Joe Lhota Has a Murky Past With the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station

The reopening of the East 91st Street marine transfer station’s a controversy a decade in the making. Sparked by Christine Quinn’s “environmental racism” comment, the waste disposal spot has infiltrated the mayoral race discussion, leading candidates to pick a side on an issue that involves how we New Yorkers dispose of millions of pounds of trash every day. Republican frontrunner Joe Lhota has pledged to close it if he becomes mayor, but his reasoning is a bit misleading, given his past as Giuliani’s go-to garbage defender.


In a statement two weeks ago aimed to appease Pledge2Protest, an anti-waste-transfer-station advocacy group, Lhota sought to justify his intentions to halt the East 91st Street MTS from reopening: “As deputy mayor, I worked to close it in the past and we successfully negotiated contracts to ship the garbage to New Jersey, which is less expensive and does not put children’s safety and health at risk. It’s a no-brainer.”

Keep this in mind as we go forward.

For background, the East 91st Street MTS was built in the 1930s to accommodate the growing urbanization of LaGuardia’s New York City. The area was an industrial hotbed on the East River, where barges of garbage could come in and out with ease. Warehouses, not penthouses, dominated the neighborhood so community backlash was relatively nonexistent.

Flash forward 60 years. It’s 1998 and Joe Lhota is Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s second-in-command, in control of operations and, as we know from former Voice scribe Nick Pinto’s December cover story, the city’s pest problem, landing him with the intimidating title of “Rat Czar.” Fresh Kills–the city’s largest landfill and that smell you encounter while driving through Staten Island–is filled to the brim, with a federally enforced shutdown deadline looming and the administration is seeking an alternative Solid Waste Management Plan.

After years of urban sprawl, the Upper East Side has switched from industrial to residential, with thousands of New Yorkers moving uptown as Manhattan’s demographics shift. But the East 91st Street MTS is still there, receiving and sending out garbage in a neighborhood of rising income levels. Naturally, a NIMBY opposition to the site proliferates, eventually forming the Gracie Point Community Council–an organization of local leaders and legal counsel that exists to make sure the MTS doesn’t.

The solution (and an all-too-common mantra) emanating from the Giuliani administration: “When Staten Island goes bad, head to New Jersey.”

Instead of dumping tons upon tons of garbage on the other island, the city would seek to have each borough bring its waste to New Jersey areas like Essex and Newark, where private contractors would package it and send it off to faraway landfills in the South. This included the use of the East 91st Street MTS and other stations in Queens and Red Hook. So at one point, Lhota had opted for the station’s use, long before an election where UES votes mattered was around the corner.

Of course, New Jersey officials weren’t so willing to take New York City’s trash and put it in their constituents’ neighborhoods.

Notwithstanding the fact that Rudy’s people informed then-New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman, of the proposal the night before. As deputy mayor of operations, Lhota was in charge of damage control. ”No one likes to be surprised, and in this case, the governor was surprised,” he told the New York Times. ”It’s my job to make the governor fully apprised.”

The response from the New Jersey governor: “Drop dead.” No, seriously, the statement was titled “‘Whitman to New York’s Garbage Plan: Drop Dead.”

Remember the “successful negotiated contracts to ship the garbage to New Jersey” that Lhota heralded from before? Yeah, that never happened. Without Whitman on board, the state equity garbage plan was scrapped in 1999. ”It’s one thing to design a plan,” former sanitation commissioner Steven Polan said at the time. ”It’s another matter to actually implement it.”

The Giuliani administration’s failure left the city in a sanitation scramble. Now that the Fresh Kills landfill was closed, there was no general destination for garbage. As a result, a makeshift plan was hatched to use an environmentally terrible fleet of 900 garbage trucks to transport our daily waste output to smaller disposal sites. But at least it worked out for the Gracie Point Community Council: No Fresh Kills meant no East 91st Street MTS, since there wasn’t a reason for marine transfer anymore.

The station closed in 1999. It would return to focus in 2006 with Bloomberg’s stalled S.W.M.P. plan, which seeks to renovate and reopen four marine transfers around the city, including the one on East 91st Street. Speaker Christine Quinn was integral in getting the council’s approval (hence her support for the MTS now) and last year’s budget set aside $125 million to get the project started (hence the current controversy). But it’s the Rat Czar we’re focusing on here.

