Adams’ likely economic czar has been hired to fight the affordable housing bailout in Queens
Mayor Eric Adams’ early pick to lead the city’s economic development arm has pledged to help an investor struggling with housing agencies for control of a struggling affordable housing development in Astoria – an official from the war claims to have delayed desperately needed repairs.
New York Building Congress CEO Carlo Scissura, under a 2018 deal with Brooklyn-based real estate actor Tim Ziss, has agreed to provide “support with NYC HPD/hdc for Bridgeview III” in the $6,000 per month consultancy fee framework – using shorthand for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Housing Development Corporation.
It’s part of the same deal that paid Scissura to persuade local authorities to support the development of a former Nathan’s Famous outlet in Dyker Heights and other Brooklyn properties. THE CITY reported last week that the hot dog site sold to the city’s school system in 2019 for twice as much as Ziss paid it months earlier — and that Scissura failed to register his advocacy with city or state lobbying agencies.
Bridgeview III is an eight-story, 171-apartment complex on 27th Avenue near Astoria Park, built in 1974 and operated under the urban version of the Mitchell-Lama program – the same program as the Twin Parks tower sponsored by the state where 17 recently died in a fire.
The consultancy contract promised Scissura a “performance bonus” of $100,000 if he was successful in securing a deal with the HPD to perform Bridgeview III.
Through a spokesperson, Scissura said he did not finish working on the project after signing the contract.
“Shortly after accepting this advice and an initial review, I indicated that I could not assist in the Astoria case and therefore did not receive the related bounty,” he said. -he declares.
City housing officials who crossed paths with Ziss did everything they could to keep him away from the project out of concern for the tenants — and fought to sell the property to another landlord.
Seeking approval from its board of directors for a $15 million loan to fund repairs and stabilize finances in November 2019, HDC Chairman Eric Enderlin cited “ongoing litigation brought by an individual with an alleged economic interest in the housing corporation” as standing in the way of a sale and refinancing that would bring a new boiler, new windows and elevators, facade repairs and solvency.
“As a result, Bridgeview continued to fall into a state of increasing disrepair and was unable to pay its bills”, including mortgage payments to HDC.
Entities associated with Ziss filed multiple lawsuits beginning in 2017 claiming to represent a faction of Bridgeview III owners, losing claims in city court and the state Supreme Court, with one case still pending – while opposing HPD’s efforts to sell the building.
Monart Renaud, 80, a resident of the building for 45 years who lives on the top floor, said that when it rains, water seeps through the windows, while her house does not get much heat in winter.
“My apartment is falling apart,” he told THE CITY.
“My grandparents are shaking up there”
Renaud and other tenants described problems with elevators, leaky windows and heating issues.
A 2020 HPD work order shows the city had to send an emergency crew to repair a second flood gate that failed to close automatically, charging Bridgeview $300 — the same malfunction that officials say firefighters, allowed smoke from the Twin Parks fire to fatally spread.
Anthony Calderas, 24, has lived in an apartment on the 7th floor of the building for most of his life.
“Sometimes it can get quite cold,” he said. “There are days when my grandparents are up there shivering.”
The elevator often stops working and the floor in her room needs repair. He put duct tape on the floor to avoid getting splinters, he said.
“If it’s something that [the management company] needs to replace, they won’t,” he said. “They say there’s no money and that’s about it.”
The property currently has two open building code violations for failing to file a report on the condition of its exterior wall in the past two years, as well as violations for critical safety issues with its elevator, according to the Department of buildings.
There are also 150 open violations in the building registered with the HPD, including eight with “immediately dangerous” status. Cited problems include mold, rat and cockroach infestations, leaks, heating problems and faulty floors.
The Bridgeview property manager referred questions to Multifamily Management Services, which is affiliated with TUC Management Company, Inc. A representative did not respond to a request for comment.
Since at least 2015, HPD has been working with longtime owners and their estates to sell the property to a responsible new owner and preserve it as well-maintained affordable housing, according to court records, soliciting proposals and selecting a company called Lemle. & Wolf as the new owner.
But before Scissura signed the step-in agreement, Ziss entities filed suit to stop the sale, arguing that HPD was excluding the investors it represented.
After HPD filed a separate lawsuit in late 2019 seeking to take control of the building’s vacant board, alleging defaults in mortgage payments or property maintenance, Ziss again filed a legal objection.
In a January 2020 filing at the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, Ziss’ company attorney wrote:
“Mr. Ziss has attempted, over the past three years, to settle with the representatives of the deceased general partners and take control of the Property…. Mr. Ziss has fought for the opportunity to: work with HPD , recapitalize the property, pay off debt, take care of immediate repairs, install over $14 million in capital upgrades, rehabilitation and improvements, provide active management, and maintain and expand affordability for the next 30 years.
But in the same filing, Ziss’ attorney objected to HPD’s plans to ask the project to borrow money to pay for repairs and upgrades, arguing that debts and lost tax benefits” would significantly harm” the investors he claimed to work with.
HPD declined to answer questions from THE CITY.
In 2017, an HPD official in charge of the Mitchell-Lama Buildings, Julie Walpert, submitted an affidavit in one of the lawsuits, claiming that HPD did not recognize a Ziss company’s claim as the general partner of the project and was objected to his proposal to sell Bridgeview III.
The judge in the case ruled against Ziss LLC, refusing to recognize it as a general partner with a say in the sale of the property. Another case, against the owners who partnered with HPD to sell the building, is still pending in the state Supreme Court.
‘Tip for a friend’
Tenant advocates say Mitchell-Lama projects like Bridgeview III and Twin Parks, with government subsidies and ultimately the potential for deregulation to rent at market rates, make aging buildings magnets for investors, even if they have increasing maintenance needs.
“The problem with affordable housing in general is that it’s just a pretty profitable industry,” said Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator for tenant rights group Housing Justice for All.
Lobbying experts who spoke to THE CITY said the scope of activities outlined in Scissura’s pact with Ziss – from working with HPD to secure a contract to meeting with elected officials to help develop other properties – would likely constitute lobbying under city and state rules and would require registration. .
Scissura is not registered as a lobbyist.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Ziss referred all questions to his attorney, Rashel Mehlman, of Sweeney, Reich and Bolz — a Queens law firm with close ties to the borough’s Democratic party. Mehlman did not respond to multiple calls and emails seeking comment.
Meanwhile, the legal team that originally filed the still pending lawsuit in September 2017 against the other owners on behalf of a Ziss-related LLC was led by Frank Seddio, the former leader of the Brooklyn Democratic Party and Howard Fensterman, a legal partner of former Seddio partner Frank Carone, who is now Adams’ chief of staff.
Calls to Seddio were also not returned.