Council Lack Votes for Indep Auditor

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The vote was taken today and the motion for an independent auditor to review the $5 Billion proposal to develop The Gulch.  Eight “yes”votes were needed and they only had six.  Unfortunately the motion failed.  As you can see, three Council members were absent:  Young (who has been having medical treatments), Dickens and Shook.  Bond was in the Chamber earlier, but was not there during this crucial vote.

This 40 acre downtown property, with three owners, is prime real estate.   It is a 600 page detailed proposal.  Originally, the Council was asked to vote without reviewing the detailed proposal. Hmmm.

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Councilwomen Shepherd, Overstreet, and Boone (just out of the camera view) talk with Rashad Taylor, from the Mayor’s Office, before the vote.

 

If The Gulch deal is as good as the Mayor and Council members who voted  “no” say it is, would not an independent auditor come the same conclusions??

In the words of Councilwoman Ide, ‘I am an attorney and I need this audit to better understand this.  It is like going to the doctor to get a second opinion…”  Why not get a second opinion?  What’s the problem?  What’s the rush?

Taking another two to four weeks to vet a 30 year deal that has been several decades in the making is problematic for whom??

The Mayor?

Council members?

CIM Developers (who have no African Americans among its’ 26 member executive team on their website)?

The independent audit is what 95% of public speakers at today’s City Council members Support.  Does the will of the residents/voters matter?

The Atlanta City Council has shown everyone to whom they owe their allegiance.  And, voters are more informed now than ever.

What is your opinion on this??

 

MARTA Releases New Funding Plan

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The MARTA Board of Directors will vote on Thursday, October 4 on how the Atlanta half-penny sales tax will be used over the next 40 years.  See the full plan overview in the 9/27/18 AJC.

Here are my thoughts on this updated thoughts on MARTA’s updated funding plan:

1)  The Campbellton Rd Light Rail Transit (LRT) & Greenbriar Transit Center can be a win for transit dependent riders and will draw “choice riders” from that corridor, City of South Fulton, Camp Creek and beyond. However, it needs to be the #1 project on that list for implementation and use an accelerated schedule (remember The I-85 bridge?). Since the #83 Campbellton Rd/Greenbriar bus Route is #1, it should be prioritized as #1 in project scheduling and completion. That
would be the start of unprecedented equity in this major project.
2)  Emory will always secure funding for what it wants. Bravo MARTA for realizing they could reallocate some of their originally designated funding. Perhaps this is a move toward equity.
3)  BeltLine. I agree with Councilmen Dickens and Hillis who said in Wednesday’s Transportation Committee meeting that the south end of the Beltline needs to be done before other BeltLine areas to insure it gets done. They discussed how south side projects are always done last and if funding run out, those areas suffer most. That would be a real equity move!  Besides, the folks who live on the BeltLine are mostly choice riders, they won’t suffer any loss other than pride. They will get other funding including from their own financial portfolios, if they choose.
4) I still believe the Fulton Industrial Blvd. (FIB) MARTA Station should be added. The extra funding that went to the BeltLine should go here. This is a key regional job corridor as well as the gateway to Cobb County. Cobb residents overwhelmingly used the H.E.Holmes MARTA station when originally opened (as the Hightower station). Today, on Falcons and other game days, Cobb residents fill that station to capacity.
5) The FIB station would be the gateway to the future Cobb County MARTA connection and take thousands of cars off the I-20 FIB corridor daily as well as help Six Flags employees and visitors; both UPS distribution centers and more. The #73 FIB bus route, out of the Holmes station, ranks #6 in MARTA ridership.  Another reason to add this station.  Cobb County’s Planning and Division Manager, Eric Meyer, said after a recent ARC meeting that he is all for the FIB station and would be happy to work with stakeholders to make it happen.
6) If we can’t get FIB right now, “At least give us the Holmes heavy rail extension to I-285 at MLKing. That way, drivers would exit there and take MARTA into the city” says Councilman Dickens. That extension was supposed to be done about eight years ago. According to MARTA, ‘There was a glitch in funding for that project.’ Yet another prime example of why south and west side projects need to be done first!

7) The state of Georgia needs to step up their game. They benefit from everything that happens in metro Atlanta.  They use all that Metro Atlanta has to offer to sell prospective companies on why they need to expand or relocate here.  Yet, other than $100 million for a transit funding along GA 400, on the north side, no other funding has been allocated.  Shame on you!  Metro Atlantans pay state taxes.  A portion of that should go to MARTA expansion to give is any chance of decreasing our ridiculous traffic woes.

