Christine Quinn’s Prime Real Estate: Related Companies


As the days wind down to November 5–when New Yorkers will choose their first post-Bloomberg leader–the prospects for City Hall continue their mad dash for donors, seeking large contributions from New York’s most powerful elites. Spearheading that movement is City Council Speaker and Democratic frontrunner Christine Quinn; with the largest campaign treasure chest of any candidates thus far, she faces major criticism for her connections to the real estate industry. So, in a series akin to last summer’s Mitt Loves N.Y., in which we looked at Romney’s SuperPAC compadres, we’ll be spotlighting Quinn’s most prestigious bundlers in Big Development for the upcoming mayoral election.

First up: Related Companies, a main city developer that has put its hopes and dreams in the Quinn campaign and is already seeing the payoff.

Related Companies has properties all over the country, but New Yorkers know them as the people who brought us 1 MiMa Tower, the ultramodern, darkly transparent skyscraper on West 42nd Street, and the sleek, clear-blue Time Warner Center that hovers over Columbus Circle. The company is one of the city’s biggest developers and a personal favorite of Bloomberg, who has a pattern of past appearances at Related’s’ grand openings.

Jay L. Kriegel, a onetime aide to Mayor John Lindsay with ties to the Serpico scandal, is a senior adviser there; he also has advisory roles at the Cooper Union, NYU, the Council of Foreign Relations, and a handful of other institutions. A lobbyist in nature, he’s done a hell of a lot of fundraising for the other Democratic candidates but his work for Quinn is incomparable. As an intermediary, or a middleman between wealth and candidate, he has collected nearly $50,000 for her from employees of Related Companies since Quinn’s campaign began two months ago.

As shown by the fantastic work done by the New York World, the role of an “intermediary” has provided Kriegel and numerous other lobbyists with an electoral loophole; rather than being capped off for single donations, these individuals can bundle monies from separate sources and contribute to politicians on their own behalf. The intermediaries are one-man SuperPACs on a metropolitan level and, with that kind of financial influence, it only makes sense that most of the intermediaries listed are also making top dollars from city contracts.

As speaker, Quinn’s ties to the real estate business are no surprise: The highest position on the City Councile oversees the negotiations for and passage of the contract budget each year, in which developers are handed lucrative subsidies to build in a certain spot. Naturally, she would be a main target of Big Development; it’s part of her job to be. But as a mayoral candidate Quinn has the potential to wield a lot more power, a prospect that has led critics to shift attention to the speaker’s motives–and a flow of favors most vividly demonstrated in Quinn’s own backyard.

Mayor Bloomberg has called it “the future of New York,” presenting the project as “Manhattan’s largest undeveloped property now becoming a developed property.” It’s Chelsea’s worn-down neighbor: a maze of scaffolds, empty lots, and the occasional lost tourist left over from the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits’ Convention Center every April. We’re talking, of course, about the Hudson Yards–Related Companies’ biggest project on the horizon, a development blueprint for a “mini-city” that, as part of her territory in the Council, has Quinn’s influence written all over it.

“It will be a moment in the land use and governmental history in New York where people disagreed tremendously … and stayed in the same room to get something done together,” Quinn said on the groundbreaking day last December. Together, she and Mayor Bloomberg steamrolled the negotiations through after they went sour with the failed proposal to build the new Jets Stadium there, as well as residential backlash. This “back room deal” gesture would later feed the attacks done by the “Anyone But Quinn” campaign.

But there’s some credibility to that charge.

You might remember the living wage bill battle from a few months ago–you know, that piece of legislation that would force all companies receiving “significant” subsidies from City Hall to pay their employees at least $10 an hour. Threatened by a Bloomberg veto, the bill is championed by Quinn and the union force, a true test for the candidate who’s been having problems convincing voters she’s actually a true New York progressive. Except in this situation the bill’s technicalities seem to have a different agenda.

It goes without saying that the living wage bill is abhorred by the real estate industry–it’s the classic industrial relations argument of business versus labor. And some of Quinn’s biggest financiers are titans from this industry (the corporate body of Related Companies, so far, has a $48,645 stake in Quinn’s election as mayor).

So this is how that works: last month, Quinn added, to the apparent surprise of her colleagues, an exemption for the Hudson Yards development to the bill, placing Related Companies above the law should it be passed in coming weeks. No reason was given by the Speaker at the time as to why one specific development, out of the hundreds across the five boroughs, achieved this privilege. But the Bloomberg hand-me-down client to Quinn will still be able to get away with paying the state minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to its lowliest workers.

An incredibly wealthy donor was met with an incredibly convenient payback from a politician seeking the most powerful office in New York. The Related Companies exemption is a blatant example of why this criticism against Quinn is mounting. And, unfortunately for Quinn’s sake, it’s one of several.

The Voice reached out to the Quinn campaign and Related Companies for comment. We’re waiting to hear back.

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