186th Street Hotel: As-of-right
By building the 186th Street Hotel “as of right,” the Mayflower Business Group needed only to follow all NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) rules and regulations, file appropriate paperwork, and get approval from the DOB to begin. In 2012, that paperwork was filed, but the DOB rejected the place because, according to an article published by the New York Daily News on August 8, 2012, the proposal “didn’t comply with building and zoning codes.” The article noted that the developer still had 12 months to re-apply, but at the time, local residents and politicians were momentarily pleased but cautious.
Enter George Frangoulis. At local civic groups meetings and in local media including The Queens Courier and the Queens Chronicle, Frangoulis has been identified as a spokesman for the Mayflower Business Group. The Real Deal, which describes itself as being “the bible of New York City real estate,” identified Frangoulis in an August 2014 article as the NYC-based CEO of the China-based Mayflower International Hotels. (Mayflower International Hotel LLC is registered at the address of a LIC hotel that it built.) While this hotel project doesn’t seem directly linked to the Mayflower Business Group, readers of part one of this series might wonder if the use of Mayflower is more than coincidence.
A person named George Frangoulis seems to be a busy man. A search of the Internet reveals a Facebook page of a George Frangoulis that seems to be the person identified by The Real Deal and who lists “worked at Mayflower Developments (CEO)” among other things. (How many Mayflowers are there?!) In the previous decade, a George Frangoulis was hired by Thomas Huang, the developer notorious for destroying parts of the historic RKO Keith theater in Flushing and who once attempted to buy and develop the historic Klein farm that adjoins Fresh Meadows. In that role, Frangoulis was quoted by in a March 3, 2005 Queens Chronicle article as explaining “my title is project manager and I am trying to fix problems.”
The search also reveals that a George Frangoulis who “created” CityViolations.com, “served as the Operations Commissioner of the NYC Department of Buildings, and managed the Inspections and Violations Divisions” and was “Mayoral Coordinator for Queens County” under Mayor Giuliani, according to that website.
These all seem to be the same George Frangoulis. That would not be surprising given that CityViolations.com claims “to help property and business owners in the process of resolving and curing their violations in a quick and hassle-free manner” (this blog’s emphasis). The business also assists those “who find City Government agencies confusing and difficult to understand when addressing their problems with rules and city laws that the average person cannot understand.” This blog certainly agrees with that last observation!
Frangoulis seems to have benefited from the “revolving door,” the movement of personnel from public to private roles. While a legal practice, a number of public advocacy groups worry that such practices blur the distinction between the public good and private benefit. The newly elected President Obama was concerned, too; he issued an Executive Order in 2009 restricting this practice among executive agency appointees.
Working with George Frangoulis seems to have greatly benefited the Mayflower Business Group, who readers know went on to refile an application that was approved in 2013 and led to the construction work that was a surprise to area residents. Has George Frangoulis benefited the public interest? When he has spoken to local media and civic groups—and most recently, he has been a no-show at meetings to which he was invited—he has said things on behalf of Mayflower Business Group that are, in the least, misleading to that “average person” that CityViolations.com cites. Using DOB documents, Friday’s entry will attempt to set the record straight and document the known details about the 186th Street hotel.