Weiner-de Blasio Bromance Blossoms in Final Debate

Besides the shocking revelation that not a single Democratic candidate for mayor composts (for shame!) there was very little new ground broken during Tuesday night’s mayoral debate, the last before the primary on September 10. If anything, the debate reflected the latest poll showing Bill de Blasio with a commanding lead over his nearest challengers, Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson.

Quinn and Thompson gunned hard for de Blasio–no surprise there–though, weirdly, instead of de Blasio himself, it was Anthony Weiner, polling at an anemic 7 percent, who emerged as the fiercest defender of de Blasio’s record.

First, Quinn criticized de Blasio for accepting campaign contributions from landlords on the Public Advocate’s “Worst Landlords” list. “It’s Bill talking out of both sides of his mouth,” she said. “Making a list that’s supposed to help tenants, but really it ended up becoming a campaign fundraising list.”

Weiner wouldn’t stand for that. “No one’s fought harder to stand up to slumlords than Bill has. That’s not a good issue to hit him on,” he said. “Accusing him of being a defender of slumlords is pretty ridiculous.”

Instead, he said, it was Quinn’s work to ensure Bloomberg’s third term “that’s the real crime.”

When the other candidates attacked de Blasio over his Pre-K plan, Weiner asked sagely, “Is there anyone on the stage who hasn’t proposed stuff that Albany’s gonna have to help with?”

And when de Blasio came under fire, characterized by his opponents as a flip-flopper, it was Weiner who said while a person might change his mind or change opinion, “you don’t change your values.”

What the hell is going on? folks at home wondered.

Weiner’s performance was enough to remind voters that, for all his failings (and there are so, so many), but he remains a natural politician with a strong command of the issues. There is a reason why in a simpler, pre-Carlos Danger era, he was poised to win this race.

The rise of de Blasio, the fall of Carlos Danger
The rise of de Blasio, the fall of Carlos Danger

It was also a reminder that the primary is less than a week away, and Weiner has never had a job outside of politics. What happens to him when the race ends? Could he get a cable news gig, like Eliot Spitzer? Or angle for a teaching post at CUNY, like David Petraeus?

Maybe Weiner could he convince whoever is elected that he is a strong enough ally to deserve some kind of cabinet post. Maybe that’s what was he was imagining when he helped de Blasio fend off attacks Tuesday night.


Although, to be fair, he did defend John Liu at least once, too, and that guy has an even worse shot at becoming mayor than Weiner himself (just 4 sad percentage points in the polls), so it’s possible he was just focused on appearing as somewhat less of a jerk during the last big televised moment of the campaign.


Mayoral Candidates Vie for Food Cred

For those living near one of New York City’s 54 Greenmarkets or with access to one of the 800-plus school and community gardens or dozen-plus urban farms, you can hardly swing a reusable tote without knocking over some kind of “local” food. But most of what New Yorkers eat doesn’t come from nearby. According to a 2008 study of the city’s food supply, even if the entire state’s agricultural products flowed only to our concrete jungle, it would meet just 55 percent of its total food needs.

With more than 1 million food-insecure New Yorkers and a $30 billion food economy, food matters in this election.

Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio both stand out from the pack on the local food question, and their different approaches point to the general distinctions in their would-be mayoral styles. While Quinn’s tends to be top-down, with achievements in tracking food and proposals for better procurement, de Blasio offers a more bottom-up alternative, pushing local agriculture, urban gardens, and even dropping the word “foodshed.”

Meanwhile, John “Gristedes” Catsimatidis, the self-proclaimed “most experienced” candidate on food issues, summed up his plan at the first-ever Mayor’s Forum on the Future of Food in New York City: “It comes down to getting product cheaper.” (So why do his stores tend to carry expensive, low-quality produce from far away? If his campaign had answered my e-mails, maybe I could tell you.) Dani Lever, spokeswoman for Bill Thompson, who did not attend the forum, says only that Thompson would “expand tax credits to make it easier for supermarkets to operate in neighborhoods that do not have access to quality, nutritious foods.” And, perhaps surprisingly—cucumbers, zucchinis, sausages? Come on, Carlos Danger!—Anthony Weiner was largely at a loss, swinging every question back to SNAP and health insurance.

