Do you have to operate criminally to be a property developer in New York?

I have been told that it is basically impossible to accomplish anything in New York, in terms of buying land, developing land, managing your property, etc. unless you get in bed with the mafia and corrupt politicians.

Is this accurate?

I’m sorry I don’t know that about New York.

However I think it’s important to know about the person who told you this.
Do they have any knowledge or expertise in the subject?

Real estate, yes, life in New York, no, running a criminal enterprise, no.

Mafia is way down from what they used to be in NYC and elsewhere. Many of them went to prison during the crackdown in the 80s and after that. Don’t think they have nearly as much power in construction as they had.

This article describes how Russian money bailed Trump out when he was a financial pariah. Joel Ross, described in the quote below as ‘a long-established investment banker in Manhattan’, said that ‘Trump is not much different than most of the NY real estate developers,’ but stops short of saying that criminal activity is necessary.

Yep. And all the gambling in Las Vegas is linked to organized crime too! SIGH

There’s a reason regulatory agencies are created.

In case I wasn’t clear in my post above. If the OP is correct, someone opposing Trump or any other other politician with ties to New York real estate or development would be quickly exposed.

[Moderating]

I don’t see any way for this to avoid becoming a debate. Off to GD.

Well, the mafia has been neutered and now the government takes over those tasks.

If you need a building permit to make improvements on your home, you have to grease some government palms. Otherwise you’ll never get a permit or the paperwork will either stall or disappear, but they will make you jump through numerous hoops so that they can torture you along the way. Each completed demand still leaves you without a building permit.

However, a little monetary “encouragement” goes a long way. In some cases, you just go ahead with your plans without the city’s blessing and apologize later. Just make sure you have an appropriate number of $100 bills in an envelope to go along with your mea culpas when the building officials arrive.

I’m relating my sister-in-law’s protracted efforts to build a room on the roof of her Brooklyn home about 10 years ago. She first went about it the way you would expect - above board and legal. Very naive on her part. She got delays and run-arounds. A year or so later she finally wised up. People expect incentives; meet their expectations and things start to happen and they turn a blind eye to your sins.

With bigger buildings and high profile real estate dealings, the stakes are high. No need to settle for smaller bribes there, I imagine.