For the second year in a row, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio snubbed the biggest real estate event of the year.
Neither made an appearance at the Real Estate Board of New York’s 124th annual banquet Thursday night. Their absence was perhaps not surprising — they didn’t attend last year’s event and were at the center of some of the real estate industry’s biggest losses last year. Cuomo failed to intervene in the rent law showdown in Albany, despite the urgings of some of the city’s biggest developers, and both he and de Blasio couldn’t convince Amazon to change its mind about abandoning its Long Island City headquarter plans.
Despite the sometimes fraught relationship between the industry and elected officials — especially the growing group of those who have vowed to reject campaign contributions from real estate — representatives from federal, state and city governments attended Thursday.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, as usual, gave a brief speech during the dinner portion of the evening. As he did last year, Schumer plugged the long-stalled Gateway Tunnel project. Some in the crowd booed when he initially took the stage, but he received overwhelming applause when he mentioned Gateway and pledged, if he becomes Senate majority leader, to restore the full deductions to state and local taxes.
During the event’s cocktail hour, Brooklyn Borough President and mayoral hopeful Eric Adams dismissed the view that rubbing elbows with the industry’s elite was politically toxic. He said it was crucial not to encourage an “us vs. them” mentality.
“We can’t divide the city,” he said. “I’m not going to leave one stone unturned, one room unvisited to bring this city together.”
Council member Keith Powers noted that the party was located in his district (the banquet took place at the Hilton in Midtown). He said tenant protections will be a priority in 2020. When asked about the status of his bill that sought to cap rental broker commissions at one month’s rent, he said he’s still working on making changes to the measure.
Deputy Mayor of Housing and Economic Development Vicki Been said she wasn’t sure why de Blasio didn’t attend.
“I’m here tonight because these are the people helping to build our affordable housing,” she said.
Others in attendance included State Division of Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner Ruthanne Visnauskas, City Planning Commissioner Marisa Lago, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Sen. Todd Kaminsky, Council member Donovan Richards and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks.
Sen. Brian Kavanagh, chair of the state Senate housing committee, said he had come from a hearing on homelessness on Long Island.
“It’s my job to listen to all perspectives,” he said.
He noted that he didn’t plan to stay long.