As City Council Speaker, Quinn’s achievements include creating FoodWorks, the city’s first comprehensive food plan, upping the number of food stamp-accepting Greenmarkets from six to 51, and passing Local Law 50 in 2011, a bill establishing preferential treatment for farmers bidding on city contracts. Quinn sees the city’s purchasing power as key to changing its food system. According to her campaign, “Working within the legal procurement boundaries, her administration will continue to make it easier for local farms to get contracts with the city.” Quinn would like to see 20 percent of the city’s food locally sourced.

What Quinn may lack in passion she more than makes up for in academic rigor. Her 90-page FoodWorks plan includes steps for upping local agricultural production, localizing processing, improving distribution, changing consumption habits, and tackling the oft-forgotten post-consumption links in the city’s food chain. Benzi Ronen, founder of online farmers’ market Farmigo, says that what the city needs is more covered, weatherproofed “community spaces” to “really encourage more food entrepreneurs.” With her support for food startups, it’s easy to imagine Quinn assigning her brain trust the task of finding these spaces and figuring out the best ways to use them.

De Blasio’s food cred goes as far back as at least 2009, when he introduced City Council Resolution 2049, aka FoodprintNYC, “to create greater access to local, fresh, healthy food, especially in low-income communities as well as city-run institutions.” Citing both environmental and economic benefits, de Blasio wants to bring local goods to Hunts Point Produce Market—where two-thirds of produce enters the city—and integrate them into government contracts as “part of an overall effort to wean us off produce grown 3,000 miles away.” Food justice fits snugly in de Blasio’s “tale of two cities” campaign theme. “As mayor,” he promises, “my No. 1 priority will be addressing our city’s crisis of inequality, which manifests itself in myriad ways, including access to healthy, local nutritious foods.”

More than any other candidate, de Blasio recognizes that the availability of locally grown food is tied up with economics—an especially important understanding when it comes to urban gardening, trends in which, according to Mara Gittleman of Farming Concrete, closely track economic circumstances. “There is a stark geographic pattern of community gardens in NYC,” she told me. “They mostly exist in neighborhoods that burnt down in the 1970s and ’80s, since these neighborhoods have a disproportionate number of vacant lots.” In more moneyed neighborhoods, urban agriculture is “less of a community effort because people have their own space.” Different neighborhoods require their own unique solutions, and de Blasio’s on-the-ground credentials and man-of-the-people reputation make him well suited for finding them.

Catsimatidis, Weiner, and Thompson are less encouraging. Catsimatidis sees his stores as a testament to his abilities instead of an Achilles heel. Food barely seems to register as an issue at all for Weiner or Thompson. Weiner seems to think the answer to “why local food?” is “universal healthcare,” and Thompson has even less to say on the topic.

A de Blasio or Quinn win should excite locavore New Yorkers. Though their methodologies diverge, both see increased access to local food as an important facet in governing our city.


Your Post-Debate Mayoral Race Power Rankings

It has been a long, tumultuous democratic primary in New York City. Candidates have leapfrogged each other in the polls so many times it’s hard to keep track who’s in first place these days. We’re here to help.

Here are your mayoral race power rankings, based on candidates’ performances in Wednesday night’s debate, as we trudge toward primary day.

1. Christine Quinn
Quinn had clear command of the room from the start, welcomed by a thunderous round of applause so long and loud it drowned out introductions for John Liu, Sal Albanese, and Anthony Weiner. She gave long answers too, scoffing in the face of the little red light that blinks to tell candidates they are over time, and no one–not the moderator, the panelists, or the other candidates–dared to call her on it. The speaker also demonstrated an adroit skill for playing the other candidates off of each other–tag-teaming Bill de Blasio with Bill Thompson, then teaming up with de Blasio against Weiner when Weiner tried to implicate the public advocate in Quinn’s slush fund scandal–and managing, all the while, to appear somehow above the fray. The sense that Quinn controlled the debate was compounded by the fact the Daily News announced its endorsement of the Speaker immediately after the debate.

