New York Daily News City Controller Scott Stringer blasts Mayor de Blasio’s deed restriction switches: ‘Government has failed every which way’ by Erin Durkin

New York Daily News
New York Daily News
City Controller Scott Stringer blasts Mayor de Blasio’s deed restriction switches: ‘Government has failed every which way’
Erin Durkin
05/13/2016

City Controller Scott Stringer blasted the de Blasio administration over the secretive lifting of deed restrictions on lucrative properties.

“This is an outrage,” Stringer said at City Hall. “It’s just mind boggling. The public should be outraged. Government has failed every which way.”

Stringer is probing the case of Rivington House on the Lower East Side, where the city took $16 million to remove a restriction requiring the property to be used as a nonprofit health care facility — shortly before a luxury condo developer bought the land for $116 million. The state attorney general and city Department of Investigation are also investigating the deal.

Around the same time, the city removed a restriction on a Harlem lot that was supposed to be used for a nonprofit cultural organization — when a developer that had contributed to one of de Blasio’s political causes, BRP Companies, was already in contract to buy the site, the New York Times reported. In that case, the city got only $875,000 for the move.

“It’s wrong that the people of Harlem and the people of the Lower East Side wake up to ... find their community is being sold right out from under them,” Stringer said. “The public deserves better than deed restrictions that are lifted in the middle of the night with no oversight.”

The Rivington probe is one of several investigations swirling around de Blasio, who is also being examined for his campaign financing. Stringer is a rumored electoral rival should things go south.

“My political plans have not changed at all,” Stringer said. “But I will tell you that we have got to get to the bottom of this kind of pay to play process that I think is not serving the public interest.”

Lisette Camilo, commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which handles the deed restrictions, told the City Council Friday the administration is reviewing the process but refused to answer specific questions about the Rivington and Harlem deals.

The city has put all pending requests to lift deed restrictions on hold — halting 13 to 14 deals, she revealed.

“We put a stop to all of the deed modifications that have been in the pipe. We have put those on hold,” she said.

“The processes by which deed restrictions are valued, and restriction removals are authorized, are similarly under review and subject to overhaul,” Camilo said.

Councilman Ben Kallos, chair of the government operations committee, questioned why the city would “give a windfall to property owners.”

“How many more situations like Rivington and [St. Nicholas Ave., the Harlem site] are coming down the pike?” he said.

Camilo ignored questions from reporters as she left the Council chamber and hurried into the mayor’s offices.

Issue: 
Good Government