At the heart of the federal cases against two of New York’s most powerful legislators, state Sen. Dean Skelos and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, lies a large real estate company based in New Hyde Park.
Glenwood Management Corporation, located at 1200 Union Turnpike and one of the state’s biggest and most influential developers, plays a prominent role in the complaints against both Silver and Skelos, literally as developer #1.
Glenwood is referenced in the Skelos case as “Developer-1,” and Leonard Litwin, the company’s 100-year-old billionaire founder, is “Developer-1” in the complaint against Silver, reports say.
Prosecutors of the Silver case say the ex-Speaker steered Glenwood executives to a law firm run by a political ally who paid Silver hundreds of thousands of dollars in referral fees, according to the criminal complaint against him. And Glenwood’s influential senior vice president, Charles Dorego, is one of two witnesses cooperating with prosecutors in the Skelos case.
“If Dorego is involved, then you can bet more trees are going to fall,” an unnamed lobbyist told Capital New York.
Efforts to reach Glenwood Management Corporation officials were unavailing.
Prosecutors say Skelos, the Senate Majority Leader, “obtained over $200,000 in payments to his son, Adam Skelos, through persistent and repeated pressure applied” to Dorego and Glenwood. The company relied on the Legislature for tax abatements and other legislation, such as rent regulation, essential to its real estate business.
The senator’s pressure, prosecutors say, led Dorego to secure a $20,000 check to Adam Skelos from a title insurance company for work he never performed. It also led Dorego to push the CEO of AbTech Industries, an environmental company in which Dorego and Litwin both owned stakes, to hire Adam as a consultant for $4,000 per month.
When AbTech later won a $12 million Nassau County water-treatment contract — despite a lower bid submitted by a different company — Dorego sent an email to an AbTech executive cooperating with prosecutors that said “dad called” and Sen. Skelos threatened to quash the contract unless Adam were paid more, according to prosecutors.
Adam Skelos’ monthly allotment jumped to $10,000.
Authorities arrested both Skeloses on Monday. Dorego received immunity in exchange for his cooperation, according to prosecutors.
“When all was said and done, Dean Skelos is charged with having caused more than $200,000 to be paid to Adam Skelos in exchange for backdoor bribes,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Diego Rodriguez said in a statement.
The criminal complaints depict Glenwood as a company with tremendous access, engaging in frequent meetings between Litwin, Dorego or Glenwood lobbyists and the state’s most powerful figures.
Skelos in turn took official actions that benefitted Glenwood by voting for legislation lobbied for by the company, including the renewal of a tax abatement, an expansion of the tax abatement program in 2013 and a rent regulation law in 2013 called “crucial” to Glenwood, prosecutors.
Glenwood owns about 8,700 apartments and 20 apartment buildings in New York City, and 8,700 apartments in New York City, most of which receive tax abatements.
Litwin, a major philanthropist and co-founder of the Litwin-Zucker Research Center in Manhasset, also ranks among the state’s largest political donors.
In 2013 alone, Litwin paid more than $1 million in campaign contribution payments, making him the second highest donor in the state, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group. (Capital New York reports Litwin contributed more than $3.6 million in 2014 and was the highest donor.)
Using dozens of Limited Liability Companies to legally flout campaign contribution limits, Litwin directly or indirectly made at least 1,834 contributions worth $13.2 million dollars between 2000 and 2014, according to figures compiled by the Gotham Gazette.
During that period, Litwin donated $1.1 million to the New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee and $1 million to Cuomo’s 2014 re-election bid. He was by far the largest donor to the campaigns of Cuomo, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, and the driving force behind New York’s real estate PACs, including one that attacked Senate Democrats.
Litwin contributed $110,000 to Skelos’ campaign, $59,000 to now-Rep. Kathleen Rice and $45,000 to state Sen. Jack Martins. Overall, he contributed large sums to dozens of political organizations and elected officials across New York — Republican and Democrat alike.
“They are equal opportunity givers,” Susan Lerner, executive director of the good-government group Common Cause, told Capital New York about Dorego and Litwin “They have used the L.L.C. loophole for the benefit of the governor, and various committees and other legislators. I don’t believe there is anybody they don’t contribute to in some way.”
A New York Times article following the arrest of Silver painted Litwin as “a shy, soft-spoken, compact billionaire” who went to the office in New Hyde Park six days per week well into his 90s.
“Lennie ran that company in his late 90s and his mind was sharp as a tack,” Jeffrey Gural, a friend of Litwin and big player in real estate, told the Times. “Everyone loves Lennie. You won’t find anyone who’ll say a bad thing about him.”