Mayor Bill de Blasio finally published a long-anticipated op-ed listing political donors who did not get special favors from City Hall, more than a year after he first said he would release the list.
In the end, the mayor’s op-ed did not list any donors. But it did take shots at the media and offered examples of several requests his administration received from unnamed donors that were turned down, including a real estate developer who wanted the contract for the city ferry service and another who wanted to know the outcome of a land use action.
The mayor wrote that City Hall recently released “hundreds of emails” between his administration and New Yorkers “who write to me any my staff” and that some of those emails include discussions with and requests from his political donors.
“What these emails show in candid detail is that people frequently ask city officials for things,” de Blasio wrote. “Some of their requests are large, some are small, and many are impractical. They often don’t get what they want. When they do, it’s only because their grievances were valid or their ideas were laudable and in our city’s interest.”
Neither de Blasio nor his aides were charged after a donor scandal last year that sparked two investigations into his political fundraising following several reports that top donors got special treatment from City Hall. The mayor promised to prove that donors to his now-defunct Campaign for One New York nonprofit did not get special treatment. He at first said last year that he would give the media a list of contributors who did not receive any benefits from his administration.
In April, he told reporters that he would instead write an op-ed. But at the end of May, he said that he did not publish the piece because his first draft did not adequately show “what I was trying to say.”
In the op-ed published Friday on his Medium account, de Blasio defended his administration and said all requests and ideas are evaluated on the facts and subject to “merit-based bureaucratic decision-making.” He did not state any donors’ names in the op-ed, instead stating their roles, what they requested and how the city responded.
Without naming them, de Blasio referenced Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg, two wealthy Brooklyn real estate developers who are now involved in a police corruption cases that originated in the administration of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. De Blasio said they “requested lots from me and their city government” and described the situation as unfortunate.
Rechnitz wanted the city to buy a vacant lot of his for future use as a police precinct, suggested someone for a high-level agency job and also wanted an appointment to a city commission. In all cases, the mayor said, the requests were denied. The city also turned down a request from one of Rechnitz’s associates, who sought a tax break on a building he owned.
When Rechnitz expressed concerns about the city’s housing code enforcement on a property he owned, the mayor claimed that the agency in charge “heard him out and treated him like any other building owner.” When the developer complained to an agency that his commercial water bill was exaggerated by a fault meter, the agency investigated and determined the complaint was legitimate — and the bill got “fairly reduced,” the mayor said.
The mayor also said that a leading real estate developer and campaign contributor wanted the contract for the city’s new citywide ferry service. While his proposal was good, de Blasio wrote, the city agency went with another idea it thought was better. The mayor wrote that he refused to tell another real estate developer and key financial backer of his campaign what would happen on a land use action before the public had the opportunity to give its input.
He also took jabs at the media.
“Unfortunately, sensationalism often sells in New York City,” de Blasio wrote. “Merit-based bureaucratic decision-making is a little boring for the nightly news. In each of these cases, we did our job. We listened to people we represent who have ideas they think are good for our city. We heard the complaints of people who believe they were being treated unfairly.”
The mayor said that has “personally directed” responses to people who have stopped him on the subway or on the sidewalk. He said that he has had City Hall connect with people he met at the gym or during any of the 32 town hall events he has conducted throughout the city.
“I hope for a time when the boundless energy spent distorting the donor-City Hall relationship can be redirected toward a demand for publicly financed elections,” he said.