The Daily Dirt: William Zeckendorf launches new fight against pied-à-terre tax

An analysis of New York's top real estate news

Jan.January 28, 2020 02:00 PM
William Zeckendorf and his brokerages are making moves. (Credit: iStock, Getty Images)

William Zeckendorf and his brokerages are making moves. (Credit: iStock, Getty Images)

Once again, William Zeckendorf is preparing to fight a tax on pricey second homes. This time, he plans to bring a cadre of homeowners.

The developer is forming a homeowners association to lobby lawmakers on policies such as the pied-à-terre tax, Erin Hudson reports. The group is still in its early stages, but will target issues that impact the real estate industry.

“You need homeowners,” said Brown Harris Stevens CEO Bess Freedman. “That’s who these state senators will listen to. That’s who they represent. So they’ll listen when they’re writing letters and calling.”

Last year, Zeckendorf traveled to Albany with his own lobbyist in the weeks before the state’s budget deadline. Ultimately, legislators agreed to drop the proposed PAT tax in favor of new taxes on mansion sales and property transfers. Still, at least two state senators have said they would support reintroduction of the tax bill this legislative session. Other legislation that the real estate industry is closely watching is the “good cause” eviction bill. The measure was left out of a series of changes made to the state’s rent-stabilization law but seems to be gaining momentum early in the 2020 session.

Another SoftBank-backed company is laying off employees.

Compass is letting go as many as 40 employees across its IT, marketing and M & A teams, E.B. Solomont reports.

The staff cuts are being made across its U.S. offices, representing a small fraction of the 18,000 people that work for the brokerage. The layoffs are part of a broader reorganization, and sources indicated that Compass plans to create an “agent experience team” to replace some of the people tasked with onboarding agents and other services.

Last year, following rapid growth, Compass CEO Robert Reffkin said the company planned to halt expansion into new markets and instead focus on growing in its existing locations. The decision was a departure from the goal announced by the firm in 2017, which was to have 20 percent market share in 20 major U.S. cities by 2020. Reffkin has acknowledged that Compass has not reached that target.

In recent months, the company has also had to fend off comparisons to other SoftBank-funded companies, most notably WeWork.

What we’re thinking about: What do you think about the “good cause” eviction bill? Will it pass this legislative session? Send a note to [email protected].


Residential: The priciest residential closing recorded Monday was for a co-op unit at 870 Fifth Avenue in Lenox Hill, at $9 million.

Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was for a development site at 39-40 30th Street, Long Island City, at $16.7 million.


The largest new building filing of the day was for a 4,278-square-foot, two-family home at 2463 Senger Place in Throgs Neck. United Developers filed the permit application.


The priciest residential listing to hit the market was for a condo unit at 150 Charles Street in the West Village, at $15 million. Compass’ Darren Sukenik has the permit application. — Research by Mary Diduch

A thing we’ve learned…

Architect Eran Chen and his wife, Dafna, held a “demolition party” on Friday in their new apartment at 39 Lispensard Street. Guests were encouraged to paint on the walls (but not the exposed brick), since the couple plans to extensively renovate the home. The party also happened to coincide with the closing of the $6 million loft, which popped up in public records Friday.

Elsewhere in New York

— Brooklyn Council member Rafael Espinal resigned suddenly Monday to lead the Freelancers Union, Gothamist reports. His departure comes halfway through his second term and just days after he dropped out of the race for Brooklyn borough president. He starts his new gig in March.

— Businesses may soon escape certain city violations and fines if they open their bathrooms up to the public, The City reports. City Hall has signed off on a program that offers to forgive fines for first-time offenders that open their bathrooms to the public during business hours. The Law Department and Mayor’s Office of Operations must still approve rule amendments to move the program forward.

— Rep. Scott Peters has become the fifth member of Congress to endorse Michael Bloomberg for president, Politico New York reports. Peters cited the former mayor’s stance on gun control and climate change as motivation for his endorsement.

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