New York City’s top 10 lobbyists

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New York City's skyline.
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New York City's skyline.

New York City’s top 10 lobbyists

The past year's lobbying rankings holds few surprises.
March 8, 2019

While New York City lobbyists spent the past year toiling away to influence legislation and policy on behalf of clients large and small, the City Clerk’s office has been busy tallying up the dollars flowing to New York’s top firms. Every March, the city releases a report of the top 10 lobbying firms by compensation, and while total lobbying spending hit a new high last year, the rankings for 2018 hold few surprises.

Nine of the top 10 firms not only remained on the list but actually held their exact same rank from 2017. While Kasirer and Capalino+Company have spent the past few years battling for the No. 1 spot, Kasirer held on to the top rank. The only new firm featured in 2018’s top 10 ranking is The Wright Group NY, knocking off Kramer Levin for the No. 10 spot.

City & State checked in with the top 10 firms to not only highlight their successes and challenges in 2018, but to take their temperature on the landscape for regulation of key New York industries, including technology.

1. Kasirer 

President Suri Karirer

Compensation: $12,848,012

Key employee: Julie Greenberg

Key industries: Real estate, urban planning and land use; corporate and nonprofit entities

Notable clients: Charter Communications, T-Mobile, Northwell Health, Motion Picture Association of America, Target, Nordstrom, NBCUniversal and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

What has been your firm’s biggest achievement in the past year?

After years of unsuccessful efforts by other consultant teams, we put together an amazing team for New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, and succeeded in moving the horse carriages into Central Park. Our nonprofit team was able to secure over $33 million in the FY19 budget cycle for our esteemed clients, from Lincoln Center and The Public Theatre to the American Cancer Society, Citymeals on Wheels and Big Brothers Big Sisters. We are proud of the work we do on behalf of a number of vital nonprofits that make New York City great. On behalf of Alloy, we successfully navigated through a very high profile and contentious Uniform Land Use Review Procedure for their development that will facilitate the development of two new schools, hundreds of units of affordable housing and commercial office space. Most recently, we’ve been part of the MGM Resorts International team securing approval from the State to take over the gaming license for Yonkers Raceway.

What has been your firm’s biggest challenge in the past year?

The upcoming sea change in city government that’s looming in 2021 as a result of term limits is roiling today’s political climate and driving elected officials to stake out positions designed to garner support from stakeholders who will matter to them as they run for higher office. This has led to an extremely heated environment with lots of officials exploring running for a limited number of offices and that’s led to a level of unpredictability that’s truly unprecedented. Navigating that landscape is a challenge – and an opportunity – every single day.

How would you describe the regulatory/policy landscape for technology?

To say that it is challenging would be an understatement. The public tone and tenor around Amazon HQ2 certainly sent shock waves through the city, state and nation’s corporate leadership and is a prime example of the dynamic political environment in which we currently operate. That said, I’m an optimist and I believe the city is committed to diversifying its economic base and tech is an incredibly important component of that effort and I believe there is still a tremendous space for continued growth. However, in order to continue to achieve that growth and thrive, government policies and regulations need to take strides to catch up to the private sector and adapt to accommodate the rapidly changing regulatory landscape. Of course, nothing is fast in government, but we can’t allow ourselves to fall too far behind the eight ball as the drivers of our economy are changing and we need to adapt.

2. Capalino+Company

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COO Travis Terry

Compensation: $11,070,551.04

Key employees: All of our employees play an important role in our firm so we cannot comment on which are key.

Key industries: Real estate, technology, sustainability, health care, nonprofits and hospitality

Notable clients: It is also hard to specifically focus on any key clients but those clients with the highest brand recognition include: UPS, Macy’s, Times Square Alliance and Accenture

What has been your firm’s biggest achievement in the past year ?

Our firm advised on the passage of major land use actions such as the Inwood rezoning and numerous initiatives such as the improved public realm of Times Square and the capital construction of Second Stage Theater. We are very excited about the growth of our strategic consulting work which helps companies and not-for-profits both address government and political challenges and competitively position their organizations to secure opportunities, mitigate risk and attain sustainable growth.

What has been your firm’s biggest challenge in the past year?

The inability of the federal government to address issues that we embrace as a firm and that impact the success of our city, such as building the Gateway project, supporting our safety net and issues of equity and justice and valuing the important contributions of immigrants.

How would you describe the regulatory/policy landscape for technology right now?

It is encouraging. There is some extraordinary entrepreneurial energy in New York City these days and under the leadership of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill Blasio and the New York City Council, a real commitment by government to support these efforts. Disruptive technology is always going to challenge traditional markets but making sure we have honest conversations based upon facts to ensure public and worker protection is always important. It is critical that there is an ongoing effort to train the next generation of tech workers, especially those in underserved communities.

3. Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno

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Partner Jon Del Giorno

Compensation: $4,763,043.21

Key employees: Vincent Pitta, Robert Bishop, Vito R. Pitta, Cesar Cardenas and Nadya Stevens

Key industries: Public and private unions, nonprofits, social service agencies and health care providers

Notable clients: Vera Institute for Justice, Transport Workers Union, Public Health Solutions, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, New York City Coalition of Operating Engineers, Spring Studios New York and Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association Local 831.

What has been your firm’s biggest achievement in the past year?

Over the course of the past four years we have been working with the Greenburger Center in their efforts to develop a first-in-the-nation program to mental health and other services to those in need and who have been charged with crimes outside of jail and prison systems. Working with mental health experts, the Office of Court Administration, the judiciary, corrections, social service agencies, and elected officials in both New York City and Albany, we have obtained $2.4 million ($1.9 million in NYC; $500,000 in Albany) to fund Hope House, a 25-bed facility, which will serve as the model.

What has been your firm’s biggest challenge in the past year?

Obtaining funding is always a challenge, especially on Staten Island, where one of highest hurdles is assisting Richmond University Medical Center on Bard Avenue. The full service hospital on the North Shore of the island, both its power plant and aging emergency room have been in dire need of an upgrade. Faced with two critical and expensive needs, we’ve been working with elected officials on Staten Island and at City Hall to obtain the funding to seed these projects. Through these efforts we have now obtained a commitment of $34-million from the city, which has now allowed RUMC to close on $110-million funding agreement.

How would you describe the regulatory/policy landscape for technology?

Our major technology client is Clear Ballot, which among its services, has developed an auditing tool which has been approved by the state Board of Elections. Already approved and in use in Florida (no more chads), Oregon, Maryland and Vermont, it can automatically identify and compare and confirm individual ballots. Five counties – Clinton, Jefferson, Warren, Saratoga and Onondaga – have already adopted the system. Talks are currently underway with New York City, Nassau, Suffolk and elsewhere.

4. Bolton-St. Johns

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Partner Emily Giske

Compensation: $4,547,891.30

Key employees: Juanita Scarlett, Anne Marie Anzalone, Mike Keogh, Robin Brown, Julie Jursik, Violet Moss, Julian Kline and John Albert

Key industries: Technology, real estate, social services organizations, nonprofit service and advocacy organizations

Notable clients: Tech:NYC, Novo Foundation, LGBT Network, Personal Care Products Council

What has been your firm’s biggest achievement in the past year?

We are excited about how we have grown our firm and focused on increasing female leadership within Bolton-St. Johns. In the past year, BSJ has brought on Juanita Scarlett as a partner, Anne Marie Anzalone as an executive vice president, and Robin Brown. In the past year, we helped the Novo Foundation past significant hurdles and closer to opening the women’s building in Manhattan, which will be a hub for women-owned businesses and nonprofits in the former Bayview Correctional Facility on the West Side Highway. We helped the Red Hook Container Terminal, the only remaining working port in NYC to renew their contract with the Port authority and expand to new territory in Sunset Park. BSJ also successfully advocated to create a new City Council funding initiative to provide services across all five boroughs for NYC’s transgender community.

What has been your firm’s biggest challenge in the past year?

BSJ has been working with many new clients on different issues impacting New Yorkers – including access to healthy foods, improving public parks and maintaining quality health care facilities. With these increased advocacy needs by our clients, we have been challenged to expand our team with quality, passionate lobbyists from a wide range of different backgrounds.

How would you describe the regulatory landscape for technology right now?

Despite Amazon turning down New York’s offer for an HQ2, the tech community in New York remains strong because New York is where tech industry workers want to live. We believe New Yorkers are excited about educating the next generation with the tech skills needed to excel in this new economy – but there is still a deliberate process on how to regulate newly invented and disrupting technologies.

5. Constantinople & Vallone Consulting LLC

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Principals Perry Vallone and Anthony Constantinople

Compensation: $4,432,492

Key employees: Peter Vallone, Tony Constantinople, Perry Vallone, Anthony Constantinople, Jake Potent, Steve Williams, Jordan Press, Lauren George, Kevin Jones, Scott Karolidis

Key industry: Education, real estate, retail, telecommunications and energy

Notable clients: Waste Management, T-Mobile, TD Bank, Walgreens, College Board and America Works

What has been your firm’s biggest achievement in the past year?

We worked with our client College Board to successfully expand access to Advanced Placement courses and exams, and this year the de Blasio administration announced “a record-high number of New York City students taking and passing Advanced Placement exams.” We have helped our clients restore and build more affordable housing than ever before, and we have grown as a firm.

What has been your firm’s biggest challenge in the past year?

