WATCH: How much political clout does the real estate industry have?

TRD joins NYT, Politico on NY1 for a real estate roundtable

TRD New York /
Oct.October 16, 2017 11:45 AM

From left: Hiten Samtani, Charles Bagli, Josh Robin and Sally Goldenberg

Like it or lump it, Mayor Bill de Blasio appears to be coasting to a second term. And there are members of the real estate industry who fit into the “like it” and “lump it” categories.

“You have a group of developers who their entire business model is affordable housing, so they’re doing very well in this administration,” Politico real estate reporter Sally Goldenberg explained during a roundtable discussion on the intersection of real estate and politics with The Real Deal editorial director Hiten Samtani and the New York Times’ Charles Bagli that aired on NY1 Friday.

One firm that’s doing well is L+M Development Partners, which won a bid to develop a 1,045-unit, mixed-use project in the South Bronx.

“[The] people who have their infrastructure in place for that seem to be doing quite well,” Samtani said.

When it comes to picking a horse in the city’s elections, Bagli said many of the industry’s titans are sitting on the sidelines because “they don’t want to alienate somebody that they’re going to have to do business with.”

The glaring exception is the Durst Organization chairman Douglas Durst, a former de Blasio fundraiser who is engaged in a public and unusual war of words with them mayor.

The spat stems from an op-ed de Blasio published in September, in which he implied Durst’s campaign donations failed to curry any favor when the city awarded a contract for the new citywide ferry service that the developer had coveted.

Durst company spokesman Jordan Barowitz responded with the terse warning that “winter is coming,” and Durst himself sat down for an interview with Politico in which he forecasted an antagonistic relationship toward City Hall in the mayor’s second term.

“If you look at the language in their statement . . . [it] is a very rare and very unusual thing for a developer to say to a mayor who’s going to be mayor again,” Samtani said.

The panel also turned to Durst’s battle with fellow billionaire Barry Diller, who pulled the plug last month on his plan to build a $250 million park on the Hudson River.

Diller said the project, known as Pier 55, was crippled by a legal challenge backed by Durst. But Bagli said the ambitious project spun out of control from its original $130 million price tag.

“I think it was a reason that Barry Diller pulled the plug on this project,” he said. “Mr. Diller said the opposition was responsible for tens of millions of dollars in cost increases. I don’t think so. I’m sure it was something, but exactly what that number is, I don’t know.”

Real estate’s influence in politics doesn’t stop at City Hall, especially with Donald Trump and Jared Kushner in the White House. But Bagli said the titans of the industry have never really seen Trump as part of their club.

“For the most part he never joined the club, the Real Estate Board of New York,” he said. “And they always thought he was a bit noisy and gauche.” [NY1]Rich Bockmann


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