And, perhaps in 2019, our legislators will introduce and pass legislation to allow for a portion of Georgia’s fuel tax to be used for MARTA… something other than expanding our roads by adding more lanes.  We are among very few states who do not fund public transit from the fuel tax because this state was controlled by the auto industry for so long (they wanted people to buy cars, not take public transit.).  With Ford and GM assembly plants long gone, Georgia is still operating as if those plants are still here.  What’s up with that??  Being 18 years into the new millennium, what are our legislators waiting for??

Here is an updated article with thoughts from a GSU researcher, Chris Wyczalkowski on MARTA’s current funding challenges (click on the MARTA article if it does not automatically load.):

https://epaper.ajc.com/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=Atlanta%20Journal-Constitution&pubid=8e0858ee-1443-484d-9e94-f8b8a1eaaaff

 

The Gulch – Who Do You Believe? Who Really Benefits?

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Moderator Karen Greer, Mayor Bottoms, and CIM Advocate Team.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms held a community forum to hear from residents due to opposition to The Gulch $5 Billion redevelopment plan proposed by California developer CIM.  The Mayor came in, took her seat and left after the Forum.  While she read an opening statement and answered a couple of the audience questions (that were read by the moderator), she was never seen engaging with residents.  No pictures. No handshakes. Nothing.

The plan which the City Council refused to vote on, until they have more time to review the 600 page document recently delivered to their homes, has residents furious.

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Discussing 600 page Gulch Proposal with another opponent at Mayor’s forum.

Most residents were not allowed in the forum because City employees and a group of folks in green t-shirts, supporters  of the CIM proposed Gulch deal, took up most of the seats.  How is that really a forum for residents?  The overflow room was filled with residents upset they could not get in.

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One of many ATL police officers after forum as GA Stand Up Exec. Dir., Deborah Scott, shares her opposing view with reporter.

In opening rules, outlined by moderator Karen Greer, attendees were told we would be removed by police officers, stationed around the room, if we got out of line (paraphrase).  I have attended many controversial forums/town halls, all across the country. Never have I heard those words.  Despite that, there were a few times when folks yelled in disagreement to what was being said.

Why are residents furious?  Well, after so many other “good deals” and promises that include:

– The original Braves Stadium & Turner Field

– Friendship Baptist Church & Mt. Vernon Baptist Church buyouts

– Falcons Stadium, Mercedes Benz (MB) Stadium & their $23 million bridge across Northside Drive

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Karl Barnes (white jacket) ATL native and GA Tech alum among few residents who got into the Mayor’s Gulch Forum.

Each of these deals were also “good deals”  for the community and now we are all on the hook for cost overruns (the original MB bridge cost was $10 million. Several months later, the cost rose to $23 million with $1million in lights.).

Each time, residents are on the hook despite their elected officials assuring them, ‘it is good for Atlanta because it will bring jobs’.  Well, from what most reports and articles reveal, the minimum wage, temporary stadium jobs are what residents can verify.  No one can verify any substantial contractor or management jobs for residents.  However, residents continue to be displaced and given empty promises.

With a severe shortage of affordable housing units in Atlanta, each “good deal” drives out current residents while paving the way for new residents in homes priced out of reach for most.  Being the number one U.S. city for income inequality, there are only two places for most ATL residents to move:

1) further from the city with no or limited access to public transportation

2)  under an I-20 bridge with other homeless people

If a portion of our tax dollars could be used, as many advocates have asked, for:

– programs to repair/update homes of current residents,

– a program to “grandfather” current residents’ from tax increases.

– more affordable housing units than Invest Atlanta and the BeltLine can currently deliver.

That would give thousands of residents access to reasonable and affordable housing units.

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Alvin Kendall, local attorney, gives the project overview as the Mayor Bottoms looks on.

Alvin Kendal, City of Atlanta liaison for the CIM Project gives a complicated presentation without a power point.  More on Kendall and his conflict of interest on this project from the AJC at:  https://www.ajc.com/news/local-govt–politics/watchdogs-question-rec-authority-leader-hiring-for-gulch-legal-work/QOvTwH6RnByIyAzlXvfRfL/

Much of the information he gave failed to give the whole story of the 30 year tax consequences to residents, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) and Fulton County Commissioners.  Three entities, ATL City Council, APS and Fulton County have to approve the plan for it to materialize.

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Joe Beasley at podium at last week’s four hour long City Council Work Session attended by only half of the Council.

You see, I also attended last week’s City Council Work Session with “CIM Armani suit-wearing lawyers”, as former Senator Vincent Fort describes them.  Above, Internationist human rights activist, Joe Beasley, speaks against The Gulch Project.

