Real estate and business executives have donated more than $1.47 million to an independent expenditure committee looking to influence some of the dozens of races for seats on the New York City Council this year.
The organization, Common Sense NYC, spent more than $442,000 on advertisements and voter outreach in last week’s special election for a council seat in Queens, mostly in support of candidate James Gennaro. Mr. Gennaro didn’t respond to a request for comment, but in January he said he wasn’t involved with the committee.
Mr. Gennaro, a moderate Democrat, previously held the council seat for three terms before being term-limited out in 2013. He ran this time against seven other candidates to succeed Rory Lancman, who left the seat to work in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. The eight candidates raised a combined total of about $297,000 in direct donations. The winner will hold the office through the end of the year.
Last week’s special election was the first in New York City to use ranked-choice voting. Preliminary tallies show Mr. Gennaro received nearly 60% of the votes, according to city Board of Elections records. The board hasn’t yet certified a winner.
Common Sense NYC treasurer Jeffrey Leb, a political consultant who has lobbied the council on behalf of nonprofits, health-care companies and charter schools, said he launched the committee because he is concerned about the direction of the city as it tries to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Hudson Yards developer Stephen Ross donated $1 million to the committee, according to city Campaign Finance Board records. Other donors include Jack Cayre, a real-estate developer.