October DOB Report: Developers cut down on high rises

Permit filings for resi buildings over 200 feet, 200 units lag behind 2014 figures

Residential developers focused their activity on smaller projects outside of Manhattan this October, with permit activity heavily concentrated in Brooklyn.

The three tallest residential plans filed with the Department of Buildings in October, each rising over 200 feet, were a Macklowe Properties conversion, condos from the Lightstone Group and an Ismael Leyva-designed tower from Elk Investors in Midtown. But far fewer high-rise plans have been submitted this year compared to the same period last year, according to a TRD analysis of permit applications. Residential project plans including at least 200 units are also down citywide.

(Source: TRD analysis of all new residential permit applications of at least 15,000 square feet in NYC. Does not include hotels.)

(Source: TRD analysis of all new residential permit applications of at least 15,000 square feet in NYC. Does not include hotels)

While these numbers track only what developers apply to build rather than what ends up approved, they do illustrate that developers are attempting to construct fewer large projects than they did just a year ago.

TRD reported last month that the number of planned units was down in Brooklyn, as 2015 filings were not keeping up with last year’s plans, which included many residential high rises set for downtown and Williamsburg. But a closer inspection into permit applications for both new buildings and conversions now shows that planned residential units are down citywide, with nearly 8,000 fewer units applied for within our project size criteria of at least 15,000 square feet.

(Source: TRD analysis of residential permit applications of at least 15,000 square feet.)

(Source: TRD analysis of residential permit applications of at least 15,000 square feet)

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It is possible, however, that the DOB will see an onslaught of applications between now and the end of the year, as some developers push plans out prematurely in order to qualify for existing 421-a tax abatements that are set to expire before January. But even so, the last two months of 2014 saw some 10,000 qualifying units hit the DOB before the first of the year, meaning that 2015 construction plans are likely to fall short of 2014’s totals.

Though the year’s activity is shaping up to be relatively light, October’s total qualifying permits were higher than the year-to-date monthly average (below).


(Source: TRD analysis of residential permit applications for projects of at least 15,000 square feet)

Brooklyn had the most qualifying residential units filed for in October, but Manhattan had the largest total building space filed during the month, with 1.48 million square feet of space included in qualifying residential filings, boosted by Harry Macklowe’s nearly 1 million-square-foot Conversion Plans For One Wall Street. Manhattan tied Queens for the most hotel development plans submitted in October, with three future buildings totaling 386 keys, the biggest coming from Morris Moinian’s Fortuna Group, which is looking to construct a 310-unit Hotel Tower On Madison Avenue in hotel-heavy Midtown.

The Bronx came back down to earth after three months of permits totaling more than a 1,000 units. Real estate speculators snapping up land in Mott Haven still managed to pose for photo-ops with A-list celebrities in October––a poverty-chic party at the site of a future luxury development attracted rappers, models, directors and actors, as artfully bullet-pocked cars and quaintly arranged barrels of burning trash set the scene.

Snark aside, much of what’s been filed in Mott Haven and across the South Bronx this year will be affordable and supportive housing, adding to the count of de Blasio’s aspirational goal of 200,000 such units created or preserved, which, if accomplished, should inspire another star-studded blowout of a whole other sort.

There were a few notable commercial and institutional filings in October, including a 12-story building on Barnard College’s Manhattan campus, and a 15,000-square-foot “golf cart barn” at Donald Trump’s Ferry Point Golf Course in Throggs Neck, Bronx. Rumor has it that the project will be terrific.