CITY HALL — Mayor Bill de Blasio's approval will now be required to lift deed restrictions on land formerly owned by the city.
The mayor announced the change at a press conference Wednesday where he once again addressed multiple probes into his fundraising activities, asserting that he violated no laws.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the city Department of Investigation and Comptroller Scott Stringer are all probing the lifting of a deed restriction on Rivington House, a former HIV/AIDS nursing home, for $16.5 million that eventually sold for $116 million.
James Capalino, who has earned millions of dollars lobbying City Hall, represented various parties in the deal to build luxury housing on the site. Stringer has questioned whether the process of lifting the deed restriction was manipulated.
Another deed restriction the city lifted in Harlem, which allowed the Dance Theater of Harlem to sell a plot of land that remained undeveloped for decades, is also being questioned.
The eventual purchaser, BRP Companies, donated $10,000 to the Putnam County Democratic Committee in 2014, the same year de Blasio was leading an effort to win back Democratic control of the senate.
De Blasio said the Harlem deed restriction deal was handled properly. The deed had stated the land could only be used by non-profit cultural groups.
"It's clear the process was followed but that's a different question from whether it's the right process," de Blasio said.
In addition to the investigation of the Rivington House deed, the mayor is facing a federal investigation into whether donors to the Campaign for One New York, the mayor's nonprofit to advance his policy agenda, received favors in exchange for their donations.
Authorities are also examining whether de Blasio's unsuccessful bid to bring the state Senate under Democratic control in 2014 violated campaign finance and election laws.
Seated next to Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter and his chief legal counsel Maya Wiley, both of whom he turned to frequently to support his assertions, de Blasio said he sought legal opinions for all fundraising.
The mayor declined to say if he directly solicited money from those with business before the city.
DNAinfo New York reported earlier this month that the mayor called developer Don Peebles, a former de Blasio donor who had business before the city and is likely to run for mayor, and solicited a check for $20,000 to bring universal Pre-K to the city.
Supermarket billionaire John Catsimatidis, who once ran for mayor, was questioned by investigators about a $50,000 donation he gave at the request of the mayor to the Putnam Country Democratic Committee that wound up in the campaign of an upstate Democratic candidate, apparently as part of the mayor’s Senate initiative.
Catsimatidis said he donated to the Putnam Country Democratic Committee, as de Blasio asked, but he did not know it was routed to the candidate.
Wiley said she was "fairly confident" the public trust was not violated and offered a careful definition of what it meant for companies or individuals to have business "pending" before the city.
"We're not really talking about a situation where the government decision makers on specific transactions were actually out asking for money in the process of the transaction," Wiley said.
De Blasio chimed in that he didn't "know of any city official who failed to follow the guidance," they received and that he would reveal "a whole lotta evidence" that companies who wanted things from the city did not get them.
"We are trying to change things," de Blasio said about the need to raise money.
Unlike his billionaire predecessor Michael Bloomberg: "I couldn't do it out of my own pockets," he said.