Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

1GOP donor switches to Dems after Malloy election, bond commission approves $6 million in state support

Abul Islam was a generous donor to the Connecticut Republican Party – until the state elected a Democratic governor.

Islam, as the principal of a state contractor, can only give to the federal accounts of either party. A party’s federal account cannot benefit candidates for state office like a governor. Instead, they support candidates for U.S. Congress, Senate or President.

According to the Federal Elections Commission, Islam gave $350 to Democrats in April 2004, the first of his donations in the agency’s online database. At the time, then-Gov. John Rowland was facing the corruption scandal that led ultimately to his resignation and guilty plea to federal charges.

In 2008 and again in 2009, while the Republican M. Jodi Rell was governor, Islam gave $10,000 to the Connecticut Republican Party.

On Oct. 29, 2010, he gave another $2,500.

Days later, on Nov. 2, 2010, Connecticut elected Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, to be its next governor.

On the last day of 2010, before Malloy was inaugurated, Islam gave $2,500 to the Democratic Party. He followed that up with another $925 in 2011 and $2,500 more on Election Day 2012.

Islam said Malloy’s election is why he started giving to the Democratic Party and stopping giving to the Republican Party.

“I have been a longtime supporter of Dannel Malloy from his days as Mayor of Stamford,” Islam said.

Asked if he knew the federal account couldn’t benefit Malloy, Islam said, “Yes, I know that but I have been a supporter and a friend of Congressman John Larson for years, too.”

One of Islam’s companies, AI Engineers, has done about $18.2 million of work for the Department of Transportation since January 2011, including subcontracts, according to an agency spokesman.

AI Engineers did about $100,000 in business with the University of Connecticut in 2013, according to the state’s transparency website. In 2010, the company did a smaller amount of work for the UConn Health Center.

Last month, the state bond commission approved assistance for another company run by Islam, TAROB, including a $2.5 million 2 percent loan and a $1.8 million equity investment, to develop Residences at Riverview at 3 Constitution Plaza in Hartford.

The project will include 48 rental units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space.

The Capital Region Development Authority is providing the assistance to TAROB. Payments on the loan are deferred for six years.

The bond commission also approved $8.9 million for the Westport Housing Authority’s Sasco Creek Apartments. That property is managed by Millenium Real Estate. Bruce Whitaker Jr., Millennium’s owner, gave $5,000 to the Democratic Party’s federal account in November.

2DOT preferred developer brings 2013 gifts to Democrats up to $90,000 with December contributions

The joint venture selected by the Department of Transportation to redevelop part of Stamford near the city’s train station gave $90,000 to the Connecticut Democratic Party’s federal account last year, including $32,500 in December.

DOT selected Stamford Manhattan Development Ventures in June to take charge of the $500 million project, including $35 million in state funding for parking garages.

Weeks after DOT told the joint venture it won, the family behind JHM Group, which belongs to the joint venture, gave $30,000 to the Democratic Party’s federal account.

Since the company is a prospective state contractor, its executives are prohibited from giving to the party’s state account, but are allowed to give to the federal account.

Executives from other joint-venture partners, including Ciminelli Development and AllPro Parking, gave another $27,500 in November.

In December, Paul Ciminelli and Dennis Penman, executives at Ciminelli Development, gave $2,500 and $10,000, respectively.

John and Raymond Gizzi, of ECCO III Enterprises, Inc., another joint-venture partner, gave $10,000 each last month, bringing the total to $90,000.

5Busway contractor buys Canadian, breaks federal rules

A Department of Transportation contractor working on the $567 million New Britain to Hartford busway improperly used materials imported from Canada instead of American material as required by the federal government.

According to DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick, the Canadian wall panels cost about $300,000. He said DOT “self-reported” to the Federal Transit Administration and will submit a full report to the agency.

Nursick said DOT won’t know the final outcome until the FTA reviews the report, but he is hopeful the federal government will still pay for the materials.

“We  believe the noise wall system meets the letter and intent of the federal guidance,” Nursick said.

He said this issue won’t delay the project or cause it to exceed its budget. He said most DOT projects include 25 percent for “incidentals and contingencies.”

2Democrats continue to collect donations from DOT preferred developer

The Connecticut Democratic Party continues to benefit from the generosity of a preferred developer selected by the Department of Transportation to develop the area near Stamford’s train station.

Last month, the party collected $27,500 from donors affiliated with the joint venture DOT selected, adding to the $30,000 contributed over the summer.

The so-called transit-oriented development is expected to cost half a billion dollars and includes $35 million in state money for parking garages.

DOT selected Stamford Manhattan Development Ventures as preferred developer in June, but hasn’t signed a contract with the joint venture.

Three members of the McClutchy family who run the JHM Group, a member of the joint venture, gave $30,000 to the Connecticut Democratic Party’s federal account just weeks after DOT informed them of their selection.

