Real Estate and Politics

Real Estate Leaders Back Universal Pre-K Proposal

Real estate industry leaders have joined a growing group of supporters of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to fund a universal prekindergarten program with tax increases, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. de Blasio’s proposal, which would raise taxes on New York City residents with incomes over $500,000, has received backing from major political donor Leonard Litwin of Glenwood Management, Steve Witkoff of the Witkoff Group, and other business leaders.

Leonard Litwin

Leonard Litwin

Mr. Litwin, the Real Estate Board of New York’s honorary chairman, is expected to join a coalition of supporters called UPKNYC, according to the Journal. Other new members of the group include Don Peebles, chief executive of the Peebles Corp., one of the largest African-American-owned development companies, the Journal reported.

A prolific political donor, Mr. Litwin gave approximately $700,000 in political contributions across New York in 2011, making him the biggest individual donor in the state. Those gifts included $436,500 to Senate Republicans and $76,000 to the Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo. In total, Mr. Litwin has given $800,000 to Mr. Cuomo’s campaigns, according to the Journal

Mr. Cuomo, for his part, unveiled plans to fund prekindergarten throughout the state in his annual budget address today. The Governor has committed $1.5 billion over the next five years to fund the expansion in a move that would potentially sidestep Mr. de Blasio’s proposal. 

Other notable business leaders that have previously joined UPKNYC’s initiative include Roger Altman, the former Deputy Treasury Secretary and founder and executive chairman of Evercore Partners, and Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of the Weinstein Company. New members of UPKNYC include Orin Kramer, managing partner at Boston Provident, Marc Lasry, chief executive of Avenue Capital Group, and others. 

Follow Gus Delaporte via RSS. gdelaporte@observer.com