LIC Rock Climbing Gym Plans to Open This Summer, Despite Bribery Scandal

By Jeanmarie Evelly on May 22, 2013 3:35pm 

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 The gym is looking to open in July. It owner was recently probed the City's Department of Investigations.
The Cliffs at LIC
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LONG ISLAND CITY — They might have a rocky road ahead.

The Cliffs at LIC, a massive and highly-anticipated rock climbing complex planned for Long Island City, is forging ahead with plans to open this summer despite the fact that the owner is facing bribery accusations.

The climbing complex had originally planned to open its doors at 11-11 44th Dr. this month but is now shooting for a July, a representative for the company said. The gym's owner was recently ensnared in a bribery scandal, reported by the New York Post last week.

Mike Wolfert is accused of giving cash to an investigator from the city's Department of Investigation who was posing undercover as a Buildings inspector in exchange for getting a stop-work order lifted at the gym, according to a criminal complaint.

Michael Lambert, Wolfert's attorney, said he could not comment on the case in detail other than to say that his client is innocent and has entered a not guilty plea.

"Mike is an upstanding citizen," he said.

The DOI began investigating Wolfert after he allegedly sent an e-mail to City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, seeking the lawmaker's help in getting the stop-work order rescinded. Department of Buildings records show the address was issued a violation in April for construction that did not comply with the site's zoning.

The councilman described the e-mail as "a pretty blatant quid pro quo, if you take care of this, I'll do this."

"We were quite disturbed to get the e-mail, and it was pretty blatant and very inappropriate, to say the least," he said.

DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn commended Van Bramer for blowing the whistle. 

"We're grateful that at a time when some people are succumbing to corruption, this was reported to DOI," she said in a statement. "Cutting corners illegally and paying off City employees is not acceptable."  

According to the Dept. of Buildings, The Cliffs at LIC would need to apply for a special permit with the city's Board of Standards and Appeals in order to continue construction.

If completed, the site would be one of the largest rock climbing gyms in the country, with 30,000 square feet of climbing space able to accommodate up to 500 climbers at once.
 

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