The Daily Dirt: Devil’s in the details

Mayor gets more specific on good cause eviction

Eric Adams says he Would Back Good Cause Eviction: The Daily Dirt
Photo illustration of Mayor Eric Adams (Getty; Illustration by Kevin Rebong)

The next legislative session is off to an interesting start.

Mayor Eric Adams told Crain’s that he would support a deal involving good cause eviction and 421a.

Of course, he almost certainly meant “a version” of good cause, not the bill that has been on the table for years. Democrats in the state legislature said they came close this year to passing something similar to California’s version of “just cause,” which caps rent increases at 10 percent, or 5 percentage points above inflation, whichever is lower.

Still, this was a more direct answer than the mayor has previously given — and more direct than members of his administration gave the previous day.

The mayor has said that he supports the intent of the bill, but voiced concern for how it would affect small property owners. Testifying in February, the mayor told members of the Assembly that protecting tenants from displacement was important but emphasized the need to keep small owners in mind.

During a hearing Monday, Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer wouldn’t say outright that the administration supports good cause, because “the devil’s in the details.” She did say, however, that there is a deal to be made involving tenant protections and a replacement for 421a.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kathy Hochul, when asked about a housing deal involving good cause, told reporters on Tuesday that she’s “not going to have policies that will suppress the urgent need we have for more developers to add shovels in the ground and build more,” according to NY1’s Bernadette Hogan. The governor, however, said she is willing to look at “tenants rights” as well.

The bottom line seems to be, no matter how you say it, tenant protections and a development tax break will likely be a package deal next session, which starts Jan. 3 in Albany. The mayor has now joked a couple of times about not caring what everyone calls 421a, but it seems like the same could be said for good cause. Maybe both policies will be rebranded and retooled.

Sidebar? We need a new idiom. The last time 421a was up for renewal, “the devil’s in the details” was a phrase used constantly in my conversations with attorneys and lawmakers. It is a go-to, in general, when talking about controversial policy, and I hate it.

I asked ChatGPT for alternatives, and then requested better and more sinister versions. Here were the best options that the robot came up with: “The nefarious dance is choreographed in the minutiae” and “The diabolical symphony orchestrates doom in the specifics.” Feel free to start working those into your policy discussions.

What we’re thinking about: The newly revamped bill banning some criminal background checks is up for a vote this week. What do you think of the latest version? Send a note to

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A thing we’ve learned: New Yorkers living in affordable housing owe nearly $130 million in rent. That is according to a report by the New York Housing Conference, which surveyed its private and nonprofit members who operate more than 52,000 affordable apartments. The analysis found that 34 percent of those households, or 17,880 units, owe more than two months’ rent — $7,260, on average.

That is down slightly from March, when the average arrears were $9,565. The slight decrease indicates that “government interventions and other solutions have not yet meaningfully improved the situation,” the report concludes.

“Facing low rent collections, growing costs, and insufficient income, buildings have been and will be forced to cut costs, defer maintenance and could miss loan payments,” the report states.

It points out that if tenants are evicted and forced into the shelter system, the city’s costs would be higher than if it intervenes sooner. The group suggests that the Department of Social Services, which is understaffed, should have a unit dedicated to helping affordable housing providers. The lack of staffing is primarily responsible for a backlog in providing public assistance, including “one-shot” emergency assistance to avoid eviction, according to the report.

Elsewhere in New York…

— Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday signed a bill that will create a commission to make recommendations on reparations for New York residents of African descent, Politico New York reports. “In New York, we like to think we’re on the right side of this — slavery was a product of the South, the Confederacy,” Hochul said. “What is hard to embrace is that our state also flourished from that slavery. It’s not a beautiful story, but it’s the truth.” California was the first state to create such a commission, which recommended paying residents with up to $1.2 million per person, disbursed over several decades.

— Advocates say they were blindsided by a report that the city is working to revive its tax lien sale. Groups including the East New York Community Land Trust, TakeRoot Justice and New Economy Project are hosting a zombie-themed rally at City Hall on Wednesday in support of replacing the lien sale with a program that would include other options for transferring property with tax liens, such as putting a property into a community land trust.

— Fewer birds are heading south for the winter, according to the 124th annual Christmas bird count in Central Park. Volunteers in the park counted 550 American robins, which no longer migrate given the warmer winters in New York, Gothamist reports. “We think of robins as the harbinger of spring, but they don’t even leave the continent at this point,” said Geoff LeBaron, director of the Christmas bird count at the National Audubon Society. “They only go as far south as they need to because why should I fly from New York down to South Carolina when I can stay in New York?”

Closing Time

Residential: The priciest residential closing Tuesday was $8.6 million for a condo unit at 219 West 77th Street on the Upper West Side.

Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was $35 million for a retail building, the former Bleecker Street Theatre, at 45 Bleecker Street.

New to the Market: The priciest residence to hit the market Tuesday was a condo unit at 551 West 21st Street in West Chelsea asking $7 million. Douglas Elliman has the listing. — Jay Young