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Why did NYC colleges paid $25 million for a former Nathan’s sizzling canine web site?

This story was initially revealed on Could 23 by THE CITY.

In September of 2018, Lorraine Grillo, head of the town’s Faculty Development Authority on the time, obtained an e mail from her pal Carlo Scissura, from his e mail account as chief of the New York Constructing Congress. 

He requested if they might communicate on the cellphone a couple of shuttering Nathan’s Well-known restaurant in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. 

The dialog didn’t revolve round sizzling canine, however somewhat Scissura’s concept that the location may very well be house to a public faculty, in response to the e-mail and others obtained by THE CITY by a Freedom of Info Regulation request. 

“Property is the previous Nathan’s web site — 86 and seventh Avenue. Deal with is 650 86th Road footprint I imagine is 70,000 sf,” he wrote in a single e mail, telling Grillo that the proprietor was “Able to make a deal.”

“He would like dealing instantly with SCA. Possibly you or considered one of your deputies may give him an preliminary name after which move it off to your workforce,” he added.

Scissura overlooked two apparently key items of knowledge. One, that “proprietor,” Tim Ziss, was in contract however hadn’t but bought the location, which was nonetheless property of Nathan’s Well-known.

And Scissura by no means revealed within the emails with Grillo over three years — and by no means disclosed to metropolis or state lobbying overseers — that Ziss had agreed to pay him paid hundreds of {dollars} a month. 

As an alternative, Scissura represented himself solely as an area Bay Ridge do-gooder. “Belief me I don’t need to be concerned in any respect different then (sic) to get colleges in-built the perfect district in NYC :),” he wrote to Grillo. 

Ziss went on to shut on the acquisition for $12.25 million on Oct. 23, 2018 — after which resold the property for $25 million to Grillo’s public faculty development company on July 1, 2019, public information present, paid for by taxpayers. 

Ziss didn’t reply to a request for remark. A spokesperson for the workplace of Mayor Eric Adams, talking on behalf of Grillo, stated she “has all the time made selections solely on the deserves, and this case was very clearly no exception.”

“At no level did Mr. Scissura disclose that he was being paid to debate this mission, and First Deputy Mayor Grillo was by no means made conscious of that association,” said Metropolis Corridor spokesperson Charles Lutvak. 

‘That’s lobbying’

Scissura was greater than a well-known identify in Adams’ Metropolis Corridor. Earlier this 12 months, the mayor was on the verge of appointing him to go the highly effective metropolis Financial Improvement Company. After THE CITY in January first revealed Scissura’s secret work for Ziss, Adams went on to call a unique head for EDC, Andrew Kimball. 

Whereas operating the Constructing Congress, a commerce group for the actual property and development trade, Scissura started working with Ziss in July 2018, in response to a replica of the contract obtained by THE CITY. 

Along with a $15,000 retainer charge, Ziss paid Scissura $6,000 a month beginning that October, the contract exhibits. The scope of labor outlined included conferences with native leaders and elected officers in regards to the improvement of 5 properties in Bay Ridge. Workers and the board of the New York Constructing Congress weren’t conscious of his sideline, in response to folks acquainted with the matter.

The contract specifies that Scissura “shall not be appearing in a capability as a lobbyist as outlined by New York State lobbying guidelines and shall not be appearing as an legal professional on this mission.” Scissura just isn’t a registered lobbyist in New York.

However a number of specialists who spoke to THE CITY stated that Scissura’s effort to affect an actual property deal matches a basic definition of lobbying. 

These actions embody his plaintive emails to Grillo, who’s now the primary deputy mayor underneath Adams. 

“He’s asking for motion on one thing from a governmental official, that’s lobbying,” stated an legal professional specializing in lobbying, who requested that his identify not be used. 

He pointed to the metropolis lobbying regulation, which prohibits any exercise that makes an attempt to affect eight separate actions. The listing consists of “any dedication by an elected Metropolis official, a Metropolis officer or worker regarding the phrases of acquisition or disposition by the Metropolis of any curiosity in actual property.”  

