The billionaires back Margaret Chin for City Council

BY SEAN SWEENEY   |  Voter beware!  In a move that surprised few, a consortium of real-estate developers, landlords, investment firms and bankers have endorsed Margaret Chin for City Council, pledging a share of its $10 million war chest to elect the embattled councilmember.

The Real Estate Board of New York, a.k.a. REBNY, a pro-real estate, pro-development, lobbying association of the city’s biggest real-estate developers, is spearheading a political action committee, or PAC, cynically named “Jobs For New York,” deceptively claiming it is seeking affordable housing and jobs for the middle class. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Although candidates for the City Council can generally spend only $168,000 on their campaigns under strict Campaign Finance Board regulations, recent rulings now permit private-expenditure groups to spend basically an unlimited amount of money to influence an election’s outcome.

The bulk of the $10 million that this new PAC is promising will go toward direct mail, TV and radio advertising. The group plans to spend $2 million on voter identification and field-targeting in 25 City Council races. The PAC also suggested that it would run negative campaign ads against Chin’s opponent, civil-rights attorney Jenifer Rajkumar.

Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause, a government watchdog group, indicated that the multimillion-dollar effort is a significant shift in city politics that might alter the nature of campaigning on the local level.

“The entire point of a City Council race is to reflect the needs of the neighborhoods in a district,” Lerner said. “This undercuts the neighborhood-based nature of a district and replaces neighborhood concerns with industry concerns.”

According to The New York Times, “the [Jobs For New York] PAC represents an aggressive new involvement in New York’s heavily regulated city elections by a major independent-expenditure group…to direct donations to back candidates in both parties who support pro-development policies.”

In a Times interview, REBNY’s president, Steven Spinola, called Mayor Bloomberg’s time in City Hall a “wonderful era” and said his organization’s PAC intends to support candidates who would advance a pro-jobs, pro-development agenda similar to Bloomberg’s.

Crain’s New York Business reported: “The group hopes to elect a bloc of councilmembers that would make it more difficult for the Council to override vetoes by a business-friendly mayor. … The PAC intends to focus on councilmembers, who tend to have great sway over development in their districts. Ironically, however, the group will advocate for members to play a lesser role in supervising development.”

The PAC has hired the powerful P.R. firm the Parkside Group to run its campaign to elect Chin. Parkside describes itself as providing “campaign management…strategic communications and public affairs…for major real estate firms.” Parkside’s president has said, in describing the real-estate industry’s new PAC, “We are…supporting candidates who we think are most likely to support the issues that are important to us.”

REBNY confirms it in Crain’s: “We’re going to run an aggressive field-effort to communicate with voters and promote candidates.”

However, REBNY / Jobs For N.Y. know full well the public’s aversion to pro-real estate candidates running for office.

Crain’s quotes a source close to the PAC: “The perception that some people have, historically when some of these endeavors are attempted, it’s like, ‘Oh, the business group is going to run the Chamber of Commerce guy,’ ” said one source. “Well, the Chamber of Commerce guy is probably not going to win. There are three to four legitimate candidates. Let’s see who’s closest to the issues the organization cares about.”

With REBNY’s endorsement and money, Margaret Chin is clearly the candidate closest to the issues the real-estate industry cares about.

Bill O’Reilly, a Republican strategist who is not involved in the PAC, said he was impressed with Jobs For New York from the outset, and hoped it has learned lessons from past efforts to sway elections.

“It’s smart what they’re doing, because there’s a very good chance we could have a mayor who is to the very, very far left… . I think the industry needs to protect itself. And the one place they could do that would be to have some voices in the City Council.”

In case there is any doubt of the group’s agenda, REBNY’s Web site states the organization’s goals. These include:

Fighting to oppose legislation on paid sick leave, prevailing wage and minimum wage;

Opposing legislation that would limit commercial rent increases, a move that hurts independent retailers and mom-and-pop stores;

Lobbying for government tax subsidies for the real-estate industry (while doing its best to remove rent subsidies for the middle class and the poor);

Repealing President Obama’s healthcare reform;

Seeking the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts;

Opposing landmarking laws, claiming that historic preservation hurts economic growth (Tell that to Tribeca, Soho and Village residents);

And, last but not least, supporting moderate Republicans.

