Tenant activist nixed from City Planning Commission

Nomination of Cea Weaver was not welcomed by real estate industry

(Getty, iStock/Illustration by Alexis Manrodt for The Real Deal)
(Getty, iStock/Illustration by Alexis Manrodt for The Real Deal)

Real estate, take heart: Cea Weaver, longtime antagonist of the industry, will not be spouting socialism on a city salary.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams quietly withdrew Weaver’s nomination to the City Planning Commission a little more than a month after making it. It is unclear where exactly the opposition to Weaver’s appointment came from, but there is no shortage of suspects.

A spokesperson for Williams said Weaver requested her name be withdrawn. In a statement, Williams called Weaver an “extraordinary advocate” and “brilliant organizer,” and said withdrawing her name from consideration was a “loss for all New Yorkers.”

Read more

Advocates for the real estate industry would most certainly disagree with that characterization. Weaver has long been a thorn in the side of real estate interests. Granting her a perch on the commission would provide a major platform for her ideas, which include canceling rent, waging rent strikes and banning evictions forever.

Some City Council members might also have objected to Weaver’s nomination.

Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo, who represents Crown Heights, clashed with the socialist tenant organizer over the development of the Bedford Union Armory. The City Council eventually sided with Cumbo and approved the project, despite Weaver’s efforts. A project opponent later ran a spirited race against Cumbo but lost.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Relations between the two have not improved since. Last year, Cumbo staged a counter-protest of a candidate backed by the Democratic Socialists of America. The candidate, state Sen. Jabari Brisport, won easily, and in January 2021 was appointed to the Senate housing committee.

City Planning Commission appointments require confirmation by a majority vote of the City Council. If Cumbo opposed Weaver’s nomination, it’s likely her opinion would have mattered.

The Council member also has strong personal ties to Williams. Cumbo, who went to high school with the future public advocate, defended him in 2019 when law enforcement sources leaked a sealed 2009 arrest report to the media days before the election for that post.

Nominees sometimes withdraw in order to protect the nominator from political repercussions. Weaver said she was “annoyed” by opposition to her nomination, ultimately resulting in its withdrawal. “My opponents organized,” said Weaver, who did not name them.

Although Weaver will not ascend to the part-time position, which pays $65,000 a year, Williams said that he will continue working with her “on many shared projects and in many shared fights.”

His statement suggests that although Weaver will not have a five-year appointment to the commission, she will continue to influence public policy in her current role as coordinator of the statewide tenant group Housing Justice for All.

The Planning Commission is essentially controlled by the mayor, who makes seven of the 13 appointments. It plays an important role in land-use applications such as the one for the Crown Heights armory project by Donald Capoccia’s BFC Partners.

The seat that Williams is tasked with filling became vacant when Michelle R. de la Uz resigned Jan. 20.