The bills that wouldn’t die

Two radical proposals that the real estate lobby was able to kill last year have returned to haunt the industry

Mar.March 02, 2020 11:00 AM

The only political victories the real estate industry could claim last year were fending off the pied-à-terre tax and the “good cause” eviction bill. But growing momentum to pass both measures in the current legislative session shows that the industry failed to drive a stake through their hearts.

(Illustrations by Chris Koehler)

Though killed last year through intense lobbying, the dreaded “good cause” eviction bill championed by state Sen. Julia Salazar has risen from the dead and advanced to committee in the current legislative session.

The 2018 election brought a progressive revolution to Albany, ousting the real estate-friendly GOP from power in the state Senate with a liberal majority spearheaded by Salazar. The leftist caucus pushed a slate of tenant-friendly legislation including a “good cause” eviction bill many saw as a path to universal rent control.

The real estate industry rallied against the “good cause” eviction bill and other proposals threatening the industry. Not least was the pied-à-terre tax, which moved developer William Lie Zeckendorf to head to Albany personally, with lobbyist Patrick Jenkins in tow, to successfully fight against it.

Emboldened by passage of the massive rent-law overhaul, activists continued rallying for legislation taxing landlords and developers, though some would say their anger at the real estate industry is often misdirected. Sometimes literally, as when demonstrators gathered outside the Midtown offices of the Manhattan Institute to protest a rent-regulation debate sponsored by the think tank down in the Financial District.

Late last year, Salazar reanimated her “good cause” eviction bill with the help of state Sen. Brian Kavanagh, securing a majority of Democratic support by raising the cap on rent hikes that would be deemed “reasonable.”

Meanwhile, state Sen. Brad Hoylman is trying to bring the pied-à-terre tax bill back from the dead, staging a rally in late January outside Amazon chief Jeff Bezos’s $80M Flatiron condo at 212 Fifth Avenue, aiming to #MakeBillionairesPay.

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