THE HEZITORIAL – INVESTIGATION
Transforming an “Out of Jail” Card to a Play for More than “Monopoly Money”
By HEZI ARIS
What is the State of Real Estate in the City of Yonkers?
Who is the Puppet Master?
Systematically dismantled five years ago, the Bureau of Real Estate no longer exists. The last vestiges of its two decades long compilation of work discarded by Yonkers City Hall has erased the past, clearing the way for any issues or concerns to be forgotten, akin to creating a form of governmental dementia, concocted by Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano’s Administration. City assets will continue to be sold off, yet standards no longer exist. Does any aspect of the process by which city property is sold conform to past, prudent standards that are now known to have been trashed and expunged from any and all records? What are the “new” standards? Where may they be found? Do they still exist or have they been omitted? Have they been replaced by that which is now trashed? Has the City of Yonkers been cleansed of any and all material that would have revealed structure, standards of conduct, people, diagrams, renderings, architectural configurations, figures, valuations, and more? It seems the “standards” are now forever locked in the vaults of minds that are aging and susceptible to forgetting, and even if remembered, will be challenged for lacking corroborating physical proof. The landscape for selling taxpayer assets is said to benefit the city coffers. That is the spin. The truth is it is being sold for less than valued and seemingly exclusively to the “friends and family” network. Let’s follow the process leading to the sale of the Yonkers City Jail, the telling of the sale, and the plausible scenario of what may become of the property.
The sale of the Yonkers City Jail is the initial sale of a city taxpayer asset for at least as long as Mayor Mike Spano’s Administration is at the helm. It is the process that is being exposed here, not the individual sale, rather the plan for the property, the vision, the purchaser, or the people involved; it is only about a process that seems to reek of collusion of purpose. The headmaster will be recognized as former New York State Senator Nick Spano. He set the last domino in place in July 2013. A few governmental structures had to be realigned. And they were.
At first, James Cavanaugh, former Westchester Republican Party Chairman, and partner with Nick Spano’s Empire Strategic Planning's lobbying firm moved his residence from Eastchester to Yonkers. When Mike Spano acceded to office in January 2012, one of his first acts was to appoint Cavanaugh to the Yonkers Parking Authority (YPA). The rationale for Cavanaugh’s appointment was to bring about a consolidation of the YPA with that of the Yonkers Parking Violations Bureau (YPVB). Almost two years later that effort stalled and may take many years to bring about for better or worse. Cavanaugh’s shabby resume of accomplishments prior to arriving in Yonkers or lack thereof stands on a telling divulged in the Yonkers Tribune on November 17, 2011. [Inspector General Fisch Exposes James Cavanaugh, the “Pig” Feeding at Public Trough By HEZI ARIS]
In the meanwhile, by June 30, 2013, Wilson Kimball, Yonkers Director of Waterfront and Downtown Development, never officially announced by Mayor Mike Spano to be remunerated to the tune of $140,000 per year position was hired by Mayor Mike Spano’s Administration in January of 2012. It was Ms Wilson Kimball who was charged with moving the long expired contract designating SFC Yonkers' "Master Developer" status to the newly evolved name Struever Fidelco Cappelli – H & I Project. The 12 year old contract expired in February of 2013. City Hall said it was valid through September 2103. Mark Berson only brought notice of his intentions in November with no documentation of his vision forward. In a sense, it may be construed as a 90 day wait, simply another stall by Yonkers City Hall. If it is not, where are the evolved contracts? Berson’s plans were revealed only within the last two weeks with no back-up material whatsoever. The same attorney representing the developers 12 years ago, Bond Counsel Sean Griffen of the firm of Harris Beach continues to push for the “new” terms without sharing the contractual information with the Yonkers City Council and without divulging it publicly. Yonkers Corporation Counsel Michael Curti promotes the project without redefining ancillary legal issues that have unraveled due to alienation of parkland, rights of succession to an expired contract, which makes the process null and void, among other concerns.
