Common Council President James W. Pitts is accusing businessman Stuart Alexander, who serves on the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, of threatening to halt work on the Douglass Towers unless the Council allows demolition of all of the Lakeview Project.
At Tuesday's Council meeting, Pitts called for a state investigation of Alexander's association with Lakeview developer Irving Roizman and for Alexander's resignation from the housing authority.
Reached by telephone, Alexander denied Pitts' allegations.
"Mr. Pitts is blowing smoke," said Alexander, who in the early 1970s served the Sedita and Makowski administrations as assistant city planning director. He now is head of Stuart Alexander & Associates, working as a planner and developer.
Pitts' allegations drew immediate support from Council Majority Leader Rosemarie LoTempio. She proposed -- and the Council accepted -- sending the housing authority's request to permit full clearance of the Lakeview site -- and the start of $78 million in replacement housing -- back to the Community Development Committee.
"This man has told people that he is going to hold up the second phase of Frederick Douglass Towers," Pitts said of Alexander. "I will not allow some person . . . who thinks City Hall is his plaything . . . to hold up projects."
The first phase of the $40 million transformation of the Douglass Towers, 22 Jefferson Ave., is almost complete. The plans call for construction of 160 privately owned houses.
Hints of scandal have shadowed both the Douglass and Lakeview projects.
Roizman's donations to major Democratic campaigns and his White House ties were questioned in relation to his designation as Lakeview developer.
The state Labor Department disclosed in August that it is investigating whether substandard wages were being paid for the Douglass work.
Pitts told the Council that Alexander is linking the two projects and threatening to hold Douglass hostage.
"I am going to ask for an investigation of Stuart Alexander's relationship with Mr. Roizman and his involvement with Lakeview Project," said Pitts. "I think something is drastically wrong there."
Alexander said the housing authority wants to present both projects for state bonding together.
"We want to do both," Alexander said. "We would be remiss as a housing authority to encourage one project to proceed at the expense of the other. We need to find out from the state if there are dollars to fund both."
There is no hint that the state dollars would not be available to both, Alexander said in answer to a question, but prudence requires determining that the money is there. Alexander denied Pitts' claim that he has tried to hold up tax credits, a basic part of funding developments, for Douglass.
LoTempio told the Council meeting that approval for Lakeview plans must stop until concerns about Douglass are cleared.
Council Member at Large Charley H. Fisher said the perception outside Buffalo is that the city is a place where government business is a "closed shop."
"I think it's time we throw the doors and windows of City Hall open," he said.