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Developer Seeks Aid From Adams’ Housing Commissioner After Scandal That Ensnared Both of Them

Adolfo Carrión once paid a hefty ethics fine over “free” architectural services arranged by developer Peter Fine. Now Fine has hired lobbyists to seek Carrión’s help for his Bronx development.

SHARE Developer Seeks Aid From Adams’ Housing Commissioner After Scandal That Ensnared Both of Them

City Housing Preservation and Development commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. speaks at a City Hall rally with Mayor Eric Adams, Sept. 7, 2022.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

A real estate developer named Peter Fine wants it known that he’s on the scene in The Bronx, readying to build hundreds of affordable apartments on a stretch of Jerome Ave. targeted for housing development.

That’s a big change from a decade ago, when Fine got himself banned from city housing subsidy programs after one of his firms pleaded guilty to criminal charges following a scandal that involved former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión Jr.

But now Carrión is Mayor Eric Adams’ housing commissioner. Public records reviewed by THE CITY reveal that Fine has for the last year been paying lobbyists to seek support for his Jerome Avenue project — from none other than Carrión.

The two men have been linked together since 2009, when reports first emerged that Fine had arranged to get Carrión free architectural work on his house — at the same time Fine was seeking the then-Bronx borough president’s approval for one of his housing projects.

Both men found themselves subjects of a city Department of Investigation probe. When the dust settled, Fine was temporarily barred from participating in city-run affordable housing programs after pleading guilty to unrelated criminal tax fraud and filing false documents charges. Carrión, for his part, had to pay a $10,000 penalty for violating city ethics rules — one of the steepest fines for an ethics violation ever meted out to any city employee.

The dramatic change in circumstance started in the fall of 2021 after Adams was elected mayor. Adams named both Fine and Carrión to his transition team, advising him on housing issues. 

Then a few weeks after arriving at City Hall, the new mayor named Carrión as his  commissioner of the Department of Housing Development & Preservation (HPD), the agency that arranges public funding to create affordable housing.

With the passage of time, Fine’s chances of obtaining favorable treatment from City Hall had suddenly arrived at a very different place.

Real estate developer Peter Fine spoke on CUNY TV in 2006.

Screengrab/YouTube/CUNY TV

In mid-January 2022, even before Adams had announced Carrión’s appointment, Fine began hiring lobbyists to attempt to sway HPD on the Jerome Avenue project. Records show the two sets of lobbyists he hired listed Carrión as their intended “target.” Both lobbyist firms had longstanding and direct ties to Carrión.

In response to THE CITY’s questions, HPD claimed Carrión “has not engaged with any of Mr. Fine’s representatives” and that when lobbyists for Fine or any of his affiliated companies “attempted” to contact Carrión, he “redirected” them to his subordinates on HPD staff.

In an emailed response to THE CITY’s questions, HPD spokesperson William Fowler stated that Carrión “has not met with or spoken to Mr. Fine at all in over a decade,” and he noted that the agency has not yet provided discretionary financing to any projects associated with Fine.

HPD did acknowledge, however, that Fine’s Jerome Avenue project remains in HPD’s pipeline for potential support down the road, describing ongoing conversations as “preliminary.” HPD estimated decisions on funding “would not be made until years in the future.”

Asked about Carrión’s prior history with Fine, Fowler asserted, “Throughout his tenure, Commissioner Carrión has made all policy and financing decisions based on the merits of each individual project proposal, the development team’s ability to deliver on their proposal, and the urgent need to create affordable housing for New Yorkers.”

Fine did not respond to THE CITY’s request for comment, but a spokesperson for his company, Bolivar Development, who refused to be quoted by name, stated, “Our city is dealing with a challenging affordable housing crisis. We are proud of our track record and commitment to ensuring that New Yorkers of all means have safe and affordable housing options to meet our city’s growing needs.”

‘Friend’ Wrote Campaign Checks

Fine and Carrión go way back in the city’s struggle to increase the affordable housing stock, particularly in The Bronx. At one point during the Department of Investigation probe, Carrión described Fine to investigators as his “friend.” And as Bronx borough president in the mid-2000s, Carrión gave his approval — and, in some cases, financial support for — affordable housing projects that Fine’s then-company, Atlantic Development, was building.

In return, Fine, his then-business partner Marc Altheim, their relatives and Atlantic Development staff wrote campaign checks to Carrión’s past political bids, totalling more than $32,000.

And in one case, according to DOI, Fine went one step further.

One of Fine’s biggest developments was a mixed-use residential venture with Boricua College called Boricua Village, an oversized project built in the Melrose section of The Bronx. Because borough presidents get to weigh in on major developments, and a thumbs down can kill a proposal, Fine sought Carrión’s support for his big project.

The year was 2006, and as Fine’s Boricua Village proposal wound its way toward the borough president’s desk for his perusal, Carrión asked a favor of Fine: He was remodeling his City Island home and did Fine know a reliable architect who could redesign his porch? Fine suggested Hugo Subotovsky, the architect Fine used on all his projects — including Boricua Village.

Architects GF55 submitted plans to the city for a mixed-use residential tower at 1959 Jerome Ave. in The Bronx.

Rendering/Gf55 Architects

At Fine’s request, Subotovsky did the job and finished the design by mid-January 2007. The renovation of Carrión’s City Island home wrapped up soon after, and Carrión dutifully paid all the contractors who did the work — with one exception. He did not ask Subotovsky for a bill and Subotovsky did not send him one.

The bill went unmentioned and unpaid for more than two years until March 2009, when a Daily News reporter asked Carrión about Subotovsky’s work on his home. Carrión — by then housing czar in the Obama administration — admitted he had not paid the architect, and soon after wrote Subotovsky a $4,247 check for the work.

