It was a stunning scheme tearing at the very fabric of the supposed safeguards to protect New Yorkers — and keep their apartments affordable.
A jaw-dropping web of crooked city building and housing inspectors, contractors and landlords were slapped yesterday with corruption counts that stunned even the most rabid of tenant advocates.
A significant chunk of the $450,000 in kickbacks came from one man, whose very job was to try and speed his clients’ building permits, inspections and housing violation fixes through the city’s cumbersome bureaucracies.
They called David Weiszer the expediter — and his practices and his past were unorthodox. Among the skeletons in his closet is an arson conviction and allegations he flooded a Pennsylvania river with industrial waste (He pled down to a Solid Waste Management violation in 2009.)
Yet somehow in New York his closest pals were the Department of Buildings chief for Manhattan development, Donald O’Connor, and Janelle Daly, a Buildings Department filing rep whose hubby O’Connor’s Brooklyn counterpart.
Here’s just a sample of what Weizer allegedly showered on Daly and her husband: ‘$200,000 in mortgage payments, a Nissan Rogue SUV, a GMC Terrain SUV, and a Royal Caribbean cruise, as well as cash for airline tickets, home renovations, and other personal expenses.”
Other busted schemes:
–O’Connor allegedly took bribes from the owner of McHale’s Pub, Jack Dempsey’s, and Bourbon Street to make violations go away.
–Housing Preservation Department and Development (HPD) officials took bribes to okay illegal evictions so landlords could replace tenants with higher-paying ones.
–Inspectors looked the other way in return for cash bribes at three synagogue construcrtion sites.
“Bribery schemes compromised two important City agencies and fair competition in our robust housing and real estate development markets,” Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said of the case, which involves more than a hundred buildings in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
“Today’s cases demonstrate that the same surging demand that drives the pace of development can inspire the taking of shortcuts, and the taking of bribes.”
Ilana Maier, program director at the Metropolitan Council on Housing, said the scandal uncovered by Vance, the Dept. of Investigation, and the NYPD is just the tip of the iceberg for city agencies that need a lot more accountabilty.
A new city-wide group, Stand for Tenant Safety, is being organized by the famed affordable housing group, ther Cooper Square Committe, she said.
SCANDAL: Erupts after mayor’s pledge on affordable housing.
The scandal in the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and Department of Buildings comes a week after Mayor Bill de Blasio spent a huge chunk of his State of the City address to push his affordable housing construction plan.
“While the state of our city is strong, we face a profound challenge. If we fail to be a city for everyone, we risk losing what makes New York New York,” de Blasio said.
Diversity — including in income — is makes city neighborhoodsda that much better, he said, vowing to 80,000 units of new affordable housing.
Perhaps in a foreshadowing of what was to come Tuesday, he also called for a major overhaul to the inspections and construction permit process — and strengthening of tenant protections.
SAFETY: Think falling cranes and know why safety counts.
There’s only one word you need to know to understand why it’s important for the Dept. of Buildings and other agencies to stick to the letter of the law when it comes to enforcing safety codes: Cranes.
Remember a few years back when a series of deadly tower crane collapses and accidents had New Yorkers walking ever-more-warily past construction sites.
Poor training, falsified inspection records and other cut corners and ignored directives were cited. Tougher training requirements and stricter job site inspections have helped New York get a better grip on the problem.
BY THE NUMBERS: The housing bribe scandal broken down.
50 people indicted
16 were city workers
$450,000 in bribes paid out:
100 buildings involved
2 years to investigate
Source: Court Filings