Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/22 Sun, 16 Jun 2019 17:07:39 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) When Owners Neglect Buildings and Don’t Pay Taxes, Tenants Suffer – The City Can Help http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8598-when-owners-neglect-buildings-and-don-t-pay-taxes-tenants-suffer-the-city-can-help http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8598-when-owners-neglect-buildings-and-don-t-pay-taxes-tenants-suffer-the-city-can-help may bdb np dev

(photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photography Office)


As Benjamin Franklin famously wrote, "in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." This is true for property owners who maintain their buildings and pay their property taxes in full each year, but for the few who do not, there can be consequences, including foreclosure.

Often, the failure to pay taxes is indicative of a litany of issues, such as physical deterioration of the building. Imagine being a resident of a tax-delinquent building: you've worked hard to pay your rent, and you learn that your landlord hasn't paid their taxes, and now, on top of caring for your family, you’re terrified of losing your home, uprooting your kids' lives. Or you are a renter in a struggling co-op who sees your rent go up dramatically even while conditions in the building worsen. What if you can’t find another affordable place to live? Do you have to leave New York City? How is it fair that you've played by the rules and now have to bear the brunt of your building owner’s actions?

Decades ago, the City launched the Third Party Transfer (TPT) program, which is one of the ways that we hold building owners accountable while protecting residents by transferring tax-delinquent properties to an affordable housing developer to keep people in their homes with robust rent stabilization and other affordability protections. And it works: since 1996, we've provided stability and improved living conditions for nearly 15,000 New Yorkers.

The de Blasio Administration has spent five years marshaling resources to build and preserve affordable housing across the city, and increase enforcement and other protections to keep residents in their homes.  We believe that anyone who wants to raise a family and work in the city should be able to live here.  

I want to be very clear because there has been rampant speculation and misinformation about the Third Party Transfer program. Ownership creates stability for families and neighborhoods, and the opportunity to build equity that can be passed along to future generations. Our primary goal is to assist struggling owners with repairs and unpaid taxes and violations, which is why we do significant outreach over several years and offer numerous resources to help. More than 80% of the 420 properties included in the last round of Third Party Transfer successfully addressed their municipal arrears and were removed from the foreclosure action.

As an administration, we can look the other way and allow buildings to fall further into debt and eventually disrepair or we can proactively work with owners to keep their hard-earned slice of the city. So we’re going to do more to find new ways to address how the city's housing landscape has changed over the past 20 years. Working with City Council Member Robert Cornegy, the chair of the Council's Housing and Buildings Committee, and other stakeholders, we are launching a new working group to recommend changes to address concerns and make the program better.

The City is committed to making the process as transparent and effective as possible and helping homeowners avoid the spiral of financial and physical deterioration that puts properties at risk in the first place. But as New Yorkers face ever-rising rents and become more vulnerable to displacement, ending the program outright would be a disservice to tenants left to suffer the consequences when building owners can't or won’t address their financial issues.

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Louise Carroll is the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. On Twitter @NYCHousing.

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When Owners Neglect Buildings and Don’t Pay Taxes, Tenants Suffer – The City Can Help Wed, 12 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Criticizing De Blasio Rezonings, Williams Introduces 'Racial Impact Study' Requirement http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8558-criticizing-de-blasio-rezonings-williams-introduces-racial-impact-study-requirement http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8558-criticizing-de-blasio-rezonings-williams-introduces-racial-impact-study-requirement maybill public adv

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


Fulfilling a promise he made in his successful campaign for public advocate, Jumaane Williams introduced legislation on Wednesday that would require the city to conduct an assessment of expected racial and ethnic impact brought on by proposed neighborhood rezonings, in order to ensure that the city is complying with the federal Fair Housing Act, and combat segregation and displacement.

The Fair housing Act, passed in 1968, is meant to protect against discrimination in the sale, purchase, and renting of housing, or in trying to obtain housing assistance, and it also requires jurisdictions receiving federal assistance to take affirmative steps to integrate housing. New York City, Williams said at a news conference Wednesday morning, has failed on that front.

The public advocate was joined by Bronx City Council Member Rafael Salamanca, who chairs the powerful land use committee and has co-sponsored the bill, and members of Churches United For Fair Housing (CUFFH), a grassroots advocacy group that has called for such ‘racial impact studies’ to help inform neighborhood rezonings, which typically occur to change land use rules to allow greater housing density and usher in new city investments in a given community. City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who represents areas of Brooklyn that have seen significant gentrification and is negotiating a possible Bushwick neighborhood rezoning with the city, also expressed support for the legislation. 

“Rezonings are one of the primary drivers of gentrification, which leads to displacement, which leads to racial segregation,” Williams said, harshly critiquing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, which has relied on upzoning neighborhoods to create more density with a legal requirement -- Mandatory Inclusionary Housing -- for developers to build affordable housing.

Most of the rezonings pursued by the administration have been in low-income communities of color and advocates say that has exacerbated gentrification while also refusing to ask more affluent and white communities to allow more housing in their neighborhoods. Williams, who voted against MIH when he was in the City Council, has called for a moratorium on all neighborhood rezonings.  

Williams’ bill would mandate that any land use application that goes through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which requires an environmental impact statement and is reviewed by the City Planning Commission, must also include a racial impact study. The ULURP process occurs for many proposed new developments, from neighborhood rezonings that impact broader communities and are typically spearheaded by the mayoral administration to single plot rezonings that allow developers to build a bigger building than the current zoning allows.

