By LOUIS FLORES
The lobbying firm responsible for attacking former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-West Village) over her close association with the real estate developer behind the $1 billion luxury condominium and townhouse conversion of St. Vincent’s Hospital is now lobbying to benefit that real estate developer.
The Advance Group, headed by the lobbyist Scott Levenson, has been paid $100,000, New York City lobbying records show, to lobby the New York City Department of Buildings since April 15, 2015, regarding a build-out of a mixed-used building at 110 Wall Street, which is owned by Rudin Management Company. Despite prior criticism by The Advance Group of Rudin Management Company, The Advance Group is now in a commercial relationship to Rudin Management Company's benefit.
The new alliance between the formerly opposed interests was first revealed in a report published by The New York Post.
The Advance Group was the lobbying firm involved in producing NYC Is Not For Sale's television attack ads on former Council Speaker Quinn in the 2013 New York City mayoral race. One of its attack ads questioned the role of money in politics that allowed $30,000 in campaign contributions from the beneficial owners of Rudin Management Company to the campaign committee of former Council Speaker Quinn to apparently influence former Council Speaker Quinn's treatment of the closure of St. Vincent's Hospital, which was later purchased for pennies on the dollar by Rudin Management Company. The animal rights group, NY-CLASS, was a key supporter of the efforts by NYC Is Not For Sale, a registered Super PAC. Allegations have been made that the work of that Super PAC was intently designed to benefit the 2013 mayoral campaign of Bill de Blasio.
Despite that former tension, The Advance Group has been retained as a lobbyist by WeWork, a lessor in a Rudin-owned building on Wall Street, to lobby the Department of Buildings for a build-out of the mixed-use building.
The lobbying for New York City approvals and permits has transpired at the same time when Arana Hankin, an executive of WeWork, and William Rudin, a beneficial owner of Rudin Management Company, have collectively bundled approximately $100,000 in campaign contributions to Mayor de Blasio's campaign committee, New Yorkers for de Blasio.
Ms. Hankin was the former project director of the controversial Atlantic Yards project for the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency which wrestled land use control over that real estate development from municipal land use authorities, effectively denying Brooklyn residents any significant say in the approval process for that project. In a report published by The Real Deal, Ms. Hankin was identified as the top donation bundler for the campaign committee to reëlect Mayor de Blasio.
One aspect of the reported, wide-ranging Federal corruption investigation now being led by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara into the inner workings of the de Blasio administration has focused on allegations that the de Blasio administration has granted City approvals to real estate developers, who have also doubled as campaign contributors or bundlers. Another aspect has reportedly focused on whether lobbying firms, which have supported Mayor de Blasio's political campaigns, have also received preferential treatment.
In the case of the approvals being sought by WeWork, there is a convergence of these two forces.
The City Hall press office did not immediately answer a request made by Progress Queens to comment about the revelations in The New York Post’s report.
The closure and, later, the luxury condominium conversion, of St. Vincent's Hospital was seen as a significant example of real estate speculators seizing strategic public assets at the expense of public health. Before it was co-opted by The Advance Group to achieve certain political ends, St. Vincent's Hospital had already become a flashpoint for community anger and outrage, becoming the site of large-scale union demonstrations ; the site of direct action protests, including one that led to the arrest of four activists ; and even the final staging point of a significant Occupy Wall Street march demanding a single-payer healthcare system, the latter at which one activist memorably said that politicians, who have said that they supported the heroic First Responders of the tragic September 11 attacks, had only given lip service to the healthcare institutions that played a vital role on the day of the attacks. St. Vincent's Hospital was formerly the only Level I Trauma Center located south of 14th Street in Manhattan, and, in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, its staff had readied the hospital to receive and to treat trauma victims. Later, during the search for survivors, St. Vincent's Hospital became its own "Ground Zero" for the sharing of important information and a refuge for compassionate care for a community devastated by the tragic loss of life.
In the past, Mr. Levenson has described the work done by The Advance Group to be rooted in progressive values, but this is not the first time when his lobbying firm has been reported to work for interests that run counter to progressivism.
In 2013, a report filed by the journalist Michael Powell for The New York Times noted that, "Mr. Levenson’s firm also represented City Action Coalition, an anti-same-sex-marriage group financed by a hedge funder from Princeton, N.J., and led by an evangelical minister who says Nazi tolerance of gays led to the Holocaust."
- Firm lobbying for permits donated $68K to de Blasio [The New York Post]