By LOUIS FLORES
The office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the nation's top Federal prosecutor in New York's southern district, has reportedly joined the multi-office investigation into the lifting of the deed restricts on Rivington House.
Information about the involvement of the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Rivington House probe was first noted in a report published by POLITICO New York.
Rivington House was a former AIDS nursing home in the Lower East Side of Manhattan that closed, was flipped to another nursing home operator, which, in turn, after succeeding in lifting the deed restrictions, flipped the property once more to a developer now converting the site into luxury condominiums.
The controversial final sale was made possible after the previous owner paid the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services a payment of $16 million. As reported by Progress Queens, the city agency has not accounted for how it has used the large windfall.
Prior to the first flipping of the property, the lobbyist James Capalino was paid to lobby the city agency to lift the deed restrictions. However, his effort reportedly failed. Nevertheless, he was hired again by an affiliate of the current owner for other lobbying that was allegedly unrelated to the lifting of the deed restrictions on Rivington House.
Because Mr. Capalino has close ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City), was a key establishment supporter of the mayor's political campaign in 2013, and has since become a generous fundraiser to the mayor, questions have been raised as to whether the process by which the owners sought to convert the former AIDS nursing home into luxury condominiums received preferential treatment by the de Blasio administration.
An investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Rivington House transactions are sure to fit within an existing Federal corruption investigation into how Mayor de Blasio raises campaign contributions from real estate interests.
The reported involvement of prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office adds to a multi-office investigation into what happened at Rivington House.
Despite early community pleas for intercession from de Blasio administration officials, the final sale transaction closed without any involvement from City Hall or the New York City Council.
Throughout the controversy, Mayor de Blasio has professed ignorance over community concerns about, and the actions by his own administration officials to approve, the lifting of the deed restrictions to Rivington House, including, improbable as it may seem, his ignorance of the drastic decision by a city agency to halt the recording of all amendments to deeds until a review of procedures could be conducted.
After the final sale transaction closed, the office of Comptroller Scott Stringer (D-New York City) was forced to issue a subpoena for records that de Blasio administration officials were dragging their feet to hand over. Comptroller Stringer's investigation was soon joined by an investigation launched by the New York City Department of Investigation, after public out-cry began to swell. Their probes were joined by an investigation commenced by the Office of State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D-New York), which has reportedly also issued subpoenas to various involved parties.
The escalation of investigations into the de Blasio administration appear ominous. And yet, the long list of offices conducting their own investigations into the changes to the deed to Rivington House and the various other activities of Mayor de Blasio is notable for the one office that is missing : that of District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. (D-Manhattan), who, his critics have noted, appears to never investigate any allegations of corruption, real estate or otherwise.