“[E]ven the announcement of ULURP leads to rampant speculation that coincides with a rise in harassment and displacement,” Williams said. “The link between [neighborhood] rezonings and racial segregation is very clear. I don’t think anyone can argue with the results of it. Yet the city has failed to even acknowledge the problem.”

As an example, Williams pointed to the 2005 rezoning of the Williamsburg waterfront, approved under then Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which “transformed low-income communities of more color into enclaves for new wealthy and white residents,” Williams said. “A decade later, the waterfront area’s white population increased by 45% compared to 2% decline citywide, while the area’s Latinx population declined by 27% compared to a 10% increase citywide. This is just unacceptable. To combat racial segregation, we first need to study it.”

Williams also noted that Seattle has implemented a similar policy that takes racial justice into account while creating affordable housing. “Even Seattle doesn’t have the phrasing ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ and they are doing much more to address the tale of two cities, I believe than the housing plan here in New York City,” he said, invoking the campaign slogan that de Blasio employed in his first mayoral race in 2013.  

At an unrelated afternoon news conference, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson did not take a position on the bill, saying he had yet to study it. But he acknowledged the rationale behind it. “I do think what it speaks to is the gentrification and displacement that we’ve seen throughout our entire city, all five boroughs, that anxiety, that fear, especially amongst long term residents about what’s happening to them,” he said.

De Blasio has insisted that his housing and planning policies are sound and use a combination of strategies to create new housing, including many affordable units, while also putting resources in communities with new parks, school seats, and other investments that often accompany rezonings. He has said that the neighborhood rezonings under his administration have been done in concert with local Council members who welcome new zoning rules, more affordable housing, and city investment. The mayor has also pointed to the city’s significant increase in tenant eviction protection during his tenure.

"This Administration is fighting displacement with record levels of affordable housing, free legal services, rent freezes, and programs to combat harassment," said Jane Meyer, a mayoral spokesperson, in a statement. "Through Where We Live NYC, we are developing new fair housing policies to fight discrimination and build more inclusive neighborhoods. We look forward to reviewing this legislation and working with our partners to promote equity and fairness."

Salamanca has his own concerns with the mayor’s housing plan as he has pushed for a 15% set aside in new affordable housing for homeless New Yorkers, which the administration has resisted. “We can continue to grow the city of New York, because there is a housing crisis,” he said at the morning news conference with Williams, “but we should be able to do that without displacing our communities, and that’s what this is about.”

He also refuted the notion that a racial impact study could add another layer of red tape to the already lengthy and burdensome ULURP process. “We’re not trying to change the timeframe as to how the ULURP process works,” he said in response to reporters’ questions, “but...what we’re adding is more resources, more information, to that [environmental impact study] so that Councilmembers can make the right decision.”

CUFFH was created ten years ago when advocates sought to fight the proposed rezoning of Broadway Triangle in Brooklyn. The group was part of a larger coalition that took the Bloomberg administration to court, arguing that the rezoning would violate the Fair Housing Act. The case was only settled in 2017 with the de Blasio administration.

But Alex Fennell, network director of CUFFH, said the city continues to fail to live up to its obligations under the FHA. “Being displaced is not a choice. And the current zoning process, rather than promoting fair housing encourages developers to profit from harassing, displacing and segregating out long time residents,” she said on Wednesday.

She added, “The racial impact study is the first step in undoing the harm caused by over a century of land use policy rooted first in overt racism, then shielded by colorblind language.”

The next step for the bill would be a committee hearing.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note - This article has been updated with comment from a mayoral spokesperson.

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Criticizing De Blasio Rezonings, Williams Introduces 'Racial Impact Study' Requirement Wed, 29 May 2019 04:00:00 +0000
We Can Help Thousands More Residents of Affordable Housing Register to Vote http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8522-we-can-help-thousands-more-residents-of-affordable-housing-register-to-vote http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8522-we-can-help-thousands-more-residents-of-affordable-housing-register-to-vote nycmayorsoffice stu voter reg

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


No one’s socioeconomic status should limit their capacity to make their voice heard at the ballot box. But more must be done to ensure that low-income populations across the nation are registered to vote and can participate in the democratic process.

We can help address this issue in New York by taking more information directly to residents in and around their own apartment buildings. Managers of affordable housing developments can play a significant role in connecting tenants with the information needed to register to vote.

That is why NYSAFAH is launching a non-partisan voter registration initiative that will target residents of affordable housing developments that are managed by our members. Through this effort, we can help thousands more low-income New Yorkers register to vote by the end of this year.

NYSAFAH is the state’s trade association of affordable housing developers, managers, architects, planners, and others who help build and preserve homes for low- and middle-income New Yorkers.

Our first priority is to deliver quality housing for New Yorkers. However, being good stewards of affordable housing often extends beyond the day-to-day maintenance of four walls and a roof.

Our members also impact the lives of their residents by helping them access social services, participate in recreational programming and engage in other activities that contribute to strong families and healthy living. We believe that working to increase rates of voter registration can become an important part of that broader mission.

As part of our new initiative, NYSAFAH will partner with the New York City League of Women Voters to advance a coordinated outreach campaign that is driven by direct engagement with residents. This outreach will include voter registration drives held at buildings in which residents live. At these sessions, managers will provide non-partisan guidance and information with the goal of maximizing voter registration among the resident population.

NYSAFAH members collectively manage hundreds of buildings across the five boroughs, with tens of thousands of residents overall. This makes for an even greater opportunity to have a real impact on boosting rates of voter registration among low-income communities throughout New York.

