Does De Blasio Help Developers, Architects Who Donate to Nonprofit?

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    Compared to three-term, self-funding, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration have a far more transactional relationship with backers. Many donors are seeking and expecting business benefits if they help promote the current mayor’s policy agenda, according to a story in Politico New York.

    The mayor has so far raised $3,870,000 from unions and developers, among others, who donate to a nonprofit de Blasio set up in December 2013 to promote his agenda, called The Campaign for One New York. (The group is not subject to the rules of the Campaign Finance Board, either, and contributors often donate anonymously.)

    While some cash flows from longtime supporters, much comes from groups with specific projects in need of approval throughout the city. Both individuals and firms donate, many through limited liability companies which anonymize their identities, the story said.

    According to public records Politico reviewed, 62 percent of donors were involved with City Hall through business contracts, labor contracts, or needed approval for a project. Half of 2015’s donations were from real estate companies, many of which hoped de Blasio would protect the controversial 421-a tax break.

    One of the biggest real estate donors was Two Trees Management, which gave $100,000 through various other LLCs. Two Trees, of course, is the well-known Brooklyn developer who reshaped Dumbo and is currently transforming the landmarked Domino sugar refinery in Williamsburg into one of Brooklyn’s largest residential developments.

    When Mayor de Blasio took office, he pushed for Two Trees to devote more space to affordable housing in its already unusually generous plans for Domino. Ultimately, he won concessions and the plan went through.

    Brooklyn developer Alexander Levin, who gave $50,000, is seeking approval on a zoning variance to expand a retail property in Sheepshead Bay.

    In May, de Blasio announced a plan to extend 421-a while attaching more affordable housing creation requirements to it. The Department of Buildings then created an evening hours program to help architects meet with plan examiners and approve projects before the tax break expired, Politico reported.

    Architect Ariel Aufgang, who is designing 200 Water Street in Dumbo, donated $2,500 to de Blasio in June. Thanks to the new evening hours, he was able to get approval for more than 930 new units in only two weeks instead of months, before the tax break expired, he told The Wall Street Journal in June.

    Ironically, de Blasio opposed unlimited donations such as Campaign for One New York takes when he was Public Advocate. Although Campaign for One New York voluntarily discloses its donors, critics quoted in the story said the mayor is a hypocrite for accepting corporate donations via the nonprofit.

    [Source: Politico | Photo: Mayoral Facebook Page]

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