• The Developer, The Politician, And The Expert

    Usurping land usage and zoning for power and profit

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    Connecticut is under a major transformation. Large scale cookie cutter buildings are going up like erector sets all across the state. Giant private equity firms with billions of dollars to invest in real estate stand to make a fortune from a goldmine of renters. The real estate market is inflated by these same private equity firms that are buying up property across the nation faster than the rise of inflation. Soon there will only be a handful of companies controlling a massive amount of rental properties, both commercial and residential. Regular people today are finding that renting a small 565 square ft apartment could cost them as much $1600 a month, and that’s what the Mayor of New London calls, “attainable workforce housing”.

    Lennar, Mastry Ventures make multi-million dollar investment in net-zero prefab home

    Vessel Technology, Inc. aka Vessel Hold RE Holdings, LLC, has dozens of projects across Connecticut and New Jersey. Both states have vigorous laws that help developers usurp municipalities and their ability to turn these developments down, using the sacred mantra “affordable housing”. The irony is their affordable housing is not affordable and it is creating a feudal system of corporate landlords who will own a majority of the residential properties in Connecticut in the very near future if something isn’t done to stop it. Unfortunately legislators in Hartford are very cozy with developers.

    It’s a racket with venture capital firms and private investors, trading and selling tax subsidies for building cheap quickly made apartment buildings that can hold as many people as possible on a small parcel of land. Neil Rubler, a former investment banker now landlord and developer has big plans for Connecticut. Rubler got his feet wet with real estate as an investment banker, then he married an heiress to the Onlick real estate empire. From there, Rubler later formed his own real estate company, Vantage Properties. Rubler made the top ten list for the worst landlords back in 2010 and was sued by NYC for evicting people in rent-controlled apartments they owned.

    That, in fact, was the avowed strategy of Vantage Properties, which Rubler began in 2005, when it scooped up about 9,000 mostly rent-controlled apartments in more than 130 buildings around the city, many in Queens. At the time, Rubler called his aggressive approach “innovative,” saying he intended to be to the real estate market what Wal-Mart is to the retail industry. 

    The Village Voice

    Rubler claims to be a champion for the needs of the community, affordable housing, and meeting that need with state of the art technology. Rubler patented his techno apartments that can be built in weeks with prefab container like apartments. According to Rubler, Vessel Technology is going to save the world and offer sustainable, inclusive, and equitable, apartments for the working people. His buildings are all designed in the same neo-feudalist fashion, white boxes stacked on white boxes. There is no paint needed in this all electric building that will be run with SMART technology. No need to have a superintendent when you have technology.

    Vessel technology has been very busy in Connecticut with lawsuits in pursuit of building these everywhere they can. When Rubler comes to town, he is armed with a high powered team of politicians, experts, and lawyers, ready to fight for your community for his right to build and become your town’s largest landlord. He is actively seeking towns based on a mandated quota of “affordable housing” required by 8-30g.

    Jason Rojas, State Representative and House Majority Leader, is championing legislation in Hartford that is dismantling local control of zoning in favor of handing that control over to public, private, partnerships, that support private equity firms, and use the government’s to do its bidding. Rojas also sits on COMMISSION ON CONNECTICUT'S DEVELOPMENT AND FUTURE (CCDF).

    I met Rep Rojas last fall on a “Walking Audit” of Manchester sponsored by DesegregateCT. Rojas was very clear about local zoning being both racist and exclusionary. He went on to explain that the State of Connecticut has already delegated the power it needs to over ride local zoning with The Zoning Enabling Act. You can see my conversation with Rep Rojas here: Work Live Ride, A walking audit of Manchester, CT.

    Who does representative Rojas serve? The private equity investors and developers, or the people? If Rojas did his due diligence, which he should as House Majority Leader, then he would know the sordid history of Neil Rubler.

