Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Councilmember Brad Lander’s Damning Developer Donations - Who’s He Trying To Kid?


Councilmember Brad Lander, whose 39th district includes Gowanus, is currently running for New York City Comptroller. On his campaign website he announces that he is not taking money from corporate PACs or lobbyists, or from for-profit real estate developers or landlords.

Perhaps Lander is under the gun to keep promises made to developers in exchange for donations before his current term ends in December 2021.

Voice Of Gowanus, a coalition of neighborhood residents and community organizations took a a hard look at Lander's 2017 campaign contributions. Take a look at their amazingly well researched report. What VoG found may make Lander's constituents wonder whose interest Brad Lander is serving.

Lander’s Damning Developer Donations - 
Who’s he trying to kid?

Sometimes, you just have to look at the numbers to understand Brad Lander.

Twenty-one maximum campaign donations from executives at the Related Companies. Six max donations from Two Trees Management (including family members). Five max donations from Silverstein properties (including family members). Two max donations from Abra Construction. Two from Forest City Ratner Companies. BerlinRosen. Capalino and Company.

These are just the most notable developer and lobbyist donations that our District 39 Councilmember Lander received during the 2017 donation cycle, according to an analysis done by the community group Voice of Gowanus based on data retrieved from the New York City Campaign Finance Board.

In total, over $130,000 of Councilmember Lander’s donations in the 2017 cycle came from real estate developers, real estate consultants, real estate lawyers, real estate agents, and architects. This number represents nearly one third of his total funding which came in at just over $400K.

Lander’s acceptance of bundled cash from developers, their family members and their consultants raises serious concerns about his motivations for advancing an immense rezone plan in his Gowanus district.

In particular, it casts a harsh light on his urgency to get this very costly rezone certified before his term is up, despite the deep cuts in NYC’s and NY State’s budgets and the fact that new developments built under his plan will contribute no property taxes for at least 25 years.

For his 2021 Comptroller campaign, Lander has sworn off donations from “corporate PACs or lobbyists, or from for-profit real estate developers or landlords” However, will Lander forget the folks who got him to this point? And while he’s recently refunded donations from a few real estate and developer companies who contributed to his 2021 campaign early on, would he be so successful at fundraising if it were not for these early investments in his campaign?

2017 Developer Donors

In 2017, the largest number of donations came from The Related Companies, the developer of Hudson Yards. Twenty-one executives at Related, including Vice Chairman Bruce Warwick, contributed a total $6,250. Since Related does work directly with the city, each executive donated the maximum amount allowable, $250 rather than the unaffiliated maximum of $2,750. These donations were bundled by Jay Kriegel, who has since deceased but was a Senior Advisor to Related and was instrumental in getting Hudson Yards completed. Kriegel was such a central figure in real estate development over the past several decades, he was awarded a posthumously honored with a public service award by Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) at it’s 124th annual gala. A recent analysis of Hudson Yards (“Hudson Yards: Another Crisis, Another Bill?”) highlighted the looming disaster the development presents to the city.

*move arrow left and right, up and down.

The second name that comes up most often is Two Trees Management, the developer that transformed DUMBO and built the controversial Domino Sugar project. Two Trees contributed a total of $7,750. Donors include founder David Walentas, CEO Jed Walentas (son of David), Director of Special Projects David Lombino, and project manager Bonnie Cambell. Each donated their maximum of $250. However, David’s wife and Jed’s mother, artist Jane Walentas, contributed a total of $3,000 ($250 in 2014 and $2,750 in 2016) while Jed’s wife, Kate Engelbrecht, contributed her maximum of $2,750. Two Trees owns the Lowe’s/Pathmark site along the Gowanus Canal - which has not yet been zoned for residential.

The third most common developer in Lander’s donor’s list is the Silverstein Properties which contributed a total of $5,500. Donors include Executive Vice President Roger Silverstein, founder Larry Silverstein’s son, President Tal Kerret, and Klara Silverstein, the elder Silverstein’s wife. John “Janno” Lieber, currently the Chief Development Officer of the MTA, contributed $250 while he was President of WTC Properties, a Silverstein company. Amy Glosser, Lieber’s wife, contributed a total of $2,000.

William Caleo, founder of The Brooklyn Company, is a developer specializing in boutique luxury condominiums and contributed $2,750. Caleo also hosted the Gowanus Conservancy Spring 2019 Gala along with Marcos Diaz Gonzalez, Senior Vice President of AECOM, one of the world’s largest infrastructure engineering firms with $18B in revenue. Mr. Diaz Gonzalez contributed $200 to the Landers campaign in 2017. As we have shown here previously, the Conservancy has enjoyed privileged access to Gowanus rezoning decision making through its close relationship with Lander.

In addition to the listed above, major groups like Canal Development Partners, Excel Builders, Ascot Properties, Industry City, Ladder Capital Finance, The Mack Company, and Clipper Equity also contributed. The late John Zuccotti, founder of Brookfield Properties, contributed $1000. An executive from Federal Capital Partners, a developer based in Maryland, contributed $2,750.

The family members of two groups also contributed to Lander’s campaign, just as Two Trees and Silverstein had. Antonia Belt, the wife of DBI’s David Belt, and Ayala Barnett, wife of Extell’s John Barnett, both contributed the maximum of $2,750.

