A day after state lawmakers killed Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s congestion pricing effort and a chance for a $354 million federal transportation grant died with it, civic groups and officials see real estate transactions as a way to increase funding for the cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Despite the rancor that followed Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s decision to forego a vote on congestion pricing, a Silver advisor and several civic groups agree that the MTA desperately needs a big capital influx to expand services.
Civic groups that fought for congestion pricing say the real estate industry, which already funds the MTA through taxes on mortgage recordings and sales, could be fair game for new revenue.
“I think real estate is a definite target, since the value of real estate is tied to the availability of the subway system,” said Jeff Zupan, a transportation expert at the Regional Plan Association. He added that “the Albany mentality is drivers vote and real estate interests are much less” vindictive.
Gov. David Paterson has said that he will name former MTA chairman Richard Ravitch, a successful developer, to lead a commission that will ferret out capital for mass transit. Ravitch may appoint other real estate experts to his panel or may push the idea that developers should pay for the gains they get from mass transit expansion.
Property players could become partners in new ventures, said City University professor Robert “Buzz” Paaswell, who heads the Urban Transportation Research Center. Instead of looking to force the real estate industry to pay up, developers could be tapped as partners in building new transit stations, a common practice in Asia, he said.
“Real estate people invest where accessibility is created and there has to be some way in capturing that benefit, whether in small fees on condos or something else,” he said.