Why real estate is spending big on City Council races

Fund backed by Stephen Ross put $221,000 into first election

New York /
Feb.February 10, 2021 12:00 PM
 Jeffrey Leb and Related chairman Stephen Ross (Wikipedia Commons, Getty, OU Advocacy Center/Photo illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)

Jeffrey Leb and Related chairman Stephen Ross (Wikipedia Commons, Getty, OU Advocacy Center/Photo illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)

The creator of a New York City campaign fund to which real estate titan Stephen Ross and others have given $1.47 million has revealed the sole purpose of the effort: to win City Council races.

Or, at least, to prevent certain candidates from winning them.

“The council drives the agenda,” political consultant Jeffrey Leb told the Wall Street Journal.

Leb, the fund’s treasurer, declined to say which of the nearly three dozen races for City Council seats it will be involved in, but it spent more than $221,000 on advertisements and voter outreach in last week’s special election in Queens. It apparently paid off, as Democrat James Gennaro appears to have defeated a far-left candidate.

Leb said he launched the committee because of concerns about the direction in which the city was headed. The organization has received support from big-name real estate developers, notably Ross, the Related Companies chairman, who donated $1 million. Developer Jack Cayre also contributed.

The Democratic Socialists of America is backing a slate of candidates in June’s Democratic primary and hopes to establish a caucus of about six Council members when the 51 winners assume their seats next year.

The Council decides the fate of rezonings and has passed a variety of laws affecting property owners, such as a cap on greenhouse gas emissions by large buildings and a measure forbidding landlords from enforcing personal liability clauses in some commercial leases when tenants do not pay rent.

Gennaro ran against Moumita Ahmed, a community activist favored by Democratic Socialists of America, and six other candidates. Ahmed supports the cancelation of rent and said she would not have accepted developers’ money had any been offered.

Gennaro received nearly 60 percent of the votes cast in the special election last week. It does not appear that enough absentee ballots were mailed in for Ahmed, who trailed by about 35 percentage points, to catch up.

[WSJ] — Sasha Jones





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