As we make progress on this front, we will also be taking an important first step toward advancing the broader goal of increasing voter participation – when more of us vote, we all benefit from a stronger democracy.

And after all, this just makes sense. When it comes to engaging with residents, why not start with a renewed effort to give them more of the tools they need right at home?

We have already received a great deal of positive feedback from NYSAFAH members who are excited to embark on what we all believe will be a crucial initiative for our state. Our team looks forward to seeing thousands more New Yorkers registered to vote – and we hope that this work can serve as a model for future initiatives to keep advancing the ball.

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Jolie Milstein is president and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH). On Twitter @NYSAFAH.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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We Can Help Thousands More Residents of Affordable Housing Register to Vote Wed, 15 May 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Only One ‘Confused’ is the Mayor: De Blasio Must Make Good on Senior Housing Pledge http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8511-only-one-confused-is-the-mayor-de-blasio-must-make-good-on-senior-housing-pledge http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8511-only-one-confused-is-the-mayor-de-blasio-must-make-good-on-senior-housing-pledge metro iaf rally

Mayor de Blasio rallies with Metro IAF (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


Last summer, Mayor de Blasio shook our hands and publicly promised to invest $500 million to build thousands of new apartments for low-income seniors. The celebration has been short lived. It turns out the mayor betrayed us and New Yorkers when he reneged on his commitment.

Last Tuesday, more than 500 East Brooklyn Congregations and Metro IAF leaders rallied on the steps of City Hall to get the money our seniors were promised. More importantly, we want the aspiring presidential candidate to come to grips with this cold and hard reality: the tale of two cities has grown worse not better over the past six years.

As pastors, we’ve spent the past 40 years organizing our people and pressuring public officials to deliver for the poor and working class of our city, many of whom worship in our pews or attend our schools.

We’ve had a relationship with every mayor. It’s often been contentious but never duplicitous.

In 1983, after a tough public fight with then-Mayor Ed Koch, we began the construction of what would eventually become more than 5,000 Nehemiah homes and apartments. The Nehemiah plan, named after the prophet who rebuilt Jerusalem, resurrected Brownsville, East New York, and large parts of the South Bronx.

Our city’s seniors will soon number more than 2 million. They stood by our city during the financial crisis of the 1970s, and the murder and drug epidemics of the ‘80s and ‘90s. We have a moral obligation to stand by them as they retire on fixed income and with a diminishing supply of affordable housing.

One of our older members recently confessed that trying to pay her $1,400 monthly rent on a fixed income sometimes forced her to choose between food and rent. We need a new Nehemiah plan for our city's seniors.

Mayor de Blasio came into office with talk of ending the tale of two cities. We believe his intentions were honorable, but, by all measurements, the affordable housing crisis, the dehumanizing conditions in NYCHA, and the future of many poor seniors and students are worse not better.

More than 65,000 of our fellow New Yorkers live in poorly-run shelters or expensive motels. At least 120,000 of our public school students are doubled up with family members or facing evictions.

Think about that. During times of prosperity and abundance, our young scholars are commuting from filthy shelters or far flung places. One of our high school students, her family evicted from their apartment in Bushwick, commutes every day from her relative’s home in Pennsylvania.

There are more than 200,000 seniors on wait-lists to get into affordable housing developments. With wait times as long as five to eight years, many die before they get to move in.

The blame for the housing crisis doesn't start and end at City Hall. Slumlords and mega-developers have learned how to monetize the eviction and displacement of hundreds of thousands of black and Latino families. They might be driving the crisis but the city cannot and must not stand idly by.

We spent two years pressuring and negotiating with the mayor to get him to do something truly transformational. It appeared that the mayor was finally ready.

On a bright sunny day last June, in front of 10 City Council members and hundreds of our members, the mayor promised to invest $500 million to create senior housing on empty NYCHA parking lots.

For every senior that we could voluntarily move out of New York City public housing, we could free up a three or four bedroom apartment for a family to leave the shelter. A $2 billion city investment can create 15,000 new affordable senior housing units which, in turn, can create space for 50,000 New Yorkers to move out of the shelters and off the streets.

The first $500 million can generate 4,000 new seniors units, which would mean that 12,000 or more individuals could get permanent affordable housing in NYCHA.

In a recent letter to Comptroller Stringer, the mayor quietly admitted that the $500 million is not in his budget plan. It’s gone, and so it appears is the mayor’s willingness to help.

We made this announcement at church services across the city over last couple of weeks. As pastors, we have rarely seen our people so angry. The mayor says there’s been unfortunate “confusion” about what he pledged, and claiming that the city's contribution would be much less, closer to $100 million.

We say it is only the mayor who has been confused.

It’s possible that the mayor, like a lot of public officials, never expected to be held accountable for his promise. But he is, and he must deliver.

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By Rev. Adolphus Lacey, Rev. Shaun J. Lee & Rev. David K. Brawley.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Only One ‘Confused’ is the Mayor: De Blasio Must Make Good on Senior Housing Pledge Sun, 12 May 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Little-Used Community Land Trust Model for Affordable Housing May See Big Boost http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8458-little-used-community-land-trust-model-for-affordable-housing-may-see-big-boost http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8458-little-used-community-land-trust-model-for-affordable-housing-may-see-big-boost Carlina Rivera City Council rally housing

Council Member Rivera (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


Manhattan City Council Member Carlina Rivera is part of a growing coalition of Council members pushing for city government's first major commitment to a seldom-utilized affordable housing model. In the face of rapid gentrification, they say, the city should invest $850,000 in Community Land Trusts, or CLTs, in the city budget currently being negotiated.

