Should Cuomo leave? Scandal divides unions, real estate

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Governor Andrew Cuomo.  Sidebar: CHIP's Jay Martin, REBNY's James Whelan, and GFP Real Estate's Jeff Gural (Getty)

Governor Andrew Cuomo. Sidebar: CHIP’s Jay Martin, REBNY’s James Whelan, and GFP Real Estate’s Jeff Gural (Getty)

To put it mildly, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is not doing very well.

Much of the entire political establishment left him after investigators confirmed claims that he sexually harassed and manipulated 11 women with “fear and intimidation.” Previous protesters, including Speaker Carl E. Heasty and President Joe Biden, called on Tuesday to step down.

But the response from the real estate industry considering Cuomo was mostly allywas mixed.

Perhaps the most outspoken industry spokesperson on this matter was Jeff Gural of GFP Real Estate, a former donor to Cuomo, who told The Real Deal on Wednesday, “I can’t wait for him to resign. I think he’s a bully. “

But others talked about letting the impeachment process, which is still under investigation, play out. This is the governor’s survival strategy.

Industry players have been some of Cuomo’s biggest backers in past electoral cycles and have counted on Cuomo to extend the lucrative 421a tax credit for multi-family developers, which expires next year.

James Whelan, president of the New York City Real Estate Board, said in a statement that the results “require a fair, thorough and prompt impeachment process.” That could give Cuomo two months to recover and survive the initial impeachment vote in the State Assembly.

When asked to comment on the situation, a spokesman for the Durst Organization, whose CEO Douglas Durst heads REBNY and is one of New York’s largest developers, referred to a statement from trade organization TRD.

Gary Labarbera, head of the Greater New York City Council for Building and Construction Specialties, who was one of Cuomo’s strongest supporters, made a statement saying, “We are letting the process play out, but for now we will continue building offices, homes, hospitals. and the infrastructure of the future of New York ”.

But two other key working groups in the industry said it was time for Cuomo to leave.

“We urge the Governor to step down and take responsibility for his well-documented actions and how they harmed women and those dedicated to advancing the interests of all New Yorkers,” said Kyle Bragg, local president of 32BJ International Service Workers Union, which previously supported Cuomo.

And President of the Hospitality Trade Council, Rich Morocco, said in a statement: “From the findings of the report, it is clear that Governor Cuomo cannot continue to run the state. If he does not resign, the Assembly must immediately impeach him. “

Most of Cuomo’s most prolific donors have not said anything yet.

Scott Rehler, CEO of RXR Realty, the donor Cuomo appointed to the Metropolitan Transportation Board and vice chairman of the New York and New Jersey Ports Authority, did not respond to a request for comment.

And a spokesman for Brooklyn-based Two Trees Management, whose executives recently donated money to Cuomo’s campaign. Related companies, whose chairman Stephen Ross handed Cuomo $ 25,000 at the end of June, also did not respond to requests for comment.

John Katsimatidis, billionaire developer and CEO of Gristedes Foods, told TRD that Cuomo “deserves a fair trial, not a press trial.”

Katsimatidis, who recently donated $ 25,000 for Cuomo’s campaign, said he made the donation after the governor helped rebuild the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas, destroyed in the September 11 attacks.

(He issued a warning to any governor the following year: “If 421a isn’t available, I’ll spend the next billion dollars on construction in Florida.”)

According to the Wall Street Journal, casino owner Gural previously gave Cuomo $ 175,000 as he and other gambling companies sought to legalize Las Vegas-style casinos in New York. This bet did not pay off, and Gural later said that the governor forced him to make a donation.

He said he trusts Lieutenant Governor Katie Hochul, who will replace Cuomo if he resigns.

“She wants to help, not rule like a dictator,” he said.

A trade group representing smaller homeowners than leading REBNY members is also looking for a new governor. Jay Martin, Executive Director of the Home Improvement Program, said: report released on Tuesday, “details a disturbing pattern of behavior that is simply unacceptable for any boss in any workplace.”

He added: “If Andrew Cuomo cares about New York State, he will immediately step aside.”

But the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents rental-regulated home owners, declined to comment, possibly putting the group in Cuomo’s camp.

Tenant organizations generally view Cuomo as an adversary – a man who takes the side of developers over tenants and advocates of affordable housing.

“I’ve known this guy since the 1980s, and they called him the prince of darkness for a reason,” said Michael McKee, Treasurer of TenantsPAC.

He said he was not surprised by the results. “Anyone who knows him knows he has no friends, he has minions,” McKee said.

Cuomo’s ties to the real estate industry date back to his first presidential term.

In 2012, the New York Times reported that the committee, heavily funded by real estate, raised over $ 12 million for Cuomo, making him the largest advocacy organization in Albany. Some of these donors pushed for a cap on local property taxes, as suggested by the governor. This was accepted.

Cuomo later set conditions for update of 421a passed in 2017, ignoring the deal reached by REBNY and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Instead, he forced the drafters to include in the bill the prevailing wage requirements that LaBarbera was seeking. tax credits expired more than a year.

Cuomo has upset the real estate industry at other times. In 2019, Cuomo ignored calls from landlords to end rent stabilization reforms in the interests of tenants. Instead, he called them “the most radical and aggressive defenses in the history of the state.”

The governor recently proposed an amendment to New York City’s Local Carbon Act 97, asking building owners. Offer, supported from REBNY was dropped.

In a written statement on Tuesday, Cuomo denied any illegal actions and said that “politics and bias are intertwined” with the report, which was prepared by independent lawyers selected by Attorney General Letitia James. Cuomo’s staff portrayed James as interested in Cuomo’s successor as governor, although Cuomo made it possible by insisting that she become attorney general in the first place.

Catherine Brenzel contributed to this story.

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