By Keegan Hamilton
By Albert Samaha
By Village Voice staff
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
A second DOI letter to LMDC that April called Galt's hiring of ex-Safeway executives—specifying the person subsequently charged in the bagging of the broken standpipe—"shocking and disturbing." The letter branded one of Doctoroff's "safeguards," namely that the Galt/Safeway executives had to cooperate with investigators, "a disingenuous fig leaf intended to put the imprimatur of the DOI on your arrangement." Another Doctoroff "safeguard" supposedly made sure that Galt did not "funnel money back to Safeway," a charge that Morgenthau is investigating now. "Once Galt and Bovis" agreed to these "stipulations," Doctoroff said after the fire, he and the rest of the city members "voted to approve the contract amendment to Bovis" that okayed Galt.
The canard later invoked by the mayor himself—that "there was only one contractor willing to work on taking down the building"—is contradicted by the DOI's April letter. Robert Roach, chief of staff to the DOI commissioner, said that the agency had provided "the names of several demolition contractors" that the state and city had "previously used." LMDC told the DOI that it "found these alternative contractors too expensive," and Roach presciently replied, "New York City has a policy of hiring only the lowest responsible bidder, in part because non-responsible contractors, such as Safeway and its officers, frequently cost the City more in the long run by virtue of delays and mistakes."
This was hardly the only time Doctoroff sided with Bovis on the project. The company came back to the board four times for contract increases, and Doctoroff and the city team backed every boost. Indeed, the mayor's only known personal intervention in the five-year effort to take down the building occurred days after Eliot Spitzer became governor in January 2007. Bloomberg and Doctoroff hosted a cozy session at Gracie Mansion with Spitzer, attempting to add $38 million to the public bill due to Bovis, Galt and others on the project. Though it was already known that a Galt director had been fingered at the trial of John Gotti Jr. as an "associate" of the Gambino crime family, a company executive sat confidently through the mansion meeting, having prompted it by pulling workers off the site. Doctoroff declared afterward, "I believe we have solved our problem."
Research assistance: Johanna Barr, Georgia Bobley, Lucy Jordan, and Sudip P. Mukherjee
A state official familiar with Doctoroff's disposition toward Bovis said he believed they had "a special relationship," adding that the Bloomberg administration "had a preference for them, was comfortable with them." Asked for an example of that, the official said that, up to the mansion negotiations, LMDC, with Doctoroff's support, "gave Bovis the increases they asked for" without conditions. The Spitzer team took the "We'll advance the money now and litigate later" position, with the understanding that LMDC might seek to recoup some of the payment. The state and the city made it clear that Bovis and Galt would be financially penalized if they failed to meet a year-end deadline, a commitment they made just months before the fire, feeding their recklessness. The negotiations with Morgan to do its linchpin downtown revival tower on the bank site, with Doctoroff at the helm, peaked in the same time frame.
Doctoroff now sits in the Bloomberg LP headquarters that Bovis built during the first few years of the mayor's administration. The mayor held his favorite deputy so accountable for the Deutsche Bank screw-ups that, five months after the fire, Doctoroff became president of the $5-billion-a-year company Bloomberg almost entirely owns. A Bloomberg LP spokeswoman says that the company did not select Bovis to build the headquarters (the developer did). But a tenant like Bloomberg LP, whose company occupies virtually all of the office space in the mixed-use tower and participated in every detail of the design, undoubtedly developed ties to Bovis during the project. Alan Gerson, the City Council member from Lower Manhattan who chairs the committee that monitors LMDC, says that "without question," he believes Bovis got "favored treatment" from the city, especially at the Deutsche site.
Though Bovis had a track record with the city before Bloomberg became mayor, it prospered even more once he took office. In 2003, the Doctoroff-run NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) picked Bovis as one of its three construction managers on projects, awarding it $75 million in jobs so far, and renewing the contract without bids three times. Similarly, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS)—from where one official, who asked not to be identified, said that Bovis was seen as "a preferred contractor prior to the fire"—selected Bovis twice as the agency's construction manager for its work downtown, where most of the city-owned office buildings that the DCAS manages are located. Bovis is still performing many jobs awarded under the prior EDC and DCAS agreements that will produce millions more in revenue.
In the days immediately after the fire, the mayor said he wanted answers about the city's failings. "We will not stop until we get them," he promised. He repeated the vow to the Graffagnino family at the funeral: "We're going to get those answers, and those answers will be followed by actions." When he and Scoppetta announced nine days after the fire that three chiefs would be relieved of their commands, he said the actions were "strictly preliminary" and predicted they "could wind up being the least of the actions we will take." They actually turned out to be the city's toughest disciplinary decisions, as the recent reprimands of the same three chiefs, and four others, were a retreat from the 2007 threats.