The Real Deal New York

Is James Capalino City Hall’s No. 1 pen pal?

Lobbyist had knack for getting what he wanted, including "poor door" at 10 Freedom Place

September 06, 2016 02:22PM

Bill de Blasio, 10 Freedom Place and James Capalino

Bill de Blasio, 10 Freedom Place and James Capalino

UPDATED, Sept. 6 at 3:05 p.m.: Though Mayor Bill de Blasio recently cut off contact with James Capalino, a new report shows that the lobbyist’s connections in his administration run deep.

Emails released to Politico show that Capalino and his staffers bombarded the de Blasio administration with messages on behalf of their clients and had a knack for getting what they wanted. Most notably, Capalino pushed for the deed restriction to be lifted on the Rivington House. That deal has garnered the most attention, since New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed Capalino’s firm, James F. Capalino & Associates, in connection with the sale of the nursing home.

The emails also indicate that Capalino — de Blasio’s one-time friend and chief campaign bundler — may have helped secure a so-called “poor door” at Silverstein Properties’ TRData LogoTINY 10 Freedom Place as the city administration was actively trying to end the practice. On June 11, 2014, Capalino emailed top de Blasio official James Patchett to set up a call to discuss the city’s rejection of the proposed segmentation of the luxury residential building. Ultimately, the developer was able to keep the “poor door,” while providing the building’s affordable housing tenants access to the courtyard and roof.

A spokesperson for de Blasio told Politico that it couldn’t have blocked the building’s layout, since it was approved by the Bloomberg administration. At the time Silverstein submitted plans, the “poor door” was allowed under city zoning.

Another email shows that Capalino contacted city officials on behalf of MDG Design & Construction, a company accused in 2013 of cheating workers out of wages on a $60 million federal housing project on the Lower East Side.

Capalino touted the company’s reforms following an audit by the Labor Department, and the city has since hired the company. In the summer, de Blasio tapped MDG to help redevelop a public housing development in Far Rockaway.

Last week, de Blasio announced that he’d cut off contact with Capalino. The lobbyist still represents Fortis Property Group, which won a bid to redevelop the Long Island College Hospital site in Brooklyn. Elements of that bid are being investigated by federal authorities.  [Politico] — Kathryn Brenzel 

Clarification: This report was updated to clarify that Silverstein Property was permitted to have a “poor door” at 10 Freedom Place prior it being banned by the de Blasio administration in 2015.

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