The New York State Democratic primary is a little less than two weeks away, and so far New York real estate donors have taken particular interest in two of the four attorney general candidates.
Public Advocate Letitia James and Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney have combined raised more than $700,000 from New York City real estate interests in their bids to become the next AG. Maloney has raised the most from this crew, with at least $433,000 in real estate contributions from 30 donors through the end of August, according to an analysis by The Real Deal. More than a third of that came from the Durst Organization, as has been previously reported. His other donors include Millennium Partners’ Mario Palumbo ($21,100), retail giant David Simon and his wife Jacqueline ($42,200) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo donor and RXR Realty CEO Scott Rechler ($20,000).
James, meanwhile, has raised just over $280,000 from about 80 real estate donors, making her the most prolific receiver of real estate money by number of contributors. Those donors include Harlem-based brokerage the Migdol Organization ($20,000), Slate Property Group ($10,000) and Aaron Jungreis ($5,000), the latter of whom is an outer boroughs rental building broker who has sold buildings to accused slumlord Ved Parkash. James called Parkash the city’s “Worst Landlord” multiple times in the Office of the Public Advocate’s annual ranking of “bad actor” property owners, although he does not appear on the current list.
A company under the name “Flatiron Agency LLC” gave James $15,000 and traces back to the home address of Bent Philipson, partner in the SentosaCare company of nursing homes that, according to a 2015 ProPublica report, has an extensive history of “fines, violations and complaints for deficient care” and which was last year sued in a federal court for allegedly treating hundreds of Filipino workers as indentured servants. A Suffolk County nursing home controlled by the company was the subject of a 2012 investigation by then- Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
In total, James received $40,500 in contributions from companies linked to nursing homes.
When contacted by TRD, James’ campaign said that it is returning the donation from Flatiron, along with a $5,000 donation from developer Peter Procida that TRD had included in its analysis.
James’ campaign has also received $15,000 from Red Apple Group CEO John Catsimatidis, $10,000 from Omni New York managing director Eugene Schneur and $10,000 from an LLC linked to Jed Waltenas’ Two Trees Management. Since launching her campaign in May, James’ fundraising efforts got a boost from another politician popular with the real estate donors, Gov. Cuomo, who held a $1,000-and-up fundraiser for James earlier this summer.
A spokesperson for her campaign said that James has attracted “wide support from a broad base of New Yorkers” and is “proud that two-thirds of our contributions are small dollar donations for less than $200.”
Multiple real estate players made donations to both James’ and Maloney’s campaigns, including Rechler, who gave $10,000 to James, and Durst, who gave $10,000 to her through an LLC. Both candidates have also received money from Empire State Realty Trust CEO Anthony Malkin ($2,000 to each), BFC Partners principal Donald Capoccia ($2,500 to James and $1,000 to Maloney) and Fetner Properties CEO Harold Fetner ($2,500 to James and $12,500 to Maloney).
The other two candidates have not received nearly as much money from the industry.
Leecia Eve, a corporate lobbyist for Verizon and Port Authority commissioner, had raised just $12,300 from real estate interests through the end of August.
Her largest donation from the industry was for $5,000 from Real Estate Board PAC, a political expenditure arm of the Real Estate Board of New York. She also received a $2,500 donation from David Falk, president of the New York tri-state region for Newmark Knight Frank.
However, her campaign has attracted few other big names in the industry, and REBNY’s PAC has given more money to both James and Maloney at $15,000 each. A PAC affiliated with Rent Stabilization Association, another landlord lobby, gave James $5,000.
The only one of the four candidates for AG that REBNY did not donate to is Zephyr Teachout, whose only real estate-connected contribution identified by TRD came from Fred Benenson of Benenson Capital Partners, an investment firm that is co-developing a mostly market-rate rental project in the East Village. Fellow company principal Lawrence Benenson was also the only real estate developer TRD had identified among New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon’s top donors through the first half of the year.
Teachout, who has since been endorsed by the New York Times, previously announced that she would not accept donations from corporations or LLCs.
Maloney’s contributions from real estate make up about 23 percent of his $1.8 million total, while James’ contributions make up about 19 percent of her $1.6 million total. Eve’s make up about 4 percent of her $335,000 total, and Teachout’s sole $5,000 donation makes up roughly 0.5 percent of her $920,000 total.
And finally, there is a Republican candidate for AG. Keith Wofford has raised about $950,000, but TRD did not identity any real estate figures among his top donors.