Con Ed Lobbyist Eyed To Lead REBNY

The lead lobbyist for the state's largest utility is in the running to lead the city's most powerful real estate industry group.

John Banks, the vice president of government relations for Con Edison, is a leading contender to take over as president of the Real Estate Board of New York, a post held by Steve Spinola, who announced in the summer that he would retire next year after nearly three decades at the helm of one of the city's most powerful industry groups.

At Con Ed, Mr. Banks has been one of the top executives involved in the utility's government affairs since 2002, when he signed on at the company after serving as chief of staff for the City Council. Lobbying is a vital activity at Con Ed, whose income stream is determined by what rates it's allowed to charge by the state's Public Service Commission.

At REBNY, Mr. Banks would be expected to follow in Mr. Spinola's footsteps, wielding the group's considerable clout and wealth to shape or blunt the government regulations, laws and tax policies that affect its membership. REBNY's board of governors, a group of members composed largely of the city's biggest and most powerful landlords, has been vetting candidates since Mr. Spinola announced his departure in June.

As Mr. Spinola did before joining REBNY, Mr. Banks has spent much of his career working for city government. In 1986, he began his career working for the mayor's office. In 1990, he joined the City Council, working his way up to become the council's chief of staff from 2000 to 2002 before leaving to join Con Ed. Mr. Spinola served as a senior economic development official under Mayor Ed Koch in the 1980s, before moving to REBNY in 1986.

Competing with Mr. Banks for REBNY's top job is Jim Whelan, an executive at the trade association who has helped lead its lobbying efforts for the past four years. Among Mr. Whelan's recent efforts was a successful push to help keep Republicans in control of the state Senate. Many in the city's real estate industry view the Senate as an essential counterbalance in Albany to the Democrat-controlled Assembly. The Senate, for instance, has generally been favorable to real estate interests, including such matters as laws that help landlords bring apartments out of rent stabilization under certain circumstances.

Ramon Martinez, deputy chief of staff to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, is also said to be a candidate for the job.

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