US Attorney Preet Bharara strikes again. The dogged investigator of official corruption in the Empire State has identified a new target relating to the official activities of Big Apple Mayor Bill de Blasio and it looks like a good one. This time he’s checking into some contributions from real estate developers who wanted to convert a property owned by the State University of New York (SUNY) into affordable housing. The facility in question had been very publicly championed by de Blasio as one which needed to be kept open until he became mayor. Then the situation seemed to change rapidly. (NY Post)
Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating whether Mayor de Blasio engaged in a fund-raising pay-to-play scheme over the controversial sale of a Brooklyn hospital for redevelopment into housing, The Post has learned.
The corruption-busting federal prosecutor recently subpoenaed the State University of New York seeking a slew of records regarding de Blasio’s ties to its sale of Long Island College Hospital in Cobble Hill, sources said.
The records date back to 2013, when de Blasio was the city’s public advocate and campaigned to keep LICH open. He even made a show of getting arrested during a protest rally while he was running for mayor…
But after winning the 2013 election, the mayor largely abandoned his opposition to the hospital’s closure, instead backing a redevelopment plan by the Fortis Property Group for a series of apartment towers that would include 200 to 300 affordable units.
There were several developers interested in obtaining the property, including Don Peebles, chairman of The Peebles Corporation. While he was fishing for access to the Long Island College Hospital (LICH), Peebles found out that de Blasio was interested in some donations to one of his political advocacy groups, this time to the tune of $20K. He forked over the money, but it apparently wasn’t enough to cement the deal since the LICH eventually went to rival Fortis Property Group. (No word at this time whether or not they also pitched in to the Mayor’s slush funds.)
If Bharara gets his hooks into this one and can show some sort of quid pro quo it will not only be a damaging and potentially criminally liable case for de Blasio, but will shine a harsh light on his often touted populist appeal. While campaigning to advance his political career, the mayor championed LICH as a needed institution serving the public’s medical needs which simply had to be kept open. Then, once he’d made it to City Hall, it was quickly on the chopping block to the highest bidder. Bill de Blasio, along with Governor Andrew Cuomo, are already under an increasingly intense focus of investigation and you have to wonder how many more of these allegations can surface before it brings them down.