The new owners of the Normandie, The Ishay Group, LLC:
By: José Enrique Fernández Bjerg
The saga of the Normandie Hotel is itchy and spreadingand with it the long history of questionable transactions of our government. This time it is the Municipality of San Juan who finds itself in the eye of the hurricane.
On February 13, 2023, the City leased an extensive portion of the Escambron, including the historic Sixto Escobar Stadium, to "The Ishay Group, LLC", a New York real estate development corporation. The lease is for an original term of 30 years, plus three (3) additional terms of 15 years each, renewable at Ishay's full discretion. The contract then effectively grants Ishay control of a significant portion of the Scambron for the next 75 years.
The Municipality awarded this contract to Ishay, without inviting other companies and bypassing the ordinary public bidding procedure, deeming that "the public interest" required it. So, who exactly is "The Ishay Group, LLC"? How did they enter into a relationship with the Municipality? What "expertise" does this company possess that makes them the best candidates for such an important project?
The contract further grants Ishay the authority to amend the project's Development Plan "from time to time". Also, although Ishay has publicly stated that it will consult with CenCOR ("Centro de Conservación y Restauración de Puerto Rico") for the preservation of the historically or culturally valuable portions of the Normandie, Ishay has not yet stated which, if any, of CenCOR's recommendations it will accept.
The absence of transparency in municipal transactions cannot be complete without intrigue over the proper use of public funds. The contract provides that the Municipality will use "its best efforts" to assist Ishay in securing federal funds for the project. The inescapable question is: what and how much public funds will the Municipality give Ishay for this luxury project? With respect to which federal funds will the Municipality deploy its "best efforts" to assist Ishay?
In addition, it is public knowledge that the Municipality has already invested no less than $400,000 of its own money for the demolition of areas of the Escambron to make way for Ishay's work (even before Ishay has obtained all the necessary permits).even before Ishay has obtained all the necessary permits and before the work has begun). and the work has not even begun)
But perhaps the most troubling terms of the contract have to do with the "exclusive discretion" that the Municipality gives Ishay to abandon the project if it so desires. Ishay will have the "exclusive discretion" to abandon the project in the following instances:
1. If the project is not granted all the permits Ishay wants "in a form and manner acceptable to Ishay," Ishay may cancel the contract.
2. If, after commencement of the work, Ishay is dissatisfied with the result of any "test or investigation" carried out by Ishay, Ishay may cancel the contract.
If any condition of the project imposes "onerous restrictions or impositions" on Ishay's business, Ishay may cancel the contract.
These terms raise the genuine question of whether we are dealing with an improperly signed contract.