There’s a saying about biting the hand that feeds you. It’s generally advised not to do it. But for United States Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, this guidance has fallen by the wayside when it comes to Papaya King.
It has been widely reported that the Upper East Side Papaya King is in danger of demolition. Developer Extell plans to raze the one-story, 50 by 100-foot strip at the corner of East 86th Street and Third Avenue and build who knows what thereafter.
The public reaction to Extell’s plan has been strong and singular: no! Count Maloney into that mix. The day after Patch announced the likely tear down, she tweeted in support of the city’s hot dog royalty.
“Papaya King is an East Side institution that has served generations of NYers since 1932,” she tweeted on June 30. “The new building owner is trying to kick them out to develop the site. NYC has lost far too many of its historic eateries. Let’s not lose another small business that helped shape this City.”
It turns out, according to the New York Daily News, that the building’s new owner is a long-time Maloney campaign contributor.
The Daily News frames this story as a bit salacious, even implying that Maloney knows exactly who donates, when, and how much. The story even suggests that she purposely avoided naming Extell as the new owner in her June 30 tweet due to the prior financial donations from its chairman, Gary Barnett.
“Barnett has given her $33,900 over the last 13 years, including $5,000 in February, federal election records show. Maloney has taken in $15,600 in donations from Barnett’s wife Ayala Barnett over the years as well,” writes the Daily News.
However, Bob Liff – a spokesperson for Maloney – spun the news in a different direction and praised Maloney for speaking up for Papaya King, noting that the Congresswoman “has never chosen or tempered her views based on who donates to her campaign… That is why she has pressed for banking regulations and consumer credit protections that have at times angered leaders of the financial industry based in her city,” Liff said. “Papaya King has been a beloved Upper East Side establishment for a long time. No campaign contributor will stop her from sticking up for what is right for her community and constituents.”
Maloney is in a three-way race for her Congressional seat against fellow incumbent Jerrold Nadler and Suraj Patel, whom Maloney has twice beaten handily. The latter candidate used the news to pounce on his political nemesis, telling the Daily News that “50k in donations is a Papaya King’s ransom.”
It is unclear whether Patel intends to explain how speaking out in support of the alleged subject of the ransom makes one liable to the captor.