For Sale: City Sidewalks

A billion-dollar city deal looms, and the French are leading the pack

Doctoroff's schedules show that in June 2002, he sat down at City Hall with Jean-François Decaux, one of Jean-Claude's two sons and the firm's co-chief executive officer. A week later, Doctoroff attended a meeting of the street furniture franchise committee. A City Hall spokeswoman said at the time that the Decaux meeting was just a get-to-know-you effort on Doctoroff's part and that he met with officials of other interested firms as well. Sometime afterward, however, JC Decaux—based just outside of Paris (which is making its own Olympics bid)—made a $50,000 contribution to Doctoroff's favorite charity: NYC 2012.

Decaux's lobbyists include former city councilman Ed Wallace of the law firm Greenberg, Traurig, whose name is listed as a frequent Doctoroff contact in the deputy mayor's phone logs and schedules (his firm also represented the Jets in the West Side stadium effort). Since 2002, when Bloomberg took office, Decaux has made $665,000 in lobbying payments to Greenberg, Traurig, records show. (To its credit, the law firm has disclosed all associated legal fees as well.)

Decaux needs high-quality representation. The company has been investigated several times for allegedly pushing the envelope in their efforts to win contracts. Founder Jean-Claude was convicted and given a one-year suspended sentence in 1992 in Belgium for unlawfully funneling funds and trips to officials in a city where it held the street furniture contract. That conviction was later expunged, but in 2001 Decaux received another suspended sentence, this time for six months, in Bordeaux, France. Wallace said that matter—involving a sole-source deal—involved conduct that would not be illegal under New York law, as would be a similar incident in which JC Decaux was recently fined $850,000 by the French Competition Council.

Street furniture: Newsstand owner Mike Patel faces eviction as city readies new contract.
photo: Lauren Braun
Street furniture: Newsstand owner Mike Patel faces eviction as city readies new contract.

Those incidents were highlighted by a competitor when Decaux sought street furniture contracts with Los Angeles in 2001. The city hired an outside counsel to look into charges that Decaux had failed to disclose the violations, but later found no wrongdoing and awarded the contract anyway. "Everything required has been disclosed here," said Wallace. "There is no conduct by this company which is criminal under U.S. law."

City officials say a decision on the contract will be made "sometime this summer." As for Mike Patel and his fellow newsstand owners who face potential eviction, they've gotten no answers. Although Doctoroff has flown around the world several times in pursuit of the Olympics bid, he's never walked the two blocks from City Hall to talk to the dealer, or for that matter, even discussed the issue with Robert Bookman, the newsstand owners' lawyer. "We asked [Doctoroff] numerous times to meet," said Bookman. "There's just been an out-and-out refusal."

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