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New York's Biggest Political Contributor is Main Figure in Silver Case

By  Jeff Mays and Murray Weiss | January 23, 2015 7:06pm 

 Longtime state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested Thursday for taking "millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks" that he masked as legitimate income from practicing law, federal prosecutors said.
Longtime state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested Thursday for taking "millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks" that he masked as legitimate income from practicing law, federal prosecutors said.
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Jane Rosenberg

NEW YORK CITY—A luxury real estate firm that owns more than 25 rental buildings from TriBeCa to Riverdale valued at over $1 billion is the powerbroker developer listed in the federal corruption complaint against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, sources confirmed to DNAinfo New York.

According to the complaint, Silver, 70, steered "Developer 1" — identified by sources as Glenwood Management, which is owned by 100-year-old Leonard Litwin — to a law firm that helps get tax reductions for property owners, but unbeknownst to them he was allegedly receiving a kickback.

Court documents say that the developer was the largest political donor to state candidates and political action committees from 2005-2014, with $10 million in contributions over that time span, including about $200,000 to Silver and his political action committee.

The developer also paid $900,000 to eight lobbyists in 2014 alone who pushed issues before state officials, including Silver.

According to its website, Glenwood promises clients affordable luxury.

"Situated in Manhattan's very best neighborhoods, Glenwood apartments are designed for high-end living at affordable prices," the description reads.

For instance, in "Gracie Point" on the Upper East Side, there is the Andover, at 1675 York Ave., which features "Fountains and landscaped gardens."

"As you enter the stylish lobby, the fragrance of fresh floral displays fills the air. With optional valet and maid services, convenient garage parking and a rooftop sun deck, this location has no shortage of stellar amenities."

It also offers opportunities for affordable housing for low and middle-income residents.

The speaker allegedly racked up $700,000 in referral fees from the law firm, which sources identified as Goldberg & Iryami, where one of the partners once served as his Assembly counsel.

Glenwood received tax breaks for affordable housing as well as having new buildings and Silver oversaw the distribution of those breaks as the head of the Assembly.

Silver, who is a lawyer, has no background in real estate law and did no work for the money, said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. The indictment refers to the arrangement as a "scheme" that resulted in "undisclosed bribes and kickbacks."

"Sheldon Silver converted his public authority over property laws into $700,000 in personal profit and none of that has ever been publicly disclosed," said Bharara.

The indictment alleges that Silver convinced Glenwood, through a lobbyist, to switch their tax appeals over to Goldberg & Iryami from other law firms.

While Glenwood had numerous tax break applications before the state, the firm gradually, and with Silver's knowledge, increased the number of buildings represented by Goldberg & Iryami to 15, the indictment says.

In December 2011, a lobbyist, who sources identified as longtime Silver confidant Brian Meara, expressed concern to Glenwood that Silver was receiving a portion of the money the real estate company paid to Goldberg & Iryami because Glenwood had business before the state.


In January 2012, with ethics disclosure laws changing, Goldberg & Iryami sent Glenwood a notice disclosing that Silver was getting referral fees and asking the firm to sign a retainer that Silver was representing Glenwood in tax appeal matters along with Goldberg & Iryami.

Glenwood refused to sign the retainer as written but did sign a sign a "side letter" acknowledging that Silver was getting fees and was now taking "joint responsibility" for representing the real estate company.

Bharara said the secret agreement was a corruption of Silver's public duties because he continued to be lobbied by lobbyists from the developers and some of the developer's recommendations on real estate issues were adopted into law by the legislature.

"The developers are pleased with how Sheldon Silver comes out on their issues," said Bharara.

A person answering the phone at Litwin's Boca Raton, Fla. home said he was not at home and that they were unsure of when he would return.

Representatives for Glenwood Management declined comment.

A source close to the firm who asked not to be named because they did not have permission to speak on the record, said the firm sees itself as "witnesses" in the case because they did not know for years that Silver was getting a cut of the fees it paid to Goldberg & Iryami.

"We didn't make any corrupt deal or bargain with Shelly Silver. There is no quid pro quo," said the source.

Asked why the firm continued to pay once it learned fees were being paid to Silver while they had business before the state in violation of ethics laws, the source said: "It was a business decision to continue to pay. There is no evidence we asked Sheldon Silver to do anything for us."

Glenwood has not been charged with a crime and the source says the company does not have a cooperating agreement with federal authorities.

Silver maintained his innocence Thursday after being released on $200,000 bail.

"I will be vindicated," said Silver.

Litwin, who is chairman emeritus for life of the Real Estate Board of New York, got his start in New York City real estate in the 1950s when he and his father developed the Pavilion which was the largest luxury apartment in the city at the time, according to a biography on the REBNY website.

At 100-years-old, the source said Litwin has been too frail to be involved much in company business for at least two years.

"He's sick. He has nothing to do with this. He is 100 and very ill," the source said.