Maybe it’s to pander to uptown voters before the primary. Or maybe it’s to come off as an environmentally sound Republican in an environmentally conscious city. Regardless of the reason, the mayoral candidate has provided us with a revisionist version of his time as deputy mayor.

Lhota’s touting of “I worked to close it in the past” really amounts to a consequence of his boss not having a Plan B for City’s eternal “too much shit” problem. And, to add onto the insubstantial policy pledge, the Giuliani administration’s proposal before the New Jersey one was to dump 560 million pounds of our raw, collective sewage into the New York Harbor. Yes, the “closing” of the East 91st Street MTS definitely evaded “[putting] children’s safety and health at risk,” but dropping 280,000 tons of garbage sure would have.

That’s the “no-brainer” here, Joe.

The Voice has reached out to Lhota’s campaign and the Gracie Point Community Council for comment on the situation. We’ll update when we hear back.

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Listen, Guys, Ray Kelly Is Not Running for Mayor

Ten years in command of one of the world’s largest city law enforcement agencies. A solid Bloomberg ally, managing the mayor’s budget cutbacks after 9/11 changed the way the NYPD does business. A fantasy for New York Republicans, the New York Post editorial page, and even fellow Voice scribe Graham Rayman. But, as yesterday’s mayoral certification deadline came and went, the message is clear: NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly will not be running for City Hall anytime soon.

June 10 was the last day for candidates to post their intention to run in the New York City mayoral race and any campaign finance filings hitherto that announcement. But no peep was heard from the Kelly tent, even after shady mayoral polls were conducted last month to get a feel for the electorate’s opinion of its police chief (result: “Simply put, it’s Ray’s if he wants it”). And the insider sources who told the Voice otherwise proved to come up short, too.

For the Republicans, Kelly’s candidacy could have been their savior in an election all by guaranteed to end in Democratic victory. As mentioned before, his experience as NYPD commissioner provided him with a background that blows Joe Lhota’s time as MTA chief out of the water. He’s been lauded by both Democrats (including Christine Quinn) and Republicans for the 35 percent drop in crime under his watch, and his handling of anti-terrorism measures has gained him nationwide recognition.

Kelly’s candidacy would have totally changed the race. Then again, stop-and-frisk. Oh, and Muslim surveillance. And vocal demands for reaching quotas to his officers by any means possible.

Yeah, what a race that would’ve been.


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.


Giuliani’s New Ad for Lhota Reuses Lines From His 2008 Presidential Bid

In a new TV ad, Rudy Giuliani ladles praise on his mayoral disciple. “Joe Lhota is New York,” he says, as images flash of Lhota’s life as a born-and-raised New Yorker. It’s the first official campaign stamp from Lhota’s old boss, whom he served as a deputy mayor and liaison to Washington. But the argument Rudy makes for Lhota’s candidacy is one of self-plagiarism, in which he posits the candidate (and, in turn, himself) as “running the city” during 9/11–much to the dismay of Lhota’s rivals. Ugh, do we have to go back to 2008?

You might remember this little tidbit in the lead-up to the Democratic and Republican primaries in late 2007. To much applause and laughter, then-Senator Smokin’ Joe Biden captured the essence of Rudy’s campaign in three words: “a noun, a verb, and 9/11.” Maybe it was Giuliani putting all his money into winning Florida, but the Republican frontrunner at the time would soon falter under the weight of Biden’s sharp observation.

Of course, for good reason. In a column titled “Rudy Giuliani’s Five Big Lies About 9/11,” former Voice heavyweight Wayne Barrett highlights quotes from the old mayor’s 2008 campaign that focus on the theme he’s now projecting onto Lhota. The similarities are almost too easy. For example:

“Every effort was made by Mayor Giuliani and his staff to ensure the safety of all workers at Ground Zero.”

“Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us.”

“I don’t think there was any place in the country, including the federal government, that was as well prepared for that attack as New York City was in 2001.”

“I think the thing that distinguishes me on terrorism is, I have more experience dealing with it.”

The last talking point here resounds all too clearly with Rudy’s opening line in the new ad, where he says, “In these uncertain times, only one candidate for mayor has already proven he’s ready–Joe Lhota.” He later describes him as “one of the most effective leaders in my administration.”

