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Carol Gresser raises $420K in Beep race

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From educators to real estate developers, Douglaston resident Carol Gresser has a wide variety of interests backing her Democratic political campaign to succeed longtime Borough President Claire Shulman this year.

Gresser, a former Board of Education president who officially kicked off her campaign last week on the steps of Borough Hall, has received approximately $201,000 in contributions and with city campaign finance matching funds has some $420,000 in her war chest so far, according to filings with the city Campaign Finance Board.

While Gresser only recently launched her campaign to replace Shulman, she has been working to lay the groundwork for her efforts for months with fund-raisers and appearances throughout the borough.

Several interest groups appear to be the main backers of Gresser’s campaign, including lawyers, real estate developers and educators, who together contributed about $53,000. With campaign finance matching funds, those donations total about $74,500 for Gresser’s coffers so far, the records show.

Frank Barry, a spokesman for the Campaign Finance Board in Manhattan, said the city matches every $1 donated to candidates with $4 up to $250 per individual contribution. He said if an individual donates $500 to the candidate, $250 is eligible to be matched by the city and the political contender receives $1,000 in matching funds.

The total in each candidate’s campaign chest is determined by all the money the candidate has raised plus matching funds after expenditures have been subtracted. Campaign finance matching funds are awarded once a candidate is officially listed on the ballot.

A former Parent Teacher Association president in School District 26, Gresser worked her way up through the public education system until she was appointed to the city Board of Education by Shulman. Gresser served as the board president from 1990 to 1998, often clashing with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, most notably for her support of then Schools Chancellor Raymond Cortines.

Gresser and Shulman’s political relationship dates back to the reign of Queens Borough President Donald Manes, who led the borough until March 12, 1986. Shulman assumed the post of acting borough president after Manes killed himself in the midst of a Parking Violations Bureau corruption scandal.

Gresser’s husband, Lawrence, was a deputy borough president under Manes and worked on Shulman’s previous campaigns for borough president.

Shulman, a Democrat, has worked to forge an alliance with the Republican mayor to assure the flow of resources into her borough. After Gresser went head-to-head with Giuliani, Shulman left her out in the cold by failing to reappoint her to the Board of Education in 1998.

Her stint on the Board of Ed has given Gresser widespread name recognition in her quest to become borough president.

In addition to Gresser, there are six candidates for the borough presidency, including city council members Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis), Helen Marshall (D-East Elmhurst), Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), and Al Stabile (R-Ozone Park), state Assembly members Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway) and community activist Haydee Zambrana. Anthony Seminierio (D-Richmond Hill) and City Council Mike Abel (R-Bayside) dropped out of the race a few months ago.

Only Leffler has raised more money for his borough president campaign than Gresser, with roughly $431,000 in his war chest.

Gresser said she has made fund-raising a priority since deciding to run for Queens borough president.

“I’ve worked hard at it,” she said. “I just reach out to the people who have supported me. I haven’ really focused on any one particular group. I’ve very lucky — it’s just wonderful.”

Members of the legal profession contributed significantly to Gresser’s campaign, with nearly $25,000 in donations, an analysis of Campaign Finance Board records revealed.

According to the Campaign Finance Board, Bayside attorney Vincent Nicolosi gave Gresser a total of $1,200 between March and November 2000. Douglas Cooper, a resident of Rye, N.Y. who practices law in Mineola, L.I., gave Gresser $1,000 in May 2000, the city agency said.

Matthew Dontzin, of the Manhattan-based Dontzin law firm, gave Gresser $2,500 in June 2000, the Campaign Finance Board said.

Gresser said her son and daughter are lawyers as well as her husband, who works to help build affordable senior housing for those on fixed incomes on Long Island.

In addition to lawyers, architects and real estate developers also gave heavily to Gresser’s campaign with some $17,000 in donations.

Real estate developer Joshua Muss of Muss Development Company in Forest Hills contributed $500 to Gresser’s campaign in September 2000, according to Campaign Finance Board records.

One real estate firm, Rudin Management in Manhattan, also made large contributions to Gresser’s campaign. Nearly $10,000 from five individuals with the surname Rudin was donated to the former Board of Education president between March and June 2000.

Eric and William Rudin, listed as real estate developers with Rudin Management, gave $1,000 and $500, respectively. Jack and Lewis Rudin, named as builders with the company, donated $3,500 and $1,000 each, while a woman named Susan Rudin gave $3,500 as well.

Of those contributing to Gresser’s campaign for borough president, teachers, principals and employees of the Board of Ed and local colleges donated roughly $11,000.

Employees of colleges and universities from throughout the metropolitan area gave to Gresser’s campaign, including workers from New York University and Baruch College in Manhattan, Brooklyn College and Kingsboro Community College in Brooklyn, Rutgers University in New Jersey, Hofstra University on Long Island and Queens College in Flushing, among others.

The maximum amount any candidate can spend in the borough presidency race is $1,177,000 for the primary and the same amount again for the general election. The cap on public matching funds is $647,350.

Reporter Adam Kramer contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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