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Top Senate Democrats slam DEC on fracking regs release
July 5th, 2012

Top state Senate Democrats have called on the Department of Environmental Conservation to explain why it shared details about proposed regulations for hydrofracking with representatives of the national gas industry more than a month before the public.

The senators said the DEC’s action had given industry “an advantage in shaping the proposed regulations to its own benefit.”

The letter was signed by Sens. Liz Krueger, Martin Malave Dilan, Thomas K. Duane and Kevin Parker.

The Environmental Working Group obtained records through the Freedom of Information Law that showed regulators giving drilling companies’ exclusive, early access to the proposed policy.

Go here to read the full statement by the Senate Democrats:

2012-07-05 Letter to Martens Re Regs Release

By on July 5, 2012, 3:05 pm
In category: Environment,Gotham City | No Comments »

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NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe Steps Down
June 18th, 2012

The citys parks commissioner, Adrian Benepe, resigned after serving with the Bloomberg Administration since 2002. Benepe plans to take a senior position for a national nonprofit, the Trust For Public Land, whose mission is to create close to home parks in and near cities.

Benepe oversaw the largest expansion of parks since the 1930s, and worked on two of Bloombergs signature projects, PlaNYC and MillionTreesNYC

Benepe said in a news release that he looked forward to dedicated his time to “sustainable landscapes in cities across the country and here in New York.

Speaking at a news conference, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday that Benepe had done extraordinary work as parks commissioner, leading transformative changes in every corner of New York City.

The New York Times reported that during Benepes tenure the city added 730 acres of parkland. He also had a role in the creation of Brooklyn Bridge Park and the High Line.

Commissioner Adrian Benepes successor will be Veronica M. White, the executive director and founder of the Center for Economic Opportunity. She may be best known for her work for theOpportunity NYC, a $63 million privately-funded initiative that uses monetary, health and education incentives to reward low-income adults and children for behaviors such as workforce participation, attending job training and passing assessments during the school year.

By on June 18, 2012, 8:33 pm
In category: Environment,Gotham City,Parks | 1 Comment »

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City Releases First Wetlands Strategy for Comment
February 13th, 2012

Parks Writer Anne Schwartz filed this story:

In its first effort to create a comprehensive policy for protecting New York Citys last wetlands, the Bloomberg administration released a draft Wetlands Strategy in mid-January. The City Council held a hearing on the draft on January 31, and public comments are being accepted until February 18 at planyc@cityhall.nyc.gov.

Of the estimated 100 square miles of coastal marshes that once lined the citys shores, just 14 remain. More than 90 percent of its freshwater wetlands have been lost. The wetlands that remain are key to the survival of waterbirds nesting in the harbor, migratory birds that funnel through the city in the spring and fall, and harbor fisheries. They also help prevent coastal flooding and soak up stormwater, an increasingly important role as climate change brings an expected rise in the number and severity of storm surges. Read the rest of this entry »

By on February 13, 2012, 2:09 pm
In category: Environment,Gotham City,sustainability,Waterfront | No Comments »

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Anti-Frackers Encouraged By Cuomo Budget
January 17th, 2012

The New York State Water Rangers, a group of environmental organizations that oppose hydraulic fracturing, are encouraged that Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not include revenue from hydrofracking in his budget, or add money for increased staff to process fracking permits. Here is their statement:

“Governor Cuomo has clearly taken his foot off the gas pedal and appears to be taking to heart the states obligation to conduct a thorough environmental review before deciding whether to proceed with industrial gas development by means of fracking in New York. By not including industry-exaggerated fracking revenue or ramping up agency staff to process drilling permits, the Governor’s budget proposal signals that hes not rushing to judgment and is giving the Department of Environmental Conservation the time necessary to review and respond to the more than 40,000 comments the agency has received on the state’s fracking proposals.

The New York Water Rangers are encouraged by the executive budget proposal and Governor Cuomo’s recent statements on fracking, which demonstrate he’s adopted a more responsible approach to considering the issue.”

By on January 17, 2012, 3:46 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | 4 Comments »

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IOGA Demands Yet Another Fracking Study
December 21st, 2011

The Independent Oil and Gas Association is none to happy that the Department of Environmental Conservation announced that it is hiring an outside firm to study the financial burden of natural gas exploration on communities across the state. Its solution is to have the state hire a consultant to hire an outside firm to study the cost to the state of the state putting a moratorium on fracking in 2008.

“IOGA of NY calls on the agency to also determine the full negative impact this delay has had on the state, especially the Southern Tier by examining lost sales, income and property tax revenue; outward job migration and jobs lost to other states; how the higher cost of fuel has impacted business growth in the state; and how many foreclosures could have been avoided.”