If programs and legislation can be passed to benefit big corporations and stadium owners, why not for residents so they will not be driven out of their homes?  Is that too much to ask for while these corporate folks get to use “our” hard earned tax dollars?  Residents can make a change when they VOTE  in EVERY ELECTION.

Why is it that planners and people, including most of our elected officials, usually go into neighborhoods and tell them “what is best for them” and “how” their communities should look?  Even when Town halls are held, case in point, as with planning for MLKing Jr. Blvd, the neighborhood clearly objected to putting in medians.  This both limited left lane turning for cars and fire trucks.  Hmmm.

As WAOK Radio Host Derrick Boazman shared, ‘this Mayor’s Forum was not genuine and she is not standing up for the best interest of residents who elected her’.  Despite having a hand full of questions, Greer only read about 10-12. Most of them were not answered.  Real audience members were frustrated and began to shout out in frustration causing commotion.  Meanwhile the mayor sat with an unchanged expression.  And, to top it all off, most of us were shocked when the forum seemed to abruptly end.  Most of the time was not used to answer questions, but to give Gulch proposal rhetoric about how good this deal is for Atlanta.  If it is that good, tell the truth, answer all questions, and stop rushing.

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Registering & educating voters at GA State MARTA Station. Back of t-shirt reads, “Register to Vote”.

So how do Atlanta residents and residents across the nation get control of their neighborhoods and protect them from predatory developers?

Glad you asked.  The short answer is to unite to vote out those who do not favor the residents who elected them.  And, to vet and fund candidates. Do not wait to see who runs.

On Tuesday, November 6, residents can take their power back by not just voting.  Everyone also needs to educate themselves on the 20 plus items on Georgia ballots (use Google, discuss with friends), BEFORE Election Day, so you can vote down the entire ballot with confidence while encouraging friends and family to do the same. Print a sample ballot from:  www.mvp.sos.ga.gov

In the meantime, those who are in office may be able to be recalled when they do not represent their voters. In the words of Sean King, contributor to the Tom Joyner Morning Show and Black America Web, “When we organize, we win!.”

 

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Lots of people hanging around after Mayor’s Gulch Forum. Sign reads “Red Light The Gulch”.

So, it is obvious that Atlanta residents did not get their questions answered at the Mayor’s Forum.  So no transparency.

Who do you believe about The Gulch Plan?  The Armani suit-wearing attorneys who represent CIM, a firm with no Blacks on their executive team (according to their website http://www.cim.com)?  Who benefits?  You decide. You can make sure your voice is heard:

1) Organize a protest big or small.

2) Contact Mayor Bottoms at (404) 330-3100 or email from this link:

https://www.atlantaga.gov/government

3) Contact EVERY City Council Member, not just yours. Keep in mind, three are at-large or citywide :  Bond, Dickens, and Westmoreland.  If you do not know the name of your council member, ask when you call (404) 330-6030 or check this link for their individual contact info:

http://citycouncil.atlantaga.gov

 

(1. Also see my earlier blog on The Gulch.

2. Please let me know if you see errors. Another sets of eyes is always good!)

 

 

 

BeltLine Group, “The Haves” Are Claiming Victory

If the BeltLine Group, “the haves”, that is well-organized wins; that means south and southwest Atlanta loses. That includes transit dependent riders, who do not own or have access to a car, lose.  We are Atlanta!  We are the home of Civil Rights!  How can this be allowed to happen??

Please read the info below and contact MARTA Board members AND all Atlanta City Council members via email, phone, social media AND snail mail. Contact them ASAP, and definitely before September 28 since the MARTA Board is scheduled to vote on October 4.  “The have nots” need a modified plan of the first proposed project list that connects 126 neighborhoods and adds the Fulton Industrial MARTA Station.

Remember:  “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings!!  So we still have time to get what we want, need, and have paid for; yet we still being denied equity…equal distribution of the $2.5 Billion available through the Atlanta half penny sales tax.

 

BeltLine Rail lands front page in the AJC

We’re heartened to see that the public’s views are being heard. The AJC articletoday states the More MARTA project list is being revised in talks between Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the MARTA board. Some remaining funding may go to to the BeltLine as a result of these discussions. BeltLine Rail Now! is optimistic about this development. However, it’s not clear how much funding would remain, or how that funding would be applied. We look forward to learning those details.

We encourage you to keep making your voices heard! Sign our petition and contact your City Council representatives, Mayor Bottoms’ office and MARTA before the board votes on October 4th. Let them know you want transit that connects all 45 neighborhoods along the BeltLine to jobs, destinations and opportunity.

