By Chris Sommerfeldt, Michael Gartland, Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — On the heels of winning the city’s 2021 Democratic mayoral primary, Eric Adams asked the head of the FDNY to look into resolving building safety violations that were preventing the Turkish government from opening its gleaming new consulate in Manhattan , two sources familiar with the matter confirmed to the Daily News on Monday.
The sources, who were not authorized to discuss the matter with the press and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Adams’ outreach to then-FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro in late summer 2021 is being scrutinized by federal investigators as part of a public corruption probe into allegations that the Turkish government funneled illegal foreign cash into the mayor’s campaign coffers.
The 35-story glass tower consulate, which functions as the headquarters for the Turkish government’s U.S. diplomatic operations, is located on First Avenue across from the United Nations building.
In summer 2021, the opening of the consulate was being held up due to city inspectors finding that the building’s glass facade was prone to shattering, city records show.
In one instance, inspectors slapped the building’s owner with violations after finding that four glass panels had broken and crashed onto the sidewalk below on First Avenue , records show. There were also problems with the building’s fire safety system that resulted in violations.
In a bid to get those issues fixed, Reyhan Özgür, Turkey’s consul general in New York , contacted Adams via text message in September 2021 and asked if he could reach out to Nigro about the matter, one of the sources familiar with the matter told The News.
Adams, who was at the time Brooklyn borough president and the Democratic nominee for mayor, in turn messaged Nigro and asked him to look into the matter, though he didn’t explicitly order him to do anything as part of the text exchange, the source said. Within a few days, Nigro reached back out to Adams and said the safety issues with the building were about to be resolved, and Adams informed Özgür accordingly, the source said.
However, an FDNY source with knowledge of the matter said the department’s fire alarm unit refused to sign off on a request relayed by Nigro to get inspections at the building cleared immediately. Instead, the unit demanded that the Turkish consulate go through the full inspection process before getting a certificate for operating the building, according to the source.
It’s unclear what happened after the fire alarm unit refused to sign off. Ultimately, after Adams’ outreach, the building was able to open in late September anyway in time for a visit by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan .
Speaking at a ribbon-cutting event at the building, Erdoğan said its opening showcased Turkey’s “increased power” on a global scale.
An FDNY spokesman referred questions about inspections at the Turkish consulate to Adams’ office, which did not immediately offer comment.
According to the New York Times, which first reported Adams’ intervention in the consulate matter, the feds are looking into whether the soon-to-be mayor pressured Nigro to secure a temporary certificate of occupancy for the Turkish government in order to get the consulate operational ahead of Erdoğan’s visit.
Adams has not been formally accused of any wrongdoing as part of the FBI investigation, and neither has anyone connected with his campaign.
Asked about why Adams intervened in the consulate matter, his campaign provided a statement from the mayor suggesting that corresponding with city government officials was part of his job as Brooklyn borough president.
“As a borough president, part of my routine role was to notify government agencies of issues on behalf of constituents and constituencies,” the statement said. “I have not been accused of wrongdoing, and I will continue to cooperate with investigators.”
A former City Hall official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said it seemed odd that Adams would intervene on Turkey’s behalf for multiple reasons.
First, the official said that Adams, as Brooklyn BP, didn’t have a valid jurisdictional role in inquiring about the consulate in Manhattan . In addition, Adams wasn’t even mayor-elect at the time of his contact with Nigro, as he had yet to win the November 2021 election.
Much about the federal investigation targeting Adams remains unknown, including how much money the Turkish government may have funneled into his campaign or what FBI agents were able to glean from seizing his phones.
During an unrelated press conference in Manhattan on Monday morning, Adams, who once went on a trip to Turkey bankrolled by the country’s government, declined to answer a question about whether anyone else connected to his campaign besides him and Suggs have gotten their electronics seized.
“We’re talking about helicopters,” Adams said with a laugh, referring to the topic of the news conference.
A spokesman for the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which is helping lead the probe into Adams’ campaign, did not return a request for comment Monday.
In addition to Adams’ campaign and Turkey , the probe is focusing on KSK Construction , a Brooklyn contractor whose owners are Turkish and have ties to the country’s government, according to a search warrant that authorized the feds to raid Suggs’ home on Nov. 2 .
The warrant, which was obtained by The Times , suggest the feds suspect the Turkish government pumped illegal cash into Adams’ campaign via so-called “straw donors,” individuals whose names are used to contribute money that’s coming from an illicit source.
Campaign finance filings show that 11 KSK employees, as well as dozens of their relatives, donated tens of thousands of dollars to Adams’ mayoral run on the same day in May 2021 . KSK executives have not returned multiple requests for comment since Nov. 2 .
Though Adams told reporters this past Wednesday he’d be “shocked” if anyone connected to his campaign is implicated in wrongdoing, his defense attorney, Boyd Johnson, issued a statement after news broke of the mayor’s phones being seized saying that “it was discovered that an individual had recently acted improperly” and that “this behavior was immediately and proactively reported to investigators.”
Johnson and Adams’ campaign have declined to identify that individual or say what exactly he or she did.