The thematic transplant from 2008 to 2013 ties together Rudy and Joe in a different way, too. Just as Quinn falls under Bloomberg’s shadow, the criticism here is that these two candidates for mayor will extend the same policies of their designated forerunners. But, as this ad shows, Lhota wants to move beyond that and adapt basically the same campaign strategy as Rudy–something Quinn is financially and thematically unable to do with Bloomberg.

Should someone tell Lhota that Giuliani’s strategy failed in 2008? Eh, he’ll find out on his own.


The Next Educator-in-Chief: What Will the New Mayor Do With a $25 Billion Budget?

The numbers for the Education budget are in and, once again, they’re groundbreaking: In fiscal year 2014, City Hall will spend $25 billion–the most in New York City history–on a line item that takes up about a third of the overall city budget. But, with an election coming up, determining Bloomberg’s legacy–which here includes doubling the Education budget–will be permanently out of his hands. Naturally, this has spawned speculation of the next mayor’s move for the largest public school system (and budget) in the country. And, because of how this election is shaping up, the teachers’ union will be sitting at the table this time around.

The downtown throne seems to the Democrats’ to lose. Hence the poll numbers, the influx of cash and the media attention shifting toward the party that promises a progressive sequel to the Bloomberg years. Of course, it is only June. And politics is the most unpredictable force of human nature we’ve ever seen. But, for thematic purposes here, a hypothetical can be used sparingly.

Michael Mulgrew represents nearly 70,000 teachers as the head of the United Federation of Teachers and, come November, is promising a force of over 220,000 at the polls. And, for a primary that’s expecting 600,000 Democrats to show up to vote in December, that’s a number to be reckoned with. The candidates know that: Liu’s already pressing his DC37 endorsement, Weiner has promised an open-arms approach to the teachers and Quinn was reportedly outside of Mulgrew’s home the day after Sandy, waiting to help him with flooding.

In a piece entitled “Class Warfare: Teachers’ Union Boss Michael Mulgrew Claims He Can Crown the next Mayor” published yesterday, Observer senior writer Jill Colvin sat down with Mulgrew to explore that electoral notion from a constituency that hasn’t had a contract with City Hall in over five years. And, for the UFT chieftain, he’s confident that the teachers will make or break this election. “We’re not about picking a mayor,” Mulgrew told Colvin. “We’re about making a mayor, making the winner. And that’s what we’re gonna to do.”

This is a man who’s demanding $3 billion in back wages from the new Mayor while, at the same time, asking to end mayoral control – a provision that, after being renewed in 2009, will hand the winning candidate with the keys to the Department of Education to the end of 2014.

At an executive budget hearing in front of the Committee on Finance yesterday, Mulgrew, along with the firefighters union and DC37 reps, once again requested retroactive fees from the city in January and outlined DOE funding failures. “These are the kinds of problems we’ve seen over the past eleven years from this administration,” he said. “We’ve done good things working together with City Council… and we do think it’s important to reinstate the daycare slots” – another item that’s been on the Bloomberg chopping block for a few years now.

If the sway at the polls proves true in September’s primaries, the Democratic contender will be forced to respond positively to the unions’ demands, no matter how unrealistic, in a budgetary sense, they may be. None of the candidates are self-financing their campaign like Bloomberg did three times; therefore, they need all the support and money they can get, presumably aware of the blowback should they not deliver on their promises. With that being said, the participation of the labor force in deliberations will carve out new lines in the way Education dollars are spent.

As of now, the $25 billion allotted to the school system next year includes a new injection of $100 million to build 24 new charter schools. The drive for private sector involvement in the DOE has been a staple of the Bloomberg administration, much to the dismay of the UFT. But, as we’ve shown, that could all change. The same goes for the $165 million set aside for the new teacher evaluation plan – one that, as we unfortunately know, has been a point of serious, serious contention between the union and the city.

In terms of imperative, however, the most important focus here is the motive. As Doug Turetsky of the Independent Budget Office once told the Voice, “The Mayor has always said that education is a test of his mayoralty.” Since Day One, Bloomberg positioned himself as the educator-in-chief; someone who would make the DOE the magnum opus of his time in office. In his second inaugural address, in 2006, he called the children of New York City “our most important obligation” and has met that self-proclaimed passion with dollars. And, of course many would argue, one-sided, undemocratic approaches to what he thinks was and is right for the city’s schools.

