Wow, so this one turned out even worse than we’d imagined. After the Times reported that cops were planning to arrest approximately 50 people on Tuesday, about a dozen of them Department of Buildings employees, the suspects turned themselves in today. And this morning the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., revealed the specific details of the 26 separate indictments brought against 11 employees from the Department of Buildings (DOB), five officials from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and 28 real estate professionals.
The bribery charges were brought against what the DA described as officials from the “highest levels” of the DOB and HPD, after a two year-long investigation uncovered a slew of city employees had been accepting bribes from construction contractors, property owners, and real estate professionals to help expedite the construction approval process for developments and ease the sale of properties with violations. Officials accepted over $450,000 in graft.
While some of the charges against city officials are for actions that are just slightly above innocuous (allowing property owners to skip lines at the DOB and HPD), the DA alleges that the DOB’s Construction Chief Inspector Donald O’Connor would claim to have personally inspected buildings he’d never been to. Some officials even helped stage what the DA called “phony evictions of New York families.” Yeesh.
While the DA attributed the corruption to a booming real estate market, he emphasized that, “all actions disadvantaged and harmed tenants and eroded public faith in government agencies.”
“You can’t sell a property if it has an existing HPD violation,” Vance said, reasoning it was easier for property owners to bribe city officials than actually fix the problem that led to the violation.
“New York City has one of the hottest real estate markets, but with that unprecedented demand comes enormous incentives to build [and sell] very quickly,” Vance said. “And this process can invite corruption.”
The DA read off examples of the various types of bribes taken by officials included an account of a developer who allegedly bought the Department of Buildings Construction Chief Inspector Donald O’Connor and his wife a house, two SUVs, a cruise, and other “valuable, but illegal gifts.”
“Countless New York families across the five boroughs confront challenges of affordability, availability, and displacement every day,” the DA said. “Today’s cases are harbingers of other potential casualties of the current housing boom – tenant safety and government integrity.”
These corruption cases are associated with 106 properties across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Check em out below to see if perhaps you were one of the wrongfully evicted tenants!