Jo Anne Simon & More Questionable $$$

Following up on our earlier report of Jo Anne Simon’s real estate related campaign contributions, we are deeply troubled because she has also taken money from three board members of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation (“BBPDC”).  BBPDC is a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corporation (“ESDC”).  ESCD is the state agency that has been approving Atlantic Yards through by-passing the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Process.  BBPDC is behind the controversial recommendation to build luxury apartments in Brooklyn Bridge Park so maintenance and operations can be self-financing.  Simon claims that she is opposed to development in the park. We question her commitment to that position one the one hand when she is taking money from the members of BBPDC board with the other hand.

 

Why can't you people leave me and my contributors alone?

Why can't you people leave me and my contributors alone?

 

 

The Biviano campaign did not pick up on this clear conflict of interest when attacking Simon for taking money from real estate developers and brokers.  “Nicky215” on the Brooklyn Heights Blog did and we looked into it further.  Nicky posted, “Joanne (sic.) has gotten conributions from ESDC board members that want 1000 luxery (sic.) condos in Brooklyn Bridge Park. To be specific $250 from Joanne Witty, $1250 from David Offensend, $1000 from Henry Guttman and $250 from his wife Karolyn Guttman.”

We checked the Campaign Finance Board donations disclosures for the Simon campaign and found Nicky 215 was completely accurate regarding the donations:

Witty, Joanne
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Unemployed
Civic Volunteer
01/14/2008  $250.00

Offensend, David G.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
NY Public Library
Executive
11/16/2007  $250.00

Offensend, David G.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
NY Public Library
Executive
06/27/2009  $1,000.00

Gutman, Henry B.
Simpson Thacher
Attorney
01/11/2008  $500.00

Gutman, Henry B.
Simpson Thacher
Attorney
07/31/2009  $500.00

Witty, Offensend and Gutman are all listed as members of the BBPDC board of directors.  Simon also took $250 from Henry Guttman’s wife, Karolyn Guttman.

Gutman, Karolyn S.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Retired
05/06/2009  $250.00

With the 6:1 match, these donations total $6,250 (5.8% of the $108,033 in total funds Simon has in her war chest for the campaign).  The Biviano campaign claimed that Simon took 306 contributions totaling $24,068.00 from real estate related interests.  The combined total of questionable funds amounts to 28% of Simon’s total fund raising.

We think that these donations pose a clear conflict of interest for Simon because she has publicly stated her opposition to development of luxury housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park. She also touts her engagement on this issue on her law firm website. We are also disturbed by the appearance of a conflict of interest because BBPDC is a subsidiary of ESDC, which is overseeing approval of Atlantic Yards. We would be interested in the opinion of Norman Oder and DDDB regarding Simon taking funds from board members approving ESDC development in Brooklyn Bridge Park. We believe that Simon should immediately return donations by Witty, Offensend and the Gutmans. Simon already has a considerable war chest for her City Council race. She can return these funds without giving up her advantage over the other candidates in the race. We recall another District Leader/33rd District Candidate who won the fundraising battle but lost the war — Steve Cohn. Simon’s disregard for the implications of her fundraising may well lead her candidacy to a similar fate.

Keeping It Real

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6 responses to “Jo Anne Simon & More Questionable $$$

  1. Community Reactivist

    Simon has also taken many donations, in number and in amount, from BHA governors. The BHA is in most respects a laudable organization, but they were also the major supporters of the covert plan to add housing to Bklyn Bridge Park, garnering suppport for the new funding scheme for months before it was leaked to the media in late December 2004. Admittedly this is smoke, not fire, but I do worry about fire too! Simon was NOT part of the campaign to get the housing out of BBP, so unless she had a miraculous visitation of Saint (Judi) Francis over the summer, her conversion remains specious to me. To misquote someone important whose name I cannot recall right now, Simon cannot change her conscience the way she would change her clothes. If she can, then she lacks a true conscience, and cannot be our Councilperson.

  2. JerryFowler

    Evan Thies is just as bad, you should run a piece about him. He took $2,500 from a developer that’s trying to ruin Greenpoint’s waterfront the same way Thies and Yassky ruined Williamsburg’s waterfront. He wants to put a 40 story tower in the middle of nowhere. These people never learn!

    • realreformbrooklyn

      We have looked into it. We understand that the Greenpoint project is an as-of-right development with a remassing (no extra square footage) to accommodate wetlands preservation and a DEP outfall. Also, the developer has allowed for an expanded street-end park, a summer film series and a public art installation. You seem to be anti-any development along the Greenpoint/Williamsburg waterfront. Perhaps you would prefer transfer stations and power plants? We imagine that could be arranged.

      Real Reform Brooklyn

      • JerryFowler

        Funny, we were promised a lot of shiny new things like that in my neightborhood of Williamsburg and none of it got delivered. I am not against development at all, but this pattern has been ridiculous. Now they want to extend it up to Greenpoint despite being unable to get people to live in the buildings in Williamsburg, where there actually is trasportation sort of near by.

        You really must be in the tank for Thies. How ca you be critical of Simon taking money from developers trying to take over the waterfront in Brooklyn Bridge Park but be perfectly fine with Thies having the exact same relationship with developers doing the same thing in Greenpoint?

      • realreformbrooklyn

        It is a fair point, Jerry. We are not really “in the tank for Thies”. Although we love the phrase.

        We think though that there is a difference between a rezoning and what is happening in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Without getting into a detailed discussion, no matter the difference, we want the next council person committed from DAY ONE and EVERY DAY to getting follow through on the rezoning commitments.

        As for being fair and balance, we are going to look more closely at the Thies donation and start working up a piece.

        Real Reform Brooklyn

  3. We are publishing the post below because we have a policy putting everything up on the site. We note, however, that the comment is factually inaccurate in many respects.

    We are not referring in our piece to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. Guttman and Witty are not members of the Conservancy board or advisory board. Offensend is a member of the Conservancy advisory board. In addition, we also took the time to differentiate between ESCD and Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation (“BBPDC”) without passing on the issue of whether the donations represent a conflict of interest regarding Atlantic Yards. Finally, the conflict of interest is Simon’s — not the members of the BBPDC board.

    It seems that the commentator should do a more careful read and better research.

    RRB

    ________________________________________

    this post is so poorly researched it is laughable. you cant differentiate between ESDC, Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corp. and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy – which is the actual entity to which you are referring. the board members of the conservancy and the bha are neighborhood residents who receive no monetary benefit from the private housing in the park. the leadership of those organizations determined that to fund the operating expenses of the park, the development of private housing was the only viable alternative. whether you agree with him or not (certainly a contentious issue) – it is no more a conflict of interest to make money from these individuals than it is to take money from any community resident with an opinion on a local issue….

    the politics of personal destruction diminishes our local political discourse. this blog is a hack job.

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