New York City Buildings Commissioner Eric Ulrich resigned from his post on Thursday, just days after investigators with the Manhattan District Attorney served him a search warrant, interrogated him, and seized his phone in relation to an illegal gambling investigation.
Ulrich, 37, tendered his resignation to, in his own words, avoid “unnecessary distraction” for the administration, a spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams said.
“This morning, Eric Ulrich tendered his resignation as DOB commissioner in an effort to, in his words, avoid ‘unnecessary distraction for the Adams administration,'” said mayoral press secretary Fabien Levy in a statement. “We have accepted his resignation, appreciate him taking this step, and wish him well. We have no further knowledge of any investigation and, out of respect for his and his family’s privacy, have nothing further to add.”
DOB’s First Deputy Commissioner Kazimir Vilenchik will step in as acting commissioner for the time being, Levy said, noting that agency operations will not be interrupted. Vilenchik was made First Deputy Commissioner in May on the same day Ulrich became commissioner; the 14-year DOB vet was previously Brooklyn borough commissioner.
As acting commissioner, Vilenchik leads a department with hundreds of employees tasked with enforcing the building code, issuing permits, and conducting inspections, among other things.
The nature of the illegal gambling probe, first reported by the New York Times, and Ulrich’s involvement in it remains unclear, though sources told the Times the actions in question predate his time as commissioner. Ulrich has not been charged with a crime. Both Ulrich and a spokesperson for Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Before his brief stint at DOB, Ulrich, a Republican, represented southeastern Queens and the Rockaway Peninsula in the City Council from 2009 to 2021. He considered but ultimately declined to run for mayor against Bill de Blasio in 2017, and unsuccessfully ran for Public Advocate in 2019.
Never quite the right-wing firebrand compared to some of his GOP colleagues, Ulrich supported Eric Adams’ mayoral campaign in 2021, and was named a senior advisor to the new mayor in January before becoming Buildings Commissioner in May.
Ulrich has previously garnered a reputation as a high-roller. Each year between 2016 and 2021, his financial disclosure forms — required of all councilmembers — revealed he won between $5,000 and $49,999 annually by gambling on the New York Lottery. The Daily News previously reported he had hit the jackpot on slot machines at the Resorts World Casino in his council district, coyly telling that outlet he was a “lucky guy.”
In 2018, Ulrich penned a letter on council stationery pleading for sentencing clemency for his constituent Robert Pisani, a reputed Bonanno family associate who pled guilty to federal conspiracy charges related to running an illegal sports gambling racket. Pisani was ultimately sentenced to 30 months behind bars.
Mayor Adams has insisted he has no knowledge of the nature of the gambling probe, positing he only learned of Ulrich’s legal entanglements after the media started reporting on them.
“I do not take reports that are in the media as what actually took place,” Hizzoner said at an unrelated press conference in Jamaica, Queens on Thursday. “I have not heard from the reviewing body, they have not communicated to me, so I don’t know what the allegations are. Because people have printed or rumored those things, I don’t know. Until we hear from the reviewing body, I will allow the reviewing body to do their job, which is part of the system we’re in.”