Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/real-estate 2017-12-17T15:45:24+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Raising the Bar for New York Real Estate 2016-10-23T04:00:00+00:00 2016-10-23T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6585:raising-the-bar-for-new-york-real-estate Ben Max <p>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/hunters-point-south1.jpg" alt="hunters point south1" width="600" height="377" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Hunter's Point South Living (<a href="http://nygala.uli.org/2016-winners/" target="_blank">image</a>)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">From iconic architecture to imposing size, there is no denying that real estate has defined New York for generations. But even the most forward-thinking developers of 50 to 100 years ago might not recognize the dizzying pace, shifting policies, and growing demands that dominate today’s industry.</p> <p dir="ltr">Here is the hard truth facing developers these days: achieving excellence in one area does not always lead to success. In fact, it rarely does. It is no longer enough to just design a beautiful building, imagine a new public space, or revitalize an older structure. We are so often urged — and just as often expected — to accomplish all those things, or others, in a single project.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Urban Land Institute’s mission to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide should remind us that these development challenges are not just results of market or zoning pressures. Meeting these challenges is just as much about thoughtful planning and building a dialogue with the neighborhood leaders and planning officials who play roles in advancing new development. Perhaps most importantly – as ULI has made clear – it is about providing added value through new transit access, sustainable design, environmental resilience, or other aspects. In its simplest form, it is smart city building.</p> <p dir="ltr">For years, ULI has helped set the bar for responsible land use with its Global Awards for Excellence, which crowns winners in cities worldwide. But the changing face of New York real estate has made it clear that we also need a local competition — one focused solely on raising the industry bar across our state.</p> <p dir="ltr">That is why we at ULI New York launched our own <a href="http://nygala.uli.org/" target="_blank">Awards for Excellence in Development</a> — a statewide contest open to private, public and non-profit developers, whether or not they are ULI members. More than anywhere else, it is vital for New York’s real estate industry to meet and even surpass the responsible land use principles laid out by ULI and our members worldwide. &nbsp;By recognizing and elevating leaders who take a truly holistic approach, we believe we can help increase the quality of development across the state for generations to come.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">At our inaugural awards gala this past March, the <a href="http://nygala.uli.org/2016-winners/" target="_blank">first class of winners</a> showed just how far our industry can go to meet diverse needs in New York City and upstate.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Queens, Hunter’s Point South Living created a mixed-use, affordable housing development that established a benchmark for a new workforce housing experience. In East Harlem, the Center for Living and Learning seamlessly combined affordable apartments, a charter school, and non-profit office space to create a true community hub. In Buffalo, Conventus brought together clinical, educational, and research components in a center for collaborative medicine on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. In Lower Manhattan, the National 9/11 Museum and Pavilion site carries with it both the power of its history and hope for the future in commemorating those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. These were just a few of the projects that inspire us all to reach greater heights.</p> <p dir="ltr">On September 12, ULI New York opened the nomination period for our Second Annual Awards for Excellence in Development — and we hope to see even more submissions than we did last year. With two new award categories, we are now taking project submissions in a total of eight categories: office, housing, mixed-use, repositioning or redevelopment, hotel, retail, institutional, and civic space. Developers interested in submitting a project should <a href="http://nygala.uli.org/apply/" target="_blank">visit our website </a>for details on applying. Our Awards Committee will accept submissions until November 4, after which the finalists in each category will be announced in January.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Our team is committed to finding the most outstanding developments in New York and helping our industry meet every challenge. But we can only do that if developers in every corner of the state are willing to participate and put their best new projects up for consideration. We know our next winners are out there — and we are excited to see what the future of real estate looks like.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Marty Burger is CEO of Silverstein Properties and Chairman of ULI New York. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ULINewYork" target="_blank">@ULINewYork</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/hunters-point-south1.jpg" alt="hunters point south1" width="600" height="377" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Hunter's Point South Living (<a href="http://nygala.uli.org/2016-winners/" target="_blank">image</a>)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">From iconic architecture to imposing size, there is no denying that real estate has defined New York for generations. But even the most forward-thinking developers of 50 to 100 years ago might not recognize the dizzying pace, shifting policies, and growing demands that dominate today’s industry.