While I appreciate The Hour Editorial Board recently highlighting issues on Wall Street, I take exception as to how my office and employees were portrayed. This is not a case of both sides bearing blame, rather, it rests at the feet of Jason Milligan, who is waging a public relations campaign against me and my administration entirely for his own benefit.
This Spring, the city and Redevelopment Agency became aware that the original developer of the POKO project had plans to sell properties to Milligan that were subject to a Land Disposition Agreement. We alerted both parties that a transfer could not proceed without prior approvals. Those letters went unanswered and ignored. Then, on May 31, Milligan assured me he would not close “tomorrow” on these properties. Turns out, he had already completed the transaction. He continues to assert that this play on words was not “a lie.” As The Hour suggested, we did have “grown-ups in the room,” but Milligan was unfortunately not one of them.
Despite this, I remain willing to work with him. I always put the city’s best interests above my personal feelings. To that end, we have asked Milligan to provide information regarding the identity of the members of the shell company he formed to buy the properties. We need this information to ensure there is no conflict of interest with its members and the city. This is standard and what is asked of any developer before a project moves forward. Instead of providing this benign information, Milligan chooses to antagonize me, harass my staff, and refuse to follow any procedures or regulations.
Also, while there is a pending lawsuit based on the illegal property transfer, Corporation Counsel has asked that all communications go through their office. All parties have been made aware of this simple request, but Milligan cannot help himself. He calls, texts, and emails me and my staff multiple times a day – early in the morning, during the afternoon, late at night and throughout the weekends. And just recently, he barged through the Law Department where confidential files are stored and private conversations occur. He is the only member of the public that I can recall who felt entitled to walk past a clearly marked “stop sign” instead of ringing a bell for service.
Milligan is right about one thing – there are issues with zoning – which is why the city plans to do a complete overhaul of that code once the 10-year Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) is complete later this year. Yet, that does not mean developers cannot request a text amendment or variance in the meanwhile. It happens all the time and in a public forum. In fact, staff repeatedly offered Milligan the paperwork to allow him to be heard by the Zoning Commission. This would expedite his projects, but he refuses to fill out the forms, and instead yells at staff and calls them names. His tactics are exhausting – and I truly wish he used this energy to come to the table and work for the Wall Street neighborhood – not himself.
Finally, as with Milligan’s other grievances, there is a process for obtaining a variance to install murals that would otherwise violate zoning. Again, rather than following the process, he has continued his antics by covering one with Tyvek, starting a petition drive and filing formal complaints on other murals around the city.
Milligan acts as though rules do not apply to him. He has been untruthful, secretive about his business partners, harassing civil servants, demanding preferential treatment and filing zoning complaints against others to try to get his way.
We do not play favorites, negotiate back door deals, or bend the rules for anyone. We will not be intimidated or threatened into doing otherwise. That is not how the city is run under my leadership. Milligan is no different and is not being singled out despite his best attempts to play martyr. While he is committed to creating a media circus aimed to distract from the real issues and try to embarrass me, I remain committed to transparency and fairness in effort to help revitalize Wall Street. I wish Milligan shared that same belief because then maybe we’d get somewhere – together.