Doing so could help advocates and nonprofits acquire land to operate deeply affordable housing and amenities -- albeit on a small scale -- in perpetuity.

“They're not a silver bullet but should be a major component of any affordable housing plan,” Rivera told Gotham Gazette. Other allies include Queens Council Member Donovan Richards and Manhattan Council Member Margaret Chin.

A Community Land Trust is a nonprofit that acquires and manages land, either one continuous plot or scattered sites. People who live and work on the land collectively set the terms of use, and can mix residential and commercial space with community centers and gardens. Most CLTs prohibit their properties from ever being sold for profit, ensuring affordability in the long term.

There are currently 11 community-based organizations with CLT projects underway across the five boroughs. Though several are still in early planning stages, groups hope to ultimately control thousands of housing units and hundreds of small businesses citywide.

A new $8 million bank settlement from Attorney General Letitia James is also being parceled out this spring to land trust projects across the state. Municipalities can apply for up to $2.5 million each. “The interest in CLTs has expanded a lot,” said Elizabeth Zeldin, director of Enterprise Community Partners, which is distributing the funds.

New York City’s oldest CLT model, the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association, is in Council Member Rivera’s district. It has grown to nearly 400 apartments and 20 small businesses since its formation in 1994 (including one of Rivera’s personal favorites, Pageant Print Shop, which sells antique prints and maps). “I think we have to plant seeds for these CLTs to grow,” she said. “They can ward off mass speculation of developers, like happened in Cooper Square.”

With citywide elections on the horizon in 2021, “Every front-runner in every office race should be discussing this as part of their affordable housing platform,” Rivera said.

Rivera’s spokesperson, Jeremy Unger, told Gotham Gazette that “the Councilwoman is planning a Council briefing on CLTs” and will be discussing the model during internal deliberations as the Council prepares to negotiate with the mayor’s office.

“We look forward to working with the City Council throughout the budget process and will evaluate the proposal from CLTs,” de Blasio spokesperson Raul Contreras said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. (The Council recently held a month of preliminary budget hearings, then issued its official response to the mayor’s initial budget plan for fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1.)

Barriers to CLT expansion include limited funding for housing development and renovation, and limited access to viable land. The model stands in contrast to de Blasio's 300,000-unit affordable housing plan, which predominantly enlists large for-profit developers to construct and preserve mixed-income housing on a large scale.

Council members have contributed to individual land trusts in their districts over the years. But the $850,000 ask would contribute to a broader project, organizers say, covering hiring costs for one staff member for each community group currently developing a land trust, plus technical and legal assistance.

With this funding, says Deyanira Del Rio, co-director of the New Economy Project and board chair of the New York City Community Land Initiative, CLTs can "deepen the organizing, education, and partnership development," so they can acquire and rehab properties down the road.

Del Rio draws a comparison to the city’s Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative, which has seen worker-run businesses more than double from 21 to 48 since the City Council started funding it four years ago.

The East Harlem El Barrio CLT, one of the more established in the bunch, is currently closing on a portfolio of four residential buildings in East Harlem with 36 apartments among them. The buildings are in poor condition, and the CLT is negotiating additional preservation assistance from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

“With the Second Avenue Subway coming through,” says El Barrio project coordinator Athena Bernkopf, “there are concerns about what that will do to the housing and economic landscape.” Ultimately, the CLT hopes to add more buildings “facing immediate gentrification pressure.”

Other CLTS are in earlier planning stages. Chhaya CDC, a non-profit serving the city’s South Asian Community in Queens, hopes to establish a land trust in Jackson Heights to manage affordable community space and shops. While CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities envisions a land trust in Chinatown with affordable senior housing and storefronts for immigrant-owned businesses.

HPD began working with affordable housing groups and nonprofit developers to study the viability of CLTs in the summer of 2017, distributing a $1.65 million grant from a $3.5 million bank settlement from then-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Part of that initial funding covered a two-year program called the NYC CLT Learning Exchange, organized by the New Economy Project, where community groups met regularly to learn about the model.

Now, says City College of New York Political Science Professor John Krinsky, groups will begin to delve into the inevitable challenges of working together to decide how a piece of land will be used and operated. For example, “What are the tradeoffs when we are thinking about financing and affordability, and what that means in the long term?”

Down the road, advocates are hopeful that New York City will establish a pipeline of land for CLTs, and more long-term financing tools to support extremely low-income households. “I think we have to be looking at vacant lots,” Council Member Rivera told Gotham Gazette. While the city’s reserve of such lots has been dwindling over decades, there are still dozens that can be utilized for housing, with many in the pipeline for development through HPD.

Oksana Mironova is a housing policy analyst at the Community Service Society, and helps facilitate the New York City Community Land Initiative's policy work. She’s hopeful that the ongoing collaboration between various CLTs will help ensure that they don’t become affordable islands in gentrifying neighborhoods. Cooper Square, for example, organizes with neighboring tenants at risk of displacement.

“There’s a way to do CLTs where they become a sort of oasis that only benefits the people who live on the CLT,” she said. “But then there’s a way to make CLTs that are benefiting not just the people who live on the CLTs…that take a bigger look.”

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by Emma Whitford, Gotham Gazette
@emma_a_whitford

Read more by this writer.

