By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Officials of the city's police pension fund were so grateful to their landlord at the historic Woolworth Building on lower Broadway that they handed him a much prized park-anywhere placard that he used for his luxury sports cars.
Woolworth Building owner Steven Witkoff, a millionaire many times over who can afford to park his cars wherever he wants, was given the permit after the pension fund moved into his building several years ago. Last Wednesday, however, Witkoff, whose Witkoff Group owns several high-profile city properties, made the mistake of parking his 2005 Mercedes-Benz SL65book value $182,820in a restricted parking zone near the Voice's Cooper Square offices.
The gleaming new silver coupe drew admiring stares from passersby who eyed its sleek design. It drew even closer scrutiny because it had a Police Department restricted parking pass on the dashboard. The permit had two license plate numbers listed as official holders of the permitboth of them registered to late-model Mercedes owned by Witkoff.
Asked why the landlord had the pass, pension fund executive director Michael Welsome said he didn't know. "What may have happened is someone here is lending his placard out to Witkoff, which is not supposed to be done," he said.
Later, Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne gave a different explanation. "A few years ago, when the pension section began moving into the Woolworth Building, it provided a parking placard to the building manager there so that various delivery trucks could use a restricted parking area to make deliveries," he said. "That placard was given to Mr. Witkoff. It should not have been, and it is being returned today."
Parking permits, however, have a one-year expiration date, and must be renewed annually, which means the pension fund has had a long-term need for truck unloading.
Witkoff, whose partner is ex-cop and celebrity private eye Bo Dietl, acknowledged that he had the permit "since the inception"when the fund moved into his building. "I really don't want to publicly comment on it," he said.
Along with his partners, Witkoff bought the neo-Gothic-style building in 1998 and later took in the pension fund as a temporary tenant. In 2002, the 120-employee unit agreed to rent 56,000 square feet of space therethe entire 19th and 25th floors. While upper floors are being turned into residential apartments, the Woolworth Building still serves as a kind of back-office space for police headquarters, with the Lieutenants Benevolent Association and other unions as tenants.
In April, Witkoff and the Cipriani family were selected by a city-state panel to turn Pier 57 on the West Side into a vast 80,000-square-foot catering hall and museum, to be called the Leonardo at Pier 57. The estimated cost of the project is $154 million.