2017 Lobbyist Donations

Furthermore, Lander raised nearly $18,000 from public relations firms closely associated with developers interests. These groups often perform activities nearly indistinguishable from lobbying. In particular, he raised $8,650 from PR firms BerlinRosen (including from a managing director’s wife) and $2,700 from Capalina and Company.

BerlinRosen’s cofounder, Jonathan Rosen, has been referred to as “The Most Powerful Man in Politics – Outside City Hall” not just for his close associated with Mayor De Blasio but also for his close alliance with Two Trees Management.

Similarly, Capalino and Company has a reputation for being a bridge between its developer and politician clients. The firm most recently found itself the focus of Greenwich Village preservationists after Capalino and Company were retained by a real estate developer who sought to use the lobby firm’s connections with the De Blasio administration to accelerate a zoning change in the East Village.

The Raw Data
Take a look at the donations spreadsheet yourself. It’s hard to see how Brad Lander could forget his real estate developer pals as he continues to push for his sterile paradise of high rises of glass and steel in Gowanus, in a flood zone along a hurricane evacuation route, while sea levels rise:


Anonymous said...

Wow. The truth is finally coming out. Brad Lander needs to stop pushing his Gowanus rezone plan for luxury condo developers and start listening to his actual constituents. The community wants the sewage and flooding problems addressed! Not more dangerous construction in a flood zone.

Anonymous said...

Wow. He may be progressive on some issues. But not on this Gowanus rezoning stuff.

Anonymous said...

In Lander's run for comptroller, It's no big give for him to say that "He’s not taking money from corporate PACs or lobbyists, or from for-profit real estate developers or landlords." Real estate development is not under the purview of a Comptroller. But as this post shows, he DID take this money for his run for Council - and as council member he IS DOING THE DEVELOPERS' BIDDING and delivering to them - in the guise of that ruse called Bridging Gowanus. Bridging Gowanus was reverse engineering if ever there was a clear example of that. Start with the results you want and see how you can create a controlled engagement that ends up with those results.

Anonymous said...

Brad Lander is an embarrassment for the neighborhood. I’ve tried calling him and have written him numerous times. He hides from his constituents

Empty Brad Lander said...

Brad sure does hide from his Constituents! He has a way with empty words and vacant
promises to them as well. He is no kindly progressive but rather yet another wannabee power player. Brad is TONE DEAF when it comes to his constituents. In the Gowanus re-zoning he has not only been a science denier and blatant racist. His vision for the Gowanus Canal and Public Place also includes putting innocent and unknowing citizens directly in harm's way on well known and chemically contaminated sites to keep his greedy developer pals happy.

Developers will walk away with gobs of tax payer cash stuffed into their pockets from all the breaks they get to build from NYC. But woe to the consituents Brad was supposed to serve. They will be ultimately liable for Brad's blatant betrayal. They will foot the bill via HIGHER taxes and services, and all the invisible costs that run in the millions and miilions....

THIS is Brad Lander the supposed "progressive good guy". BARF. TWICE. He is morally EMPTY.

Anonymous said...

Lander has some progressive stances, but real estate development is where he - and many a NYC politician - fails to deliver for non-moneyed constituents.
Developing housing in a flood zone is foolish and irresponsible.
Does anyone know how Lander's real estate industry donations stack up against other city council members?

Anonymous said...

Brad Lander is a criminal taught by by his mentor DeBlasio. Brad Lander is corrupt as they come. Tammany Hall all over again, He loves these "community meetings" that his staff cleverly tries to steer to the luxury developers agenda. "Affordable housing" and 421a tax abatement is a scam to allow zoning variations to make the tallest building possible to sell to rich millennials. Save a place in jail for Brand Lander and DeBlasio

Mrs Sam said...

Greetings Katia,

“....he is not taking money from corporate PACs or lobbyists, or from for-profit real estate developers or landlords.”
Does this stop him from taking said funds from family members, associates or friends of the above?
Just wondering.

Katia said...

He seems to have done just that.

Anonymous said...

How can we trust Brad Lander to be NYC Comptroller? Where is his true moral compass? As councilmember he turned a deaf ear to his constituency, gave us a phoney "Bridging Gowanus" that does not represent what the Gowanus community wants or asked for. It just pushes what the Developers want, ignoring the environmental issue, toxicity, flood zone, hurricane evacuation route, Gowanus as an open sewer, and COVID. Lander says that if rezoning doesn't happen while he is council member, it may not happen. The Rezoning as currently proposed SHOULD NEVER happen. Lander, just give back all the monies you received from the developers and their families, and the lobbying firms with ties to developers. You should never have taken it in the first place for your 2017 run for council member.You know it's wrong becaise in your current campaign for Comptroller you pledge not to take developers' monies. If it is wrong now, it was wrong then!

Anonymous said...

He's a tool for real estate developers.
Developers get tax abatements and we local homeowners pick up the tab/taxes
Lander is always talking about how he engages with the local community but what he leaves out is his disregard for anything we say.
Same goes for Bill the Mayor.

Anonymous said...

Lander acknowledges ULURP is hypocrisy:

aiop said...

Not shocking but still disturbing.
Great research and presentation Katia!
Thanks so much!