DOI opened their investigation into Carrión’s sudden payment of a two-year-old bill and a month later raided the SoHo offices of Fine’s firm, Atlantic Development. Agents hauled out boxes of documents in an ongoing probe with the Manhattan District Attorney.

DOI interviewed Carrión, Fine, the architect and several others involved in the house renovation. In their responses, neither Carrión nor Fine said they thought they’d done anything wrong or even questionable.

Carrión insisted to DOI investigators that he’d always intended to pay the bill, while Fine claimed that “at no point did anyone suggest that Subotovsky would do the work as an unpaid favor to Carrión,” according to DOI’s summary of its investigation.

Fine denied “that he himself felt a need to stay in Carrión’s good graces, although he said it was a ‘very good question’ whether he was asking Subotovsky to do him a favor by agreeing to design Carrión’s porch.”

Fine also claimed that recommending an architect for a public official whose signature he desired on a multi-million dollar real estate project was “something he wanted to do because, as he put it, it’s his ‘general disposition to say yes when people ask him for help’,” the DOI report stated.

Then in November 2011, Carrión admitted that maybe he had, in fact, done something wrong. Specifically, he now agreed that he’d violated the ethics rules that govern all city employees by accepting what amounted to a favor from an architect involved in a project that needed his approval. He paid a $10,000 fine imposed by the Conflicts of Interest Board, one of the steepest sanctions that board had ever imposed.

Iced Out of Housing Deals

Now the attention swung back to Fine: in 2012, then-Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance revealed that Fine had agreed to have one of his firms, Fine Consulting and Developing, plead guilty to first-degree filing false documents and third-degree criminal tax fraud. He agreed to pay back taxes and a $250,000 fine.

At that point, the New York City Housing Development Corp. (HDC), a quasi-city agency that teams up with HPD to finance affordable housing, notified Fine that going forward, they would not be doing deals with his company, Atlantic, because of the criminal plea, according to a source familiar with the matter who spoke to THE CITY on the condition of anonymity.

HDC also took action on another Atlantic affordable housing project called Bruckner by the Bridge that was in construction and receiving financing from HPD and HDC, the source said. HDC restructured the deal so Fine was walled off from having any say in decisions on the project.

HDC substituted a new developer “unaffiliated with Atlantic to make any kind of decisions so Peter wasn’t involved,” the source said.

Finally in 2019 federal prosecutors filed a civil rights lawsuit against Fine and Atlantic Development, charging that they’d exhibited a “pattern and practice” of building thousands of apartments in 68 developments for the elderly that were inaccessible to individuals with disabilities. Fine and Atlantic later settled the suit with a $600,000 payment for restitution and a $30,000 fine.

Fine’s reversal of fortune is described in court papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court by Fine’s then-business partner, Marc Altheim. 

Altheim claimed in court papers that “as a result of a criminal investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney investigating Fine’s activities, our relationship soured.” Altheim claimed Fine was improperly taking money out of Atlantic without his permission, so he initiated an arbitration proceeding and a lawsuit to get it back. Ultimately an arbitrator ruled in his favor, ordering Fine to pay more than $3.4 million to his former partner, court records show.

Around the time of the Manhattan DA’s investigation, Altheim stated in court papers that Fine “made the decision that (Atlantic) would cease to pursue any new real estate ventures and begin the process of winding down its business affairs.” Altheim declined to answer THE CITY’s questions about Fine.

Six years after the 2012 criminal plea, Fine began a transformation to get back in the game. He incorporated a new real estate limited liability corporation called Bolivar Development, created an affiliate called Bolivar Builders, and began buying up properties in The Bronx.

From 2018 through 2021, his companies hired Mercury Public Affairs to lobby for his planned affordable housing projects. He targeted then-HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll, with ex-Bronx Borough President Freddy Ferrer the lobbyist assigned to the task, records show. Fine and his partner had donated nearly $10,000 to Ferrer in his three failed candidacies for the job of mayor.

Fine switched gears once Eric Adams got himself elected mayor.

On Jan. 15, 2022, two weeks after Adams arrived at City Hall, Fine ditched Mercury and switched to Moonshot Strategies, run by Jason Ortiz and Jenny Sedlis, two political consultants who’d created an independent political action committee that had raised $6.9 million to support Adams.

From January through April, Moonshot listed Carrión as their intended “target” as they sought HPD’s help for Fine on the Jerome Avenue project.

Moonshot Strategies told THE CITY that one of their lobbyists, Jason Laidley, reached out to Carrión, whom he’s known for years due to his longstanding ties to the Bronx Democratic party. Laidley was hoping to get Carrión’s support to move the Jerome Avenue project forward, but before that could happen, Moonshot and Fine had to end their engagement due to a conflict of interest unrelated to Carrión.

In June, Fine then turned to the MirRam Group — political consultants who had longstanding and even more direct ties to Fine’s old “friend” Carrión. (One of MirRam’s founders is Luis Miranda, a member of THE CITY’s board of directors.)

During Carrión’s successful campaign for borough president in 2005 and then in a failed bid for city comptroller in 2009, Carrión’s campaigns paid MirRam a total of $129,000 for political consulting.

MirRam’s lobbying reports for September through December 2022 list Carrión as an intended “target” on behalf of Bolivar Development related to the Jerome Ave. project.

Reginald Johnson, a spokesperson for MirRam, declined to answer THE CITY’s questions about specific interactions and communications between the firm and Carrión. Instead, he stated, “We’re proud to partner with clients committed to tackling some of our city’s most pressing issues, such as affordable housing. As a long-standing policy, we do not publicly comment on any specific client’s work.”

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