By Bill Parry
Two state lawmakers are voicing opposition at plans to build a seven-story, 22-unit residential hotel in the heart of Jackson Heights.
Mohammed Aziz, the president of Delight Construction Corporation in Astoria, filed plans with the city’s Department of Buildings for the hotel at 37-38 73rd St., but state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) is calling on the city to deny the plans. He contends that Aziz’s record of attempting to corrupt a government official in Brooklyn has no place in the community.
In 2012, investigators found that Aziz tried to give $5,000 to then Councilwoman Darlene Mealy in exchange for the favor of getting a contract through the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Aziz pleaded guilty after he was caught on tape in 2011 handing cash to a cooperating witness.
“We do not repair New York’s image as a swamp of political corruption by welcoming the same criminals to return back into the community to continue their business as usual,” Moya said. “Mr. Aziz pleaded guilty for the one pay-to-play scheme he was caught in the act for. It is unknown whether there were more instances of corruption beforehand, and it is unknown whether there will be more in the future, but we do know he has the character for that kind of behavior. Jackson Heights does not welcome Mr. Aziz’s new hotel because we do not have trust in his integrity.”
Aziz paid a $1,000 fine for the misdemeanor, and subsequently lost contracts with the city after being charged, Moya added. Aside from the $5,000 he was caught offering in 2011, he had been a major donor to political campaigns, donating thousands under his own name and his corporation.
“Allowing Aziz to develop in our community sends a signal that his criminal behavior is acceptable,” Moya said. “The $1,000 fine he paid for his charge was nothing but a slap on the wrist, but the loss of work with the city was the true punishment for the crime. It will be no punishment at all if Mr. Aziz is allowed to return, and Jackson Heights has no stomach for abetting criminals.”
Aziz could not be reached for comment.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) objected to the project itself.
“Plans to construct a hotel on a small lot in a very congested area of Jackson Heights has one too many unanswered questions, especially since the developer is describing the project as a residential hotel,” Peralta said. “Since the area already has limited public services available, bringing more people into the community will put an extra burden on these limited resources. It is my hope the developer seeks input from the community board and community-based organizations to study if a seven-story, 22-unit hotel in this overcrowded area is needed.”
Aziz proposes to develop the hotel as a way station for new residents entering Jackson Heights while they seek permanent living accommodations.
“What impact will this hotel have on the quality of life of the neighbors and the neighborhood?” Peralta asked. “What about extra garbage pickups once it opens its doors? Are there going to be extra cleaning services on the streets in the area? How is it going to affect traffic? Clearly, there are a lot of questions that need an answer.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr