WHO RULES COOPER UNION?—Part 5: A Look at Cooper Union’s MITRE/Pentagon, Con Ed, and Real Estate/Gambling Industry Connections Historically
(A shorter version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of the Lower East Side underground/alternative newspaper, “The Shadow”)
In addition to his special economic interest in maximizing the profits obtained from tenants by New York City’s real estate industry landlords, Cooper Union Trustee Gural, also has a special economic interest in the horse racing and gambling industry. As "The Real Deal" magazine website noted in an October 1, 2012 article:
““Jeffrey Gural is the chairman of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank…which was recently acquired by BGC Partners. He is the son of the late Aaron Gural, the company’s former chairman...The New York company… expanded… in 2006, formed a strategic partnership with London-based real estate firm Knight Frank…Jeffrey Gural is also the owner of New Jersey’s Meadowlands Racetrack and the chairman of American Racing and Entertainment, which owns two upstate racetrack/casinos, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs.”
And, coincidentally, Cooper Union Trustee Gural’s American Racing and Entertainment gambling industry firm has apparently been spending a lot of money on lobbying for the legalization of more casino gambling facilities in New York State in recent years. As a June 21, 2013 press release of Common Cause/NY recently revealed:
“On the last day of the 2013 legislative session, Common Cause/NY released updated campaign contribution and lobbying figures for the gambling industry and a list of the "winners" and "losers" in Governor Cuomo's casino gambling deal...A Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month showed that only forty eight percent of New York voters favor expanding casino gambling...
“`The gambling deal is a boon for certain wealthy special interests and of dubious value to the public….’ said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.
“From 2011 to April 2013, the gambling industry spent a total of $19.7 million on lobbying and political contributions in New York State: $14.7 million on lobbying and $2.4 million on campaign contributions in New York in addition to donating $2.6 million to the Committee to Save New York (campaign contribution figures only include 2011 and 2012, new data for 2013 will not be available until July)
“Top spending gambling interests directly affected by the casino legislation include...American Racing & Entertainment ($497,000)…In the Southern Tier, the Tioga Downs racino owned by influential New York City real estate executive Jeff Gural is well positioned to win a casino license. Tioga Downs, its parent company American Racing & Entertainment and owner Jeff Gural spent a nearly half a million dollars on lobbying and contributions during this period, including a gift of $200,000 to the Committee to Save New York….The Gaming Association lobbied for and won a tax rate for new casino slot machines that will be competitive with the racino rate, and Saratoga Raceway, Tioga Downs, and Empire Resorts look to be big winners...The New York Gaming Association spent $3.6 million on lobbying and political contributions since 2011, including $2,000,000 to the Committee to Save New York….Horse racing interests have been advocating for gambling to keep patrons coming to the track and help offset their declining attendance….Saratoga, Monticello, and Tioga race-tracks look set to be converted to full casinos…”
Besides attempting to use his surplus wealth to apparently gain some special political influence in Albany, Cooper Union Trustee Gural—who, in an interview by Leigh Kamping-Carder in 2012 that was posted on "The Real Deal" magazine website, indicated that he lives in “The El Dorado” at 300 Central Park West--also apparently has been using his surplus wealth in recent years to increase his special political influence in Washington, D.C. over the U.S. federal government. As the Trustee of the tax-exempt Cooper Union also stated in the same interview with "The Real Deal" magazine reporter:
“…My daughter’s friend was a fund-raiser for John Kerry when he ran for President. I got to meet him, and then I became good friends with Nancy Pelosi. Over time, I’ve met just about every major politician on the Democratic side….”
Since 2006, for example, Cooper Union Trustee Gural has made 103 campaign contributions, totaling $450,000, to various Democratic Party politicians and Democratic Party campaign committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets website. On Nov. 16, 2012, for example, Cooper Union Trustee Gural gave a $25,000 campaign contribution to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Yet despite the fact that members of the Cooper Union board of trustees like American Racing and Entertainment Chairman Gural have apparently involved themselves financially in a big way in politically partisan electoral politics and political campaigns-- and the Cooper Union board of trustees no longer want to provide a free tuition college education to students who enter the college after the Fall of 2014—Cooper Union still is apparently receiving payments from the Chrysler Building owners that would normally be paid to the City of New York. As the "New York Times", for example, noted in its Dec. 9, 2009 issue:
“The Chrysler Building sits on grounds owned by Cooper Union…Instead of paying property tax to the City, the Chrysler Building pays Cooper Union, which is tax exempt. As such, even though the Chrysler Building would, like any other commercial structure, be paying real estate taxes, not a single dollar in taxes has gone to New York since its construction….”
Given how the class interests of Cooper Union President Emeritus and MITRE and Con Ed Director Campbell, Real Estate Board of New York board member and American Racing and Entertainment Chairman Gural and the other wealthy folks who currently sit on the Cooper Union board of trustees and undemocratically rule Cooper Union conflict with the class interests of Cooper Union’s students, it’s not surprising that nearly 50 Cooper Union students began to occupy on May 8, 2013 the office of Campbell’s successor as unelected Cooper Union president, Jamshed Bharucha; and, to protest the Cooper Union Administration’s decision to discontinue Cooper Union’s free tuition policy.
But until Cooper Union is eventually ruled democratically by a political alliance of anti-corporate students, workers and Lower East Side neighborhood residents and not by the Cooper Union board of trustees and Cooper Union President Bharucha, it will likely still not be a “free college in a free society,” that is politically free of U.S. power elite, Real Estate Industry, Wall Street and plutocratic control. Even if the recent Cooper Union student protests are successful in pressuring the Cooper Union Administration to restore free tuition for Cooper Union undergraduates (and also avoid loss of Cooper Union’s special tax-exempt status with respect to its Chrysler Building land, perhaps).
(end of part 5)