Friday, April 10, 2020

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and His "Pay To Play" Policy

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is, it seems, very interested in you if you have the money to give him to pay for any favors. It's called "Pay to Play".

Or "corruption".

Call it whatever you want, it is still not the way to rule or lead.

Betsy Combier,
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials 

Lobbyists made $113M in 2019 wooing NYC City Hall, Council, report says
Well-connected lobbyists made a killing in 2019 wooing City Hall and the City Council on an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink list of issues, raking in a cumulative $113.19 million, according to a new report by the City Clerk.
That eye-popping total represents a 10-percent hike from what the scale-tippers pulled down in 2018, underscoring just how loudly money talks in the political arena, watchdogs said.
“The increase in spending shows the well-heeled can spend for a megaphone compared to the average New Yorker, who speaks with a whisper,” said Blair Horner, of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
“It must be working or they wouldn’t be spending more dough on lobbying.”
Tops on the list for the third year running was Suri Kasirer’s firm, Kasirer LLC, which pocketed $14.3 million from its more than 200 clients, the report found.
Her sizable stable includes: PETA, which seeks better treatment for carriage horses and backs a proposed ban on furs; Tobacco Free Kids and the Cancer Society, which supported a ban on flavored e-cigarettes; NY1 owner Charter Communications, whose franchise needs to be renewed by the city; Uber, which is fighting city proposals to cap trips; and the consortium that sought to redevelop the area in Long Island City for the aborted Amazon campus.
“It’s not my first rodeo,” said Kasirer, who has built inroads with Mayor Bill de Blasio — plus Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani before him — as well as City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is widely considered a frontrunner to become the city’s next mayor.
“You have to build coalitions in both the council and the administration.”
The second-highest compensated firm was James Capalino & Associates, which earned $11.9 million in 2019.
Like Kasirer, Capalino also has decades-long ties to de Blasio and others in city government, and a diverse roster of clients that includes the Staten Island Mall, the Archdiocese of New York, vaping giant Juul Labs, Macy’s, New York University, UPS and more.
One of Kasirer’s clients, the pro-animal rights, anti-horse carriage group New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets — or NYCLASS — agreed in 2018 to pay state run-watchdog the Joint Commission on Public Ethics a $10,000 fine to settle allegations of lobbying-act violations after donating $75,000 to the Campaign for One New York, a de Blasio-controlled advocacy group.
In the same year, Capalino paid a $40,000 fine to JCOPE to settle accusations of lobbying violations, admitting he personally contributed $10,000 to de Blasio’s CONY and secured another $90,000 in contributions from nine clients who retained him to lobby the city, the mayor and his senior staff.
The Bolton – St. John’s firm came in a distant third in the city clerk’s report, earning $5.6 million in 2019.
With respect to outgoing funds, the parent company of RJ Reynolds Tobacco — RAI Services — had the biggest lobbying stable, paying seven different firms in its fight against legislation to ban menthol cigarettes.
But real estate and development remains the bread and butter of the lobbying industry, accounting for 40 percent of all compensation, the report noted.
The developer of a project to build a 13-tower mixed-use project along Flushing Creek in Queens — the FWRA consortium — paid over $1 million in lobbying bills as it seeks to win city approval to rezone the area, the most paid by any one client last year.
Capalino is one of the consortium’s lobbyists.
“It begs the question of whether the public interest is being served or whether special interests have too much influence by hiring experts,” said Alexander Camarda, of watchdog group Reinvent Albany.
While his since-disbanded CONY group was under investigation, de Blasio said he would restrict directly meeting with lobbyists, a stance that City Hall said he maintains.
“The mayor does not meet with any lobbyists-for-hire,” said mayoral spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein.
Johnson — who has publicly said that he would reject special-interest money in his City Hall run — declined comment.
Additional reporting by Rich Calder and Aaron Feis

Developer paid de Blasio-linked lobbyist, lawyers for East Village petition

by Julia Marsh, NYPOST, January 24, 2020

A developer paid an ethically tarred City Hall lobbyist — and the law firm that defended Mayor Bill de Blasio against pay-to-play allegations — to press the administration for permission to expand a 10-story office tower in the East Village, The Post has learned.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission, whose 11 members are all mayoral appointees, approved plans by Real Estate Equities Corp. to enlarge a building at 3 St. Marks Place that’s 20% larger than limits allowed by the area’s current zoning laws.
The plan was approved in June — although the $200,000 the developer paid to de Blasio lobbyist James Capalino and the law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis and Frankel LLP — were not reported in the press.
Capalino paid a $40,000 settlement to a state ethics watchdog in 2018 for improper contributions to de Blasio’s since-shuttered Campaign for One New York. Meanwhile, the mayor still owes Kramer Levin $300,000 for defending him against pay-to-play allegations.
The project began the city’s lengthy land review process known as ULURP last month. The plan was voted down at its first review point, the local community board, which said it would “not be harmonious with the character of the neighborhood.” It’s still awaiting a public hearing and vote by the City Planning Commission, a specific target of the lobbyists according to city records.
“This administration makes decisions based on the facts and nothing else,” said City Hall spokeswoman Jane Meyer.
Andrew Berman, director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, was skeptical of Meyer’s claim.
“Anyone who thinks this administration makes these decisions purely on the merits is simply burying their head in the sand,” Berman said.
“When lobbyists to whom the mayor is personally indebted and from whom he has received thousands in contributions are behind a project, you know you’re in trouble. This plan to increase the size of an office building on St. Marks Place by 20% is wrong from every angle,” Berman said.
Local resident Carolyn Ratcliffe called the process “very suspect.”
“I think that if de Blasio owes the law firm $300,000 that it’s sort of like a very smelly mackerel. You know most people would say that’s a conflict of interest,” Ratcliffe said.
The project’s fate depends local councilwoman Carlina Rivera, who has reservations about the building’s scale.
“I continue to share the same concerns that many in our community have brought up, including Community Board 3, regarding this project and its impact on the surrounding area, and I have not seen anything new presented that would make me consider it favorably as it proceeds through ULURP,” Rivera told The Post.
Capalino attorney Kenneth Fisher dismissed any conflicts of interest questions as “smoke and mirrors to cover the fact that the opponent doesn’t have good arguments on the merits.”
Reps for Kramer Levin and Real Estate Equities Corp. did not return messages.