Wilson Kimball was the New York State paid assistant to Libby Pataki, the wife to then Governor George Pataki. She became the fiancée to James Cavanaugh, the former Supervisor of the Town of Eastchester, former Chairman of the Westchester Republican Committee, Communications Director to Senator Nick Spano when the senator served office, the President and CEO of the Battery Park City Authority (BCPA) from which he was fired under a cloud of alleged “fraud and corruption”.
After leaving the Battery Park City Authority (BCPA) in October of 2010, Cavanaugh took a job with Nick Spano’s lobbying firm Empire Strategic Planning (ESP). When Mike Spano was elected Mayor of Yonkers, Cavanaugh served on the mayoral transition team to interview and vet candidates for jobs with the administration. The caveat by which Mayor Mike Spano swore to abide was that no person serving on a transition team would earn a position with the administration. So much for the value of Mayor Mike Spano’s words.
In the meanwhile Kimball and Cavanaugh have married.
Kimball-Cavanaugh is officially the Yonkers Commissioner of Waterfront and Downtown Development, Cavanaugh may be found “consulting on behalf of the City of Yonkers", whether as a Board Member of the YPA, interceding on behalf of the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency; Cavanaugh and Cavanaugh-Kimball are now the lone people scrutinizing, devising, and pushing economic development projects as part of the conduit connecting their purpose and positions within the City of Yonkers as part of the umbrella of power amassed for former New York State Senator Nick Spano.
Nick Spano, James Cavanaugh, Wilson Kimball – Cavanaugh are just some of the dots that have insinuated themselves into The People’s business in Yonkers.
The other connecting dots stretch from Nick Spano to his father, former Westchester County Clerk Leonard Spano, who helps with “strategic planning”, brother and Mayor Mike Spano whose role is to facilitate the plans devised, and brother John Spano, and James Cavanaugh. These people are the so-called “think tank”!
The Yonkers Jail House “sale” came out of left field. Not one City Councilman was aware of the impending sale. Yonkers City Hall promoted the need to move the use of the property as a jail facility opting to bring it to the decades old Cacace Justice Center, recently updated, to meet its intended purpose, that is, to be a jail, rather than a storage unit, housing the Yonkers City Court, and the Yonkers Police Department.
(L-R): Yonkers Deputy Mayor Sue Gerry, Art Collector Daniel Wolf, Artist Maya Lin, and Mayor Mike Spano.
And so, last week, Daniel Wolf, who has agreed to purchase the Yonkers City Jail for $1 million said, “I’ve been an addicted collector my whole life and… When my count of cardboard boxes grew out of my present storage, I said it’s time to look for space. …I got online… and up came this building… What a beautiful building. I didn’t know anything about the building. I didn’t know anything about Yonkers, but I was really struck by the building. I think six months ago I saw it for the first time. This is really great. This is going to work. As time went on, I said, this is really great but its too much of a…It’s such a big project for me; do I really need it? It was really the mayor who brought me back into the circle and said you’ve got to do it.”
Disparities in the process come to light. A Request for Proposal (RFP) was officially posted in the official papers designated for such purpose by the City of Yonkers (CoY), The Journal News (daily paper) and Yonkers Rising (weekly). Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano’s Chief of Staff Steve Levy advises CoY received no interest in the property. RFP-261 was posted on the Empire State Purchasing Group website on March 5, 2013. The deadline for acquisition and redevelopment of the City Waterfront Jail was closed on April 12, 2013 by 2:00 p.m. E.D.T.
Approximately three-and-a-half weeks later, on May 8, 2013, Newsday reporter Christian Wade, reported “Yonkers Seeking Developer to transform Run-Down Old Jail”
Wade’s article was thereafter reposted by Rand Commercial Services’ Vice-President Paul Adler the following day, on May 9, 2013.
Yonkers City Hall "listed" the jail with Rand Commercial Realty without putting that contract out to bid, denying every other real estate firm the opportunity to bid for the privilege of making the sale. Firms such as NAI Friedland, among others.
