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Jo Anne Simon’s “Questionable” Money

On a more substantive note, Real Reform Brooklyn’s latest broadside against Jo Anne Simon tries to connect the dots between a few Simon contributers and Atlantic Yards. The crux of the argument is that Simon received contributions from three board members of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation (BBPDC), as well as a contribution from the wife of one of those board members. RRB claims that the contributions from these “real estate related interests” pose a conflict of interest, in that Simon is opposed to the development of luxury housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park. This is enough of a stretch – and belies a complete misunderstanding what a conflict of interest is. But RRB really jumps the shark when it claims that the contributions create the “appearance of a conflict of interest” because the BBPDC is a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), and ESDC is – wait for it – overseeing the development of Atlantic Yards.

For the record, the “questionable” contributions came from BBPDC board members Joanne Witty, David Offensend and Henry Gutman and from Gutman’s wife Karolyn. All three are heavy contributers to various campaigns – notably Yassky, Markowitz and de Blasio. The total of the contributions from the four was $2,750 ($6,250 when matched with city matching funds).

The BBPDC contributions are interesting, and may raise a question about Simon’s commitment to keeping luxury housing out of Brooklyn Bridge Park for those who are concerned about the issue. But they are not a conflict of interest, and they are certainly not an indication of a connection to Atlantic Yards. If you want to troll the CFB records for questionable donations, there are far bigger fish out there. Take for instance Joshua Guttman – two “T”s, he of Greenpoint Terminal Market fame – and his family. He, his son Jack and wife Vera have given a total of $6,000 in direct donations to Isaac Abraham’s campaign.