NY Daily News
A city-run tenant outreach program led by one of Mayor de Blasio’s top political operatives is strongly believed to have doubled as an arm of his 2017 reelection bid, according to sources who worked for the program.
The Public Engagement Unit, which falls under the city’s Human Resources Administration, had workers knock on “thousands” of tenants’ doors to gather personal information, including names and addresses — in what former staffers described as an effort to lay the groundwork for 2017.
David Andrade, a former PEU tenant support specialist, described the unit as “very shady” and said he has no doubt the data it gathered was directed to de Blasio’s political operation.
"This wasn't kosher," he said. "It wasn't talked about ... but you could connect the dots. I knew it would be migrated."
Andrade said a connection to the campaign wasn’t spoken about openly, but was laid out to him by co-workers with ties to Rick Fromberg, who worked as de Blasio’s 2017 campaign manager and the PEU’s senior adviser from January 2015 to May 2016.
“It was wink wink, like this is going to be helpful in 2017 — that’s the way the senior adviser [Fromberg] would talk about it,” said another former PEU staffer. “Everybody could smell that it was sketchy.”
Public records confirm Fromberg was politically active at the time.
A March 2015 email obtained by the Daily News shows that while working at the unit, Fromberg wrote to former de Blasio adviser Peter Ragone about devising political strategy at the behest of City Hall.
“Emma/Boss gave me point on putting together a suburbs/upstate political strategy,” Fromberg wrote, referring to top de Blasio advisor Emma Wolfe. “She lets me know you’ve (very generously, of course) offered some guidance here. Got some time to connect on it?”
A month later, Fromberg followed up with Ragone about "suburban strategy."
“Boss is meeting with [former Nassau County Executive] Ed Mangano next week, and a couple other elements are in play for some regional partnerships,” he wrote. “Would love to wrap this all together. What do you think?”
Fromberg denied sending PEU data to the campaign.
“We unequivocally did not move data between the PEU and the de Blasio campaign,” he said.
“Anyone insinuating that we did is both misinformed and uninformed.”
Before working for the city, Fromberg worked for the Global Strategy Group, a public affairs firm that specializes in political campaigns.