REPORT: FBI Investigating List Of Politically Connected Developers In Widening Adams Corruption Probe
Some of New York City’s most prominent real estate institutions could find themselves in an unwanted spotlight as a federal probe into possible corruption in Mayor Eric Adams' administration takes a new turn.
High-profile developers may have been allowed to skip the line for fire safety inspections beginning in 2021, according to a lawsuit filed by Joseph Jardin, a former chief of fire prevention for the New York City Fire Department.
That list is now part of the FBI’s expanding probe into possible corruption by Adams and his campaign, The City reported.
The complaint takes aim at FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, alleging ageism and harassment of Jardin and several others. But within the testimony, Jardin mentioned the creation of a “Deputy Mayor of Operations list” that he claims favored “prominent and influential real estate developers.”
In 2021, a multi-agency city task force took aim at red tape that was slowing businesses as they attempted to recover from the pandemic. As part of that initiative, Jardin alleges, the DMO list was created “at the behest of the Real Estate Board of New York” and was “being used to fast-track inspections for ‘friends’ of City Hall” who were “politically connected developers.”
The FDNY was pushed to give preferential treatment to these developers, the lawsuit alleges.
“The DMO list became a mechanism to force FDNY to permit politically connected developers to cut the inspection line,” Jardin, a 9/11 first responder, claimed in the suit. “Developers with access to City Hall — or with access to Defendant Kavanagh and her staff — could get their development projects onto the DMO list.”
The DMO list was allegedly operational under the administrations of both Adams and former Mayor Bill de Blasio. The alleged list's creation coincided with a period of lengthy wait times for developers hoping to open their buildings.
“REBNY never asked the City to create the so-called DMO List. It is widely understood that at the end of the de Blasio administration the FDNY had a very lengthy response time for processing plans and inspecting buildings,” REBNY Chief Communications Officer Sam Spokony said in an email statement provided to Bisnow. “When REBNY members face delays in the inspection process, it is common for them to request our assistance with City agencies.”
Jardin told the FBI about an interaction with Adams when he was still Brooklyn borough president — but after he had won the Democratic mayoral primary in 2021 — when Adams allegedly pressured the FDNY to allow a new 35-story tower in Midtown to open. The property was set to become the Turkish Consulate’s new home, but it had failed its fire safety system inspection, The New York Times reported.
The Turkish Consulate was one of several examples that Jardin reportedly gave the FBI of how de Blasio and Adams fast-tracked requests from big real estate owners, Jardin's lawyer told The City. The FBI is reportedly inspecting the list to see if wealthy developers were given preferential treatment by city agencies.
“The Fire Department’s top priority is to keep New Yorkers safe, and every decision we make is with fire safety in mind,” an FDNY spokesperson said in a statement. “Internal emails make clear that Commissioner Kavanagh had no meaningful involvement in how the FDNY handled this request, and there is nothing to suggest that the FDNY was pressured to do anything improper. This simply seems like an attempt by someone who is unsuccessfully suing the FDNY and Commissioner Kavanagh, and who has a financial interest in undermining the fire commissioner and smearing her good name.”
Earlier this month, the FBI seized electronic devices belonging to Adams, including an iPad and two cellphones, as part of an investigation into whether he broke campaign financing rules in his run for mayor, the NYT reported.
The federal government is looking into whether Adams conspired with the Turkish government to accept illegal foreign donations as part of his 2021 run for mayor, The City reported.
The donations at issue were reportedly funneled through a Brooklyn-based construction firm, KSK Construction Group. Its Williamsburg offices were raided as part of the investigation, as was the home of Adams' top political fundraising adviser, CNN reported.
Adams hasn't been accused of wrongdoing and has said he is cooperating with investigators. A spokesperson for the mayor, when asked for comment, referred Bisnow to the FDNY statement.
CORRECTION, NOV. 17, 3 PM E.T.: A previous version of this story misattributed context on the DMO list to a REBNY spokesperson. This story has been updated.