Meet the Construction Attorney Who Shook Up New York’s Mayoral Race

In late April, attorney Patricia Pastor led a press conference for her client, a former volunteer with Scott Stringer’s 2001 campaign for public advocate named Jean Kim. The conference kicked off a series of events that upended the New York City mayora…

In late April, attorney Patricia Pastor led a press conference for her client, a former volunteer with Scott Stringer’s 2001 campaign for public advocate named Jean Kim. The conference kicked off a series of events that upended the New York City mayoral race, as Kim accused Stringer, then polling third in the ranked-choice contest, of assaulting her when she served as an intern on his campaign.

Pastor told reporters not to contact Kim but to funnel all questions through her. What she didn’t tell them, however, was that she had worked for political opponents of Stringer’s long before Kim’s allegation came to light. Though Pastor refers to herself as a sex crimes attorney, she has spent the bulk of the last decade as general counsel for companies controlled by Ron Lattanzio, a controversial construction industry executive whose business was locked in a long-running feud over union labor and the development of Hudson Yards. Stringer supported the union, said multiple sources involved in the dispute, who spoke with The Intercept on condition of anonymity for fear of professional reprisal.

Pastor declined to comment on questions concerning her representation of Lattanzio’s businesses. That previous relationship does not indicate that Kim’s allegations are false.

Lattanzio owns and operates a network of companies with overlapping executives, attorneys, and consultants. Pastor “served as head of legal and compliance for a group of construction service entities,” at Lattanzio’s Construction & Realty Services Group, or CRSG, where she “[p]rovided education and management training on EEO compliance, workplace conduct, sexual harassment and employment discrimination,” and “[d]evised strategies to respond to government investigations,” until January 2018, according to her LinkedIn profile. In court filings, Pastor represented Trade Off, another company in Lattanzio’s network of construction-related firms, which provides cheap, nonunion labor and became central to a dispute between the unions, supported by Stringer, and the developers behind Hudson Yards.

Related Companies, the outfit leading the development work, at first relied heavily on union workers but in 2017 began shifting to Trade Off as part of a move toward low-wage, nonunion labor. As the fight spilled into the public, sources involved in the dispute said, City Comptroller Stringer became an outspoken advocate for the union, Local 79 of the Building and Construction Trades Council. The feud was intense, and Related Companies CEO Jeff Blau made no secret of his animosity toward Stringer. A business associate, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Intercept that in 2018, Blau said bluntly: “Scott Stringer is an enemy.”

In March, Stephen Ross, chair and founder of Related Companies, announced a major intervention in the mayoral race: a super PAC with the aim to “help us get this mayoral election right.” Blau’s wife, Lisa, led a campaign to persuade Republican and unaffiliated voters to register to vote in the Democratic primary. Related Companies did not respond to a request for comment.

As Trade Off’s counsel, Pastor filed two lawsuits against the union jockeying with the firm, and the union reported Trade Off to the New York attorney general for a shockingly abusive workplace culture. The attorney general’s office later concluded that women at Trade Off were repeatedly groped, sent explicit videos and photos by co-workers, and pressured to have sex in exchange for overtime pay. (Trade Off settled for $1.5 million and agreed to overhaul its sexual harassment policy in 2020, alleging that some complaints were “driven by a long-lasting dispute with a union that had trouble competing with Trade Off for labor services.”)

For veterans of the Hudson Yards war, it appeared that the battle had spilled into the mayoral contest. In March, the building trades union endorsed Stringer for mayor, and in April, it was Lattanzio’s former general counsel who called a press conference to announce that an alleged victim of Stringer’s harassment planned to come forward. On April 24, according to Google cache data, Pastor’s name and bio were still on Lattanzio’s CRSG website. By April 28, the day of the press event, Pastor’s name had been scrubbed.

Within days of the press conference — before the allegation had been independently investigated, and before anybody had come forward to corroborate it — a slew of progressive organizations and elected officials withdrew their support from Stringer. But subsequent reporting by The Intercept showed that many of the claims embedded in Kim’s account, which could be checked against public records, were either proven false or contradicted. Kim had made some of the false claims herself, but many others had been made by Pastor.

In addition to falsely stating that Kim had never applied to work for Stringer’s 2013 comptroller campaign, Pastor told reporters Kim had not donated to Stringer, which Kim later corrected. While Pastor described Kim as an intern, the 2001 Stringer campaign’s intern coordinator said that she had not been one, but rather had been a volunteer. At the press conference, Pastor told reporters that Eric Schneiderman, the former New York attorney general who resigned facing allegations of physical abuse in May 2018, had introduced Kim and Stringer in 2001. Kim, confirming The Intercept’s reporting, later said that claim was not true: Schneiderman had not introduced them; the two had met socially prior to her involvement with Stringer’s campaign.

Pastor also made small errors, like misspelling Kim’s name as “King” in a statement and calling Stringer “Tony” — the name of Kim’s fiancé — in an interview, according to local reporters.

Just as Pastor’s role in Kim’s allegation does not make it untrue, nor does it mean that Stringer has never been guilty of harassment. But in a media and political environment that at times treats exaggerated or unsubstantiated allegations the same as those with serious corroboration — the congressional campaign of Alex Morse, for example, was quickly undone without a single specific allegation or accuser — the source of those allegations becomes increasingly important.

