Real estate dominates spending on city lobbying 

Group opposing “good cause eviction” doled out $1.1M

Big Spenders: Real Estate Tops City Lobbying List

From left: Steven Roth, Steve Cohen and George Fontas (Getty)

Real estate groups spent heavily again last year on lobbying, in particular to stop good cause eviction.

Homeowners for an Affordable New York paid Fontas Advisors $1.1 million to lobby against the controversial legislation, making the industry-backed group the city’s top individual spender of 2023, according to the City Clerk’s annual lobbying report. 

At the city level, the group listed the mayor’s office as its lobbying target, but the $1.1 million reflects the full value of Fontas’ contract for both state and city lobbying, records show. (The extent of overlap between spending on state- and city-level lobbying for entities in the report was not immediately clear.)

Mayor Eric Adams has no official say in the legislation, but has called for Albany to approve a comprehensive housing package. He told Crain’s in December that he would support a deal that included a 421a replacement and good cause eviction. He has since walked that back, saying he supports some form of tenant protections as part of a broader package.

The legislature’s stalled good cause bill would allow tenants to challenge evictions resulting from rent increases of 3 percent or 1.5 times the regional inflation rate, whichever is greater. Homeowners for an Affordable New York, which includes the Real Estate Board of New York, the Rent Stabilization Association, the Community Housing Improvement Program and others, spent $1.4 million opposing the bill in 2022, according to a state lobbying report.

A spokesperson for the group indicated that most of the group’s budget was spent on “educating New Yorkers about the unintended consequences” of good cause eviction.

As in previous years, real estate interests easily led the way in hiring lobbyists, according to the report. Thirty-two percent of clients that registered in 2023 listed real estate as their primary industry.

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Companies vying for three casino licenses downstate were among the year’s biggest spenders on lobbying.

Entities tied to Mets owner Steve Cohen, who has pitched an $8 billion casino next to Citi Field in Flushing, Queens, spent more than $2 million. New Green Willets LLC, spent $946,809. Queens Future, another Cohen entity, shelled out another $450,500 on lobbying, according to city records. Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment, which is partnering with Cohen on the casino bid, laid out $660,000.

CFG Stadium Group, which hopes to build a soccer stadium for the New York City Football Club in Willets Point, spent $540,000.

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Madison Square Garden spent nearly $600,000 on lobbying, largely for a permanent extension of its special permit. But the City Council extended the arena’s permit by only five years in September.

Vornado Realty Trust paid lobbyists $544,557 to focus on various topics, including the production studio planned for Pier 94, zoning changes to expand the Otis Elevator Building at 260 11th Avenue and redevelopment of the Penn District.

The Real Estate Board of New York was the second highest spender among entities whose employees lobby directly on behalf of their employer. In this capacity, REBNY spent $230,560.

Filings with the city indicate that REBNY lobbied City Council members, the Department of City Planning, the Department of Buildings and the mayor on various topics, including office-to-residential conversions, extending the property tax break 421a and lifting the floor area ratio on residential space.