By Carol Tannenhauser

A landlord at the center of a local political dispute claimed to be neutral in this year’s City Council race, but two $2,750 donations to a challenger calls that claim into question.

George Beane, the landlord at 2244 Broadway between 80th and 81st streets, brokered a deal between Birdbath Bakery, which was struggling to stay at the location, and the campaign of candidate Mel Wymore, who was looking for campaign office space. In the end, Wymore agreed to temporarily take the space, paying nothing in rent but giving Birdbath $616 a month to cover its utilities. Birdbath will pay $10 a month to hold the lease and will presumably take the space back after the campaign.

Current council member Helen Rosenthal has challenged the arrangement, saying it amounts to an undisclosed “in-kind” donation by the landlord worth “tens of thousands of dollars.” That donation, she says, has been hidden from the public.

Beane has said that Birdbath was struggling, and might have had to vacate the space were it not for Wymore’s acceptance of the deal. He says he was simply finding a way to allow a valued tenant to temporarily vacate the space to save some money. The Campaign Finance Board approved the arrangement contingent upon receiving certain certified documents. Wymore’s campaign says those documents have been provided.

Beane also told us last week that he doesn’t presently back either candidate, and isn’t sure who he’ll vote for. “I don’t have a stake in either candidate,” he said. However, campaign finance records show that he has given the maximum allowable amount to Wymore’s campaign — $2,750. He also gave $2,750 to Wymore’s unsuccessful 2013 campaign. Asked about his financial support for Wymore, he told us in an email that “Mel was an effective Community Board 7 chair and a person of integrity. I’ve supported Gale Brewer, too, and think she has integrity. I don’t agree with either of them on certain issues.”

Rosenthal has filed a complaint with the Campaign Finance Board. “Claiming that, because space is empty and has a market value of $0, is absurd on its face and completely violates both the spirit and letter of campaign finance law,” she wrote. “Why couldn’t anyone then assign a market value of $0 to anything to get away with excessive in-kind contributions?”

Since Beane has already “maxed out” his allowable contributions to the Wymore campaign, were this ruled to be an “in-kind contribution,” he would have exceeded allowable limits, Rosenthal noted.

A spokesman from Wymore’s office, Dan Gleick, sees it differently. “In this case, Mel found an innovative win-win-win solution that will help save a fantastic local business which needed a break on its rent, and help a responsible landlord keep a tenant he loves. Believe me, our staff and volunteers wish the pretzel croissants and kale salads were still around, but saving this location for Birdbath in the long run is worth it.”

Will Beane’s support for Wymore impact the Campaign Finance Board’s ruling in the matter? We contacted the Campaign Finance Board for clarification on this matter. Their response was, “It is agency policy not to comment on complaints. Sorry.”

Photo by Rebecca Frey.

NEWS | 24 comments | permalink
    1. Sherman says:

      George Beane’s explanation is absolutely ridiculous. His convoluted claim that he is giving Mel Wymore this space at a laughably low rent in order to somehow save Birdbath Bakery strains credibility.

      There must be some quid pro quo Wymore promised Beane should Wymore win the election or some other ulterior motive.

      I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know if the arrangement violates campaign laws or is somehow otherwise illegal.

      It is, however, clearly sleazy. The UWS does not need corrupt politicians.

    2. Chris says:

      Helen is acting like a millennial

    3. Q Public says:

      Kudos to WSR . . follow up reporting is excellent.

      Landlord Beane sounds like a nice guy but, his generousity could have benefitted a wider community base and he may have unintentionally ”muddy the waters” if he exceeded the limit.
      Something doesn’t smell right!
      Unqiue candidate Wymore may have to clarify this issue for confused voters.

    4. UWS Voter Mom says:

      Oh boy! Here we go. We have rats running rampant in our parks, a return of blight like we haven’t seen in decades, crazy over development, boarded up store fronts, and a confirmed do nothing, millionaire liar in office.

      Is the Rosenthal weapon of mass distraction working??

      No to mention, the accuser is using her tax payer funded office along with $7M pad to float her
      whining campaign. Couldn’t that been seen as an “in-kind” donation from money man hubby Marino??? Why isn’t that part of this so-called follow up? Hmmmm.

      I’m not confused about what the real issues are on the Upper West Side. Just step outside and see it for yourself. #SayHellNo2Helen

      • Q. Public says:

        Your comment sounds kinda personal, spills the beans.
        Why criticize any candidate’s partner when they’re NOT running for office.
        Remember when Bush said it first ”WMD” and how did that turn out?
        Review NY1 debate it’s obvious who the better equipped, pro-active person is but, it’s still early.
        Please explain the break in the over the limit donations?

    5. Bob Lamm says:

      This is a slimy story, no matter how anyone feels about Helen Rosenthal or any local issue.

    6. UWS Surreal Dad says:

      This is a non issue for me. But its seems that some are determined to keep this going to enable Helen attempt to suppress her opposition vote.

      It seems Mel asked the right questions to the Board before making his arrangements. He is battling a millionaire incumbent who is backed by the Deblasio. Someone who clearly is paying to play.

      We need a change here not more Helen.

    7. stevieboy says:

      Sounds like a classic work around.

