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Anticipating a Democratic takeover of the New York State Senate this fall, real estate executives have begun courting Senate Democratic leaders, hoping to fend off what they expect will be aggressive efforts by tenant groups to revamp rent regulations next year.
The effort represents a significant new approach for real estate interests, which for years have been closely allied with the Senate’s Republican majority. But after controlling the Senate for four decades, the Republicans now hold a bare one-seat majority and many strategists believe the Democrats are in a strong position to gain control of the chamber in November.
Looking to block or water down an array of pro-tenant measures, including the repeal of vacancy decontrol, that have won support in the Democratic-controlled Assembly, real estate industry executives have stepped up their campaign donations to the Senate Democratic leadership, a review of campaign-contribution records shows. They are also continuing to contribute to Republicans.
The review, made by the New York Public Interest Research Group at the request of The New York Times, found that a selection of major real estate developers, lobbyists and limited liability corporations gave more than $750,000 to the Senate Democratic leadership last year and this year. That is 15 times more than the roughly $48,000 that the same developers and companies gave to the Democratic leadership from 2005 to 2006.
For example, executives of the Benjamin Development Company and related firms, which own rent- regulated buildings, gave $76,000 to the Senate Democratic leadership and campaign committees in the current election cycle. During the previous cycle, that figure was $1,000. A spokesman for the company declined to comment on the change in contributions.
“If the State of New York makes drastic changes to housing regulation,” which might include regulation of new buildings, “no residential developer will build another rental building in New York City,” said Adam R. Rose, co-president of Rose Associates, which manages 22,000 apartments in the region. Mr. Rose has contributed more than $60,000 to the Democratic Senate leadership over the past year.
Industry officials are particularly worried about a measure strongly supported by rank-and-file Senate Democrats that would abolish vacancy decontrol, a law under which rent stabilized apartments are decontrolled and revert to market rents when the occupants move out, if the regulated rent exceeds $2,000 a month. The Assembly approved legislation to abolish vacancy decontrol as part of a package of pro-tenant bills it passed in May. Tenant groups have said that should the Democrats win the Senate this fall, abolishing vacancy decontrol will be among the first issues they and their Democratic allies will push for in the Senate next year.