For today’s candidates, that motive is a bit different. None of the contenders have placed the same emphasis on redefining what education in New York City means as Bloomberg. In turn, should they win in November, the Democrats will peg their decisions to electoral gains, losing a main driver of energy and focus that was present throughout the Bloomberg years.

So what will the next mayor do with a $25 billion education budget in 2014? Make sure it places them back in office four years down the road.


The Ghost of Anthony Weiner’s Rent-Stabilized Past (UPDATED)

Why No Tenant Should Vote for Anthony Weiner,” read the headline in May’s issue of Metropolitan Council on Housing. The op-ed, written by tenant advocate Michael McKee of the Tenants PAC, highlights a 1994 flip-flop by the then-councilman on rent stabilization–a term that has slowly evaporated from Big Apple real estate talk in the modern age. The vote cast by Weiner had angered the tenant community at the time and, now that he’s running for City Hall, has only fostered more backlash. And, in a display of how utterly dismal the New York City housing market truly is, it’s one of the first times the issue that should be a top priority has made an appearance in this election cycle.

In 1994, as the age of municipal and New Democrat deregulation trickled down from Washington to New York, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. was hard at work pulling together supporters and donations for a potential mayoral bid; of course, one of these hopeful bastions of immense wealth came from Big Development. He proposed (and would later pass) a bill that would enact vacancy deregulation (or Decontrol), which McKee pointed to as the beginning of the decline for rent-stabilized apartments in New York.

Under the law, when an apartment became vacant, a landlord could tack on an interest and add thousands of dollars in improvements to bump up what was a rent-stabilized apartment past the $2,000 threshold (now $2,500). Once over, that apartment falls victim to the market, allowing the landlord to charge whatever the hell he or she wants, and begins to absorb the worst of the worst Craigslist ad descriptions (“LUX,” “2BDR,” “LOTS OF ROOM,” etc.)–all of this without the oversight of a state housing agency. McKee provides formulaic demonstration here:

For example, a rent-stabilized apartment renting for $1,000 per month becomes vacant. The moment the unit turns over the legal rent rises to $1,200 because of the statutory vacancy bonus of 20 percent–a bonus, not requiring any work to be done. The landlord then spends $32,000 on improvements (new appliances, granite countertops, whatever) and the legal rent rises to $2,000 per month, as the landlord can impose a monthly rent increase equal to 1/40th of the amount spent on improvements ($32,000 ÷ 40 = $800). The legal stabilized rent is now $2,000 per month, the apartment is permanently deregulated, and there is no limit on how much the landlord can charge.

At the time of the bill’s passage, Anthony Weiner had just entered his second year as the youngest councilman in the city’s history, hailing from Park Slope, Brooklyn. He had won support from the tenant advocacy community–a usual ally of the Democratic base–by promising to vote against deregulation attempts. Hence McKee’s frustration: When the vote came in at 28-18, establishing vacancy deregulation as the rule of law, Weiner found himself on the opposite side of the aisle from a promise he had made only months before. It was reported later that Vallone had promised favors in return for the necessary votes.

Then, Weiner argued that the bill would ultimately help tenants because the rich would not have rent-stabilized apartments–a position that, according to the Post, he still holds now as a mayoral candidate. It’s a platform that came from another provision in the bill, allowing for deregulation based on income. So, instead of vacancy, a landlord could deregulate an apartment if the person’s income was over $175,000 two years in a row (now $200,000); such income-earners could totally afford an apartment at market rate.

However, this requires an order from the state housing agency. With deregulation pegged to vacancy for the less-well-off, the landlord is in control; with deregulation pegged to income for the more-well-off, you have government protection. That makes a whole lot of sense.

This would explain the following numbers. In between 1994 and 2012, approximately 400,000 apartments were deregulated due to vacancy; for income, that number was a little over 5,000. So Weiner’s “protect the tenants” defense looks great on paper, but, as reality shows, it hasn’t matched up too well. For housing advocates like McKee, that’s unforgivable:

“Unlike many council members who argued that the bill was not particularly harmful, Weiner told us emphatically that he would definitely vote against deregulation,” McKee tells the Voice. “He seemed to grasp what the bill really would mean, unlike many council members who were clueless, who only understood what Vallone and RSA lobbyists told them. That made his sellout even more galling.