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Little-Used Community Land Trust Model for Affordable Housing May See Big Boost Wed, 17 Apr 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Alicia Glen on Her Legacy as Deputy Mayor and the Future of New York City http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8434-alicia-glen-on-her-legacy-as-deputy-mayor http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8434-alicia-glen-on-her-legacy-as-deputy-mayor alicia glen deputy

Alicia Glen (photo: Paige Polk/Mayoral Photography Office)


After more than five years as New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, Alicia Glen recently left City Hall, having spearheaded a major affordable housing plan, efforts to diversify the city economy, and other aspects of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s agenda, which she helped shape.

Glen oversaw the city’s troubled public housing authority, the implementation of a new ferry system, investments into public land to spur business development and the rezoning of East Midtown, and more. In a recent lengthy and wide-ranging interview, she reflected on her work as deputy mayor, the state of the city as she leaves its government, some of the unfinished work she started, and the fact that for an official with her portfolio, much of the legacy will not come to fruition for years.

Appearing on the What’s the [Data] Point? podcast from Citizens Budget Commission and Gotham Gazette, Glen also gave her take on the recently-opened Hudson Yards, what should be done with Rikers Island when the jails there are closed, the fallout from the undoing of the deal to bring Amazon to Queens, whether she might ever run for elected office herself, and more. Glen said that she came to the position with a different background from some of her predecessors in prior administrations, which fit the goals de Blasio had laid out as a candidate, to use the tools of government to fight inequality.

“I had come from a background of having really spent time on all sides of the issues,” Glen said. “I had been a legal services lawyer, I had worked in city government before, I had run an urban development platform that was focused on public-private partnerships, and I was really truly truly like a born and bred New Yorker who had grown up in a sort of lefty upper west side household and that was a major change.”

“I came in after three men who had come from Wall Street, as had I, but had come from sort of a different perspective,” she continued, “all terrific people in their own way, but I certainly felt a pressure of being a woman in this job with a difference in political perspective.”

“I am a woman and I think you do think about the world differently and how you structure deals. And clearly, I was a person in the administration who had come from more of a financial and pro-business background, but not to be conflated with somebody who had never actually been in the trenches working with all these issues, which I had been working on my whole life,” she said, explaining her perspective as she came into the job in 2014.

When asked about her mission coming into office, she said, “I think most people felt really positive about the city. I get it, people look and these big metrics and crime was down, tax collection was up. Things were generally good by those broad metrics. By the same token, it was clear that both the mayor’s election itself was a bit of a referendum on how some people were left out of the recovery, if you will, from both 9/11 and the financial crisis of 2008.”

“We clearly were elected as change agents with a mandate,” she said.

[LISTEN: Alicia Glen on What's The [Data] Point?]

Until de Blasio named Vicki Been, a former city housing commissioner in his administration, as Glen’s successor, Glen was the only deputy mayor for housing and economic development in this mayor’s tenure. She helped design, redesign, and push ahead the administration's 300,000-unit affordable housing plan, which has coincided with changes to the city’s land use rules to help spur affordable housing and the upzonings of several neighborhoods. The plan has been criticized by some on the left as too broad, not targered enough on the lowest-income New Yorkers and those experiencing homelessness, with too many subsidized units for individuals of moderate and middle incomes.

“Many many folks, many communities felt not included in that good part of the story and [Mayor Bill de Blasio] came in on a platform of ways we can address those issues, and so for me, obviously, thinking about how we could make a real dent and shift into a more proactive stance both on inclusive economic development for job growth and a more five borough economy and thinking about what that meant in the 21st century and then obviously his signature initiative of trying to do something in housing that was much bigger than been done, even in prior administrations,” Glen said.

Now out of government, Glen was asked if the affordable housing mix was the right one. Unsurprisingly, she said yes, arguing it is important that New York not become a “barbell city” with only wealthy and poor people. She touted the administration’s work on the “messy middle,” helping to provide moderate- and middle-income people with subsidized housing.

“There’s a natural inclination for people to say we should put every single dime and all the resources we have into serving our most vulnerable people,” she said. “But what kind of city are we going to be if literally people who make eighty to ninety thousand dollars a year cannot live here and are forced to commute two hours out of town.”

The de Blasio administration has been criticized for exclusively upzoning lower-income neighborhoods, communities of color, to both create more housing density and invest in local areas. Developers are thus allowed to build bigger, but have more affordable housing requirements in the mix.

“I continue to think the mayor’s position and our position was that you have to link density to more equitable growth and you have to buy into the notion of growth,” Glen said.

“We are now building a significant number of permanently affordable units across the city, both in private projects and neighborhood-wide rezoning. And that’s going to take a while to bake into the zeitgeist and for communities to realize that we meant it and that we have permanently changed the blueprint for how you do increased residential growth across the city,” she said.

“These are fights. Every single inch you have to fight, and you have to take. It takes political leadership and courage,” Glen continued. “There are several deals where I really wish the [City] Council had shown a little bit more guts around these issues and I really hope going forward people understand the tradeoff of some increase in density in order to assure we are proportionally building permanent affordable housing in New York City in the right deal for New Yorkers. I wish I could have done more of that.”

Asked which neighborhoods she would upzone if she could snap her fingers and do it -- a laughable concept given how notoriously contentious New York City land use decisions can be -- Glen returned to the list of neighborhood rezonings that the administration said it wanted to at least explore a few years ago, citing Flushing and Southern Boulevard in the Bronx as places she’d still like to see rezonings move ahead. The city has moved ahead on fewer than expected, though several major rezonings have happened, in places like East New York and East Harlem, with others on the docket for this year and beyond.

