The Real Deal New York

REBNY-backed PAC dominates council spending in key ‘hoods

TRD ranks the candidates

August 16, 2013 05:30PM
By Adam Pincus

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From left: Sara Gonzalez, Vanessa Gibson and Margaret Chin

From left: City Council candidates Sara Gonzalez, Vanessa Gibson and Margaret Chin

The political action committee backed by the city’s strongest landlord organization, the Real Estate Board of New York, has doled out more for City Council candidates than most of them spent on their own behalf, a review of campaign filings by The Real Deal reveals.

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The PAC, called Jobs For New York, has pledged to raise $10 million. So far, the group has doled out $1.34 million to candidates in 14 City Council races, data from the New York City Campaign Finance Board reveals.

The PAC has thrown its heaviest support — in the form of independent expenditures — behind candidates such as Sara Gonzalez, running for reelection to represent neighborhoods with booming development such as Red Hook and Sunset Park; and Vanessa Gibson, who is running for a seat that includes the South and West Bronx.

The PAC has spent $167,341 during this 2013 campaign cycle on behalf of Gonzalez, about double the $83,589 that her campaign alone has spent so far; and $122,726 on behalf of Gibson, who has spent just $64,556 on her own behalf.

Rounding out the top five recipients of the PAC’s largesse were City Council member Margaret Chin, running for re-election to represent Lower Manhattan, including Soho and Chinatown, with $121,108; Alan Maisel, running for a seat in South Brooklyn covering Sheepshead Bay and Canarsie, with $120,451; and Paul Vallone, an attorney running in a crowded contest for a seat in northeastern Queens, including Bayside and Whitestone, for whom the PAC has spent $113,134.

Virtually all the money was spent on printed campaign literature either for mailing or for handing out, city campaign records show.

Some chafe at the federal law allowing unlimited independent expenditures by groups not connected to campaigns, while others see it as freedom of expression. City campaign regulations require that the independent organizations, which must not coordinate their expenditures with the candidates, must disclose the source of the money.

The law allows big real estate players such as Brookfield Office Properties, the Durst Organization and Fisher Brothers to each contribute $425,000 to Jobs For New York this year, as The Real Deal reported.

A spokesperson for Vallone, Austin Finan, called the use of outside expenditures “an unfortunate reality,” but the campaign did not oppose the assistance, noting that he was backed by unions, Democratic clubs, elected officials, as well as business groups.

“He is happy to accept the support of anyone who wants to lend a hand to his campaign,” Finan said.

In contrast, Laurie Cumbo, who had received at least $79,715 in independent assistance from Jobs For New York during her quest for a Brooklyn seat covering the gentrifying Fort Greene and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods, asked the group on July 29 to stop spending on her behalf, the campaign said in a statement to The Real Deal.

A spokesperson for Mark Treyger said, the campaign in accordance with the law had no contact with Jobs For New York, or other independent groups, and added, “endorsements do not shape policy, or priorities.”

Overall, Jobs For New York, which had taken in $6.35 million as of Aug. 5, according to the most recent expense reports filed last Friday, has spent $4.4 million. The vast majority of that, some $4.2 million, was sent to the influential lobbying and consulting firm Parkside Group, based in Midtown.

The Parkside Group, in turn, has reported spending $1.34 million of its revenues as independent expenditures in 14 City Council races, mostly for mailers and palm cards.

Correction: A previously published version of the chart accompanying this article incorrectly identified Manuel Caughman as a candidate for a council seat in Brooklyn. In fact, he is running for City Council District 27, representing neighborhoods such as St. Albans and Hollis, in Queens.

  • Pen_Is_Mightier

    In light of Margaret Chin’s spineless capitulation to special interests in the case of NYU’s planned 2 million-sq.-foot, two decade-long expansion in the Village last summer (i.e., NYU 2031) — effectively surrendering park land long in the public trust along Mercer and LaGuardia Streets to private development — this windfall of REBNY cash for a now-beleaguered, flawed candidate is hardly a surprise. It is simply more of the same: backroom deals and cronyism, resulting in an erosion of neighborhood public space and big profits for developers. What makes the NYU 2031 case (with but a mere 18% of the first decade of construction destined for academic instructional space) all the more distressing is that the ruthless developer comes in the form of an educational institution, sporting the now-hollow motto of a “private university in the public good.” Any local leader with political courage and the strength of his/her convictions would have seen right through this. Not Chin or Quinn or the rest of the City Council. Come early November, Villagers will make their own voices heard at the polls.

  • Steve

    I just got a mailing from Jobs for New York slinging mud at council candidate Cliff Stanton. I had not been interested in him before, but if the real estate interests are afraid of him I will certainly give Cliff Stanton a good look

  • Aaron

    Out in Astoria, I received a nasty, ham-handed hatchet piece targeting Gus Prentzas and John Ciafone, the two Deomcrats challenging Constantinides in the primary. The Constantinides volunteer I spoke with said something along the lines of, well, there’s nothing we can do about it, Jobs NY is free to spend their money as they wish…but the appearance, at best, is absolutely terrible. I applaud Laurie Cumbo’s decision to publicly reject the “help” and think that any other politician with a spine should do the same. The numbers in Astoria are insane: Jobs NY have spent more on Constantinides than the other candidates combined have spend on their own campaigns. This is not the kind politics we need in Astoria…

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