The Real Deal New York

Power beyond money

October 01, 2012
By Stuart Elliott

Money is power. Businesspeople, including those in New York real estate, are typically motivated by money. And while money does impact the outcome of political races, generally speaking, politicians seek a different sort of power. They seek the adoration of the crowd and the ability to make the decisions that affect all of us. While many of them, like Mitt Romney or Michael Bloomberg, are outrageously wealthy when they enter politics and others end up becoming wealthy as a result of their high political profiles, they are typically less motivated by amassing personal wealth.

The proof? Their own real estate.

In “Politicos’ palaces”, we look at the homes of some of the most influential New York City politicians. Both state attorney general Eric Schneiderman and City Council speaker Christine Quinn (who may be our next mayor) live in apartments that appear to barely exceed the average Manhattan apartment price: Schneiderman in an Upper West Side co-op building, where a comparable unit is on the market for $1.6 million, and Quinn in a Chelsea condo worth around $1.3 million (a recent upgrade after reportedly living in a rent-stabilized apartment for years). The most powerful man in Albany (besides the governor), state Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver lives in Co-op Village. The affordable housing project — which is on the far Lower East Side and was privatized in the 1990s — is popular with young homebuyers with a limited budget who want to stay (barely) in Manhattan. And so on.

The story is part of a package this month that looks at the intersection of real estate and politics as the election nears. We examine several important races — from the Presidential face-off to local elections — that will have an impact on New York real estate.

Of course, contributions from New York’s real estate industry are helping to shape these races.  We tally campaign-giving in the race for President — Obama has surprisingly raised more than Romney here this year — and look at the biggest individual donors on the state level to find out what they are trying to buy with their money.

At the top of the donor chart is the elusive nonagenarian CEO of Glenwood Management, Leonard Litwin, who’s given $1.6 million to candidates in various state races since the start of 2011. (That’s enough to buy Quinn a new condo.)

While candidates’ net worth or real estate holdings might not shape their political agendas, it certainly sheds light on their views.

Indeed, Obama’s estimated $11 million net worth (much of which comes from book royalties) pales in comparison to Romney’s estimated $200 million. It would take the leader of the free world nine times his current wealth to buy the most expensive apartment in Manhattan. (While they have been painted, respectively, as the archetypal anti-capitalist and big-business booster, Obama and Romney are hardly the richest or poorest candidates to run for office. An analysis by the website 247wallst.com reported that George Washington would be worth $525 million in today’s dollars, making him one of the wealthiest presidents. On the other end of the spectrum, several presidents went bankrupt before or after their terms, and one quarter of the 44 Presidents would be worth less than $1 million today, including Abraham Lincoln.)

Of course, even the wealthiest President couldn’t afford some of the priciest commercial real estate on the market today in New York. We look at those properties — one of which is asking $1.5 billion — in “Sellers get serious.”

Elsewhere in the issue, check out our profile of the Related Companies’ new CEO, Jeff Blau, who has been groomed to head the development juggernaut for years and has finally taken the reins (“The ‘development’ of a CEO”), as well as stories on Corcoran Sunshine president Kelly Kennedy Mack (“Walking on ‘Sunshine'”) and Nest Seekers founder Eddie Shapiro (“Shapiro steps into spotlight”) — all relatively young guns moving to the top of the food chain in their respective areas.

Finally, I’d also like to congratulate Leigh Kamping-Carder, who was promoted from reporter to deputy web editor, a new position at the magazine, this past month. And I want to wish farewell to web producer Adam Fusfeld, who is heading to Newsday.

I’m also thrilled to announce another personnel change this month — to my own family — with the birth of my son, Jonah Emerson Elliott. If you see a baby around town wearing a TRD onesie, it’s probably him. Enjoy the issue!

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