De Blasio solicited campaign funds from Toll Brothers, Park Tower Group in violation of conflicts rules: report

Department of Investigations confirmed that mayor solicited funds from developers with business before the city

Apr.April 17, 2019 07:00 PM

From left: The Toll Brothers CEO Doug Yearley, and Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio (Credit: Getty Images)

Toll Brothers and Park Tower Group were among the companies that had business before the city when Mayor Bill de Blasio solicited campaign donations from them in violation of conflict-of-interest rules, according to a watchdog report.

The findings come from a Department of Investigation report obtained by The City — and followed a two-and-a-half year probe that ended in October. The investigation included questioning de Blasio about warnings from the Conflict of Interest Board and his own counsel. The mayor said he wasn’t aware of the warnings.

According to the report, DOI substantiated claims that the mayor sought donations for the now-defunct Campaign for One New York fund from individuals “who had or whose organization had a matter pending or about to be pending before any executive branch of the city.”

The “Conclusion and Recommendations” portion of the report was redacted and names of the developers that de Blasio contacted were blacked out. But The City was able to identify Toll Brothers and Park Tower through other public records as two of the three developers the report cited.

Toll Brothers was approached twice — first in February 2014 — when it was seeking permission from the Landmarks Preservation Commission to build a co-op on a parking lot in Greenwich Village. The company donated $25,000 that month. In May, the commission approved the project. De Blasio also asked for donations while Toll Brothers was navigating its Pier House hotel/condo in Brooklyn Bridge Park. A stop-work order on the project was lifted a few weeks before the mayor reached out.

Toll Brothers declined to comment to The City.

Meanwhile, in 2015, Park Towers was negotiating with city agencies about subsidies at the massive Greenpoint Landing residential complex in Brooklyn. The developer told DOI that during the meeting with the mayor, a business associate “mentioned raising money for Mayor de Blasio’s policies.”

The developer couldn’t remember whether he was asked to donate during the meeting or in a phone call from a de Blasio aide that followed, the report said. In March 2015, Park Tower Group wrote a $50,000 check to the mayor’s group. Greenpoint Landing, which includes the creation of 4,100 market-rate and 1,400 affordable units, received millions of dollars in tax incentives.

Park Tower Group CEO George Klein declined to comment, and the mayor’s office didn’t response to a series of detailed questions about the report, The City said.

“These questions are asked and answered,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Fundraising for the now-defunct Campaign for One New York was thoroughly reviewed by multiple parties and it was determined there was no wrongdoing. It’s been said a million times: The Mayor acted lawfully and ethically.”

De Blasio pulled the plug on the Campaign for One New York in early 2016 after government watchdog group Common Cause filed a complaint alleging the group was misusing its donations for political purposes. The Campaign Finance Board ruled that the Campaign for One New York was not independent of the mayor’s campaign — but due to the timing after the election, the board found no violations. [The City]Meenal Vamburkar

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