The Daily Dirt: REBNY fires back on FDNY inspections

Jim Whelan discusses issue at Crain’s event

Report Details CHIP’s Cash Burn Ahead of RSA Merger: The Daily Dirt
REBNY's James Whelan with 50 Hudson Yards and One Vanderbilt (Getty)

REBNY has waded into the controversy over fire inspections.

In case you have been living under a rock, here’s a short breakdown: The FBI is reportedly investigating whether the de Blasio and Adams administrations gave preferential treatment to some property owners needing fire inspections to open their buildings. City Hall kept a list of properties it wanted bumped ahead of others waiting for inspections. The issue is part of a probe into Adams’ fundraising, according to The City.

The list allowed 50 Hudson Yards, One Vanderbilt and other buildings to move up in the line for fire inspections, in some cases causing the FDNY to cancel appointments at schools and affordable housing projects, Gothamist reports.

A lawsuit filed by the FDNY’s former chief of fire prevention alleges that the list was created at REBNY’s behest, according to the City. The Adams administration has alternately denied and acknowledged the list’s existence.

At a Crain’s event Tuesday, REBNY President Jim Whelan said he has seen no evidence that donors and supporters of the mayor were given preferential treatment.

“This is a politically sophisticated audience, so I’m sure they get the humor in the idea that the de Blasio administration did anything at the behest of the Real Estate Board of New York,” he said.

He went on to say that REBNY pushed the administration to fund more inspectors after hearing from owners about months-long waits.

“It was only natural for our members to come to us and say, ‘Hey, we’re having a lot of problems navigating the system with the fire safety unit. Can you help us out?’”

Though funds were secured, Whelan said it was not clear that the money was actually spent because the department remained understaffed. (City officials have said the average wait was reduced — to three months!)

“In an ideal world, the fire safety unit would have been staffed in such a way that it could address the school in Dyker Heights and the high-profile commercial building opening in Midtown Manhattan to make sure that they both open on a timely basis,” Whelan said.

“But you can’t get around the fact that some of these buildings that have been put in the paper have a very high-value impact. … It produces a lot of jobs, a lot of tax revenue and a lot of economic activity that is important to the city’s future.”

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A thing we’ve learned: The Calm app has an AI version of the late actor Jimmy Stewart, who tells users a bedtime story, the New York Times reports. I’m not saying my impression of Stewart is better per se, but the robot is just not cutting it for me. 

Elsewhere in New York…

— Just in time for Valentine’s Day! A special election is slated for Feb. 13 to replace former Rep. George Santos, Gothamist reports. The state Democratic party is trying to determine who has the best chance to flip the Republican-held seat. 

— Speaking of which, Gov. Kathy Hochul met with former Rep. Tom Suozzi on Monday night and has decided to allow his nomination to move forward, the New York Times reports. The governor considered blocking his nomination, given the brutal primary challenge he waged against Hochul in 2022, but she secured various pledges from Suozzi during Monday’s meeting. The Democratic Party could announce Suozzi as its candidate as early as Thursday.

— The MTA is trying out new subway gates that are harder than traditional turnstiles to jump over or crawl under in an effort to curb fare evasion, Spectrum News reports. The gate mechanism is being tested at the Sutphin Boulevard-Archer Avenue station in Jamaica, Queens.

Closing Time

Residential: The priciest residential closing Tuesday was $9.6 million for a co-op at 941 Park Avenue.

Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was $97 million for the Hilton Brooklyn at 140 Schermerhorn Street.

New to the Market: The priciest residence to hit the market Tuesday was a house at 15 Bank Street in West Village asking $30 million. Corcoran Group has the listing. — Jay Young 

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