There aren’t too many people looking to appear in campaign ads for the Bronx’s Pedro Espada right now. But write him a fat check or two to help him win reelection next week? That’s doable.
The rogue state senator’s latest campaign finance filings show that even as Espada’s race was becoming the key taste test for those who want to clean up Albany, he picked up almost $90,000 in donations in the dog days of August. Most of that came from real estate interests, including $25,000 from a wealthy landlord who has a lot riding on the outcome of the race.
Laurence Gluck, whose Stellar Management is engaged in some of the city’s nastiest landlord-tenant wars, spread his money out in seven separate corporate checks that he wrote to New Yorkers for Espada last month.
The hefty cash gifts offer a pretty good window on what’s at stake in next week’s race. It’s not just the usual gripes that Espada is “a poster child for all that’s wrong in Albany” — as he was dubbed yesterday at a crowded Manhattan press conference for his opponent, Gustavo Rivera. It’s also a straight-out, old-fashioned ideological war between big property owners, who have long been Espada’s quiet champions, and those who pay rent in their buildings and who would like to stay in the city if they can afford to do so.
Espada is the chairman of the senate’s housing committee and ever since last year, when he bolted across the aisle to briefly give the Republicans a majority, he’s been squelching pro-tenant legislation there.
That’s been a major boon to Gluck, whose corporate M.O. has been to buy publicly subsidized Mitchell-Lama apartment complexes — built with government aide to keep the middle class in the city — and then try to jack residents out of state rent protections, and into market-level rents. Just last week, Gluck’s effort to hike rents in 1300 apartments at Independence Plaza North in Tribeca was smacked down by Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, who ruled that the landlord’s move was illegal and that the units should remain under rent stabilization.
Gluck tried the same market-rate scheme at the huge Riverton Houses in Harlem, but lost the property to foreclosure.
Outside of the courts, and manipulating state housing agencies, the only hope for Gluck and a score of other major landlords and investors engaged in similar big-stakes, high-rent schemes, is state legislation to bail them out.
In fact, Espada’s sole piece of housing legislation this year was a bill that would rescue Gluck and other landlords by putting taxpayers on the hook for the difference between what tenants can afford and what the owners wants to charge. The bill went nowhere.
In addition to Gluck, Housing NY PAC — whose members include many of the city’s largest landlords — anted up $5,000 last month for Espada; he pulled in another $1,000 from the Small Property Owners of New York, plus $7,500 from a Queens landlord. Owners are apparently glad to finance the rogue senator’s campaign, as long as it’s kept on the down low.