The Real Deal New York

This month in real estate history

The Real Deal looks back at some of New York's biggest real estate stories

March 31, 2009

1984: State begins oversight of rent-stabilized apartments

A state agency took over the responsibility for regulating New York City’s 950,000 rent-stabilized apartments 25 years ago this month, in the wake of complaints that the city could not manage the workload.

The state Division of Housing and Community Renewal assumed the powers of the New York City Conciliation and Appeals Board after criticism began mounting in the mid- to late 1970s that the local board lacked the resources to handle the growing number of apartments regulated under rent-stabilization laws.

The nine-person panel created through the city’s landmark 1969 Rent Stabilization Law was a quasi-public agency that reviewed landlord-tenant disputes in rent-stabilized apartments built after 1947.

In 1969, there were 350,000 units in rent stabilization, but under state rent legislation passed in 1974, another 400,000 units were added, straining the system, and sufficient budget increases were not forthcoming.

The 1969 law also formed the Rent Guidelines Board that then, as now, set annual rent increases. The Division of Housing and Community Renewal still retains oversight today for the city’s 1 million rent-stabilized apartment units.

1959: City Department of Real Estate formed in wake of scandal

The city Department of Real Estate was created to replace a corrupt predecessor 50 years ago this month to oversee the sale and leasing of city-owned property, but was itself dismantled two decades later amid accusations of graft.

The new department took over for the Bureau of Real Estate, whose director, Percy Gale Jr., resigned in 1958 after complaints about overcharges, mismanagement and fund shortages in the bureau. Several city workers were accused of taking kickbacks and dismissed, but some later were rehired after being cleared of any wrongdoing.

Both the old and new city agencies had similar tasks: to manage the acquisition of property, mostly through foreclosures, as well as oversee city-owned realty in sales, leases or exchanges. The bodies also managed the resettling of thousands of residents each year to clear the way for urban renewal housing projects.

Mayor Robert Wagner Jr. sought the creation of the full-fledged department, which would report directly to the mayor, to replace the bureau that had been an arm of the old legislative body, the Board of Estimate.

Following investigations into bribery and corruption in the 1970s, the responsibilities of the department were split. Residential buildings were taken over by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The commercial building portfolio was folded into the Department of General Services. The sale and leasing of commercial city-owned property is now managed by the Division of Real Estate Services, a part of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.

1904: Longacre Square renamed Times Square

The bustling intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue between 42nd and 47th streets, formerly known as Longacre Square, was renamed Times Square in honor of the New York Times 105 years ago this month.

The densely packed commercial and entertainment center was given its new moniker in a ceremony led by Mayor George McClellan on April 8 to recognize the opening of the daily newspaper’s new office building at 1475 Broadway at 42nd Street.

The newspaper’s headquarters, the 25-story tower known as One Times Square, is 365 feet high and was the second tallest building in the city when it opened. Within a decade, the Times outgrew the building and moved its corporate offices to 229 West 43rd Street, in 1913.

Times Square was already a destination for tourists and theatergoers by the turn of the century. Oscar Hammerstein opened the Olympia Theater in 1895, spurring development of the theater district.

One Times Square is the location for the annual ball drop for New Year’s Eve celebrations, which began in 1907.

It was not the first such intersection named for a publication. Herald Square, at 34th Street and Sixth Avenue, was named for the now-defunct New York Herald in 1895.

Compiled by Adam Pincus

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