Former NYC buildings commissioner surrenders in bribery case
New York City’s onetime top building-safety official took cash, New York Mets tickets, a discount on a luxury apartment and other bribes from a real estate developer, a restaurateur and others and repaid them with favors including access to Mayor Eric Adams, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Former Buildings Commissioner Eric Ulrich was awaiting arraignment on bribery, conspiracy and other charges; six co-defendants were charged with bribery. Defense attorney Sam Braverman said Ulrich intended to plead not guilty.
Besides serving as Adams’ buildings chief, Ulrich was a city councilman and an adviser to the first-term mayor. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said at a news conference that Ulrich has “used each of his taxpayer-funded positions to line his own pockets,” collecting roughly $150,000 in bribes over two years.
Bragg and Adams are Democrats. Ulrich, who raised money for Adams’ campaign, is a Republican.
Adams isn’t accused of any wrongdoing. A message seeking comment was sent to his office.
Ulrich resigned from his post as city buildings commissioner last November, six months after his appointment, amid reports that he was being questioned by prosecutors as part of an investigation into illegal gambling and organized crime.
The indictment alleges that Ulrich used his position to help associates connect with Adams and other high-ranking government officials through exclusive dinners.
Shortly after his election, Adams met with Ulrich and two brothers, Anthony and Joseph Livreri, inside a Queens lounge, according to the indictment.
The Livreri brothers are among those now charged with bribing Ulrich. Prosecutors say they and a towing magnate, Michael Mazzio, gave Ulrich cash — which he used partly to fund wagers at public casinos and under-the-table gambling clubs — and premium Mets tickets valued at nearly $10,000.
Ulrich helped the brothers speed up inspections and permits for a pizzeria and bakery, according to prosecutors. They said he also helped Mazzio try to secure exclusive towing contracts with the city and got Mazzio’s daughter a city Correction Department job.
Messages seeking comment were sent to lawyers for Mazzio and the Livreris.
The investigation also concerned Ulrich’s relationship with a Brooklyn real estate developer, Kevin Caller. Prosecutors said Caller rented a luxury apartment — complete with furniture and a free parking space — to the buildings commissioner at a reduced price in exchange for political favors.
Among them: trying to get a zoning change that suited Caller’s plans for a Queens property and prompting an inspection of a low-income apartment building next door, in hopes that it would be ordered vacated, according to prosecutors.
Caller’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said his client rented an apartment to Ulrich at market rate and never requested anything in return.
Ulrich joined the Adams administration in January 2022, initially as a senior advisor, before taking over the buildings agency — a department that enforces building codes, issues permits and responds to structural emergencies in a city with more than a million buildings.
Previously, Ulrich represented a Queens district in the City Council, first winning his seat in a special election in 2009.
While on the council, he reported to the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board that he had won between $5,000 and $47,999 gambling in 2015, the Daily News reported.
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