2. Bill de Blasio
De Blasio towered head and shoulders above the competition in this debate. Literally, if not figuratively–the guy’s 6-foot-5, about a foot taller than anyone else on stage. Whether it was his height–making dwarves of all of them–or his impressive showing the polls the last few weeks, it was clear that the other candidates had pegged de Blasio as the man to beat. When they were given the chance to ask questions of one another, almost every candidate seized the opportunity to poke de Blasio–including Quinn, who used her question to ask Thompson if he was “satisfied” with the answer de Blasio had just given him, giving Thompson another chance to beat up on de Blasio while she kept her hands clean. De Blasio took the other candidates’ fire, though, and he didn’t cede any ground.

3. Errol Louis
The moderator didn’t hesitate to put the mayoral hopefuls in their places when they talked out of turn. He issued stern warnings to Erick Salgado, Liu, and the audience itself–earning the ardent affection of at least one woman online.

4. The Audience
First it was the applause for Quinn, then heckling so loud it momentarily drowned out a question from NY1’s Grace Rauh, and then cheering so loud that Louis had to reprimand them–the live audience really threw its weight around on Wednesday night. Bonus point awarded to the guy in the back who yelled out “DANJA!” when Anthony Weiner copped to texting while driving.

5. Bill Thompson
Thompson came out guns blazing, demanding de Blasio remove an advertisement portraying himself as the only anti-stop-and-frisk candidate and demanding he “stop lying to the people of New York.” He hammered a proposal of de Blasio’s as “a tax in search of an idea.” He also revealed himself as the city’s unlikeliest Eminem fan when he asked, “Will the real Bill de Blasio please stand up?” (… please stand up, please stand up.)

6. John Liu
The comptroller’s shining moment came when he delivered his closing remarks in both English and Spanish, showing shades of El Bloomblito.

The parody Twitter account responded in kind.

7. Anthony Weiner
Weiner had lots of serious ideas he wanted to discuss at Wednesday’s debate–instituting a single-payer healthcare system, protecting the middle class, and … other stuff too. But, as it became painfully apparent to the erstwhile frontrunner, no one wanted to hear about his ideas. Audience members couldn’t even keep a straight face when Weiner, asked a question about hurricane preparedness, said New York wasn’t ready for “a stiff wind.” There were even louder laughs when, during a lightening Q&A round, he copped to texting while driving–tee hee hee, oh, yes, we know how much you enjoy the text messaging–and again when he was the only candidate to say the city did not need more surveillance cameras.

Weiner did briefly win the audience over with his assertion that New Yorkers should not only be allowed to enjoy a beer on their own stoop–they should be allowed to enjoy their beers in public parks and on beaches, too. That answer played well on Twitter.

8. Erick Salgado
Even Salgado admitted on Wednesday night that he had no shot at winning the election–he was really only in the race to influence the other the candidates. He was a winner in the audience’s heart though, with some of the most memorable quotes of the evening.

On undocumented immigrants: “I believe slavery has not been abolished. Slavery has been transferred to my people.”
What would he do if New York was hit by a natural disaster? “Pray.”
When he was veering off-topic and panelist David Chen tried to go to another candidate, “Why? I may have an accent but I can talk.”
Would he move into Gracie Mansion? Yes: “Me, my wife, and my six children!”
And, apropos of nothing: “I got stopped by the police this evening.”

9. Sal Albanese
Things are really bad when your most memorable moment of the evening is blurting out “So, do I get to talk at all?”


N.Y. Politicians on Zimmerman Verdict: We’re Pissed, Too

On Saturday, a Florida jury shocked the nation by acquitting George Zimmerman of all charges in the shooting death teenager Trayvon Martin. In New York City, politicians and candidates for office made sure voters heard their opinions of the verdict loud and clear.

Mayor Bloomberg used the occasion to criticize Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, the key piece of legislation keeping Zimmerman out of jail.