</p> <p dir="ltr">Here is the hard truth facing developers these days: achieving excellence in one area does not always lead to success. In fact, it rarely does. It is no longer enough to just design a beautiful building, imagine a new public space, or revitalize an older structure. We are so often urged — and just as often expected — to accomplish all those things, or others, in a single project.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Urban Land Institute’s mission to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide should remind us that these development challenges are not just results of market or zoning pressures. Meeting these challenges is just as much about thoughtful planning and building a dialogue with the neighborhood leaders and planning officials who play roles in advancing new development. Perhaps most importantly – as ULI has made clear – it is about providing added value through new transit access, sustainable design, environmental resilience, or other aspects. In its simplest form, it is smart city building.</p> <p dir="ltr">For years, ULI has helped set the bar for responsible land use with its Global Awards for Excellence, which crowns winners in cities worldwide. But the changing face of New York real estate has made it clear that we also need a local competition — one focused solely on raising the industry bar across our state.</p> <p dir="ltr">That is why we at ULI New York launched our own <a href="http://nygala.uli.org/" target="_blank">Awards for Excellence in Development</a> — a statewide contest open to private, public and non-profit developers, whether or not they are ULI members. More than anywhere else, it is vital for New York’s real estate industry to meet and even surpass the responsible land use principles laid out by ULI and our members worldwide. &nbsp;By recognizing and elevating leaders who take a truly holistic approach, we believe we can help increase the quality of development across the state for generations to come.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">At our inaugural awards gala this past March, the <a href="http://nygala.uli.org/2016-winners/" target="_blank">first class of winners</a> showed just how far our industry can go to meet diverse needs in New York City and upstate.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Queens, Hunter’s Point South Living created a mixed-use, affordable housing development that established a benchmark for a new workforce housing experience. In East Harlem, the Center for Living and Learning seamlessly combined affordable apartments, a charter school, and non-profit office space to create a true community hub. In Buffalo, Conventus brought together clinical, educational, and research components in a center for collaborative medicine on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. In Lower Manhattan, the National 9/11 Museum and Pavilion site carries with it both the power of its history and hope for the future in commemorating those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. These were just a few of the projects that inspire us all to reach greater heights.</p> <p dir="ltr">On September 12, ULI New York opened the nomination period for our Second Annual Awards for Excellence in Development — and we hope to see even more submissions than we did last year. With two new award categories, we are now taking project submissions in a total of eight categories: office, housing, mixed-use, repositioning or redevelopment, hotel, retail, institutional, and civic space. Developers interested in submitting a project should <a href="http://nygala.uli.org/apply/" target="_blank">visit our website </a>for details on applying. Our Awards Committee will accept submissions until November 4, after which the finalists in each category will be announced in January.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Our team is committed to finding the most outstanding developments in New York and helping our industry meet every challenge. But we can only do that if developers in every corner of the state are willing to participate and put their best new projects up for consideration. We know our next winners are out there — and we are excited to see what the future of real estate looks like.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Marty Burger is CEO of Silverstein Properties and Chairman of ULI New York. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ULINewYork" target="_blank">@ULINewYork</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Four Decades of Dedication: City Limits’ Story 2016-02-02T19:00:48+00:00 2016-02-02T19:00:48+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6136:four-decades-of-dedication-city-limits-story Super User <p><img style="margin: 5px;" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/fourdecades-citylimits-600.jpg" alt="fourdecades-citylimits-600" class="size-large wp-image-360522" width="600" height="397" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Tom Robbins and Annette Fuentes, City Limits' editing team in the early 1980s, in the magazine's offices. (photo courtesy of <a target="_blank" href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/02/four-decades-of-dedication-city-limits-story/">City Limits</a>/Brian Patrick O'Donohue)</p> <hr /> <p>Since its start 40 years ago this month, City Limits has published millions of words about hundreds of topics and survived thanks to the smarts and sacrifice of dozens of journalists. The history below, combining an essay my predecessor Alyssa Katz wrote on the occasion of our 30th anniversary with my own update on the past 10 years, doesn't pretend to capture all the people and projects that made City Limits what it is. Hopefully, however, it does give a sense of where City Limits came from, the changes it has seen and the values that continue to drive our journalism four decades in. –Jarrett Murphy.