Letitia James received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions last year from two real estate entrepreneurs hoping to build a hotel on city land in Brooklyn — and just three days after pocketing their donations, she penned a glowing letter on their behalf to city officials deciding on the proposal, records show.
Macro Sea and 21c were competing against other developers for the right to build on land in Fort Greene overseen by the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Macro Sea and 21c proposed constructing and operating a boutique hotel with a 24-hour contemporary art museum on the site known as BAM North II.
In Letitia James' missive, written on her City Council letterhead, she addressed Belt but sent it to then-HPD commissioner Mathew Wambua, whose agency would ultimately choose the wining proposal. The letter was included in Macro Sea and 21c's proposal package, which they formally submitted to HPD on Feb. 1, 2013.
James also sent a copy of the letter to Robert Steel, the city's then-deputy mayor for economic development, and to then-Borough President Marty Markowitz.
"A 21c Museum Hotel, with its unique sense of design and community involvement, would be a great addition to New York City and the borough," wrote James, who as a councilwoman represented the area up for development.
James added that the hotel "would bring a new energy to the burgeoning creative character of the surrounding area, and will support neighborhood institutions." She also wrote that the hotel "would bring much needed jobs to the local workforce."
Just days before sending the letter, James received $3,000 from Belt on Jan. 10 and Jan. 11, according to campaign finance records. Greenberg also donated $1,000 to her campaign on Jan. 8, records show. Belt also gave $1,000 to James' campaign on June 23, 2012.
James spokeswoman Aja Davis said in a statement that the public advocate did not make choices based on campaign donations.
James' support for the hotel was surprising because the need for more housing in the city had been a central theme of her campaign.