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Seller’s Remorse Fear of having residents pushed out of an affordable housing complex and into the streets of New York has government officials and lawmakers putting the brakes on the proposed sale of the largest federally-subsidized housing complex in the nation. The 140-acre Starrett City neighborhood in Brooklyn currently houses 14,000 residents in about 5,881 units and has been home to the area’s working class for more than 30 years. So when Starrett City Associates, the current owners of the apartment complex, agreed in February to a $1.3 billion deal with Clipper Equity, a group of real estate investors headed by David Bistricer, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has to approve the sale, pledged to aggressively review the deal. It did, and with a push from opponents such as Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y), New York Rep. Edolphus Towns (D), and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the agency said no. That prompted Starrett City Associates and Clipper Equity Holdings to do what any big-dollar company would do — hire a D.C. lobby firm to save the effort. Starrett signed up Barbour Griffith & Rogers Chairman Ed Rogers, chief of staff to former President George H.W. Bush, and Dan Murphy, former chief of staff to HUD Secretary Mel Martinez. Clipper Equity Holdings hired Dutko Worldwide’s Brad Card, managing principal at Dutko and former chief of staff to former Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), to educate HUD and lawmakers on their plans for the apartment complex, which include “the development of market rate apartments at the affordable housing facility,” according to Senate lobbying records. Card says his client has no intentions to weed out current tenants. “Clipper Equity wants to maintain it as affordable. There is misinformation that they are going to get rid of the tenants,” Card says. But Denise Mixon, spokeswoman for Towns — who represents the Brooklyn district where the apartment complex is located — says lawmakers worry that because the proposed $1.3 billion sale price would put the value of each unit at about $220,000, the new owners would almost be forced to hike rents. “Bistricer has said that he would keep the apartments affordable, but for the life of us, we don’t see how he could do that at that price,” Mixon says. Thus far, Schumer and Towns are standing by HUD’s rejection of the proposed sale. “Bistricer’s folks did contact our office,” Mixon says. “The congressman did talk to them very briefly. As far as he’s concerned, the deal is a dead deal.” — Osita Iroegbu
Katrina Catch-Up A newly formed group of private Louisiana hospitals, clinics, businesses, and insurance companies are making the rounds in Washington, pushing a plan that would allow them to be reimbursed with federal money for medical services given to Louisiana residents who don’t have health insurance. Former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), now senior counsel at Patton Boggs, is one of four Patton Boggs lobbyists who have been talking with federal lawmakers from Louisiana and officials at the Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services for about a month on behalf of the Coalition of Leaders for Louisiana Healthcare to promote the government reimbursement plan. Coalition members include Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, the Louisiana Hospital Association, and the Metropolitan Physicians Council. “The area lost 11 of its 13 charity hospitals,” Breaux says. “They were flooded and all of the records were lost and there was no electrical communication. The fact is that it was a terrible disaster and now we have the opportunity to create a 21st-century hospital system.” Before Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana health care was a two-tier system — one for people with health insurance, who received care from most of the major private hospitals, and one for those without insurance, who were treated by charity clinics. Breaux says he helped obtain $165 million in funding for recovery services, including health care and physician recruitment in the affected areas. — Osita Iroegbu
Client Grab American Capitol Group expanded its client roster in the end of May by 10, registering health care company Allscripts, the Canned Food Alliance, telecom company Plant CML, and defense consulting firm G-77 Group. The firm also signed on to lobby for Southern Utah University, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and D.C.-based law firm Dickstein Shapiro on behalf of Dupont Chemical for agricultural issues. The growth comes as the 4-year-old firm renamed itself earlier this year from Larson Stewart Myrick & Link. “We’re not a law firm. We are a PR and lobbying firm, so we wanted to obviously reflect that we are more about public relations and government relations,” says James Link, a partner at the firm. The name change coincided with the firm adding two lobbyists: Jonathon Lehman, who was counsel to then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), now of Alston & Bird, and Nate Gatten, a former Fannie Mae lobbyist. — Anna Palmer

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