The commissioner of the New York City Buildings Department resigned on Thursday, two days after Manhattan prosecutors seized his cellphone as part of an investigation into possible ties to organized crime and illegal gambling.
The resignation of Eric Ulrich, a former Republican city councilman, was confirmed by a spokesman for Mayor Eric Adams.
“This morning, Eric Ulrich tendered his resignation as D.O.B. commissioner in an effort to, in his words, avoid ‘unnecessary distraction for the Adams administration,’” the spokesman, Fabien Levy, said in a statement.
“We have accepted his resignation, appreciate him taking this step, and wish him well,” Mr. Levy added. “We have no further knowledge of any investigation and, out of respect for his and his family’s privacy, have nothing further to add.”
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Mr. Ulrich was under investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office and had had his phone seized.
Mr. Ulrich met with prosecutors at the office of the Manhattan district attorney for several hours on Wednesday, a person with knowledge of the matter said. Two of his lawyers were seen leaving the district attorney’s office in Downtown Manhattan in the late afternoon.
He has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Hours before the meeting began on Wednesday, the mayor defended his commissioner, whom he appointed in May in spite of Mr. Ulrich’s admitted alcohol and gambling addictions and his having supported a convicted mob figure who was facing sentencing.
Mr. Adams said that city officials were unaware of the investigation involving Mr. Ulrich until reporters began calling.
“We had no idea. We got notified like you did,” Mr. Adams said Wednesday at an unrelated news conference at City Hall. “Reporters were calling the team, that’s when I became aware of this.”
Mr. Ulrich took a personal day on Tuesday when his phone was seized and again on Wednesday when he met with prosecutors, city officials said.
Mr. Adams has hired several executives, department heads and deputy mayors with troubled pasts and has stood by his decision to give them a second chance. Asked about his posture on Tuesday, Mr. Adams said that it was “too early” to make personnel decisions based on what was known about the investigation.
“The D.A.’s office is going to do their review and that review will determine how to move forward,” Mr. Adams said on Wednesday.