City Comptroller Auditing River Cafe Lease Payments

River Cafe owner “Buzzy” O’Keefe’s lease deal for the upscale restaurant is being examined by the City Comptroller in the wake of city auditors’ conclusion that O’Keefe’s other ritzy waterfront establishment, Water Club, on the Manhattan shore, had shortchanged the city by under-reporting cash sales.

New York Post: Comptoller John Liu today confirmed that he’s investigating the posh Brooklyn eatery on the East River at Fulton Landing – a week after his office released an audit suggesting its sister eatery in Manhattan may have stiffed city taxpayers on rent.

A Liu spokesman said auditors now plan “to look into” O’Keefe’s city lease to operate the River Café, which runs through 2025.

Unlike Water Club, which pays rent determined as a percentage of gross receipts, River Cafe’s lease pegs the rent, currently running at $6,177 a month, on assessed property values which, according to the Post article, result in a rental “well below DUMBO’s prime market rates.”

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  • Bob Stone

    The River Cafe sits on an ultraprime city-owned two-acre lot. Its recently renewed long-term lease at $6177 a month, not pegged to profits (estimated around $2M per year, and including all parking revenue.) could, perhaps, be described as a bargain, especially in a city governed by the smartest businessman of them all. Finally, the River Cafe, to the best of our knowledge, contributes nothing toward the maintenance of Brooklyn Bridge Park, though the Cafe’s location in the Park will further increase its revenue.

    Thank you, Comptroller Liu–the audit’s been a long time coming.

  • vjc

    Why should Buzzy contribute to the maintenance of the Brooklyn Bridge Park more then any of us do? He maintains his property beyond what anyone else would offer the community and most of his customers, fortunately, are not park visitors!

  • bklyn20

    Thanks for this, Mr. Liu. I knew the rent had been lower a few years ago, and then went up — but couldn’t find the documentation of a re-negotation. The question now is, how much is The River Cafe contributing to Brooklyn Bridge Park??

  • bklyn20

    From today’s NY Post:

    “A year ago, he was paying $5,536 monthly – or $66,432 annually. The Brooklyn restaurant opened in 1977 – decades before a residential housing boom revitalized the former industrial neighborhood.”

    The current rent, as shown above, is $6,177.

  • Patricia Stone

    Seems like there is some serious shilling being done by the Brooklyn Bridge Park contingent!! Brooklyn Heights is a trip.

  • Martha McBlair

    It is about time. I think Buzzy O’Keefe has been ripping off the city for years.

  • patricia stone

    ah shucks Martha Mc something
    another brooklyn heights wannabe perhaps – probably hails from some small unknown city – and hasn’t a clue about what has evolved on the Brooklyn waterfront prior to the world renowned Brooklyn Bridge Park. Such a sad response……….get on the internet sister and do some research!!

  • Martha McBlair

    I have lived in Brooklyn my whole life, but I am not so pathetic as to put others down because they hail from somewhere else. For years Buzzy has made millions off his location and paid the city less in rent then most would for a studio in Bed-Stuy. You must work for him or something. Sister.

  • nabeguy

    Patricia, before you start throwing stones, perhaps you should look up Mr.O’Keefe’s background. He’s from Westchester. I grew up on those docks and would be the first to credit his vision at transforming a derelict and decrepit waterfront into a first class restaurant location. And he’s had a pretty good run at being one of the first pioneers in the area to actually make a profit off of it for the past 20 years thanks to sweet-heart deals/breaks. But the rules of the game he’s been playing have changed with the advent of BBP. $6,200 a month for a restaurant? As a comparison, does anyone happen to know what Bubby’s pays? I’m sure Liu does.

  • John Laskin

    I also worked on those docks in the early 60’s. The site is much prettier now and as a Brooklyn resident and River Cafe customer – I am delighted that the restaurant, the park, BargeMusic and St Ann’s Warehouse are there.

    The Brooklyn waterfront is a gem.

  • Patricia Stone

    Throwing stones??? Or comparing people to old guys with shoe faces. Not very nice – and I googled O’Keeffe – not from Westchester as you stated – from the Bronx.

    as for your latest blog entry about Sarah Jessica Parker…pretty harsh.

    nabeguy 17. Feb, 2011 at 10:53 pm #

    When I was a kid, there was an old guy who was a fixture on the streets of the nabe that kind of resembles SJP. Our nickname for him was “shoeface”