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Restaurant Group Withdraws From New CRE-Backed Lobbying Push Over Tax Hike Opposition

Former Gov. David Paterson

Real estate industry leaders and other key players in New York business and politics formed a group aimed at pushing policy to stimulate New York state’s economic recovery, but its stance against raising taxes on the wealthy led to a high-profile defection hours after it was formally announced.

Real estate, construction and hospitality leaders joined forces with technology sector leaders and local political figures to launch a lobbying initiative, dubbed the Campaign for New York’s Future, with former New York Gov. David Paterson at its helm to push policies in Albany they believe will promote a plan for the state’s economic recovery, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Extended outdoor dining, a new grant program for women and minority-owned businesses, and a cap on taxes for the wealthy amid the pandemic are on the group’s list of priorities as the state and city face massive budget holes from battling the coronavirus.  

“This is, maybe next to the Great Depression, probably the worst crisis in American history,” Paterson told the WSJ.

Building Congress President Carlo Scissura and New York City Hospitality Alliance Executive Director Andrew Rigie were announced as board members to represent the construction and development industry and the restaurant industry, respectively, but Wednesday afternoon, Rigie withdrew his organization over the group's stated position on tax caps.

Much of the campaign’s work was set to focus on the restaurant industry: The restaurant and hospitality industry has been particularly hard hit amid the pandemic as reopening policy has been inconsistent and often changing. It is unclear when indoor dining will resume in the city, and Rigie has called for the release of guidance on when it can.

"The NYC Hospitality Alliance’s mission is to fight around the clock for the future of our city’s restaurant and nightlife industry, which has been devastated by COVID-19," Rigie said in a statement. "Our organization is always amenable to working with civic leaders and groups from all sectors aligned in supporting our mission to support small businesses and our City’s future — this was our intent when we accepted the invitation to join the newly formed Campaign for New York’s Future. It is now clear that the campaign’s agenda on taxes is not aligned with our agenda and it will interfere with our mission to advocate for NYC’s restaurant and nightlife industry. Effective immediately, the NYC Hospitality Alliance has resigned from a Campaign for New York’s Future.”

WSJ reported that labor unions have been lobbying for a hike in taxes on the wealthy to mitigate budget gaps, but Paterson said he agrees with individuals in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration who claim wealth taxes would push wealthy New Yorkers who have temporarily relocated outside the state to move permanently, diminishing much of the state’s tax base in an already-dire economic situation. 

In April, business and real estate leaders said the city’s recovery would be dependent on a strong economic recovery plan and funding from the federal government — neither of which appears close to coming true in the near future.

UPDATE, AUG. 26, 7:40 P.M. ET: This story has been updated to reflect the New York City Hospitality Alliance's withdrawal from the Campaign for New York's Future, which was announced after publication.