"Bronx Bigs In Probe" NY POST 10/02/06
BRONX BIGS IN PROBE
By MURRAY WEISS and DAVID SEIFMAN
October 2, 2006 -- The feds are probing two Bronx political powerhouses and their roles in lucrative real-estate dealings in the borough, The Post has learned.
Sources said the FBI is investigating the dealings of Bronx Democratic leader José Rivera and Stanley Schlein, the longtime lawyer for the party and a well-known figure in local politics.
Schlein served as a lobbyist for the New York Yankees, which enlisted most of the city's political establishment, including Rivera, on its side to push through plans for a new $1 billion ballpark.
The federal probe doesn't currently include the new Yankee Stadium project, but sources said the deal likely will be examined.
About a month ago, an agent from the bureau's Public Corruption Unit quizzed Ellington Taylor, 62, who until his recent retirement had served as Rivera's driver for more than two decades.
Sources said a Manhattan federal grand jury has issued subpoenas for government and business records.
The sources wouldn't provide any other details.
Schlein expressed shock when contacted by The Post yesterday, saying there is no basis for an investigation.
"I'm absolutely befuddled," he said. "I'm at a complete loss."
Schlein said he's been involved in only two major Bronx land-use projects in recent years, both in well-documented public roles.
One was the Yankee Stadium deal. He said he also served as an unpaid advocate for the Bloomberg administration when it sought approval of a $1.5 billion water-filtration plant underneath Van Cortlandt Park, which Rivera also championed.
As part of the deal, The Bronx is receiving $240 million to renovate its parks.
After the FBI visited Taylor, Schlein said the driver called him and he contacted Rivera.
Rivera couldn't be reached for comment.
But Schlein said he and Rivera have no business relationship and Rivera is not involved with any developers.
FBI officials declined comment.
Rivera is a former city councilman whose son, Joel, now serves as the council majority leader and whose daughter, Naomi, is an assemblywoman from the borough.
Schlein has served as an adviser to a wide range of politicians, from Al Sharpton to Fernando Ferrer.