Monday, May 6, 2019

Report: Preservationists want probe of the tech hub deal on 14th Street

[Photo from Saturday]

The Village Preservation (GVSHP) is calling for a probe of the "sweetheart deal" that the developer of the tech hub received on 14th Street.

As the Daily News first reported yesterday, the GVSHP explored the paperwork behind the project, pointing out that the developer, RAL Development Services, will pay $1.6 million a year for the first five years ... then $2.3 million annually in the five years after that while the previous tenant, P.C. Richard & Son, paid $1.7 million in annual rent for the two-story building.

GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman told this to the News:

"It seems highly suspect that the developer of a 21-story office tower is paying barely more than the operator of a 2-story appliance and electronics store for use of this incredibly valuable land. This is and has been from the beginning a sweetheart deal for political allies of and donors to the mayor. There was absolutely no transparency to the process by which RAL were chosen to get this incredibly valuable piece of public land for a song."


Berman pointed to a lack of any documented evaluations of bids on the development deal, which is supported by the results of Freedom of Information requests made by his group to the city’s Economic Development Corporation. In response to a request for notes, ratings or a scoring sheet regarding the selection of RAL over several other applicants, EDC responded that it located "no responsive records."

The GVSHP also found through campaign finance records that Andrew Rasiej, CEO of Civic Hall — RAL’s partner in the development — donated at least $8,000 to Mayor de Blasio since 2004. Meanwhile, RAL was also supportive of de Blasio's now-defunct nonprofit Campaign for One New York, giving at least $10,000 in 2015, as the News reported.

And the city's response? "The best applicant was chosen," Jane Meyer, a spokesperson for the Mayor, told the News, adding that the donations had nothing to do with RAL's selection.

As for more background, it took nearly nine months for the proposed tech hub — now called the Union Square Tech Training Center — to wind through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, culminating with the City Council's OK last August. (A rezoning was required to build the the 22-story structure, which is larger than what current commercial zoning allows.)

The Department of Buildings approved the permits for the new structure on Feb. 26, just three months after they were first filed.

Construction work was expected to start in this first quarter of 2019, per the 14th @ Irving website. But first, the former P.C. Richard & Son outpost was to be demolished. (The 14th @ Irving website now states that "site mobilization and protection" will start today.)

The project is being developed jointly by the city’s Economic Development Corp. and RAL. The Union Square Tech Training Center includes Civic Hall, which will offer digital skills for low-income residents, as well as market-rate retail, office space and a food hall.

Mayor de Blasio first unveiled the renderings publicly in February 2017.

I asked Berman what he hopes the next steps are after the disclosure in the News yesterday.

"My hope is that there would be some sort of review of the process by which this bidder was chosen, whether or not it was based on the merits and in the best interests of the people of the City of New York," he said in an email.

Previously on EV Grieve:
Behold Civic Hall, the high-tech future of Union Square — and NYC

Speaking out against a 'Silicon Alley' in this neighborhood

P.C. Richard puts up the moving signs on 14th Street; more Tech Hub debate to come

Preservationists: City schedules next public hearing on tech hub without any public notice

City Council's lone public hearing on the 14th Street tech hub is tomorrow

City Council unanimously approves tech hub; some disappointment in lack of zoning protections

The conversation continues on the now-approved tech hub for 14th Street

1st signs for the future tech hub arrive on 14th Street; more details emerge about 14th @ Irving

New building permits pre-filed for the (slightly larger) tech hub on Union Square

City OKs new building permits for mayor's tech hub on 14th Street


Bobby G said...

This mayor is so in bed with the real estate industry, and with no transparency. Do you know what the rents are at the Essex on City owned land? More than $6,000 a month! And his so called affordable housing policy? I got two words: Rivington House! Bring back Mary Spink!

dwg said...

The tech hub was initially supposed to include affordable housing. That disappeared in a flash. This is just another developer's dream. And so much for the flow of traffic on 14th during the L shutdown. The tech hub is going to amount to one hell of a speed bump.

Anonymous said...

