Top One Percent: Howard Milstein

By Laurie Bennett

October 23, 2011 at 9:09am

Howard Milstein is a rare breed among the CEOs targeted by Occupy Wall Street: He’s a billionaire(*) and a Democrat.

One of the targets of protesters’ “Millionaire March” earlier this month, Milstein leads a family enterprise founded on real estate and banking. He was a bundler for Barack Obama in 2008, a major donor to Andrew Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010 and a member of Cuomo’s transition team.

Milstein is one of the Top One Percent in the Muckety database, with more connections and influence than 99 percent of the other people we profile.

Howard Milstein
Howard Milstein

Despite his politics (sometimes because of them), resentment toward Milstein isn’t restricted to the demonstrators in Manhattan.

He is widely disparaged in Niagara Falls, where he holds a large swath of undeveloped property.

Milstein’s reputation in the western New York community provides an interesting, if unexpected, overlap between Occupy Wall Streeters and Tea Partiers.

More than a decade ago, Niagara Falls leaders, impressed with his history of redeveloping declining urban neighborhoods, named Milstein as the major developer of 140 acres of downtown real estate.

The renaissance never happened, and as BusinessWeek wrote in December, the area is “a ghost town of abandoned homes, shuttered storefronts, and vacant lots.”

When Tea Party candidate Carl Paladino ran for governor last year, nearly two-thirds of the voters in historically Democratic Niagara County supported him.

After winning the election, Cuomo named Milstein as chairman of the New York Thruway Authority, a powerful board that oversees an operation with a $1 billion budget.

And like their later counterparts in New York, members of a community group gathered in downtown Niagara Falls to protest the appointment.

(1) While Milstein is widely described as a billionaire, it’s difficult to accurately tally his assets, because they’re privately held. Before his father, Paul Milstein, died in 2010, Forbes estimated the family fortune at $3.8 billion.

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  • #1.   Stephen Lerner 11.01.2011

    How come nothing is being reported about Emigrant’s TARP loan which has still not been repaid?
    It’s also unclear why the media is not reporting that Eric Cantor’s wife works for Milstein’s office in Virginia.

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