As the threat of a pied-à-terre tax mounts, an entity tied to the Real Estate Board of New York has hired a consultant who worked to kill the measure last year.
But the consultant, Patrick Jenkins, says he isn’t tackling the controversial tax, nor other hot-button industry issues, including a proposed blanket eviction moratorium.
Rather, “the work is to focus on job creation and job growth coming out of this crisis,” he said.
Putting New Yorkers to Work, headed by REBNY President James Whelan, hired Jenkins’ eponymous firm in October, recent filings with the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics show. A spokesperson for REBNY said the group brought Jenkins on to “provide strategic advice on positioning the organization to promote job creation efforts.” His $20,000-a-month contract with the group runs through the end of next June.
Jenkins said he registered as a lobbyist for the group out of an abundance of caution, but that he was not hired to lobby on behalf of Putting New Yorkers to Work. According to Jenkins’ registration, his potential focus as a lobbyist would be related to “taxation issues” at the state and city level, as well as “real property issues.” The state filing indicates that his firm expects to target the state legislature, the governor and City Council.
Last year, developer William Zeckendorf hired Jenkins to lobby against the proposed pied-à-terre tax, which was ultimately abandoned in favor of a one-time transfer and mansion tax. Elected officials have indicated that they plan to make the tax on second homes a priority in 2021.
Earlier this year, a business coalition funded by REBNY, the Five Borough Jobs Campaign, tapped Jenkins to push for the renewal of the Relocation and Employment Assistance Program. The tax incentive was renewed through July 2025 as part of the state’s fiscal year 2021 budget.
Jenkins is well-connected, as a long-time friend and political consultant to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. Most recently, a financial disclosure report released on Friday shows Jenkins was paid nearly $4,000 for work for Heastie in July.
Since at least 2011, Putting New Yorkers to Work has targeted construction labor and other issues. In 2015, the group rolled out ads targeting a prevailing wage provision that was proposed as part of a renewed 421a. Last year, the group homed in on measures that would have required union-level construction wages on all public projects. That bill didn’t pass in 2019, but a different version that applied to projects costing more than $5 million and where public funds cover at least 30 percent of construction financing was approved in the 2021 budget.
Now the industry faces the prospect of the state legislature holding a special session in the final weeks of December. Heastie has indicated that he supports raising taxes on wealthy earners before the end of the year. Meanwhile, members of the legislature are pushing for a blanket moratorium on evictions.