70 Atlanta Residents Say Bad Gulch Deal

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Yesterday’s Atlants City Council meeting heard over three hours of public hearing from residents on a variety of topics. However, over 80% were appealing to the Council to either slow down or scrap the Gulch Project being proposed by the “Armani suit wearing” development team, CIM Group, from California.

After receiving the 600 page proposal document, myselfnand others have more questions than answers.  As I put on my banker hat to review this complex deal with Georgia Stand Up, the nonprofit for which I am the Public Policy Coordinator, a researcher from Georgia Tech and independent attorneys; I am shocked and embarrassed that this 30 year deal gives away prime Atlanta property with no ownership or financial gain for residents other than inflated projections of jobs and benefits. It reveals $1.7 Billion in tax payer funds being diverted from our schools and desperately needed neighborhood infrastructure projects that includes sidewalks so our kids do not have to walk in the street to get to the library in places like Campbellton Road on the southwest side.

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Senator Vincent Fort warned, “Someone one is going to jail from decisions made three years ago involving the Airport contracts, the BeltLine and the Emory annexation deal so they could get a MARTA station.  And, someone will go to jail three years from now if you approve this deal…which one if you will it be?  Or do you have the guts to represent the people who elected you?

As the Work Session questions by Councilman Amir Farokhi revealed, there are 1,500 construction workers per year. The document as taken 1,500 and multiplied it by some factor of 20 (years) to derive the false number of 35,000 construction jobs. Questions by Council member Matt Westmoreland also sought to get to shed light on what is contained in these 600 pages.  I am both sadden and disappointed that our mayor is pushing a deal by a developer who has a history of bad deals.

You see, the Mayor needs eight votes to pass legislation.  Word on the street is she had six firm votes, possibly seven.  When it was confirmed that Councilman Ivory Young would not be able to attend or vote by phone in yesterday’s meeting due to his stem cell medical treatments, the vote was removed from the agenda.

The diverse group of speakers were clear in their call to not rush this deal through the legisltive process and be more transparent.  The call was so strong that yesterday’s scheduled vote on this deal was cancelled.  And, Mayor Bottoms has called a meeting on Wednesday, September 26, at City Hall at 6pm.

Georgia Stand Up Executive Director Deborah Scott reminded City Council when they ran for Office, none of them, not even the Mayor mentioned the Gulch as an area of importance at any of their debates or in their platform issues.  She went on to say all of them mentioned community development, transparency, and affordable housing and she has tapes of those forums to prove what they said.  “So why is it that this project is all of a sudden so important, …slow this process down!  Give everyone a chance to see what this is all about and be transparent.”

In the words of Sean King, “When we organize we win.”  So thanks the organizations that include Georgia Stand Up and the Housing Justice League.  Thanks also to community leaders who also came to speak against this plan that includes:  Former City Councilman & WAOK Radio Host, Derrick Boazman; Former GA State Senator Vincent Fort; Internation Human Rights Advocate, Joe Beasley; APAB Officer James “Jim” Martin, and NPU-R member Edith Ladipo.

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Joe Beasley warned that this is a volatile situation and residents are tired of their elected officials not representing their best interest.  He went on to warn that it is going to blow up if you do not change who you represent when you vote on issues harm residents.

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Despite this challenging day, City Council President Felicia Moore did a great job to move the speakers along several hours of passionate public comments.

My comments included that as the Jewel of the south, Home of Civil Rights, we have to get the Gulch deal right . Atlanta has an opportunity to set the standard across the state, region, and nation on how to do an economic development deal that is in the best interest of the residents.  If we get this right, even more people will want to move, do business and visit Atlanta. We do not have to do business with the devil, the CIM Group because there are more ethical developers.  And, we definitely do not have to give away the bank!

As Atlanta residents come together to demand that their council members represent their interests and not the interest of the developers, we/they will get a different result than had we remained silent.  This is democracy at its’ finest!!  So, start and continue conversations on your social media and within your circle of friends about The Gulch Project, More MARTA, Fort McPherson, and recent eminent domain issues.  Today’s action or inaction today has massive consequences tomorrow, next year and decades from now, so “stay woke”, stay informed and show up to shape the future.

For more details on this “bad deal”, read today’s (9/18/18) page one story in the AJC:  “Mayor Delays Council Vote on Gulch Deal” by Stephen Deere (sdeere@ajc.com) and J. Scott Trubey (strubey@ajc.com).  In this article, Deere and Trubey outline each aspect of this complicated 600 page proposal in laymen’s terms.

