No backlash for senator who broke ranks on rent vote

Long Island’s Kaminsky raked in real estate donations despite siding against landlords

Jan.January 29, 2020 07:00 AM

RXR Realty’s Scott Rechler and Senator Todd Kaminsky  (Credit: Getty Images)

When Senate Democrats passed a historic, tenant-friendly rent law last June, their Long Island delegation was landlords’ lone pocket of support in the conference: Four of the six Nassau and Suffolk County members voted against the bill.

But one who supported it, Sen. Todd Kaminsky, still received $82,000 from the real estate industry in the six months that followed. That was up from $48,000 during the equivalent period in 2017, an analysis by The Real Deal found.

Overall, the “Long Island Six” received $225,200 from real estate developers, landlords, trade associations, real estate law firms and lobbyists since the vote.

The giving reflects the conundrum that the six Democrats present for real estate interests. They are more moderate than their leftward-lurching colleagues in Brooklyn and Queens and frequently vote as a bloc, making the Long Islanders potentially important allies for property owners.

At the same time, their capture of formerly Republican seats allowed Democrats to take a commanding majority in the Senate, paving the way for legislation opposed by real estate interests, such as the rent reform.

The donations suggest that at least some real estate donors prefer to cultivate relationships with members of the Senate majority rather than hope Republicans can recapture the chamber in this year’s elections. A GOP majority has become an increasingly unlikely possibility, with Democrats now holding 40 of the 63 seats and at least 10 Republican incumbents not seeking re-election in November.

Kaminsky, a second-term Democrat, received campaign donations from a limited liability company linked to developer Tishman Speyer; a limited partnership linked to Rudin Management; David Greenbaum, vice chairman of Vornado Realty Trust; an LLC linked to The Durst Organization; Gary Barnett, CEO of Extell Development; and an LLC linked to the Related Companies.

Long Island senators James Gaughran, Anna Kaplan, Monica Martinez and John Brooks all voted against the historic reforms passed last year. In the fundraising period that followed, Kaplan received $19,800, Gaughran received $17,300, and Martinez and Brooks each received $4,000. Senator Kevin Thomas, who joined Kaminsky in supporting the rent bill, received $13,000.

A spokesperson for Kaminsky said he “could not comment on real estate donations to other senators” and did not comment on Senator Kaminsky’s own tally from the industry. Martinez told TRD that she is “not beholden to any donor’s money.” The freshman senator said Suffolk County, where her district is situated, is “different from … the city” and noted that it is important to “not demonize any one industry.”

Spokespersons for Brooks, Thomas, Gaughran and Kaplan declined to comment.

While scores of New York City politicians scramble to vociferously reject real estate donations under pressure from progressive activists — returning checks on social media, in one case — Long Island politicians have not had to respond to the same demands.

The Real Estate Board of New York sustained its contributions to the Long Island Six, contributing $25,600. Scott Rechler, whose firm RXR Development has numerous projects on Long Island, topped the list of individual donors, giving $24,000 in the six months after the rent law passed.

A spokesperson for RXR said, “All of these senators have been strong advocates for their constituents and we’re happy to support them.”

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