by Gary Tilzer
Two years ago True News broke the story that BerlinRosen was not a registered lobbyist. CrainsNY’s Chris Bragg followed up sometime later and last week NY1 reported the same information. Playing fast and loose with city and state lobbying regulations is not the only thing BerlinRosen has done. The now go-to communications firm failed to register as a foreign agent. BerlinRosen worked the ground breaking event for taxpayer-subsided luxury housing for Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner (Forest City Ratner) and his new majority partner, Greenland Group, a Chinese government-backed company.
Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) of 1938, persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity must register and make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities. The purpose of FARA is to facilitate “evaluation by the government and the American people of the statements and activities of such persons.” BerlinRosen activities on behalf of the Greenland Group, whose Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park development is fueling gentrification and pushing poor and middle class Brooklynites out of the surrounding communities, deserve public scrutiny.
City, State Subsidize Foreign Ownership of NYC Real Estate
New York City and State have given billions of dollars in taxpayer-financed subsidies to a sports arena and housing development that are mostly owned by the Russian and Chinese governments. Barclays Center and the NBA Nets are owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Dmitrievitch Prokhorov.
Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park blogger Norman Oder reported that Chinese financial investment partners (i.e., Greenland Group) were brought to help Bruce Ratner raise enough capital to close his deal to build luxury housing in Atlantic Yards. In deference to his Chinese partners, Ratner renamed the housing project Pacific Park.
Greenland agreed to fund Ratner’s project in exchange for 70% ownership of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park housing project. Much of Ratner’s share of his 30% investment comes from tax breaks from our city and state governments. Ratner used the government-financed tax breaks to leverage foreign investment. Are you starting to get the picture, now!
As the Chinese government (through shell corporations) pumps billions into New York City and becomes a bigger stakeholder in real estate, it is unclear what their future demands from government and elected officials will be. Given the power wielded by New York’s real estate barons and their lobbyists it isn’t hard to imagine a future scenario where Chinese or other foreign real estate owners force local elected officials to pass laws helpful to them and harmful to American citizens.
True News has written about the privatization of the Tammany Hall political machine and reported on the fact that the new consultants/lobbyists-run political machine, unlike the old party bosses, is not accountable to voters because they are not elected by the voting public. That brings us back to BerlinRosen and their relationships with many federal, state and city elected officials who are either clients or close personal friends.
The public is left wondering who will stop lobbyists and crooked elected officials who decide to go for the foreign money over the interests of the American people?
Perhaps, it has already happened.
Gary Tilzer is an award-winning journalist and blogger whose daily blog, True News, is widely read. Twitter: @unitedNYblogs