The Real Deal New York

This month in real estate history

A look back at some of New York City's biggest real estate stories
By Adam Pincus | February 01, 2014 07:00AM

1968: Rockefeller proposes $6B urban revitalization plan

Gov. Nelson Rockefeller

Gov. Nelson Rockefeller

New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller outlined a plan for a new non-profit, public-private corporation that was projected to spend $6 billion or more to redevelop impoverished areas of the state, including New York City, 46 years ago this month.

Rockefeller said the “revolutionary” Urban Development Corporation would have the authority to sell bonds to support the projects, obtain land through eminent domain and circumvent local zoning rules.

He expected the state public benefit corporation would leverage about $1 billion in public financing, with about $5 billion of private financing, to achieve the $6 billion in redevelopment. He cited urban rioting as one impetus for what he described as “drastic” measures.

Despite concerns from New York City Mayor John Lindsay about a loss of local control, Albany quickly passed the supporting legislation by April and the proposal became law.

The nonprofit, since 1995 known as the Empire State Development Corporation, subsequently financed major projects including the 1,655-unit Harlem River Park Towers, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, revitalization in Times Square and thousands of apartments on Roosevelt Island and in Battery Park City.

1937: Local chapter of U.S. Realtors group formed

Robert-Armstrong

Robert Armstrong (Photo: National Association of Realtors)

The first Manhattan office for the predecessor to the powerful national trade group the National Association of Realtors formally opened 77 years ago this month.

Appraiser and broker Robert Armstrong was the founding chairman for the Manhattan chapter of the National Association of Real Estate Boards, as the national group was then known.

The members of the local group, including bankers, appraisers and brokers, had been affiliated individually with the national association, but wanted to make it easier for other Manhattan industry professionals to join the national organization.

The city’s most powerful trade group, the Real Estate Board of New York, resigned from the National Association of Real Estate Boards on Dec. 31 1927, over jurisdictional issues.

The new group never gained much traction, however, and was dissolved in 1945. At the same time, REBNY rejoined the national group.

The national group formally changed its name to the National Association of Realtors in 1972. The current local affiliation of that group, the Manhattan Association of Realtors, was incorporated in 2001.

1893: Consolidation limbo hurts Brooklyn realty values

Brooklyn in 1890

Brooklyn in 1890

The uncertainty surrounding the proposal to merge the independent city of Brooklyn into a proposed greater New York City brought Brooklyn’s real estate market to a near standstill 121 years ago this month.

Real estate agents were going out of business and attorneys and title agents were hunting for work. Furthermore, Brooklyn was averaging just one sale a week in its Real Estate Exchange auction house.

“Real estate in Brooklyn is practically dead,” an article in The New York Times that month said.

One developer blamed a higher tax burden in Brooklyn for choking investment in the city.

The future boroughs voted in November 1894 on the consolidation question. All approved it, although Brooklyn squeaked by with a vote of 64,744 in favor of merging and 64,467 against. The merger of what was then New York City (composed of Manhattan and a section of the Bronx) with the eastern portion of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, was finalized on Jan. 1, 1898.