The city’s public housing authority, NYCHA, has had a tumultuous past few years, from charges of mismanagement to illegality, with questions about mold and lead paint remediation, and forged documents, plus ongoing sagas around buildings that are falling apart. Recently, NYCHA and the city entered into an agreement with federal authorities at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which includes a federal monitor of NYCHA.

Asked about her role on NYCHA and whether she saw it from the beginning as a key part of her portfolio, Glen said absolutely. “[I]t was 100% under me,” she said, while acknowledging it is a complicated situation given it is an authority, not a city agency. “I worked very closely with the chair of the housing authority and the staff there and we did make a lot of progress.”

“It is something we have to own in many ways, not literally because it’s a federal authority, but we have to own it in terms of what we see the future of New York City to be and the incredible resource that the housing authority can and should continue to be for low-income New Yorkers,” Glen said. “It is an enormously complex issue and, as I said, this is something, it took 80 years to get to where we were. If it takes four years to figure out how to have a housing authority in the 21st century given federal policy, that doesn’t feel good if you are the person living in the housing authority and your conditions are terrible and I would ever want to suggest that that isn’t a real issue, but systemically, it’s a very complicated issue.”

Glen expressed excitement about the “NYCHA 2.0” plan the administration announced at the end of last year, which includes a more aggressive program to build new housing on underused NYCHA land, housing that will be a mix of market-rate and affordable housing and the proceeds from the leases to developers will go into NYCHA repairs.

On economic development, Glen also highlighted investments that she believes will pay off long-term for the city, including development of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Brooklyn Army Terminal, key city assets that the city is now more fully utilizing to help spur job creation.

She also cited the rezoning of East Midtown to foster modernization and growth of the key office and retail hub. Glen worked with City Council Member Daniel Garodnick to pass a complicated rezoning of the area that had faltered, she noted, during the end of the Bloomberg administration.

Glen’s economic development legacy will also include her role in helping strike the deal, later undone, to bring an Amazon headquarters to New York City.

“I think Amazon underestimated what it would and should take to establish a major presence in New York City,” she said. “I think they misunderstood how much that needed to be front and center as they continued to engage.”

“At the end of the day, they may not be as sophisticated as they should be and it’s too bad because ultimately having up to 40,000 jobs would have been a very good thing for New York City,” Glen said.

But what does the undoing of the Amazon deal mean for New York City in terms of attracting companies? Not much, Glen said. While she acknowledged an anti-corporate energy as evidenced by the public backlash against the Amazon deal, she said, “what I worry about and what I’d say to all the advocates and folks who have been against Amazon is if you create an atmosphere that companies do want to participate in a smarter, more collaborative engagement process around workforce development and public benefits, if you send a message that folks are not welcome in those areas, all you’re going to do is send them back to Manhattan. Is that really what you wanted?”

However, she doesn’t see the failed Amazon deal disincentivizing other businesses from expanding into New York offices. “The fundamental reasons why Amazon wanted to be here are still here,” Glen said. “We still have the most extraordinarily diverse, educated talent pool and we have the coolest city.” She cited Google’s recent expansion in the city, which she said she helped negotiate over the course of years.

In terms of future projects, Glen still thinks the planned Brooklyn Queens Connector, or BQX, will happen, just that it won’t “happen on the original timeframe.” She also wants the city to look further into an aerial gondola to connect lower Manhattan and Governors Island. Glen wants a new soccer stadium in New York so New York FC doesn’t have to play in Yankee Stadium. She called development of Sunnyside Yard, “it’s the future,” explaining that “if you’re pro-growth, Sunnyside Yard is going to be the next great community.” Glen said it would be a “more scaled and a more inclusive version of Hudson Yards,” with a great “open space ratio” and the “best of the planning principles that the de Blasio administration embraces: true mixed use, but not scared of density.”

Asked about the newly-opened Hudson Yards development of office, retail, and residential space on the far west side of Manhattan, Glen said, “It's not my personal favorite place. It's not a 'neighborhood' as they are characterizing it.” But, she also called it an “extraordinarily important piece of the broader New York City economic puzzle” because of the new office space coming online. “Architecturally and design-wise,” however, “it seems very male to me,” she said. The investments made have “proven to be true” and provide an important revenue stream.

On the future of Rikers Island, where the jails are targeted for closure over the next several years, Glen said the administration had looked at it closely, including for housing development, but few things make “economic sense” for the island given “its in the flight path, it’s very hard to get to.”

“I think that Rikers Island could be and should be a place where there are a lot of really important city services that can be relocated there, so that we can free up some of the other spaces that could be more highly utilized for housing, for schools, for job creation,” she said. She also said there could be “an interesting deal to be made possibly with the Port [Authority], to sell it to them to do the next [LaGuardia Airport] runway.” She indicated she has several ideas for land swaps with the Port Authority.

As for her own future, Glen said she doesn’t know what the next thing will be yet, though she will continue to be involved as chair in one of her recently-launched initiatives, women.nyc, a multi-service platform for women, with a variety of resources, because, she said, “New York City really has the opportunity to be the place where women can succeed -- and to say that as such, to brand ourselves as such.”

