the Farley Post Office at Eighth Ave. and 33rd St. into Moynihan Station to replace dingy Penn Station.
All those projects are on the drawing board at the same time. They involve extensive land-use review, zoning changes and approvals from multiple city, state and federal agencies — and they all need billions more to meet expected costs.

That spells a bonanza for lobbyists.

None of the West Side players has spent more on lobbyists than Madison Square Garden — $2.9 million on 14 companies since 2004, records show.

The Garden's army of lobbyists helped defeat Mayor Bloomberg's Jets Stadium plans and worked to slam the lid on plans to expand the Javits Convention Center.

Now, they're lobbying federal officials for funding and going after city officials on zoning issues related to the move into the Farley Building.

Their efforts to continue the arena's property tax exemption, worth $300 million over the past 25 years, make it apparent the Garden is willing to spend to get what it wants.
The Garden has hired some of the state's highest-paid lobbyists: Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, Patricia Lynch Associates, Greenberg Traurig and Kasirer Consulting.

Lynch, a former top aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, reported $633,000 in fees from the arena from 2004 to last year. Silver's opposition killed the Jets Stadium, which would have competed with the Garden.

Lynch also has pulled down big bucks from the other major West Side development, Hudson Yards.

There, four mega-developers — Extell Development; Related Companies; Tishman Speyer, a partnership of the Durst Organization, and Vornado, and Brookfield Properties — have been vying to build a huge commercial/residential minicity over the MTA railyards. Brookfield dropped out on Feb. 26.

Lynch has received $120,000 from Tishman Speyer and $22,000 from Vornado. She did not return calls.

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