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03-01-09, 03:55 PM #1
Obama's newly minted urban czar pocketed thousands of dollars in campaign cash from city developers whose projects he approved
The man who is President Obama's newly minted urban czar pocketed thousands of dollars in campaign cash from city developers whose projects he approved or funded with taxpayers' money, a Daily News probe found.
Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion often received contributions just before or after he sponsored money for projects or approved important zoning changes, records show.
Most donations were organized and well-timed.
In one case, a developer became a Carrion fund-raiser two months before the borough president signed off on his project, raising more than $6,000 in campaign cash.
In another, eight Boricua College officials came up with $8,000 on the same day for Carrion three weeks before the school filed plans to build a new tower. Carrion ultimately approved the project and sponsored millions in taxpayer funds for it.
Carrion resigned as borough president effective Sunday and begins his new job as director of the White House Office on Urban Policy Monday.
Saturday Carrion declined to answer written questions about his receipt of timely campaign contributions. Instead, he issued a terse statement:
"Thousands of people who share the Borough President's vision for building a stronger Bronx and a stronger city have contributed to Carrion NYC. Teachers, parents, police officers, firefighters, members of the business community and concerned citizens have all contributed to the borough president's efforts to strengthen the Bronx and stimulate the local economy and he is proud to have such wide-ranging support."
Here's a look at some of his donors:
Last year Jonathan Coren and a partner wanted to build 166 units of affordable housing in Parkchester.
Coren, for the first time in his life, became a registered fund-raiser - for Carrion. He raised $2,577 from multiple donors in the three weeks before Carrion approved the project on March 26.
On a single day - April 12 - he raised another $1,255, less than a month before the Planning Commission, which includes a Carrion appointee, approved Idle LLC's project.
Coren raised $6,532 for Carrion from 43 donors. The developers are awaiting funding from the city.
Asked about the purpose of fund-raising for Carrion just before he reviewed the project, Coren replied, "None, other than, to be perfectly honest with you, at that time I became aware of his campaign. It is what it is."
Coren says he never spoke "directly" with Carrion about campaign donations.
A top source for Carrion's campaign cash comes from a publicly funded project to build 679 units of housing and a 14-story college tower in Melrose.
Top officials at the Atlantic Development Group, the project's developer, and Boricua College contributed nearly $70,000 to Carrion during the time the project, called Boricua Village, moved through the system.
Atlantic needed Carrion and his planning commission rep to approve zoning changes and lift height restrictions for the tower.
The first application for the project was filed March 28, 2006. Less than a month later, Carrion got eight donations on the same day for $8,750, records show.
They all came from Boricua College administrators, including a $4,000 check from President Victor Alicea. Alicea has been a fund-raiser for Carrion.
On March 26, 2007, Carrion approved the application.
The grand total for Boricua donations was $17,512, while Atlantic owner Peter Fine and his employees came up with $52,400 - the largest single source of donations for Carrion.
In July, Carrion announced he was sponsoring $3 million in taxpayer funds for the project. Records show he has since sponsored another $4.5 million for the college part of the project.
Alicea insisted all Boricua donations came from "individuals," not the college. "We're very careful about anything that could be construed as a tradeoff or a quid pro quo."
A spokesman for Atlantic said Fine believes Carrion "is an outstanding public servant, and for that reason alone is happy to give financial support to his political endeavors."
JACKSON DEVELOPMENT GROUP
In 2004, a real estate group moved to build affordable housing on the site of an old Mott Haven brewery on St. Ann's Ave. The project stalled.
In April 2007, dozens of employees of Jackson Development Group started donating to Carrion. There were 23 contributions in two months, including $1,000 from a construction worker.
By November 2007, 41 donations from Jackson employees to Carrion totaled $35,650. In May 2008, Carrion approved the project. Two months later, he announced he was sponsoring $3 million in taxpayer funds for the project.
Jackson did not return a call seeking comment.
One of Carrion's largest donors and fund-raisers is Jose Velazquez, owner of Tri-Line Contracting Inc. of Manhattan. Between his employees and developers and other donors, he has raised $83,700 for Carrion.
Tri-Line is working at two of the biggest developments Carrion has championed, including the new Yankee Stadium.
Carrion signed off on it in 2005 with the caveat that the Yanks hire a big percentage of local contractors and workers. One of the contractors was Tri-Line, which is building a conference center and museum in the stadium.
Velazquez said he raised money for Carrion because he supported him as a fellow Hispanic and felt that "this is the guy to lead this city."
Carrion "has never ever equated raising money with giving us work," Velazquez said, adding that Carrion did not help get him the stadium job.
Tri-Line is also building a Staples store in a new mall a block from the stadium called Gateway at Bronx Terminal Market. Velazquez said he got the job through competitive bidding.
Developer Related Companies' subsidiary, BTM Development Partners, needed Carrion and the city Planning Commission to change zoning, modify height restrictions and approve permits for parking spaces.
As the project moved forward, the neighborhood railed about increased traffic and the impact the chain stores would have on local businesses. All the while Related executives wrote campaign checks to Carrion.
On March 10, 2005, five $1,000 donations from Related executives arrived. On June 20, 2005, the company notified the city it planned to build a 1 million-square-foot retail center with 2,610 parking spaces and a 250-room hotel.
On Oct. 19, 2005, Carrion approved the project, with his office monitoring local hiring. Since 2003, Carrion has received $39,100 from 24 Gateway-related donations.
Related declined to answer questions.
THE ADER GROUP
In March 2008, Carrion sponsored $1 million in public funds for the Ader Group's plan to build 177 low-income rental units. On June 17, owner Israel Neiman gave Carrion $4,950, a donation Neiman said was "just coincidental."
Neiman said the taxpayer money has not been spent and the project is on hold due to the collapse of the economy.
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