Late last year Hudson Companies won approval for its controversial bid to demolish the aging and low-ceilinged Brooklyn Heights branch of the Brooklyn Public Library and replace it with a 36-story luxury condominium. Now the Post is reporting that federal prosecutors are investigating the bidding process that resulted in the $52 million project.
Hudson head David Kramer and his wife have given $9,125 to the mayor's campaigns since 2007, according to the Post. The tabloid reported that while Kramer has not been issued a subpoena, he is "one of many people being looked at."
In a statement to Gothamist, Kramer suggested that the subpoenas may be related to one of the myriad other investigations into Mayor de Blasio's campaign fundraising efforts, rather than the library sale specifically:
We worked very hard on our proposal for the Brooklyn Public Library, which included a $52 million purchase price, double the amount of required affordable housing and an interim library to maintain service during construction. We participated in 11 public hearings, which culminated in an overwhelming vote of approval by the City Council. This was one of the most reviewed, questioned, transparent, public processes for a development.
And as far as I know, none of the purported subpoenas have had anything to do with the library project.
As part of the $52 million proposal, developer Hudson Companies will construct a public library branch on the first floor of the tower at 280 Cadman Plaza West. Plans also call for 114 units of below-market rate housing at an offsite location in neighboring Clinton Hill.
More than a dozen developers placed bids on the project, and Hudson Companies' offer was at least a million dollars less than some of the competing offers (some detractors have described Hudson's offer as low-ball).
Yesterday the NY Post reported that this discrepancy is the grounds for a new investigation by US Attorney Preet Bharara and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance into the 14 developers who bid on the project. According to the tabloid, several developers have been issued subpoenas.
Vance's office declined to comment. The Mayor's Office said Monday that it was not aware of any investigation into the Brooklyn library sale.
In statements Monday, both City Hall and the Brooklyn Public library reiterated their stance that Hudson was the best choice for the project. Brooklyn-based Second Development Services bid $6 million higher than Hudson, but offered to build affordable housing in a different borough; Hudson pitched a shorter construction timeline than some of the other bidders, and offered to establish an off-site interim library.
With $40 million from the sale, the BPL will renovate public libraries in Bushwick, Fort Greene and Boerum Hill, and build an $8-million new library in Sunset Park. Critics have argued that the planned library is not big enough to serve Brooklyn Heights' spiking population, and that the affordability in the off-site units is not deep enough.
"Hudson Companies offered by far the best proposal for our library patrons and the community at large," said Brooklyn Public Library spokeswoman Madeline Kaye of the PR firm BerlinRosen in a statement.
BerlinRosen, the Mayor's PR firm of choice, was issued a subpoena late last month, along with a few of Mayor de Blasio's top aides—part of the ongoing federal investigation into his fundraising efforts. Just last week, the mayor named BerlinRosen head Jonathan Rosen one of five privileged "agents of the city," formally exempting him from the state's Freedom of Information Law.
"The RFP process for this project followed a strict protocol," said mayoral spokesman Austin Finan. "Hudson Companies was awarded the contract meritoriously as its bid provided the best overall package for the library and the community at large, including the most affordable housing."
Second Development Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the alleged subpoenas. Toll Brothers, another developer that outbid Kramer, declined to comment.