Since the McClutchys contributed to the party’s federal account it is legal. Although they have given in the past to the campaign of Gov. Dannel Malloy, they would no longer be able to as principals of a prospective state contractor.

Despite the public relationship between DOT and Stamford Manhattan, the company does not appear on the list of banned contributors.

Gratitude from other joint-venture members continues to flow to the Democratic Party.

Louis Ciminelli, CEO of LP Ciminelli, and his wife, Ann, gave $10,000 each. Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation is a member of the joint venture. The couple lives in Buffalo.

Richard Serra, president and CEO of AllPro Parking, gave $7,500. AllPro will “consult during the design phase and oversee all parking functions upon completion,” according to a company press release. Serra also lives in Buffalo.

Mark Pazniokas of the CT Mirror previously reported on donations from lawyers at Pullman & Comley, which billed the state for more than $1 million last year, and three donors affiliated with Winstanley Enterprises who donated $10,000 each.

Winstanley is developing the future home of Alexion, the drug company receiving $51 million in state assistance through Malloy’s First Five program.

Steven Wise of Steven Wise Associates donated $2,500. His company is a landlord for the First Five company NBC Sports.

Other notable donors include:

–         Michael Silvestrini, president of Middletown-based solar developer Greenskies, gave $10,000.

–         Peter Duncan of George Comfort & Sons, a New York company with property in Stamford including the former home of NBC Sports, gave $5,100.

–         Brett Wilderman of Forstone Capital gave another $500, adding to previous donations of $5,000. The state paid his company $3 million in rent last fiscal year, according to the state’s transparency website.

–         Caroline Gaglio of King Construction gave $5,064.36. DOT paid her company $250,000 last year.

–         Bradley Statler of Tutor Perini gave $2,000. His company was part of the joint venture that won the contract for the $356 million highway interchange at the new Q Bridge.

–         Michael Stratton, a prominent Colorado Democrat, contributed $2,590.

Four union-affiliated committees donated $8,500. The party also refunded $2,500 to another union committee to clear up an issue raised earlier by the FEC.

0Did employees of DOT contractor attend NYC fundraiser with Malloy?

Eight donors affiliated with HAKS Engineers, a Department of Transportation contractor, gave generously to the Connecticut Democratic Party in October and circumstantial evidence suggests they may have attended a New York City event with Gov. Dannel Malloy.

Malloy’s office and the Democratic Party did not respond to requests for comment.

According to a report filed with the Federal Elections Commission, the party received the eight donations – totaling $45,000 – on Monday, Oct. 7, the first business day after New York lobbyist Tonio Burgos hosted a Friday fundraiser headlined by Malloy.

The nature of the donations received on Oct. 4, the date of the fundraiser, and on Oct. 7, the following Monday, plus connections between Burgos and the head of HAKS suggest employees of the contractor may have attended the fundraiser with Malloy.

Burgos and HAKS CEO Elliot Sander serve on the board of the Regional Plan Association, which describes itself as “America’s oldest independent urban research and advocacy organization.”

Sander, who donated $5,000 to the Democrats’ federal account, is the chairman of the RPA board, which has about 20 members. Burgos serves with him on the board’s smaller executive committee.

Michael Cacace, another RPA board member and a partner at the Stamford law firm Cacace, Tusch & Santagata, contributed $1,100 to the party, which it received on Oct. 7.

His firm donated another $2,000, Paul Tusch gave $700 and Mark Santagata gave $200 all on Oct. 7.

HAKS had two state contracts worth about $4.3 million that date back to before Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, took office. In 2012, DOT signed two new contracts with HAKS worth another $3.6 million to date, according to the transparency website.

A May 2012 DOT contract with HAKS specifies a $582,534 “fixed fee for profit” and a maximum budget of $7.5 million.

Previously, The CT Mirror and the Hartford Courant reported on a Malloy trip to California where he came across an executive with McKinsey & Co., a state contractor. The Republican Party filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission suggesting Malloy may have broken the law.

The Democratic Party received a large number of out-of-state donations on Oct. 7:

–         Muhammad Siddiqui, of North Brunswick, N.J., with Simco Engineering gave $5,000.

–         Jon Silvan, of New York City, gave $2,500. He is CEO of Global Strategy Group, the firm where Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s former adviser, now works.

–         Thomas Beck, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., donated $1,000. He is chief commercial officer of ReEnergy Holdings, which owns ReEnergy Sterling, a power plant in Eastern Connecticut that burns old tires and biomass to generate electricity.

–         Jay Kriegel, of New York City, a senior advisor to the real estate firm The Related Companies, gave $1,000.

–         Anthony Masiello, of Buffalo, N.Y., president of the lobbying firm Masiello, Martucci, Calabrese & Associates gave $1,000.

