Turkish consulate’s NYC building permit scrutinized as feds investigate allegations of illegal cash donations
New York Daily News November 16, 2023
(Tribune News Service) — Since then-mayoral candidate Eric Adams reached out to the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) over safety issues at the Turkish consulate in Manhattan in 2021, the building has been operating with a temporary occupancy certificate despite a two-year limit on the use of such permits, according to a Daily News review of property records.
The news of the occupancy status of the 35-story consulate on First Ave., which includes occupied residential units, comes as federal authorities, including the FBI, are investigating allegations that the Turkish government funneled illegal foreign cash into Adams’ 2021 campaign via straw donors.
As part of the probe, the feds, who seized the mayor’s cellphones last week, are scrutinizing his decision to ask then-FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro in September 2021 to look into fire and safety issues at the consulate raised by Turkish Consul General Reyhan Özgür. Those issues had kept it from securing a temporary certificate of occupancy from the Department of Buildings.
As first reported by the New York Times, after Adams’ outreach to Nigro, the DOB granted the consulate a temporary certificate on Sept. 14, 2021 just ahead of a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the building attended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Turkish consulate has since then secured another nine temporary certificates of occupancy in order to keep operating the consulate, The News’ review found.
Adams has not been accused of any wrongdoing as part of the federal investigation into his campaign.
Under the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law, buildings with any residential units are not allowed to stay open for longer than two years with only temporary certificates of occupancy, which need to be renewed every 90 days. The law sets that timeline with the understanding that a property should be able to rectify any structural issues within that timeframe to secure its permanent certificate of occupancy.
Still, the Turkish consulate, which records show has 13 floors with apartments, got its most recent temporary certificate of occupancy renewed from the Buildings Department this past Oct. 5 — 21 days after the two year limit was up. As with all certificates of occupancy, the most recent one is signed by the commissioner of the Buildings Department, Jimmy Oddo, records show.
Asked why the consulate got the latest permit, Department of Buildings spokesman Andrew Rudansky said Wednesday the agency does not “implement this specific section” of the Multiple Dwelling Law as long as life-threatening conditions are not detected at any given property.
He said several buildings across the city have been on temporary certificates for more than two years, including the 1,396-foot-tall skyscraper at 432 Park Avenue, and that leniency is usually given on the Multiple Dwelling Law time restriction if construction is ongoing.
“As construction work is ongoing at [the Turkish consulate], the building has not received a final certificate of occupancy, but DOB has conducted multiple inspections and has not found any conditions in the building posing a threat to public safety,” Rudansky said.
He did not elaborate on what type of construction continues at the building.
The Turkish consulate did not return an emailed request for comment.
Ken Frydman, a veteran public relations specialist who has represented building owners with business before the city, said the Turkish consulate’s ability to keep its temporary occupancy status struck him as odd.
“It’s unusual to operate with only a temporary certificate of occupancy for two years, especially with multiple residential units in the consulate,” he said.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday about his 2021 outreach to Nigro on behalf of the Turkish consulate, Adams characterized it as him doing his job as Brooklyn borough president.
“The role of elected officials is to receive a call from the constituency of a particular issue, and then we go to the agency and assist them to navigate that,” he said, though he did not elaborate on how an issue involving a Manhattan property factored into his job as Brooklyn BP. “That’s the role of an elected official.”
In addition to the mayor’s electronics being seized, his top campaign fundraiser, Brianna Suggs, had her Brooklyn home raided by the FBI as part of the probe on Nov. 2.
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