Corruption Charges in Yonkers Development May Have Links to Forest City Ratner
Eliot Brown Jan. 6, 2010, 3:43 p.m.
A former City Council member in Yonkers and two others were indicted Wednesday on charges of corruption in a case with apparent links to Brooklyn development firm Forest City Ratner. The investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office centers around Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi, and two individuals who allegedly helped convince her to sell her votes on two development projects: Zehy Jeries, former head of the Yonkers Republican Party, and Anthony Mangone, an attorney.
One of those projects’ developers appears to be Forest City Ratner, in connection with its planned Ridge Hill mixed-use project. Forest City was not named directly or charged in the indictment, with the papers referring only to “Developer No. 2″ as the developer of Ridge Hill.
The indictment portrays Mr. Jeries and Ms. Annabi as extortionists, alleging that Mr. Jeries successfully urged Developer No. 2 to give him a consulting contract worth $60,000 in exchange for swinging Ms. Annabi to vote for the project. Ms. Annabi previously had been opposed to the project, though ultimately voted in its favor, after Forest City agreed to numerous concessions including paying $10 million more in property taxes. Prosecutors said Mr. Jeries also gave Ms. Annabi a $70,000 loan and more than $50,000 in other financial benefits from 2004 to 2008. (Ms. Annabi and Mr. Jeries are cousins.)
Forest City issued a statement saying that it is not a target of the investigation.
“Forest City Ratner Companies has cooperated fully with the U.S. Attorney’s Office during the course of its investigation and will continue to do so,” a Forest City spokesman said. “In addition, Forest City has been advised by the U.S. Attorney’s Office that neither the company nor any of its employees is a target of the investigation.”
The firm, led by Bruce Ratner, almost exclusively concentrates on development projects that need government approval. To this end, it is widely viewed as highly skilled in its ability to navigate the political aspect of development projects. For instance, to push through the Atlantic Yards project, which unleashed a cacophony of protest from well-organized neighbors in Brooklyn, it poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into lobbying; its executives give substantial campaign contributions; and it adeptly worked with unions to help win over elected officials.
The more damning charges in the indictment related to another project, the Longfellow development in Yonkers, built by Milio Management. Prosecutors allege that Mr. Mangone, with money from a developer, directly gave Ms. Annabi $30,000 to vote in favor of the Longfellow project.
After initially opposing the project, she voted in its favor.