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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Donald Trump’s real estate allies stand to acquire D.C. clout

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wears his

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wears his "Make America Great Again" hat at a rally in Sacramento, Calif., June 1, 2016. Credit: AP

Real estate blessed President Donald Trump with his lifelong comfort zone and first taste of civic clout. So it stands to reason that fellow New York developers — bound to him by friendship, money and family — will play a role on Trump’s presidential terrain.

Along the Long Island Expressway in Corona, Queens, stands LeFrak City, built in the 1960s and named for the late builder Sam LeFrak. The apartment complex is a standing legacy similar to that of the late Fred Trump, whose Trump Village looms above Coney Island, Brooklyn.

Earlier this month, Fred Trump’s son told The Wall Street Journal that LeFrak’s son, developer Richard LeFrak, will head up a new council to monitor spending on his proposed $1 trillion plan for improving U.S. infrastructure. LeFrak will do so alongside Steven Roth of Vornado Realty.

“They’ve already agreed to do it,” Trump told the newspaper.

Vornado, a giant real estate investment trust, is the city’s largest commercial landlord. When Roth appeared at Trump’s election-night victory party in Manhattan, it was widely noted that the two are co-owners of a Sixth Avenue office tower between West 51st and West 52nd streets.

The combined role of Roth and LeFrak, who is a close Trump friend, has special potential to influence big government resources. That’s because the new administration plans to use private capital for its road, bridge and utility projects, to be leveraged by tax breaks.

Crucial details of that plan, which has stirred bi-partisan excitement, are awaited.

Jared Kushner, the senior White House adviser, is best known as the president-elect’s son-in-law. He is also a second-generation real estate mogul, also invested in deluxe Manhattan property. His father Charles Kushner also built and sold residential housing in New Jersey.

Last week at Trump Tower, before the inauguration, Long Islander Scott Rechler, CEO of the major league RXR Realty LLC, made a cameo appearance in the presidential transition.

While prominent in the industry, Rechler wasn’t on hand as a Trump aide. Rather, he was by all accounts accompanying The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s eldest son, to meet Trump to discuss voting rights. Rechler is a board member at the Drum Major Institute, a think tank that identifies itself as committed to “the nonviolent social change legacy” of the slain civil-rights leader.

Just as the oil industry meshes with politics in Texas, the real estate sector does the same in New York.

The Trump family and its close associates now assume the status of an old-money crowd. The power of public governance will supplement their power as landlords, purportedly for the public good.


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