A top Atlantic Yards executive pressed a Brooklyn state senator for millions of dollars to fund the controversial development, as well as a new ice-skating for Prospect Park, court documents reveal.
The charges filed against state Sen. Carl Kruger by federal prosecutors on Thursday do not explicitly name Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, but they do describe conversations with officials from a “real estate developer which is spearheading an over $4 billion, multi-year, mixed-use commercial and residential development project in Brooklyn.”
The documents describe an exchange between Kruger. D-Brighton Beach, and the vice president of public relations for the developer — likely Bruce Bender of Forest City Ratner. In the conversations, the executive pushed for $9 million in state money for the closed Carlton Avenue bridge in the project footprint between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, as well as $4 million for the Lakeside project in Prospect Park.
“Kruger told the vice president that he had to choose what project he wanted to get done because the vice president was asking for ‘about $12 million worth of projects’ and ‘they are not all going to get done,’" the court documents allege. “The vice president said he needed a ‘combo of two projects, the park and Carlton Avenue Bridge.’"
Kruger, who turned himself into authorities on Thursday on charges related to over $1 million in bribes, was apparently uninterested in funding construction work on the bridge.
“F*** the bridge," Kruger said in the documents. The vice president replied, “My dilemma is, as you know, I don't mind f***ing the bridge, I can't f*** it right now, I've got to leverage that bridge." After further discussion, Kruger agreed to allocate $500,000 to the .
Upon hearing that figure, the executive allegedly replied, “You're cute…You're good Carl. You are a good friend." But the exec then went on to complain that the money was not enough to fund the entirety of the major renovations at the southeastern tip of the park. Bender’s wife, Amy Bender, is a member of the board of directors of Prospect Park.
Like the entire Atlantic Yards development, the reopening of the Carlton Avenue bridge — which links Prospect Heights and Fort Greene — has been beset with delays.
Originally the bridge was slated to close from roughly early 2008 to early 2011. Now, as the watchdog blog Atlantic Yards Report noted, the bridge is set to reopen in the summer of 2012.
A spokesman for Forest City Ratner, Joe DePlasco, said that the developer had terminated a contract with a lobbyist who also faces corruption charges.
“Obviously Senator Kruger is an elected official from Brooklyn, so we have dealt with him,” he added. “There’s no suggestion in that indictment that Forest City Ratner acted inappropriately in any way.”
Kruger's attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said that his client "expects to be fully vindicated."