Marisa Lago says antidevelopment sentiment in NYC is at “an all-time high”

City has been seeing growth for so long that people now take it for granted, she said

Marisa Lago at REBNY’s annual commercial management leadership breakfast
Marisa Lago at REBNY’s annual commercial management leadership breakfast

New York’s real estate industry has become a victim of its own success, according to Department of City Planning Chair Marisa Lago.

“We are seeing what—at least for me since the 70s—is an all-time high in an antidevelopment sentiment,” she said at REBNY’s annual commercial management leadership breakfast on Thursday morning. “I do think a portion of it is the fact that we have had sustained growth for such a long period.”

Lago gave the keynote address at REBNY’s breakfast, which is held every year to honor workers in the commercial building management industry. She contrasted the growth the city has been experiencing for years with her time working there in the early 1980s, when crime was rising and the city was losing jobs to New Jersey and families to Long Island, and noted that many newer residents of New York are not familiar with this type of environment.

“Despite the Great Recession, we have in the city just seen steady prosperity,” she said, “and so we have a generation that has never experienced anything but growth.”

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Anger about developments and rising rents was arguably a key factor in the November elections, when Democrats took full control of state government for the first time in years. They are now planning to pass some ambitious and pro-tenant rent reform laws that have concerned the real estate industry.

Lago said developers need to dispel the myth that not building more will somehow make New York a more affordable city to help avoid being vilified so frequently.

“It’s actually quite the opposite. As housing supply becomes more constrained, that just drives up the price of it,” she said. “But I do think we need to speak about it in terms that respond to the very concrete fears that people have of displacement.”

Lago touched on several other issues in her address, ranging from the importance of the 2020 census to Amazon’s sudden arrival to and departure from Long Island City to New York’s zoning code. She said Long Island City and Downtown Brooklyn were two prime examples of the city carrying out rezonings effectively.

“New housing is attracting a talented workforce, which in turn is attracting businesses and jobs,” she said. “It’s a virtuous cycle.”