Feds probe whether Eric Adams sought to expedite permits for Turkish Consulate building: reports

Posted on November. 16. 2023

By Ben Brachfeld | amNY

Federal authorities are looking into whether Eric Adams, just prior to being elected mayor, used his influence to cut red tape for the opening of a new Turkish diplomatic mission in Manhattan, part of a sprawling pay-to-play probe into his 2021 campaign’s finances, news outlets reported on Sunday.
The New York Post and New York Times reported Sunday morning that the FBI is looking into 2021 communications between Adams and former Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, regarding approvals for the opening of a new building, the Turkevi Center, housing Turkish diplomatic offices near the United Nations. Adams was still Brooklyn Borough President at the time of the alleged summer 2021 communications but had already won the Democratic primary that typically all but ensures victory in the general election.
The feds are reportedly interested in these communications as part of a widening investigation into Adams’ 2021 campaign fundraising, which the Times reported last week was centered on whether the campaign solicited illegal foreign contributions from Turkey.
On Nov. 2, the FBI raided the Brooklyn home of Adams’ chief fundraiser, 25-year-old Brianna Suggs, in connection with the probe, a development for which the mayor abruptly canceled a meeting at the White House on the migrant crisis to rush back to New York. Then, last week, federal agents stopped Adams himself on the street and seized his cell phones and iPad in connection to the probe.
Justice Department spokesperson Nicholas Biase, with the Southern District of New York, declined to comment on Sunday. The mayor has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
The Times, citing sources with knowledge of the investigation, reported that Adams reached out to Nigro in the summer of 2021, after winning the Democratic primary, and “urged” the FDNY head to permit the Turkish government to occupy its new diplomatic HQ on First Avenue across the street from the UN.
FDNY officials were concerned enough to reject the Turkish government’s fire protection plan that summer, but the agency apparently changed course soon after Nigro was contacted by Mayor-elect Adams and granted a temporary certificate of occupancy, the Times and Post reported.
A fire consultant, however, after the issuance of the temporary permit, allegedly identified numerous “deficiencies” involving smoke detectors, elevators, fans, and doors, the Times reported. Nevertheless, just days later, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cut the ribbon on the $300 million, 561-foot Consulate building.
The FDNY and the Turkish Consulate did not return requests for comment.
The FBI is reportedly probing whether Adams’ campaign conspired with Turkish officials to funnel money from foreign nationals into his campaign coffers, which is illegal under federal law. The sprawling probe is reportedly examining the campaign’s connections with the Turkish Consulate, a Brooklyn construction firm called KSK, and a Turkish-owned college called Bay Atlantic University, and whether straw donors were used to cover up illegal contributions.
The mayor has close ties with Turkey, claiming just last month he had visited the country six or seven times. He even made a cameo as himself in a 2017 Turkish romantic comedy film, “Fairytale of New York”, where two Turkish men ask him for political favors but he says he can’t understand them.
The City reported the mayor had accepted and then returned campaign contributions from Bay Atlantic University and took contributions from board members at the Turken Foundation, headed by Erdogan’s son.
Through a campaign spokesperson, Adams said Sunday that speaking to agency heads on behalf of constituents was simply part of the job as Brooklyn Borough President.
“As a Borough President, part of my routine role was to notify government agencies of issues on behalf of constituents and constituencies,” said the mayor. “I have not been accused of wrongdoing and I will continue to cooperate with investigators.”
The spokesperson, Evan Thies, pointed to comments by former Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr and Bronx Councilmember Kevin Riley, who each told the Post the revelations sounded like business as usual for a politician.
At an unrelated event on Sunday, the mayor suggested the trickle of information on the probe is coming from “leaks” within federal law enforcement.
“What I’m really hoping is that these periodic leaks stop,” Adams said. “We’re cooperating, we need to do this together so all the facts can come out.”
Last week, the mayor said at his weekly press briefing that he would be “shocked” if the feds accused his campaign of conspiring to break the law, but neglected to mention the feds had already seized his devices by that time.
The mayor has remained in New York even as most of the state’s political class descended on Puerto Rico for the SOMOS conference. The raid on Suggs and seizure of Adams’ phones has dominated discussion at the annual post-election reverie, and talk has intensified about who, if anyone, may attempt to challenge the embattled executive in the 2025 primary.
The mayor’s campaign finances have also faced scrutiny from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who this summer indicted six individuals — one of them a retired cop who knew Adams — for orchestrating an illegal straw donor scheme to funnel public matching campaign funds into the mayor’s coffers. Bragg has also indicted Adams’ former Buildings Commissioner Eric Ulrich on bribery charges. Adams hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing in either case.

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