Almost a year and a half after promising to detail a “stunning number of donors” who sought favors and didn’t get them, Mayor de Blasio published an op-ed containing only two new examples.
The op-ed — which does not name a single contributor, not even two he references who have since been arrested in a police corruption case — was published on the website Medium on the Friday ahead of the long Labor Day Weekend.
In it, de Blasio writes that in each case, including highly publicized instances of donors Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg asking for favors before they were swept up in a massive NYPD corruption scandal, the city government “did our job.”
“We heard the complaints of people who believed they were being treated unfairly. Sometimes those people are my political supporters,” de Blasio wrote. “Sometimes they are not. Sometimes they were right and often they were wrong. What’s important is that in each instance my administration made decisions based on the facts, not who they were.”
But while Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim decided not to bring criminal charges against the mayor, he made a point of stating that de Blasio had intervened on behalf of donors seeking favors from City Hall.
Those donors included Rechnitz, whom the mayor references without naming in his Medium op-ed.
While de Blasio notes that the city did not purchase a lot Rechnitz was trying to get them to buy, he fails to mention the city allowed Rechnitz to settle multiple violations for dangerous conditions in an illegal hotel he owned without shutting the place down.
And the mayor also mentions Reichberg, again not by name, who reached out to the highest levels of City Hall to get a huge water bill reduced dramatically. The mayor said he got this break due to a “broken meter” but did not note that the city was insisting for months that Reichberg pay up – until City Hall intervened. And only about one in five such appeals are granted annually, records show.
He makes no mention of Harendra Singh, the donor who provided the mayor with two free fundraising events at his Queens waterfront restaurant. Only after City Hall directly intervened on his behalf was the $1.7 million he owed the city in back rent trimmed by $400,000.
In fact, the Daily News found that de Blasio and his minions solicited $3 million of the $4.3 million he raised for his now-defunct and much-criticized non-profit, Campaign for One New York, from entities doing business with City Hall.
That included $245,000 from developers whose luxury condo and apartment buildings are located along the path of a Brooklyn/Queens trolley. The money was collected and donated in the months before de Blasio suddenly announced his support for the $2.5 billion taxpayer-supported plan.
The op-ed falls far short of what de Blasio first promised during a heated press conference in May 2016. Pressed for a yes or no answer on whether he had personally solicited donations from people with business before the city, the mayor said he would be “scrupulously careful” in his answer and that the city never allows political donations to influence government decisions.
“In fact, as we will be showing you more and more in the coming weeks, a stunning number of donors and supporters not only did not get things they hoped they would get, they got rejection of things they hoped they would get because we ran a government that was clean and appropriate,” he said.
Not only did weeks turn into 16 months later, the “stunning number of donors” amounted to a handful in the most generous counting.
“This is an explanation, but not his promised list of specific donors’ names to disprove accusations that his donors were getting special access and possibly favors,” Dick Dadey, the executive director of Citizens Union, told The News. “It’s underwhelming. It’s dispiriting to see this be his answer after he promised a specific list, and I hope that this is just a prelude.”
The mayor also patted himself on the back for releasing “hundreds of emails between my administration and New Yorkers” — without mentioning that those New Yorkers were donors and consultants whose emails the media had sought, some of which de Blasio only released after a court ordered him to.
Many are heavily redacted and were sent to the mayor’s personal e-mail address, which isn’t available to everyday New Yorkers.
Beyond Rechnitz and Reichberg, the Medium post offers just two examples of donors not getting favors. De Blasio, who rails against unnamed sources in news stories, names neither.
One is a “leading real estate developer and campaign contributor” who sought the contract for a new citywide ferry service. His proposal was “good,” the mayor wrote, but another was better so the donor didn’t get the job.
That donor would appear to be Douglas Durst, a former owner of New York Water Taxi, who unsuccessfully sought the route. Asked to respond, Durst spokesman Jordan Barowitz — himself a de Blasio bundler in 2013 — offered up a “Game of Thrones” quote to imply the allegations were fantasy: “Winter is coming,” he said.
The second example is another “real estate developer and important financial backer” of the campaign who wanted to know the outcome of a land use decision before the public could weigh in, de Blasio wrote.
“I made clear that … it was impossible to say,” he wrote. “It didn’t matter how much money he gave my campaign. I would have given the same answer to anyone. He wasn’t happy about it, but our standard of integrity doesn’t waiver when dealing with the wealthy and connected.”
An administration source told The News that donor was Don Peebles, who was seeking to develop the site of Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn. Peebles’ company did not return a request for comment.
After waxing poetic on the spirit of civic responsibility surrounding Watergate — which was exposed by the media — de Blasio goes on to blame the press for his woes.
“A bitterness between those in power and those who hold us accountable has set in,” he wrote. “A frequently undeserved cynicism nearly always crowds out the facts.”
He goes on to long for a day when “the boundless energy spent distorting the donor-City Hall relationship” — which warranted a yearlong investigation from multiple agencies — “can be redirected toward a demand for publicly financed elections.”
He went on to urge the public to judge for itself.
“Despite the blaring headlines competing for your outrage, you may actually be proud of what you see,” he wrote.
The mayor’s op-ed comes after he promised on his weekly radio program to release it before the general election, and after Democratic primary challenger Sal Albanese asked him in a debate last month to release the information before the Sept. 12 primary.
“I thought it was a general whitewash of his record of legalized corruption, and he spent most of the op-ed piece criticizing the media, taking no accountability for his own actions,” Albanese told The News