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. In this series, we’ll be spotlighting Quinn’s most prestigious bundlers in Big Development for the upcoming mayoral election.
Second on our list: Millennium Partners, a real estate developer with ties to Quinn’s largest handouts.
Millennium Partners, the nationwide developer of higher-income condos, pitches itself as as a main force behind “creating luxury residential experiences” and, more metaphysically, “driving the new urbanism.” Its New York properties include the Ritz-Carlton outside of Central Park, The Phillips Club in Lincoln Square, and a handful of sleek skyscrapers in Battery Park and the Upper West Side, many of which contain the ultramodern phrase “Millennium” in the name.
In terms of lobbying, Millennium has been a client of the City for years, seeking compensation from the Department of Buildings, the Economic Development Corporation and other governmental bodies. But luckily, one of the company’s partners has long been friends with an official that has the greatest power of the purse when it comes to discretionary spending in City Council.
Like Jay Kriegal of Related Companies–the subject of last week’s profile–Mario J. Palumbo Jr. acts as an intermediary for Quinn’s campaign, bundling together a total of $53,900 in donations from real estate figures. He’s also a partner at Millennium, in control of the company’s assets worth $2 billion. As the former board president of the LGBT Community Center, he’s settled in well to Quinn’s political career, landing him huge amounts of money in return for his other project:
A celebrity-studded campaign to turn a rusting elevated rail line into a glitzy West Side park has received hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars through Council Speaker Christine Quinn. And she’s gotten a little something in return. Officials with Friends of the High Line–the top recipient of Quinn-controlled City Council pork–have given more than $50,000 to her campaigns since 1999, records show.
This is from a Daily News report titled “Christine Quinn gives your cash to West Side project–and gets campaign money” and published in late April of 2008. Five years later, we know this “rusting elevated rail line” as the nearly finished High Line–the beautiful above-ground park that runs up Tenth Avenue.
In addition to Millennium Partners, Palumbo is also a founding member, the treasurer and vice co-chair of Friends of the High Line, the group mostly responsible for the project’s development. For relation, Quinn still stands as an ex-officio member of the organization as well. Since that NYDN article’s publication, Friends of the High Line continues to receive thousands upon thousands of taxpayer dollars each year from City Council; in 2013, the group has a pending request of $75,000 in the works.
As mentioned in this series’s first part, Quinn is a natural target for the real estate companies – her legislative position provides her with treasure troves of discretionary funds, member items that have sparked controversy towards her use in, with some cases, intimidating fellow councilmembers. Albeit popular amongst residents and tourists now, the High Line still provides us with another example of how money has circulated between Quinn’s work as Speaker and, later, her campaign for City Hall, a position that could benefit the developers tenfold should she win.
Half a decade ago, the High Line was a project that was fought aggressively against by Quinn’s very own constituents; citizen groups saw the development as encroaching and wasteful. And, just like the Hudson Yards, Quinn was an integral part of approving the project anyway, funding Palumbo and the rest of Friends of the High Line with more than enough pork to go around. In her campaign filings, the rest of the staff there is bundled with other subsidiaries, ensuring that their money is in Quinn’s pockets come September and, hopefully for them, November.
The Voice has reached out to Millennium Partners, Friends of the High Line, and Christine Quinn’s mayoral campaign for comment. We’re waiting to hear back.