The Daily Dirt: Real estate pours cash into Hudson Valley politics

Industry taking active role in Assembly District 103 race

Real Estate Weighs in on Hudson Valley Assembly Race
Assembly member Sarahana Shrestha and Gabi Madden (NY Assemnly, Gabi Madden)

The real estate industry is very focused on a Hudson Valley race.

As I noted in a previous newsletter, several big names in the industry have backed Gabi Madden in her bid to unseat Assembly member Sarahana Shrestha, who represents Ulster County. 

An independent expenditure committee called Hudson Valley Voters has spent more than $100,000 on ads supporting Madden. The entity is tied to George Fontas, whose firm spearheaded Homeowners for an Affordable New York’s campaign against good cause eviction.

The Rent Stabilization Association’s political action committee contributed $40,000 to Hudson Valley Voters, records show. Local property owners and real estate groups also contributed.

If you are like me, you saw this and initially thought: George Fontas? RSA? This must be about Kingston and other cities potentially opting into good cause eviction. Shrestha, who is endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, pushed for stronger tenant protections and voted against the broader housing deal because she thought it did not do enough for renters.

Madden has criticized Shrestha for her “no” vote, and the challenger’s campaign website indicates that she would push for stronger tenant protections. In an emailed statement, Madden said she does not have insight into why those committees — which cannot coordinate with candidates — support her.

“If I had to guess, it is because housing is one of my top priorities,” Madden said. “My opponent also has a habit of conflating landlords, developers, realtors and labeling them all as bad actors.”

A spokesperson for Madden indicated that she is largely supportive of good cause, but noted that Hudson Valley’s housing dynamics are different from New York City’s and that there are “inherent constitutional issues surrounding basic contract law.”

Meanwhile, the pro-development, pro–“good cause” group Open New York has endorsed Shrestha, who backed one of the group’s top priorities, the Faith-Based Affordable Housing Act. The group was also critical of the final housing deal, which did not include that bill.

The Assembly member said then, “The status quo has failed in delivering stable homes as a basic need to New Yorkers. We must strive to have an abundance of quality homes where people can put down their roots and live without the fear of uncertainty.”

Rich Lanzarone, executive director of the Hudson Valley Property Owners Association, who contributed to the committee backing Madden, pointed to local concerns and the DSA’s housing platform as the reasons.

“Having such a platform doesn’t really make you a great friend of the real estate industry,” he said.

But good cause is not the full story here. The war in Gaza has played a role in this and other state races.

Shrestha co-sponsored a measure that would deny funding to nonprofits that help Israeli settlements. The measure was a subject of contention during a debate between Shrestha and Madden, City & State reports.

Several other developers, including SL Green’s Marc Holliday, Frederick Elghanayan, Rudin Management and Two Trees Management’s Jed Walentas (who chairs the Real Estate Board of New York) have also donated to Madden’s campaign, as has another real estate-linked independent expenditure, New York Women Lead.

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Members of the Durst and the Elghanayan families, as well as SL Green, Walentas and Rudin gave to that group, which backed Assembly member Stefani Zinerman, who is being challenged by DSA-backed Eon Huntley.

Developer Hal Fetner is among a number of real estate professionals who have donated to the   pro-Israel political action committee Solidarity PAC, which has backed Zinerman, as well as Assembly member Michael Benedetto, who is also up against a DSA-backed challenger.

“My support for Stefani Zinerman, Michael Benedetto, and the Solidarity PAC has nothing to do with real estate or even the affordable housing I have created, and has everything to do with my values, who I am, and my Jewish identity,” Fetner said.

What we’re thinking about: Will the National Association of Realtors settlement lead to fewer agents using their local multiple listings service? Will this cause for-sale listings to start disappearing? Send a note to

A thing we’ve learned: The Real Estate Board of New York has taken up Council member Chi Ossé’s challenge to point out where in a TikTok video he said residential rental brokers simply unlock an apartment. The trade group posted a video combining the TikTok with a tense moment during last week’s City Council hearing on Ossé’s broker fee bill.

At the hearing, Ossé says: “I never said that all brokers do is open doors. I don’t remember saying that, but if you want to uplift it for me, at some point, that would be great.”

In the TikTok, he says: “Thousands of dollars to someone who just opened a door to a place you found online.” REBNY’s video then cuts to the Council member saying “I never said that.”

“We are happy to provide receipts,” a REBNY spokesperson said, “just like the Council member asked.”

Ossé has said he opposes “forced broker fees” but has hired a broker himself and seen the value in doing so.

Elsewhere in New York…

— The state has tapped Conifer Realty to redevelop a closed maximum-security prison in Fishkill into as many as 1,300 units of housing, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Friday. The number of affordable units at the former Downstate Correctional Facility will be determined once the project has secured the necessary approvals.

— The City Council is considering a package of bills that would hold delivery apps responsible for their workers’ traffic violations and the safety of their vehicles, Gothamist reports. Other bills would regulate tips and pay rates for delivery workers.

Closing Time

Residential: The priciest residential sale Friday was a condo duplex at Central Park Tower for $117.4 million. The unit, located at 217 West 57th Street, is 12,500 square feet and has seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms. It is among the five most expensive home sales in Manhattan history. Corcoran Sunshine had the listing. The Eklund-Gomes Team’s Kent Wu, John Gomes and Frederik Eklund represented the buyer.

Commercial: The largest commercial sale of the day was 85 East End Avenue for $75 million. The 15-story apartment building is on the Upper East Side. Developer Hal Fetner bought the property from BlackRock Realty.

New to the Market: The highest price for a residential property hitting the market Friday was $32 million for a West Village condo at 140 West 12th Street spanning 4,000 square feet. The Corcoran Group’s Richard Ziegelasch has the listing. — Joseph Jungermann

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