Spitzer: EB-5 “rubs me the wrong way”

Former governor, now a major developer, voices strong opposition to investor visa program

Eliot Spitzer and an EB-5 illustration
Eliot Spitzer and an EB-5 illustration

Eliot Spitzer criticized the EB-5 visa program at a Brooklyn real estate panel Tuesday, saying the idea of foreign investors “buying” a path to citizenship “rubs me the wrong way.”

Speaking at Brooklyn commercial brokerage TerraCRG’s Only Brooklyn real estate summit at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the former New York governor was critical of the federal program that offers a green card and potential citizenship to foreign investors in exchange for economic investment in the U.S.

Major developers such as the Related Companies, Gary Barnett and Steve Witkoff have tapped into EB-5 to help finance New York projects.

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“I don’t like it,” Spitzer said of the program, adding that while he’s a big supporter of immigration reform, he’s opposed to “the idea that someone could write a check for $500,000” and obtain a visa “when so many others have been waiting.”

The former governor’s comments against the program drew light applause from the audience, which had gathered for a panel on Brooklyn residential development entitled “Titans of Williamsburg.”

Spitzer, who shared a stage with Douglaston Development chair Jeffrey Levine and moderator Michael Stoler of Madison Realty Capital and “The Stoler Report,” also ruled out his development firm Spitzer Enterprises ever raising project capital through the EB-5 program. The firm’s current projects include a $700 million, 856-unit residential development at 420 Kent Avenue in Williamsburg.