Southern Brooklyn

Real Estate, Business Interests Spend $800,000+ On Local City Council Races

Source: 401(K) 2013

Four  special interest groups have doled out more than $818,000 on just three Southern Brooklyn City Council campaigns in an unprecedented attempt to sway voters, with one real estate interest group spending far more money than the candidates have themselves spent.

The spending is a local version of the super PAC phenomenon that emerged in last year’s presidential race as a result of the Citizens United decision. Major business interests coalesce into a focused spending group to rally behind a chosen candidate – and decry the candidate’s rivals. The groups are not limited in their spending, but New York City campaign finance laws – among the most progressive in the nation – require them to disclose their backers, and document their spending. The records indicate that four independent spenders have taken an interest in three City Council campaigns that follow the Brooklyn shoreline from Bath Beach to Canarsie.

Potential voters have likely seen the effects of independent spending, as political mailers jammed their mailboxes with messages supporting one candidate or blasting others. The largest of the four groups involved in the area elections, Jobs for New York, is backed by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), a group of the city’s largest real estate developers, and has caused the targets of their negative mailers to cry foul.

“Real estate tycoons have had their greedy eyes set on Coney Island for decades. Seaside residents are in constant danger of being uprooted by developers who would love nothing more than to sweep away communities to make room for swanky developments,” said John Lisyanskiy, who is vying to replace Domenic Recchia in the  47th District. “I urge all candidates citywide to reject attempts by corporations to buy their support with outsized expenditures. Campaigns should be about the people we seek to represent, and we must do everything we can to ensure that their voices are not dwarfed by developers and other deep-pocketed special interests.”

“I am deeply concerned that an unfettered influx of heavy spending by real estate tycoons will prevent a fair and honest debate about the future of development in our area,” said Igor Oberman, a candidate to replace Councilman Michael Nelson in the 48th District. “The cost of living in our City continues to rise, and REBNY represents developers who would litter our neighborhoods with overpriced and unaffordable housing units, altering the character of our neighborhood and pricing people out.”

Jobs for New York is easily the most well-funded group in the city, having already spent upwards of $3 million on races across the city, with another $3 million on hand – and plans to spend up to $10 million before November 5.

Locally, Jobs for New York has spent $691,105 in the three local races: 48th District (currently occupied by Michael Nelson), 47th District (Domenic Recchia) and 46th District (Lew Fidler). In all three races, Jobs for New York has spent more money supporting a candidate than the candidate has spent.

Here’s the breakdown, as of the latest filings:

48th District – Total spending: $227,580

Candidate PAC Support PAC Opposition Candidate’s Spending
Chaim Deutsch $3,662 $112,272
Ari Kagan $195,996 $90,035
Igor Oberman $3,662 $91,985
Theresa Scavo $24,260 $42,219


47th District – Total spending: $230,201

Candidate PAC Support PAC Opposition Candidate’s Spending
John Lisyanskiy $26,549 $146,108
Mark Treyger $203,652 $106,941


46th District – Total spending: $233,324

Candidate PAC Support PAC Opposition Candidate’s Spending
Alan Maisel  $195,156 $118,514
Mercedes Narcisse  $38,168 $41,769


NOTE: While there are other candidates in two of these races, we chose only to include those who have had independent spending for or against them.

Not only is Jobs for New York spending more than the candidates themselves, it’s spending far more than the candidates are legally allowed to spend. Under New York City law, candidates accepting public funds have a $168,000 spending cap for the primary.

As for the tone of the mailers sent by Jobs for New York, some heap praise upon their chosen candidates, while others pick apart the records of their opponents.

Jobs for New York’s first negative mailers in the 48th District hit mailboxes more than two weeks ago, using out-of-context statements regarding the elimination of parking passes for the volunteer members of the Community Board depicting Theresa Scavo as a self-serving politico.

Later mailers targeted Igor Oberman, saying he ran his co-op like an “American-style gulag,” and Chaim Deutsch for an alleged failure to pay his taxes.

