Sunday, October 22nd, 2017
On October 21st, 2017, the New York Post published an article titled "State Senator has consulting job with controversial landlord in his home district." This article has numerous inaccuracies and misstatements, but there are three major innaccuracies that we would like to clear up for the record for the Senator's constituents and interested parties. During the 2 week period before the article was published, the New York Post writer communicated directly with numerous individuals multiple times including the Senator, the Senator's communications liaison and the Executive Director of the Legislative Ethics Commission as we have nothing to hide.
The first inaccurate statement is that the Senator has been hired to advise his former real estate firm. That is factually incorrect. Upon being elected, the State Senator resigned in his active role as a Managing Director of the company that he helped build and joined the Advisory Board.The Senator provided a proposed agreement to the Legislative Ethics Commission in June 2017 that would govern his activity with Genesis Companies as a member of the Advisory Board. The State Senator has not received any outside income as of yet as he is awaiting the ruling of the Legislative Ethics Commission. The Executive Director of the Legislative Ethics Commission also stated this directly to the Post reporter. The State Senator is committed to and at all times will follow the formal opinion and advice of the Legislative Ethics Commission to prevent any conflicts of interest with this outside engagement and any other that he participates in.
The second inaccurate statement is that Genesis Companies is a "controversial landlord" that has amassed hundreds of building violations and tenant disputes. In the seven years before his election to the State Senate, Brian Benjamin helped to build and preserve affordable housing in Harlem as a managing director at Genesis Companies, which is a local minority and women-owned small business. All of the units in the Genesis portfolio are part of the city's affordable housing program, which utilize federal low-income housing tax credits and/or city subsidy that have strict limitations on the amount of rent a tenant can be charged not to exceed 1/3 of their income. None of the units are a part of the State's rent control or rent stabilized program. A number of buildings taken on by Genesis are distressed buildings that need to be turned around. When those units are provided to Genesis they come with a significant number of building violations and tenant disputes that must be worked out. Genesis does the hard work of fixing these issues and this work takes time to complete.
The third inaccurate statement is that the Senator would not explain the JCOPE paperwork. The State Senator was very clear in communicating to the New York Post reporter that the JCOPE paperwork spoke to an anticipated relationship that had yet to commence because the Senator was awaiting a response from the Legislative Ethics Commission with a formal opinion as discussed above. The Senator's office put the reporter directly in touch with the Executive Director of the Legislative Ethics Commission for further clarification, which was provided and not reported in the article.
We would like to provide the below information as context. Feel free to reach out to Neil Reilly for any further questions and/or clarifications on this matter. He can be reached at 774.766.2351 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senator Benjamin’s office is committed to fighting on behalf of every member of this community, to ensure tenants’ rights are protected and that they have a voice in local government. His background only deepens his understanding of the affordable housing crisis facing working families across Harlem, East Harlem, and the Upper West Side, and he will continue to push for tenants' rights in Albany.
Senator Benjamin is a co-sponsor of S1593 and S3482, which would end the practice of vacancy decontrol in New York State; a co-sponsor of S6527, which would prohibit landlords from using preferential rents; and he is the Senate sponsor of S6925, which would create a parity between rent increases in rent controlled apartments and rent stabilized apartments.
In New York State, being a State Legislator is a part time job, and nearly half of the members of the Senate and Assembly work outside of their role as legislators in the communities that elected them. Many of them continue the work they did before their elections, and to prevent potential conflicts of interest, the Legislative Ethics Commission and the Joint Commission on Public Ethics provide them with guidance. Senator Benjamin has publicly committed to following any such guidance, and he is actively seeking the Commission's opinion to ensure that he is operating at the highest of ethical standards.
His legislative record and the record of his office’s work in the district is a clear demonstration of his commitment to the community. It is the needs of his neighbors, not his relationships with businesses, that have driven and will continue to drive his priorities.