- Last Updated: 8:47 AM, August 18, 2012
- Posted: 1:45 AM, August 18, 2012
The winning out-of-town bidders who nabbed the right to run Tavern on the Green have never operated in New York — but they have family ties to one of Mayor Bloomberg’s top confidants, The Post has learned.
One of the owners is the brother-in-law of former Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey.
Officials confirmed yesterday that Jim Caiola, who runs the Philadelphia-based Emerald Green Group with partner David Salama, is the brother of Sheekey’s wife, Robin.
The relationship was not disclosed when the Parks Department announced Thursday that Emerald Green had beaten out three other groups competing for the 20-year lease on one of the nation’s most storied eateries, located in Central Park.
“Off the record, I’m speechless,” said a source who works for a rival bidder.
City officials insisted everything was conducted on the up-and-up and without favoritism.
“They won on the merits, and the entire process was handled by the book,” said mayoral spokesman Marc LaVorgna.
Sheekey left city government two years ago, but continues to have close ties to the mayor and the administration as an executive at Bloomberg LP, the mayor’s information-services company.
As top political adviser, Sheekey led two of Hizzoner’s election campaigns and was the driving force behind Bloomberg’s presidential flirtation in 2007.
Sheekey told The Post via e-mail that he was aware Caiola was competing for the Tavern deal — but added that he played no role in his in-law getting it.
“My wife told me he was submitting a bid, but I never spoke to him about it, nor did I communicate with anyone at City Hall,” Sheekey wrote in the e-mail.
“But I have seen his work, and he and his partner are exceptional restaurateurs.”
Steven Hall, a spokesman for Emerald Green, also insisted, “Jim and David did this entirely on their own, and they and Kevin never discussed Tavern.”
City officials said Caiola had no reason to divulge his family ties to Sheekey.
“Their attorneys went through everything,” said one official. “There’s no circumstance under which disclosure is required.”
The Parks Department provided The Post with scoring sheets showing that Emerald Green beat out two rivals, Upsilon Ventures and the combination of City Winery restaurant/Great Performances caterers.
Out of 100 possible total points in five categories, Emerald emerged with 81.96; City Winery/Great Performances 72.26 and Upsilon 70.75.