Adams taps new housing exec, launches 421a rescue team

Task force to help up to 50 projects ahead of tax break deadline

Eric Adams Launches 421a Rescue Force

A photo illustration of Leila Bozorg and Mayor of New York City Eric Adams (Getty, NYC Inclusive Growth Initiative)

Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday announced a new housing position in his administration and a task force aimed at helping projects race against the clock to qualify for the property tax break 421a.

The mayor tapped Leila Bozorg as the city’s new executive director of housing, a new position that will report to Maria Torres-Springer, deputy mayor of housing, economic development, and workforce. Torres-Springer’s role expanded to include housing after the departure this year of Jessica Katz, who had served in another newly-created position, chief housing officer.  

In a press release, the administration described Bozorg’s responsibilities as “using every tool at the city’s disposal to preserve existing housing — including at New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) facilities — as well as protect renters and homeowners and build more housing across the five boroughs.” 

More information on her specific responsibilities, and how the position will differ from the one held by Katz, was not immediately available. A key difference, however, is that Bozorg will report to Torres-Springer in a sign the brief separation of housing from the deputy mayor’s purview did not work out. 

During an event held by the New York Housing Conference, Adams also announced the creation of the “Housing at Risk Task Force,” which will work with up to 50 projects to ensure they meet the June 15, 2026 construction deadline to qualify for 421a. The goal is to “rescue” at least 5,000 affordable housing units.  

To receive the tax break, a developer building a multifamily project needed to have foundation footings in the ground by June 15, 2022. They then need to receive a temporary certificate of occupancy by June 15, 2026. 

A proposal to extend this deadline failed to gain traction with the legislature this year, and some real estate developers have expressed doubts that they will ultimately be able to finish the project within the set timeline.  

The task force will include representatives from various city agencies, including the Department of Buildings, the Fire Department, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Department of Environmental Protection. The group will meet regularly to discuss projects and coordinate “streamlined communication around the progress of at-risk projects to help bring about timely approvals.” The group will also create a schedule of milestones that projects need to meet to realistically meet the 2026 deadline. 

Eyes on the Adams administration

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It is unclear what this will look like in practice, and comes at a time when the Adams administration is being scrutinized for claims it provided special treatment to high-profile projects. 

Projects seeking help from the task force will need to apply and must have met the 2022 deadline. To qualify, the projects must also include at least 100 apartments.

The task force joins Gov. Kathy Hochul’s creation of a state-led 421a alternative, which only applies in Gowanus. The governor has said that the program could be expanded elsewhere in the city.

During his brief speech, Adams said he believes there is a deal to be made in Albany to encourage housing, and stressed the importance of reviving 421a and lifting the city’s floor area ratio cap on residential space.     

“Call it whatever you want. Call it 421b, c,d,” he said. 

The mayor also indicated that his administration will unveil new rules to ease the city’s environmental review rules. Adams has said that he wants to exempt housing projects with fewer than 200 units.  

At a separate panel on Wednesday, Sen. Brian Kavanagh said action should be taken on the tax break, but said his colleagues are not likely to agree to any deal on 421a with some version of good cause eviction. 

Bozorg joins the administration from the nonprofit NYC Kids RISE, where she served as the chief of strategy and policy. She previously served as chief of staff to the HPD commissioner between 2014 and 2020, under commissioners Vicki Been and Louise Carroll. She was also a senior policy advisor at U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.