Monday, April 23, 2012
Columbia contractors have crooked histories
From the Daily News:
In the two years since Columbia University began work on its controversial West Harlem campus expansion, the Ivy League institution has engaged the services of a slew of contractors with checkered records, the Daily News has learned.
One firm was implicated in a bid-fraud scheme at a Brooklyn hospital, and two were cited in bribery investigations. That’s in addition to Breeze National, the mob-linked demolition company handling the jobs in which two workers have been killed.
Columbia says on its website it is the biggest client of Brooklyn-based Eagle Two Construction, owned by Roxanne Tzitzikalakis, whose father Demetrios Tzitzikalakis pleaded guilty to grand larceny and falsifying business records for bilking the city out of cash at his former company, Foundation Construction Consultants.
State controller Thomas DiNapoli found in an audit last week that the ex-con father plays an active role in running the company — and that Eagle won six contracts at SUNY Downstate Medical Center where forged bids or bids from affiliates posing as competitors were submitted.
After the Daily News inquired about the allegations against Eagle, Columbia spokeswoman Victoria Benitez said the firm has been suspended from consideration for contracts, pending the outcome of DiNapoli’s investigation.
Utility work on Columbia’s expansion project has been contracted to Felix Associates and MFM, which records show share a Westchester address and officers.
Felix was identified by Con Edison as the firm accused of bribing 11 Con Ed supervisors, who were arrested in 2009 for demanding more than $1 million plus goodies like Giants tickets in return for letting the company jack up costs.
Other demolition work on the expansion project is being handled by Par Environmental. The Suffern, N.Y., firm, then known as Par Wrecking, was cited in a 2008 federal indictment for paying $35,000 to a Gambino crime family associate to allow them to ignore labor agreements on a Newark garage demolition.
The expansion project, which encompasses 64 properties on 17 acres, has been slapped with 59 building code violations, 13 stop work orders and four lawsuits alleging unsafe working conditions.