City office deals stall under Trump
City officials are pumping the brakes on some new leases and renewals for city office space, a sign that they are waiting to see how President Donald Trump’s budget will impact the city’s coffers, according to the New York Post. The city is holding some deals that agency bigwigs and landlords “had thought were done,” including a renewal for the Human Resources Administration’s nearly 265,000-square-foot office at 109 East 16th Street, a new 275,000-square-foot lease for the Department of Investigation at 180 Maiden Lane, and leases for a handful of agencies at 375 Pearl Street. A spokesperson for the Department of Citywide Administration Services said the city had not adopted an “across-the-board” moratorium on leases. City officials, including the mayor, have said Trump’s proposed budget could cut hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding to city agencies.
Redefining tenant harassment
City Council members are pushing a package of bills that would expand the definition of tenant harassment and increase penalties on bad-actor landlords, Gothamist reported. One of the proposed laws would create a “rebuttable presumption,” allowing a tenant to bring a harassment claim against a landlord in court without having to prove intent. Other proposals include counting actions aimed at multiple tenants as repeated harassment and allowing a court to consider “non-rent fees” on a rent bill as a tool designed to push out tenants. Bills in the package would also raise civil penalties and create an avenue for housing courts to award statutory, compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorneys’ fees and costs for harassment cases.
Commercial rent tax break cheers
A City Council bill to ease a commercial rent tax on tenants below 96th Street in Manhattan is in committee and has more than enough votes to pass a floor vote, according to City and State. Councilman Daniel Garodnick’s bill would exempt tenants paying less than $500,000 in rent from the 3.9 percent commercial rent tax and establish a sliding scale for tenants paying between $500,000 and $550,000. The mayor’s office reportedly “commended” the bill in February, but said it should be considered in the context of $52 million it would drain from the city’s coffers each year. Manhattan Chamber of Commerce CEO Jessica Walker supports the tax break and told City and State that the revenue lost is a small sum in the mayor’s budget — which is now $95.8 billion. The bill is expected to go to a Council floor vote this month or June, once the city budget is finalized.
A call for cheaper air rights
In a rare agreement with the Real Estate Board of New York, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer recommended that the city slash its minimum price per square foot for landmark air rights from $393 to $250 per square foot. The incentive, she wrote, is to not “choke off” deals encouraged by the proposed rezoning of Midtown East. The rezoning is expected to add 6.5 million square feet of office space to the 73-block area over the next two decades, in part by owners purchasing 3.6 million square feet of development rights from nearby landmarks. The city wants to funnel $78.60 per foot from air-rights transfers in the area to public improvement projects and is evaluating a requirement that developers who benefit from a rezoning of 40,000 square feet or more provide public outdoor space in their projects.