Asked if she would ever run for elected office, Glen indicated it might be on the table. “Right now, I’m still recovering and trying to go to yoga a few times a week,” she said, but added: “I think I wouldn’t rule it out because the fact that New York City doesn’t have, right now, a lot of women candidates. There are an unbelievable number of young women out there who blow my mind every single day, but there’s still a dearth of women who have executive experience, have run complex organizations, who’ve had multiple experiences, both in politics and the private sector, and in the nonprofit sector. You know, it’s something I would obviously think about at the right time.”

[LISTEN: Alicia Glen on What's The [Data] Point?]

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by Truman Stephens, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed to this story.

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Alicia Glen on Her Legacy as Deputy Mayor and the Future of New York City Tue, 09 Apr 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: The Debate Over Rent Regulations http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8425-max-murphy-podcast-the-debate-over-rent-regulations http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8425-max-murphy-podcast-the-debate-over-rent-regulations housing complex

(photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)


April 3, 2019 - Max & Murphy Podcast: The Debate Over Rent Regulations

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Perhaps the most contentious post-budget issue in Albany's state legislative session that will extend from April through much of June will be rent regulations. Those regulations apply to roughly 1 million New York City apartments home to roughly 2 million people, and include things like the "vacancy bonus," vacancy decontrol, and major capital improvements. But advocates and some legislators are pushing for not just slight modifications and extension of the regulations that are set to expire this year, but sweeping tenant-friendly changes. Some are also calling for the extension of rent regulation statewide, which would apply to newly-constructed affordable housing for the future. One on side of the issue is the landlord lobby, on the other side, the tenant lobby. We were joined by a leading representative of each: first, Frank Ricci, Director of Government Affairs for the Rent Stabilization Association, then Michael McKee, treasurer of TenantsPAC.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Max & Murphy Podcast: The Debate Over Rent Regulations Wed, 03 Apr 2019 04:00:00 +0000
What's The [Data] Point? 5, with former Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8386-what-s-the-data-point-5-with-former-deputy-mayor-alicia-glen http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8386-what-s-the-data-point-5-with-former-deputy-mayor-alicia-glen whats the data point


What's The [Data] Point? Episode 69 -- 5, with former Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

wtdp alica glen deputy mayorAlicia Glen was Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development under Mayor Bill de Blasio for more than five years, until she recently left the administration after being the chief architect of its signature affordable housing plan, a broad variety of economic development initiatives, and more. Glen joined the podcast (for the second time) for an "exit interview" on her legacy as deputy mayor, key issues facing the city and where the city is headed, the city's overall economic competitiveness, the Amazon deal that was undone, NYCHA, whether she would ever run for elected office herself, and other topics.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (@TweetBenMax), Maria Doulis of CBC (@MariaDoulis). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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What's The [Data] Point? 5, with former Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen Tue, 26 Mar 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Getting to Truth, and Solidarity, on Loft Law Reform http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8369-getting-to-truth-and-solidarity-on-loft-law-reform http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8369-getting-to-truth-and-solidarity-on-loft-law-reform nyc loft tenants rally

Rally for the Loft Law bill (photo via @NYCLT)


Recently, there has been considerable attention paid to a Loft Law “clean-up” bill that is on the table in the New York State Legislature. Advocates have worked tirelessly for over three years to make it law; an effort stymied by a Republican-controlled Senate in 2017 and 2018, resulting in eviction of many loft tenants.

In November 2018, Democrats won enough seats to take control of the Senate this year and thus all of state government. Many Democrats won hard-fought elections, including Julia Salazar, running on a platform of strengthening rent laws to protect tenants. This blue wave raised hopes that, along with other legislative actions to strengthen New York’s rent laws, the Loft Law clean-up bill would finally pass.

Early this year, the bill was introduced, sponsored in the Assembly by Deborah Glick – a longtime champion for loft tenants – and in the Senate by Salazar. The bill offers a platform around which housing rights advocates should rally – it protects tenants across the city, creates additional affordable housing units, keeps working-class labor markets intact, and regulates rent in communities threatened by gentrification.

Yet, opposing forces have once more succeeded in stalling its enactment, by disseminating misinformation about its contents, impacts, and the Loft Law in general. This has poisoned solidarity of communities who share the same interests, struggling to fight real estate development.

We believe that the strife must end. As diverse groups fighting to protect and strengthen tenants’ rights, we are on the same side and must stand united in solidarity. Universally strengthened rent laws cannot be accomplished if loft tenants are left out in the cold.

With that in mind, it is critical to dispel the misinformation and misconceptions around the Loft Law and the clean-up bill. Three central claims have been advanced by critics.

The first is that it will negatively impact jobs in the North Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone (IBZ), threatening approximately 20,000 industrial and manufacturing jobs in the IBZ. This is false. In fact, the bill does exactly the opposite.

The bill and Loft Law in general contain structural limitations on which residential units can be protected. Tenants must show that their apartments were residentially occupied during two narrow windows of time in order to be protected (2008 – 2009 and 2015 – 2016). Only units that were and are already occupied residentially will qualify. Thus, future illegal “M-R” conversions (from manufacturing to residential) will not be protected under the Loft Law and are precluded by the IBZ’s zoning restrictions.

The current Loft Law provides that the entire IBZ is subject to potential claims for coverage. This has been the state of the law since 2010. There is no evidence, nor has any been presented, that during those nine years there was any job loss in the IBZ caused by the Loft Law or loft tenants. The Loft Law has been amended multiple times since 2010 without any objection regarding the IBZ. Additionally, and missed in this argument, is that the Loft Law does not displace existing manufacturing or commercial use – it protects units and buildings that are and have long been residential. The argument is thus the very definition of a red herring.