“He might have been the only sellout who actually understood why the bill would be detrimental to the rental housing situation,” McKee continues. “That is why his continued justification for his vote, that ‘rich people do not deserve to live in a rent-regulated apartment,’ is so hypocritical.”

In a response to the Voice from his campaign, Weiner once again defended his 1994 vote for deregulation by income. “It undermines confidence in rent regulation when wealthier individuals live in residences that are intended to be for those in the middle class or struggling to make it,” he said.

He also gave us a preview of his platform on the issue: “I’m a strong supporter of rent control and I believe that rents are far outstripping the ability to pay for many in the middle class and those struggling to make it. We need a cooling off period on further rent increases for at least a year.”

BRent control’s utmost significance in the upcoming mayoral election should be noted. As we all know too well by now, New York City is becoming wildly unaffordable. Manhattan’s average rent for one person is now around $3,000, an all-time high for a borough at the top of the Most Expensive Places in the Country to Live list, with no-longer-cheap Brooklyn in second place. Homelessness is at Great Depression levels, half of the city is more or less living in poverty, and we’re only just now getting an election-related story that has to do with the unbelievably high living standards in New York.

Weiner, Quinn, and the rest of the Democratic roster continue to promise a return of the middle class in the city, with plans for more public housing and the like. Joe Lhota and his fellow Republicans have, too, just with a bit more of a return-to-Giuliani kick. But none of the candidates have yet to tell us how or when we can stop saying to our friends in other cities, “Yeah, we get it: Everywhere else besides New York is cheaper.” Or when we’ll stop seeing eyebrows raise when we tell family members that we’re paying four figures a month for a tiny one-bedroom.

McKee’s group is sending a questionnaire to each candidate in the race and should reach an endorsement sometime in July. As New Yorkers who all find ourselves in this financially sinking boat, we await their responses. And so does Jimmy McMillan.


Christine Quinn’s Prime Real Estate: Related Companies

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. So, in a series akin to last summer’s Mitt Loves N.Y., in which we looked at Romney’s SuperPAC compadres, we’ll be spotlighting Quinn’s most prestigious bundlers in Big Development for the upcoming mayoral election.

First up: Related Companies, a main city developer that has put its hopes and dreams in the Quinn campaign and is already seeing the payoff.

Related Companies has properties all over the country, but New Yorkers know them as the people who brought us 1 MiMa Tower, the ultramodern, darkly transparent skyscraper on West 42nd Street, and the sleek, clear-blue Time Warner Center that hovers over Columbus Circle. The company is one of the city’s biggest developers and a personal favorite of Bloomberg, who has a pattern of past appearances at Related’s’ grand openings.

Jay L. Kriegel, a onetime aide to Mayor John Lindsay with ties to the Serpico scandal, is a senior adviser there; he also has advisory roles at the Cooper Union, NYU, the Council of Foreign Relations, and a handful of other institutions. A lobbyist in nature, he’s done a hell of a lot of fundraising for the other Democratic candidates but his work for Quinn is incomparable. As an intermediary, or a middleman between wealth and candidate, he has collected nearly $50,000 for her from employees of Related Companies since Quinn’s campaign began two months ago.

As shown by the fantastic work done by the New York World, the role of an “intermediary” has provided Kriegel and numerous other lobbyists with an electoral loophole; rather than being capped off for single donations, these individuals can bundle monies from separate sources and contribute to politicians on their own behalf. The intermediaries are one-man SuperPACs on a metropolitan level and, with that kind of financial influence, it only makes sense that most of the intermediaries listed are also making top dollars from city contracts.

As speaker, Quinn’s ties to the real estate business are no surprise: The highest position on the City Councile oversees the negotiations for and passage of the contract budget each year, in which developers are handed lucrative subsidies to build in a certain spot. Naturally, she would be a main target of Big Development; it’s part of her job to be. But as a mayoral candidate Quinn has the potential to wield a lot more power, a prospect that has led critics to shift attention to the speaker’s motives–and a flow of favors most vividly demonstrated in Quinn’s own backyard.

