The Daily Dirt: When leaders become lap dogs

Bending to the will of protesters often backfires

When Caving In to Critics Can Does Them Harm: The Daily Dirt
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“I’m going to check with my constituents.”

Elected officials use that line reflexively when projects are proposed in their districts. They know ignoring voters leads to headaches — protests in front of your office, nasty calls to your staff, heckling at public meetings, bad press, and sometimes a challenger in the next election.

But it’s one thing to listen. It’s quite another to bend to the will of the loudest voices.

Take the case of the former Cerro Wire industrial property in Syosset. As Newsday’s editorial board wrote, the site would have been perfect for housing or mixed-use development. But every time such a proposal was made, community members got out their pitchforks and Oyster Bay officials declined to rezone the land.

Instead, it became a huge Amazon warehouse, which could be built under existing zoning. Rather than allow homes for the next generation, who are still living with their parents on Long Island or not moving to New York at all because housing here is so tight, Syosset residents chose to let Amazon customers get their packages a little bit faster.

Not to be outdone, another Long Island town, Riverhead, canceled a contract it signed to sell 1,600 acres for development of an industrial campus. The land, formerly home to Northrup Grumman, had been gifted to Riverhead by the federal government in 1998 with a simple request: Do something useful with it.

For two decades, Riverhead did nothing. When it finally agreed to terms with an affiliate of real estate firm Triple Five, locals protested — convinced that an airport was being planned. Steadfast denials couldn’t quell the rumor, so the town backed out of the deal.

Instead of a business campus, Riverhead is getting a lawsuit.

What we’re thinking about: Will the Tenants Opportunity to Purchase Act be revived in Albany this session? With the values of rent-stabilized buildings as low as they are, does tenants’ opportunity already exist? Send a note to eengquist@therealdeal.com.

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A thing we’ve learned: Thursday’s scheduled foreclosure sale of undeveloped sites in the Pacific Park project was called off. Lender Nick Mastroianni II, the unofficial king of EB-5, told us in August that he was trying to work something out with the borrower, Greenland, so it could finish the project. Incidentally, the original developer, Bruce Ratner, who didn’t participate in our story on the 20th anniversary of the project, has written a book about early cancer detection and why it’s failing. Sales launch May 7.

Elsewhere in New York…

— The illegal tunnel discovered under Lubavitcher headquarters in Brooklyn was inadequately supported and posed a risk of collapse, city officials said Thursday. The New York Times reported that the 60-foot-long, eight-foot-wide tunnel compromised the stability of two buildings. The city cited the owners of 770 Eastern Parkway for conducting work without a permit. Nine men were arrested Monday after disrupting an attempt to fill the tunnel.

— Of the 443 migrant families enrolled in a state program to move from New York City into upstate apartments, about 100 have been resettled, City & State reported. Another 31 have signed leases, and the remaining 299 are working with service providers contracted by the state to find them housing. More than 100,000 migrants seeking asylum have arrived in the city, roughly matching the number of workers who have moved out since February 2020.

— After a state agency failed in its attempt to scare pigeons away from a new copper roof in the Capitol’s courtyard with a $57,000 laser, a Cooper hawk cleared the massive flock the old-fashioned way: by killing one of them Wednesday and hanging out for several hours to digest, the Times Union reported.

Closing Time

Residential: The priciest residential closing Thursday was $4 million for a condo at 160 West 12th Street in Greenwich Village.

Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was $51 million for a six-story, 12-unit building at 211 Centre Street in the Little Italy neighborhood of Manhattan.

New to the Market: The priciest residence to hit the market Thursday was a condo at 535 West End Avenue on the Upper West Side asking $8 million. Douglas Elliman has the listing. — Jay Young

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