New York Post Builder who donated to NY Dems gets sought after lot in shady deal by Rich Calder

New York Post
New York Post
Builder who donated to NY Dems gets sought after lot in shady deal
Rich Calder
Danika Fears
05/13/2016

A developer who contributed $10,000 to an upstate Democratic campaign committee just as Mayor de Blasio was pushing for a Democratic takeover of the state Senate later won a valuable waiver from the city on a corner property in Harlem.

The deal — like one before it on the Lower East Side that is now under investigation — was completed before local officials got wind of it.

BRP Companies paid $875,000 to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to get a deed restriction lifted in November 2015 on a corner lot at St. Nicholas Avenue and West 152nd Street, The New York Times reported Friday.

The restriction required that the lot, owned by the Dance Theater of Harlem, be used only by nonprofit cultural organizations.

BRP went into contract to buy the parcel for $3.1 million in May 2015 and finally closed last month.

The local community board, along with Councilman Mark Levine and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, were never told that the deed restriction was going to be removed.

“We found out after it was lifted by just looking up the deed,” said April Tyler, chairwoman of the community board’s land-use committee. “I think this is worth highlighting and investigating.”

In October 2014, the same developer forked over $10,000 to the Putnam County Democratic Committee, one of the local political committees de Blasio’s fund-raising team has been accused of using to evade campaign contribution limits to try to help Democrats retake the state Senate.

Both the Manhattan district attorney and US Attorney Preet Bharara are now investigating the stream of funds going to the small upstate political committee.

During a budget hearing at the City Council Friday, DCAS Commissioner Lisette Camilo said the city removes about four deed restrictions a year and that “13 to 14” already in the pipeline were put on hold following a suspicious deal on the Lower East Side, where a developer made a $72 million profit when a deed ­restriction was quietly lifted.

Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) told The Post afterward that he had to learn about the Harlem deal from the press and couldn’t get answers from the administration.

“The city has to take ownership of what is happening,” he said. “I am deeply troubled that there was no budget transparency in this process.”

Camilo said her agency would surrender its deed-restriction rec­ords for the past five years to the City Council for review.

Afterwards, Camilo stormed off, refusing to answer questions from reporters.

Issue: 
Good Government