Adams scolds industry, Hochul talks housing deal at REBNY gala

Put public safety and schools on your agenda, mayor tells leaders

Hochul and Adams Speak at REBNY Gala
From left: Eric Adams, Kathy Hochul and Jim Whelan (Photos via Jill Lotenberg/REBNY)

Federal, state and city officials told real estate professionals Thursday night that they are fighting for pro-housing policies. 

But Mayor Eric Adams doesn’t think the Real Estate Board of New York is doing enough to block policies he says will hurt the industry. 

Hochul and Adams Speak at REBNY Gala
(Photos via Jill Lotenberg/REBNY)

Adams shared a personal anecdote about his days as a residential real estate broker to scold the audience at REBNY’s annual gala for not lobbying against the “How Many Stops Act,” a measure passed by the City Council last month that requires police officers to document investigative street stops with citizens. 

“I have not seen one ad from REBNY. I have not seen one comment from you,” he said. “This impacts your industry.”

“I need you engaged, folks,” he added.

The mayor has argued that the measure would slow down investigations and has used the recent arrest of a man accused in a spree of random stabbings as an example of a case where time — and lack of additional paperwork — proved critical. 

The mayor’s frustration with REBNY on this topic seemed to be news to the trade organization. 

​​“Mayor Adams has made commendable strides to elevate quality-of-life issues and improve the delivery of government services,” a REBNY spokesperson said in a statement. “At last night’s event we appreciated the opportunity to hear from the mayor and his team for the first time regarding the How Many Stops Act.”

Adams announced Friday morning that he vetoed the measure. 

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said her members are prepared to override the veto. “The mayor’s veto betrays his stated goal of public safety and harms the Black and Latino communities that bear the brunt of these stops,” she said in a statement. 

The mayor worked as a broker in the 1990s when he was off-duty from the New York Police Department, according to a City Hall spokesperson. He also disclosed work as a real estate consultant when he was a state senator. 

He recounted his time as a broker during his speech at the REBNY gala last year — though with an entirely different tenor this time. On Thursday, he said that clients during that time always asked about public safety and the state of local schools. 

“Why am I still fighting for school governance?” he asked the audience, referring to mayoral control over the city’s schools, which is granted on a temporary basis and sometimes curtailed by the state. “That impacts your industry. That impacts if people are going to occupy your apartments, your condominiums, your office spaces. You need to be leading this fight on making sure I have the school governance to continue the good work we have been doing.” 

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The gala was held at the Glasshouse on the far west side of Manhattan. The event, which is celebrating its 128th year, has evolved from a black-tie formal dinner to a more casual event, but still honors industry professionals during the sit-down dinner portion of the evening.  

Two Trees Management’s Jed Walentas addressed the audience for the first time in his new role as REBNY chair, taking over from Douglas Durst. 

“To Eric’s point, public safety is paramount to us. Schools, all the public benefits that make neighborhoods better, make all of us better,“ he said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues at REBNY and with all of you, first and foremost, to make our city a better place over the coming years because that will improve all of our situations both personally and professionally.”  

The awards ceremony was briefly halted when a waiter on the dais experienced a medical emergency, and REBNY President Jim Whelan asked the crowd if there was a doctor in the room. An update on the waiter’s condition was not available Friday morning.   

The event is an industry schmooze fest and an unscientific way to gauge where the industry stands politically. In years where real estate is considered toxic, elected officials stay away from the gala. In recent years, including last night’s event, several state legislators, City Council members and members of the Hochul and Adams administration attended and enjoyed the VIP cocktail hour.  

The governor and mayor were both scheduled to speak at the last two galas, but this was the first time they both took to the dais. 

Those who spoke during dinner were largely complimentary of the industry. U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer told the crowd that REBNY will have a “great friend” in Washington as long as he is Senate majority leader. Hochul indicated that she was determined to reaching a housing deal this year.  

“I’m committed with REBNY, our friends in labor, the advocates. I believe there is an answer that can be found, and we can do it in the next couple of months,” she said. “We will work with the legislature and persuade them that their own constituents desperately want more housing built.”

Hochul did not specify which advocates, nor did she mention tenant protections, which some lawmakers have said must be included for a deal to pass. 

In her executive budget, the governor proposed a replacement program to the property tax break 421a, but directed REBNY and construction unions to work out wage rules for the program. She also left the program’s affordability levels up to the city’s housing agency, which might not sit well with the state legislature. 

Earlier in the day, at a press conference, Adams more explicitly voiced support for a deal that involves 421a and tenant protections.  

“We can get it with some form of tenant protections. They can go together, they can coexist,” he said. “We just need to land the plane.”

As is tradition, speakers at the REBNY event had to compete with attendees chatting, a difficult task even with a robust sound system. Hochul teased that if REBNY members wanted to “see housing in my budget stay in, they might just want to listen to me.”

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