The Real Deal New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, favorite of real estate, wins Democratic primary in landslide

He defeated actor Cynthia Nixon by more than 30 points
By Will Parker | September 13, 2018 10:01PM

Andrew Cuomo (Credit: Getty Images and iStock)

Goodnight, “nightmare.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his backers in the real estate and construction industries have won the Democratic gubernatorial primary race against Cynthia Nixon, an actor and activist who placed affordable housing at the center of her campaign and who vowed to reject contributions from the real estate shell companies that funded her opponent.

The Associated Press declared the victory for Cuomo at about 9:30 p.m. Thursday, with 30 percent of the vote reported. Cuomo captured 66.5 percent of the vote to Nixon’s 33.5 percent.

After two terms as governor, Cuomo’s support from developers has remained strong. During the first six months of this year, he raised more than $700,000 in campaign contributions from them and other real estate connected limited liability companies and individuals. By July, he had amassed a $32 million campaign chest and has received more money from LLCs than every other legislator combined.

In office, the governor has put the state’s money to work, too. Last year he oversaw the renewal of the $1 billion+ a year apartment construction subsidy formerly known as “421a” (now known by the more politic “Affordable New York”) by asking the Real Estate Board of New York and Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, a union group, to work out a reform package. Though real estate was widely viewed to have come out the other side better than its counterparts in organized labor, virtually all of the major unions have lavished praise (and campaign funds) on the governor in this race.

It was also last year that Cuomo announced a $20 billion affordable housing plan, the first of its kind in the state (and which has already produced $2.5 billion in capital commitments for the construction and preservation of more than 100,000 units of affordable housing within five years). In June, his administration rolled out a $150 million infrastructure initiative Cuomo said would eventually help create 675,000 jobs. “After a half century of neglect and inaction, New York is once again building for the future,” Cuomo said at the time.

But Cuomo’s critics, like Nixon, believe he has abandoned progressive causes across the housing and real estate spectrum, including stronger rent laws, better funded public housing and even semi-functional public transportation. And they increasingly blame him for the Republican control of the state senate that has persisted for as long as Cuomo has been in office — and which has prevented the passage of progressive housing bills from making it out of committees, on to the Senate floor and on his desk. That critique includes the enabling of the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of Democrats who in 2013 decided to forfeit the Democratic Party’s majority in favor of a power-sharing agreement with the Republicans.

It’s what Republican political operative William F. Buckley O’Reilly was talking about when he told The Real Deal in the spring that Nixon would have been the “nightmare scenario for the real estate world.” Though she had not yet fully developed her policy proposals to curb the misery of New York’s affordable housing crisis, Nixon had advocated for a reversal of landlord practices that have eroded the city’s affordable apartment stock for the past two decades, including an end to vacancy decontrol and the institution of universal rent control. “Half of our state residents are renters, and under Governor Cuomo, New York’s renters have been left behind,” Nixon said in May.

Though Cuomo can probably expect to enjoy continued support from his major real estate donors such as RXR Realty, the Durst Organization, SL Green Realty in many others, he will for tonight have survived the stain on his governorship that has come from his administration’s connections to real estate upstate. Alain Kaloyeros, the czar of Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” development and revitalization plan, was in July found guilty of fraud in a bid-rigging conspiracy that helped steer contracts to two construction firms. Both firms had executives who had been donors to Cuomo’s previous campaigns.