De Blasio says time is ticking on new 421a deal

Mayor asks affordable housing developers to push Albany for reformed program before session ends next month

Mayor Bill de Blasio
Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio implored the state’s affordable housing developers to pressure Albany to pass a reformed 421a program before the legislative session comes to a close next month.

“We’ve got five or six weeks left in the Albany legislative session, and it’s a chance for Albany to get it right now,” the mayor said Wednesday morning at the New York State Association for Affordable Housing’s conference at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.

“When it comes to the 421a program, I’ve said many times, the way it was configured in past years didn’t make sense anymore,” he said. “It wasn’t fair to the taxpayers. It wasn’t helping us create the affordable housing we needed. It focused too much on luxury buildings.”

The controversial tax abatement program dominated the legislative session in Albany last year, and expired in mid-January after talks between the Real Estate Board of New York and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York broke down over the issue of prevailing wage.

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This year’s legislative session is scheduled to end June 16, and no lawmaker has yet submitted a formal replacement proposal. But 421a continues to dominate the conversation.

Earlier this month, Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building Trades clashed with REBNY president John Banks over the issue. And in March, Related Companies chief Stephen Ross and Tishman Speyer president Rob Speyer reportedly came near blows over the program at a closed-doors REBNY meeting.

De Blasio, who has a notoriously icy relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, reiterated that his affordable housing agenda remains his administration’s top priority, and said he holds out hope that a 421a deal can get done this year.

“I am a believer that when something makes this much sense, it actually can get done, even in Albany, New York,” he said.

The mayor took office two years ago with a plan to build 80,000 new units and preserve 120,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. He told the conference attendees that the city financed 21,000 affordable apartments last year, including 7,179 new construction units.