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Why can't candidates return funds from developers receiving subpoenas, as Albanese suggests? Also, why campaign contributions suggest de Blasio will go light on Atlantic Yards

When a whiff of scandal surfaced involving William Rapfogel, the fired CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, several candidates said they'd return campaign contributions from a firm connected to Rapfogel.

That doesn't happen every day.

Consider that, while four mayoral candidates have received contributions from five developers that have received subpoenas from Governor Andrew Cuomo's Moreland Commission, none have returned those monies, as longshot mayoral candidate Sal Albanese pointed out yesterday, offering a handy graphic.

Each developer, as Albanese noted, received significant tax breaks from state legislators after bundling or making large campaign contribution.

"These developers are under scrutiny for potentially purchasing favors and tax breaks from elected officials," Albanese said, "and yet my opponents let them bankroll their campaigns."

"When you've sold your integrity to the highest bidder, how can we trust you to follow through on building affordable housing or holding developers accountable?" he asked. "The simple truth is: we can't. That is why I have not accepted a single cent from developers or lobbyists."

Crain's noted that Albanese might find the moral high ground a bit easier than others; it wasn't clear if any developers or lobbyists would bother contributing to his campaign, in which he's polled barely one percent of the Democratic vote and, to the dismay of the Times, was excluded from last night's Democratic debate.

Who owes whom?

Still, Albanese's words deserve heed: "When you see five candidates on the stage tonight, you're seeing five people who are shoulder-deep in scandals and owe favors all over town, including to these developers being investigated by the state!"

Consider that surprise front-runner Bill de Blasio has many convinced that he will focus on inequality. Maybe. But de Blasio has a history of slipperiness regarding Atlantic Yards, and has received numerous campaign contributions bundled by a top Forest City Ratner exeuctive.

When queried, de Blasio said of Atlantic Yards housing: "I think government has to hold the developer's feet to the fire to get it done, and on a real timeline." Given that he's said nothing at public forums when it mattered, it's doubtful that he would in fact hold the developer's feet to the fire.

Were he to become mayor, there's a good chance that de Blasio would do the opposite: find subsidies or tax breaks or other compromises to ease Forest City Ratner's burden, thus diverting funds from his program to fight inequality.

That's not to say the other candidates would do much better; only Albanese and Comptroller John Liu, another candidate low in the polls, have taken adversarial stances toward the project.


  1. Anonymous11:55 PM

    As a Brooklyn resident who lives in a BFC Constructed coop with leaks due to crappy construction by the sponsors, I've called Deblasio's office as public advocate and thought he would advocate on our buildings behalf...oh no...all I got was my phone call passed along to the entire staff for weeks and months. Still no response.

    1. Note that BFC was not on the list of developers receiving subpoenas, but... a search on the NYC Campaign Finance Board shows that de Blasio got $1000 from a BFC partner.


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