The Gulch Project Analyzed by AJC

The cost to Atlanta tax payers for the proposed Gulch Project initially was $1.2 Billion.  Now the number has climbed to $1.7 Billion.  As with most construction projects, the amount will grow…and be blamed on cost over runs.

https://epaper.ajc.com/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=Atlanta%20Journal-Constitution&edid=74bcedfd-ccd2-434d-84e7-fd09f032634d&pnum=1

As the City Council tries to read and comprehend the 600 page document known as:  the Atlanta City Council Legislative Package, Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms and CIM (the California developer), are in a big hurry to close this “good” deal.  As I put on my former banker hat, one thing I know for sure is that when people try to rush things, mistakes are made.  If this really is a “good” deal, give City Council members a chance to review and analyze the massive 600 pages from CIM, the developers on this deal. Council members need to understand the package and be able to:

1) get their questions and concerns answered,

2) fully understand the package,

3) determine if it really is a good deal,

4) revise the affordable housing section to make it truly affordable for ATL Westside residents, and not use Sandy Springs-Marietta income numbers

5) be able to explain their vote to their constituents,

6) vote in the best interest of their constituents.

There are three entities that have to sign off on this deal: Atlanta City Council, Atlanta Public Schools and Fulton County.  On Monday, September 17, protesters are expected to converge on the Mitchell Street side of City Hall before the scheduled 1:00pm City Council meeting.

With the recent revealed ties that CIM has to Jared Kushner and President Trump, this deal may be in trouble.  See the link and article below.

https://www.scpr.org/programs/take-two/2017/05/26/57043/la-based-cim-group-ties-with-kushner-and-trump-wor/

For your convenience, I have copied the full WNYC May 2017 article.  Though somewhat long, it is an easy and jaw-dropping read!  Please leave your comments on his post.

Donald Trump and Jared Kushner Meet With Business Leaders, January22 2017
Donald Trump and Jared Kushner Meet With Business Leaders, January22 2017
( Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press / Associated Press )
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The Watchtower in Brooklyn Heights is one of the most noticeable edifices in New York. It’s a complex of buildings on a bluff above the East River, with a sign on top that flashes the time and temperature. It used to be the world headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

But today, workers are preparing to give it a makeover. Like so much else in Brooklyn, the Watchtower has been sold to developers. It changed hands last August, shortly after Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination for President.

The timing is relevant, because the buyer was Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. At $340 million, Kushner’s purchase of the Watchtower was one of the biggest real estate transactions in Brooklyn history.

Kushner didn’t buy the Watchtower alone. He had help from a company called CIM Group, a private equity firm based in Los Angeles. Over the years, documents show, CIM has done at least seven real estate deals that have benefited Trump and the people around him, including Kushner. Those deals included stabilizing the scandal-plagued Trump SoHo hotel, a key Manhattan holding for Trump and his children Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr.

At the same time, records show, CIM Group, with approximately $19.7 billion under management, has pursued an array of lucrative government contracts, pension investments, lobbying interests, and a global infrastructure fund, all of whose fortunes could benefit from a Trump presidency.

While both Kushner and Trump have distanced themselves from their businesses, neither man has divested. Ethics experts including Kathleen Clark of the Washington University School of Law say that because of the two men’s ongoing business interests, the web of connections with CIM is troubling, even if no laws are broken.

“Trump gives new meaning to the idea what’s good for Donald Trump is apparently good for America,” Clark said. “He doesn’t actually seem to have a conception of the public interest outside of himself or his company or his family. That’s astounding.”

The White House declined to comment for this story, but in the past has defended Trump and Kushner’s business ties, saying they’ve been vetted and are in compliance with laws and regulations. CIM declined to comment on potential conflicts.

What is CIM?

CIM Group is certainly known at the top echelons of New York real estate. But the company itself — its character, its founders — seem to leave few traces beyond the properties in which it invests.

“CIM stands out as being very secretive,” said Konrad Putzier, a reporter for the Real Deal magazine and website who has covered the company for several years. “The fact that we don’t even know what CIM stands for says it all.”

A spokesman said in an email “CIM stands for CIM…that is all.”

CIM was founded in Los Angeles in 1994 by Shaul Kuba and Avi Shemesh, two Israelis, and Richard Ressler, a former New Yorker with private equity in his family — his brother Tony Ressler co-founded industry giant Apollo Global Management with his brother-in-law, Leon Black.

CIM’s strategy is to get good returns for investors by investing in undervalued urban real estate. The firm quickly became known in California for courting influential politicians and donating tens of thousands of dollars to a series of statewide political action committees.