Mayor Bloomberg has called it “the future of New York,” presenting the project as “Manhattan’s largest undeveloped property now becoming a developed property.” It’s Chelsea’s worn-down neighbor: a maze of scaffolds, empty lots, and the occasional lost tourist left over from the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits’ Convention Center every April. We’re talking, of course, about the Hudson Yards–Related Companies’ biggest project on the horizon, a development blueprint for a “mini-city” that, as part of her territory in the Council, has Quinn’s influence written all over it.

“It will be a moment in the land use and governmental history in New York where people disagreed tremendously … and stayed in the same room to get something done together,” Quinn said on the groundbreaking day last December. Together, she and Mayor Bloomberg steamrolled the negotiations through after they went sour with the failed proposal to build the new Jets Stadium there, as well as residential backlash. This “back room deal” gesture would later feed the attacks done by the “Anyone But Quinn” campaign.

But there’s some credibility to that charge.

You might remember the living wage bill battle from a few months ago–you know, that piece of legislation that would force all companies receiving “significant” subsidies from City Hall to pay their employees at least $10 an hour. Threatened by a Bloomberg veto, the bill is championed by Quinn and the union force, a true test for the candidate who’s been having problems convincing voters she’s actually a true New York progressive. Except in this situation the bill’s technicalities seem to have a different agenda.

It goes without saying that the living wage bill is abhorred by the real estate industry–it’s the classic industrial relations argument of business versus labor. And some of Quinn’s biggest financiers are titans from this industry (the corporate body of Related Companies, so far, has a $48,645 stake in Quinn’s election as mayor).

So this is how that works: last month, Quinn added, to the apparent surprise of her colleagues, an exemption for the Hudson Yards development to the bill, placing Related Companies above the law should it be passed in coming weeks. No reason was given by the Speaker at the time as to why one specific development, out of the hundreds across the five boroughs, achieved this privilege. But the Bloomberg hand-me-down client to Quinn will still be able to get away with paying the state minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to its lowliest workers.

An incredibly wealthy donor was met with an incredibly convenient payback from a politician seeking the most powerful office in New York. The Related Companies exemption is a blatant example of why this criticism against Quinn is mounting. And, unfortunately for Quinn’s sake, it’s one of several.

The Voice reached out to the Quinn campaign and Related Companies for comment. We’re waiting to hear back.


Weary at Israel Day Parade, Weiner Still Leads the Jewish Vote in Race

Since he launched his campaign two weeks ago, former Representative Anthony Weiner had yet to face in-person backlash against his mayoral aspirations. His inaugural subway trip from Harlem to the West Village was met with questions rather than taunts; his support for teachers in the Bronx was welcomed by the pro-teachers crowd; his debate presence at NYU last week became a media circus, not a media outcry. Until yesterday: At the Israel Day Parade, where Weiner appeared as the only Jewish mayoral candidate, the politician faced jeers. Except it’s another case in this race of small, blown-up events versus realities of the Big Picture.

“Tweet me a picture, Weiner! Tweet me a picture, Weiner!”

The line was one of several tossed at the candidate yesterday as he made his way down Fifth Avenue holding the Israeli flag and a bullhorn. It was a reference, of course, to the cybersexting scandal that forced his resignation two years ago. It was the main line of attack from the parade’s bystanders towards their former Congressman; one with the underlining theme of “If he can’t get his dick pics in order, how can he can run City Hall?” This included a confrontation by an older man who asked, “Are you Weiner?” and, after finding out it was Weiner, stormed off in frustration.

This marked the first test of Weiner’s public persona in this race and it came from a group of people that share his religious identification. Though it wasn’t at all jeers: Weiner was met with high-fives and other encouragement, too.

Last week, we covered a poll that displayed Weiner’s rise in this race: In a months’ time, the former Congressman had announced his campaign and gained on Christine Quinn’s frontrunner stronghold, falling behind only by several percentage points. However, that survey had another ring to it. Of Jewish voters, Weiner has about a quarter of their support on lock, placing him 8 points or so in front of Quinn. For a candidate who has made his pro-Israel platform, as well as his relationships with New York’s Jewish leaders, well known, the connection to that community still shows itself in the polls.

The question now is whether this backlash at the Israel Day Parade a general concern of the Jewish community, or just an isolated group who still hasn’t forgotten about Twitter?


