Tenant group attacks Democratic senators for taking real estate money

The bulk of the donations went to the Nassau County Democratic Committee, which received $753,600 in real estate donations in 2018 and 2019

Cea Weaver and the Nassau County Courthouse (Credit: Wikipedia)
Cea Weaver and the Nassau County Courthouse (Credit: Wikipedia)

The group that pushed hardest for the overhaul of New York’s rent laws that shocked landlords is now targeting six Democratic senators from Long Island for their ties to the real estate industry.

Tenant coalition Housing Justice For All released a report Thursday saying the senators have accepted $1.5 million in campaign contributions from real estate firms in 2018 and 2019, with a sharp increase in donations this year.

The report, prepared by coalition member New York Communities for Change, will be accompanied by a social-media campaign to highlight tenant stories in Long Island. The campaign does not have a budget, according to HJ4A coordinator and real estate industry antagonist Celia “Cea” Weaver.

As it happens, all six senators voted for the rent reform, which was made possible by their capturing Republican seats on Long Island. Through 2018 the Senate had been controlled by the GOP for almost all of the past 40 years, during which time the rent laws became more landlord-friendly.

But Weaver said there is a difference between “voting yes at the last minute, and being true partners on what your constituents are asking for.”

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“The Long Island tenant union is pissed, Hempstead tenants are pissed, Nassau County DSA is also pissed,” Weaver said, referring to the Democratic Socialists of America. “There are progressive people of color renters in Nassau County who the Long Island Six are just choosing to not represent even though those people elected them.”

The contributions catalogued in the report include donations from RXR Realty; Milton Cooper, co-founder and former chief executive of Kimco Realty Corp, a publicly-traded real estate investment trust; Daniel Tishman of Tishman Realty; Fred Wilpon’s Sterling Equities; the Rent Stabilization Association Political Action Committee; and the Real Estate Board of New York PAC.

Senator James Gaughran raised $262,450 from the real estate industry, Senator Todd Kaminsky $230,400, Senator Anna Kaplan $139,626, Senator Monica Martinez $92,725, Senator John Brooks $81,857, and Senator Kevin Thomas $22,346, according to public campaign finance data compiled by the report, which covers last year and half of this year.

But the bulk of the donations in the report went to the Nassau County Democratic Committee, which received $753,600 from real estate sources and is headed by Jay Jacobs. The committee, the report notes, has significant power in deciding who gets elected by providing financial resources to campaigns.

The lawmakers singled out by the tenant group are generally more politically moderate than their Democratic colleagues.

“Outside of NYC there is a lot of opposition,” Joe Strasburg told TRD in August. “In Upstate New York, Nassau County and Westchester? That’s going to need a long time of advocacy, it will take a lot of years.”