The congressional challenger from New York real estate

Vito Lopez at the Occupy Wall Street demonstration. ()
Tweet Share on Facebook Share on Tumblr Print

It's not every cycle that the New York City real estate industry lines up behind a non-incumbent candidate in a congressional primary.

But they've opened their wallets in a significant way to Councilman Erik Martin Dilan, who is running to unseat Nydia Velazquez in Brooklyn's 12th congressional district, donating more than $70,000 to his campaign, according to his 2012 campaign finance filings. In contrast, the New York real estate industry has donated upwards of $1,000 in 2012 to Velazquez, the 20-year-incumbent.

Dilan happens to be chair of the City Council’s housing and buildlings committee. Perhaps more significantly, he is the chosen candidate of Assemblyman and Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez, who, as chair of the Assembly’s housing committee, has far-reaching influence over matters like rent regulation, which are of tremendous importance to New York real estate.

Dilan’s donor list is a compendium of local real estate poobahs.

MORE ON CAPITAL

ADVERTISEMENT

Burton Resnick of Jack Resnick & Sons, owner of 6 million square feet of mostly New York commercial real estate and developer of thousands of residential units, donated $2,500.

Bill Rudin, C.E.O. of Rudin Management Company, which, like Resnick, is one of the city's most established real estate firms, donated $2,500.

One World Trade Center developer Douglas Durst donated $2,500.

Same goes for another New York real estate legend, Howard Milstein, of Milstein Properties.

Laurence Gluck, of Stellar Management, which owns and manages thousands of apartments and 2 million square feet of office space nationwide, gave $2,500.

The Real Estate Board of New York, the lobby for big city real estate, emailed at least one member in April suggesting he donate to Dilan. 

In the ensuing months, One57 developer Gary Barnett donated $2,500, and Tishman Speyer president Robert Speyer donated $2,500.

Gluck, Barnett, Speyer and Milstein have never donated to Dilan's Council races.

Durst, Rudin and Resnick donated to Dilan in 2001.

Dilan, a councilman representing the Bushwick and Brownsville sections of Brooklyn, is running to unseat Velazquez in a district that encompasses many of the city’s choicest development sites, in neighborhoods like Williamsburg, the Lower East Side, East Village, and Greenpoint.

Graham Parker, Dilan's spokesman, argued that the real estate donations, coupled with the support of the Building and Construction Trades Council and the carpenters union, reflect Dilan's ability to bring diverse interests together. And sure enough, alongside the real estate billionaires in Dilan's filings was Benjamin Dulchin, the executive director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development.

Parker also said that the more than $70,000 in real estate donations was still "roughly $930,000 less than what Velazquez took from banks."

George Arzt, Velazquez’s spokesman, said the donations were flowing to Dilan for two reasons: First, because Dilan is close to Lopez and second, because, as chair of the Buildings Committee, he’s close to the Real Estate Board of New York and to the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords. (Artz also handles media for two of Dilan's real-estate donors, Barnett and Milstein, neither of whom would comment for this article.) 

“The developers are giving the money to protect their interests, in both Albany and City Hall,” said Arzt.

"It’s a very explicit effort to curry favor with the chairmen of the housing committees of the New York State Assembly and the New York City Council," said Lincoln Restler, a Williamsburg district leader and Velazquez supporter.

Lopez had no comment.