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Mayor Pushed City to Give Special Treatment to Fundraiser's Yeshiva: Report

By Gwynne Hogan | February 27, 2017 3:47pm
 De Blasio was questioned about his relationship with Satmar leader Moishe Indig, reports claim.
De Blasio was questioned about his relationship with Satmar leader Moishe Indig, reports claim.
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton

BROOKLYN — Mayor Bill De Blasio pressured Department of Buildings officials to lift a vacate order over fire code violations at a Bed-Stuy yeshiva managed by one of his top fundraisers in Williamsburg's Satmar community, according to a report.

The claim comes as de Blasio faced questioning Friday by federal prosecutors about his relationship to Moishe Indig, a top Satmar fundraiser for the mayor whose name is on the school's building permits, in an ongoing corruption probe, according to the New York Times.

The allegations stem from Department of Buildings inspections in 2014 of two yeshivas located on Sanford Street in Bed-Stuy, according to Kings County Politics.

Inspectors hit the school at 88 Sanford St. with a partial vacate order because the basement was being occupied illegally with classrooms, building records show. 

A second building in the complex located at 96 Sanford St. was hit with a full vacate order — which is still active — after being illegally built without permits or city approval, according to Department of Buildings records. 

As soon as the vacate orders went out on Dec. 24, the mayor began pressuring Buildings Department Brooklyn Commissioner Ira Gluckman to lift them — even called Gluckman from Indig's cellphone, according to Kings County Politics.

When the vacate order was rescinded the same day, a building inspector wrote that the yeshiva could use the basement on condition that they had fireguards on site and wrote it was "ok to occupy entire cellar and first floor classrooms as per [Borough Commissioner] Ira Gluckman based upon joint inspection result," according to Department of Buildings records.

The allegations were uncovered by Kings County Politics editor and founder Stephen Witt in 2014 who was working for Our Time Press at the time. But the site but didn't run the story for fear of retaliation from the mayor's office, according Kings County Politics.

In December, Witt turned over his notes on the allegations to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office, the website reported.

Mayoral spokesman Eric Phillips denied the mayor put pressure on the DOB to lift the vacate order.

"This isn't any more true now than it was more than year ago when we called it out as a fabrication and the reporter admitted to us that he did not trust his source as credible," Phillips said. "The mayor never intervened in this issue. Period."

Spokeswoman Melissa Grace said that rescinding a vacate order on the day it was issued was typical, and explained that Gluckman handled the issue himself because it was Christmas Eve and the department was functioning with a skeleton staff.

►READ MORE: Here's What We Know About the Probe Into Mayor Bill de Blasio's Fundraising

"A vacate order was issued because there were not two means of egress in case of a fire. The order was rescinded the same day, after the owner satisfied us that he had hired multiple fire guards, which addressed DOB's fire-safety concerns," she said. "We don't want to force people to leave their home, business, or school unless we absolutely have to — which is why it's not uncommon for DOB to rescind a vacate order once an owner has satisfied our safety concerns."

Indig, a member of Brooklyn Community Board 1 who was included on the Village Voice's 10 worst landlords list in 2010, hosted a fundraiser for de Blasio in 2013, according to WNYC's list of the mayor's fundraisers.

Indig didn't immediately return a request for comment.

In December, Yitzchok Iziel, another Satmar leader who raised funds for Bill de Blasio, was arrested by the F.B.I. for food stamp fraud as part of an effort to squeeze more information from him about the mayor's fundraising, the New York Post reported, attributing the information to anonymous sources.

Leading up to that arrest, federal investigators questioned Indig and confiscated his phone, according to the New York Post.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bahara declined comment on the claims against the mayor or the ongoing probe from their office into de Blasio's fundraising practices.

The mayor's office declined to comment on de Blasio's meeting with federal prosecutors Friday. 

The Manhattan District Attorney's office is also investigating de Blasio's fundraising.