Joel Giambra is behind the conspiracy to smear housing commissioner Joe Mascia

Earlier this year — while Joe Mascia was considering a run for Common Council — the 27 year incumbent David Franczyk reached out to Joel Giambra, the former County Executive, to orchestrate a coordinated smear against the outspoken 70 year old housing commissioner. Giambra is a close friend of Paul Christopher, the man who taped Mascia in a private conversation and prodded him to use a slur against African Americans.

Christopher mentions Giambra by name in footage made publicly available by WGRZ, but denies a plot. As of yet, it is unclear what Christopher may have procured in his dealings with Giambra. The firm he works for is a government contractor. Christopher has a long history of trouble with the law. He has been estranged from his family for the past ten years. A source tells me that the FBI has been asked to investigate the situation.

In recent days, Christopher’s brother has reached out to Mascia to apologize for his brother’s actions.

Giambra has long been known as one of the most ruthless political operatives in Western New York. He is the childhood friend of Mike Seamen, the Chairman of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority and a senior figure in the administration of Mayor Byron Brown. Mascia had been calling for Seamen’s resignation because of the housing authority’s longstanding incompetence, financial improprieties, and improper contracting practices. The situation had become so bad that the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a “Substandard Management” rating and threatened federal receivership of the 31-property agency.

Earlier this year, Giambra had reached out to Mascia to suggest that he “sit down and get on the same page with Seaman.” Mascia declined the meeting requested by Giambra but encouraged Seaman to reach out to him directly. The phone call never came.

Mascia has been the city’s most outspoken critic against the continued privatization of the housing authority, policies championed quietly by Mayor Byron Brown and Council President Darius Pridgen. While Mascia has been fighting against forces of gentrification and the displacement of the poor and minorities, Brown and Pridgen have been taking tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to sell off housing projects to private developers, including Norstar — one of the largest and most consistent contributors to both men.

Because of his criticism of the Brown administration’s management of the authority, Mascia has been the target of political retribution, particularly at the behest of Adam Perry, the Hodgson Russ partner who enjoys shockingly lucrative contracts for legal work from the city and BMHA.

Norstar, R&P Oak Hill Development, and the takeover of public housing

norstar-linda-l-goodmanOn June 17, 2011, when Pridgen had been actively vying for the Ellicott district Council seat, Linda Goodman — a regional executive with Norstar — contributed $7,500 to his election campaign. That contribution was illegal, because campaign finance limits on city council races cap individual contributions at $1,000 for the primary and $1,000 for the general election; and there was no active general election campaign that year. Ms. Goodman’s contribution was over seven times the legal limit. She continues to be his largest campaign contributor to date.

Mayor Byron Brown has had a longstanding relationship with Norstar, which appears on almost every single campaign finance disclosure that the Mayor has ever filed. The Mayor has accepted money from the firm regularly since the beginning of his administration — as he simultaneously, albeit quietly, pushed for the privatization of several housing complexes.

Norstar is currently demolishing and reconstructing the Shoreline Apartments on Niagara Street, seen by residents as major step towards downtown’s continued gentrification.

The firm R&P Oak Hill Development is another property developer, which is currently rebuilding AD Price Courts — the first African American public housing project in the nation at the time of its construction, and a point of contention with preservationists. The firm is demolishing the complex and rebuilding it under their management.

Ms. Goodman has been a primary driver of Norstar’s business development. The firm’s website describes her experience:

Linda L. Goodman is Norstar Development USA L.P.’s Vice President, Buffalo Office, responsible for projects in New York State, including project proposals, financial applications, and government documentation relating to subsidized and low-income housing developments.

Ms. Goodman has over 20 years of real estate experience, 12 of which are with Norstar.  She previously worked for a number of affordable housing finance firms in the private sector, including Lend Lease Real Estate Investments (formerly Boston Financial).

As a former Vice President with Boston Financial, Ms. Goodman was responsible for originating and evaluating multi-family tax credit investments.

Before joining Boston Lend Lease (Boston Financial), Ms. Goodman was a Senior Portfolio Manager with Edison Capital where she managed a portfolio of the Company’s affordable housing investments.

Prior to her tenure at Boston Financial, Ms. Goodman worked at Paine Webber Properties, syndicating market rate real estate products.  She also provided asset management services in the areas of retail, commercial, and residential properties for Paine Webber.

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7 comments

  1. You can’t blame Giambra , Joel didn’t put those words in his head or make him speak those words. I forgive his statements, Thats how felt he said he should own it and move on

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  2. Sadly, he should have been more reserved and cautious in his conversation with Christopher. Surely he must have known all of his connections you have cited here. Still, he espoused a view about blacks in leadership positions and political leaders that’s unacceptable for a man hoping to represent a nearly all black constituents in the Fillmore District. The word “nigger” and ” fu-k” have become part of the daily lingo many Americans use to disparage, as humor or comedy.
    But the notion blacks in power abuse it or don’t deserve to be in leadership positions is unacceptable.
    Why is it more prevalent among Italians than other ethnic groups especially the older generation Mascia, Giambra, Paladino, etc.?

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  3. Mascia was prodded? So he was forced to repeatedly slander the mayor and council president? Rhis whole article is a horrible attempt at blame shifting. Mascia is a racist quite obviously from his own mouth. Even if you blame Giambra, Brown and Pridgeon, HE (mascia) still said it. Nobody made him do it.

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  4. Would you rather have someone who says those things privately but acts different or someone who talks a good game but actions show different? And to bring Italians into a statement like that shows your racism and bigoted personality. Go blog on your racist outlet. And yes he was set up if you don’t believe it you don’t know the hippocrites in religion and politics.

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  5. I know Joe Mascia and have never heard him use that word, i know him to be a crusty fighter, always having to defend himself . He would and has given the shirt off his back to anyone who needed it, regardless of race, class, ethnicity ..anything . Reading this is no surprise and I would bet there are more people involved .. why isn’t this political set up also outraging all of you ?. that being said the use of that word is horrific and I am saddened and horrified . I hope those who set him up get their due justice . He was clearly a target…. now what makes me really angry is I can stand on any street corner and shudder when i hear that word blaring out of a car for anyone , and their kids to hear . where is the outrage?? Maybe several lessons can come from this . .and i hope the truth . whatever it may be , comes out and all fall as hard as Joe Mascia has. I make no excuses for him . Something smells rotten here … it is ugly and sad and i believe it goes deep.

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  6. Mascia-like everyone else-has both good and bad in him. Not that I’m generalizing because what he said was disgusting, and Matt you were there when I told him he should continue to apologize without justification or excuse. When I first heard the name Joel Giambra being mentioned even prior to your article I thought the person who told me had been drinking.

    Geeeeze what a way to rear his ugly head that Giambra guy. Good article Matt.
    Wh

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