Last month, LittleSis first reported that Mayor Bloomberg’s longtime partner, Diana Taylor, sits on the board of Brookfield Properties, which owns Zuccotti Park. The connection was subsequently noted in a number of media outlets, and Bloomberg was asked about it (ignoring obvious conflict of interest issues, he sidestepped by saying that “pillow talk” at his house was not about the protests).
New research shows that that kind of coziness extends a few steps down the food chain from the billionaire mayor and his ilk, to the Brookfield Properties security team and the NYPD, which have acted hand in hand to guard Zuccotti Park since the eviction on Tuesday. Research on Brookfield’s security apparatus shows that the company has strong ties to the NYPD, through current and former police officials.
The ties further illustrate the extent to which the NYPD has been captured by big business interests, building on recent criticism of “rent-a-cops” and JPMorgan Chase’s massive donation to the NYPD. Retired Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis, who is participating in the protests in New York and was arrested today, has called the NYPD “Wall Street mercenaries” who are being exploited to protect the interests of the 1%.
Brookfield’s ties to the NYPD start at the top of its security team: Director of Security Ralph Blasi previously worked for the NYPD for 22 years before taking the job at Brookfield Properties. Blasi appears to be the individual at the beginning of this video from Zuccotti Park on Tuesday, who does not identify himself when asked but does say he works for Brookfield. Later in the video, one of Blasi’s contractors calls the interviewer, Joey Boots, a “faggot.” That private security contractor has since been fired, to Brookfield’s credit.
Blasi’s name has not appeared in recent media coverage of Brookfield and the Occupy protests. In the past he has received significant media attention for his role in devising a successful evacuation plan for One World Financial Center employees on 9/11. He is also a prominent player in the elite corporate security-NYPD nexus, serving on the host committee for a Police Athletic League luncheon in early October which honored JPMorgan Chase Consumer Bank head Ryan McInerney. The list of host committee members is here, and includes New York City elites such as Fred Wilpon, the owner of the Mets, who is under investigation for his firm’s ties to Bernie Madoff; a number of real estate kingpins, including Aby Rosen, George Kaufman, and Daniel Rose; and representatives of JPMorgan Chase, Silverstein Properties, and CB Richard Ellis. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is the honorary chairman of the Police Athletic League.
One of Brookfield’s private security contractors, MSA Security (formerly Michael Stapleton Associates), has even stronger ties to the NYPD. MSA Security, which advertises itself as being “In the business of business as usual,” listed Brookfield Properties on its website until a few days ago, but the client list has since been taken down. The google cache is available here. MSA’s clients in the financial sector include AIG, Goldman Sachs, NYSE Euronext (the stock exchange), and Bank of America. It also provides security services to Fox News and a number of real estate firms, including World Trade Center site developer Silverstein Properties.
MSA VP of Operations Hugh O’Rourke confirmed that his firm is retained by Brookfield, but declined to comment on the nature of the services or whether it was playing a role at Zuccotti, citing MSA company policy. MSA lists services such as “executive protection” and “threat and risk assessments” on its website, though the focus of much of its work appears to be bomb detection. Brookfield Properties has not responded to requests for comment.
MSA’s leadership includes many former NYPD officials. At least eight MSA executives list former NYPD affiliations in their bios — about a third of the firm. (MSA also took down pages with biographies of its leadership team and operations team earlier this week. Google caches of those pages are available here and here.)
Specifically, the firm has strong ties to the NYPD’s counterterrorism division. O’Rourke previously served as executive officer there. MSA’s president, Michael O’Neil, was the first commanding officer of the NYPD’s counterterrorism division following 9/11, according to his bio. Governor Cuomo recently appointed O’Neil to chair the New York Security Guard Advisory Council. Two other MSA executives, Patrick Devlin and John Quinn, also worked in the counterterrorism division.
On the other side of the revolving door, current NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Operations Patrick Timlin is a former employee of MSA Security, having worked there from 2004 to 2009, between stints at the NYPD. Timlin oversaw the internal review of the Amadou Diallo killing as Assistant Chief in 2001, which found that the officers who fired 41 shots at the unarmed Diallo were acting within police guidelines. Timlin gives MSA and its high-powered clients a contact in the upper echelons of the NYPD leadership.
MSA seems to have profited from the financial crisis to some extent by offering security services to financial firms that perceive heightened security risk due to public anger about the bailouts. In an article about the AIG bonuses in 2009, the New York Times quoted Timlin about corporate executives’ security fears and suggested that MSA had experienced an increase in business:
But several security companies in New York credited the financial crisis with a noticeable increase in some areas of their business, from protecting executives to dispatching bomb-sniffing dogs to check for trouble. “There is certainly anger among people about the economy and fear among corporate executives themselves,” said Mr Patrick Timlin, the president of Michael Stapleton Associates, which provides bomb-dog teams.
MSA Security may or may not be involved in operations at Zuccotti Park. Regardless, its roster suggests that a lucrative future awaits top NYPD officials who are willing to become “Wall Street mercenaries” and go to work for major financial firms and real estate interests like Brookfield Properties. The connections raise further troubling questions about the privatization of security and policing: who is the NYPD really working for when these sorts of incentives are on the table? Do former officials hold on to special access and privileges after they retire, which they leverage for the benefit of firms like Brookfield? How many NYPD officers are working for companies like Brookfield and MSA when they are off-duty? Of course, this is all part of the broader dynamic that Occupy Wall Street is protesting: a government takeover by corporate interests that has put one-percenters like Mayor Bloomberg in the driver’s seat. We’ll continue to follow that takeover here at LittleSis.