The Real Deal New York

Politicos’ palaces

A look at where some of the most influential and real estate–minded politicians live in NYC

October 01, 2012
By Leigh Kamping-Carder

Anthony Weiner’s Twitter-enabled fall from grace may have had one unforeseen bonus: an upgrade in real estate.

As a Congressman, Weiner lived in a two-bedroom co-op within the boundaries of his district in Forest Hills, Queens, an apartment that he sold last year for $430,000, public records show. As an ex-Congressman, Weiner has landed in a four-bedroom condominium on Park Avenue South, recently on the market for almost $3.3 million, the New York Post reported in August.

But Weiner is not the only New York City politician whose day job affects his address — and vice versa. The neighborhoods that elected officials occupy are circumscribed by their districts, and, in turn, the issues and projects they support and oppose are influenced by where they live.

The only exception may be the mayor, who has the run of Gracie Mansion while in office. (Of course, Mayor Michael Bloomberg famously turned down the home in favor of staying in his current properties: a townhouse at 17 East 79th Street, four of the five units at the co-op next door, a Southampton mansion and a collection of other homes across the world.)

This month, The Real Deal maps out where some of the most influential and real estate–minded politicians live in New York City.

The list does not include powerful politicos who reside elsewhere in the state, such as Governor Andrew Cuomo, who splits his time between the governor’s mansion in Albany and his home in Mount Kisco, where he lives with his girlfriend, celebrity chef Sandra Lee; New York State Senate majority leader Dean Skelos (who lives in Rockville Centre); or U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (who is based in Brunswick).

Eric Schneiderman, New York State Attorney General

Eric Schneiderman and 645 West End Avenue

As attorney general, Eric Schneiderman has the final say on whether the city’s numerous condominium projects can go forward, determining when developers can start selling units and — if they fail to follow through on offering plan commitments — suing them on behalf of residents.

Perhaps in the spirit of avoiding a conflict of interest, the longtime litigator lives in a prewar co-op: an eighth-floor unit at a luxury building at 645 West End Avenue, according to public records and news reports.

The 72-unit property features a landscaped garden and exercise room on its rooftop.

Although it was not immediately clear how much Schneiderman paid for his apartment, which he once shared with his now ex-wife Jennifer Cunningham (who advised him on his campaign for AG in 2010), a two-bedroom in the building is currently on the market for $1.65 million. The couple has one daughter together.

A representative for Schneiderman did not respond to a request for comment.

Christine Quinn, New York City Council Speaker

Christine Quinn and her home on Ninth Avenue between 25th and 26th streets

As City Council speaker, Christine Quinn is a major player in New York City real estate — and one of the more closely watched (potential) contenders to replace Bloomberg as mayor. Quinn lives in West Chelsea with her wife, Kim Catullo, whose name is on the deed of their two-bedroom condo on Ninth Avenue between 25th and 26th streets. Catullo paid almost $1.29 million for the apartment, according to city records. The sale closed in early 2011; the unit is in the district Quinn has represented since 1999. (According to published reports, before moving, Quinn lived in a rent-stabilized apartment in Chelsea for 18 years.)

For the most part, Quinn has walked a fine line between championing proposals opposed by real estate developers, such as the “living wage” bill, while allowing developments to proceed, albeit sometimes with concessions, as in the case of Rudin Management’s St. Vincent’s conversion.

However, she has remained silent on one of the most controversial projects proposed in the neighborhood: the expansion of the Chelsea Market.

The City Planning Commission recently approved developer Jamestown Properties’ plans to add an office tower atop the converted cookie factory — although with some size and height reductions and without a planned hotel — but Quinn has yet to take a stand on the project.

As Chelsea’s representative and the leader of the 51-member body, her vote could decide the fate of the development. Some have speculated that she has remained quiet for fear of alienating either her constituents or the real estate bigwigs who could help her mayoral campaign, the New York Times reported.

