The list includes influential incumbents like Land Use Chair Rafael Salamanca and Manhattan Councilmember Carlina Rivera, as well as a few prominent figures trying to claim their first public office and a couple of relative unknowns, who have raised a ton of cash in a short amount of time.

Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

City Hall

More than 300 people are running for New York City’s 51 council seats in Tuesday’s primary election, but a few stand out for the sheer amount of money they’ve collected on the campaign trail.

Fourteen candidates have taken in at least $100,000 in private contributions, according to reports filed with the Campaign Finance Board. 

Read more elections coverage here.

The list includes influential incumbents like Land Use Chair Rafael Salamanca and Manhattan Councilmember Carlina Rivera, a leading candidate to be the next speaker, as well as a few prominent figures trying to claim their first public office — like Erik Bottcher, Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s chief of staff, and Tiffany Cabán, a public defender who nearly toppled the establishment pick for Queens District Attorney.

Then there are a couple relative unknowns who have raised a ton of cash in a short amount of time. Council District 21 candidate Yi Chen tapped a network of immigrants from China’s Fujian province to raise more than $160,000. On the other hand, Astoria attorney John Ciafone and Manhattan lawyer Susan Damplo simply wrote themselves checks for 150 Gs, give or take a few thousand.

Here’s a look at how the 14 candidates amassed their campaign fortunes:

Incumbent Councilmember Rafael Salamanca, District 17 in the Bronx
Total: $600,655
Number of contributors: 613
Average contribution amount: $825
Supported or opposed by a real estate-backed SuperPAC?  Voters of NYC has spent money backing Salamanca
Public matching funds: No

Salamanca, chair of the City Council’s powerful land use committee, has raised by far the most money in the vast field of council hopefuls. In fact, his contributions from the real estate industry alone outpace most other candidates’ entire campaign war chests. A review by City Limits identified about $94,000 from developers, property managers and large landlords who contributed at least $500 each to Salamanca.

Salamanca’s massive fundraising is largely related to his initial run for Bronx borough president (beep candidates tend to raise much, much more than the typical City Council hopeful). He ditched that bid earlier this year and decided to instead seek another term in the Council.

He has said on multiple occasions that his close ties to the real estate industry have no bearing on his land use decisions. “In almost five years on the council, I’ve approved over 7,000 units of 100% affordable housing and mandated a 15% homeless set-aside,” he told City and State last year. “I turned down the Southern Boulevard rezoning because I felt that 90% of the empty lots were privately owned. And I believe that if I were to approve it, it would displace my constituents. I’m also the co-sponsor of a racial impact study for rezonings.”

“So just to be clear, donations that I get, whether they’re from real estate or not, will never influence my decisions when it pertains to me voting or speaking out for my community or my borough,” he added.


Susan Damplo, District 1 in Manhattan
Total: $197,274
Number of contributions from someone other than herself: 25 totaling $5,774
Contributions to herself: Six, totaling $191,500
Supported or opposed by a real estate-backed SuperPAC? No
Public matching funds: No

Damplo, an attorney and state administrative law judge, has raised the second-highest total among the 300+ candidates for city council. She used the Mike Bloomberg method, writing her campaign checks worth $191,500. She raised another $5,774 from 25 other contributors.


Incumbent Councilmember Kalman Yeger, District 44 in Brooklyn
Total: $195,035
Number of contributors: 378
Average contribution amount: $515
Contributions from real estate developers and property manager: At least $27,330 from 26 contributions
Supported or opposed by a real estate-backed SuperPAC? No
Public matching funds: No

Yeger is running unopposed on the Democratic, Republican and Conservative Party lines in the primary for his South Brooklyn seat, but that hasn’t prevented him from accumulating more than nearly every other candidate in New York City. He pointed out that most of the money came in before he and his supporters knew he would have a clear path to victory.

“I wasn’t running unopposed when I raised the money, the bulk of the funds were raised in the second year of my term,” Yeger said. “People know me. I speak my mind and people like my service.”

A significant chunk of the money came from people involved in the real estate industry and officials at property management firms, based on a review of CFB disclosure reports. That includes $5,000 in two installments from Najat Properties Executive Victor Tawil and a total of $2,725 from four people at Hidrock Properties.

Yeger said he has dealt with very few land use decisions in his district and that campaign contributions have no impact on his decision-making. He also said he considers the money on a case-by-case basis rather than painting an entire industry with a broad brush. “If people don’t want to take money from a particular industry, that’s up to them,” Yeger said. “There’s an implication that there’s something evil about ‘real estate contributions’…Is a property manager making $60,000 the ‘real estate industry?’”

Yeger noted the number of small contributions that he has received from within his district and said many of his larger sums came from local residents, like the $2,850 he received from Judith Schonberger, founder of nursing home operator Aljud Management.

Since he is running unopposed, he won’t appear on the ballot until the November general election.