As our firm grows, it is of paramount importance to us that we remain a client-focused and client-driven firm, ensuring that we are able to give the benefit of our experience and expertise to each and every client we represent. We have met this challenge by expanding our team and bringing on board exceptional talent that is able to successfully guide our clients through New York’s unique legislative, regulatory, finance and procurement environments.

How would you describe the regulatory landscape for technology right now?

The landscape is changing rapidly as government actively looks to technology to solve some of our city’s and state’s biggest problems from congestion to health care through data and analytics. The challenge is ensuring that data is safe, compatible and being used effectively to solve problems. Many of our clients are rising to meet these challenges and we are excited to be a part of bringing these exciting new tools to government.

6. Greenberg Traurig

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New York Government Law & Policy Practice Chairman John Mascialino

Compensation: $3,981,466.54

Key employees: John Mascialino, Edward Wallace, Mark Weprin, Bob Harding, Jay Segal, Deirdre Carson, Julia Rogawski

Key industries: Real estate, land use, government contracts, legislation and economic development

Notable clients: JCDecaux, Curb Mobility

What has been your firm’s biggest achievement in the past year?

Greenberg Traurig is proud to deliver comprehensive services to a diverse list of clients, which spans from real estate developers, technology providers and not-for-profits to major franchise and concession holders. In 2018, we advised our clients on an array of issues that helped them achieve their business goals while also creating positive outcomes for the city. GT’s long-standing history of working with the City enables us to help develop stronger relationships between our clients and the government, allowing deals to get done with a spirit of cooperation, and results that are mutually beneficial.

What has been your firm’s biggest challenge in the past year?

Every year presents new and exciting challenges based on new mayoral and City Council initiatives. That is what we love about the business of law and lobbying and the work we do for our clients. It is certainly never dull, and the work we do on behalf of our clients is rewarding.

How would you describe the regulatory/policy landscape for technology?

Greenberg Traurig has the privilege of working with dynamic, cutting-edge technology companies, and the city has an opportunity to create an environment to fast-track procurements and a receptiveness and willingness to pilot new technologies. To that end, as technology is ever-changing, we look to proactively bring tech companies and the city together and work toward swiftly implementing innovative technologies and new initiatives that will ultimately provide a better quality of life for New Yorkers and keep our city as the global epicenter of the world.

7. Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP

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Senior Partner Sid Davidoff

Compensation: $3,084,123

Key employees: Keith Wright, Arthur Goldstein, Sean Crowley, Brian Simon, Howard Weiss and Melissa Chapman

Key industries: Real estate development, tourism, manufacturing, procurement, transportation, infrastructure, education and nightlife

Notable clients: NBCUniversal, LaGuardia Gateway Partners, HBO, Hunts Point Produce Market, Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment

What has been your firm’s biggest achievement in the past year?

One of DHC’s crowning achievements in 2018 unquestionably was our success on behalf of the New Fulton Fish Market located at the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center in the Bronx. The Fish Market houses 37 seafood businesses with annual sales in excess of $1 billion and supplies thousands of restaurants and retail markets. We secured agreements with the city that will keep the Fish Market in the Bronx, with its several thousand direct and indirect jobs, as well as guarantee much-needed renovations.

What has been your firm’s biggest challenge in the past year?

The greatest challenge we faced was maintaining the bridge between our clients and government. This is especially true for the broad array of contractors and suppliers represented by the firm, who find it difficult getting paid within a reasonable time period for the goods and services they provide to government agencies. Our efforts focus on ensuring that the agencies understand the clients’ issues and our clients appreciate all that is entailed on the government’s side to secure the release of their funds.

How would you describe the regulatory/policy landscape for technology right now?

The current regulatory and policy landscape represents a rugged terrain for our tech clients, particularly because government by its very nature is unable to keep pace with the rapid changes in all sectors of the industry. We find this to be true for both the startups and technology giants represented by DHC. The firm’s success on behalf of our tech clients is rooted in our concerted efforts to maintain an ongoing dialogue between technology firms and government officials.

8. Geto & de Milly

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Principal Michele de Milly

Compensation: $2,891,000

Key employees: Michele de Milly, Ethan Geto, Daniel White, Mark Benoit, Maya Kremen and Laura Dolan

Key industries: Real estate development, sports, social services and cultural/arts nonprofits, K-12 and higher education and health care

Notable clients: Zeckendorf Development, The Howard Hughes Corp., Fisher Brothers, PepsiCo Inc., the New York City Football Club, Restoration Hardware, Sportime Tennis and John McEnroe Tennis Academy, New Alternatives for Children, Rainbow Heights Club and Trinity School

What has been your firm’s biggest achievement in the past year?

Our ongoing work on projects that move New York City forward, partnering with government and communities to find win-win solutions to spur economic development, accelerate infrastructure and environmental improvements, advance public health and build affordable housing. Two good examples are working with the community and civic organizations to advance the Gowanus rezoning process and helping to further the vibrant evolution of the historic Seaport District, a multifaceted endeavor that intersects with government, waterfront activation and sustainability, retail, entertainment and, importantly, preservation of this unique neighborhood’s colorful maritime history.