–         Peter Peyser Jr., of Washington, D.C., with the lobbying firm Blank Rome Government Relations, gave $1,000.

–         Jose Rodriguez, of New York City, president of HITN, gave $1,000.

–         Tucker Green, of New York City, is a political consultant. He gave $250. His firm, Tucker Green Consulting, raises money for New York Democrats.

Douglas York, of Stamford, is CEO of Union Community Health Center in the Bronx. He gave $1,000, also on Oct. 7.

The donations received by the party on the actual date of the fundraiser include $175 from state employee Gail Crockett; $2,500 from Marvin Lender of M&M Investments, formerly of Lender’s Bagel Bakery; and $250 from Austin McGuigan of Rome McGuigan, who gave a total of $1,600 in October.

2DOT contractor gave $30,000 to Connecticut Democrats weeks after selection

A husband, wife and son each wrote $10,000 checks to the Connecticut Democratic Party weeks after learning the Department of Transportation selected their company for a $500 million Stamford redevelopment project.

The state will provide $35 million for parking garages near the city’s train station, while the preferred developer, the joint venture Stamford Manhattan Development Ventures, will finance the rest of the “transit-oriented development” project.

The development, to be called Station Place, is expected to include office space, a hotel and residential units amounting to 1 million square feet, according to the Stamford Advocate.

DOT made the decision to select Stamford Manhattan on June 6, according to a spokesman, and agency officials met with company representatives on June 12 to discuss “next steps.”

John McClutchy Jr, a longtime contributor to Democrats, runs The JHM Group. One of the JHM companies is the managing member of Stamford Manhattan, according to the Secretary of the State’s website.

John McClutchy, his wife, Janet, and their son, Todd, each gave $10,000 to the party on July 1, 2013, according to the Federal Elections Commission. The FEC tracks the donations because they went to the state party’s account for use in federal elections. State campaign finance laws do not apply to this kind of contribution.

Ten days after the donations, DOT publicly announced Stamford Manhattan as the state’s preferred developer.

According to the State Elections Enforcement Commission, the trio also donated:

–         $750 each to Prosperity for Connecticut, a political action committee Gov. Dannel Malloy has fundraised for, in January 2012

–         $100 each to Malloy’s campaign committee in 2010

–         $375 each to Malloy’s exploratory committee in 2009

On July 13, 2012, DOT issued its RFP for the Stamford TOD project. Proposals were due Sept. 24.

A month later, John McClutchy gave $2,000 to the Connecticut Democratic Party.

According to a DOT spokesman, the agency is still negotiating a contract with Stamford Manhattan. Because the negotiations are ongoing, DOT declined to identify other bidders on the project.

Similarly, DOT refused to provide documentation supporting the selection of Stamford Manhattan until the contract is signed.

State law gives agencies the option to keep these documents secret until a deal is made. Agencies become obligated to release them once a contract is signed.

Employees of another DOT contractor, HAKS engineers, gave $45,000 to the Connecticut Democratic Party in October.

Previously, McClutchy gave $8,075 to the Connecticut Democratic Party between 2002 and 2006.

In 2011, McClutchy gave $5,000 to the party. Todd McClutchy gave $250 in 2006 and $10,000 in November 2010.

Todd McClutchy didn’t work for JHM until after the 2010 election. Previously he worked for The Richman Group.

Stamford Manhattan Development Ventures also includes Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation, ECCO III Enterprises and the Gilbane Company.

3Employees, family of DOT contractor gave $45,000 to Conn. Democratic Party last month

Eight donors affiliated with HAKS Engineers – a company paid millions a year by the state Department of Transportation – contributed $45,000 to the Connecticut Democratic Party last month.

In all, the party raised a little more than $300,000 from individual contributions. That means contributions from HAKS account for nearly 15 percent of the money raised in October.

The State Central Committee’s federal account received all of the HAKS-related donations on Oct. 7.

In fiscal year 2013, DOT paid HAKS $6.1 million, according to the General Assembly’s transparency website.

DOT paid HAKS $4 million in 2012, $6.3 in 2011 and nearly $7 million in 2010.

HAKS had two state contracts worth about $4.3 million that date back to before Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, took office. In 2012, DOT signed two new contracts with HAKS worth another $3.6 million to date, according to the transparency website.

A May 2012 DOT contract with HAKS specifies a $582,534 “fixed fee for profit” and a maximum budget of $7.5 million.

HAKS highlights at least two Connecticut projects on its website.

HAKS chairman Husam Ahmad gave the party $7,000. Uzma Ahmad, who shares the same New York address, contributed $10,000.

CFO Shahid Akhtar and controller Mubbashir Rahman, who live in New Jersey, gave $5,000.

President and CEO Elliot Gene Sander of New York also gave $5,000.

Franco Balassone and Louis Torelli, both Connecticut residents, gave $5,000 each. Another Connecticut resident, Mahmood Mohammed, gave $3,000.


