Mayor Eric Adams named his housing leadership team 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 paid a $10,000 conflict-of-interest fine — one of the steepest such penalties ever levied against a city worker — for misconduct 15 years ago while serving as Bronx borough president.
City investigators caught Carrión taking free home renovation work from an architect who was part of a team seeking his approval for a big Bronx development. That was in 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 got from me a gift because I didn’t send him a bill. That’s the way it is.”
In settling charges with the city Conflicts of Interest Board, Carrion admitted that he’d hired Subotovsky at the recommendation of Peter Fine, the builder putting up 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 Fine controlled, Fine Consulting & Developing Ltd., later pleaded guilty to criminal tax fraud and filing false business records charges and was ordered to pay a $250,000 fine.
Both Carrión and Fine are members of Adams’ transition team, advising the new mayor on housing issues. HPD enforces the housing code and awards affordable housing deals.
In announcing the appointment, Adams noted Carrion’s prior experience as Bronx borough president, as President Obama’s urban affairs czar and as administrator of the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development’s New York-New Jersey regional office. He did not mention Carrion’s $10,000 fine.
Late Monday, Adams spokesperson Charles Lutvak noted that Carrion had acknowledged and remedied the error in judgment pertaining to this voluntary settlement, which was resolved more than a decade ago.
“Adolfo Carrión has had a distinguished career in public service, and we are thrilled he is joining the administration to make New York a more affordable and equitable city. He has exhibited a deep commitment to the practices of good government that New Yorkers expect and deserve from their public servants,” Lutvak stated.
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 units of middle- and lower-income housing.
Carrion told investigators that Fine recommended Subotovsky, who had worked with Fine on multiple projects including Boricua Village. Subotovsky did the work on Carrión’s house in January 2007 but did not submit a bill for work he later estimated was worth about $4,200. Carrion approved Boricua Village weeks later in March 2007, and later sponsored $7.5 million in taxpayer funds for the project.
Two years later, in March 2009 the Daily News confronted Carrión about the architect’s work. He ultimately admitted he’d never had a written contract for Subotovsky’s work and that he hadn’t paid for it. The city Department of Investigation and Bronx District Attorney opened a probe, and soon after Carrión wrote Subotovsky a check for $4,247.50.
The Bronx DA did not pursue charges, but DOI found that in retaining the architect’s services while Boricua Village was seeking his approval, Carrión was “in conflict with the proper discharge of his official duties.”
They referred the case to the Conflicts of Interest Board, which worked out the $10,000 settlement in November 2011. Out of hundreds of city workers cited for ethical violations since 2008, only about a dozen have been fined $10,000 or more.
During this time DOI was also investigating Fine, Carrión’s “friend” who’d recommended Subotovsky. In April 2009 they raided the Manhattan office of another Fine entity, Atlantic Development Group, carrying out boxes of records. By then Fine and his business partners had written more than $50,000 in campaign checks to Carrión, campaign finance records show.
Ultimately, Fine Consulting & Developing Ltd. pleaded guilty to filing false business records and criminal tax fraud 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 U.S. attorney filed a civil rights suit against Fine and the Atlantic Development Group, charging that they have violated federal regulations requiring that buildings be accessible to people with disabilities.
In October 2019, the U.S. attorney alleged Fine and Atlantic “designed and constructed more than 6,000 apartments in 68 residential buildings through the Bronx, Manhattan and Westchester County that do not comply with the FHA’s accessibility requirements.”
Both sides reached a settlement in October 2020 with the prosecutor dropping the suit against Atlantic and Fine after Atlantic paid a $30,000 fine and $600,000 in restitution to “compensate any aggrieved parties.”
Atlantic Development Group continues to build affordable housing in New York City and recently received state funding for several projects here. The agency Carrión is about to run arranges financing for projects like those Atlantic Development Group builds.
Carrión, meanwhile, could have to navigate more potential conflict of interest problems arising 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 planning, including a 542-unit Whitlock Plaza Housing in the Longwood section of The Bronx.