If the Democrats succeed in wresting control of the State Senate next week, their victory will be owed in no small part to the wealthy party loyalists who round out their major contributors. Near the very top of that donor list is onetime major George Pataki donor Peter Fine, chairman of Atlantic Development, a leading builder of mostly below-market-rate housing.
All told, Atlantic, through Mr. Fine, his business partner and the company, has given more than $180,000 to Senate Democrats this election cycle, an amount that puts the company among the largest, if not one of the top two, private donors to the party conference, according to campaign filings. Contributions to Governor Paterson’s campaign account from Atlantic subsidiaries and Mr. Fine total $100,000, which seems to put Atlantic as the governor’s largest donor on record, according to contribution records.
Taken with donations to other state Democratic campaign committees, Atlantic and Mr. Fine have contributed more than $430,000 to state Democrats since late 2006, making the developer, by the numbers, a force in New York politics.
“Right now, we’re in an economic time where you’re going to need leadership in Albany that thinks outside the existing box,” Mr. Fine said in an interview Sunday. “I just like the idea of getting fresh blood.”
Mr. Fine, a 47-year-old former social worker who grew up in public housing in Queens, has built Atlantic to become one of the top developers of below-market-rate housing in the city, dominating the field by building thousands of new units over the past decade. While the company is not a local powerhouse when compared with developers like Tishman Speyer or the Related Companies, it has grown its value in the affordable-housing arena as the housing market has boomed, and now is gradually moving more into market-rate residential development as its presence expands.
Taken with its long list of donations, Atlantic’s rise seems to serve as a reminder that, indeed, building affordable housing can be lucrative, and that the wide-scale development of such housing can benefit from a presence in the political world.
“I was brought up in a family that believed in being involved in politics,” Marc Altheim, Mr. Fine’s business partner, said of the large amount of donations. “I guess it’s part of doing business, in a way, because we want to be recognized for the stuff we do.”
MESSRS. FINE AND Altheim founded the company in 1995, focusing exclusively on subsidized housing. As residential development citywide exploded in the past 10 years, so, too, did opportunities to create and profit from housing for low- and moderate-income families.
The company benefited from economies of scale as it grew; and in recent years, Atlantic has honed the skill of working with public agencies on subsidized projects, people who have dealt with the company said.