“Status quo means going backwards:” How development fell from grace under de Blasio

Interviews portray the administration as unapproachable

Mayor Bill de Blasio (Getty)
Mayor Bill de Blasio (Getty)

After six years of pushing for development, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been shying away from that agenda.

Politico rounded up a string of examples to lay bare what has been increasingly clear to the real estate industry and the mayor’s own staff for a while: He’s not big on building any more.

Case in point: After Amazon canceled plans to build a campus on the Queens waterfront, the city was in negotiations with developers to create housing, retail, open space and a school on the site. But last week de Blasio backed out after they refused his demand that they pay all the infrastructure costs, plus $75 million to relocate a city building.

Other evidence cited by Politico: The mayor has yet to start the approval process for a long-awaited Gowanus rezoning that would create 8,000 new apartments. He acknowledges not much will happen before he leaves office on the Brooklyn-Queens streetcar project he proposed in 2016. And he cut his housing capital budget by more than $583 million this year.

Politicians, builders and administration officials told Politico that the administration has become unapproachable — meetings are postponed, calls go unreturned and direction from city agencies is confusing.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

“It’s pretty clear to me that the administration has not prioritized development of their affordable, mixed-income housing or projects in neighborhoods that are about building a diverse, inclusive economy,” Alicia Glen, de Blasio’s former deputy mayor for housing and economic development, said recently. “And that’s a shame, because if you want to be the most inclusive and progressive city in the country, you need to be growing and actually building into that vision.”

“Status quo means going backwards,” she added, echoing statements she made during a TRD Talk in June.

Read more

The administration has, however, continued to pursue its rezoning of Inwood, which is expected to create thousands of apartments. City lawyers this summer won an appeal reinstating the new zoning after a lower court nullified it.

They also won an appeal to allow four residential towers to be constructed on the Lower East Side. And the administration insists its capital spending was merely postponed, not canceled — although the mayor must leave office by the end of next year and will not be around to see that funding through.

But it has not pushed plans to upzone Soho and Noho, Bushwick and the South Bronx, which have all met with local opposition. A source recently told The Real Deal that staffers eager to advance the administration’s housing agenda feel helpless and demoralized in light of de Blasio’s failure to lead on that front. [Politico] — Sasha Jones