NYC real estate giants on list allegedly used to fast-track FDNY inspections

NYC real estate giants on list allegedly used to fast-track FDNY inspections

Some of New York’s biggest real estate developers have landed on a cryptic list allegedly used to fast-track FDNY building safety inspections for “‘friends’ of City Hall,” according to court papers and a copy of the document obtained by the Daily News.

The list — the existence of which first emerged last week amid the FBI investigation into Mayor Adams’ 2021 campaign and ties to the Turkish government — includes projects in need of “prioritized” fire safety inspections developed by the Durst Organization, Vornado, The Related Companies and SL Green, real estate giants that own millions of square feet of property across the city, the document shows.

The document is from June 2022, six months into Adams’ tenure as mayor. Most of the projects on the list were able to open for business that year, but it’s unclear who added them to the roster or when.

The document, known as the “DMO list” due to it allegedly originating from the office of the Deputy Mayor of Operations, was created in 2021 under then-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration in a bid to clear a backlog of fire safety inspections at developments that had piled up during the pandemic, according to a lawsuit filed by several former FDNY chiefs.

Despite its original purpose, the ex-FDNY brass, among whom is former Bureau of Fire Prevention Chief Joseph Jardin, allege the list quickly became “a mechanism to press the FDNY to permit politically connected developers to cut the inspection line,” especially “‘friends’ of City Hall” and those “with access to City Hall.”

Jardin was questioned by FBI agents about the list recently as part of a federal investigation into whether Adams’ 2021 campaign conspired with the Turkish government to funnel illegal foreign money into the campaign’s coffers via straw donors, his attorney, Jim Walden, said. The reason the FBI showed interest is because Jardin alleges he was pressured in September 2021 to expedite the approval of a fire safety system at the Turkish consulate in Manhattan, Walden added.

The Turkish House, Turkey's Permanent Representation to the United Nations and Consulate General of New York located at First Avenue and 46th Street. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News)

Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News

The Turkish House, Turkey’s permanent representation to the United Nations and Consulate General of New York, located at First Ave. and 46th St. in Manhattan. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News)

The FBI has been provided with a copy of the DMO list as part of the probe, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Adams, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing as part of the investigation, confirmed last week the Turkish consulate got its fire safety system approved after he asked then-Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro in early September 2021 to look into a holdup of inspections at the property.

Adams, who was the Democratic nominee for mayor at the time, making him de Blasio’s virtually certain successor, said he contacted Nigro about the matter after Turkish Consul General Reyhan Özgür asked for help.

While confirming the outreach to Nigro, Adams, whose cellphones were seized by the FBI in the investigation earlier this month, said in a briefing Tuesday that his administration doesn’t operate a DMO list.

However, Laura Kavanagh, Adams’ FDNY commissioner, acknowledged the record’s existence last week, saying in an interview with NBC last week that “the list has always been shared widely with a large number of people and has always been about city interests.”

Adams spokesman Charles Lutvak declined to clarify Kavanagh’s comments.

While saying he was unaware of a DMO list in his briefing, Adams defended helping business leaders and other constituents with fire safety inspections and other matters before city government.

“Any elected officials that is not doing that is not doing their job,” he said.

The DMO list copy reviewed by The News has a label on it that reads “MASTER LIST – PRIORITIZED sites,” along with descriptions of what each job involved, most of them relating to “Plan (FA),” an acronym for fire alarm system, FDNY sources confirmed.

The list doesn’t only include projects developed by the major real estate players. There are also entries for securing expedited inspections for a homeless shelter, a Queens preschool and even a Taco Bell outpost, as first reported by Gothamist.

The major real estate firms whose projects appear on the list are highly influential in city politics. Executives at the firms donated tens of thousands of dollars to Adams’ 2021 mayoral run and have lobbied top officials in his administration on some of the projects on the list, though it remains unclear who chose the projects on it or under whose administration they were added.

The FDNY lawsuit asserts that the DMO list was created at the behest of the Real Estate Board New York, a claim the group vehemently denies.

“REBNY never asked the city to create the so-called DMO List,” spokesman Sam Spokony previously told The News.

Farley Post Office Building / 50 Hudson Yards

Among the projects on the DMO list copy obtained by The News are multiple developments in and around Manhattan’s Hudson Yards.

One of those projects is the transformation of the old Farley Post Office Building undertaken by Vornado, the city’s second largest commercial landlord. Since breaking ground in 2016, Vornado has developed 740,000 square feet on top of the building into office space.

