The $780 million soccer stadium deal in Queens that was given the green light by Mayor Adams this week was a win for one of its top political advisers, who lobbied city hall on behalf of the project’s developer for months, according to public records.

Nathan Smith, a political strategist who served as chief adviser to Adams’s 2021 mayoral campaign, signed a lobbying deal in July with City Football Group, owner of the New York City Football Club and other soccer teams around the world, according to records. from the city hall.

The purpose of the deal was for Smith to lobby – at $10,000 a month – for the mayor’s team to create a new “sports facility” for the football club. So far, Smith’s company, Red Horse Strategies, has received $20,000, according to the records.

It is expected that the new investment will not only result in a football stadium for 25,000 people. The construction of the stadium will be funded entirely by the New York City Football Club.

“I’m proud to be a part of this transformative project for Queens that will provide historic amounts of affordable housing, thousands of union jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity for our city,” said Smith. “I will of course continue to be transparent in my work on the project and abide by all the rules that apply to my interactions with the government.”

But other improvements – including new water mains, sewers, sumps and environmental cleanup – will be paid for with taxpayer money. According to Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer, the total bill for this work will be between $200 million and $300 million.

Adams touted the development as “the largest 100% affordable housing project in New York City since the 1970s” and called himself a “finisher”, given that plans for the project on the site next to Citi Field began during the administration of former Mayor Mike and Bloomberg.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a whole new neighborhood. I’m proud to share our vision today,” Adams said Wednesday to a packed hall at the Queens Museum. “These 2,500 new homes will be a game changer and will be available to families earning $40,000 a year or less. Incredible numbers.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams (center right) and other New York City officials hold a plaque commemorating affordable housing during an event at the Queens Museum in New York City, Wednesday, November 16, 2022.

Smith Company, Red Horse, he worked quietly behind the scenes for months to make the deal go through.

The main targets of his lobbying efforts are listed as City Hall Chief of Staff Frank Carone and his deputy Menashe Shapiro, both of whom also worked on Adams’ 2021 campaign. During his Wednesday announcement, Adams hailed Carone, who he credits for bringing together “all of these elements” and being the “anchor” in his administration. He didn’t mention Smith or Red Horse.

Although Smith’s job for Adams ended with his mayoral election last November, in December 2021, he and Carone helped lead the charge to appoint city councilor Francisco Moya as council president, a chaotic effort that ultimately failed. The Moya’s Council ward covers the project site and he has been instrumental in promoting the project. He is also likely to be an important ally for Adams as the project begins to go through the city’s zoning approval process.

A huge football fan, Moya has been trying to bring the team to Queens for years and also insists that the apartments in the project are 100% affordable.

Conceptual renderings of Mayor Adams' vision for Willets Point.  Source: Architecture S9

“This is a model that puts housing first,” he said. “This is a project that will create opportunities to fuel our local economy, create a pipeline for local workers and support our brothers and sisters at work.”

The stadium is expected to cost $780 million to build, with the development bill fully covered by City Football Group, majority-owned by the United Arab Emirates’ government investment arm. Although no taxpayer funds will be used for this part of the project, City Football Group will not have to pay property tax on the project under the agreement.

Torres-Springer predicted that the project would pump $6 billion into the city’s economy over the next three decades. Of the nearly 16,000 jobs the city expects to create, 1,550 will be permanent and 14,200 will be union construction jobs.

Union members and fans hold banners during an event at the Queens Museum in New York City, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022.

According to city officials, construction is expected to begin in 2023, on Wednesday they said it would include 220 homes for low-income seniors.

However, the unanswered question is how the project might impact efforts to relocate the cas*no to the area now slated to serve as the new home of the New York City soccer club, which now plays at Yankee Stadium.

As part of the deal, the city, which owns the land on which the project will be built, will lease it to the football club and the Queens Development Group, which includes the associated Cos. and Sterling Equities, a real estate development company co-owned by the Wilpon family, previous owners of the Mets.

Steve Cohen, a hedge fund manager and current owner of the Mets, is fighting to bring the cas*no to the area with one of three state cas*no licenses yet to be granted.

When asked about it, Adams stated that talking about cas*nos was a “state issue.”

“I have no authority to determine the location of this,” he said. “You can answer that question.”

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