Another Mayor de Blasio deal that hopefully will shut down his self-motivated desire to enter the 2020 presidential sweep-stakes. Where oh where is the outcry for this self-delusion coming from?

Carol from East 5th Street said...

Kudos to Andrew Berman and GVSH for investigating this! The power that developers and REBNY have in NYC is frightening.

noble neolani said...

To echo the above comments, our Mayor is building a legacy and to do that he will make any bad deal for the residents of this city to benefit big money developers and companies which own an increasingly large percentage of our housing stock.

The GVSHP has been a champion of more than just historical preservation but one of the few organizations which is taking on City Hall and it's big money developers. Andrew Berman is a thorn in those greedy bastards sides and a champion for those of us who fear our neighborhoods will soon vanish along with our livelihoods and the ability to remain residents fo this city.

Anonymous said...

Such a shame that a pol wraps himself in the veneer of progressivism while being nothing more than on-the-take. I would have so much more respect if he were to say, "we must develop and embrace the new" and not take their money. But these people can't help themselves: they've chosen the way of transaction politics, while hoping no one notices. And what of Carlina Rivera, who dithered and equivocated? How on Earth can a "candidate" so pre-ordained and groomed not find a way to a firm position on something like this ahead of time? Follow the money, fellow citizens. Follow the money.

cmarrtyy said...

Andrew Berman and the GVHSP stand as the last hope to save our city neighborhood by neighborhood. But every election we the voters make it harder and harder for him to hold the barbarians at the gate. We elect the corrupt pols who represent the monied interests. And they get away with it because it's ONE PARTY RULE... ONE PARTY RULE. Just look at our Carlina Rivera. She pretended to dither about the rezone then votes to rezone. And her excuse...typical... jobs. But there are no jobs except in food service in the huge food mall that's a big part of this supposed tech center. We didn't vote for her to ruin the EV, did we? But that's what she's doing for the Dem party and Mayor Shill. The danger of ONE PARTY RULE is that the party is more important than the voters. Next time think twice... think selfish... think about who will really help us preserve the community. We know ReZone Rivera is not the answer.

Anonymous said...

I long ago concluded that every deal De Blasio is involved with is likely a dirty deal. This is just one of the most obvious (or dirtiest) of them all.

I'd rather have PC Richard and LIGHT and AIR above that small building, by far.

Pinch said...

"New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio easily won a second term on Tuesday night with 66 percent of the vote, the first time a Democrat has been re-elected to the position since Ed Koch in 1985. But although de Blasio may see his victory as a mandate for his agenda, calling it “the beginning of a new era of progressive Democratic leadership in New York City for years and years to come” at his election night party, the actual voter turnout numbers could defy that optimism.

As of July 2016, there are 8,537,673 people in New York City. According to the state Board of Elections, there were 5,053,842 voters in the city as of Nov. 1, and 4,596,813 of them are considered active by the state. Out of that nearly 4.6 million active voters, early reports from the New York City Board of Elections show that 1,097,846 voted in the mayoral election. Narrowing the scope even further, only 726,361 people in New York City voted for de Blasio."


Anonymous said...

Mayor DeBlassio is a blight on our city. It pains me to admit this. I am not the only commenter on this thread who harbors negative feelings about this man. He pretended to offer several things when he was vying for this coveted position in the first place. What happened afterwards? Nothing but a heap of bullshit.

He is self-serving, smug, oblivious, childish, ridiculous, and unrealstic. His vision for NYC and the country is a joke not to mention his 2020 bid. What planet does he live on? Pluto? This new building is a mistake.

Charles said...

Unfortunately this shows what a great ROI (Return on Investment) political donations provide. Thus we need more public and less private campaign finance.


Probe, baby. Probe!

Anonymous said...

Hopefully today's (8 May) NY Times article and editorial about Mayor de Blasio's fundraising practices will invite further probes, and, end all of his hopes to run for higher office. He has many progressive ideas, but like too many politicians he forgot that he is in service to the people not his self-interest. He will leave office with the hint of scandal that never rose to prosecution.

sophocles said...

In separate cases two donors pled guilty to bribing the Mayor, yet there is no accounting . . .