    There are so many parts of this puzzle that are quite puzzling. Our taxes pay for our leaders to hire people to run our town and look out for the town’s best interest. In Connecticut we pay very high taxes. Yet we don’t get as much as we should in return. Can we really trust that people hired for decades into positions paying high salaries loaded with fringe benefits and connections, are worthy of our trust? What happens if we find out they are acting against our best interests? The story of James Sipperly elucidates this conundrum in a stark way. James Sipperly is the Environmental Planner of the City of Middletown and has worked for the city of Middletown since 1997. In 2004 he was accused of ethics violations, fired in 2005 and then reinstated in 2006. Sipperly was charged with using city resources for his own benefit and approving projects he was hired as an expert for.

    "On one or more occasions James S. Sipperly used and directed other City employees to use, city computers and city computer system in connection with private business relationships which had no connection with the conduct of official city business as prohibited by law," the report said.

    "Sipperly had the power to review, or influence the official review of plans submitted by professional engineers," the report said.

    The report also said he failed to disclose his relationships on the record to inland wetlands as well as his superior.

    On the final complaint the board found that Sipperly had an indirect personal interest in the awarding of invitations to bid for survey work in connection with a Wesleyan Open Space Parcel during May until June in 2003.” 

    Middletown Press

    Sipperly fought his firing with the aide of the American Teachers Federation of Connecticut, which also represents municipal workers, The Middletown Managers and Professional Association, which recently incorporated as a nonprofit, but has been around since the 80s so far as I can find. I will do a deeper dive into MMPA later. I find it quite curious and wonder how they are connected to the Teachers Federation!? Sipperly immediately got back to work and has been doing the same thing now for decades. Sipperly is hired by private equity firms and developers as an environmental expert. His expert advice has consistently been in favor of those who hire him. Sipperly has argued against citizens and favored developers in the City of Middletown, Simsbury, and Granby, just to name a few. Sipperly reports are like the cookie cutter buildings designed by the people who pay him. Sure some things may change in each report according to the town he’s looking at, but his findings are the same, there will not be an impact on the environment, the project can proceed. How much is Sipperly paid as an expert? How can this possibly be ethical?

    Private equity firms and developers have the upper hand at every level, the state, the municipality, and municipal experts. The politicians create legislation in collaboration with big development and the backers financing it. Public, private, partnerships, create circular cronyism. Not only is it bad for the towns, it is bad for anyone just trying to live and survive in Connecticut. How sad a time we have come upon. Where our land is up for grabs by the highest bidder, and the voice of the people is stifled. Private equity investors do not care about affordable housing, they care about money. Their track record has proven this over and over again. This is the “Multifamily Industry”, a powerful means to the greatest transfer of wealth and property in our history. You’ll own nothing and be happy in a circular economy. It is time for Americans to wake up to the heat from the pot we are all being boiled in.

    Links and References:

    Bank Street developer once named one of New York's 'worst landlords'


    Landlord from Hell selling his buildings


    Mr. Rubler, 28, is an associate in investment banking at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette in New York.


    Private Equity


    Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette





    Regular Hybrid Meeting

    Town of Granby

    Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission



    Questions of Rent Tactics by Private Equity


    Rep. Jojas




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    Jennifer Sparks aka J.Cherry

    Jennifer Sparks aka J.Cherry is an independent journalist, radio host, and producer. On the airways she was known as J.Cherry where she produced a popular local radio show, VOICE of the CITY, airing on WESU 88.1FM. There she conducted in depth and candid interviews with artists, politicians, authors, activists, scientists, and community leaders. In 2020 Jennifer left WESU to pursue an independent podcast where she could freely talk about controversial subjects. A mother and wife before being a journalist, she felt compelled to break free and dig into medical freedom, government policy, parental rights, public health, corruption, and big pharma. Over the years Jennifer has been published in local newspapers as a freelance writer. Frustrated with being censored and not being able to publish the stories she felt were important and under reported, she began her own blog. Her work can be found at jcherrrypresents.com and on Substack https://jcherry152.substack.com/.

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