      Come on!! Don’t insult people’s intelligence. I mean, your not even in office yet.

      This reminds me of Chicago or New Orleans style politics. I thought we were better than that.

    8. patrick says:

      Has Wymore made available the CFB’s approval of this arrangement? I have no stake in this election, but it doesn’t make sense to me that the CFB would not see this as a donation in kind. Wymore should release any documents showing CFB’s approval.

    9. Sean says:

      Why not call it Mel’s Diner? End of story.

      • GG says:

        Is this an “Alice” reference??:) I haven’t thought about that show in years. So funny.

        Now there is some class A nostalgia. Kiss my grits!:)

    10. Watts says:

      There’s A LOT of disinformation from the Wymore Campaign to deflect from this story.

      Here is what Mr. Wymore said at the West Side Council Candidate Forum July 31st, 2017, before Wymore’s massive break in rent from Beane was discovered:

      Mel Wymore: (We need to) “elect City Council Member who are organizers, who are activists, who are independent of special interests. and when I say that, I mean not accepting donations as a part of your campaign promises. In 2013, I returned checks from developers. We have cancelled checks from every developer that contributed to my campaign along with the letter ‘sorry we don’t want your money. Without prejudice we are returning your checks’. Thats what independence looks like.”

      Landlord Beane granted Wymore a break in the rent of at least $60,000, after Beane already gave Wymore the maximum legal campaign contribution, which apparently Wymore has also not rejected, as he claims he does.

      There is a web of deceit here from the Wymore Campaign and campaign surrogates in an effort to save his campain, but I don’t these rhetorical gymnastics can make a difference now. This fraudulent campaign has been exposed.

      • Juan says:

        I also really hate candidates who brag that they are not accepting money so therefore are not beholden to anyone. There are very specific rules about campaign finance and a candidate should not be chastised for operating within those rules. I am very happy that Mr. Wymore appears to have a personal fortune that he is willing to spend on his campaign. Not every qualified candidate has that luxury so in order to compete, they must seek other sources of funds.

        This is all particularly ironic given that it seems to me that he is very clearly accepting financial benefits of ridiculously low rent for his campaign office. I did not have a strong opinion for this election but this whole episode is really turning me against him.

        And thank you to WSR for your fine work on this. I think there is more to be done but you have done a great job thus far.

    11. UWS Craig says:

      I’ll be going there once they start selling cookies again.
      This whole thing smells terrible – shame on you Mel Wymore!
      And shame on you Helen Rosenthal that an apparently crooked Mel Wymore is probably a better choice than you.
      And shame on you Cary Goodman for your ridiculous campaign.
      Bring back the cookies. I’m hungry.

    12. NPK says:

      Helen Rosenthal should turn her focus from eliminating anyone running against her and actually pay attention to what is happening in the neighborhood. At a meeting not long ago at Goddard Riverside two of the candidates running against her spelled out their platforms for what they wanted to do to protect our neighborhood and when it was her turn to speak she just attacked her opponents. That is not what I want in a person representing the Upper Westside!

      • Mckinley says:

        Hello NPK,

        Its reasonable that you would rather elect a candidate that wins support for ideas rather that attacking others, but how should Helen respond when she has been unfairly attacked by the clandestine surrogates of her opponent’s campaigns?

        Mel’s political strategy has been to take the high road in personal appearances, while running a gorilla campaign against Helen in the Media.

        Are you familiar with ‘#SayNotoHelen’ and ‘#AnybodyButHelen’?

        Participants in these groups have aimed to create a hysteria, by blaming Helen for macroeconomic trends – like the shift in consumer purchases to Amazon thats harmful to local businesses – and citywide problems, like rising commercial rents, Helen has even been blamed for ‘increase in rats’, which may or may not even be factual.

        For the most part, I’ve seen Helen support almost all of the community friendly positions of her popular predecessor Gail Brewer, so I find it striking that – based the commentary I see here – this anti-Helen mania caught this much traction.

        How do you think Helen should react? Should she defend herself? Should Helen not have not reported Mel?

        I think she SHOULD set the record straight.

    13. CPW Jogger says:

      Massive Rat Invasion, Rampant Over Development, Blight, Overcrowded Schools, 100+ Small Business Closures, More Homeless, Fractured & Divided Communities, etc, etc, I could go on.

      Why are people defending the person at the center of all this Upper West Side decline?

      Oh yeah “She’s just great and works really, really hard!”

      We need an effective City Council rep NOW. It’s too critical a time with too much going on for us to be re-training a bad intern for higher office.

      • Carlos says:

        If you are going to blame her for all of this at least give her credit for the eclipse since she apparently controls everything that goes on in the world!

    14. Pedestrian says:

      Helen Rosenthal incumbent uses taxpayer supported office to campaign is attacking her opponent because she’s afraid she’ll lose her privileged perch. Helen is arrogant and out of touch but hey isn’t that the new trend for politicians.

      • Watts says:

        Hi Pedestrian,

        Do you have a source for these allegations? Any evidence – at all – that Helen has been misusing her office for her campaign? Support your allegations or please stop spreading propaganda.

    15. Actual UWS Voter says:

      Looks like someone took a page from the trump campaign or am I supposed to believe the bullies in this comment section aren’t from the wymore camp? Gross