Saturday, June 22, 2013
The sordid history of the Four Sparrow Marsh project
From the Daily News:
Construction on a project that includes a major car dealership has quietly started on a controversial piece of land in Mill Basin twice tied to scandal-scarred politicians who have tried to help developers buy the land from the city.
In April, the Bloomberg administration announced it had sold the 110,000-square-foot parcel near the Four Sparrow Marsh and the Belt Parkway to Brooklyn auto dealer Lilaahar (Sammy) Bical, owner of Kristal Auto Mall, one of the biggest Cadillac dealers on the East Coast.
Bical was helped in his bid to obtain the land after paying tainted state Sen. John Sampson (D-Canarsie) a $10,000 "retainer fee" to help arrange a sit-down with Bloomberg administration officials, the News reported last month.
Those meetings occurred in early 2012, and this past March the city sold him the land for $4.2 million.
Sampson and his lawyer, Zachary Carter, did not respond to calls seeking comment.
The FBI is investigating whether Sampson broke the law by seeking and receiving retainer fees from Bical, and another businessman, in an unrelated case, who sought his assistance in dealing with the government, sources said.
Originally, the city planned to sell the land to Forest City Ratner to build a mini mall. That plan was scuttled in September 2011 after a Forest City Ratner official was revealed to have asked disgraced former state Sen. Carl Kruger for state funds, according to a criminal complaint.
As part of the new deal, the city also sold Toys R Us the land it currently occupies for $13 million.
The first part of construction, which has just begun, entails carving out a spot for a new parking lot for the toy store, which park advocates charge is being built on protected marsh land. The expanded car dealership will later be built on the old Toys R Us parking lot, city officials said.
Conservation groups and park advocates plan to sue to block the city's sale of the land on the grounds that it lacked proper state approval.