The developer who got a sweet deal from the city to build a half-market-rate, half-affordable Upper East Side apartment tower is a big donor to Mayor de Blasio, records show.
Since 2011, Harold Fetner and his family have written eight checks totaling $39,150 for de Blasio, including seven donations to his 2013 and 2017 election campaigns and one to the mayor’s transition committee.
Months after arriving at City Hall, de Blasio appointed Fetner to the nonprofit Mayor’s Fund for the Advancement of New York, a plum assignment the mayor has doled out to multiple deep-pocketed donors.
NYCHA announced on Wednesday it had picked Fetner’s company, Fetner Properties, over three other bidders to build a 47-story tower on what is now NYCHA land in the Holmes Towers development on E. 91st St.
Under the deal, Fetner gets a 99-year lease and will build and manage a 344-unit tower. He will also qualify for $13 million in taxpayer subsidies and will pay no property taxes because the building will sit on NYCHA land.
NYCHA and Fetner refused to release any information regarding the amount of money Fetner expects to make in annual rent. Fetner will pocket rent from all apartments, both market rate and affordable.
On Thursday a Fetner spokesman said, “It would be absurd to imply that this (campaign donations) has anything to do with our selection for the project. We were selected because our proposal was carefully crafted to best meet the needs of the NYCHA community and provide much-needed recreational space, good jobs and affordable housing.”
During a City Council hearing Thursday, NYCHA Chairwoman Shola Olatoye defended the deal, stating that “one of the reasons why this proposal won was they were taking all these residents’ concerns into consideration.”
Fetner will pay an upfront fee of $25 million to NYCHA, but between the public subsidies and the loss of millions of dollars in potential property taxes, Councilman Benjamin Kallos (D-Manhattan) predicted the city ends up in the red.
“So actually, the city is losing money on this deal,” Kallos said during a Thursday City Council hearing on NYCHA’s budget.
“I take issue with ‘the city is losing money,’ ” Olatoye responded. “The city is being committed to creating more affordable housing, and as you know that action requires city subsidy.”
Though NYCHA announced it had picked Fetner, many details of the plan still aren’t clear.
Fetner said he’s committed to distributing affordable units “evenly” throughout the building. But he has yet to submit a specific floor plan laying out the details in writing.
In his response to NYCHA’s request for proposals, Fetner wrote, “At this stage in the schematic design process, with potential alterations to the massing plan, the affordable and market rate units have yet to be identified.”
Kallos said the city only requires that 65% of the floors have affordable units, so he believes the majority of lower-income units will wind up on the lower floors, with most higher-income units at the top.
During the Council hearing, Olatoye said, “I cannot speak to the exact numbers,” but then vowed that affordable units would be “evenly distributed” throughout the building.