The Daily Dirt: Mayoral candidates say the darndest things

An analysis of New York's top real estate news

If you want to be mayor, you should probably know how much housing costs in the city.

As part of its endorsement interviews, the New York Times asked candidates to guess the median cost of a home in Brooklyn. Two of the candidates really botched their answers: Shaun Donovan, who has campaigned on the fact that he is the only candidate with extensive experience in implementing ambitious housing policy, said $100,000. Ray McGuire, a seasoned businessman, guessed somewhere between $80,000 and $90,000. Yikes.

Douglas Elliman’s latest market report, released in April, found that the median home price in the borough was $900,000 during the first quarter of this year, which represented a 12 percent year-over-year increase. Of course, a candidate answering this question off the cuff may think of a different metric (Zillow, using its own pricing index, pegs the price for a “typical” home in the borough at $651,786) or not have Jonathan Miller on speed dial. So some discrepancy in the responses seems reasonable or at least understandable, even if off by a few hundred thousand dollars.

But $100,000? $90,000? There are no listings on StreetEasy in that price range. According to Curbed, only seven listings in that price range pop up for the entire city. In Brooklyn, the only result — pushing at the farthest limits of that range — is a parking spot.

Donovan subsequently walked back his response, saying he misunderstood the question and instead provided a figure representing assessed value (and as CityLab pointed out today, a home that sells for $900,000 could very well be valued at around $100,000, given how the city’s property tax system works). McGuire acknowledged that he “messed up” and emphasized that he “cares deeply” about the city’s affordable housing crisis.

“I know what it’s like not being able to afford a home because it was my own experience,” he told the Times.

Both Donovan and McGuire have housing plans that recognize the need to address one of the most significant barriers standing in the way of homeownership: the city’s widening racial wealth gap. They both propose expanding down payment assistance and support equity loan/bond programs.

But this is a competitive election, and one dumb answer to the newspaper of record has already gotten a lot of mileage on social media and other news outlets. In fact, this may be the most attention either of the candidates has gotten this entire race. And fair or not, those who aren’t closely following the race aren’t likely to sit down and comb through Donovan and McGuire’s respective campaign websites to understand the nuances of their housing plans — but they may remember a funny GIF comparing their gaffes to Lucille Bluth from “Arrested Development.”

What we’re thinking about: What questions would you like the mayoral candidates to be asked during tomorrow’s debate? Send a note to

A thing we’ve learned…

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532 East 54th sort of looks like a baby 432 Park Avenue? The 40-story residential tower has a similar boxy-look to the ultra-luxury condo building.


Residential: The priciest residential closing recorded Wednesday was $7.1 million for a condo at 565 Broome Street in Soho.

Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was $19.4 million for an apartment building at 325 East 12th Street in the East Village.


The priciest residence to hit the market was a townhouse at 9 East 88th Street in Carnegie Hill at $38 million. Sotheby’s has the listing.
— Research by Orion Jones

Elsewhere in New York

— The City Council on Thursday will vote on a measure that would restrict the use of single-use plastic straws. The bill would bar food service establishments from providing such straws to customers who do not specifically ask for one. “Plastic waste is gravely polluting our oceans and waterways, threatening the health of wildlife and humans alike. This includes millions upon millions of straws, and limiting their use is a simple but very important step,” Council member Helen Rosenthal, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement. “At the same time, it is absolutely fundamental that we protect the civil rights and independence of our disability community.”

— With six weeks to the mayoral primary, Maya Wiley has launched her first television ad, Politico New York reports. “As mayor I’ll work my tail off to save a generation of kids from the trauma of crime and injustice, transform the police and rebuild our economy for all New Yorkers,” she says in the ad.

— A poll by Gothamist, using books selected by the New York Public Library, found that “The Catcher in the Rye” is considered, among respondents, to be the best book about New York. I’d like some other options. What are your favorites (aside from “The Power Broker”)?