“Sadly, all the facts in this tragic case will probably never be known. But one fact has long been crystal clear: ‘shoot first’ laws like those in Florida can inspire dangerous vigilantism and protect those who act recklessly with guns,” Bloomberg said in a statement on Sunday. “Such laws–drafted by gun lobby extremists in Washington–encourage deadly confrontations by enabling people to shoot first and argue ‘justifiable homicide’ later.”

The candidates vying for Bloomberg’s job–former Representative Anthony Weiner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John C. Liu, and Erick Salgado–issued their own statements about the verdict on Twitter.

City comptroller candidate and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer added his voice to the calls for justice both on Twitter and at the Union Square rally on Sunday.

Today at 1 p.m., New York Congressmen Gregory Meeks, Hakeem Jeffries, and Charles Rangel will gather outside Manhattan’s federal courthouse and call on the Department of Justice to investigate whether the verdict violates civil rights.

Jeffries and Meeks both issued statements earlier this weekend. Meeks said he was “deeply disappointed” in the jury’s decision, adding, “I hope that our common humanity compels us to say that we cannot be content that a 17 year old youngster, who did nothing wrong–absolutely nothing–will never go home to his family while George Zimmerman is free to go home to his family.”

Jeffries struck a similar tone. “Once again, the court system has failed to deliver justice in a racially-tinged matter that involves the killing of an innocent, unarmed African-American male,” he said in a statement. “The Justice Department must open an immediate investigation to determine if George Zimmerman can be charged with violating our nation’s civil rights laws in the cold-blooded killing of Trayvon Martin.”

Both men repeated those sentiments on Twitter, where they were joined by fellow Congressman Jerry Nadler.


The Misunderstood Candidacy of Corey Johnson, the Man Who Wants to Replace Christine Quinn

On November 5, New Yorkers will choose their next mayor. Whether City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is on the ballot or not, her seat in the Third District, which covers Chelsea, the West Village, and the Highline, will be in contention. And, as of now, one Democratic candidate named Corey Johnson (shown above) is in the running as her replacement. But he faces many of the same attacks on Quinn’s mayoral campaign, some of which are mired in too-easy-to-leapfrog judgments.

Ever since she convinced the council to legislatively hand Bloomberg a third term, Quinn’s opponents have labeled her as Ms. Hizzoner. But that’s old news–a remnant of distrust left over from the mayor’s years in office more so than a substantial policy attack on the now-mayoral candidate. If we’re talking about the latter, Quinn has fallen prey to calls of LGBT betrayal (the subject of a recent Voice cover story) and, of course, her ties to Big Development (the subject of a Voice series on this blog). To a certain extent, critics like rival Yetta Kurland say Johnson emulates both.

In 2000, the candidate, 31, came out as a homosexual while still captain of his high school football team in Massachusetts, becoming a young star in the LGBT movement. He would move to New York soon after and eventually become the chairman of Community Board 4, the local citizen group in Quinn’s constituency. Using that experience, he joined GFI Development Corporation as its director of government and community affairs in 2008–a position that would naturally attract attention from opponents.

GFI is a Wall Street titan. City data show that the company has received millions from the city in subsidies since 2002. Its development side is responsible for projects like the Ace and NoMad hotels–both of which are in Johnson and Quinn’s stomping grounds. Also, GFI has built serious, sky-scraping condos in North Williamsburg and Fort Greene.

So, like Quinn, Johnson has benefitted from real estate wealth, which his campaign has received $8,400, in total, from; several of his donors are even veterans from the speaker’s past and current campaigns, like Mario Palumbo of Millennium Partners and the development crew behind the Brooklyn Naval Yard. This should be noted, given the amount of political power in City Council their money carries. But, unlike Quinn, the candidate has strayed away from blatantly siding with the developers.

“He has a strong record of standing up to overzealous developers–whether in opposing the NYU land grab or the Chelsea Market Expansion or the Rudin plan at St. Vincents–as Community Board 4 Chair,” R.J. Jordan, Johnson’s campaign manager, told me. “These are among the reasons why Corey has been endorsed by leaders who symbolize the values of the West Side, like Jerry Nadler and Tom Duane.”

