Dozens of people, including 16 city building and housing officials, were arrested Tuesday in what authorities called a "stunning" series of bribery schemes aimed at clearing up violations and, in some cases, trying to illegally evict tenants.
Those arrested included a top city building official who supervised Manhattan construction projects and the owner of iconic restaurants such as Jack Demsey's Bar and Grill and McHale's Pub, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said at a news conference announcing the charges.
"Bribery schemes compromised two important city agencies and fair competition in our robust housing and real estate development markets," Vance said in a statement, adding the surge in development inspires shortcuts and payoffs.
According to Vance and city investigation Commissioner Mark Peters, who appeared together at the news conference, the indictments allege 26 separate bribery schemes aimed at expediting building inspections, covering up serious violations and evicting tenants. The allegations mainly covered properties in Manhattan and Brooklyn, with two in Queens.
"This investigation is stunning for the breadth of those charged and the extent of the corruption found in our city institutions," Peters told reporters.
Among city employees charged was Donald O'Connor, 44, the chief of development for Manhattan construction in the New York City Department of Buildings, who was accused of accepting bribes to expedite matters for property owners and builders and to get complaints associated with certain properties dismissed. Officials said O'Connor lives in Floral Park.
Among those accused of paying bribes to O'Connor were Frank Dwyer, identified as the owner of Jack Demsey's Bar and Grill, McHale's Pub and other well-known establishments.
Cheryl Lies, 57, another buildings department employee, who lives on Staten Island, was charged with helping O'Connor expedite his various requests in exchange for a free night in a Manhattan hotel Dwyer owned, officials said. O'Connor faces felony counts of bribe receiving, tampering with business records and other offenses. Lies is accused of one misdemeanor count of receiving an unlawful gratuity. Dwyer faces one count of bribery and giving an unlawful gratuity, Vance said.
Arraignment information on O'Connor, Lies and Dwyer wasn't available late Tuesday, officials said.
A total of 16 city employees with the buildings department or the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, 22 property managers and owners, as well as nine other people were charged. In one case, illegal construction on a Brooklyn synagogue was allowed to move forward, resulting in a cracked facade and other problems, Vance said.