The Real Deal New York

Do GOP state senators still represent real estate interests?

Developer groups frustrated with allies' stance in 421a fight

November 03, 2015 10:45AM

John Banks John Flanagan Mike Gianaris

From left: John Banks, Majority Leader Sen. John Flanagan and Sen. Mike Gianaris

The longstanding alliance between state senate Republicans and the city’s powerful real estate industry is showing signs of fraying.

Leaders of the Real Estate Board of New York are quietly expressing frustration at the perceived failure of the senate GOP to represent the interests of landlords and developers in this summer’s fight over the 421a tax abatement.

Behind the story:

John Banks

“There was a real sense the industry was supporting someone who really believed in its issues and acted accordingly,” an anonymous real estate industry advocate told Politico. “That’s not the case anymore. I mean, what do the Senate Republicans stand for?”

REBNY hashed out a 421a plan along with Mayor Bill de Blasio. It generated controversy in Albany by demanding prevailing wages for service workers associated with 421a projects, but not for the construction workers.

REBNY and the city’s construction unions are currently in negotiations over a final agreement. If they fail to come to an accord by Jan. 15, the 421a abatement will expire.

The senate GOP received a hefty sum from REBNY in the last election cycle, and its individual candidates also received $2.4 million from the group. The Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords, gave $500,000 to the Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee. That group in turn gave around $900,000 to a group that supports the New York senate GOP, called “Balance New York.”

An analysis by The Real Deal of individual contributions by real estate industry players to the presidential election found much the same partisan alignment — donors strongly favored the GOP.

But that pattern may be in jeopardy. REBNY president John Banks met in August with Sen. Mike Gianaris, who leads the Senate Democrats’ fundraising operation, the DSCC.

An anonymous “politico” told the New York Post at the time that REBNY “may be having second thoughts about backing the Republicans.”

Michael McKee, treasurer of Tenants PAC, which supports Democratic candidates, told Politico that real estate groups would, at most, “hedge their bets.”

“They will put their real resources behind helping the Senate Republicans hold the majority, and they would be stupid not to,” he said. “They’re more afraid of the Senate Democrats, and they know which side of the bread their butter is on.” [Politico] – Ariel Stulberg