According to sources who spoke to the Voice, Johnson never registered with City Hall as a lobbyist for GFI as required by law. But that’s because, in his position, he was not responsible for those efforts on behalf of the corporation–a misconception from which the aforementioned judgments originate.

Born into public housing, Johnson grew up with a mother who worked as a lunchlady, unable to pay for her son to go to college–a background that led to his career as a community organizer. At GFI, his job was simply PR for the public, to make sure the Corporation didn’t look like the bad guy to tenants by mending ties between Big Development and the little man. He was assigned as peacekeeper of the Ace Hotel, NoMad Hotel and Fort Greene projects; in Brooklyn, he helped secure almost 26 percent of the condo space for affordable housing purposes.

So this statement of misleading juxtaposition from the Post story on Johnson last week deflates fast from intra-business confusion:

Last week, at a candidate forum, Johnson said he increased affordable housing for one of GFI’s buildings located at 470 Vanderbilt Ave. in Fort Greene.

But GFI, which develops luxury hotels, including the Ace and NoMad, was accused of being a discriminatory mortgage lender, prompting US Attorney Preet Bharara in April 2012 to file suit against it.

That article focuses on another line of criticism against Johnson, one that also shuffles around nothingness like a washing machine set on high to extract some sort of controversial talking point.

In the past, GFI has donated money ($30,000 or so) to politicians known for their anti-same-sex marriage positions, like Erick Salgado, one of the Democratic candidates for mayor. And they probably did it at the same time Johnson was working there. All too easily, the timeline parallel birthed this headline: “City Council candidate Corey Johnson worked for anti-gay-marriage company.”

Now Johnson, 31, is seeking to fill in the shoes of Christine Quinn, the first openly gay Speaker and mayoral hopeful. After leaving GFI in 2010, Johnson took a director position at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (G.L.A.A.D.) and then a marketing position at the Sydell Group, the new owners of the NoMad Hotel. There, he’s employed part-time to help company relations with the LGBT community.

He’s also HIV-positive–a fact he has made public in the past, further dignified by the fact that Thomas Duane (a supporter, as said before) once occupied the 3rd District seat. Duane was the first openly HIV-positive legislator in council history; he won the seat in 1991 at the height of the AIDS crisis in New York City, a truly remarkable achievement for the time. So, with all that being said, does the Post headline still make a sense?

I chose the treatment of Corey Johnson’s candidacy for a reason. His situation highlights an all-too-common theme of election seasons: laziness, plain and simple. The most catchy clip jobs are fueled by accusatory dialect, a ton of misdirected pathos and, as a result, SEO bait. It’s a replacement of logic that detracts the voter from the reality of the situation, stretching facts and leaving truths few and far between.

Of course Christine Quinn has a “Bloomberg Lite” problem. Of course Joe Lhota has a “Giuliani Lite” problem. And of course Anthony Weiner had a cybersexting problem. But the public sphere thrives when we critique our officials on firm substance, not easily-attached emotions that come with labels. Argumentatively, for the reader, the Post headline and story leave us with little room to think. And, in a time when the political future of the five boroughs is at stake, we need all the room we can get.


Christine Quinn Picks Up SEIU 32BJ Endorsement After Paid Sick Leave Bill

At the end of March, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn flip-flopped. She had stood in opposition to a paid sick leave bill for years, arguing that the measure would cause economic harm to a city deep in the Great Recession. But the mayoral race’s influence trumped all: Pressing her Democratic base, she switched positions and eventually passed the bill with few exceptions for small businesses. In exchange, she handed the Service Employees International Unions Local 32BJ chapter a victory, resulting in their endorsement of her campaign yesterday.

“For us, the election is a process in which we look at the experience with the candidate. To us, the leadership she has demonstrated on prevailing wage, on stop-and-frisk, on a number of issues, this leadership we value,” union President Hector Figueroa said, alongside Quinn. “We do not necessarily need a mayor that will agree with everything we say.”

