Planning Commissioner fined for Atlantic Yards vote

Dolly Williams’ vote to approve Brooklyn rezoning conflicted with her investment in the Nets. On November 27, 2007, the Conflicts of Interest Board fined City Planning Commissioner Dolly Williams $4,000 for failing to recuse herself from a May 2004 vote on a rezoning plan that benefited her investment in the Atlantic Yards Project in Downtown Brooklyn.

The Downtown Brooklyn Plan sought to encourage commercial and residential development in Downtown Brooklyn, including areas within the footprint of the Atlantic Yards Project, a $4 billion private development plan that includes an arena for the New Jersey Nets. 3 CityLand 135 (Oct. 15, 2006).

In January 2004, Williams signed a subscription agreement to invest in the Nets, its new arena, and related real estate development. At the Planning Commission review session on March 22, 2004, Williams was informed that the Commission’s approval of the Plan would facilitate residential development for sites within Atlantic Yards. Two days later, she attended the Commission hearing at which several speakers gave similar testimony about how the Plan would impact development within Atlantic Yards.

A month after the hearing, on April 23, 2004, Williams transferred $250,000 into an escrow fund to pay the first installment of her Nets investment. She then voted for the Plan, which no longer called for rezoning the Nets’ site, but did include a definition of “commercial” that the Commission modified to allow for residential development there.

The Board determined that Williams violated the City’s conflicts of interest law, which, in general, bars public servants from using their positions to benefit themselves or associated persons. According to the Board, Williams conferred a benefit on her investment within Atlantic Yards by voting for the Plan.

Shortly after the Board ruled on the conflict, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who appointed Williams, announced that he will replace her with Shirley Ann McRae, who has served as Chair of Brooklyn Community Board 2 for the last five years. The City Council must hold a confirmation hearing by December 28, 2007.

Borough President Press Release (Nov. 27, 2007); Williams, COIB Case No. 2004-517 (Nov. 21, 2007). CITYADMIN

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