Government briefs

Snapshots of government-related real estate news

The Gowanus Canal
The Gowanus Canal

City requests flood barrier proposals

The city is searching for engineers to study the feasibility of tidal barriers for the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek, both Superfund sites, to reduce flood risk to the surrounding neighborhoods. During Hurricane Sandy, the Gowanus overflowed and flooded nearby streets. Newtown also flooded, but not as badly, during that storm. After the storm, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg recommended the studies as part of a plan to increase the city’s resilience. Capital New York reported project proposals are due this month, and must include levees or floodwalls along the shorelines. Barriers should also not hinder shipping traffic. The city expects that the feasibility studies will take two years to complete.

Consumer referral law enforcement strengthens

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is increasing enforcement of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, penalizing mortgage, title, and real estate companies for referring customers to affiliates without disclosing that they are not required to use the affiliate. Since the bureau took over responsibility for RESPA from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in July 2011, it has racked up 11 RESPA settlements and lawsuits, the New York Times reported. The purpose of RESPA is to defend against inflated costs for mortgages and closing services, though the crackdown on violators is not directly benefitting affected consumers, who have not received any compensation from the civil penalty fund.

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Pratt post office relocates to Bed-Stuy condo

The Pratt post office has found a new location. The U.S. Postal Service branch’s original location was sold to Silverstone Development Group in 2012, which declined to renew the post office’s lease. The post office secured a home in the ground floor of 609 Myrtle Avenue, a condominium in Bedford-Stuyvesant, DNAInfo reported. The five-story building, owned by NAM Realty Associates, contains 18 units and is situated five blocks east of the post office’s old location. The new 4,000-square-foot location will include full retail services, offering stamps and packaging material. The USPS is still searching for a site for sorting mail for delivery.

$4 million of tax relief for Sandy victims

Victims of Hurricane Sandy who repaired or renovated their homes after the storm will receive nearly $4 million in tax relief, courtesy of a new bill signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The signing took place in Heritage Park, in the West Brighton section of Staten Island, the first park built after the storm with the purpose of preventing future flooding. The Staten Island Advance reported the bill closes a loophole that led to higher taxes for homeowners who made post-Sandy repairs and renovations. Under the new law, tax rates will return to pre-storm levels, and individuals will not be charged for increased square footage due to repairs. Those affected will see evidence of the change in their July bills. The law will expire at the end of 2015.