It just so happens the DEC was criticized for an earlier report by the same consultant because the report focused on the financial benefits of fracking without analyzing possible costs to communities, such as impacts on infrastructure.

Here is IOGA’s statement:

The DECs expanded study of community impacts resulting from advanced natural gas exploration announced yesterday should also analyze the lost opportunities and unrealized positive impacts since the states moratorium went into effect in 2008.

IOGA of NY calls on the agency to also determine the full negative impact this delay has had on the state, especially the Southern Tier by examining lost sales, income and property tax revenue; outward job migration and jobs lost to other states; how the higher cost of fuel has impacted business growth in the state; and how many foreclosures could have been avoided.

Earlier this month a report by IHS Global Insight showed that natural gas production in the United States will support 870,000 jobs and result in an additional $118 billion in economic impact over the next four years. New York must be part of this growth.

By on December 21, 2011, 5:10 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | 3 Comments »

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Lifton's Remarks on Local Fracking Bans
December 19th, 2011

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton was quoted in Sarah Crean’s article on the efforts of communities around the state to ban hydraulic fracturing. She was quoted saying: We have a very strong tradition of home rule in New York State. Its in our state constitution that locals have the power to regulate. If it (home rule) applies to gravel mining, it also applies to gas.

Lifton however says that she was misquoted and what she really said was:

We have a very strong tradition of home rule in New York State. Its in our state constitution that locals have the power to restrict and ban outright. If it (home rule) applies to gravel mining, it also applies to gas.

By on December 19, 2011, 2:05 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | No Comments »

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Frack Calculator
December 13th, 2011

The Independent Oil and Gas Association is eager to get started with this whole hydraulic fracturing thing and they want New York residents to see how much tax revenue their counties could pull in if and when it becomes sanctioned by the Department of Environmental Conservation. To that end they have created a calculator tool on their website. You can find it here. All you do is choose your county and click a button. Fortunately/unfortunately for me the calculator told me that my county (Albany, AKA The 518) is, “an unlikely candidate for Marcellus development.”

This simple calculator on the IOGA of NY websites homepage tells a dramatic story in just a few words, said John Holko, president of Lenape Resources in Alexander and an IOGA of NY director, in a statement. The calculator shows the amount of ad valorem tax the operator pays to a county in one year if only one Marcellus Shale well would be drilled in that county. This tax revenue stays in the county and supports essential services to county residents.

Fracking opponents say fracking could cost counties and the state a great deal of money if the waste water from the process contaminates local water sources. They also say that those who lease their land to oil and gas companies may not come out as well as they might hope because of the cost of possible water contamination.

By on December 13, 2011, 4:48 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | 21 Comments »

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IOGA Unhappy With Extension of Fracking Comment Period
November 30th, 2011

The Department of Environmental Conservation announced today that it is extending the public comment period on its fracking impact study by one month. The DEC is holding its final hearing on the study in the city today.

Environmental advocates were fairly pleased by the extension but the gas industry is not. The Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York issued this short statement:

While todays extension of the comment period may seem inconsequential to some, it is in fact a continuation of the existing four-year ban on economic opportunity for Upstate New York.

By on November 30, 2011, 4:29 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | No Comments »

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Schneiderman Weighs in on Federal Fracking Regs
November 8th, 2011

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is not pleased with hydrofracking regulations that were put forward by the Delaware River Basin. Commission today. Schneiderman filed a suit in May against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies to force a full environmental review of the impact of fracking on the Delaware River Basin. Here is what Schneiderman had to say about the new regulations:

By issuing these modified draft regulations, the federal government continues to ignore New Yorkers concerns about the impact fracking may have on our environment, health and homes. Though modified, these regulations still lack the benefit of a full environmental impact study, which is required by law and dictated by common sense. Without it, the federal government does not have a complete understanding of the health and safety risks fracking poses, even as it stands to open up the Delaware River Basin to thousands of new gas wells. These regulations are both inadequate and illegal, and I will continue to use the full authority of my office to require that the federal government meet its clear legal obligation to fully study the environmental impacts of fracking in the Basin.

Here is Schneiderman’s full statement: Read the rest of this entry »

By on November 8, 2011, 3:31 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany,Law | 2 Comments »

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EPA to Set Standards For Fracking Waste Removal
October 20th, 2011

The Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it will set standards for disposing of fracking waste water in 2014 after finding that pollutants have been entering waste water due to inadequate treatment of fracking waste. The announcement comes as a boon to environmental groups that oppose fracking.

