More than a year ago, the New York Post, citing unnamed sources, reported that Comptroller Scott Stringer would join a growing list of mayoral candidates rejecting campaign contributions from the real estate industry.
That wasn’t quite true, it turns out: Landlords, brokers and other real estate players gave $10,560 to the city comptroller’s mayoral campaign in the past six months, according to an analysis by The Real Deal.
Stringer’s campaign, which was quoted in the Post story and for nearly a year did not refute it, told TRD last week that its ban applies only to developers.
A spokesperson for Stringer said the campaign made a pledge at the start of 2019 to stop taking developers’ money. But it was a silent pledge. “We just made the decision to stop,” the spokesperson said.
“To make sure the price of admission to our city isn’t a $2 million condo, Scott will fundamentally change the paradigm when it comes to development,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
One notable contributor to Stringer was Bess Freedman, the head of Brown Harris Stevens, who donated $500 last month. Employees of the brokerage donated $2,950 to Stringer in all during the half-year period.
To be sure, the other mayoral candidates who have raised more than $1 million — Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Wall Street exec Ray McGuire and former housing official Shaun Donovan — have accepted far more real estate money than Stringer. The three received a total of more than $369,000 in contributions of $1,000 or more from real estate and construction interests over the same six months.
Media coverage has mentioned — erroneously, it turns out — Stringer’s real estate money ban on a number of occasions without being corrected by his campaign.
“Stringer has stopped taking real estate money,” City & State wrote last January, two weeks after the Post story.
Six months later, Gotham Gazette wrote, “Whether or not candidates accept real estate-linked campaign donations is already splitting the likely Democratic mayoral field, with, for example, Adams taking them and both Comptroller Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson saying they are refusing such funds.” (Johnson has since dropped out.)
When Stringer formally entered the mayoral race in September, Politico noted, “Stringer currently has $2.3 million in his campaign warchest — more than any other mayoral candidate. He had been relying on maximum donations from real estate executives before that became a lightning rod when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won office in 2018.”
The Post calculated Stringer’s overall haul from the industry at $859,000 since 2014. Stringer’s decision to stop accepting contributions from developers was not applied retroactively, although he did return the portion of donations above $2,000 to participate in the city’s enhanced matching-funds program.
Here is a look at the other three $1 million-and-more fundraisers.
As of the mid-January campaign finance disclosure, covering the previous six months, Adams had raised the most money — $8.6 million. In the past six months he received $80,500 in 47 donations of $1,000 or more from real estate and construction sources. Of those, 33 were for the $2,000 maximum for candidates participating in the city’s 8-to-1 matching-funds program.
Adams’ recent four-figure real estate donations came from a variety of industry players. Sanford, Jonathan and Joanna Sirulnick of multifamily firm Ditmas Management gave $2,000 apiece, as did VI Development Group CEO Terence Park and Israel Neiman of Sequoia Development Group.
One noteworthy, non-real estate $2,000 donor to Adams was MSG Entertainment CEO James Dolan, who is counting on the city to renew the Garden’s operating permit, which expires in 2023. Dolan also gave Donovan and McGuire $5,100, the maximum for candidates not in the 8-to-1 program. (Donovan opted for an older version of the program with has a 6-to-1 match, up to $1,050 per donor.)
McGuire hasn’t shied away from real estate donations either. The former Citigroup vice chairman recently told TRD that he would accept money from anyone whose interests and vision for the city are “aligned” with his own.
Counting only four-figure donations, industry professionals have provided more than $207,000 to his campaign, according to the January filing.
Compass CEO Robert Reffkin (whom McGuire has called a mentee), iStar’s Jay Sugarman, Ogden CAP Properties’ Philip Milstein, Cayre Management’s Jared Epstein and Rudin Management’s Beth DeWoody each gave the maximum amount of $5,100.
It appears that Square Foot president Michael Colacino and Joe Rose, chair of Rose Urban Strategies, gave McGuire more than the maximum permitted. Filings show that Colacino donated $3,333 over the limit and that Rose gave $5,100 twice. A spokesperson for McGuire’s campaign didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Other industry executives, including Stonehenge Partners’ CEO Ofer Yardeni, developer William Macklowe, CBRE’s New York Tri-State Region CEO Mary Ann Tighe, Olshan Properties CEO Andrea Olshan and Lee & Associates president James Wacht, also contributed to McGuire.
Real estate contributions of $1,000 or more to Donovan’s campaign totaled at least $82,200, according to TRD’s analysis.
Donovan served as the city’s commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development from 2004 to 2009 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and as the Obama administration’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 2009 to 2014. He’s received campaign contributions from several of the city’s big real estate players.
Silverstein Properties chairman Larry Silverstein, Rockrose Development CEO Henry Elghanayan and Andrea Olshan each donated the maximum $5,100. CBRE’s Mary Ann Tighe, Wells Fargo Multifamily Capital group head Alan Wiener and Durst Organization chief development officer Alexander Durst each donated $2,000.
Loews Hotels chairman Jonathan Tisch and wife Lizzie each donated $5,100, as did M&T Realty Capital president and CEO Michael Berman, and Fisher Brothers partner Winston Fisher.