When asked about the paid sick leave bill factor, Figuroa assured reporters that the politically personal deal brokered between Quinn and the union to get the bill passed wasn’t the only reason why they endorsed her. “We were already considering Speaker Quinn prior to the passage of paid sick leave,” he stated.

The SEIU 32BJ support–one of the most sought-after in the race–is the largest labor endorsement of the Speaker thus far, handing her a significant amount of voters and electoral sway come September. And, as the union vote continues to self-segregate amongst the candidates, she’ll need it: Bill Thompson has already snagged the United Federation of Teachers vote, John Liu has District Council 37’s backing, and Bill de Blasio is the SEIU 1999’s candidate.

“Does this room feel split? I don’t feel any split!” Quinn remarked in a room packed with SEIU 32BJ union members. Figueroa followed suit: “I don’t think that labor is divided in this race.”

That leaves Anthony Weiner as the sole City Hall aspirer without a major labor endorsement; strange, given his newly plated position as the race’s Democratic frontrunner. So maybe the SEIU 32BJ didn’t feel “split” mid-endorsement, but it sure seems like the division is widening outside for the runner-ups.


Anthony Weiner Is the New Democratic Frontrunner for Mayor

In late April, the polling team at Marist released a survey titled “Weiner Candidacy for Mayor Could Scramble Democratic Primary Contest.” it projected major percentage points of approval for the former congressman, should he decide to step into the fray. A few weeks later, he did. And, nearly two months after that original sampling, its title has validated itself: according to the newest WSJ-NBC New York-Marist poll, Anthony Weiner is now the leading Democratic candidate for mayor in New York City.


Last night, the results came in: leading at 25 percent is Weiner–a rating City Council Speaker Christine Quinn had for months. Quinn, the assumed frontrunner, clocks in at 20 percent of the vote, edging 7 percent ahead of bronze medalist (and UFT favorite) Bill Thompson at 13 percent. Behind them, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is at 10 percent and Comptroller John Liu remains stalled at 8 percent.

Mathematically, that leaves us with a quarter of Democrats who still have no idea who the hell they want in City Hall. And, as we know, never discount the undecided voter.

It didn’t take Weiner long to rise in the polls, nearing Quinn’s solidified spot on top. In the past few weeks, the speaker has fallen victim to criticisms of all sorts, be it her standing amongst the LGBT community, her campaign’s ties to the real estate community, or a view of Quinn as Bloomberg Lite.

Meanwhile, the politician who was caught cybersexting just two years ago has certainly gathered that following predicted by Marist in April; a rise without the help of any major union endorsement and a testament to just how split the labor vote could be in the primaries. But the newest poll adds flame to the fear of Democrats when Weiner first stirred speculation of a run with the New York Times Magazine profile on him and his wife, Huma Abedin: that his entry could lead to a runoff and, as a result, hand the election to the Republicans.

Then again, what’s an election without a little competition? Besides, September is still three months away.

Send your tips on the 2013 mayoral race to Follow his tweets here.


Christine Quinn’s Prime Real Estate: Macro Sea / Brooklyn Naval Yards

As the days wind down to November 5–when New Yorkers will choose their first post-Bloomberg leader–the would-be mayors continue their mad dash for donors, seeking large contributions from New York’s most powerful elites. Spearheading that movement is City Council Speaker and Democratic frontrunner Christine Quinn; with the largest campaign treasure chest of any candidates thus far, she faces major criticism for her connections to the real estate industry. In this series, we’ll be spotlighting Quinn’s most prestigious bundlers in Big Development for the upcoming mayoral election.

Our third subject: Macro Sea, a developer that’s reinventing the Brooklyn Naval Yards, largely due in part to its preferred (and funded) mayoral aspiration.

“The Navy Yard is a testament to New York City’s resilience and creativity,” Quinn said last year at a press conference with Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She was there to announce the opening of the Green Manufacturing Plant in the once-desolate spot near downtown Brooklyn, where workers built battleships a century ago.

