Long Island City restaurant owner pleads guilty to giving bribes to City Hall

The former owner of the Water’s Edge in Long Island City admits he bribed City Hall in order to get a better lease for his restaurant while Mayor de Blasio denies any wrongdoing.
By Bill Parry

The owner of the now-defunct Water’s Edge restaurant in Long Island City, who was a campaign donor of Mayor Bill de Blasio, pleaded guilty to federal charges in a bribery attempt involving an unnamed city official, newly unsealed court records show.

Harendra Singh, 59, of Syosset, Long Island, admitted in October that he gave “donations to the elected official in exchange for efforts by that official and other city officials to obtain a lease renewal from the city agency for my restaurant on terms that were favorable to me,” according to a court transcript.

Last March, federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York decided against bringing criminal charges against de Blasio and his associates after an investigation into fund-raising practices.

During his weekly appearance on WNYC’s “Brian Lehrer Show” last Friday, the host asked de Blasio “how can someone be guilty of giving you a bribe and you not be guilty of taking it?”

The mayor was dismissive.

“It’s abundantly clear, and I will say it for everyone — this man did a lot of bad things in a lot of places,” de Blasio said. “I’m someone who never did, never would be involved in such (an) effort. I was thoroughly looked at, and there is a reason there were no charges brought because there was nothing there.

“This guy, to save his own skin, struck a plea deal with the federal prosecutors. That’s what this is, he agreed to certain charges for his own self-preservation. But I’ve been 100 percent consistent — what he said happened did not happen, period.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by email at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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