City council approves Dock Street's project after developer donation

City council approves Dock Street's project after developer donation
New York Daily News
by Frank Lombardi, Jotham Sederstrom and Erin Durkin
Thursday, June 18th 2009

Last week, City Council members who voted last week to approve the Dock Street project.

The developer of the controversial Dock Street project in DUMBO gave big bucks to City Council members who voted last week to approve the project.

Father-and-son developers David and Jed Walentas, and other employees and relatives of their company Two Trees donated $82,550 to Council members in the 2009 election cycle.

The biggest gifts went to Speaker Christine Quinn, who got $34,650, and Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), who heads the committee that reviews development and got $29,700. Both are supporters of the project.

David and Jed Walentas also served on the finance committee for two fund-raisers for Katz's bid for controller.

"If that is not a conflict of interest, I don't know what is," said Gus Sheha, president of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance, which fought against the project.

Over the objections of local Councilman David Yassky, the Council voted 40 to 9 in favor of the development, which would include an apartment tower and a public middle school, but which opponents fear would block views of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Quinn said she decided to support the project only after touring the site twice.

"I think the views from the bridge will be fine," she said.

Katz said at the Council hearing on the development that she was voting yes because it would provide a school and new jobs.

But Councilman Tony Avella (D-Flushing), a project opponent and a candidate for mayor, said: "The entire process is corrupted. The real estate industry just controls the entire agenda because of the amount of money they donate to elected officials."

Not all the Council members who took money from the developers supported the project. Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) took $10,000 for his campaign for Public Advocate but voted no.

"We give to many terrific public servants who serve the people of the City of New York, and we are proud to support them," Jed Walentas said.

Yassky - who got no money from Two Trees but did receive at least $2,200 from members of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance - said he was "deeply disappointed" by the vote but didn't think contributions played a role.