The Bayside-based lawmaker was the only elected official to join Maspeth residents as they marched through the neighborhood protesting the shelter plan on Aug. 27, even though he does not represent the community. His support did not stop there.
On Sept. 6, Avella wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara asking him to investigate Mayor Bill de Blasio’s dealings with Harshad Patel, owner of the Holiday Inn Express where the shelter is slated to open.
In 2011, the Daily News reported that Patel openly admitted to bribing former Brooklyn Senator Carl Kruger in order to get him to change a zoning restriction for his Sheepshead Bay hotel.
“I recently learned that five years ago, Mr. Patel openly admitted to paying a former state elected official more than $20,000 to get that official to effect a zoning change in his favor,” Avella said in the letter. “I ask that you investigate this situation to ensure there is no illegal activity taking place with respect to the Holiday Inn Express, or any other hotels owned by Mr. Patel.”
According to the Daily News article, for a duration of nine months in 2007, Patel paid $3,000 each month to Olympian Strategic Development, a company owned by one of Kruger’s associates. These payments aimed to spur Kruger to use his political connections to win approval for a zoning change to alter his Golden Gate Motor Inn into four apartment buildings.
The bribes failed as no zoning change was made, and the hotel was eventually sold. Kruger was subsequently convicted of corruption charges in 2012 and sentenced to seven years in prison.
“As chair of the Task Force on the Delivery of Social Services in New York City, it is important to me to ensure that the city is doing the right thing for the homeless and the communities they live in,” Avella said. “It’s a shame that the mayor has refused to do right by Maspeth and other communities and I find it shocking that city agencies would seek to enter into an agreement with an individual who has openly admitted to what appears to be a lengthy bribery scheme from a city agency for a prior hotel property he owned.”
“I didn’t talk to any city agency,” Patel said in regards to converting the hotel into a homeless shelter. “I have not seen the letter so I have no comment on that.”