In 2004, the firm acquired a package of properties that included the Kodak Theatre (now the Dolby Theatre) in Hollywood, where the Academy Awards are held. They purchased the real estate at a deep discount, after the previous owner ran into financial difficulties.

A few years later, CIM persuaded the city of Los Angeles to arrange a $30 million HUD loan to reconfigure the theater to stage shows from Cirque du Soleil. The arrangement was supposed to last a decade and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new economic activity. Cirque’s show, however, fizzled after little more than a year.

CIM has plenty of friends in Los Angeles, but it also has plenty of critics. Dennis Zine, a retired police officer and former city councilman, helped the company win the right to develop the derelict Reseda Cinema, which appeared in the opening sequence of Boogie Nights. Zine said CIM promised big things, but then neglected the project, embarrassing him in the process.

“They burned their bridge with me,” Zine said.

CIM Moves into New York

Throughout the early 2000’s, CIM kept rolling up cash, in part by drawing investments from public pension funds like those in New YorkState  and California. In 2010, when CIM made its first foray into New York, the two states had more than a billion dollars with CIM. Neither pension fund would discuss the reasons for their investments.

It was a great time for investors with an appetite for risk and the potential big payouts. The financial crisis had wiped out big banks like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. Those that were still around were barely lending, and many New York developers were struggling to pay their bills.

One of those was Harry Macklowe, who had acquired the site of the old Drake Hotel in Midtown Manhattan but lacked the money to build. Court records show Macklowe had tried to work out a deal to finance the project with Paul Manafort, who would later become Trump’s campaign manager, and a Ukrainian oligarch named Dmitry Firtash who had friendly relations with the Russian leader Vladimir Putin. But those negotiations went nowhere.

Then, in January 2010, CIM partnered with Macklowe to erect what is now known as 432 Park Avenue, the tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere.  One unit later sold for $95 million.

Later that year, CIM saw another opportunity: the Trump SoHo.

Though the condo-hotel project had been announced on “The Apprentice” finale in 2006, it was troubled from the start. Neighbors were immediately alarmed and upset with the idea of an outsized tower in the low-rise, chic district.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, recalled that the project was plagued with problems. He said there were “deadly construction accidents, bodies being exhumed on the site from a 19th century abolitionist church, falling objects from the building.”

Just after a gala ribbon-cutting for the Trump SoHo in the fall of 2007, the New York Times reported that one of principals in the building partnership, Felix Sater, had been convicted of assault for cutting a man with a broken margarita glass in a bar fight. He’d pled guilty to a stock fraud scheme. Another principal, Kazakh-born Tevfik Arif,was arrested on child-prostitution charges in Turkey. He was later acquitted.

It was, as Berman described it, “just an endless array of scandals and connections between the financiers and Russian andCentral Asian mobs.”

Condo buyers sued Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr., saying they lied about how many units had been sold. The Manhattan District Attorney began investigating whether there had been criminal fraud. The lawsuit was eventually settled, with the plaintiffs required to sign non-disclosure agreements. With few witnesses, the D.A. dropped its probe.

By 2010, the partners behind Trump SoHo, were falling behind on their construction loans, and the lenders were threatening foreclosure.

That’s when CIM stepped in with a reported$85 million lifeline.

Important Partners

The same month CIM saved Trump SoHo, December 2010, CIM bailed out the project’s  co-developer, Tamir Sapir, on two other properties he owned: 11 Madison Avenue and the William Beaver House in Lower Manhattan. In all, CIM spent more than a half-billion dollars and gained a stake in some prime New York City properties.

“There was a short window of opportunity that they just seized,” said the Real Deal’s Putzier.

CIM also soon embarked on its first venture with Kushner, an office building at 200 Lafayette Street. The New York Post reportedthat when they sold the building in 2013 — after $30 million in renovations — the new buyer paid three times as much as Kushner and CIM had initially invested. CIM and Kushner also appeared to turn a quick profit on another jointly-purchased office building, 2 Rector Street.

“The connection with Kushner, it’s very fitting,” Putzier said. He noted that the Kushner Companies own 20,000 apartments and 13 million square feet of office and industrial space, “but…they’re a family company, so when they do a lot of deals they usually need a partner with a lot of equity to help them, and that has often been CIM Group.”

Kushner Companies agrees. In a statement, President Laurent Morali — who replaced Jared Kushner as the firm’s top executive after Kushner went to work in the White House — said “CIM is a strong longstanding partner with a developer’s DNA. They can work through complicated situations, are thorough and strategic, yet also make quick decisions.”  The feeling is mutual: CIM said in a statement that it has “strong, collaborative relationship with the team at Kushner, which has proven to be a valuable local partner.”

