Mayor Eric Adams named his housing leadership team on Sunday – including a longtime fixture in New York politics once fined in a corruption case.
New Department of Housing Preservation and Development commissioner Adolfo Carrión has paid a $10,000 conflict of interest fine — one of the toughest penalties ever imposed on a city employee — for misconduct 15 years ago when he was borough president of the Bronx.
City investigators caught Carrión accepting free home renovations from an architect who was part of a team seeking his approval for a large development in the Bronx. It was January 2007, just two months before Carrión personally approved the development the architect had designed for a project called Boricua Village in Melrose.
The architect, Hugo Subotovsky, later admitted to the Daily News: “He gave me a present because I didn’t send him an invoice. It’s like that.”
In settling the charges with the city’s Conflict of Interest Board, Carrion admitted that he hired Subotovsky on the recommendation of Peter Fine, the builder who built Boricua Village. Carrión described Fine as his “friend” and accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Fine and his business partners.
A company controlled by Fine, Fine Consulting & Developing Ltd., later pleaded guilty to criminal tax evasion and filing false business documents and was fined $250,000.
Carrión and Fine are both members of Adams’ transition team, advising the new mayor on housing issues. HPD enforces the housing code and grants affordable housing deals.
In announcing the appointment, Adams highlighted Carrion’s previous experience as borough president of the Bronx, as President Obama’s urban affairs czar, and as administrator of the New York-New Jersey regional office of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. He did not mention Carrion’s $10,000 fine.
Late Monday, Adams spokesman Charles Lutvak noted that Carrion had acknowledged and corrected the error in judgment regarding this voluntary settlement, which was resolved more than a decade ago.
“Adolfo Carrión had a distinguished career in public service, and we are thrilled to have him join the administration to make New York a more affordable and equitable city. He has demonstrated a deep commitment to good government practices that New Yorkers expect and deserve from their public servants,” Lutvak said.
Fine and Carrión did not respond to requests for comment.
Carrión’s involvement with the architect began in 2006 when he asked Fine to recommend someone for renovations he was planning at his City Island home. At the time, Fine was seeking Carrión’s approval for Boricua Village, a large mixed-use project in Melrose that included a 14-story tower for Boricua College and 700 middle- and low-income housing units.
Carrion told investigators that Fine recommended Subotovsky, who had worked with Fine on several projects, including Boricua Village. Subotovsky completed the work on Carrión’s house in January 2007, but did not submit an invoice for work he later estimated at around $4,200. Carrion approved Boricua Village weeks later in March 2007, and subsequently sponsored $7.5 million in public funds for the project.
Two years later, in March 2009, the Daily News confronted Carrión about the architect’s work. He eventually admitted that he never had a written contract for Subotovsky’s work and that he did not pay for it. The City Investigation Department and the Bronx District Attorney opened an investigation, and shortly thereafter Carrión wrote Subotovsky a check for $4,247.50.
The Bronx DA did not press charges, but the DOI found that by retaining the architect’s services while Boricua Village sought his approval, Carrión was “in conflict with the proper performance of his official duties.”
They referred the case to the Conflict of Interest Board, which reached the $10,000 settlement in November 2011. Of hundreds of city employees cited for ethics violations since 2008, only about a dozen have been fined $10,000 or more.
Meanwhile, DOI was also investigating Fine, Carrión’s “friend” who had recommended Subotovsky. In April 2009, they raided the Manhattan offices of another Fine entity, Atlantic Development Group, taking away boxes of documents. By then, Fine and his business partners had sent more than $50,000 in campaign checks to Carrión, according to campaign finance records.
Ultimately, Fine Consulting & Developing Ltd. pleaded guilty to filing false business documents and tax evasion charges. In June 2012, a judge ordered the company to pay a $250,000 fine, according to the Manhattan District Attorney.
More recently, the Manhattan US attorney filed a lawsuit against Fine and the Atlantic Development Group, accusing them of violating federal regulations requiring buildings to be accessible to people with disabilities.
In October 2019, the U.S. attorney alleged that Fine and Atlantic “designed and built more than 6,000 apartments in 68 apartment buildings across the Bronx, Manhattan, and Westchester County that failed to meet the accessibility requirements of the FHA”.
The two sides reached a settlement in October 2020, with the prosecutor dropping the lawsuit against Atlantic and Fine after Atlantic paid a $30,000 fine and $600,000 in restitution to “compensate the injured parties.”
Atlantic Development Group continues to build affordable housing in New York and recently received state funding for several projects here. The agency that Carrión is about to run arranges financing for projects like those that Atlantic Development Group is building.
Carrión, meanwhile, may have to deal with more potential conflict of interest issues stemming from his recent work as an executive with two consulting firms that work on affordable housing: Metro Futures LLC and Stagg Group.
Metro Futures LLC and Stagg Group list four affordable housing projects currently in the planning stages, including a 542-unit Whitlock Plaza Housing in the Longwood section of the Bronx.