Eric Adams knows his audience.
“What oil is to Texas, real estate is to New York,” the mayor told a crowd of real estate professionals at The Real Deal’s New York City Showcase + Forum Thursday, noting the significant chunk of city revenue the industry provides.
In remarks at the Metropolitan Pavilion, the mayor criticized the Department of Buildings, echoing previous comments that the agency’s bureaucratic processes stand in the way of projects. He said the agency should “roll out the red carpet” for building professionals.
“You would think we were doing something wrong by wanting to build in our city,” said the mayor, who recently named former City Council member Eric Ulrich as commissioner of the agency.
Adams cited hotel development as particularly difficult, noting that “you have to wait three years for a sprinkler inspection.” He didn’t mention his past support for a law that requires developers of new hotels to first obtain a special permit, a months-long process.
The mayor did tout his focus on public safety, including the fact that he has increased the number of NYPD officers in the city’s subway system (the largest deployment since the 1990s, according to the New York Daily News) and cleared hundreds of homeless encampments (some of them multiple times), though only a few dozen individuals have accepted placement in a new location. Adams’ tough-on-crime, pro-business platform helped him win the real estate industry’s favor ahead of his 2021 election.
The mayor dismissed previous questions about whether he was in “the pockets of real estate,” an allegation that arose during his campaign, and called out his former opponents for what he saw as a lack of focus on public safety, noting that he “burned candles” and prayed they would not win the election.
Adams did not mention the impending expiration of the property tax break 421a on June 15, but after his speech, he said he is hopeful that lawmakers will “at least” extend the program. The mayor visited Albany this week to push lawmakers on a few city priorities, including a replacement for the property tax break.
The city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program was designed to work in tandem with the tax abatement. During his campaign, Adams was critical of his predecessor Bill de Blasio’s housing program and called for more rezonings in high-income areas. His administration is expected to release its own housing plan in the next few weeks.
The mayor also reiterated his calls for New Yorkers to return to the office, recycling a joke about workers being “afraid of Covid on Monday, when you were at the nightclub on Sunday.”
He also offered words of encouragement to the dealmakers in the audience. “Stop being ashamed of being a capitalist,” he said. “This is who we are.”