WEST VILLAGE — The architect hired by One If By Land, Two If By Sea to remedy the illegal changes they made to the restaurant's facade has been told by the city's Conflict of Interest Board she must quit the project.
Architect Anita Brandt is a member of Community Board 2, and sits on the board's landmarks committee, which reviewed Brandt's design plan last week.
After DNAinfo New York wrote about her proposed design and noted that she was a board member, Brandt apparently called the Conflict of Interest Board and was told that taking on the project "was improper," according to CB 2 Chair Tobi Bergman, who explained the issue to other CB 2 members at a meeting Thursday night.
She and Bergman were under the impression that as long as she declared her financial stake and recused herself from the vote, everything was above board.
The confusion arose from a question-and-answer in the COIB's Frequently Asked Questions about Community Boards that states: "I am an architect and I regularly have clients appearing before my board’s consents and variances committee. Can I be on that committee? Can I be the chairperson?"
The answer provided is: "A community board member may serve on a committee that is likely to consider matters concerning the member's private interests. The member must disclose the interests and is not permitted to vote on those matters. Also, the member may not be the chair."
"They really gave the wrong answer to that question," Bergman said on Thursday night.
That question, however, addresses Brandt's permission be on the landmarks committee despite being an architect. It seems a separate question that references lawyers also covers architects.
"A community board member may not represent a private client before his or her board," the FAQ states. "However, the member may be able to obtain a waiver from the Conflicts of Interest Board to permit the member’s partner to represent the client before the board."
At the meeting, Brandt said she was informed by the COIB lawyer on duty when she called that lawyers, architects and engineers may not represent clients to their own community board, and "for one year trailing" after leaving the board.
The COIB lawyer advised her to self-report the conflict, Brandt said. She is in the process of writing a formal letter to the agency.
"I don't know what the end consequences are," Bergman concluded, advising that, going forward, everyone call the COIB lawyer on duty if they're unclear on whether something is allowed. "We do have to be careful of these things."
Clarification: An earlier version of this story inaccurately stated that Brandt had quit the project upon being told by the COIB that it was improper. Brandt is taking her name off of the project, but she did not quit because, she said, "The damage is done." She said she will brief another person who will present the project to the LPC in her stead.