When Queens Borough President Melinda Katz announced her candidacy for district attorney in December, she sought to stand out as an advocate for workers injured or ripped off on the job – especially on construction sites.
“Developers and construction companies will be held accountable if they fail to follow the law and keep their workers safe,” reads a Katz for DA campaign platform in which she promised to assign an investigator to every workplace accident that results in serious injury.
That hasn’t deterred real estate developers from donating to her campaign, leading up to a likely decisive June 25 Democratic primary vote in the race to succeed longtime Queens DA Richard Brown.
Katz’s fundraising filings with the state Board of Elections show that more than $250,000 of the roughly $1 million her two campaign funds had collected through Jan. 11 came from real estate developers and other industry interests. That makes her the seven-way contest’s top recipient so far of real estate-related contributions.
Her donors represent a who’s who of New York City real estate – including David Walentas of Two Trees Management, Winston Fisher of Fisher Brothers and John Catsimatidis of the Red Apple Group.
The earliest contributions, dating back to January 2018, went to a committee Katz established to run for an unspecified citywide office in 2021. Funds were later transferred to her DA race committee, the Katz campaign confirmed.
Some of those donors have supported Katz for years, including in her two runs for Queens borough president, a seat she’s held since 2014. Borough presidents give advisory recommendations on developers’ land use applications.
And as a Council member from 2002 to 2009, Katz served as chair of the City Council’s Land Use Committee, which casts decisive votes on such applications.
In between those elected positions, she worked as a lobbyist with the law firm Greenberg Traurig. Among her clients was a company associated with Forest Hills-based Muss Development. Principal Joshua Muss and an associated firm have donated $5,400 to Katz campaign funds since 2018, and Muss family members donated nearly $14,000 to past campaigns.
Katz told THE CITY she will “absolutely” prosecute developers who are at fault, and not just contractors implicated in construction fatalities or injuries.
“You have to make an atmosphere in the development world where rushing is no longer an excuse,” said Katz, 53. “You want to make sure that they understand that the atmosphere of Queens is changing.”