Bill Thompson’s Job After Last Election Poses Trouble for 2013 Mayoral Run

Like most politicians, Bill Thompson is no stranger to the phrase “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” In 2009, then-Voice columnist Tom Robbins explored the connection between a $150 billion pension fund and Thompson’s mayoral campaign against Bloomberg. As comptroller, Thompson used his position to help powerful friends in need, gaining in return, as his finances showed at the time, massive donations to snag the City Hall spot. Of course, Thompson lost to Bloomberg by 4 percentage points that November but, now, four years later, it seems as if his new mayoral campaign faces yet another potential conflict of interest.

Other than former Congressman Anthony Weiner, Thompson is the only Democratic candidate running for office who is not currently in office–Christine Quinn is city council speaker, Liu is comptroller, de Blasio is public advocate. This explains Thompson’s 2012 tax returns, in which he raked in $727,671 from the private sector. The Post points out that he only gave $4,750 to charity last year, earning the label of “cheapo” from the newspaper, but, in terms of the bigger picture, that’s not necessarily the main concern here.

On Siebert, Brandford, Shank & Co.’s website, the municipal investment bank Downtown presents its interest in the world of government: “Unlike our competitors, our firm’s primary business is public finance.” The company is the largest minority-owned underwriter in the country. Its job is to buy public debt from City Hall and sell it to investors, with about 20 percent of its business coming from the Big Apple.

The task of delegating municipal underwriter contracts is placed in the hands of the mayor’s office and the comptroller. Once contracted, the underwriting companies collect fees worth millions of dollars from handling the city’s financial operations. Naturally, as the story goes, Thompson made SBS a senior underwriter for the city soon after his re-election as comptroller in 2006, a spot that brought great fortunes to the small, 10-year-old company that stood as the sole minority-owned company to achieve such a position. Last year, the company made upward of $3.5 million from dealing with the city.

But here’s the problem: In April of 2010, after refusing to run for a third term as comptroller, Thompson took a position as senior managing director at SBS. His bio provides praise for Thompson’s public-to-private leap: “Mr. Thompson’s extensive experience in successfully managing the finances of one of the nation’s largest cities has afforded him unique insight into the needs of local municipal issuers.” No mention of the work done on behalf of the company by the former comptroller while in office, though.

At the time of the hiring announcement, Thompson swore not to conduct any business involving New York City, abiding by an ethics rule that demands a comptroller must step away from private finance roles for a year. But, according to a records request by New York World‘s Nathaniel Herz, that wasn’t exactly the case: In an application by the MTA in late 2010, Thompson is listed as sharing “overall responsibility” alongside the company’s partners for underwriting the transportation agency–an entity that is not exactly city-owned but highly influenced by City Hall. The payoff? Siebert, Brandford, Shank & Co. were awarded some $2 million in fees. So about those ethics …

One could argue that Thompson’s senior role at the company immediately after resigning from being comptroller is an efficient use of his skills: If anyone knows how city’s finances work and which ones are most valuable to investors, it is Thompson, right? But then, of course, there is the symptom of modern government known as the revolving door of politics, where the loyalties of politicians are blurred between the people and potential profiteers–a similar problem the Quinn campaign faces with her ties to the real estate industry.

Either way, Thompson stayed for almost two years at the company before resigning in March of 2012 to focus on his second mayoral campaign. Currently, he’s registered as a lobbyist in New York state.

With all this talk about a Weiner comeback and Quinn as the frontrunner, the former Democratic nominee for mayor has mostly remained in the shadows so far this election cycle, even though he’s been quietly raking in millions for himself. His campaign finance records show that no one connected to SBS has donated to his campaign.

Then again, it’s only May.

Update: A spokesperson for the Thompson campaign responded to the Voice with a few counterpoints on the candidate’s relationship with SBS.

First, the company was signed as an underwriter 37 times before Thompson took office in 2002. Second, John Liu’s office has far outpaced Thompson’s legacy, handing it some $10 billion in bonds over the past three years. Once again, the campaign reiterated the fact that Thompson pledged to recuse himself from city transactions after joining the company and that all underwriting deals are made public.

Update: The following is a statement issued to the Voice from the Bill Thompson campaign:

“Bill Thompson believes a public office is a public trust. He’s proud of his record – both in the public and private sectors – of increasing accountability and transparency in government. As Mayor, he will continue to honor the highest ethical standards and focus on moving our city forward.”

The Voice has reached out to SBS for comment on the hiring. We’re still waiting to hear back.