De Blasio’s campaign is dead, and real estate is happy

No tears from industry as mayor abandons hapless White House bid

TRD New York /
Sep.September 20, 2019 04:32 PM
When Bill de Blasio announced the end of his campaign, the industry reacted largely with relief but not surprise.(Credit: Getty Images and Pixabay)

When Bill de Blasio announced the end of his campaign, the industry reacted largely with relief but not surprise (Credit: Getty Images and Pixabay)

New York’s real estate community has long had a complicated relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio, and industry leaders were among his loudest critics when he launched his quixotic presidential bid in May.

So when the mayor announced the end of his campaign Friday after months of failing to connect with the electorate or crack 1% in the polls, the industry reacted largely with relief but not surprise.

“Welcome back,” said G&M Realty founder Jerry Wolkoff. “He should have called it off a little earlier so he didn’t have to go through the expense.”

Broker Paul Massey, who briefly challenged de Blasio for mayor in the 2017 election, struck a similar note, saying he was happy to see the campaign called off and remained baffled by his decision to run in the first place.

“Being the mayor of New York is one of the greatest honors one could have,” he said. “I never understood any of this.”

As de Blasio repeatedly stated during his short-lived campaign, he has had plenty of experience being behind in the polls and eventually breaking through with a victory. Veteran strategist George Arzt said the mayor was likely hoping for something similar this time.

“He went into the campaign because twice before, [running for] public advocate and mayor, he was down in the polls and made his way to the top,” Arzt said. “Lightning didn’t strike a third time, and he was right to end his campaign.”

The mayor himself seemed to realize this as well.

“I feel like I have contributed all I can to this primary election. It’s clearly not my time,” he said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “So I’m going to end my presidential campaign.”

The day before de Blasio called it quits, news broke that three developers had been fined for making improper donations to the mayor’s nonprofit while pursuing business with the city. Greenpoint Landing Developers, Brookfield Financial Properties and Toll Brothers donated a total of $125,000 to de Blasio’s Campaign for One New York and will be fined a total of $65,000.

The fines will likely make developers cautious about donating to the mayor, who despite leaving the race for the White House and being in his final term still has a political action committee accepting donations. The mayor is keeping his Fairness PAC open to help progressive candidates across the country, providing an avenue for real estate players to curry favor.

“I think they would contribute, but they would have to be very careful,” Arzt said, “especially after yesterday’s events with the three developers.”

Although de Blasio’s campaign mishaps and lack of momentum made the mayor a frequent target for mockery, John Catsimatidis, head of the Red Apple Group and a former mayoral hopeful himself, said he respected de Blasio for getting in the race. The billionaire grocer and developer thought the mayor ended his campaign at the right time and might look for a job in the administration of any Democrat who defeats President Donald Trump.

“I think he made the right decision, considering he was only getting 1 percent of the vote,” Catsimatidis said. “If a Democrat gets in, he’ll lobby to get a job in the federal government.”

With de Blasio’s White House dream dashed, he could look to reinvigorate a mayoralty that has been limping along of late.

“He’s got 27 months to put a lot of points on the board in terms of policy and planning,” said Neal Kwatra, head of Metropolitan Strategies, whose clients include the Hotel Trades Council, the leading backer of de Blasio’s bid. “He’s started to retool his senior team for a stretch run, indicating a desire to finish strong. The running room is there — he just needs to decide he’s ready to double down and focus on making some big-ticket items happen.”

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