The Brooklyn Naval Yards Industrial Park perfectly summarizes its 21st-century goals in its slogan: “We used to launch ships; now, we launch companies.” Akin to Long Island City, the endless space is the one of the epicenters of manufacturing’s New York City renaissance; a cooperative space planned for the end of 2014 that will be home to hundreds, if not thousands, of start-ups seeking to weave together the old with the new. 3D printers, advanced body armor and environmental constructions are just a few innovations on the product list of the future.

The Yards are, without a doubt, an economic force to be reckoned with: a two-year study conducted by Pratt Institute projects that the space will be an “economic model” of sustainable jobs and investment for American cities soon enough.

Now, Macro Sea is one of the Naval Yards’ lead tenants. Strange, given the fact that a real estate developer holds the most prominent position at a New Tech haven, but not really, given the circumstances.

The company is led by David Belt and has developments in Philadelphia, Paris, Princeton, and plenty of other spots. In New York, Macro Sea’s main project is New Lab, which exists as an overseer of the incoming startups at the Yard. It is also led by Belt and has already moved in to Kings County: Beta Space, a prototype of what’s to come to the Yard, was launched by Macro Sea in May to get a feel for the new digs.

Belt’s hopes for New Lab are high: “New York City is supposed to be sort of a design hub,” Belt told the Times. “I was frustrated seeing so much time and effort pumped into software. I’m more interested in products and hardware.” In turn, he has essentially made Macro Sea the Naval Yards’ broker and New Labs its landlord.

In Quinn’s campaign finance papers, Belt has designated himself as “self-employed” for his intermediary role in raising money for the Speaker. His list of contributors, totaling some $38,000 for the campaign, runs as a roster of the NYC tech community and Belt’s former staff at a company called DBI Consultants, all of whom are confident that Christine Quinn will be Tech’s Favorite Mayor should she win in November.

The New Lab’s renovation costs over $60 million and lists Quinn as one of its central sponsors. That’s because the speaker has guaranteed the council provide $7.5 million of the $18 million Macro Sea is receiving from city, state, and federal sources to pay for the immense project. Through private investments, the Brooklyn Naval Yards Development Corporation is covering the rest. Oh, and add in the $3.5 million in capital funding from the city legislature as well.

Out of all of her rivals, Quinn is the most outspoken on the innovation front. In a speech she delivered at the end of May, she called for the city to be totally WiFi-connected by 2018, a new online 311 program called myCityHall, free tech classes for New Yorkers, more capital funding for startups, and the establishment of an Office of Innovation. She’s even called for a new CUNY campus at the Brooklyn Naval Yards, focused on churning out the newest class of advanced manufacturers.

As a result, Quinn has taken Bloomberg’s insistence on transforming New York into the next Silicon Valley to the next level. The idea of this ultra-modernity shift could provide a plethora of jobs in a city that desperately needs them. But millions of dollars of capital funding in exchange for donations and votes from the tech community is a whole different story.


Christine Quinn’s Prime Real Estate: Millennium Partners/Friends of the High Line

As the days wind down to November 5–when New Yorkers will choose their first post-Bloomberg leader–the prospects for City Hall continue their mad dash for donors, seeking large contributions from New York’s most powerful elites. Spearheading that movement is City Council Speaker and Democratic frontrunner Christine Quinn; with the largest campaign treasure chest of any candidates thus far, she faces major criticism for her connections to the real estate industry. In this series, we’ll be spotlighting Quinn’s most prestigious bundlers in Big Development for the upcoming mayoral election.

Second on our list: Millennium Partners, a real estate developer with ties to Quinn’s largest handouts.

Millennium Partners, the nationwide developer of higher-income condos, pitches itself as as a main force behind “creating luxury residential experiences” and, more metaphysically, “driving the new urbanism.” Its New York properties include the Ritz-Carlton outside of Central Park, The Phillips Club in Lincoln Square, and a handful of sleek skyscrapers in Battery Park and the Upper West Side, many of which contain the ultramodern phrase “Millennium” in the name.

In terms of lobbying, Millennium has been a client of the City for years, seeking compensation from the Department of Buildings, the Economic Development Corporation and other governmental bodies. But luckily, one of the company’s partners has long been friends with an official that has the greatest power of the purse when it comes to discretionary spending in City Council.

