The $1 million effort to dump the dump

Written by Daniel Fitzsimmons on . Posted in News Our Town.


Pledge 2 Protect, the Upper East Side community group that’s emerged as the most potent force fighting the waste transfer station on the Upper East Side, has considerable pull in the community.

The group has amassed 30,000 signatures denouncing the city’s plan, and a recent rally it organized at the cavernous Holy Trinity Church was packed with residents, standing room only. The rally was called to draw attention to a new report commissioned by the group that labels the project as harmful to children and detrimental to families who live in the area’s low-income housing developments.

At the rally, residents were urged to contribute money to Pledge 2 Protect, to help fund opposition to the project.

While many individuals have contributed – at last count, more than 1,500 different donations have been made, the group says – the vast majority of the money isn’t coming from the people packing the rallies at places like Holy Trinity.

A review of financial documents by Our Town shows a much more complex financial picture of P2P: While there is indeed a groundswell of popular opposition to the city’s plan, there is also deep – and deep-pocketed – backing of the group by real estate and other business interests in the area. Last year, Pledge 2 Protect spent nearly $1 million on its efforts, according to city filings. The result is a prototypically New York mashup of interests, from public housing residents and old-time Upper East Siders to developers with an interest in the area.

“At present, P2P has over 30,000 individuals and 26 different organizations who are part of the coalition,” said Kelly Nimmo-Guenther, the group’s president. “We are fortunate to have received over 1,500 donations from a few dollars to thousands of dollars from private citizens and companies from all over the city.”

According to Rubinstein Public Relations, the Manhattan powerhouse that represents Pledge 2 Protect, Nimmo-Guenther is not paid for her role in the organization.

“Ms. Nimmo-Guenther is from the West Side and, as a mother whose children use Asphalt Green, she became concerned about the planned East 91st Street marine transfer station and its impact on the thousands of children from around the city who use the sports and fitness facility and the impact this garbage station will have on the residents of the low-income housing Stanley Isaacs and Holmes Towers and neighboring residents,” said the spokesperson. “She and others formed Pledge 2 Protect to give voice to New Yorkers whose concerns about the East 91st marine transfer station were not being heard by the city.”

To get a better look at where Pledge 2 Protect’s funding comes from, Our Town turned to the city’s Campaign Finance Board. According to filings with the CFB, P2P received $430,000 in donations from just 17 donors between March and October of last year. Most of that money is hard to trace, as the CFB’s disclosure guidelines leave it mostly up to the reportee to include any information beyond a donor’s name.

However, according to the disclosure, a significant portion of that money comes from entities with direct ties to real estate interests on the East Side. Rose Associates, one of the biggest residential developers and managers in the city, donated $13,000. Gracie Point Community Council – a coalition of residents and businesses with major ties to real estate developers – gave $170,000 to Pledge 2 Protect in April and May of last year. Gracie Point member George Morin said the coalition has fought the waste transfer station going back many years, “and we sort of passed the baton on to Residents for Sane Trash Solutions, and then subsequently they passed it on to Pledge 2 Protect.”

He praised Pledge 2 Protect as being “much, much more organized and has resources that we did not have and so we are supporting them.” Morin noted that Gracie Point is no longer soliciting contributions to the cause. “As for who is giving to Pledge 2 Protect, I don’t know. There are a lot of commercial interests…retailers and all kinds of neighborhood people, so I just assume they get around.”

So where is Pledge 2 Protect’s money going?

According to documents submitted to the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics, P2P spent $900,000 on opposition efforts from March to December 2013.

Global Strategies Group – which has clients like American Express, Con Edison, the Howard Hughes Corporation and the Dallas Cowboys – received $700,000 of P2P’s expenditures last year for such things as polling, media events, mailings and research.

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