The Real Deal New York

Timeline: The massive BK projects that beat the 421a clock

Spitzer, Chetrit, Dushinsky and Catismitidis had mega sites stamped before June 15 deadline

November 23, 2015 10:26AM
By Will Parker

421 collage

Clockwise from top left: 416-420 Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, 10 Montieth Street in Bushwick, B2 at 461 Dean Street in Fort Greene, and 77-87 Commercial Street in Greenpoint

UPDATED, 5:36 p.m., NOV 23: In May, the Department of Buildings began issuing an unusually high number of construction permits, stamping hundreds of plans that could potentially qualify for 421a tax abatements, then set to expire on June 15. New building approvals for Brooklyn skyrocketed more than any other borough, accounting for around half of the city’s total approved residential units for the month of June.

Now, a TRD analysis of public DOB data reveals which developers pushed through the biggest projects at the 11th hour. 

From Monday, June 1 until Friday, June 12 — the last business day before the June 15 abatement deadline — Brooklyn saw at least 20 times the number of initially approved new apartment units than were approved during the remaining days of the same month (June 13-30).

The list of developers who received a last minute blessing from the DOB includes a number of big names and giant projects. (At the end of June, officials ultimately extended the 421a program until Dec. 31.)

At least four separate permits totaling 1,216 residential units were approved across four buildings at the Rheingold Brewery conversion site in Bushwick, on behalf of either Simon Dushinsky’s Rabsky Group or partner Read Property Group. The City Council voted ‘yea’ to rezone the Rheingold site residential back in 2013, but plans have only recently begun to take shape. Real estate investor Yoel Goldman just picked up a parcel at 123 Melrose Street for $68.5 million.

Also in North Brooklyn, a partnership between Chetrit Group and Clipper Equities received permits on June 5 to begin construction on a massive three-building high-rise development at 77 Commercial Street in Greenpoint. The developers have pledged that 200 of the 720 residential units will be tabbed as affordable. They originally filed initial plans in September of 2014. Chetrit Group also got a boutique Williamsburg hotel development at 500 Metropolitan Avenue through the DOB on June 12.

Eliot Spitzer, no stranger to cutting through red tape, managed to get two future Williamsburg waterfront buildings approved at 416 and 420 Kent Avenue on June 4 and June 8, totaling 470 units.

The largest single permit (by units) was for Rubin Schron’s Cammeby’s International and its 544-unit tower in Coney Island, one of the largest outer-borough residential projects under development. Schron’s permit was issued on June 9. The next day, in nearby Sheepshead Bay, the DOB gave the thumbs up to Muss Development and AvalonBay’s 250-unit tower at 1501 Voorheis Avenue.

June 9 was perhaps the busiest day of the year for the DOB, when 20 new building projects totaling over 1,600 units were initially approved.

A few major projects approved in the 421a crunch period were closer to Downtown. Forest City Ratner got the go-ahead on a 305-unit plan at 461 Dean Street. The tower, known as B2, is expected to be the world’s tallest modular structure when it is completed. That permit was issued on June 10. Nearby, Real estate-cum-groceries mogul John Catsimatidis bagged permits for the 440-unit 86 Fleet Place in Downtown Brooklyn on June 2.

Other notable DOB passport stamps include Silverstone Property-connected Madison Realty Capital, which got 120 units taken care of at 555 Waverly near Prospect Heights. Active Brooklyn developer Shifra Hager of Cornell Realty got three permits at three different sites on super-packed June 9, totaling 444 units. South Williamsburg-based Cheskel Schwimmer passed go and collected permits for a 129-unit Ocean Avenue project.

So what happened after June 12? Very little.

On June 15, the day 421a was set to expire, around 250 units were approved, mostly from mid-sized projects. In the two remaining weeks, initial new building permits for only 135 units were approved.

On the year to date, a TRD analysis of all initial new building permits (excluding renewals permits) shows that no other month has seen anywhere close to the number of initial permits or units processed in the month and half before the June 15 deadline of 421a.


Source: TRD analysis of DOB data for issued initial new building permits

A tally of applications (not units) provided to TRD by the Department of Buildings also shows that issued permits remained at lower levels since the late-spring peak.
dob months permits

But with the next 421a deadline coming up on Dec. 31, we could very well be set up to see the same show all over again.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Forest City Ratner’s B2 would be condos. They are rentals