City retires “stalled sites” list

Dept. of Buildings removes online records of recession-era program

From left: 700 First Avenue, 96 Greenwich Street, 50 Greenpoint Avenue and 426 South 5th Street
From left: 700 First Avenue, 96 Greenwich Street, 50 Greenpoint Avenue and 426 South 5th Street

Even as some believe New York City might be in the middle of another real estate bubble, the city’s Department of Buildings has removed from its website the clearest reminder of the pain of the last recession: a rolling list of stalled construction sites.

Within the past month the DOB removed from its website links to hundreds of spreadsheets that formed a weekly accounting of properties that were identified as stalled sites. The spreadsheets debuted in July 2009 after the DOB formed the Stalled Sites Unit to track the growing number of distressed construction parcels as development ground to a halt during the recession.

That same year, the city launched the Stalled Sites Program, to help developers extend their permits and then restart their projects.

The webpage for stalled construction sites was the repository for those spreadsheets, and became a resource for both communities to track derailed projects and for investors to looks for troubled developments.

That webpage remains in place, but the long list of the spreadsheets going back to July 21, 2009, has been removed and the agency has stopped providing public updates to it.

The last list available, through August 17 shows more than 530 addresses on it.

That figure of more than 530 stalled sites is misleading, a review last month by The Real Deal found. Many of those buildings have changed hands or new plans have been filed or the projects have been recapitalized. They can remain on the list, however, until construction actually starts again and a DOB inspector visits the site to ascertain that it is active.

Brokers once scoured the weekly lists looking for potential deals, but as the economy improved, fewer and fewer of the properties remained distressed. So the list today is less valuable.

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“I think a lot of the [projects] have been worked out,” said Alan Miller, a managing principal with 5Points Group, an investment and brokerage firm. “People got crushed and others prevailed.”

Either way, most of the significant sites have been restructured.

“If it was still 20 percent [truly distressed] we’d be all over it,” Miller said.

A spokesman for the agency said the city continues to maintain a stalled sites list internally, but officials did not see the need to continue to update the list publicly after the Stalled Sites program ended in mid-2013 during the economic recovery, which made stalled sites rarer.

The info on the stalled sites — lacking recent updates –can still be viewed at the nonprofit website Internet Archive, and data for the years 2009-2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 are available through non-public links on the DOB site.