Like Jay Kriegal of Related Companies–the subject of last week’s profile–Mario J. Palumbo Jr. acts as an intermediary for Quinn’s campaign, bundling together a total of $53,900 in donations from real estate figures. He’s also a partner at Millennium, in control of the company’s assets worth $2 billion. As the former board president of the LGBT Community Center, he’s settled in well to Quinn’s political career, landing him huge amounts of money in return for his other project:

A celebrity-studded campaign to turn a rusting elevated rail line into a glitzy West Side park has received hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars through Council Speaker Christine Quinn. And she’s gotten a little something in return. Officials with Friends of the High Line–the top recipient of Quinn-controlled City Council pork–have given more than $50,000 to her campaigns since 1999, records show.

This is from a Daily News report titled “Christine Quinn gives your cash to West Side project–and gets campaign money” and published in late April of 2008. Five years later, we know this “rusting elevated rail line” as the nearly finished High Line–the beautiful above-ground park that runs up Tenth Avenue.

In addition to Millennium Partners, Palumbo is also a founding member, the treasurer and vice co-chair of Friends of the High Line, the group mostly responsible for the project’s development. For relation, Quinn still stands as an ex-officio member of the organization as well. Since that NYDN article’s publication, Friends of the High Line continues to receive thousands upon thousands of taxpayer dollars each year from City Council; in 2013, the group has a pending request of $75,000 in the works.

As mentioned in this series’s first part, Quinn is a natural target for the real estate companies – her legislative position provides her with treasure troves of discretionary funds, member items that have sparked controversy towards her use in, with some cases, intimidating fellow councilmembers. Albeit popular amongst residents and tourists now, the High Line still provides us with another example of how money has circulated between Quinn’s work as Speaker and, later, her campaign for City Hall, a position that could benefit the developers tenfold should she win.

Half a decade ago, the High Line was a project that was fought aggressively against by Quinn’s very own constituents; citizen groups saw the development as encroaching and wasteful. And, just like the Hudson Yards, Quinn was an integral part of approving the project anyway, funding Palumbo and the rest of Friends of the High Line with more than enough pork to go around. In her campaign filings, the rest of the staff there is bundled with other subsidiaries, ensuring that their money is in Quinn’s pockets come September and, hopefully for them, November.

The Voice has reached out to Millennium Partners, Friends of the High Line, and Christine Quinn’s mayoral campaign for comment. We’re waiting to hear back.


New York NOW Endorses Christine Quinn for Mayor

For the mayoral race, another day, another endorsement. But this time, it falls upon an electoral landmark. Today, the Daily News has reported that the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women will officially endorse City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a candidate who, if elected, will be the first female and openly gay mayor in New York City’s history.


NOW cites the advantage Quinn’s position has given her on women’s’ issues as further reason to endorse her. President Sonia Ossario called Quinn “inspiring to women across New York, not simply because she is a woman, but because she is a woman who has the strongest record of accomplishment of anyone in the race.” In her statement yesterday, Ossario referred to Qunn’s work with regulating crisis pregnancy centers and raising the punishment for drivers involved in sex trafficking.

“Make no bones about it, electing the first female mayor of New York City will be an historic accomplishment,” Ossario said. “But what makes her candidacy even more inspiring is the fact that of all the people in this race, no one can hold a candle to her in terms of actual accomplishment on behalf of all New Yorkers.”

Of course, given her status, NOW’s support for Quinn was almost a given. However, the endorsement provides a shelter to the speaker from predecessor comparisons, providing her campaign with a historical tone that’s way softer than the “Bloomberg 2.0” label she cannot seem to escape. Especially as she faces backlash from the LGBT community on her record on progressive issues, which stood at the center of a Voice cover story on the speaker from last month.

Quinn will need the NOW support as the labor vote–the other key constituency in the Democratic base–continues to split along candidate lines. Needless to say, the Democratic roster is shaping up to be a race to land the power players.