Government briefs: Amtrak’s Gateway could get shut, Nonunions may face labor pains, and more...

Government briefs

Apr.April 01, 2017 01:00 PM

Amtrak’s Gateway could get shut

Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts for fiscal year 2018 could derail Amtrak’s $24 billion Gateway project, a planned renovation to the rail lines in and around the city. The president’s budget plan calls for the elimination of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s New Starts program, which began its approval process to help fund the Amtrak initiative last summer, Bloomberg reported. The Gateway project includes plans to build a new tunnel beneath the Hudson River, which would allow Amtrak to repair a 107-year-old tunnel that was heavily damaged in 2012 during Superstorm Sandy. While Trump expressed interest in expanding high-speed rail in early March, he also called Amtrak an “extremely expensive railroad” on the campaign trail in July.

Nonunions may face labor pains

The latest political winds in Albany and D.C., coupled with new information revealing the lower wages of nonunion workers, could put a damper on the recent growth of nonunion construction in the city, according to Crain’s New York. A new study by the Economic Policy Institute, a union-affiliated think tank, says union wages exceed nonunion wages by more than 40 percent. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has aligned himself with labor unions on a proposed requirement that developers receiving 421a tax breaks pay nonunion construction wages near union levels. The 421a program expired last year, and Cuomo is negotiating with state lawmakers to revive it with new conditions. Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s hardline stance on undocumented immigrants could also curb the growth of nonunion labor, according to a Pew Research Center report cited by Crain’s.

440 West 41st Street

New owner settles old fines 

The owner of a 96-unit apartment building at 440 West 41st Street agreed to pay the city $375,000 to settle $2 million in fines that the former landlords accrued for running an illegal hotel there for years, Crain’s New York reported. The new owner, David Goldwasser, also agreed to bring the 14-floor building up to code by the end of April. Goldwasser paid about $28 million for the building in 2015, just a few months after the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement filed a lawsuit against the former landlords, brothers Ben Zion Suky and Eran Suki, for illegally renting out rooms at the apartment building for less than 30 days. There are 122 open violations on the West 41st Street building, including safety violations associated with its illegal use as a hotel. 

A public-sector office party

The public and nonprofit sectors bought and sold more property and inked more lease deals in 2016 than they have on average over the last five years, according to a recent Cushman & Wakefield report. The two sectors combined completed 203 lease and investment-sales transactions totaling more than 6.4 million square feet last year — more than 50 percent higher than the five-year average. Increases in pricing over the last three years spurred public and nonprofit tenants to look for cheaper office space, while property sales in both sectors tripled from 16 transactions in 2015 to 48 in 2016, as owners looked to cash out. The bulk of the public and nonprofit leases signed were by tenants moving to submarkets with below-average rents, according to the report. Almost a quarter of the lease deals were in Midtown’s Grand Central submarket due to asking rents that were 12 percent lower than other parts of Midtown.

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