Finally, the dithering has stopped! New York City’s real estate deciders are at last grappling with the monumental decision at hand come November: Do we want an Illinoisan or an Arizonan in the White House?
It’s taken them a while. Last we checked, in mid-July, campaign finance records showed few developers and landlords had contributed to either McCain or Obama (though plenty had donated to the coffers of hometown favorites Hillary and Rudy). But by late July, it seems they’d finally come to terms with the sorry fact that, barring a Giuliani-led military coup, there will not be a New Yorker in the White House.
And to whom have they given their money? Contrary to the popular perception of New York propertied royalty as inveterate conservatives, and contrary to the right-leaning reputation of the powerful Real Estate Board of New York, many are coming down on the side of none other than Barack Obama.
Among the apparent lefties are Steven Roth, the Vornado Realty Trust chief executive, who, with his wife, Daryl, has given $4,600 to the Obama campaign; SL Green chairman Stephen Green, who has donated $4,600 to the Illinois senator’s campaign; Billy and Julie Macklowe, who together gave $20,000 to the Democratic White House Victory Fund; BFC’s Donald Capoccia, who in June gave $28,500 to the Democratic White House Victory Fund; and Edward Linde, CEO of Boston Properties, the landlord of the GM Building, who gave $4,600 to the Obama Victory Fund and $4,600 to Obama for America.
What would inspire a rich man to give money to a candidate who has promised to repeal President Bush’s tax cuts for the rich?
“I don’t believe Senator McCain represents the change we desperately need after almost eight of the worst years in our nation’s history,” said Mr. Linde in an e-mail. “The cynicism and lack of regard for the USA represented by his choice of running mate was the final touch.”
Of course, not all New Yorkers are, as Alvy Singer described Alison Portchnik in Annie Hall, of the “New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University” ilk.
Notable among those who most definitely are not is Donald Trump, who endorsed John McCain on Larry King Live on Sept. 17, in an oddly circular exchange:
Mr. King: “Have you formally endorsed the [McCain] ticket?”
Mr. Trump: “No, but I am endorsing McCain.”
Mr. King: “So you’re endorsing him?”
Mr. Trump: “Sure. I’ll endorse him on your show. Why not?”
Perhaps more to the point, why?
“Well, I know John McCain, and John McCain is a great guy, a tremendous guy,” Mr. Trump explained on air. “I’ve known him for a long time, and I’m with him, and I’m with him based on the fact that I have great knowledge of John McCain. Also, this is not the right time for tax increases, and Obama wants to increase your taxes drastically.”
Mr. King, loath to abandon his journalistic duty, pointed out that “in all fairness, Obama said 95 percent would be reduced.”
To which Mr. Trump responded, “Well, I tell you the people who create the jobs and the people that really create a lot of things in this country, they’re going to be taxed into oblivion.”
Mr. Trump has put his money where his mouth is: The whole adult family—Donald Sr., Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric—has been generous to McCain, giving well over $50,000 to the campaign since May (and another $29,000 to the Republican National Committee).
Of course, New York City is not without other Republican supporters (even if they are embarrassed to admit as much at cocktail parties or on live TV).
Harrison LeFrak, a managing director of the LeFrak Organization, in May alone gave $65,500 to McCain Victory 2008, and another $28,500 to the Republican National Committee. He said that Mr. Obama would be disastrous both locally and nationally.
“Obama will create a very, very high, socialist, European-style rate of taxation that will kill the New York City economy,” Mr. LeFrak said. “And people say he will heal America’s image in other countries. Maybe he will in Belgium, because Europeans like him. But, tell me, which of America’s enemies is afraid of Barack Obama? … What’s he going to do, take his gavel and come after Osama bin Laden? Is oratory going to be his weapon that he uses to defend the country?”
Ed Mermelstein, a real estate attorney, suspects that the New York real estate community at large will agree with Mr. LeFrak’s thoughts, at least as far as Mr. McCain’s capital gains policies are concerned, though Mr. Mermelstein himself is undecided.
So, too, is Peter Riguardi, president of Jones Lang LaSalle’s New York office, who said he and his wife will likely watch this Friday’s debate with a particularly keen eye from their home in Rumsen, N.J.
Among those New York heavies who haven’t doled out money this year and thereby indicated a preference are Bill Rudin, Jerry and Rob Speyer, Larry Silverstein, Joseph Moinian, Tamir Sapir and Kent Swig.
For his part, Jeff Gural, Newmark Knight Frank’s unabashedly liberal chairman, thinks New York’s real estate community will see beyond mere pocketbook politics.
“I think by and large the real estate industry wants to do what’s best for the country,” Mr. Gural said. “You’d have to be blind not to figure out that the last seven years have not been good for the country.”