By Joe Maniscalco | LaborPress | May 19, 2017
New York, NY — A corporate watchdog intent on upending the powerful Real Estate Board of New York's grip on city politics is calling on organized labor to help "divide and conquer" the more than 120-year-old organization.
In an episode of LaborPress' "Blue Collar Buzz" airing Sunday night at 9 p.m. on AM970, Corporate Campaign, Inc. leader Ray Rogers says REBNY's longstanding power to corrupt elected officials, drive up rents and erode construction safety standards citywide, can be greatly "diminished" through coordinated efforts.
"In fact, I believe we can make REBNY an institution you would not recognize from what it is today," Rogers says. "But I need the support of every labor union out there. Not just the Building Trades, but others, too."
To help drive the point home about the need to reform the Real Estate Board of New York, Rogers has helped produce a five-minute animation called "REBNY Bullies" which uses caustic humor to castigate the high-powered organization and its activites.
The next public showing of "REBNY Bullies" is Tuesday, May 23, at 6 p.m., as part of the Workers Unite Film Festival, Penn South, 343, 8th Avenue. It's also available online here.
"The Real Estate Board of New York should really be called the 'Real Estate Bullies' of New York,' ravaging every borough of New York City," Rogers says. "Their destructive political policies increase four things: political corruption, the homeless crisis, small business closures and construction worker fatalities."
The elite developers that comprise REBNY's executive board, as well as others in the group, benefit from $1.4 billion a year in tax abatements. Rogers calls that "corporate welfare."
"Why do billionaire developers deserve one penny of corporate welfare or tax abatements?" Rogers says. "And why do we have over 60,000 people in homeless shelters?"
An accompanying leaflet to "REBNY Bullies" singles out executive board members including Rob and Jerry Speyer, Gary Barnett, David Brodsky and Jed Walentas for particular scorn and criticism.
"They're robbing this city blind," Rogers says. "They're causing so much harm on millions of people in this city. Not just the construction unions, but the renters — both the residential tenants, as well as the small business that they're putting out of business with high rents."
Just last month, REBNY forcefully came out against a package of City Council bills aimed at protecting tenants from landlord harassment, saying that the effort would actually hurt property owners.
According to Rogers, generous campaign contributions to elected officials help REBNY keep its big money, pro-business agenda humming along year after year.
"The dirty money in politics are called bribes — and it's pretty cheap," Rogers says. "A politician that wants to get re-elected and wants money for their campaigns...REBNY people go in, [and] they give them these big donations. But what do they get in return? They get hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate welfare. It goes well for the politicians. It goes well for REBNY. They do well, [but] the rest of the city loses."
LaborPress' "Blue Collar Buzz" airs every Sunday night on AM970 The Answer from 9 to 10 p.m. This week's episode, as well as every other episode of LaborPress' "Blue Collar Buzz" is also available on demand at www.am970theanswer.com.