Barrett: Bloomberg All Fired Up for Builder Bovis


By Wayne Barrett and Lucy Jordan

The Voice‘s cover story this week, “Bloomberg’s Biggest Scandal–the Deutsche Bank Fire–Should Be His Downfall” — examined the determination of top city officials, including Bloomberg’s longtime top deputy Dan Doctoroff, to ignore the risk of installing Bovis Lend Lease and its prime subcontractor Galt at the demolition site of the bank building. Doctoroff brushed aside warnings from the city’s investigations department about Galt in deference to Bovis’ reckless desire to hire the mob-tainted firm.

The story detailed some of the evidence of what several sources, including downtown city councilman Alan Gerson, said was the “special relationship” between City Hall and Bovis, which built Bloomberg L.P.’s headquarters on Lexington Avenue during the mayor’s first term. Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau has indicted Galt and two of its officials in the negligent homicide case involving the death of two firefighters, Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino, at the bank site. He also charged one Bovis employee, but said he did not indict Bovis because it could have caused the collapse of a company that employs thousands.

As extensive as the Bovis/Bloomberg relationship detailed in the story was, the Voice has learned much more about the extensive business dealings between a mayor powerful enough to overturn term limits and a construction company too big to fail…

Doctoroff, now the president of Bloomberg L.P., ran the city’s Economic Development Corporation until he left the administration in 2008. The EDC picked Bovis as one of its two top construction managers. Among the jobs the EDC steered on a no-bid basis to Bovis was the $15 million construction of the city’s new wedding chapel, which was designed by the same architect who did the mayor’s townhouse. EDC also picked Bovis for a project financed by the same state-city agency, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, that awarded it the Deutsche Bank contract (Doctoroff was the mayor’s representative on the LMDC board as well): a $20 million security and streetscape improvement for Wall Street. Three months after the Deutsche Bank fire, the EDC even picked Bovis for a $2 million clean-up project at the contaminated Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, and also assigned Bovis two fire department jobs.

Similarly, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, 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 (most of the city-owned office buildings that the DCAS manages are covered by that contract). Bovis did a $9.5 million build-out of the mayor’s City Hall basement offices under the DCAS contract, part of $63 million in work it did associated with the agency. The DCAS and the EDC selected other vendors when Bovis’s contracts recently expired, though the EDC calendared a renewal for Bovis in 2008 and suddenly it was not going ahead with the award (the EDC says Bovis withdrew).

The company was also picked as a $100 million construction manager at the Housing Authority, and its contracts at the School Construction Authority reached $275 million total, though the SCA recently canceled a $72 million deal, based not on the company’s culpability for the bank fire but on the continuing Morgenthau probe of possible Bovis overbilling on several projects. These projects include the new Mets stadium (the EDC approved its role in this project), the Bloomberg-chaired September 11 Memorial, and the Deutsche demolition. Bovis got all this city-connected work despite nine major safety incidents, including a death at the Bloomberg building, since the mayor took office. In fact, the city’s Department of Design and Construction complained about Bovis’s “lack of commitment” to safety and health issues just as Bloomberg started at City Hall. The company’s renovation of the Tweed Courthouse, launched under Rudy Giuliani, left stones improperly attached to the facade hanging over public sidewalks.

At the very moment that Doctoroff and the LMDC went ahead with the Bovis contract at the bank site in 2005, the company was engaged in what city attorneys call now “repeated failures to perform in accordance” with “generally accepted professional standards” in the construction of the $275 million Bronx Hall of Justice, the 10-story courthouse that Bovis completed almost three years late. The lawsuit is still pending.

Research Credit: Johanna Barr, Tom Feeney Jr.