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
On 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.