Last Updated: 7:23 AM, January 1, 2012
Posted: 12:31 AM, January 1, 2012
A top real-estate executive who’s leading the charge to shut the horse-carriage industry was secretly taped offering a rare insider’s view of how politics really work in this town — by greasing the wheels of government with “morally corrupt” campaign cash.
Steve Nislick’s comments — including a decidedly unflattering view of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, whom he has showered with contributions — were caught on audio by a carriage-industry advocate.
The advocate went undercover for four months posing as a volunteer anxious to get the hardworking horses off the streets. But what she was really looking to do was get the goods on the anti-carriage horse brigade.
Nislick, CEO of Edison Properties, was snared in the increasingly hostile horse wars on May 19, when his animal-rights lobbying group, NYCLASS, met at the Stitch restaurant on West 37th Street. The undercover advocate, playing the role of a true believer, was among the 20 guests.
Thinking he was talking to like-minded allies and not an iPhone’s microphone, Nislick explains the maneuvering, back-stabbing and fund-raising of a political world most voters never get to see.
He contends that campaign contributions are worthwhile if they help animals, even if the politicians on the receiving end don’t deserve them.
“Even if it’s just like it’s good for the animals, you know, it’s so hard to get something done. It’s the best investment,” he says, according to the recording provided to The Post unsolicited.
“Even if it’s a morally corrupt investment, you know what, you’ve got to do it, I think.”
When told that street demonstrations are old hat, Nislick argues they’re also important when it comes to pressuring pols.
“Listen, that scares ’em. So you’ve got to do both. The money doesn’t get it done anymore. We need the votes. We would not get it done with just money. It wouldn’t happen. If we didn’t have the threat of this constituency, [Quinn] wouldn’t be talking to us,” he said.
NYCLASS is pushing a bill sponsored by Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan) that would replace 220 carriage horses with all-electric replicas of the 1909 Pierce Arrow.
Records show Nislick has rounded up $26,471 for Quinn’s mayoral campaign, including $2,500 in a direct donation.
He also gave $1,000 to Mark-Viverito, helped raise $3,850 for Councilwoman Jessica Lappin (D-Manhattan), sponsor of a bill revamping the city’s Animal Care and Control agency, and funneled $4,500 to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
Nislick also slams Quinn, saying it’s a “s--tty thing” that the speaker didn’t push harder for Mark-Viverito to carry the popular Animal Care and Control bill instead of Lappin.
“Melissa cannot appear to be upset. She can’t upset the speaker. But if you took her aside, she’s furious. Trust me,” he says.
Nislick further says Lappin wants to get into NYCLASS’s good graces so she can hit up its members for campaign contributions “because she wants to be [Manhattan] borough president.”
After The Post informed Quinn and Lappin of the Carriage-gate tapes, both politicians said they’d be returning Nislick’s contributions.
Josh Isay, a Quinn spokesman, said, “If this is how Mr. Nislick feels about campaign contributions, we don’t want his money.”
Said Lappin: “I support animal-rights legislation because I support animal rights. If Mr. Nislick thinks he can influence legislation through campaign contributions, I don’t want his support.”
Mark-Viverito told The Post that she’s plowing ahead with her bill and that she is puzzled by Nislick’s statements since she’s not angry at Quinn or Lappin.
Scott Levenson, a spokesman for Nislick, said he’s aware of the recording but didn’t want to comment.
The Carriage Tapes
Steve Nislick, president and co-founder of NYCLASS, a group lobbying to replace carriage horses with vintage electric cars, was secretly recorded at a Midtown bar on May 19, 2011.
ON MAKING CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS:
"Even if it’s just like it’s good for the animals, you know, and it’s so hard to get something done, it’s the best investment. Even if it’s a morally corrupt investment, you know what, you’ve got to do it."
ON THE POWER OF VOTING BLOCS:
"Listen, that scares ’em. So you’ve got to do both. We need both. The money doesn’t get it done anymore . . . We would not get it done any more with just money. It wouldn’t happen. If we didn’t have the threat of this constituency, [Council Speaker Christine Quinn] wouldn’t be talking to us."
ON SPEAKER CHRISTINE QUINN’S LEADERSHIP:
"You’d think [Quinn] would let [Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito] sponsor the Animal Care and Control bill. She gives it to [Councilwoman Jessica Lappin]. That’s such a s- -tty thing to do."
ON COUNCILWOMAN MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO’S RELATIONSHIP WITH QUINN:
"Melissa cannot appear to be upset. She can’t upset the speaker. But if you took her aside, she’s furious. Trust me. No good deed goes unpunished."
ON COUNCILWOMAN JESSICA LAPPIN:
"Of course she cares, because she wants our support. She wants to say, ‘I supported this bill, I supported that’ . . . so she can ask us for money because she wants to be borough president."