The Real Deal New York

De Blasio announces Far Rockaway, Governors Island overhauls, but is mum on fate of affordable housing

Mayor also talks up $2.5B Brooklyn-Queens streetcar project

February 04, 2016 11:52PM
By Kathryn Brenzel

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers his State of the City address at Lehman College   in the Bronx on Thursday, February 4, 2016. The theme of the speech is One New York: Working For Our Neighborhoods. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio at Lehman College (credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)

Mayor Bill de Blasio teased future revitalization projects in Far Rockaway and Governors Island during his second State of the City address Thursday night, announcing only a few details on the major developments.

The mayor said $91 million will be dedicated to Hurricane Sandy-battered Downtown Far Rockaway, an investment that will allow for a new library, new mixed-income housing and repairs to a recreation center. He also said that “millions of new square feet” will be added to Governors Island for “commerce, culture and research” and that buildings in the Historic District will be “revived.” The city plans to issue an RFP  to develop 33 acres on two development sites on the southern end of the island. The changes will include year-round access to the island, he said.

“Today, we pledge to make Governors Island a place where economic opportunity comes together with innovation, education and creativity,” he said in front of an audience at Lehman College in the Bronx.

The mayor also proposed building a streetcar that would run from Astoria to Sunset Park, dubbed the Brooklyn-Queens Connector or BQX. The New York Times reported earlier on Thursday that the project will cost an estimated $2.5 billion, and the mayor said in his address that the 16-mile route will help address the “explosive growth on the waterfront” in the two boroughs and would generate $25 billion for the city over the next 30 years.

The theme of the night was “One New York,” a phrase offered as the antidote to the dreaded “tale of two cities” often used by the mayor to describe the economic disparity between the city’s neighborhoods. The phrase was emblazoned in orange and white lettering on blue banners throughout the college auditorium. The speech covered a lot of ground but didn’t really touch on the fate of what de Blasio has pegged as the hallmark of his administration: new affordable housing.

He touted the city’s plan as being the “most ambitious municipal affordable housing plan in the history of the nation,” citing that New York is ahead of its goal to creating 10,000 affordable apartments for seniors.

Though he called 2015 “one of the best years ever for affordable housing,” he omitted that the beginning of 2016 put the future of affordable housing in peril. Negotiations over the 421a tax break fell apart in January, leaving the program’s fate up in the air and many developers forecasting a bleak future for the construction of new rental housing.

The speech itself remained uninterrupted, as protestors were corralled outside the college’s entrances. This was apparently by design: the Wall Street Journal reported that the mayor was careful to keep unfriendly faces outside the invitation-only event.

Representatives with the Mason Tenders’ Council of Greater New York and Long Island handed out fliers against the mayor’s proposed mandatory inclusionary housing plan — which the City Planning Commission approved on Wednesday — arguing that it doesn’t include enough protections for construction workers.

In a statement, Kathryn Wylde, president of the business advocacy group the Partnership for New York City, said the mayor’s plans would “contribute to the city’s vitality and stimulate private investment.”

“These are priorities that the business community shares,” Wylde added.