The words "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" which have long been associated with the American postal worker, are inscribed above the entrance to the James A. Farley Post Office on August 17, 2020 in New York. - The United States Postal Service is popularly known for delivering mail despite snow, rain or heat, but it faces a new foe in President Donald Trump. Ahead of the November 3 elections in which millions of voters are expected to cast ballots by mail due to the coronavirus, Trump has leveled an unprecedented attack at the USPS, opposing efforts to give the cash-strapped agency more money as part of a big new virus-related stimulus package, even as changes there have caused delays in mail delivery. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)
The James A. Farley Post Office is pictured on August 17, 2020 in New York. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)

Vornado was able to open the building in September 2022, with Meta, the parent company of Facebook, leasing up most of the space for its offices.

Vornado hired former City Council Speaker Corey Johnson in early 2022 to lobby top Adams administration officials on its Farley redevelopment, according to City Clerk’s Office disclosures. Among the officials who were lobbied by Johnson on Vornado’s behalf was Frank Carone, Adams’ then-chief of staff who was involved in the mayor’s 2021 campaign and is expected to help lead his reelection bid.

Spokespeople for Vornado did not return requests for comment Tuesday.

MAYOR_ADAMS

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, left, chats with Frank Carone outside City Hall on Nov. 1, 2022. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for NY Daily News)

Luiz C. Ribeiro/for New York Daily News

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, left, chats with Frank Carone outside City Hall on Nov. 1, 2022. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for NY Daily News)

Another project on the DMO list reviewed by The News is 50 Hudson Yards, one of the city’s largest commercial office towers developed by The Related Companies.

Related opened the glass-plated skyscraper on Manhattan’s West Side in October 2022. Speaking at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the building on Oct. 19, 2022, Adams called the opening of the high-rise a “major milestone in New York City’s continued economic recovery.”

Spokespeople for Related did not return a request for comment Tuesday.

Queens’ Sven Skyscraper

Sven, the second-tallest skyscraper in Queens developed by the Durst Organization, is another project that appears on the DMO list copy reviewed by The News.

The building started leasing some of its residential units in early 2022, but other parts of the skyscraper, including its retail space, were not occupied as of mid-2022.

Durst spokesperson Jovana Rizzo said the company never reached out Adams’ office about inspections at Sven, but spent months trying to unsuccessfully get inspections completed during the de Blasio’s administration. Sven opened after Adams took office.

Sven, the second-tallest skyscraper in Long Island City, Queens. (Google)
Sven, the second-tallest skyscraper in Long Island City, Queens. (Google)

Other Projects Across Manhattan

As first reported by the news outlet The City on Monday, another project on the June 2022 DMO list was Joji, a Japanese restaurant at Midtown’s One Vanderbilt skyscraper developed by SL Green, the city’s largest commercial landlord.

The upscale restaurant was able to open in September 2022 after being added to the list to receive an expedited fire safety inspection in time to commemorate the 25th anniversary of SL Green’s listing on the New York Stock Exchange, The City reported.

New York - September 14, 2020 - Partial views of One Vanderbilt building and Grand Central Station in midtown. One Vanderbilt is a 77-floor supertall skyscraper at the corner of 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue in midtown Manhattan. Proposed by New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and developer SL Green Realty as part of a planned Midtown East rezoning in the early 2010's, the tower stands immediately west of Grand Central Terminal. A groundbreaking ceremony for One Vanderbilt was held in October 2016. The tower topped out on September 17, 2019, two months ahead of schedule. The 1.6-million-square-foot (150,000 m2) skyscraper's roof is 1,301 feet (397 m) high and its spire is 1,401 feet (427 m), making it the city's fourth-tallest building after One World Trade Center and the under-construction Central Park Tower and 111 West 57th Street. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News)
One Vanderbilt is pictured in 2020, next to Grand Central Terminal, at right. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News)

SL Green’s public relations firm did not return a request for comment.

Also on the DMO list obtained by The News is the Ritz Carton Hotel near the Flatiron Building and Lyra, a luxury apartment building on Manhattan’s W. 38th St. developed by real estate company Rockrose.

New York City Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams arrives for the grand opening of SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, a skyscraper observatory on Manhattan's iconic 42nd Street, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Eric Adams arrives for the grand opening of SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, a skyscraper observatory on Manhattan’s iconic 42nd St., on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The Rockrose building opened in July 2022. Rockrose reps did not return requests for comment.

The Ritz Carlton Hotel on 28th St. opened on July 26, 2022; Ritz Carlton reps did not return requests for comment, either.

With Thomas Tracy 

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