Daft City Council will block Adams’ and Hochul’s plans to create more affordable housing
You don’t need to read books and news articles to learn why New York City’s housing picture is so bleak. Attend a meeting of the City Council’s Land Use Committee, where ignorance and progressive lunatics rule.
During the hearing last week at 250 Broadway, the panel members apparently took their cues from the Watergate-era congressman who, defending President Richard Nixon, famously declared, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”
City Planning Commissioner Dan Gardnick discussed strategies Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul have for converting old office buildings into apartments.
They will make it easier for landlords to renovate old office buildings. We have too many empty offices and not enough apartments, so what could be more logical, right?
Gardnick patiently describes steps to eliminate bureaucratic red tape, build apartments in areas where they are currently prohibited and allow taller towers than state and city regulations allow.
The new measures could make 136 million square feet of office space, about a third of the city’s inventory, eligible for conversion, he said.
But the panelists went off on off-base, uninformed and sometimes silly tangents. Committee Chair Rafael Salamanca Jr., who represents the South Bronx, got the ball rolling the wrong way by calling the Manhattan office “25% vacant.”
Ahem – according to real estate companies JLL, Colliers and CBRE, the actual vacancy rate is between 16.7% and 18.1%. It’s the only difference between a predictably sluggish market after Covid-19 and a complete, irreversible disaster.
Shouldn’t the head of the land use committee know such basic facts? But let’s not pick nits when there were so many juicier howlers!
Adams wants to encourage residential conversion in the Garment Center, where hundreds of former factories are leased to office tenants. They have some of the highest vacancy rates in the city.
But council member Gail Brewer, a slave to garment-industry unions, warned Gardnick, “Don’t mess with the garment center. We need those jobs. “
wow The garment industry that once employed millions of workers in the 30s and 40s now employs only 3,000 there.
Council member Kevin C. Riley, whose district is part of the North Bronx, no doubt raised the question on everyone’s mind: Will the apartment conversion “need amenities like schools and libraries?”
Some who challenged Gardnick made it little secret that they hated developers and landlords, whom they saw as profiteers eager to prey on “communities of color.”
But it’s absurd for them to trash private landlords when the city itself is America’s largest slum, accounting entirely for the deplorable conditions endured by a million and a half New Yorkers in 335 New York City Housing Authority locations. is responsible
The main cause of the housing shortage is rent controls, which discourage tenants from ever leaving their apartments, leaving 1 million out of the market.
More recently, a state “housing stabilization” act prevents landlords from fixing up damaged apartments by denying them the right to raise rents to pay for repairs — leaving thousands of other units unlivable and rentable.
Such truths are trivial to progressive council members who want all apartments built from old offices to be “affordable” — that is, so cheap that no developer can afford the expensive construction to build them.
Pierina Sanchez, who represents several Bronx neighborhoods, cited “the need to look at our lowest-income communities in all of these proposals.”
Gardnick was there to talk about facilitating residential transitions, not satisfying waking wish lists. But he wisely kept his cool and repeatedly thanked council members for their input, even though he was a jerk.
Hochul’s proposals to extend the 421-a tax exemption — which gives developers incentives to build new housing — gave council members fits in session.
“Every time there’s a proposal that leaves my community out, I’m outraged,” said Darlene Mealey, who represents a central Brooklyn neighborhood including Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights.
That’s code for “no leniency,” the excuse that Council Member Christine Richardson Jordan (who was not at the hearing) recently used to block a project that would bring more than 900 new homes to central Harlem.
Mealy awkwardly asked why buildings converted to apartments wouldn’t require parking spaces, apparently unaware that City Hall is using every trick in the book to get rid of cars. He suggested that subsidies to developers to pay for conversions would amount to “a bailout for private-property owners.” (“I’d call it a lifeline,” replied the ever-skillful gardener.)
The audience also asked such vexing questions: Why can’t houses of worship be converted into residences? Why aren’t there “different spaces for the homeless”? Brewer worried: If the new apartments were rent-stabilized, would there be “liability rights” for the tenants’ families?
It’s those follies that excite many council members, the people who would have to approve any zoning changes Adams wants to make easier. May God save us from their fictitious preferences.