REBNY’s board of governors include, among scores of multimillionaire developers:

Larry Gluck, who purchased Independence Plaza in Tribeca and removed it from Mitchell-Lama rent protection, dispossessing hundreds of people;

Jerry Speyer of Tishman Speyer, who tried Gluck’s scheme at Stuyvesant Town / Cooper Village;

Richard LeFrak, who has expressed his desire to remove all rent protection for his tenants in Gateway Plaza in Battery Park City;

Bill Rudin, who bought St. Vincent’s Hospital and is turning it into luxury apartments;

Mary Ann Tighe, REBNY chairperson, who now works for the Howard Hughes Corporation, the company to whom Margaret Chin handed over the South Street Seaport and the Fulton Fish Market for high-rise luxury development;

Jared Kushner, the East Village’s biggest landlord and Donald Trump’s son-in-law;

Jeff Gural of Newmark Realty, the folks behind the Soho Business Improvement District, Chin’s pet project;

Two of the group’s other governors, Larry Silverstein, the World Trade Center developer, and Dan Tisch, another major construction honcho, as well as Bill Rudin, are all N.Y.U. trustees — who are showing their thanks now to Chin for her obeisance to New York University’s massive expansion

Regarding the university’s 2031 expansion scheme, REBNY has the temerity to proclaim, “REBNY applauds N.Y.U. for creating a plan that allows for growth on its own property while maintaining the neighborhood character of Greenwich Village. The Real Estate Board commends Margaret Chin, who was instrumental in getting the plan approved.” Italics added.

Since July 1, voters in Chin’s district have been bombarded almost daily with campaign mailings that spuriously trumpet her work for affordable housing and the middle class, never revealing the hidden agenda behind the real-estate giants’ largesse or the industry’s concerted effort in making Manhattan unaffordable for the middle class.

Chin disingenuously claims she has nothing to do with Jobs For New York. However, she could easily denounce the PAC, as so many others have done, could stop posing for its campaign photographs, and could insist REBNY stop its deceptive mailing blitz.

She hasn’t.

The Democratic primary is six weeks away. The voters will then decide whether Abraham Lincoln’s maxim is correct: You cannot fool all the people all the time.

Sweeney is a member of the Downtown Independent Democrats club, which has endorsed Jenifer Rajkumar over incumbent Margaret Chin for election in Council District 1. He is also a member of Community Board 2.

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15 Responses to The billionaires back Margaret Chin for City Council

  1. If Chin does not demand that Jobs for New York stop spending in this City Council race, she is confirming for all that she's good to be bought and she is THE CANDIDATE of Big Real Estate. I'm sick of this.

    • downtowner who knows

      All this outrage overlooks the FACTS: Councilmember Chin is also endorsed by the Working Families Party, an arch foe of REBNY and the PAC they created. She overwhelmingly supported and worked for the living wage bill and worked to get it PASSED. She recently was endorsed by MBP candidate Julie Menin, also a foe of NYU plans, FACTS Mr. Sweeney fails to mention. Of course, as a supporter of Ms. Rajkumar, who has never passed a single bill or spent a single moment in public office doing any public good, he would love to silence any free press that is favorable to his opponent, regardless the source. By the way, in the mailings, Obamacare, Gluck etc were never mentioned. Nor the fact that Margaret worked tirelessly for years to help fight the eviction of IPN tenants while (and I was there) Ms Rajkumar wasn't even living in NYC.

      • FACT:
        Chin endorsed by Working Families Party?! No surprise there.
        Like Chin, WFP is a joke, an opportunistic minority that is lucky if it gets 3% of the ballot and has been scorned by Democrats and investigated for financial irregularities, including the Data and Field Services scandal, to name just one. WFP goes where the money goes. So does Chin. Birds of a feather.

        FACT: Chin got the living-wage bill passed? Are you out of your mind?
        Chin hasn't gotten a single piece of legislation passed! The council passed the bill; Chin just went along, as usual.
        Her only piece of legislation that got any notoriety was her ridiculous proposal of arresting tourists on Canal Street, an idea ridiculed by just about everyone from editorial boards to the mayor to her own council colleagues.

        FACT: "She recently was endorsed by MBP candidate Julie Menin"
        Clearly, you have no idea what you are talking about!
        Menin has NOT endorsed Chin. It's the other way around: Chin has endorsed Menin, in a desperate attempt to salvage her faltering campaign, riding on Menin's popular coattails. Get your facts straight, before you further shill for Chin.