CIM also said it “has only one business relationship with a Trump-related company” — the Trump SoHo. The Trump Organization declined to comment for this story; it manages the property under the terms of a licensing agreement.

“The headline attraction of being somehow even tacitly aligned with the President of the United States could provide an incredible fundraising opportunity if they play it right, if they spin it the right way,” said Serge Reda an adjunct professor at Fordham Business School. While the specifics of CIM’s pitch to investors are unknown, Reda said it would be expected that a private equity firm would discuss its record.

When CIM started making deals with the Trumps and the Kushners, its executives had no idea their business partners would one day occupy the Oval Office. But now they do, and ethics experts say that puts CIM’s connections to the First Family and its significant government business dealings in a new light.

The full extent of CIM’s government ties is not known; much of its business is private, though some investments are publicly traded. In public disclosures, CIM said it received annualized rent of $37.7 million from the General Services Administration and other federal agencies. The company said that losing business from a downsized government “could have a material adverse effect.”

CIM also depends on the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, which provides a path for foreign investors in American real estate to obtain U.S. green cards. According to the non-partisan research group Opensecrets.org, CIM spent $430,000 on federal lobbying in 2015, putting it among the top ten real estate firms lobbying on that issue. CIM listed preserving the EB-5 program as a major lobbying priority.

This is the same program that Jared Kushner’s sister Nicole Meyer, one of his siblings who now runs the family business, was recently promoting in China.

There’s one more program CIM might benefit from, which could dwarf its profits from EB-5, rents or pensions. According to SEC disclosures, CIM has an infrastructure investment fund which it acknowledges is sensitive to “regulation” and “political events.”  If Trump gets an infrastructure bill passed, funds like this could earn many millions from projects like roads and tunnels.

Kushner is at the center of the administration’s building plans. In March, the White House announced that he would head an “Office of American Innovation” whose mandates include “creating transformational infrastructure projects.”

“Whether the parties are doing something untoward or not, the situation creates doubt, and it will follow the President throughout his term as long as he owns his business,” said Jordan Libowitz, a spokesperson for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington or CREW. “It’s a question we shouldn’t be having to ask.” His group is suing the president for violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

Last December, as the president-elect was preparing to move to the White House, the firm did one more deal with Trump-world: CIM helped Kushner Companies buy 85 Jay Street, a parking lot in Brooklyn, for an eye-popping $345 million.

Watch that space.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone

More MARTA – Using Atlanta’s 1/2 Penny Sales Tax

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This great AJC article by David Wickert is so informative, I have included the full article below.  Enjoy and share. Take the online survey (5-7 minutes) and support the Greenbriar and Campbellton Road Projects at: http://www.itsmarta.com/moremarta

MARTA’s Atlanta expansion: More demands for service than money

MARTA is close to finalizing an Atlanta transit expansion plan that will influence where people, jobs and prosperity flow in the economic capital of the South for generations.

But with city residents demanding far more rail and bus improvements than the agency has money to pay for, the final plan is bound to leave many people unhappy.

MARTA has $2.5 billion to spend over the next 40 years, thanks to a transit sales tax approved by Atlanta voters in 2016. But it’s working from a list that includes $11.5 billion in potential projects, and many won’t make the final cut when the board approves a final list in September.

Among those lobbying for their favorite projects are supporters of light rail along the Atlanta Beltline, the Clifton Corridor and Campbellton Road. In recent public meetings, Beltline supporters have made the most noise. They fear the sales tax money MARTA is preparing to spend is their best – and maybe last – chance for funding for decades.

“We’re pulling out all the stops,” said Beltline supporter Rick Hudson of the Grant Park Neighborhood Association. “We’ve had 600 people in the room at a City Council meeting and a thousand people at City Hall to let our voices be heard. We’re not newbies to this.”

Atlanta Beltline supporter Rick Hudson asks questions during a recent public forum on MARTA’s proposed Atlanta expansion. Supporters for various projects are jockeying to be included in the final project list. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

But the new sales tax money may also be the last best chance for other big-ticket projects. If Beltline supporters get the 22 miles of light rail they want, other projects may have to be scaled back or put on hold.

MARTA officials have spent weeks soliciting public input on the proposed list. They’ve assured residents that no final decisions have been made, and that public opinion matters.

But they acknowledge there simply isn’t enough money to pay for every project.

“We are working very hard to get this right,” said MARTA Board Chairman Robbie Ashe. “But we realize that, at the end of the day, somebody’s likely to be disappointed.”

The Atlanta expansion is a milestone for an agency that hasn’t built a new rail line since the completion of the Red Line to North Springs in 2000.

