It’s been several years since Ira Drukier and Richard Born took over as owners of the historic Chelsea Hotel with plans to turn it into a luxury hotel. The rent-stabilized tenants who remain in the hotel even as it’s been turned into a construction zone have filed multiple complaints with the city, hitting the new owners with violations and a lawsuit. But The City has uncovered a link between those complaints and Drukier and Born’s donations to Mayor de Blasio’s political funds. Over the course of less than a year—from August 2018 to June—18 checks totaling $57,400 were sent to de Blasio’s presidential campaign from either the owners or people associated with them. The checks started coming soon after city building inspectors began responding to tenant complaints about hazardous living conditions.
Federal law limits PAC donations to $5,000 and campaign donations to $2,800 per individual, so the owners had their wives, employees, and an LLC called RBA 42 write some of the checks. On August 29, 2018, two de Blasio PAC’s received eight checks from Born, Drukier, their wives, and others totaling $20,000.
Their investigation found that checks increased after a group of tenants sued the owners and the city’s Department of Buildings for working without a Certification of No Harassment on January 22, 2019. On February 15, the owners applied for said certificate and 11 days later the DOB allowed work to continue on certain parts of the building while their application—which is still pending—went under review.
On March 4—12 days before de Blasio announced he was running for president—Born and Drukier raised $15,000 for de Blasio’s state PAC and by the end of the month had raised another eight checks totaling $22,4000 for de Blasio 2020, the mayor’s presidential campaign fund.
De Blasio’s campaign acknowledged that the mayor has personally solicited donations for his Fairness PAC, but also insisted that he wouldn’t take money from anyone doing business with the city, a list that is compiled into a “doing business” database. As The City points out, this list covers only those who are engaged in contracts and transactions with city agencies, not those who may be seeking favors, like the Chelsea Hotel owners.
Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a spokesperson for de Blasio’s presidential campaign, said, “The mayor has gone above and beyond the law in refusing to take contributions from anyone in the doing business database.”
Since May alone, inspectors from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development have been to the Chelsea Hotel eight times and issued 44 violations.