When the mailers went negative, Kagan told Sheepshead Bites he was disappointed in the group, and said he didn’t want the campaign’s tone to go negative. The problem is, independent spenders are legally barred from coordinating with the campaign and vice versa.

(When we asked Kagan’s campaign to put us in touch to elaborate on Kagan’s comment, which was made in passing during the Brighton Jubilee, they chose to run interference and would not allow the candidate to comment further. They said they were prohibited by law from even commenting on the mailers, which is untrue.)

While Jobs for New York accounts for the lion’s share of the $818,000 being spent by independent groups in the three City Council campaigns, it’s not the only one.

Another group that appears to be funded by a group of Sephardic businessmen, Small Business Coalition, has jumped into the 47th District race. They’ve spent $19,216 to support Mark Treyger, and $7,640 to bash his opponent John Lisyanksiy. In a fourth race, not included in the $818,000 total, the same group has given $1,497 to support Councilman Vincent Gentile. The two district cover a significant part of Gravesend, Coney Island and Seagate, which has a large population of Sephardic Jewry.

Chaim Deutsch has been the lone recipient of support from City Action Coalition, with $9,773 spent on his behalf. The coalition is primarily funded by Equinox Partners, a firm that specializes in executive recruitment for construction and development jobs in the public and private sectors.

The second largest independent spender in the three races, though, is United for the Future, a group backed by teachers’ unions. The three local candidates who received funding were all endorsed by the United Federation of Teachers. Kagan received $20,077; Maisel received $40,978; Treyger received $26,333.

Because of the massive amount of spending done by business interests, with little accountability, public interest watchdogs fear it’s causing a toxic effect on races, and will leave the candidates beholden to the interests who helped get them elected.

“Independent expenditure campaigns distort races, distort issues, and change the dynamic of a race in unwelcome ways,” said Dick Dadey of Citizens Union. “This is nasty national politics coming into our city.”

Some opponents of independent spending, which is protected by federal law as a result of the Citizens United decision, have called for some reforms that would close loopholes and give voters better insight into the process.

Comment policy


  1. Great reporting! “Follow the money”. The bottom line is that we vote based on what we hear. And money doesn’t talk, it screams.

  2. The amount of money spent by these special interest groups is an indication that such candidates will be in their packet. I do not believe that candidates are being picked without an interview or any kind of backroom deal. You forgot to mention that Small Businesses Coalition PAC is also spending money on Kagan, On Tuesday residents of 48 district received mailing from the Coalition on behalf of Kagan where he is pictured with Domenic Recchia. There are might be many explanations and reasons but it thinks!

  3. One thing that should be done is to make a law that states that these PAC’s are only identified by number: “This message is by PAC#286” and not “Jobs for NY” etc. People interested in finding out who “PAC#286” is then can google it. “Jobs for NY”, as all PAC names, are blatant lies and totally misleading, ie- false advertising.

  4. The RUSKY candidates harass you with ROBO CALLS AND keep filling your mailbox with their LIES, and also enlist volunteers to ring your bell and keep bothering you. SHAME ON THESE CREEPS. THESE PESTS DO NOT DESERVE OUR VOTES.

    This is America and I will vote for someone that was born here and is not a PEST, who keeps annoying you. I will vote for someone who cares about AMERICANS and will do right by us.

  5. Just to add something to the previous post of mine. If any organization is supporting a candidate to make him/her look good I do not see a very big problem in it especially if a very little money being spent. But when thousands dollars are being spent on spreading lie after lie on opponents, to me it is a bad taste. These two (Kagan and Treyger) say that they have nothing to do with the PACs decision. If so why none of them will come out and denounce such lie. Many households received a robocall today from Kagan campaign. Very strange. Kagan who pretends to be a proud Jew calls people during Rosh Hashanah

  6. Anyone who wants to see WHY the real estate -development industry cares about influencing a City Council or Mayoral race just has to attend a meeting of Communbity Bd. 15 or the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) –both bodies regularly rubber-stamp approval of special permits and variances.


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