Environmental Advocates of New York released a statement praising the EPA and insisting that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation should heed the warning.

“Environmental Advocates of New York commends the U.S. EPA for announcing plans to set a national standard for the disposal of toxic fracking wastewater. In doing so, the agency recognizes the lack of consistent standards to protect the nation’s waters and wastewater infrastructure from industrial gas drilling. Governor Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation should act now to prohibit New York’s aging sewage plants from accepting wastes these facilities cannot–and were never meant to–treat. Only by prohibiting New York’s sewage plants from accepting fracking wastes can we ensure that our waters and wastewater infrastructure are protected.”

By on October 20, 2011, 4:14 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Fracking With the Public
September 21st, 2011

A recently-released Quinnipiac University Poll is giving ammunition to both sides of the hydrofracking debate. Environmental Advocates of New York point to numbers that New Yorkers who live on shale formations are against fracking 47-43 percent.

“Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature should take note of todays Quinnipiac poll: 47 to 43, New Yorkers likely to be impacted by fracking dont want it due to concerns about drinking water quality and the industrialization of their communities with truck traffic and more,” reads the statement. “New Yorks voters havent made up their minds about fracking, and 51 percent know it will damage the environment. Thirty five percent dont know, and 13 percent disagree. Environmental Advocates of New York is confident that the more New Yorkers learn about fracking, the less they want it in their communities.”

Statewide New Yorkers support hydrofracking 45-41. There is stronger support in the suburbs and city residents are split 41-41 for and against fracking.

The Independent Oil and Gas Association seizes on the statewide support numbers:

Once again, a sampling of the public demonstrates that most New Yorkers favor increased natural gas development in the Southern Tier,” reads their release. “This is remarkable, given the tremendous amount of misinformation that has been issued about our industry in New York. We remain hopeful that New Yorkers are seeing through the distorted statements, myths and fictions, and instead will rely on science and record of performance to form their own opinions. As New York moves in the direction of expanded natural gas exploration, the industry looks forward to balancing the economic and the environmental needs of the state, just as we have done consistently since the 1800s.

By on September 21, 2011, 4:04 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Fracking and Flooding
September 8th, 2011

Flooding is a new major point of contention for environmental groups as they look over the fracking report or environmental impact study just released by the Department of Environmental Conservation. As upstate New York faces devastating flooding this week and rivers, streams and lakes continue to overflow, environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council are concerned that the Department of Environmental Conservation does not propose a complete ban of all fracking related activities in flood plains.

The DEC does propose banning well development in flood plains but it would seemingly allow holding ponds and other infrastructure to be located on them. Environmentalists worry that could lead to catastrophe if flooding occurred and toxic fracking materials escaped into the general water supply.

This does seem like an issue that might be able to be resolved during the public comment period that lasts until Dec. 12. However, environmentalists point out that the DEC plans on proposing draft rules to oversee fracking before their environmental review is complete. Those rules will be issued in Oct. and public comment will be open on them until December as well. Advocates insist that the comment period on the recently released environmental impact study is meant to inform the writing of the rules that oversee fracking and that they should not be taking place concurrently.

By on September 8, 2011, 4:53 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Environment,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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More Impressions on Fracking Report
September 8th, 2011

“A new report out of Albany yesterday confirms what most folks already know: Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, will bring huge benefits to New York — with scant chance of environmental harm,” reads the opening line of the NY Post’s editorial on fracking this morning. Guess what? The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Green Party don’t buy it.

Eric Goldstein of the Natural Resources Defense Council has a blog up detailing what he sees as the major missing elements of the Department of Environmental Conservations new environmental study of fracking.

“Our first impression of the new draft environmental study is that it has left a boatload of unresolved issues and unanswered questions in its wake,” writers Goldstein.

What does the NRDC think is missing? Like he said–a boat load.

1. The report fails to address how to deal with fracking in flood plains–an issue made all the more poignant by tropical storm Irene.

2. The report fails to propose how to protect small communities from “rapid industrialization”–such as pollution, heavy machinery etc. when fracking takes off.

3. The report is vague on what will happen to millions of gallons of toxic waste water from fracking.

For more of what the NRDC thinks is misgiving check out Goldstein’s blog.