Nevertheless, to address recently-expressed concerns about the potential impact on the IBZ, the bill removes approximately 90 percent of the IBZ from Loft Law coverage by excluding areas that are zoned for heavy manufacturing (M3) uses, thereby preserving the vast majority of the area for manufacturers and related jobs. Failure to pass it would therefore have precisely the opposite effect of what critics want: the entire IBZ would continue to be subject to the Loft Law.

The second criticism is that it will catalyze community displacement.

We, as a part of the housing rights community, share the concern over policymakers designing laws that intentionally or inadvertently advantage certain groups at the expense of others. However, an amended Loft Law will contribute to community preservation, not undermine it.

The Loft Law protects low-income people and families by preventing landlords from charging higher, market-rate rents for protected loft units. Preserving these units as additional affordable housing units increases market supply, causing downward, not inflationary, pressures on rents.

The third criticism is that it will invite residential use in heavy manufacturing buildings, opening the door to unsafe living conditions. As stated above, the bill does not do this – by excluding M3 zones, the bill prevents this outcome. Not passing the bill perpetuates the very problem identified in this critique.

The Loft Law has always considered uses such as those in the light or medium manufacturing (M1/2) districts in the IBZ, when conducted as part of a live-work space, to be permissible; and historically there have been many buildings and units containing such mixed uses. But, again, the argument is a red herring, for landlords who illegally rent out spaces for residential use will continue to do so if the clean-up bill does not pass; meaning that any “hazard” posed for tenants will continue to exist, unabated.

One fundamental purpose of the Loft Law is to ensure legalization of covered buildings and units already converted into residential use. Part of that process includes measures to ensure that buildings meet the city’s safety and health codes. The bill will therefore increase the safety and well-being of residential tenants.

It is dismaying that long-standing allies in the fight for strengthening tenant rights have assumed opposing positions. We believe that has been the result of misunderstandings of the issues addressed here. But the time for disagreements is over. We, as a community of people who share common interests and goals, cannot afford any further division to be sown. People have been, and are on the precipice of, losing their homes, and without passage of the clean-up bill, many more will join them. This is unacceptable, unjust, and inconsistent with the larger movement to strengthen New York’s rent laws, protect tenants, and slow gentrification and displacement. Accordingly, we call on the community to support the passage of the Loft Law clean-up bill.

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Alison Dell, Ximena Garnica, McDavid Moore & Zefrey Throwell are New York City Loft Tenants (NYCLT) members and live-work spaces advocates. Michael Kozek is an NYCLT member and Loft Law lawyer. Michael McKee is treasure of Tenants PAC. On Twitter @NYCLT.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Getting to Truth, and Solidarity, on Loft Law Reform Mon, 18 Mar 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Proposal Would Subvert Efforts to Address Affordable Housing Crisis http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8345-proposal-would-subvert-efforts-to-address-affordable-housing-crisis http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8345-proposal-would-subvert-efforts-to-address-affordable-housing-crisis mayorsoffice aff

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


One of the greatest and most immediate challenges facing New York is a statewide affordable housing crisis that continues to affect millions of families. Elected officials must support and promote new legislation and policies that will help our state produce more affordable homes and, correspondingly, do no harm to much-needed housing efforts.

The reality today is that more than 3 million households across the state still pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, which means they are “rent-burdened” and often struggle to afford housing and other necessities like health care and child care.

This crisis is what led Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to dedicate $2.5 billion to support an ambitious five-year statewide housing plan and preserve crucial low-income housing tax credits that were under threat by the federal government.

But our state’s ability to address the affordable housing crisis is now at risk of being undermined by new legislation that proposes to expand the definition of public work and the application of the prevailing wage mandate to private construction projects – including low-income housing developments – based on the public subsidies they rely upon to be built.

As an organization whose members deeply believe in supporting the needs of low- and middle-income New Yorkers, we also believe in good, fair wages for all workers. But the wide application of prevailing wage, which is far in excess of the median wage and can raise construction costs by 25 percent or more, is not actually a path to higher pay for construction workers. In fact, it is certainly a way to ensure there are fewer jobs, fewer new developments, and fewer affordable homes for New Yorkers.

This would be a step backward for New York, where construction costs are already the most expensive in the world, averaging $362 per square foot in New York City, according to Turner & Townsend’s 2018 report on international construction. The report also notes that those costs will only continue to rise and are expected to jump by another 3.5 percent over the next year. Other costs and regulatory burdens remain major obstacles all across the state.

Whether they live in Brooklyn or Buffalo, New Yorkers simply cannot afford to lose opportunities for new housing construction and the many good jobs that come with them. It is worth noting that the creation and preservation of affordable housing supported more than 300,000 total jobs throughout the state between 2011 and 2015.

The state Legislature now has an important choice to make. Rather than advancing well-intentioned but misguided legislation that would diminish new affordable homes and good jobs across the state, we hope lawmakers will fully consider these negative impacts before they proceed with imposing prevailing wages on the construction of affordable housing in New York.

The further that lawmakers explore this issue, the clearer it will become that it is unwise to hastily advance these proposals and risk undercutting New York State’s much-needed housing plan. And if they make the right choice, all New Yorkers will benefit.

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Jolie Milstein is president and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, a trade association that represents nearly 400 members responsible for the construction and preservation of affordable housing across the state.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Proposal Would Subvert Efforts to Address Affordable Housing Crisis Tue, 12 Mar 2019 04:00:00 +0000