A day after the New York Post alleged the de Blasio administration granted the Hudson Cos. a sweetheart deal to develop one of Brooklyn’s most desirable sites, City Hall and the Brooklyn Public Library hit back, defending the bidding process.
“There’s no question this was the best package,” a spokesperson for the city said in a statement, referring to the winning Hudson proposal for the Brooklyn Heights Library project.
A bit of background: In 2013, the Brooklyn Public Library sent out a request for proposals to redevelop the aging Brooklyn Heights Library at 280 Cadman Plaza West. The Library and the city’s Economic development Corporation narrowed a dozen proposals down to three finalists, and in December 2014 picked Hudson, which is run by David Kramer.
Under a proposal approved by City Council in December 2015, Hudson will build a new, 26,620-square foot library, 114 affordable housing units at two nearby sites, and provide a temporary library space during construction. In return for these efforts, the development firm is getting the land at a below-market $52 million and can build a 409-foot condo tower on top of the new library.
In early February, the project hit a roadblock when the Brooklyn Borough Board delayed a vote on it. On Sunday, the New York Post published an article alleging Hudson won the project even though it was “outbid” by others, based on anonymous claims that two bidders offered more money for the site and that one bidder proposed building more affordable housing units than Hudson.
The Post alleged major cronyism in the bidding process, implying that Hudson won the proposal because of Kramer’s friendship with de Blasio and his history of fundraising for the mayor.
“This is a sweetheart deal to a politically connected supporter, directly contrary to de Blasio’s stated goals for development projects,” the Post quoted an unknown source familiar with the bids as saying.
No one involved in the proposal denies that Kramer is friendly with the mayor. But the notion that Hudson was outbid is drawing strong rebuke. According to City insiders familiar with the process, one of the three finalists offered to pay $1 million more for the site than Hudson, but would build only about half as many affordable housing units. The third finalist offered both less money for the site and significantly fewer affordable units. And, according to sources, Hudson offered the fastest completion time and the most attractive interim space (with a price tag for Hudson of close to $3 million) – two crucial factors for the library.
While there was at least one early bidder who offered both more money and more affordable units than Hudson did, sources said they were dismissed over concerns over their track record and ability to finish the project. After pricing in all the costs and benefits (beyond the price paid for the land) tied to the proposals, these sources said picking Hudson was a “no brainer.”
“Hudson Companies offered by far the best proposal for our library patrons and the community at large,” Brooklyn Public Library spokesperson David Woloch said in a statement. Hudson’s Kramer also dismissed the suggestion of cronyism, saying his firm “worked very hard over 15 months in 2013-14 to propose a great project including an aggressive purchase price, affordable housing, local hiring, a comprehensive interim plan, and an experienced, local development team.”