Quinn, who was elected Speaker in 2006, was not available for comment.

Charles Schumer, U.S. Senator

Charles Schumer and 9 Prospect Park West

When he’s not in Washington, D.C., Charles Schumer, a Brooklyn native and New York’s senior U.S. Senator, lives not too far from where he grew up in a prewar Park Slope co-op that he once called his “only major asset.”

Schumer has lived at 9 Prospect Park West with his wife, Iris Weinshall, a vice chancellor at the City University of New York and a former city transportation commissioner, since 1982.

The couple have two daughters together.

Schumer paid $157,000 for the home, he told the New Yorker in 2010. These days, two four-bedrooms in the building are on the market there for $2.85 million, and almost $2.99 million, respectively, according to StreetEasy.

While Schumer is well-known on the national stage, his advocacy in the neighborhood appears to be more limited. Perhaps he is best recognized for getting caught cycling down the Prospect Park West bike lane — an initiative his wife famously opposed.

In an effort to spur the U.S. housing market, Schumer introduced a bill last October with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to create a three-year residential visa for foreign nationals who invest at least $500,000 in residential real estate. The legislation has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

Hakeem Jeffries, New York State Assembly Member

Hakeem Jeffries

New York State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries has lived in Prospect Heights since 1999. He is now hoping to represent the area on the national stage by running for Congress — specifically the Eighth U.S. Congressional district, which covers a swath of Brooklyn and Queens. He is running against Republican businessman Alan Bellone to replace Rep. Edolphus Towns, who’s retiring (though the district boundaries have been altered).

Almost six years ago, the Brooklyn Democrat bought a three-bedroom condo in a new 39-unit development popular with young families like his — although, he jokes, “I’m getting older by the day.”

The Jeffries family — he has two children — sold their previous home, a two-bedroom co-op, in order to afford the new apartment, which cost about $560,000, he said. The experience reinforced his commitment to encouraging the construction of middle-income housing in Brooklyn and Queens. He is also a member of the Assembly’s committee on housing.

“It’s a booming community,” Jeffries said of Prospect Heights, “but like many neighborhoods in central Brooklyn, working families and senior citizens and even middle-class residents are finding it increasingly difficult to remain because of the high cost of housing.”

While federal programs exist to spur low-income housing, they largely ignore the middle-class buyers who cannot afford market-rate apartments, but also don’t qualify for affordable housing benefits, Jeffries said.

A prime example is the so-called 80/20 program, which rewards developers with federal tax breaks for setting aside 20 percent of units for low-income residents. If elected, Jeffries said he would aim to reform the program so that developers can also win tax credits for earmarking units for middle-income residents.

A similar New York City Housing Development Corp. scheme exists that provides low-interest loans to developers who build 50/30/20 buildings, with 20 percent low-income units, 30 percent middle-income units and 50 percent market-rate units.

Sheldon Silver, New York State Assembly Speaker

Sheldon Silver and Hillman House

A lifelong resident of the Lower East Side, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has a hand in shaping state-wide policy, including working closely with Governor Andrew Cuomo and other lawmakers on the state budget.

However, the 18-year veteran of the legislature is also known for his activity in his home district, which covers the Financial District, Chinatown and the Lower East Side.

Silver lives at Hillman House, an 800-unit, three-building structure that is part of Co-op Village, the sprawling cluster of 12 buildings on the far east corner of Grand Street. He and his wife, Rosa, have four children.

The union-built complex was erected in the 1940s under a federal affordable housing program, and privatized in the late 1990s.

In July 2011, the New York Post reported that Silver, a prominent proponent of rent stabilization, had led the campaign to take the complex market rate, although he denied that he had played a role.

These days, Silver is facing a state ethics probe in connection with a $135,000 taxpayer-funded settlement to resolve sexual harassment allegations against Assemblyman Vito Lopez, which was not publicly disclosed.

Silver did not respond to a request for comment.

