Verdicts

Big Real Estate Claims Credit for Terror Trial Move

sitdown stevenspinola1v 2 Big Real Estate Claims Credit for Terror Trial MoveAmidst the celebratory backslapping at the Real Estate Board of New York’s Ingenies on Monday evening, REBNY president Steven Spinola quietly savored an even bigger victory.

In a January 2010 Observer article, he had sounded one of the earliest calls for not holding the 9/11 terror trials in the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday afternoon that the trials will, indeed, be held at the Guantanamo Bay prison (to the dismay of many among President Obama’s lefty base). 

The Observer nabbed Big Real Estate’s super at the 101 Club on Park Avenue and queried: Was REBNY the first to sound the call? “I do believe we were,” said Mr. Spinola with a wide grin.

As early as December 2009, Mr. Spinola (pictured) met with Bill Rudin, the landlord and Association for a Better New York chair, in his office. Initially, Mr. Spinola spoke with then-White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and presidential adviser and policy wonk David Axelrod. The board at first kept a low public profile on the issue to resist offending the administration.

But Mr. Spinola was getting an earful from REBNY members, as The Observer noted a month after the meeting with Mr. Rudin, more than he had gotten on any single issue since he took over the board in the mid-1980s: “They’re saying to me, ‘You’ve got to stop this, you can’t let it happen.'” To hold the trial downtown, they said, would disrupt traffic and create security concerns that could drive out tourists and office tenants, plummeting the downtown economy to post-9/11 lows.

The real estate board, one of the most powerful lobby groups in the state, has had an impact on other issues like property taxes, but none with quite such national resonance. In other words, the board took on the president of the United States and won. 

During his Monday evening recap with The Observer, Mr. Spinola also gave credit to Community Board 1 for helping. Victory, Mr. Spinola said, was not surprising (rumors of the administration’s reversal surfaced this past January). “We assumed it would not be in New York,” he said. “We’re very happy.” 

lkusisto@observer.com 

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