By Daniel Geiger | Crain's New York | May 9, 2017
Ray Rogers, who has directed campaigns against giant companies such as Coca-Cola, is debuting a five minute animated film that he says will highlight the harm the Real Estate Board of New York has caused in the city. The film, called Bullies will be played on Tuesday evening at Cinema Village Movie Theater, as part of the Workers Unite Film Festival, a collection of pro-union productions.
A promotional image for the short shows an illustrated picture of the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan and a giant "REBNY" emblazoned foot stepping down on it.
In an online leaflet entitled "Beware of REBNY Real Estate Bullies Plaguing New York", Rogers blames real estate magnates for many of the city's housing challenges. "The film shows how REBNY is a major reason why we have a homeless crisis, why we have small businesses shutting down, serious injuries on construction jobs and corruption in politics," Rogers said.
REBNY, which represents a wide swath of industry groups, including developers, real estate brokers, and landlords, fired back against Rogers's claims by citing the industry's contributions to the city in tax revenue and good-paying jobs.
“We hope the film includes the fact that the real estate industry generates $20.4 billion dollars in annual tax revenue that funds the salaries of every single New York City police officer, firefighter and teacher as well as parks, libraries and other vital city services that every New Yorker expects and deserves," a REBNY spokesman said. "We also are proud to employ 606,000 workers who earn an average annual salary of $75,700 per year.”
Rogers, who is 73 and operates a firm called Corporate Campaign Inc., said he raised money for the campaign from small businesses, construction union and good government groups, although he declined to disclose particular backers or how much he raised. He also said he was motivated personally to go after REBNY after seeing unsafe conditions on a nonunion construction site in a building in DUMBO where he was formerly an office tenant.
Rogers also stated that one of his previous clients was the New York City District Council of Carpenters, one of the largest union trade groups and an adversary of REBNY in the past. He said that union is not a part of the current campaign.
REBNY members do a great deal of construction using union labor, but some also use nonunion workers, and the organization opposed unions' efforts to raise construction workers' pay at projects receiving tax breaks.
Rogers's allegations and attacks against REBNY and its members touch on several criticisms that have plagued the real estate industry in recent years, including its efforts to influence state and city elections and policy making through heavy political spending and the relentless development of luxury housing.
"It's quite a film," Rogers said. "REBNY won't be happy with it."