City voters overwhelmingly approved a half-penny sales tax for MARTA two years ago. And in May the agency unveiled its proposed plan to spend the proceeds.

The plan includes 21 miles of light rail; 18 miles of bus rapid transit lines; other new bus routes; two new transit centers, and renovation of existing stations.

Among the major projects proposed:

  • The four-mile Clifton Corridor light rail line from MARTA’s Lindbergh station to the Emory University/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention area recently annexed by Atlanta.
  • A third of the 22-mile Atlanta Beltline light rail loop through dozens of Atlanta neighborhoods.
  • Transit improvements along Campbellton Road in southwest Atlanta. MARTA would start with enhanced bus service, then upgrade to bus rapid transit in dedicated lanes before finally building light rail along the line. The plan would create a continuous light rail line stretching from Emory to southwest Atlanta.

Among the projects that didn’t make the proposed list: a heavy rail extension on I-20 west and a bus rapid transit line along I-20 east.

This MARTA presentation shows the major transit improvements proposed for the “More MARTA” program approved by Atlanta voters in 2016. The projects include light rail (yellow), bus rapid transit (blue) and arterial rapid transit (red) lines. Not pictured: Local bus improvements, new bus transfer stations and renovation of numerous existing transit stations. SOURCE: MARTA. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

MARTA officials said they used a variety of criteria to compile the list. Their goals included connecting people to jobs, reducing travel time in various corridors and dispersing transit improvements across the city, so that as many people as possible benefit.

But no matter how they slice the data, they say there isn’t enough money for everyone’s favorite project – even with federal matching funds.

“Two and a half billion dollars is a lot of money,” Ashe said. “But we have more needs than that.”

That’s touched off some intense lobbying, with supporters touting the benefits of their favorite projects and questioning the merits of others.

The Clifton Corridor has been the top punching bag. Critics say the Emory area wasn’t even in Atlanta when city voters approved the transit sales tax. But they say it’s jumped to the front of the line for transit funding – at $503.6 million, it’s the single-largest project on MARTA’s proposed list.

“I hate to see them prioritizing Emory, which – up until after we voted – wasn’t even part of Atlanta,” Hudson said.

The project was on the potential project list approved by the City Council in 2016. And supporters say there’s a reason the Clifton Corridor is a priority: It’s the region’s largest employment center without direct access to MARTA rail or an interstate highway.

Betty Willis, a senior associate vice president at Emory University, said the Clifton Corridor also could be the city’s best shot for federal funding – crucial to any rail project.

“I don’t think you want to go to [Washington] D.C. asking for federal funds for projects that are not realistic,” Willis said. “That will be rejected.”


Charnette Trimble walks to her office space from MARTA’s Five Points stop. She is a community activist from southwest Atlanta who is advocating for the proposed Campbellton Road light rail line.

‘City with huge aspirations’

Campbellton Road supporters note the existing bus route serving the corridor is one of the busiest in the MARTA system – a sign that a light rail line might be well-used. And they say southwest Atlanta has long waited while other parts of Atlanta got infrastructure improvements.

“We’ve been putting up with everything out here, and it’s time we got ours,” said Charnette Trimble, who lives in the Oakland City neighborhood. “And we’re going to get ours.”

Some Beltline supporters have suggested using money from both the Clifton Corridor and the Campbellton light rail lines to complete the proposed light rail loop around the city.

The Beltline is a proposed loop of trails, parks and other amenities connecting Atlanta neighborhoods. Supporters say transit is essential to fulfilling a vision for urban living that has gained national attention.

“Atlanta has always been a city with huge aspirations. But often they haven’t carried them out fully,” Grant Park’s Hudson said. “I’d like to see them take this through from beginning to end. That’s what the city needs.”

But even some Beltline supporters doubt the full loop will make the final project list.

“That’s just not realistic,” said Brian McGowan, the outgoing CEO of Atlanta Beltline Inc., the organization overseeing its development. “There’s Campbellton Road. There’s Clifton Corridor. There’s $11.5 billion [in projects] on that list for $2.5 billion [in funding].”

McGowan said he supports transit along the entire Beltline route and is still hopeful it can get more funding.

For projects that don’t make the cut, there are other possible sources of revenue, including state funding, local taxing districts and public-private partnerships.

Compared to $2.5 billion from a sales tax that’s already been approved, those revenue sources are uncertain. But MARTA has pledged to keep searching for money.

“However we end up allocating these dollars, we will continue to pursue additional transit funding,” Ashe said, “both for the projects we identify and for those that don’t make the final list.”