Real estate firm with deep ties to de Blasio poised to profit from Soho rezoning

Real estate firm with deep ties to de Blasio poised to profit from Soho rezoning

10/16/2020

Bill de Blasio’s Soho rezoning plan may not be popular with area residents — but a real estate company with deep ties to the mayor is sure loving it.

Edison Properties stands to reap a major windfall if the plan is approved.

The company owns property in the area that would be prime locations for new residential towers and retail spaces.

Edison Properties — whose former chairman Jerome Gottesman and retired CEO Steve Nislick were major contributors to de Blasio’s political career — controls two parking lots in key parts of the redevelopment project that would be prime locations for new residential towers and retail spaces.

Gottesman, who died in 2017, donated the maximum contribution of $4,950 to de Blasio’s reelection campaign.

His cousin Nislick, who retired from Edison in 2012, steered $25,000 of company funds to de Blasio’s scandal-scarred Campaign for One New York, gave $4,950 to his first mayoral campaign, and backed an ad blitz that helped sink the candidacy of his 2013 rival Christine Quinn.

Nislick co-founded New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets or NYCLASS, which works to ban horse-drawn carriages from city streets.

Quinn opposed the group’s mission while de Blasio supported it. In 2017 NYCLASS paid the city’s Campaign Finance Board a nearly $40,000 fine for failing to file disclosure reports.

Chris Coffey, a spokesman for Nislick, said the former Edison CEO wouldn’t benefit financially from the rezoning though he does have partnership interests in other company properties.

“The only thing Steve cares about in Soho is getting the horse carriages to comply with the law. He hasn’t worked at Edison for year, has never spoken to the city about Soho rezonings and had zero involvement or perspective on this project,’ Coffey added.

Edison’s current senior vice president Anthony Borelli sits on the board of a local group called the Citizens Housing Planning Council that’s pushing the proposal, claiming it’s all about racial and economic justice.

De Blasio has parroted that message, pointing to the creation of 800 new affordable housing units from a total 3,200 new apartments included in the redevelopment proposal.

“The pandemic and the movement for racial justice make clear that all neighborhoods must pull their weight to provide safe, affordable housing options,” Hizzoner’s deputy mayor Vicki Been said in a recent statement.

The rezoning would also update 50-year-old regulations for storefronts and artists.

CHPC did not disclose in its endorsement of the plan that Borelli’s company owns parking lots within the redevelopment zone including one on Great Jones and Lafayette streets and another on Centre and Hester streets.

Borelli said it would be “premature” to comment because the full details of the proposed rezoning have not been released– although he acknowledged Edison’s two parking lots sit squarely within the redevelopment zone.

“That’s a true statement,” he told The Post.

The group’s director Jessica Katz defended her support of the plan without addressing Borelli’s board role.

“Our 80 year history of advocating for affordable housing speaks for itself. We’re backing this rezoning, alongside dozens of nonprofits, community development corporations, parent organizations and housing advocates, because New Yorkers of all incomes should be able to access the excellent schools, transportations, and jobs that Soho has to offer.

“Soho loft owners don’t get to lock up the neighborhood and keep those amenities for themselves,” Katz said, citing claims that critics are no more than not-in-my-backyard types who don’t want lower income residents moving into their area.

One such critic, Andrew Berman with the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said de Blasio could add affordable housing to the area without also allowing developers to build luxury towers that are two-and-a-half-times the height of those currently allowed.

“But such an approach would not enrich the real estate interests who are pushing the upzoning, funding some of the interest groups behind it, and donating generously to the city’s political class,” Berman said.

Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, has called out Hizzoner for “playing his race card,” while adding that there’s no guarantee minorities will win the housing lottery for the affordable apartments.

“I don’t want some upper-class person taking advantage of the system and people are still going to be living in welfare hotels. Let him do it in Park Slope,” Sweeney told The Post when the plan was announced earlier this month.

The rezoning still has at least a year’s worth of public review before a City Council vote so it may stretch beyond the end of de Blasio’s final year in office in 2021. It has the support of potential successors including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Mitch Schwartz, a de Blasio spokesman, pushed back on Berman’s claim that the rezoning would allow soaring towers out of character with the neighborhood’s historic nature and said his proposal for affordable housing without rezoning doesn’t make sense.

“As sure as the sun rises in the east, someone will throw the book at whoever tries to build affordable housing in this city,” Schwartz said.

“We’re not interested in freezing New York City in amber. It’s time to reimagine a fairer and better city – and that means bringing jobs and housing to Soho and Noho,” he added.

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