According to a recent report, Public Advocate Letitia James wrote an enthusiastic letter in support of a proposed boutique hotel last year, after receiving thousands in campaign contributions from real estate developers who were competing for the right to build on land overseen by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development in Downtown Brooklyn.
In a January 2013 letter to city officials obtained by DNAinfo, James praised a proposal for a 21c Museum Hotel (a combination luxury hotel and contemporary art museum) at BAM North Site II in the BAM Cultural District. However, according to campaign finance records, James received $3,000 from Macro-Sea head David Belt and $1,000 from 21c president Craig Greenberg just days before. Belt also donated $1,000 to James' campaign in 2012 and has given generously to other city politicians, including Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio.
James' letter was addressed to Belt but sent to the offices of then-deputy mayor for economic development Robert Steel, then-Borough President Marty Markowitz, and the HPD itself as part of a proposal package for the site. In the letter, James said that a 21c hotel "would be a great addition to New York City and the borough" and that it would "bring a new energy to the burgeoning creative character of the surrounding area, and will support neighborhood institutions."
The city's Campaign Finance Act states that people doing business with the city are placed on a list and limited to a maximum of $400 in citywide campaign contributions. However, the law allows the HPD to decide for itself who should be placed on the list, and the agency does not consider entrepreneurs responding to proposal requests as "doing business" with the city.
Belt and 21c did not respond to DNAinfo's request for comment, but Letitia James' spokesperson defended her, saying that "the Public Advocate's actions in government are never determined by individuals who choose to support her campaign."
· "Letitia James backed BAM hotel after developer donations" [DNAinfo]
· All Letitia James coverage [Curbed]
· All BAM Cultural District coverage [Curbed]