Delayed projects top 2008 lobbying filings

By Adam Pincus | March 27, 2009 03:33PM

Troubled high-profile projects such as Related Companies’ Moynihan Station and Solow Development’s East River site were among the city’s developments with the highest lobbying expenses in 2008, a review of city records by The Real Deal shows.

Developers and real estate associations paid more than $11.5 million in lobbying expenses to law firms and consulting companies, with the Related Companies topping the list last year with $898,104 in payments for all its projects citywide, the analysis of data from the City Clerk Web site reveals.

Among its expenses, Related paid $300,817 for lobbying for the delayed Moynihan Station, while Solow paid $466,384 for the East River development site, out of a total of $556,384. Solow is facing lawsuits from lenders at the project. Forest City Ratner, which spent a total of $555,741 on lobbying efforts, spent $500,741 on Atlantic Yards, which has been delayed by successive lawsuits.

Those builders were followed by Extell Development with $496,054, Toll Brothers with $440,186 and General Growth with $371,021.

The Real Deal analyzed all payments by real estate entities and
associations excluding universities, that paid more than $20,000 to a
registered lobbying firm, as reported to the city by the lobbying firms.

The city defines a lobbying expense as any attempt to influence
decisions by city government, elected officials, agencies and other
bodies. Lobbying firms must report what they were paid by their clients
every two months to the City Clerk’s Office.

Although filed under lobbying, much of the compensation does not represent interactions with elected officials. The majority of the expenses are fees paid to law firms to fill out and process complex land-use applications, as well as attend public meetings and administrative hearings, experts said.

The top five lobbying companies in terms of billing to real estate interests were law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel with $2.44 million; Fried Frank Harris, Shriver & Jacobson with $1.23 million and consulting firm Kasirer Consulting which reported $906,000. They were followed by consulting firm Capalino + Company with $865,573 and public relations firm Geto & de Milly with $783,500, the analysis showed.

Dick Dadey, executive director for watchdog group Citizens Union, said the expenses were not surprising, but rather highlighted the complexity of filing documents for large development projects.

“The figures just reflect the true cost [of] when a developer needs to engage government action on their projects,” he said.

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