Gifford Miller: Slush-Fund Refugee

While the council roils in scandal, the former Speaker stays mum, hangs with developer chum

This happy coincidence of giving and getting caught the attention of the city's Campaign Finance Board, which examined Witkoff's 2005 contributions as part of a study on how to regulate donations from those doing business with city government.

The board pointed out that, after the Witkoff contributions, the council in September 2005 approved a zoning change to let Witkoff build a 26-story tower and a 100-space parking garage on York Avenue.

A couple of weeks later, the council gave another green light to Witkoff, this one to let him build a 200-foot-tall tower at the corner of Charles Street and West 10th Street, in the heart of Greenwich Village. In doing so, the council approved a special "carve-out" for Witkoff's site that exempted it from a new rezoning plan won by Village residents trying to limit new high-rises in the neighborhood.

There wasn't any evidence that Witkoff had pushed for the carve-out, the board noted in its report. It was just another of those muddy mysteries that permeate the intersection of politics and property.

Miller, now sitting on the real-estate side of that divide, declined to discuss his relationship to the generous developer. After days of ducking phone calls from the Voice, he gave a response via e-mail to The New York Sun, which has also reported on his profound silence on the council's troubles. "The issue has received extensive coverage in the media and I have nothing to add," Miller wrote. When I complained—this time via e-mail—that he was being discriminatory in his no-comments, Miller promptly responded: "Fair enough," he wrote back. "This issue has received extensive coverage in the media and I have nothing to add."

Pressing my luck a little, I asked about his dealings with Witkoff and the title-insurance firm. The response took a little longer, but back it came, complete with plugs for two of his current ventures: "I am chairman of the Liberty Art Title Agency. Liberty Art Title offers cutting-edge title insurance to the art world to eliminate the risk of title and provenance for art collectors. Miller Strategies provides strategic consulting to a number of private-sector firms. Miller Strategies does not engage in lobbying activities. Beyond that, I have no further comment."

At least the guy's still got a sense of humor. For those seeking his services, e-mail address: Giffordmiller@yahoo.com.

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