Government Briefs

Thousands of FiDi apartments could be re-regulated

A New York City housing court judge ruled recently that a market-rate apartment at 37 Wall Street should be rent stabilized because the owner has been receiving 421-g tax abatements from the city, Crain’s reported. The decision, reminiscent of last year’s Stuyvesant Town case, in which the state’s highest court ruled that landlord Tishman Speyer had illegally deregulated units while receiving J-51 tax abatements, could mean a return to rent stabilization for thousands of Financial District apartments. Unlike the J-51 tax break, which was issued to developers throughout the city, the 421-g was given exclusively to commercial landlords in Lower Manhattan for residential conversions. According to the Downtown Express, there are at least 16 rental buildings, with close to 5,000 units, below Murray Street receiving 421-g tax abatements.

NYC construction fatalities down, accidents up

The number of construction deaths in the city dropped roughly 80 percent last year compared to 2008, data released last month by the Department of Buildings shows. Still, the number of accidents increased. There were three fatalities in 2009 compared to 19 in 2008, the DOB said. The three fatalities include two cases in which a worker fell to his death — one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn — and the third was due to the collapse of a concrete wall in Staten Island. Meanwhile, the total number of reported construction accidents rose to 224 in 2009 from 151 in 2008, according to the DOB.

Head of Rent Guidelines Board resigns

After eight years in office, Marvin Markus, head of the eight-member Rent Guidelines Board, is stepping down, effective at the end of this month. Markus was in charge of overseeing the annual Rent Guidelines Board meetings. Most notably, he approved a 3 percent increase on one-year leases last year despite the recession, which drew protests from tenants.

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‘Ghost towers’ could turn into affordable housing

545 Washington Avenue

Proposed legislation to transform vacant luxury apartments in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill into affordable housing could become reality. State lawmakers are now reviewing the initiative, dubbed “Project Reclaim,” which was introduced a year ago by Assembly member Hakeem Jeffries. Under the proposal to change these “ghost towers” into affordable housing for the community, the State of New York Mortgage Agency would provide mortgage insurance to potential buyers of recently built but vacant properties that are in foreclosure, at half the average cost, the New York Times reported. Underoccupied buildings in the Fort Greene-Clinton Hill area include 545 Washington Avenue and 65 Clifton Place.

City housing gets $20 million federal infusion

Mayor Bloomberg

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded more than $20 million last month to the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development under a HUD neighborhood stabilization program. “The grants were awarded competitively to applicants who developed the most innovative ideas to address the impact of the foreclosure crisis on local communities while demonstrating they have the capacity to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars,” according to a press release from the mayor’s office. Mayor Bloomberg said: “The city will use the funds to buy, renovate and resell foreclosed properties in the most-affected neighborhoods.”