Rochester, N.Y. - Rochester City Council will consider the sale of three downtown parking garages to private developers.
One of those garages is being sold to a developer who The Wall Street Journal says partnered with Morgan Management, a development company under investigation by the FBI for a mortgage fraud scheme.
“From the ethical standpoint, is it prudent to do business with these companies and individuals at this point in time?" asked Rachel Barnhart of Rochester for All, an independent watchdog group. "I would say, from a practical and ethical standpoint, it’s time to take a giant step backwards.”
The city wants to sell the East End garage to Thomas Masaschi of DHD Ventures, along with two other investors. According to the Buffalo News, Masaschi has a couple foreclosure actions in Buffalo and Tennessee on a new development and claims for not paying contractors.
“I don’t have any evidence he’s connected with any of those matters," said City Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin. "So I can’t speak to that, but I can tell you he wasn’t disqualified for that reason.”
On September 13, City Council members will review legislation for developers to buy the garages.
They include the Mortimer Street Garage at $3 million on North Clinton Avenue, near the bus terminal, the underground Genesee Crossroads Garage for $3 million, and the East End Garage will go for $4.3 million.
The cost to park at the garages will remain the same - at least through the end of the year, or when negotiations are finalized.
A Request for Proposal on those properties went out in April. The city said three developers bid on the East End garage. Barnhart said City Council should not sell it Masaschi, calling it risky.
“Both Morgan and DHD Ventures have invested an awful lot in downtown," Barnhart said. "But it’s time to ask now if something happens to these two companies as a result the FBI investigation. What is the exposure to taxpayers? It’s shocking (Mayor Lovely) Warren still thinks it’s okay to do business with Masaschi, but this is a pattern of rewarding donors and not looking out for the best interests of the city.”
The city’s attorney doesn't see the sale to Masaschi as a risk to taxpayers.
“He’s going to pay cash at the closing," he said.
13WHAM reached out to several council members for their thoughts on the sale, and DHD Ventures. Those requests have yet to be returned.