Further, it doesn't seem as though Rand Commercial Realty did much marketing of the jail. In fact, within one day after the press conference making the impending sale public, Yonkers Tribune was asked if the sale opportunity was still open as the buyers that approached us were willing to pay more than the announced $1 million price tag, despite the value of the property listed to be $2.5 million, or as low as $1.6 million, as expressed by Mayor Mike Spano, who advised that no assessment of the value was ever undertaken.
Loopnet.com, a realty website designates Rand Commercial Realty being the broker on the sale of the Yonkers City Jail, listing the asking price of $2.5 million, and stating that 3% commission will be paid by the buyer to Rand Commercial Realty and that the City of Yonkers will not be paying any sales commission.
How and why was the jail sold for $1 million? Was it simply a quick $30,000 commission to Nick Spano’s buddy Paul Adler’s Rand Commercial Realty?
Daniel Wolf advises in a Cable News 12 Westchester taping of his attendance at Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano’s press conference that Daniel Wolf was in discussion about the project for about 6 months. Which brings us within a week or two to the 6 months timeframe Wolf speaks about.
Perhaps Yonkers City Hall had already predetermined a purchaser to be one of Paul Adler's friends? In the interview with Daniel Wolf on City Hall TV coverage of the sale, Wolf talks about Mayor Spano's efforts to convince him to purchase the jail. He made it seem like there had been conversations going back and forth for quite some time.
Since there is no Request for Proposal (RFP), the talk of preserving any aspect of the building, other than the perimeter of the land does not obligate the buyer to comply with anything said so far. The words are meaningless from a legal perspective. Why is City Hall abdicating all scrutiny of the project?
Interestingly, former New York State Sen. Nicholas Spano, a convicted felon had requested permission from a federal judge to allow him to renew his long-time relationship with his friend, fellow felon Paul Adler, who also served prison time. He was granted his request. Adler was the former Chairman of the Rockland Democratic Party. Further Nick Spano said that he anticipated working for Rand Commercial Realty when he was expected to serve time at a half-way house in The Bronx. The Bronx venue was almost immediately changed to a facility in Brooklyn which did not allow Nick Spano to try to get his real estate license reinstated by working at Rand Commercial Realty. Nick Spano has advised after reading thie initial posting of this article that he has no business interest in Rand Commericial Realty, though he did have a relationship with Adler and the real estate firm when he possessed a valid real estate broker's license. To emphasis the so-called disconnection of Adler and Spano, Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnick in his telling, evidently not having read the article repeated Mr Spano’s assertion near the close of the Yonkers City Council committee meetings on December 3, 2013. See Jonathan Bandler’s The Journal News article, “Nick Spano gets judge's OK to reconnect with fellow felon Paul Adler”:
Another interesting article about Paul Adler in the Rockland Times... references his jail stint and his relationship with Nick Spano:
The process for sale of city-owned property has been trashed. The People are marginalized, the Yonkers City Council neutered, the interest of the City of Yonkers negated by the interests of “family and friends”, and no scrutiny by Inspector General Kitley Covill, Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, or Governor Andrew Cuomo.
It does seem as though Mike Spano is Mayor of Yonkers in name only; Nick Spano still pulls the strings; he is the puppet master. Will the 2014 Yonkers City Council abide by the hijacking of The People’s vote? It does seem as though Yonkers City Hall has cast The People aside in order to serve the “friends and family” network to buy on the cheap to the financial detriment of the taxpayers’ city coffers. Remember folks, in politics the game is confined to a triumvirate of values: power, money, and patronage. By this and other conduct, what do these “sales” bring about for The People. So far, the Yonkers Jail House deal has shorted CoY $1.5 million. The sale will gain approval before the Yonkers City Council this Tuesday, December 10, 2013. It’s your money, but you wouldn’t know it by the way Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano watches over the taxpayers’ city coffers.