Five industry priorities for Eric Adams
Real estate’s wish list for new mayor includes policies, advocacy
Real estate backed Eric Adams, in large part, for his pro-business, tough-on-crime approach.
A former New York City Police Department captain, Adams campaigned on the idea that he was best equipped to prioritize public safety while also bringing much-needed reforms to the department. His calls to roll back the de Blasio administration’s limitations on solitary confinement, however, have already drawn the ire of incoming City Council members.
For the industry, a focus on crime is essential to the revival of tourism, real estate investment and the city’s economy as a whole. Here are five of the other policy and land use actions the industry wants from the Adams administration:
Kickstart building conversions
The state legislature approved the Housing Our Neighbors with Dignity Act in June, a measure intended to allow nonprofits to convert distressed hotels and office buildings into affordable housing. But no projects have been initiated since the bill’s passage, in part because of zoning and regulatory issues.
On the campaign trail, Adams pledged to create 25,000 units of supportive and affordable housing through the transformation of vacant hotels outside Manhattan, describing the plan as “one solution to solve a multitude of problems.” Details on how he will do this remain sparse, but industry officials are hopeful that the city will work to create an easier path for these conversions.
As for the recently approved requirement that developers of new hotels must obtain a special permit, Adams has voiced support for the policy, and the Council won’t be keen to give up its new authority to vote on such projects, said Mitch Korbey, who chairs Herrick’s land use and zoning group and was previously director of Brooklyn’s City Planning office.
“Once you create a special permit, it is a nearly impossible task to get the Council to agree to get rid of it,” he said.
Amend Local Law 97
Starting in 2024, most buildings larger than 25,000 square feet must adhere to greenhouse gas emission caps. The 2019 law aims to cut emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. Failing to meet city-mandated limits will result in steep fines for building owners.
The real estate industry has pushed, without success, for additional ways to comply with the measure. Adams has not laid out any plans to amend the law, but he’s expressed concerns about owners’ ability to finance the necessary retrofits.
The industry is hopeful that Adams will create a path for owners to significantly and economically reduce buildings’ greenhouse gas emissions.
Adams’ track record on land use is a mixed bag for developers.
As Brooklyn borough president, he supported, albeit with conditions, the rezoning of Industry City, a proposal that was ultimately withdrawn because the local Council member would not support it. However, Adams recommended cutting the height of a proposed skyscraper at 80 Flatbush Avenue by one-third and advised against Continuum Company’s proposed towers at 960 Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights.
Adams recently threw his support behind the Gowanus rezoning, reflecting his pledge to upzone affluent areas of the city to create affordable housing.
Cut red tape
Adams has tapped Melanie La Rocca, who served as Bill de Blasio’s Department of Buildings commissioner, as the city’s first “chief efficiency officer.” Her power and responsibilities aren’t clear yet, but her mission is to find ways to cut costs and “go through every agency and every process to find those things that no longer make sense,” Adams’ first deputy mayor, Lorraine Grillo, said during a press conference, according to the New York Daily News.
During the mayoral campaign, Adams pledged to curb government bureaucracy and has pushed for a more data-focused approach at the Department of Buildings and other city agencies, akin to the CompStat program used by the New York City Police Department.
Work with the governor
It’s no secret that de Blasio and former Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not get along, to the detriment of emergency response coordination during the pandemic and various policy initiatives.
So far, Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul seem to have a much better relationship. Industry professionals expect Adams to play a key role in negotiations over the future of 421a, a property tax incentive for residential development. The program expires in June, and the industry expects lawmakers to amend it — or, at the very least, not let it lapse. De Blasio outlined recommendations for overhauling the program back in 2015, but Cuomo set his own terms, leading to an impasse that wiped out the tax break for 15 months.
Adams was critical of the former version of the tax break and he hasn’t waded into the debate over its future. He has, however, promised to examine the city’s property tax system within his first year. An overhaul, something that other administrations have promised but failed to do, will require coordination with the state.
“Having a mayor and governor that seem to be in a good relationship versus what was definitely a bad relationship, it takes a lot of the politics out of it,” said David Schwartz, of Slate Property Group. “A lot of things could not get done because of that bad relationship.”