0Hartford is a small orange compared to the Big Apple

nyc vs ct final mapBefore making any more comparisons between Hartford and the Big Apple, take a look at this modified map of Connecticut.

New York City is more than 17 times the size of Hartford. Overlaying NYC on the state of Connecticut reveals that the city would cover from Windsor to Wallingford, including the cities of Hartford, New Britain, Meriden, and Waterbury.

Still, some might argue that there is more to a city than mere square mileage. Hartford’s population is a minuscule 1.5 percent of NYC’s 8.17 million people; even the population of the whole state of Connecticut is only 3.4 million.

In terms of business, New York City blows Connecticut out of the water. With close to a million firms, NYC almost triples Connecticut’s business community, and their $78 billion in 2007 retail sales is over $26 billion greater than ours.

ppl per sq mile graph

New York City isn’t better than Connecticut or Hartford, but they are different. Remember, Hartford is a small orange compared to the Big Apple. Lawmakers and citizens alike often forget this and attempt to implement solutions (like this and this) that, while more practical in New York, make little sense in the Constitution State.

Zack Albert was a 2012 Yankee Institute summer intern. He is studies political science and economics at Fairfield University. He lives in Southington.

4Can you hear me now? Bond commission to fund PA system upgrade at Capitol

The State Bond Commission will meet Friday to allocate more than $100 million in borrowed state money.

Of the 31 projects on the agenda, three stand out.

– $1.3 million for renovations to the Capitol and Legislative Office Building, including an “upgrade to the public address system,” roof work, windows and a boiler.

– $300,000 (to go with $788,724 in federal money) to build new offices for the Connecticut River ferries in Chester and Rocky Hill.

– $9 million (on top of $7 million allocated in January) for Bridgewater Associates new landlord. According to the Office of Fiscal Analysis, this money is not included in the $115 million First Five package. The agenda anticipates a total of $25 million in state remediation funding, bringing state aid for Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund, up to $140 million.

1Crowd shows up to support expanded availability of licenses

Photo by Katherine Concepcion.

Photo by Katherine Concepcion.

Thousands of residents attended a transportation committee hearing at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven on Monday, March 4, in support of bills expanding the rights of immigrants and migrant workers.

Current law only allows licenses to be issued to individuals with a Social Security number. S.B 68 would allow state residents to obtain commercial and non-commercial licenses and register their vehicles regardless of immigration status. H.B 6037 has similar aims.

The large auditorium was standing room only, those unable to get a seat gathered in the cafeteria, where the hearing was broadcast over loudspeaker.

“If this bill passes it would be good for all the community, not just Hispanics, not just Americans, but all immigrants from any country,” said Gisela Calahorrano, member of Sacred Heart Church in Waterbury. “Everyone could be identified and we could pay taxes and register our vehicles.”

Calahorrano organized a group of fellow church goers to distribute English and Spanish copies of the hearing testimonies.

“It’s for a great cause,” said Rosa Maria Gonzalez, a fellow church member. “It will help many immigrants and we shall be all equal regardless of anything.”

Community response to this legislation was so strong that the local fire marshal got involved due to the overcapacity. Cars were even double parked, blocking in school employees trying to get home. Officers at the scene first blocked the entrance and then began letting people in about 50 at a time.

Legislators argued that passing the legislation would benefit the state due to increased tax revenue and benefit insurance companies, giving them access to a previously untapped consumer market.

“Right behind me, a lot of these folks are active and productive citizens in our community,” said Rep. Victor Cuevas, D-Waterbury.  “They contribute every day to our local economy.”

Rep. Cuevas illustrated the importance of the legislation by recalling the story of one of his constituents, an immigrant slapped with a four year jail sentence after accidentally hitting and injuring another driver after hitting an ice patch on the road.

“His family lost a father, the victim had knee surgery and she had to retire. These are the telling stories of what we are trying to say,” said Rep. Cuevas.

The scenario would have been much different if the law had allowed this worker to carry a license and car insurance.

“We have to stop being reactive and we have to start being proactive,” said Rep. Cuevas.

Supporters argued that S.B 68 would increase public safety. Undocumented individuals struggle with the inability to call police when help is needed, for fear of deportation.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano tackled this issue in 2007 by issuing Elm City resident ID cards. Approximately 10,000 have been issued since. Despite subsequent threats and hate mail, he strongly stands behind the project. “Immigration has always been a powerful factor in wealth creation and job growth in the city of New Haven,” he said.

If passed, the bills discussed Monday evening would go further to provide a sense of safety for these individuals.

“Many organizations have been working on this for around three years,” said Uswaldo Cuapio, East Haven resident and member of Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, or, CONECT. “We work toward a common good and little by little we’ve been able to meet and support each other in making this possible.”