Espaillat campaign paid thousands to online
influencers who delivered flattering posts
BY CLAUDIA IRIZARRY APONTE
The bloggers’ videos and articles do
not disclose their fi nancial ties to
the Bronx and Manhattan congressman
— exploiting a legal gray area as paid
social media infl uencers play a growing
role in campaigns nationally. Council
candidate allies of Espaillat followed suit.
Campaign committees for Rep. Adriano
Espaillat (D-Manhattan/The Bronx) have
paid nearly $15,000 to bloggers for posting
hundreds of fl attering articles dating to
his fi rst run for Congress in 2016, Federal
Election Commission fi lings show.
The bloggers’ posts do not disclose their
fi nancial ties with the Espaillat campaign
— exploiting a legal gray area as paid social
media infl uencers play a growing role in
Two of those bloggers have also received
payments from four candidates for City
Council in the election that ends next
Tuesday — classifi ed in campaigns’ fi lings
as “communications” or “advertising.” All
the Council candidates campaigned with
or were endorsed by Espaillat.
The Council contenders also have
reaped favorable articles written by the
bloggers, without disclosure to readers of
Under Federal Election Commission
rules that apply to Espaillat and other
members of Congress, only content that
explicitly advises who to vote for — or not
vote for — must include a disclosure that
the campaign paid for the advertisement.
Congressional Rep. Adriano Espaillat speaks about funding for NYCHA
outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Towers in Harlem. Oct. 26, 2020.
The city Campaign Finance Board has
even narrower disclosure rules —only requiring
a notice that a campaign paid for
a post if the campaign wrote or co-wrote
the article or script.
Local and national election watchdogs
worry the social media infl uencer exemption
from disclosures leaves voters unaware
when campaigns are paying for posts.
“Voters always have a right to know
how candidates are spending money to
infl uence votes. And paid social media
infl uencers can have a signifi cant impact
BEN FRACTENBERG/THE CITY
on voters and on elections,” said Susan
Lerner, executive director of campaign
ethics watchdog group Common Cause
“That means they should be subject to
effective disclosure requirements,” she
added. “But campaign fi nance laws have
generally not kept up with constantly
evolving online political practices in just
so many areas, and it badly needs to be
brought up to date.”
‘Breaking’ Birthday News
Espaillat’s campaign reported $3,200 in
nine payments between January 2020 and
March 2021 to blogger Jose Zabala, telling
the FEC that the money was for “social
media coverage of events.”
A review by THE CITY identifi ed more
than 400 articles by Zabala on his website
promoting Espaillat since his election to
Congress in 2016. Of those, 83 were published
in the 2020 election year, with more
than 60 so far in 2021.
Zabala posts multiple articles a day
on his website, Zabala al día, as well as
on WhatsApp, YouTube and Instagram,
where he has more than 14,000 followers
and shares “News, entertainment and
publicity,” according to the description on
his profi le.
All of the posts are published in Spanish
and cater to an international audience with
roots in the Dominican Republic.
On his Instagram page in September,
Zabala shared multiple “breaking news”
posts of Espaillat’s birthday party at Inwood
waterfront spot The Hudson, at the
former site of La Marina.
Each post read, in Spanish: “Breaking
news: Today is congressman Adriano Espaillat’s
birthday, considered the highestranking
Dominican politician in the world,
a true leader and indefatigable worker for
This story was fi rst published on Oct.
25, 2021, by THE CITY, an independent,
nonprofi t news outlet dedicated to hardhitting
reporting that serves the people of
New York. Read more at thecity.nyc.
Manhattan areas see rent cuts in third quarter of 2021
BY VILDANA KHAMDULLINA
New York is trying to get back to
what it used to be before the COVID
19 pandemic in terms of real
estate. But according to a recent StreetEasy
Market Report, in the third quarter of 2021
lots of neighborhoods still have great deals
and the median asking rent is still about
$100 less than it used to be.
Manhattan is considered the most expensive
borough to rent an apartment, but
compared to two years ago there is still
some difference. Gramercy Park has a $599
difference in Q3 2021 Median rent than Q3
2019. Greenwich Village still has a difference
of $270. The Median Asking Rent in
2019 in Little Italy used to be $3,300 —
now it is $2,850. The Lower East Side does
not have a big differential; it appeared to be
just $68 and West Harlem is still $200 less
now than it was before Pandemic.
In spite of this, there were still places in
the city which increased in prices, the highest
“jump” appeared to be in the Financial
District. The rise came up to $634. Flatiron
now asks for rent more by $494.
Senior Communications Specialist
Emily McDonald mentioned in the report
that Brooklyn “has been hot all year” which
means that even now prices are lower, but
it won’t stay this way for a long time and
data has shown that some neighborhoods
already have a median price higher than it
was before. Such as Downtown Brooklyn
with a difference of $224; Greenpoint $100
and Williamsburg $85.
Best deals in Brooklyn would be in
Boerum Hill with a difference of $538 and
Cobble Hill with $525. Brooklyn Heights
is still cheaper now by $289. And both
Bay Ridge and Prospect Heights have a
differential of $150.
Queens always had very affordable rentals.
The only neighborhood which already
has prices higher than pre-pandemic times
is Long Island City with a median of $70.
The biggest gap in price is in Ridgewood
right now which came to $199. Right after
one of the most famous neighborhoods of
Queens, Astoria with a difference of $132.
The least expensive neighborhood on the
list is Elmhurst which still has lowered its
price by $122, in Q3 2019, Median Rent
was $1,975 and now it is $1,853. And both
Jackson Heights and Sunnyside are cheaper
by a hundred dollars.
It is in benefi t for landlords to use the
market recovery and some already try to
raise their rent when they can. But NYC
still has a huge variety of affordable living.
Even now multiple listings on StreetEasy
are listed lower than they used to be in
2019 or earlier years.
The prices have gone down in New York
and now demand for living space is very
high which leads the real estate market
back up. StreetEasy economist Nancy Wu
said “… with the demand we’re currently
seeing, renters should always assume there
is someone else vying for the same apartment.
Use all the tools at your disposal to
your advantage during the rental search to
help save you time and money.”
To read the full report, visit streeteasy.
4 OOccttoobbeerr 2288,, 22002211 Schneps Mediia