Is Weprin a friend to the real estate biz?

Sitt, Gural, Sciame, Litwin and Levine have been contributors to the assemblyman
By C.J. Hughes | July 08, 2011 11:10AM

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From left: Jeffrey Gural of Newmark Knight Frank, Jeffrey Levine of Douglaston Development, David Weprin, Joe Sitt of Thor Equities and Frank Sciame, Jr. of F.J. Sciame Construction

Today, state Assemblyman David Weprin will get the nod from the
Democratic Party to run for Anthony Weiner’s old seat in Congress, which
he is expected to win.

And even though that seat, New York’s 9th, probably won’t be around for
long — population changes will likely force the state to phase it out in 2012
— some real estate executives are happy to have somebody they have close
ties to representing them in Washington, even for the short-term.

“He’s a good guy, and I don’t think the real estate industry has anything to
worry about,” said Jeffrey Gural, chairman of Newmark Knight Frank, who
contributed $2,000 to Weprin in 2010 for his assembly race, according to
campaign finance records.

Weprin represents the 24th Assembly District in Albany, which covers
northeastern Queens communities including Bayside, Jamaica Estates and
Floral Park.

Gural admits he supports Weprin, 55, more than other state politicians,
but part of the reason is that his uncle, the late Jack Weprin, was Gural’s
attorney for years. Gural was also friendly with Weprin’s father, Saul, who
also represented the 24th district, as an assemblyman for 23 years.

“I thought they were good for the city and good for the state and common-sense guys,” Gural said.

The list of contributors to Weprin’s campaigns over the years, whether for
his current seat, which he has had since winning it in a special election in
February 2010; his seat on the City Council, where he served for eight years,
from 2001 to 2009; or his unsuccessful run for city comptroller in 2009,
does contain many boldfaced real estate names.

They include Joseph Sitt, CEO of Thor Equities, Frank Sciame, CEO of F.J.
Sciame Construction and Leonard Litwin,
CEO of Glenwood Management, whom together have contributed thousands
of dollars to him.

Merryl Tisch, a state education chancellor, and more relevantly, the wife of
Lowes hotels corporation founder James Tisch, has also supported Weprin.
Employees of Buchbinder and Warren, a major Manhattan landlord, and
Extell Development have also filled Weprin’s coffers, and the Bluestone
Organization, which is based in Fresh Meadows, in Weprin’s district, has
also been a benefactor.

To be fair, it’s not uncommon for many types of New York businesses to
back a range of city politicians. And many of the same people who backed
Weprin have also supported Melinda Katz, an attorney whose name was
also mentioned as a possible Weiner successor. (Like Weprin, Katz was in
the Assembly and on the City Council, and also ran an unsuccessful race for
comptroller in 2009.)

But based on city finance records, it seems like Weprin, who was an ally
of Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a bid to issue property tax rebates, which
landlords strongly favored, enjoys broader support. Weprin, who lives in
Holliswood, also chaired the city’s powerful finance committee right after
being elected to the City Council in 2001.

Weprin’s views on other hot-button real estate issues in the city, like stricter
rent regulation, say, or the possible return of the 421-a tax abetment, are
unclear.

Evan Stavisky, his spokesperson, asked to put off all questions about policy
until Weprin was officially named as the Democratic candidate, in a race
that does not yet have a GOP challenger. And he downplayed Weprin’s real
estate industry connections.

“As chair of the city’s finance committee, he enjoyed a strong relationship
with the leaders of the business community that drive the economy,” he said.

Jeffrey Levine, the
chairman of Douglaston Development, which is based in Weprin’s district,
kicked in $1,000 to Weprin last August. He, too demurred, when asked what
issues he has discussed with Weprin — just that “I found him to be rational.”

He added: “David is a mature adult and understands the issues.”