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THE BOSTON GLOBE
BRA OFFICIAL NAMED IN DEVELOPER'S SUIT LANDLORD ASSERTS HOUSING AIDE TRIED TO FORCE HIM INTO DEAL INVOLVING NONPROFIT GROUP
Author(s): Michael K. Frisby, Globe Staff Date: December 10, 1986 Page: 48 Section: METRO A Boston Redevelopment Authority official allegedly tried to force landlord Edmund I. Shamsi to sell an apartment building to a nonprofit organization in exchange for approval from the authority to buy the Westminster-Willard apartments in Roxbury.litical reasons." Any sale of Westminster-Willard must receive BRA approval because the original developers received special tax benefits when the 274-unit building was built. Yesterday, BRA Director Stephen Coyle declined to address the accusations made in the suit against Peter Dreier, Coyle's special assistant for housing. Coyle, however, said the agency is actively trying to find a solution to satisfy the parties in the case. The disposition of the Westminster-Willard apartments, on Washington Street, has been a controversial topic in recent months. Tenant advocates have opposed the proposed $5.5 million sale, charging that Shamsi has a record of complaints from tenants who live in his other properties around the city. According to an affidavit signed by attorney Glenn P. Frank and filed in housing court as part of the suit, Frank's law office, which represents Shamsi, was told on several occasions by Dreier, the BRA deputy director, that the BRA would not approve the sale unless several conditions were met. In the affidavit, Frank charges that Dreier listed the following conditions: - That Shamsi must agree to sell the Buckminster Apartments, at 645 Beacon St., to a nonprofit organization that would maintain the facility as a rooming house. "I have been informed by Mr. Shamsi," Frank wrote, "that not only were all offers from nonprofit corporations wholly inadequate, but also that Mr. Shamsi is not the sole owner of said premises and permission from independent third parties would be required to complete such a transaction." - That Shamsi must place the Back Bay Manor Apartments, at 75 Alphonsus St., under the control of the Boston Rent Equity Board. "This project, due to idiosyncrasies in the Boston Rent Equity Ordinance, is presently exempt from rent control and is not monitored by the Boston Rent Equity Board," Frank wrote. - That all housing code violations on any properties owed in whole or in part by Shamsi be remedied and/or corrected before an approval would be forthcoming. City officials said Dreier was out of town on business yesterday, but Francis Costello, the press secretary for Mayor Flynn, issued a statement in Dreier's defense. "If, indeed, Peter Dreier made such remarks, they evidence a concern for protecting the rights of poor people," Costello said. "If someone, lawyer or otherwise, wants to call that extortion they are guilty of a perversion of language. If city officials aren't committed to protecting the legitimate housing needs of poor people in such places as rooming houses, then who is going to do that?" Several city councilors, however, were upset by the allegations and called for more control over the BRA. District Councilor James M. Kelly (South Boston-South End-Chinatown) said the charges, if true, would indicate an "overstepping" of the role of city government and called the alleged actions "regretful." Councilor at Large Michael J. McCormack called on the BRA board of directors to pay closer attention to Dreier's activities. "I'd like to know what nonprofit group was to benefit from Dreier's efforts and what gave him the right to make those representations," said McCormack. And Councilor at Large Joseph M. Tierney, who is considering running for mayor against Flynn next year, said: "It is coercion, conspiracy, unethical and a conflict of interest." Tierney said he plans to seek City Council approval of deals made in exchange for city approval of development projects. "I will push that the City Council be told about these inside deals," he said. "They are not voluntary. They are extortion. And there are laws on the books against it." In response, Costello said: "Unlike the case of Peter Dreier, one would certainly be surprised if Tierney ever took such a position in defense of poor tenants." Coyle, meanwhile, said the BRA has pursued a policy of trying to ensure that the sale of the Westminster-Willard apartments preserves their affordability to tenants, allows for tenant review of management procedures and remains in compliance with all building and health codes. According to sources familiar with the proposed sale, the BRA board may consider a proposal to approve the sale to Shamsi at its meeting tomorrow. The BRA, sources said, may require that $480,000 be placed in escrow to pay for the repair of code violations; that a $200,000 letter of credit be set aside to finance the correction of any future violations; and that a fund be set up by the BRA to help replace federal rent subsidies that will expire in 1996. Tenant advocates, the sources said, have sought many of these conditions as safeguards against displacement.