        FACT:
        "Margaret worked tirelessly for years to help fight the eviction of IPN tenants" That's nonsense.
        IPN tenants were fighting for years under Councilmembers Freed and Gerson to save their tenancy. Then the struggle went to court by the time Chin came into office. The tenants unfortunately did not prevail in court. All Chin did was pose for a photo-op during a press conference regarding the court case, and Chin did NOTHING to alleviate the evictions and the suffering that resulted.
        As a reward for her subservience, REBNY governors, including IPN landlord responsible for the evictions, Larry Gluck, have endorsed Chin

        FACT:
        TenantsPAC, the city-wide organization for tenants' rights, unlike the sell-outs at WFP, this week refused to endorse Chin, condemning her closeness to big real-estate and greedy landlords. Read here: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20130729/BLO

        FACT:
        The only thing Chin did for TriBeCa was hand out $5000 in Council discretionary funds to a CERT team, controlled by a local Democratic Party functionary, who has since repaid the handout by endorsing Chin. What has the CERT done for downtown with the taxpayers' money? Buy walkie-talkies and cute uniforms, and then take the money and run to Brooklyn when Hurricane Sandy hit, leaving TriBeCans to fend for themselves. Not unlike Chin.

        Now those are the Facts!

  2. Anyone who's been paying attention for the last 4 years should not be surprised that Big Real Estate is putting its dollars behind formerly comrade Chin.

  3. Jane Starvich

    Fighting to oppose legislation on paid sick leave, prevailing wage and minimum wage;

    Opposing legislation that would limit commercial rent increases, a move that hurts independent retailers and mom-and-pop stores;

    Lobbying for government tax subsidies for the real-estate industry (while doing its best to remove rent subsidies for the middle class and the poor);

    Repealing President Obama’s healthcare reform;

    Seeking the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts;

    Opposing landmarking laws, claiming that historic preservation hurts economic growth (Tell that to Tribeca, Soho and Village residents);

    ______________________________________________________________________

    For a member of the Progressive Caucus? C'mon Margaret. I still remember when you had a backbone. You must remember too.

  4. Elect Jenifer

    This is outrageous. All the landlords that screwed downtown are backing Chin. We must get rid of Chin, who has turned out to be a corrupt machine hack, and elect her opponent, Jenifer Rajkumar, who seems like a strong, fresh, energetic voice for our community.

  5. On the contrary, Mr. Shields, you should be ashamed of yourself for apologizing for unscrupulous developers.

    Good job exposing this sorry excuse of a first”Chinese” female councilman who has done so much to screw over folks in Chinatown.

  6. Are disputing the facts ? or venting.

  7. Judith Chazen Walsh

    No problem Chin and Quinn did us in Rajkumar will raise the bar
    Jenifer Rajkumar hears us, meets with us, listens to what our community needs and is our choice
    You had a chance Margaret Chin – you abused it big time

  8. Now I know that I'm against Chin! Patrick, go back to your soccer stadium.

  9. If you have any doubt that Margaret Chin is bad for the voters in District 1, then just google "135 Bowery". It's just one example of how she has damaged this neighborhood, but she's been on the wrong side of so many issues. Probably a nice woman, but she does not deserve to be re-elected. Please, don't just vote for Jenifer Rajkumar, but also ask your neighbors to.

  10. Carl Rosenstein

    RESB backing should come as no surprise looking at Chin's disgraceful record supporting NYU, supporting the SoHo BID, the Chinatown BID (opposed by a majority of Chinatown merchants and property owners), destroying landmarked 135 Bowery for a mainland Chinese Bank, FAIB (the Villager has yet to ask what that was about and how does the Chinese Communist Party have such influence in District 1-yes I am red baiting. Chin was an active member in the Communist Workers Party in the 1980s. CWP was a violent anti white hate group-you can look it up.)
    Anyone who makes an assumption that a candidate is liberal because they are female or non white has been asleep for decades. 5-1 The Villager endorses her-again.

  11. Not surprised.

    Margaret Chin's destructive anti-community record says it all.

    Perhaps Christine Quinn's campaign contributions should be investigated, too.

  12. Let's not forget it was Margaret Chin who got NYU 2031 past the City Council.

    • Yes, Chin devastated the village with NYU 2031 and then did the same thing with the South Street Seaport. Her give aways to the billionaires probably runs even deeper if we look at her record…

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