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Harlem Residents Furious After Lot Goes To Developer With Connections To De Blasio

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A new controversy struck Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration Friday, involving a real estate deal in Harlem, a developer's political contribution, and plenty of community outrage.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, an overgrown lot sits at the corner of St. Nicholas Avenue and 152nd Street. It is something of a community eyesore, and it is the latest sore spot for the mayor, Kramer reported.

"Everybody in the community is angry about this," said local community board member Barry Weinsten, "because why is it that we're locked out of a discussion on a piece of formerly city-owned property, that when the city disposed of it, said it would be used for community use?"

Weinstein is furious that a protective covenant in place since 1976 that required the land to be used by a nonprofit cultural organization was lifted by the city to allow a developer with connections to Mayor de Blasio to buy the property – and nobody in the community was notified.

As WCBS 880's Rich Lamb explained, a city agency accepted $857,000 to eliminate the deed restriction that had been in place on the property. The developer then bought it for $3.1 million.

There are many questions about the transaction, Kramer reported. But one of the biggest is why the developer made a $10,000 contribution to the Putnam County Democratic Committee – which is at the center of two corruption probes.

Investigators are looking at donations made at the request of team de Blasio to influence the 2014 New York state Senate race. In the Harlem land case, the questions also center on the fact that it mirrors a similar move by de Blasio to lift deed restrictions on the Rivington House nursing home on the Lower East Side to help a developer.

There are three investigations into the nursing home deal, including one by city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

"New Yorkers should feel slighted, cheated, and quite frankly outraged by the conduct," Stringer said.

"I am concerned that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and there may be other situations just like this," said city Councilman Ben Kallos (D-5th).

At a hearing, Kallos put that question to Lisette Camillo, the head of the obscure city agency that is responsible.

Kallos: "How many more situations like Rivington and St. Nicholas are coming down the pike?"

Camillo: "Right now, none. They've all been put on hold."

Kallos: "How many are currently on hold?"

Camillo: "I believe it's about 13 to 14 currently."

Kallos: "Wow."

Comptroller Stringer is conducting a review of the city's deed restriction process, and will certainly look at all the 13 or 14 other projects in the pipeline.

Camillo, commissioner of Citywide Administrative Services, tried to get ahead of the probers, Kramer reported. She announced Friday that in the future, there will be community notification, and moves to lift deed restriction will be published in the city record.

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