Attorney and landlord John Ciafone, Council District 22 in Queens
Total: $163,360
Number of contributions: One, for $1,000 from the Correction Officers Benevolent Association
Number of loans to himself: One, for $162,360
Supported or opposed by a real estate-backed SuperPAC? No
Public matching funds: No

Ciafone, an attorney and landlord in Western Queens, has framed himself as the most moderate candidate in a district that leftist Democrats have dominated in recent years.

His campaign is almost entirely self-funded. 

Why is he running? “We have a far left communist radical agenda to destroy our community by demonizing the police and stating that we don’t need jails,” he told the Queens Eagle last year.


Erik Bottcher, Council District 3 in Manhattan
Total: $157,660 
Number of contributors: 946
Average contribution size: $166
Supported or opposed by a real estate-backed SuperPAC? Voters of NYC has spent money backing Bottcher
Publicly disavowed that support? Yes
Public matching funds: $168,888

The chief of staff to Council Speaker Corey Johnson is running to replace his boss. He has sworn off cash from developers, but he couldn’t stop a SuperPAC backed by major real estate groups from running ads and mailing out fliers supporting his candidacy. 

Voters of NYC — a group funded by WLZ Properties, Silverstein Properties and Rosewood Realtyhas spent $25,696.25 on advertisements for Bottcher. 

Bottcher disavowed the support in a tweet June 13. 

“Clearly they thought they’d curry favor with me if I won. Well, they’re dead wrong. I condemned it and demanded that its funders halt all spending immediately,” he wrote.

He has refunded cash from real estate developers and lobbyists, keeping with a pledge he made on the campaign trail. But he has held onto $5,635 from people who list real estate as their occupation — mostly brokers and agents.

Many of his biggest campaign contributions come from attorneys, nonprofit heads and foundation leaders. Bottcher has received 34 contributions of $1,000 — the maximum amount for candidates who qualify for matching funds.


Incumbent Councilmember Alicka Ampry Samuel, Council District 41 in Brooklyn
Total: $150,293
Number of contributors: 382
Average contribution size: $393
Supported or opposed by a real estate-backed SuperPAC? No
Public matching funds? No

Ampry-Samuel faces just one challenger as she seeks a second term in the council. But that challenger happens to be her three-term predecessor, Darlene Mealy. Mealy held the seat from 2006 until term limits forced her out at the end of 2017.

Ampry-Samuel, the chair of the committee on public housing, has taken in significant sums from owners and executives at heating and cooling companies, plumbers and electrical firms, including $2,800 from KA Electrics’ Kelvin Basdeo and $2,800 from Freddy Mihelson of New Century Air Inc.

She has also received some money from real estate developers and property management firms, including $2,500 from Shifra Hager of Cornell Realty, which builds luxury complexes across Brooklyn.


Neng Wang, District 20 in Queens 
Total: $144,518
Number of contributors: 551
Average contribution size: $262
Supported or opposed by a real estate-backed SuperPAC? Common Sense NYC has targeted a rival candidate, John Choe
Public matching funds? $104,500

Wang is the biggest fundraiser in an intense race to represent Flushing’s District 20, home to some of the most rapid development in New York City.

Wang got his start working for the Chinese‐American Planning Council, also known as the CPC, in the 1980s and has championed development and property tax breaks in the district. 

He has taken in at least $18,925 from real estate developers, construction and property management firms, many of them based in and around Flushing. The cash includes $2,000 from Pi Capital Partners LLC President James Tung Chia Pi and $2,800 from Tai Li Huang, manager of 13620 Management Inc.


Yi Chen, District 21 in Queens
Total: $133,485 
Number of contributors: 904
Average contribution size: $148
Supported or opposed by a real estate-backed SuperPAC? No
Public matching funds? $168,888

Chen’s massive fundraising haul surprised many political observers who wondered how a young community leader with little name recognition had amassed so much cash.

The answer: Chen tapped a vast regional network of first-generation Americans and immigrants from China’s Fujian Province, the Queens Daily Eagle reported in March.

“Once I announced, everyone jumped in,” Chen said at the time. “They said we’ve been waiting for this.”

Calls to some of Chen’s largest contributors seemed to confirm that perspective. “He’s my age and I think it’s really brave what he’s doing. And he’s the first one from that area, Fujian, China,” Manhattan insurance agent Tom Yang told the Eagle. “We see a lot of Asian Americans stepping forward, and he’s the first one from our small community.”


Crystal Hudson, District 35 in Brooklyn
Total: $118,402
Number of contributors: 1,119
Average contribution size: $106
Supported or opposed by a real estate-backed SuperPAC? Common Sense NYC has targeted her main rival, Michael Hollingsworth
Public matching funds? $168,888

The most closely-watched City Council race is unfolding in Central Brooklyn’s District 35, where Hudson faces off against Michael Hollingsworth — and five other candidates too — in a contest to determine which faction of the Democratic Party has more influence in the region.

