On Wednesday, the new session of New York’s state legislature begins in Albany and Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver is all but assured of being re-elected as Speaker. He’s held the post since 1994 and will soon become the longest-serving Assembly Speaker in New York history. At the same time, Silver continues to face questions about the outside income he earns as a private attorney, a report said.
The U.S. Attorney and the FBI are reportedly investigating payments made to the Speaker by Goldberg & Iryami, a real estate law firm. There’s been a steady stream of news articles in the past week concerning the investigation, Lower East Side news website The Lo-Down said.
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Yesterday, Capital New York reported that at least 27 clients of the small law firm benefited from the state’s 421a tax break, a program that Silver has helped sustain.
The New York Times reported last month that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and the F.B.I. were investigating “substantial payments” a real estate law firm had made to Silver over the years, despite Silver’s omission of those payments from his financial disclosure forms, Capital said
It was the first time the public learned Silver worked not only for a personal injury law firm, but also for a real estate firm.
Silver, a Democrat, has long played a crucial role in real estate issues in Albany. He has publicly championed tenants’ rights, rent stabilization and affordable housing over the years, but has also earned a reputation among real estate executives as a pragmatist in a sea of reflexively pro-tenant Assembly members, Capital said.
An examination of Silver’s record reveals he has regularly used his position as Speaker to help lower taxes for developers, several of whom have also employed his second law firm, Goldberg & Iryami, to secure lower city property tax assessments, according to the report.
A Capital examination of records maintained by the New York City Tax Commission shows there are 1, 294 active petitions for reassessment of property tax assessments by properties that retain Goldberg & Iryami, a firm that specializes in obtaining real estate tax reductions. Additionally, 3, 530 active petitions are being handled by the firm’s principal, Jay Arthur Goldberg, Capital said.
At least 27 of the properties separately receive the 421a tax breaks whose renewal was supported by Silver, according to a Capital analysis of data maintained by the New York City Department of Finance.
Silver, it should be noted, has never been the beneficiary of real estate’s largesse to the same degree as Albany’s other leaders (his was the only conference that didn’t receive a plurality of its campaign contributions from this sector in the 2012 election cycle). But developers are still a significant source of money for Assembly Democrats, the report said.
By virtue of his position, Silver is often the most effective champion tenants have got in Albany against the real estate lobby. For example, Silver has opposed “scaffold law reform, ” which would reduce worker liability costs for developers. Then again, that reform is also opposed by the tort lobby represented by Weitz and Luxenberg—the other law firm that pays Silver, Capital said.