Landlords Have a Party

The results gave the WFP much to cheer about. Of the main candidates in the primaries, only Ms. Koslowitz was victorious, though members of real estate interests and the Independence Party say they supported a few other incumbents, in an apparently less intensive manner, including Councilman Al Vann, who won.

 

THE INDUSTRY’S INTENSE ELECTORAL involvement comes as it faces a number of factors and trends that limits its influence in Albany and City Hall.

Indeed, landlords are used to getting their way politically. The Republicans in the State Senate for years acted as a brick wall for pro-tenant (anti-landlord) legislation, among other issues important to landlords, but now the Democratic majority in the chamber is far less predictable. And in the city, a new campaign finance law restricts those who do business with city government, including developers needing zoning changes, from donating to City Council candidates, typically a tactic sought to help soothe relationships with council members.

Looking forward to 2010, it’s not entirely clear to the industry whether it should focus its efforts on trying to return the Senate to Republican control—in the long term, the state is trending Democratic—or whether it should mimic this fall’s efforts and support favorable Democratic candidates in the primaries.

Either way, anti-WFP candidates are sure to be a target in the State Senate, in an attempt at keeping the body from growing more liberal should it stay Democratic. “The real fight is not the Working Families Party,” said a real estate executive familiar with the effort. “The real fight is at the Senate Democratic candidates who are running on the Working Families line.”

And for REBNY, it seems the Independence Party is the appropriate vessel—a rental car, if you will—after its trial run.

“There’s no question that we’re going to continue to work with the Independence Party on particular races in which we have a mutual interest,” Mr. Spinola said. “We raised, and they spent, well over a half million dollars,” he added, saying he would advise REBNY’s members to contribute again once the right races are identified.

The leadership of the Independence Party views the partnership favorably, allowing it the ability to grow a greater presence and to create an infrastructure—such as a field operation—it hasn’t yet had.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s a perfect match,” said Frank MacKay, chairman of the Independence Party of New York. “We would like someone like Steve Spinola, who’s now in the party—I would like him to take more of a role in our leadership.”

The partnership between the Independence Party and real estate is one piece of a larger effort by business groups to regain a voice in a state they feel has trended away from their interests. In a related effort, reported in New York magazine, business groups around the state are forming an advocacy coalition tentatively named “It’s Your New York,” which would likely kick off with a Web site espousing pro-business ideals.

“We’ve reached out to our downstate colleagues to say how can we work more cooperatively together,” said Brian Sampson, executive director of Unshackle Upstate, the pro–economic development group that is involved with the business effort. “Now it’s one unified business voice coming in to Albany, saying, ‘Stop with the tax and spend.’”