Meanwhile the Green Party just wants to throw the entire study in the trash and demands that Gov. Andrew Cuomo institute a ban on fracking. See a snippet of their statement here: Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 8, 2011, 8:13 am
In category: Albany,Economy,Environment,Eye on Albany | No Comments »

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DEC Backtracks on Public Meetings
September 7th, 2011

Environmental groups are responding to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s fracking report and they continue to say that the public comment period should be extended. The DEC does seem to have extended the comment period to over 90 days but not to the requested 180. Environmental groups say that New Yorkers are still recovering from tropical storm Irene and need more time to process the report. A press release from a coalition of environmental groups called New York Water Rangers demands the DEC add two more public meetings.

Originally the DEC website said there would be 4 public hearings. “The meetings will be held in Broome, Steuben and Sullivan counties, as well as New York City. Dates and locations will be announced shortly,” read the website.

However, DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis e-mailed me earlier to say, “To clarify, no final decisions have been made on the locations of the public hearings. The hearings will be held in counties within the Marcellus Shale region, as well as New York City. Exact dates and locations will be released in early October.” The original statement seemed fairly clear.

Anyway, the Water Rangers’ response is fairly blistering: Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 7, 2011, 2:30 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Environment,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Gas Industry Responds to Fracking Report
September 7th, 2011

The Independent Oil and Gas Association has released its response to the DEC fracking study. The synopsis? They aren’t so happy about the extended comment period and they plan on reading the report.

Commissioner Martens has demonstrated his willingness to provide opportunities for serious dialogue on this important energy and environmental matter,” said Brad Gill.

“While the energy industry believed the previously announced 60-day comment period to be sufficient, it has been determined that extending it to 90 days will ensure a more detailed review and evaluation of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS).

IOGA of NY will fully review the additional elements and content of the revised SGEIS and looks forward to sharing its point of view with state officials at the upcoming hearings.

In addition, we know that New Yorkers are open-minded about the benefits that natural gas exploration can bring to the state; and as an industry, we remain committed to practices that have resulted in a long-term record of safety and stewardship.”

By on September 7, 2011, 1:57 pm
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Fracking Study Out, Start Your Commenting
September 7th, 2011

The Department of Environmental Conservation has released its revised report on hydraulic fracturing and the 90 day comment period has now started. That’s right it seems the DEC has extended the comment period by 30 days. Environmental groups have insisted that the comment period should be extended to 180 days, while the gas industry has said 60 days is plenty.

For those interested in commenting the DEC offers these rules:

“Written comments will be accepted through the close of business December 12, 2011 by two methods only:

Electronic submission using a web-based comment form available on DEC’s website (preferred method); or
Paper submission mailed or delivered to: Attn: dSGEIS Comments, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 625 Broadway,Albany, NY 12233-6510. Please include the name, address, and affiliation (if any) of the commenter. Paper submissions also will be accepted at the public hearings listed below.

Due to the expected volume, comments that are faxed, telephoned, or emailed to the DEC will not be accepted for the official record. This is to ensure that all comments are captured properly and can be included during the review process. Please use DEC’s web-based comment form to provide your input.
Public Hearings

DEC plans to hold four public hearings during the comment period for the SGEIS and regulations in November. The meetings will be held in Broome, Steuben and Sullivan counties, as well as New York City. Dates and locations will be announced shortly.”

By on September 7, 2011, 11:44 am
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | 7 Comments »

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More Testing for Schools
August 31st, 2011

In the wake of the closing of a Bronx schools contaminated with a toxic chemical, two advocacy groups and eight members of the City Council have written to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott demanding immediate testing of city school on leased property and a public disclosure of he results.

Earlier this summer, the Department of Education shut Bronx New School, which had operated in a leased former industrial site in Bedford Park. Walcott has admitted the department knew of the contamination since January but did not tell parents until eight months later. The school had apparently never been tested before although students attended classes there for two decades.

While other cases may not be quite that egregious, as Melissa Checker reported in Gotham Gazette last month, Bronx New School, also known as PS51X, is hardly an isolated case. The city now leases more than 90 properties –many of them former industrial sites — for schools, and the regulations regarding leased properties, as opposed to those for sites the city owns, are lax, to say the last. Schools on leased sites, Checker wrote, do not have to undergo environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, and the city does not have to keep the public including parents, staff and students - informed about its plans for building or monitoring those schools or remediating any hazards at the site.

In the letter, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, New York Communities for Change and the council members seek to address some of these issues, focusing on 31 schools whose leases are up for renewal. The city does inspect school when their leases come up for renewal, although a schools spokesperson told Checker only that the inspections would take plan within eight weeks not necessarily before the school year begins.

