Willets sticks with Lipsky

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The fallout over the arrest on corruption charges last week of prominent lobbyist Richard Lipsky swept across Queens and the city.

Lipsky, a slight, moustached, dapper man who assumed the persona of a hero to small businesses, has worked throughout New York City for a wide range of clients, including anti-development organizations and a prominent developer.

He turned himself in last Thursday in connection with a federal corruption probe alleging that he indirectly injected lobbying fees totaling $252,000 into an account accessible by state Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) in hopes of encouraging him to take official actions to benefit Lipsky’s clients.

The 63-year-old faces charges of corruption and money laundering conspiracy, and faces 40 years in prison if convicted of the charges. He was released on his own recognizance last Thursday.

Lipsky’s most prominent role in Queens has been his nearly two-year tenure as a lobbyist for Willets Point United, a group of Iron Triangle property owners, many of whom are facing the prospect of the city seizing their land through eminent domain.

“On advice of counsel, I really can’t comment,” Lipsky said in a telephone call Monday evening. “Any comment has to come from the Willets Point people themselves, and they are continuing to retain me.”

Willets Point United was keeping Lipsky’s services as of Monday, bucking the trend of cutting ties with him set by many of his other clients and associates. The group paid Lipsky $57,500 in 2010, according to lobbying records.

“The allegations have nothing whatsoever to do with Willets Point, and we consider that Dr. Lipsky has done a most effective job on behalf of WPU to expose the severe negative impacts of the proposed Willets Point development,” the group said in a lengthy statement on its website. “WPU is motivated, indefatigable, and inspired by Dr. Lipsky’s contact with federal enforcement agencies.”

Forest City Ratner Cos., the developer of the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, a flashpoint in the national eminent domain debate, hired Lipsky, effectively barring him from being able to work on behalf of project opponents.

Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for the developer, said Lipsky worked for Forest City Ratner as a consultant for about five years before he was terminated last week.

“He actually worked on issues related to youth and sports. His background is in sports. He has a doctorate in sports psychology or something like that,” DePlasco said. “He was a consultant, so he wasn’t directly employed.”

Lipsky was also fired by other clients, including the Partnership for New York, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and the Red Apple Group.

Lipsky published a number of academic papers on sports-related issues in the 1970s and ’80s, including “Political and social dimensions of sports” in 1984.

At a protest last month, Lipsky railed against the methods the city has used in pursuing Willets Point for redevelopment.

“The entire process needs to be overturned because it was utilizing illegal lobbying operations,” Lipsky said at the time.

Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), an outspoken opponent of the $3 billion plan to redevelop Willets Point, spoke at that same protest. He said Friday he was “very surprised” to hear that the lobbyist worked on both sides of the eminent domain issue.

“I wouldn’t have expected Lipsky to be involved, but it’s symptomatic of the system,” he said. “How the hell can you be involved in helping the Willets Point owners fight the misuse of eminent domain and yet you’re supporting the misuse of eminent domain by Ratner at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn?”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 10:48 am, October 12, 2011
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