AOC, Michael Gianaris, Jessica Ramos, Zellnor Myrie and others broke their vows not to accept money from property interests – Crain’s New York…

Posted By on February 27, 2020

State Sen. Michael Gianarisof Queens

Once an ally of the real estatefriendly Queens Democraticorganization, Gianarisshifted to theleft two years ago, after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez deposed then-boss Joseph Crowley from his House seat. The progressive pivot found Gianarissuccessfully battling to keep a new Amazon HQ out of his district, and promising in November 2018 to stop accepting campaign cash from the property sector. Activist group New York Communities for Changetold Crain'sit counts him among the signatories to their pledge to refuse money from corporatepolitical action committees, particularly those linked to property interests, as well as from for-profit developers and from owners of more than six units of residential housing.

Nonetheless, campaign finance records show that last month Gianaris took in $10,000 from theOpportunity Ed PAC, an affiliate of the Sephardic Community Federation, which represents one of the most influential business-owning blocs in the city. The PAC's coffers are flush with money from companies and individuals in real estate, including developer Jack Cayre, the Hidary family of Hidrock Properties and real estate investment firm MCM Equities.

The senator's most recent filing also shows a$5,000gift from Property Tax Fairness. The PACgets its money from the city's top real estate tax law firms includingMarcus & Pollack; Tuchman, Korngold, Weiss, Liebman & Gelles; Podell, Schwartz, Schechter & Banfield;and Ditchik & Ditchik.

Also, Gianaris received$1,000 in December from Jacob Entel, director of residential properties for the Moinian Group.

The campaign toldCrain'she would return the money from Entel, whom he claimedmisleadingly indicated on his donation form that he worked for a tire manufacturer. But the senator's team maintained he would not do the same with the donations from the two PACs, which they maintained were not strictly real estate PACs and advocated for issues unrelated to development.

State Sen. Jessica Ramos of Queens

During Ramos'successful 2018 campaign, shemade a point of giving away $14,000 she received from the Heskel Group, which is behind a controversial development in her district. She also signed on to the NYCC pledge to reject real estatedonations.

But she hasn't kept the faith. Last yearshe took$2,000from theProperty Tax Fairness PACand$500from theOpportunity Ed PAC, plus$500from the industry-backedRealtors PAC of New York. Shortly after winning her race in 2018, she took two donations totaling $1,000from thePartnership for New York City, a PAC thatreceives its funding from some of the city's biggest realestate namesamong them,Rudin Management, theDurst Organization,Silverstein Properties andSL Green.

Also in late 2018, Ramos received$1,000from theRenew New York PAC, a historically GOP-aligned entity run by former U.S. Sen.Alphonse D'Amato. The committee has gotten donations from billionaireJohn Catsimatidis,Forest City Ratner'sBruce Ratnerand D'Amato's firm,Alda Real Estate Holdings.

A review of Ramos'campaign filings indicates strong support for her rookie run amongher borough's Greek-American community, which includes numerous individuals in property development and management. They include construction and film kingpinJohn Kalafatis, who gave Ramos$7,000in 2018. Real estate attorneyTaso Pardalisdonated$2,000, whileAnthony Roussosbusiness partner to developer John Sismanogloudonated$1,000. A$1,500 donationcame fromGeorge Kalergios, who ownsTres Constructionand appears to be behind an upscale condodevelopment at31-18 24th Ave., based on corporate and permit records.Georgia Kaporis, a team leader atDouglas Elliman, donated$650.Ted Kouris, founder of the Metropolis International Realtybrokerage, gave$1,000.

Other real estate contributions to Ramos' 2018 run were$1,000fromLinda Marcus, wife of retiredEdison Properties CEO Steven Nislick, and$1,000fromTarek AlamofTasa Realty.

Members of Ramos' camp toldCrain'sthey would review their donor record and refund those donations they deem out of compliance with her promises.

"Jessica took signing the real estate pledge very seriouslyand is committed to not accepting real estate contributions," the campaign said in a statement. "Thats why we will be looking into these contributions immediately, and will return any money that violates this pledge."

State Sen. Zellnor Myrie of Brooklyn

Myrie gave a "resounding no"when askedat a July 2018 candidate forum whether he intended to take money from real estate developers. But that was a promise he had already broken, and would break again, despite his signing on to the NYCC pledge.

At the time of the candidate forum, Myrie had already accepted a$1,500contribution fromGideon Friedman, CEO ofBeachwoldResidential,and the son ofWilliam Friedman, CEO of Beachwold's parent company,Tarragon Corp.,andhimself once a major developer.

The younger Friedman gaveMyrie $10,000more,split between two gifts in 2018 and 2019.

InJanuary 2018 Myriereceived a $1,500in-kind donation of event space from theWilliamsburg Hotel, which belongs toHeritage Equity Partners, a developer of luxury residential and commercial space. Further, in the first half of the year, Myriegot$400in three contributions fromCraig Stern, an executive vice president atVornado Realty Trust.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

New York's left-wing turnand the swelling crescendo of anti-developer sentimentowes more to Ocasio-Cortez, the self-identified democratic socialist representing the East Bronx and Western Queens, than anyone. In 2018she relentlessly pilloried Crowley for his proximity to property interests, while claiming she herself would "not accept a dime from developers."

But a few contributions from the industry have found their way into her accounts. Her latest campaign filing shows a$500contribution fromAlexander Andrew, chief financial officer of Brooklyn Navy Yardbased developer Macro Sea, as well as an identical amount from Douglas Hercher, co-founder of real estate investment firm RobertDouglas. Among the few constituents of Ocasio-Cortez's 14thcongressional district to chip in to the campaign was Pete Korakis, a landlord in Astoria, who gave his representative $356 last year.

An Ocasio-Cortezspokesman vowed the campaignwouldreturn the donations from Andrew and Hercherthough not from Korakis, noting that heis not a developer.

Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou of Manhattan

Niou has signed the NYCC"no real estate" pledgebut has taken contributions from several property operators in her Lower Manhattan district. The latest filings show that inOctobershe received$500from Park-It Management's Gary Spindler, a garage developer. She also got $250 in thefall from OlympiaMoy, whose family owns at least five properties in Chinatown and on the Lower East Side. In 2017 Niou got$1,000from Gordon Lau, another major landlord in the area.

Niou's campaign toldCrain'sit has already returned the money from Spindlerand will refund the other contributions shortly.

NYCCExecutive Director Jonathan Westin encouraged other Democrats to follow Niou's example.

"We're glad that a growing number of Democrats, including those who helped pass stronger rent laws and tenant protections last year, have agreed to run their campaigns without donations from corporate landlords and real-estate developers," Westin said in a statement toCrain's. "We urge any candidate who has accepted real-estate-industry donations from landlords and developers to return them. It's entirely possible to run and win electoral campaigns powered by smaller donations from real voters and communities."

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AOC, Michael Gianaris, Jessica Ramos, Zellnor Myrie and others broke their vows not to accept money from property interests - Crain's New York...

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