Monday, August 24, 2009

Shulman and City in the Crapper

Queens Crap does a wonderful job (as did the Village Voice on Friday) outlining all of the messiness surrounding the Claire Shulman as Lobbyist furor-and this is an issue that shouldn't go away any time soon, since the city's cover up of its complicity is about to unravel as Shulman's explanations fail to jibe with the mayoral smokescreen.

First let's get the Voice's take: "Way back in October, the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association, a group strenuously opposed to the city's attempt to throw their businesses out of Willets Point so it could be redeveloped, accused former Queens borough president Claire Shulman of being an unregistered lobbyist for the Bloomberg Administration and the Economic Development Corporation on that issue. At the time, a spokesman for Shulman admitted to the Queens Gazette that she was a lobbyist and that she was going to revise the paperwork of her organization, the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation, to reflect that.

For their report today on Shulman's possibly illegal lobbying efforts on Willets Point, the Times questions city officials, who insist they weren't paying her to lobby -- though during the Willets Point campaign Shulman was "promising to meet with every member of the City Council as it prepared to vote on the plan last fall," says the Times..."

Sounds like someone hasn't gotten their lies straight-and it ain't Shulman who is essentially arguing against interests here. And if the activity itself was illegal, where does that put the mayor and EDC? In our view, as co-conspirators in an illegal scheme to defraud the tax payers and corrupt the legislative process.

Which leaves mayoral spokesman Andrew Brent kinda out on a limb in the Times last week: "The Mayor's spokesman, Andrew Brent, tells the paper that when the city gave Shulman $450,000 -- coincidentally, the same amount Shulman reported spending on lobbying work -- they never expected her to lobby with it. She was supposed to do "outreach, public relations, and marketing," says Brent -- she never mentioned lobbying (which might be defined as outreach, public relations, and marketing aimed at elected officials)."

Yah think? Shulman, for her part, has a remarkably good memory: "We hired lobbyists from the time we began, because we were told it was something we were supposed to be doing." Unsurprisingly, no one in the story says, "OK, you caught us," and offers himself or herself up for arrest." But what about our friends at the Parkside Group? As the Times pointed out: "Harry Giannoulis, president of the Parkside Group, which lobbying records show got $125,000, said Ms. Shulman hired it to lobby, among other duties."

Where does this fiasco leave us? It seems to us that someone is lying-and the prevaricators are all in the Bloomberg corner. So, if Shulman got $450,000 to do something other than what the city wanted her to do, than where is the DOI on all of this? (Or, perhaps, the AG) And another thing; is Shulman's group still getting funded to do, "outreach?"

But something really doesn't pass the smell test here. Last year, the Queens Gazette had this story right in the cross hairs-and Shulman admitted at the time what her real role was: "Just before the Gazette went to press yesterday, former Assemblymember Barry Grodenchik, a spokesman for Shulman, told the Gazette that the former borough president, indeed, was a lobbyist. "We are updating our city filing and are moving to update our state filing," he said."

So, why didn't EDC pull the plug on the scam then? And by the way, where is the fine for Shulman, who knew all along what her role was, but failed to register for it?

This entire effort to evict legitimate businesses from Willets Point has the rancid smell of corruption. A full and impartial investigation of the matter is needed here-and the brakes need to be put on any move to disturb existing businesses and their workers.