More and the letter after the jump.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 31, 2011, 12:44 pm
In category: Education,Environment,Gotham City | 9 Comments »

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Fracking Report Due
August 29th, 2011

The Department of Environmental Conservation is expected to release its updated fracking report this week and environmental groups are upping the pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to weigh in against the controversial process by which gas is extracted from shale formations by pumping millions of gallons of water and chemicals into the ground. After the report is released the public will have a 60 day comment period but environmentalists want the comment period extended to 180 days.

“Almost every day new science and new facts come to light about the dangers of fracking,” said Environmental Advocates of New York in a statement. “The U.S. Geological Survey’s reduced estimate for recoverable gas from the Marcellus Shale is just the latest example of science that Governor Cuomo must consider before opening New York State to high volume horizontal fracking. The state’s fracking review is expected to weigh in at more than 1,000 pages. New Yorkers from Buffalo to Brighton Beach are asking Governor Cuomo to give people time to dig into the science of fracking and understand how state leaders intend to safeguard our waters and communities from the adverse effects of gas exploration. Limiting the public’s sole opportunity to review this important and technical document to 60 days is irresponsible and inadequate. The gas will wait. Its not going anywhere.”

The Independent Oil and Gas Association opposes an extended comment period.

The natural gas industry has waited more than three years to move forward with development of the Marcellus Shale. The draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement when it was released was to have a 60 day public review period, which has not yet begun. This is more than enough time to allow residents and stakeholders opportunity to comment,” said IOGA executive director Brad Gill is a statement earlier this month.

“Opponents have called for a comment period that would extend it to half a year. Clearly, this is a tactic to delay the issuance of drilling permits in New Yorks Southern Tier and is not intended to facilitate a meaningful discussion,” continued Gill. “The recent Quinnipiac poll showed that a majority of New Yorkers, in areas where the strongest impact will be made, favor increased natural gas development. Further delaying progress just means New York will continue to lose out on the economic benefits and job creation potential that will come with expanded natural gas development. Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 29, 2011, 4:43 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Walcott Promises More Testing for Toxins
August 19th, 2011

By all accounts last night’s meeting in the Bronx between schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and parents is unlikely to settle the rising concern about the contaminated site of the Bronx New School - and the problem of polluted schools overall.

Three weeks ago, the Department of Education announced it would shut the Bedford Park building because high levels of trichloroethylene, or TCE, had been found on the site.

The department learned of the unsafe levels in January; it did not tell parents, the principal or the staff until this summer. And although the school has been on the former industrial site for about 20 years, no record exists of it ever having been tested before. And there may be other untested schools as well.

Walcott has said the city is checking another 31 schools whose leases are now up for renewal and plans to complete the tests by early next month. It has not released the names of those schools.

Melissa Checker wrote in Gotham Gazette this week that, while the city must conduct environmental reviews of any property it purchases for a school, it does not have to check out land or buildings it leases. As a result, Dawn Philip an attorney with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest told Checker, “Parents, school staff and community members often have no idea that a leased school site sits on top of contaminated property and, more importantly, what the [Department of Education] has done to eliminate any health risks.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 19, 2011, 1:42 pm
In category: Education,Environment,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Developers' Dollars
July 5th, 2011

The New York Post’s David Seifman reported Sunday that developers left without a candidate in the 2013 mayoral race after the demise of Rep Anthony Weiner might support Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. This has the appeal of a man bites dog story — de Blasio a favored candidate of many unions and the Working Families Party, would seem an unlikely politician for developers to embrace.

Whatever the merit of Seifman’s story, it was a little puzzling for its omission of at least one candidate who already has a lot of support from the real estate industry: Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Using Gotham Gazette’s Councilpedia, we examined Quinn’s major contributors for the 2013 race (many of who actually gave in 2007 and 2008, before the extension of term limits sunk Quinn’s 2009 run for Gracie Mansion). And we discovered a large number of $4,950 contributions — the maximum allowed for citywide candidates — from people involved in real estate.

In a number of cases, several people associated with a company anted up. At least six people
with links to Rudin Management, one of the citys largest building developers and owners, gave $4,950, as did five members of the Gural family of the global real estate firm Newmark Knight Frank and the president of Newmark, James Kuhn. Three members of the Walentas family of Two Trees Management, which has developed much of DUMBO< gave $4,950 each, as did two executives with the company, Amish Patel and Richard Shill.
Thee people associated with Rose Associates opened their wallets for the maximum, as did two Roses with the Georgetown Co. At least five people with ties to The Benjamin Companies on Long Island gave Quinn $4,950, and so did at least four people with ties to Related. And so on.

More on the money trail after the jump
Read the rest of this entry »

By on July 5, 2011, 3:40 pm
In category: City Hall,Environment,Gotham City,Governing | 1 Comment »

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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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