REBNY revenues rise, but consumer listings service weakens

Tax filing also shows trade group paid former city Finance commissioner $120K as consultant that year

From left: Martha Stark and Steven Spinola
From left: Martha Stark and Steven Spinola

Revenues grew strongly for the Real Estate Board of New York in 2012 even as the group cut the value of its publicly accessible residential listings service by half, the firm reported in its annual tax filing with the federal government.

In addition, in 2012 the association paid Columbia University Adjunct Professor Martha Stark, who resigned in 2009 as the city Department of Finance commissioner, $120,000 in consulting fees. The filing also shows that REBNY sharply raised the annual compensation for its longtime president, Steven Spinola.

The 2012 filing with the Internal Revenue Service is the most recent annual REBNY return available. The form, known as a 990, was processed in December 2013, but only published online last month.

Overall, the group’s revenue rose in 2012 by 8 percent to $10.9 million, from $10.1 million in 2011. Most of that growth was driven by an 8 percent rise — or a total of $576,000 — in members’ dues, and a nearly $200,000 hike in revenues from the annual banquet.

“The increase in revenue reflects REBNY’s strong growth in membership, advocacy, and public standing as New York’s leading real estate trade association. Our current membership is more than 15,000 and growing,” Jamie McShane, a spokesperson for REBNY, said in a statement.

While its membership was rising, its consumer-facing listing service, known as ResidentialNYC or NY1Residential, did not fare so well. The website debuted in 2007, and in 2011 it partnered with cable channel NY1 in an effort to boost users. Several insiders said the site has never caught up to competitors like StreetEasy even though REBNY manages one of the most robust business to business listings feeds for the real estate industry in the city.

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The consumer facing website lost $62,160 in 2012, which was an improvement from 2011, when it lost $118,028. But REBNY valued the site at $11,741, down from $26,049 in 2011.

REBNY said the value of ResidentialNYC was calculated from the cash on hand as of December 31, 2012, plus the value of the equipment.

Spinola’s annual total compensation rose sharply in 2012. It was up 17 percent to $925,031, compared with $788,960 in 2011, with most of the increase from bonus and incentive compensation, which more than doubled to $197,485, according to the filing. REBNY said the increase was not representative of a big pay boost, but instead was implemented for accounting purposes. The trade group said Spinola’s compensation for 2013, which is not available, was actually lowered.

“Considered over the two-year period of 2012-2013, his total compensation will be comparable to increases received over the past several years,” McShane said.

The filing also showed that REBNY paid former Finance commissioner Stark to consult on public policy issues in 2012. She continues to be a consultant for the group, McShane said.

In 2012, the city’s Conflict of Interest Board fined Stark $22,000 for using city resources to work for a real estate company called Tarragon.

“I have been advising REBNY on public policy issues,” Stark said in an email to The Real Deal. “The fine I paid to the city had nothing to do with REBNY.”