Government briefs

The Hudson Yards groundbreaking ceremony
The Hudson Yards groundbreaking ceremony

Massive Hudson Yards project breaks ground

In a ceremony attended by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the Related Companies and Oxford Property Group last month broke ground on the first building at the massive Hudson Yards development. The project, a 1.7 million-square-foot, 47-story office tower, will be the future home of luxury retailer Coach and is slated for completion by 2015. The 26-acre Hudson Yards site will ultimately include 13 million square feet of retail, hotel, residential, office and park space. Work on a larger tower north of the Coach building could start next year, Crain’s reported.


Federal Housing Administration facing bailout

HUD secretary Shaun Donovan

According to a study released last month, the Federal Housing Administration’s failure to tighten borrowing requirements after the 2008 financial crisis may have caused it to make risky loans that could require a taxpayer bailout. An analysis of 2.4 million FHA-insured loans by former Fannie Mae chief credit officer Edward
Pinto suggests that a pattern of risky lending by the agency lasted into 2010, more than two years after the housing downturn had erupted into a global crisis, CBS News reported. In November, an independent audit of the agency showed that the FHA faces a shortfall of $16.3 billion, significantly larger than expected. That could force the agency to seek taxpayer funding for the first time in its 78-year history. Last month at a hearing of the Senate Banking Committee, lawmakers pressed Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan to take steps to shore up the federal agency, Businessweek reported. When asked whether the FHA will need a taxpayer bailout next year, Donovan responded: “I’m not going to assign a probability at this point. Obviously I’m highly concerned.”

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City distributes $250,000 in funding to BIDs

In a so-called “BID Challenge,” the city gave some $250,000 in grants to seven neighborhood Business Improvement Districts, the New York Daily News reported last month. The grants are intended to help BIDs to focus on a single important change in their areas. Recipients included the Third Avenue BID in the Bronx, which received $20,000 for research to help convince area landlords to renovate commercial properties. A BID in Queens also secured $50,000 in grants for architectural improvement programs in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst. Efforts will focus on renovating historic buildings along the 82nd Street retail corridor.


Sandy victims to get priority for vacant apartments

Mercedes House

In an effort to ease housing shortages in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, landlords and government officials reached a deal last month to give storm victims first crack at some 2,500 privately owned New York City apartments, the Wall Street Journal reported. Participating landlords include the Brodsky Organization and Two Trees Management, which offered up units at its Mercedes House development. The website Urban Edge will post the listings for these units, which will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Meanwhile, storm victims complained last month that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s NYC Rapid Repairs program — which offers free services to repair damaged homes — is not moving quickly enough, the Associated Press reported. Over 10,000 affected homeowners have signed up for the program since its November launch, but only 400 projects have been completed.