UPDATED, Oct. 22, 1:08 p.m.: Developers who submitted proposals for a $1 billion project to develop the land around Nassau Coliseum are crying foul after RXR Realty’s Scott Rechler – one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s largest donors – was selected for the job.
“It’s pure pay-to-play,” one of the developers told the New York Post, adding he wants a federal investigation into the process.
Over the summer, 17 developers submitted proposals to Nassau County to develop the “Nassau Hub,” which is to include two hotels, 500 housing units, 200,000 square feet of retail space as well as office and biotech research facilities on what is now a parking lot surrounding Nassau Coliseum.
But after twice extending the deadline to submit proposals, the county in September announced it was going with a joint venture of RXR Realty and BSE Global, the Brooklyn-based company owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov that operates the Barclays Center and holds the lease on Nassau Coliseum.
The county said that under the terms of the stadium lease with BSE Global, it was required to go forward with the JV, but rival developers aren’t buying the explanation.
“I’m bitter that the county made us waste our time and our resources on a process they claimed they controlled and then claimed they didn’t control,” one of the developers told the Post.
Rechler and his family have donated $50,000 to Nassau County Executive Laura Curren. Richard Nicolello, a Republican who presides over the County Legislature, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Cuomo weighed in on the selection process.
“He seems to micro manage things,” he said.
A spokesman for Cuomo denied the governor had anything to do with the county’s decision.
“This is a county project where we had no say, no knowledge on who bid, nor any preference on who was selected. Suggesting otherwise would be absurd and have no basis in reality,” spokesman Richard Azzopardi said.
A spokesman for RXR said Rechler did not ask Cuomo for help to get the development rights, and told The Real Deal that campaign contributions had no impact on the selection.
“That doesn’t even warrant a response, but of course not,” the spokesperson said.
The county Legislature is set to hold a hearing on the joint-venture proposal on Nov. 27. [NYP] – Rich Bockmann