At REBNY gala, Hochul pledges to “support” real estate

Jumaane Williams, others fire back against governor’s comments

Gov. Kathy Hochul (Photo by Sasha Maslov)
Gov. Kathy Hochul (Photo by Sasha Maslov)

Just five days before the primary election, Gov. Kathy Hochul told a room full of schmoozing real estate professionals that her administration would push for measures to help them.

“Next session, we’re going to make sure that we get the changes we need to support this industry because you create thousands of jobs, you give people their homes, you give places of business their homes, and I want to let you know we’re supportive and continue to be,” she said at the Real Estate Board of New York’s gala Thursday.

She did not elaborate, but her message hinted at the recently expired tax break 421a. For multifamily developers, the tax exemption will be top of mind next legislative session. Though the governor laid out several real estate-friendly proposals in her executive budget, including a replacement to 421a, few were approved.

Hochul also noted that she has been in a “lot of battles” alongside REBNY President James Whelan to do what is “best for the industry.” Whelan was recently named to a 50-plus person panel by Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams to “examine the future of New York City and the region’s economy.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who is challenging Hochul in the Democratic primary, retweeted the governor’s comments, adding that the governor was “promising [a] donor industry that after the election she’ll make the state more real-estate friendly.”

Assembly member Ron Kim also chimed in on Twitter, referring to the controversial $600 million in state funding approved for a new Buffalo Bills stadium: “Translation: I lost big for you this year but keep donating, and I will deliver for you next year … just like how I did for the Bills.”

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The REBNY gala typically draws politicians, though some have shied away in recent years. Some attendees Thursday remarked on the politico turnout, noting that elected officials appeared more comfortable appearing at a real estate event this year.

Attendees included state Attorney General Letitia James, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, MTA Chair Janno Lieber, Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer, state director of operations Kathryn Garcia, and Council members Keith Powers, Justin Brannan and Rafael Salamanca, among others.

Mayor Eric Adams was scheduled to attend and present an award from REBNY to Hazel Dukes, president of the New York chapter of the NAACP, but withdrew because an NYPD officer was shot earlier in the day. Hochul presented an award to developers David Picket, Hal Fetner and Jeff Levine.

Gov. Kathy Hochul (Photo by Sasha Maslov)

Gov. Kathy Hochul (Photo by Sasha Maslov)

The format of the gala was markedly different from that of previous years. The trade group traditionally held a black-tie, sit-down dinner after relatively brief cocktails. Thursday’s event seemed to acknowledge the desire of attendees to network: It was more of an extended cocktail hour at the Glasshouse, with attendees crowding around small round tables, sampling bites from chef Daniel Boulud.

One thing did not change this year: Speakers during the ceremony competed, at times unsuccessfully, with the unrelenting hum of attendees trading greetings and deal stories. Even the governor struggled to be heard as she praised the industry, at one point threatening to use her “mom voice” to command the room.