What has been your firm’s biggest challenge in the past year?

One of the great things about our work is that we are engaged in high-profile, complex projects that shape our city’s future. Geto & de Milly has built its reputation on policy expertise over decades, and being able to partner with dynamic clients and community leaders to find common ground and surmount challenges is incredibly inspiring and rewarding.

How would you describe the regulatory/policy landscape for technology right now?

Geto & de Milly works with clients and policymakers to ensure that innovation is supported by strategic zoning that takes into account the changing workplace and emergent mixed-use models. We also assist nonprofits to better leverage technology in fulfilling their missions, strengthen philanthropic partnerships with tech firms and increase the number of New Yorkers who have access to tech jobs and training.

9. Connelly McLaughlin & Woloz

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Partner Michael Woloz

Compensation: $2,644,495.92

Key employees: Jeff Rodus, Kathleen Cudahy, Danna DeBlasio, Melissa Barosy and Matt Walsh

Key industries: Trade associations, transportation, nonprofits, cultural institutions, corporate and real estate

Notable clients: American Museum of Natural History, Verizon, Cisco, New York Bankers Association, Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, The Museum of Modern Art and Legal Aid Society

What has been your firm’s biggest achievement in the past year?

After five years of complex negotiations with the community and elected officials, CMW played a lead role in achieving a successful outcome for the Hebrew Home at Riverdale’s proposed “lifecare” facility. This was a complicated ULURP that took a lot of twists and turns. So it was a real sense of accomplishment when all the pieces started coming together and we were able to help pave the way for what will become the the very first “lifecare” community in New York City.

What has been your firm’s biggest challenge in the past year?

One of our passion projects has been the siting of a 19.5 MW solar farm on Long Island. Despite widespread support from statewide environmental groups and local business organizations, town officials put up roadblock after roadblock in order to side with a particularly nasty brand of NIMBYism. After the town exhausted its efforts to block the project, civic groups pressured state legislators to enter the fray. So we had to amplify our messaging, our advocacy and what became a real fight to get the state to do the right thing for the environment. So we had to amplify our messaging, our advocacy and what became a real fight to get the state to do the right thing for the environment. Ultimately we won the battle. The solar farm expects to be producing clean, renewable energy this spring and we’re thrilled to have helped our client overcome all the obstacles to make this dream a reality.

How would you describe the regulatory/policy landscape for technology right now?

It’s a tough environment already and the unfortunate collapse of the Amazon deal has made things even more challenging for tech companies and innovative ideas. Despite a growing tech sector and world-class talent pool, New York is not known for pioneering new technologies. Right now, New York is considered a tough place to launch new tech ideas in a major municipal context unless it fits into a very defined box of political priorities.

10. The Wright Group NY

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Founder and Principal John Wright

Compensation: $2,572,064

Key employees: Larisa Wick, Antonio Quesada, Emily Contillo, Patricia Pulvirenti, Naya Stevens

Key industries: Health and human services, legal representation, art and cultural institutions, advocacy, education access, juvenile justice, immigration rights, criminal justice reform and affordable housing

Notable clients: The Cultural Institutions Group, Human Services Council, Legal Services NYC, Children’s Defense Fund, Urban Resources Institute, The LGBT Community Center and SAGE

What has been your firm’s biggest achievement in the past year?

After helping to pass “Raise the Age” legislation at the state level last year, we focused much of this year on fighting to ensure the legislation was implemented in the intended spirit here in New York City. Safe Passage Project joined us as a new client this year; they provide free legal services to unaccompanied minors who are facing deportation. This new client has provided us the opportunity to be directly responsive to changes in implementation of federal law that impact the most vulnerable New Yorkers: kids who are being asked to face the court system alone.

What has been your firm’s biggest challenge in the past year?

Our clients tend to seek us out because they trust that we will be in the fight with them, wherever that fight takes them: be it budget, policy, legislation or somewhere else. Being of the communities that we represent and “in the trenches” alongside them is hugely rewarding, but of course comes with its share of challenges.

How would you describe the lobbying landscape for nonprofits right now?

The umbrella term "non-profits" includes such a wide-range of organizations: from cultural organizations with multi-million dollar budgets to small, community organizations with one or two people on staff. To that end, the landscape is uneven, inherently and always will be. What nonprofits have in common is that they tend to serve as safety nets for the most vulnerable and marginalized New Yorkers. Threats and attacks from the federal government on these communities underscore the need to strengthen these organizations at the city and state level, cementing our position as a true “sanctuary city.”

Correction: Davidoff Hutcher & Citron's key employees, industries and notable clients have been updated due to an editorial oversight.

Annie McDonough
is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.
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