For six years, Pastor served as Lattanzio’s general counsel at CRSG, the umbrella firm linked to a network of Lattanzio construction companies. In 2017, on behalf of Trade Off, she filed two lawsuits against Local 79 of the Building and Construction Trades Council, the union that ultimately brought the allegations of harassment at Trade Off to the attorney general’s attention.

In one, a defamation suit, Pastor sued a former Trade Off worker for saying that site safety was compromised, and specifically that workers high up on a building didn’t have the needed harnesses, arguing that the occurrence was fabricated. Far from fabricating the claim, the worker produced a video of the incident, which was later reviewed by The Intercept.

Later that year, Pastor filed another lawsuit on behalf of four Trade Off executives against the labor union and many of its members. The claim sought $4 million and alleged that her clients feared for their lives and were the targets of harassment during various incidents, including a confrontation with the union’s famous 12-foot inflatable rat at a labor protest outside Trade Off Vice President of Operations Jason Abadie’s house. At the time, the union had been organizing Trade Off employees. A later National Labor Relations Board complaint seeking withdrawal of the defamation lawsuit, and arguing that employees were retaliated against for organizing, alleged that workers were surveilled outside of work and fired for their union sympathies.

Collapsed into a single NLRB complaint, the lawsuits were later closed as part of an informal settlement.

Although Pastor litigated the suits under her independent firm, Law Office of Patricia M Pastor, PLLC, she was employed at Lattanzio’s CRSG as its general counsel and vice president at the time, and she used her CRSG email address when filing with the court.

At Trade Off in 2016, after repeated complaints of sexual harassment and assault on the worksite, the company’s Integrity Monitor filed a report with upper-level management, detailing the severity of the crisis and a failure to respond effectively to it.

The firm’s management, according to the attorney general’s report, took no action to improve the situation, and ultimately fired at least 12 women who had complained. Pastor, then serving as Lattanzio’s general counsel and a vice president at CRSG, declined to comment on whether she received the memo. In response to a series of questions, she told The Intercept: “I cannot answer any of these questions as to do so would violate the rules of professional conduct for attorneys as well as the attorney-client privilege.”

Local 79 got word of the harassment and alerted the New York attorney general, triggering the investigation begun by Eric Schneiderman in March 2018 and concluded by Letitia James in June 2020. Pastor told The Intercept that she was no longer working for CRSG or Trade Off by the time of the investigation.

The allegations of harassment and abuse, as laid out in the attorney general’s findings, were extreme. The attorney general’s investigation concluded that “at least seven different Trade Off supervisors harassed female workers,” including:

  • “Repeated quid pro quo offers to at least five women to falsify timesheets, and thereby increase female workers’ pay, in exchange for sex.”
  • “A Trade Off supervisor forcibly kissed at least two female workers and circulated naked photos and videos of subordinates.”
  • “At least one supervisor regularly tried to touch female workers’ buttocks and breasts while at work.”
  • “At least two supervisors sent pictures of their penises to female workers and one sent a video of himself masturbating.”

Complaints to supervisors only made the situation worse. The office of the attorney general “concluded victims and witnesses to harassment repeatedly notified the highest-level management at Trade Off of the instances of harassment. … Nevertheless, management repeatedly failed to take appropriate action and, in fact, repeatedly intervened to protect the harassers and fire women who complained of harassment.”

Less than a year after the attorney general released the findings of her investigation, Pastor was in front of the media, introducing the city to Jean Kim.

Soon after the press conference, Scott Stringer began to point out inconsistencies in Kim’s story. Both parties came under intense media scrutiny, and the idea that Stringer was smearing Kim quickly took hold.

“I needed to make two things very clear to the public and to my supporters,” Stringer said in a statement to The Intercept. “First, that I support the right of women to come forward and be heard, and second, that the allegations are false and completely antithetical to the way I have conducted my entire life, both in private and public. I wish the circumstances had been different to allow for a more thoughtful conversation.”

In the days after the allegation, Stringer lost the endorsements of many progressive groups, including the Working Families Party, previously a coalition of progressive activists and labor unions that is now significantly funded by progressive foundations. Since Kim’s allegation emerged in April, Stringer’s support among organized labor has only grown, providing him with a foothold that has kept him barely viable in a fluid race in which ranked-choice voting makes the outcome difficult to determine.

“We approached the decision with the input and discussion from our members it required and with intense deliberation by our leadership,” Sochie Nnaemeka, director of NY Working Families Party, told The Intercept. “It was Stringer’s response to the allegations that made it impossible for us to elevate him as our champion over other progressives in the race.”

The New York Times, meanwhile, endorsed Kathryn Garcia, a centrist candidate and former Sanitation Department commissioner who has climbed in the polls. A May 25 survey had her on top for the first time, edging out Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams (a former Republican) in second, former presidential hopeful Andrew Yang in third, and Stringer in fourth. No other candidate reached double digits in the polling.

With the Democratic primary set for June 22, early voting starts June 12. A debate is scheduled for Wednesday evening.


This content originally appeared on The Intercept and was authored by Ryan Grim.


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