Beneath the town and state lobbying legal guidelines, an individual discovered responsible of unregistered lobbying work faces civil penalties of as much as $30,000, along with the prison penalties related to a category A misdemeanor. The Metropolis Clerk declined to remark for this story and the state’s Joint Fee on Public Ethics (JCOPE) didn’t return calls.

Scissura continues to defend his work with Ziss. 

“As I’ve stated previously, I used to be requested by my pal, Mr. Ziss, to seek the advice of on some properties, however I made it clear that I might not be his group’s lobbyist,” he stated in a press release to THE CITY final week. 

On Monday night time, Scissura’s private lawyer, Claude Millman, stated: “We reviewed the e-mails recognized by THE CITY and dispute that they mirror any ‘lobbying’ that, underneath the circumstances, must be reported underneath the regulation,” he wrote in an emailed assertion.  

“The regulation doesn’t deem each communication with authorities reportable ‘lobbying.’ To assert the opposite, one must ignore the detailed definitions and quite a few exceptions within the complicated regulatory regime.”

Purchase Now!

In dozens of emails from September 2018 by Feb. 2021 between Scissura and Grillo, he maintained a gentle drumbeat of inquiries about Ziss’ properties — whereas by no means disclosing his personal monetary stake.

“He would like dealing instantly with SCA. Possibly you or considered one of your deputies may give him an preliminary name after which move it off to your workforce,” Scissura wrote in an e mail despatched Sept. 22, 2018. 

Scissura reached out to Grillo in regards to the web site weeks later, with extra urgency. 

“I do know he has another potential tenants and I don’t need SCA to overlook alternatives thanks once more,” he wrote. 

In that very same e mail change, Scissura instructed he contact Gayle Mandaro, who ran actual property acquisitions for the SCA. Grillo politely shot it down. 

“Carlo, you understand I feel the world of you however it could not be acceptable so that you can communicate with Gayle whereas negotiating,” she wrote on Nov. 14, 2018. “I promise to comply with up along with her to search out out the newest and get again to you.”

Constructing allies

District 20 in Brooklyn, which incorporates the neighborhoods of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, is likely one of the most overcrowded faculty districts within the metropolis.

Scissura, a former native faculty board member, has spoken brazenly about his involvement in getting colleges constructed.

All through his emails with Grillo, he additionally mentions different properties owned by Ziss, together with loads at 7614 4th Avenue, that may very well be used for colleges.

“Completely different half[s] of District 20 but in addition nice,” he wrote in 2018. “Hoping somebody can attain out to him.”

And the emails present that Ziss moved instantly to flip the property.

“Although[t] it’s best to know that we’re inches from signing the contract on the Nathan’s web site!,” Grillo wrote to Scissura on Jan. 4, 2019, little greater than two months after Ziss had purchased the location. “Thanks in your assist with this.”

Scissura stored going after the Nathan’s deal concluded. In October 2020, he emailed Grillo a couple of potential Bay Ridge faculty web site. “The proprietor is absolutely at his final breathe (sic) with holding the location” after different potential patrons confirmed curiosity, he wrote. It’s unclear which web site he was referring to.

“Can we get this transferring and a minimum of get him the contracts and even have your workforce…communicate with him to get the ball rolling,” he wrote.  

Demolition on the previous Nathan’s constructing was completed in late December final 12 months, and the varsity is about to open by 2024, in response to the town. 

In late 2021, New York Constructing Congress board members anonymously obtained a replica of the contract between Scissura and Ziss, in response to a number of folks acquainted with the matter. 

The contract was additionally despatched together with a letter from a Constructing Congress insider expressing concern in regards to the association, these folks stated.

At a board assembly, Scissura assured the members he was now not working with the developer, and he stays answerable for the commerce group. 

A number of board members of the Constructing Congress didn’t reply to requests for remark from THE CITY.



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