UPDATE: Friends Seminary has issued a statement in response to the allegations outlined in the DNAinfo story from last week. The school says it was unaware of the letters, and that they weren't one of the 19 factors the LPC considered in its determination of the project's appropriateness.
Friends Seminary may have provided falsified letters of support to the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to boost its chances for approval on a controversial $67 million renovation project, DNAinfo reports.
The private school is currently under investigation by the city's Department of Investigation, City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez told DNAinfo. The agency confirmed to DNAinfo that it aware of the case, but would not comment further.
So what allegedly happened? Preservationists and neighbors alike had been opposed to the school's expansion plan for being out of character with the neighborhood. However after the LPC approved the plan last summer, a group of neighbors got together and decided they wanted to file a lawsuit.
They began collecting information and filed a Freedom of Information request for the LPC file on the project. There, among the letters of support, they found that almost all had been written by people associated with the school - parents, faculty, and students.
Furthermore they noticed that eight letters (all written on the same letterhead) were attributed to neighbors of the school. The school's real neighbors did not recognize those names and a search of public records conducted by DNAinfo revealed that those people live nowhere nearby.
It revealed something far more troubling however. Five of the people listed on those letters work or had previously worked for Luigi Caiola, a broadway producer and real-estate heir. Caiola sends his children to Friends Seminary and was once involved with the fundraising efforts at the school, according to DNAinfo.
A spokesperson for the school told DNAinfo that the letters of support were not included in the LPC's determination of whether the renovation efforts were appropriate.