After failing to meet his own deadline, Queens council member returns thousands in real estate donations

Jimmy Van Bramer promised to return $15K-$20K in donations by January

Jimmy Van Bramer (Credit:, iStock)
Jimmy Van Bramer (Credit:, iStock)

Council member Jimmy Van Bramer says his campaign cut checks to various developers and landlords on Monday, following criticism that he hadn’t lived up to his promise to return thousands in donations from the real estate industry.

In a tweet on Monday afternoon, Van Bramer — who plans to run for Queens borough president — said he returned thousands of dollars worth of donations from developers and included images of four cashier checks. The checks were made out to the Brodsky Organization’s Daniel Brodsky, for $2,500; Fisher Brothers’ Winston Fisher, for $3,950; Rockrose’s Henry Elghanayan, for $1,000; and Taxpayers for an Affordable New York (a coalition made up of various real estate groups, including the Real Estate Board of New York), for $320.

The tweet was in response to a Daily News story published on Saturday, which found that Van Bramer hadn’t returned any real estate donations since pledging to do so in November. At the time, he said he would return between $15,000 and $20,000 from landlords and developers by January 2019.

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Van Bramer’s promise was part of a larger trend of elected officials vowing to refuse campaign donations from real estate. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, state Sen. Julia Salazar, gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon and Sen. Michael Gianaris made similar pledges. According to the Daily News, Van Bramer’s delay in returning donations could jeopardize his chances of securing the endorsement of the New York City Democratic Socialists of America for Queens borough president. The group played a large part in Tiffany Cabán’s campaign for Queens District Attorney and in helping push through major changes to the state’s rent stabilization laws.

A spokesperson for REBNY, Jamie McShane, said the focus should be on whether Van Bramer’s policies create jobs and affordable housing.

“We also wonder if he will apply the same standard to other contributors who lobby him for their special interests,” he said. “It seems like a double standard.”

John Werwaiss of Werwaiss & Co Inc., who donated $3,950 to Van Bramer in March, said he hadn’t heard from Van Bramer’s office about his contribution being refunded. He wasn’t bothered by the decision, though.

“That’s his choice. He wants to do it, he should do it,” Werwaiss said. “They ask for the money, now they say that don’t want it.”