Hudson is backed by establishment figures like Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, as well as various progressive groups and politicians throughout the city. Hollingsworth is endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, whose candidates recently claimed seats in overlapping senate and assembly districts.

Hudson has rejected real estate contributions in the race and has indeed returned the money she received from developers and lobbyists. But she’s getting their support anyway.

Common Sense NYC, a SuperPAC funded by billionaire developer Stephen Ross, has spent nearly $60,000 on negative campaign ads against Hollingsworth, part of their effort to defeat DSA-backed candidates. Hudson has urged the real estate group to stay out of the race. 


Incumbent Councilmember Carlina Rivera, District 2 in Manhattan
Total: $117,973
Number of contributors: 781
Average contribution size: $151
Supported or opposed by a real estate-backed SuperPAC? No
Public matching funds? $95,000

Speaker hopeful Carlina Rivera hasn’t just raised a significant amount, she’s sharing the wealth, too. Rivera, like current Speaker Johnson before her, has chipped into her potential peers’ campaigns. She has, for example, given $1,000 to Hudson and $1,000 to Jenny Low, a candidate in District 1.

Where does her money come from? Some of the biggest contributions derive from the real estate industry, like $1,000 from Jane Gol of developer Continental Ventures LLC and $1,000 from luxury realtor Claudia Saez-Fromm. She also took in $1,000 from the head of the pro-development group Alliance for Downtown New York.


Jenny Low, District 1 in Manhattan
Total: $115,975
Number of contributors: 569
Average contribution size: $204
Supported or opposed by a real estate-backed SuperPAC? Common Sense NYC has spent money opposing a rival candidate
Public matching funds? $168,838

Low, the past director of administrative services in Council SpeakerJohnson’s office, has sworn off contributions from lobbyists, real estate developers or corporate PACs. She has still managed to raise a large amount, including 49 contributions of $1,000 from an array of attorneys, engineers and administrators. 

Despite her pledge, she has also held onto some smaller contributions from the real estate industry, including $55 from Real Estate Board of New York general counsel Carl Humm and $378 from property manager Tik Wong.


Tiffany Cabán, District 22 in Queens
Total: $113,460
Number of contributors:  1,756
Average contribution size: $65
Supported or opposed by a real estate-backed SuperPAC? No
Public matching funds? $168,888

Cabán, a once little-known public defender, emerged as a star of leftwing politics when she came 60 votes shy of victory in the 2019 Democratic primary for Queens district attorney.

The nationwide network of progressives and democratic socialists inspired by her 2019 campaign have shown up for her once again as she vies for a seat in the City Council. She has received 456 contributions from people with zip codes inside Queens — a large number, but less than a quarter of her overall contributions. 

On the campaign trail, Cabán has rejected contributions from the real estate industry and corporate lobbyists. She has received 362 contributions of $5 or less — though many of those come from the same people chipping in as little as a few cents over and over again. One person contributed 26 times. 

Unlike other DSA-backed candidates, she has not been targeted by real estate-backed SuperPACs.


Sandra Ung, District 20 in Queens
Total: $113,404
Number of contributors: 657
Average contribution size: $173
Supported or opposed by a real estate-backed SuperPAC? Common Sense NYC has targeted a rival candidate, John Choe
Public matching funds? $168,888

Flushing’s District 20 is home to two of the biggest fundraisers in the city. 

Ung, like Neng Wang, crossed the $100,000 threshold thanks in part to contributions from the local real estate industry.

City Limits reviewed Ung’s financial disclosure reports and counted at least $11,675 from local real estate developers, construction companies and property management firms. She received nine contributions of $1,000 from real estate industry officials, including Jinke Real Estate Group owner Xiao Yue Bi and $2,000 from ZD Jasper Realty Inc. President Zhidong “Tom” Wu.

She also received $250 from F&T Group general counsel Christopher Choi, whose company is one of three developers behind the Special Flushing Waterfront District rezoning


Christopher Marte, District 1 in Manhattan
Total: $112,444
Number of contributors:  905
Average contribution size: $124
Supported or opposed by a real estate-backed SuperPAC? Common Sense NYC has spent money opposing Marte 
Public matching funds? $166,938

Marte narrowly lost the 2017 race for Council District 1 before deciding to run again, while criticizing “politicians who lined their pockets with real estate money and who prioritized political gain over people.” Marte had opposed the Soho/Noho rezoning because he said it would give developers too much leeway while failing to deliver enough affordable housing.

Perhaps that’s why he has been targeted by the SuperPAC Common Sense NYC, which has spent $46,268.19 on mailers and online ads opposing Marte.

So where does his money come from?

He has received 19 contributions of $1,000, including cash from artist Judith Miller, investment strategist Christopher Vecchio and Playwrights Realm Artistic Director Katherine Kovner. At least 73 contributors identify their occupation as artist, art dealer or another role in the culture sector.

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