Daniel Squadron, New York State Senator

Daniel Squadron

Daniel Squadron, the 32-year-old state senator elected in 2008, could have his pick of prime neighborhoods: His district spans Tribeca, Battery Park City, the Financial District, the East Village, Dumbo and Williamsburg, among others.

But Squadron and his wife, Liz, chose to make their home in a low-rise condo building in their district in Carroll Gardens on Henry Street. The couple paid $950,000 for a three-bedroom unit described in a recent listing as “an ideal apartment for people who crave space and privacy” that comes with a private roof deck and basement storage.

As the local state senator, Squadron has veto power over developments at Brooklyn Bridge Park and has previously opposed the construction of new housing there, which is seen as an alternative to government funding for the park. He has also tangled with the controversial landlord and developer Ben Shaoul over sites in the East Village, opposing plans to convert the Cabrini nursing home into condos and speaking out against Shaoul’s attempt to secure a variance for two floors built atop an apartment building on East Sixth Street.

Liz Krueger, New York State Senator

Liz Krueger and her home on East 78th Street between First and Second avenues

New York State Senator Liz Krueger lives in what is likely one of the most distinctive homes on the Upper East Side.

“It’s a little unusual to describe,” Krueger told TRD. “It’s a hidden house.”

The home, on East 78th Street between First and Second avenues, is an 1860s farmhouse that is only accessible by walking through the door of a co-op building that fronts the street, down a hallway and over a bridge. The curious setup dates back to the turn of the 20th century, when the owners of the farmhouse, a separate structure, sold off their front yard, Krueger said.

Krueger paid about $700,000 for the residence in 1989, when she and her husband moved in together. It is currently laid out as a two-bedroom, with separate offices for Krueger and her husband, but could easily be a three-bedroom, she said.

Krueger represents a band of Manhattan’s East Side that stretches from 19th to 110th streets, making her intimately familiar with the hassles of the Second Avenue subway construction. One of her staffers spends nearly all his time fielding complaints from constituents, she said.

“Let’s be honest — we will all be greatly appreciative of the Second Avenue subway when it is open,” Krueger said. “But if you have the temporary bad fortune of living above the construction areas, we owe you a great debt of gratitude.”

Krueger — who sits on the Senate’s housing, construction and community development committee — has also worked to bring new public schools to the area to cater to the influx of young families who have moved in.

Last month, an elementary school and a high school opened at 250 East 57th Street, the 1 million-square-foot, mixed-use project developed by World-Wide Group that also includes a Whole Foods and, upon completion, will have 320 residential units.

Gale Brewer, City Council Member

City Council Member Gale Brewer has represented parts of Clinton and the Upper West Side since 2002, but she has lived there much longer: Brewer and her husband bought a semidetached brick townhouse on West 95th Street in 1995 and have remained there ever since.

The couple paid $614,000 for the five-bedroom, three-story home between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West.

A member of the council’s Committee on Housing & Buildings, Brewer spearheaded efforts for the Upper West Side retail rezoning, which passed in June. The controversial measure limits the width of storefronts on Amsterdam and Columbus avenues between 72nd and 110th streets to a maximum of 40 feet. Banks are limited to 25 feet. (Citing a City Planning Commission study, Brewer noted that banks are disproportionally represented in the area.)

Brewer saw the rezoning as a way to promote a diverse group of retail tenants without mandating what types of business could occupy the scarce storefronts. “We squeeze a lot of retail into small numbers of avenues and that means the big guys take over,” Brewer told TRD.

One of Brewer’s priorities is to preserve a range of housing types in the neighborhood. “We want co-ops and condos; we also want rental that’s affordable,” she said, citing the 500 units of affordable housing that will be part of Extell Development’s Riverside South project.

She is currently involved in efforts to create a historic district on the Upper West Side. The first phase of the plan — which covers an area bordering West End Avenue between 70th and 79th streets — has already been approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the City Planning Commission. A hearing before the City Council is scheduled for this month.

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