The expansion of Friends Seminary in the Stuyvesant Square Historic District was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in May, but that didn’t silence the controversy surrounding the project. As the expansion looms, the school has come under increased scrutiny due to the efforts of one overzealous parent. DNAinfo reports that Luigi Caiola, CEO of B & L Management, asked several of his employees to submit false letters to the LPC claiming to be neighbors of the school supporting its expansion.
DNAinfo corroborated the findings through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Investigations. It comes on the heels of initial claims refuted by the school in March that it provided falsified letters of support.
In response to these initial claims, Friends Seminary released a response to DNAinfo stating the school’s expansion had been "approved by the LPC unanimously last May" and that Luigi Caiola is a "beloved and respected member of our school community." Although the fraudulent letters may not have impacted the ruling of the LPC, Councilwoman Rosie Mendez and the school’s neighbors support a continued investigation by the DOI.
Friends Seminary has released the following response:
We respect the integrity of the process, and the school wants to make clear that it did not and would never ask anyone to misrepresent themselves in connection with this project or otherwise. The school was unaware of any inaccuracies in the letters when they were submitted to the LPC and, furthermore, notified the City immediately as soon as this issue was brought to our attention.
Friends Seminary appeared in front of the LPC last May with plans to expand all of its buildings on East 16th Street, including its three Anglo-Italianate townhouses that date from 1852. The Kliment Halsband Architects-renovation also received criticism from the Historic Districts Council, who stated that the proposed scale of the building "overwhelms" rather than complements the block’s "wonderful assemblage of historic buildings."