Why two council hopefuls are under fire for sweet real estate deals

Mel Wymore and Marti Speranza aren't paying rent on offices
August 18, 2017 08:55AM

From left: 2244 Broadway, Mel Wymore, Helen Rosenthal and Marti Speranza

Two City Council candidates are being accused of paying little to no rent at their campaign offices, according to separate complaints filed with the city’s Campaign Finance Board.

Mel Wymore, a Democrat who is challenging Helen Rosenthal’s Upper West Side seat, has set up shop at a former cafe on Broadway but has not reported paying rent, according to a complaint filed by Rosenthal. Meanwhile, Marti Speranza is allegedly occupying a luxury penthouse near Madison Square, also without showing rent expenditures, according to a separate complaint, the New York Daily News reported.

Neither candidate listed their respective spaces as an in-kind contribution on campaign finance forms — a problem since the expense would likely exceed such limits.

Wymore has set up shop in the former Birdbath Cafe at 2244 Broadway, an area where retail rents check in around $200 per square foot. While Wymore’s campaign said the candidate is helping a small business — Birdbath “needed to take a few months off from their rent,” a spokesperson said — Rosenthal said otherwise. “Voters deserve to know the name of the landlord who’s giving the Wymore campaign potentially tens of thousands of dollars worth of free space, and whether or not that person or corporation has business before the Council,” a Rosenthal spokeswoman said.

Wymore’s camp argued there is no in-kind contribution to speak of, since the space would have been left vacant during Birdbath’s break. The campaign is paying $616 a month for “services” at the space, and $10 in rent, according to a lease submitted by the campaign.

For Speranza, the penthouse in question is owned by a limited liability corporation, Rocket Nomad LLC, which cannot make political donations. Speranza’s husband Roderick Wong appears to be a part owner of the penthouse, according to the condo’s financial documents, but he’s already maxed out his allowable donations.

A Speranza spokesman called the complaint a “sad attempt to draw attention” from the candidate’s traction. “The Speranza campaign has followed every requirement of the Campaign Finance Board,” the campaign said in a statement, dismissing the complaint as “nonsense.” [NYDN] E.B. Solomont