The Real Deal New York

Developers cutting big checks to de Blasio’s “shadow cabinet”

Mayor's political consultants could pose potential conflict of interest

November 04, 2015 01:38PM

From left: Two Trees' Jed Walentas, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Stephen Nislick.

From left: Two Trees’ Jed Walentas, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Stephen Nislick

There’s a long history of real estate developers tapping into City Hall, but certain donations in the past year show that they may also have the mayor’s ear through privately funded consulting firms.

Since his mayoral campaign in 2013, Mayor Bill de Blasio has depended on several political consultants, who have raked in almost $2.3 million in the past year to help push the administration’s message. A majority of these funds were contributed by the nonprofit group One New York, which received $1.1. million from real estate developers. This was the second highest contribution from January 2014 to June 2015, falling only slightly short of unions, which donated $1.3 million.

The mayor’s cadre of consultants represent a possible conflict of interest, the New York Times noted, since many of their clients are major business players in the city.

BerlinRosen, for instance, has overseen communications strategies for One New York, while also counting real estate developers — Forest City Ratner Companies, SL Green Realty and Two Trees Management — among its clients. Two Trees Management, the developer behind the Domino Sugar redevelopment project, donated $100,000 to One New York in the past year. Former Edison Properties boss Stephen Nislick — along with animal activist partner Wendy Neu — donated more than $100,000.

What sets the mayor’s relationship with these consultants apart is that he’s met with these advisors more often than some of senior members of his administration, records of de Blasio’s schedule show. The relationship with the “shadow cabinet” is also seemingly out of step with his beliefs before becoming mayor, when he spoke out against the role of “shadowy” nonprofit groups in politics. The mayor’s press secretary, Karen Hinton, told the newspaper that One New York’s involvement with de Blasio doesn’t contradict the mayor’s previous statements, as the organization “does not engage in politics” and “exists solely to advance the administration’s agenda.”  [NYT]Kathryn Brenzel