</p> <h1 style="text-align: center;"><b>1976-1979: A Mission Begins</b></h1> <h3>The Saving of 414 West 48th Street</h3> <h3>What is Redlining? (Answer: Redlining is a white collar crime.)</h3> <h3>South Bronx Snubbed on Redevelopment Plan</h3> <p>The headlines were forceful, printed in capital letters. They came from a publication that spoke to its times.</p> <p>In 1976, New York City's neighborhoods were facing crushing challenges unlike any they had seen before. The city's fiscal crisis had left New York with few resources and a growing sense of doom. In many neighborhoods, arson and abandonment of apartment buildings were becoming everyday occurrences, as some property owners determined that their real estate was worth more in insurance proceeds than it was for its rental income. By the summer of 1977, more than 20,000 buildings in New York would be abandoned. At the end of that year the city owned 6,000 buildings and was poised to foreclose on 25,000 more.</p> <p><a target="_blank" href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/02/four-decades-of-dedication-city-limits-story/">Read more about this era and several others leading to present day and the future, at City Limits</a></p> <p><img style="margin: 5px;" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/fourdecades-citylimits-600.jpg" alt="fourdecades-citylimits-600" class="size-large wp-image-360522" width="600" height="397" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Tom Robbins and Annette Fuentes, City Limits' editing team in the early 1980s, in the magazine's offices. (photo courtesy of <a target="_blank" href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/02/four-decades-of-dedication-city-limits-story/">City Limits</a>/Brian Patrick O'Donohue)</p> <hr /> <p>Since its start 40 years ago this month, City Limits has published millions of words about hundreds of topics and survived thanks to the smarts and sacrifice of dozens of journalists. The history below, combining an essay my predecessor Alyssa Katz wrote on the occasion of our 30th anniversary with my own update on the past 10 years, doesn't pretend to capture all the people and projects that made City Limits what it is. Hopefully, however, it does give a sense of where City Limits came from, the changes it has seen and the values that continue to drive our journalism four decades in. –Jarrett Murphy.</p> <h1 style="text-align: center;"><b>1976-1979: A Mission Begins</b></h1> <h3>The Saving of 414 West 48th Street</h3> <h3>What is Redlining? (Answer: Redlining is a white collar crime.)</h3> <h3>South Bronx Snubbed on Redevelopment Plan</h3> <p>The headlines were forceful, printed in capital letters. They came from a publication that spoke to its times.</p> <p>In 1976, New York City's neighborhoods were facing crushing challenges unlike any they had seen before. The city's fiscal crisis had left New York with few resources and a growing sense of doom. In many neighborhoods, arson and abandonment of apartment buildings were becoming everyday occurrences, as some property owners determined that their real estate was worth more in insurance proceeds than it was for its rental income. By the summer of 1977, more than 20,000 buildings in New York would be abandoned. At the end of that year the city owned 6,000 buildings and was poised to foreclose on 25,000 more.</p> <p><a target="_blank" href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/02/four-decades-of-dedication-city-limits-story/">Read more about this era and several others leading to present day and the future, at City Limits</a></p> Tenant Advocates Seize on Scandal in Push for Stronger Rent Laws 2015-05-08T01:59:45+00:00 2015-05-08T01:59:45+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5716:tenant-advocates-seize-on-scandal-in-push-for-stronger-rent-laws Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/make_the_road_activists.jpg" alt="make the road activists" height="338" width="600" /></p> <p>Make the Road activists (photo: @Met_Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Tenant advocates, angered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recent comments that they see as favoring landlords and the real estate industry, protested outside his Manhattan office on Wednesday afternoon.</p> <p>The action, which featured members of Metropolitan Council on Housing, Tenants and Neighbors, and Make the Road New York, is the first in what will be an onslaught targeting Cuomo and bringing up his close ties to the real estate industry, especially the fact that his biggest donor is Glenwood Management, the group tied to the federal complaints against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.</p> <p>As legislative session continues in Albany and key housing-related legislation is set to expire, advocates want to see an end to the 421-A tax break for developers and strengthening of rent regulations.</p> <p>Cuomo told The Association for a Better New York on April 24 that dysfunction in Albany <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/rent-talks-hampered-federal-probe-cuomo-article-1.2198513" target="_blank">could lead</a> to a straight extension of the rent laws and the controversial 421-A program that has also been at issue in the Silver and Skelos investigations. Tenant activists have taken Cuomo's comments and the possibility of his prediction coming true as an assault on their goals.</p> <p>"The governor's comments were unacceptable," Javier Valdes, co-executive director of Make The Road New York, told Gotham Gazette. "It shows a real disconnect about the crisis that is going on for tenants in New York and the suburbs."</p> <p>Jonathan Westin of New York Communities for Change said that his organization hopes to pressure Skelos, a Republican, and Cuomo, a Democrat, on rent laws so that there isn't simply a straight extension. "The governor supports the status quo and make no mistake about it, the status quo is a victory for real estate interests. The status quo means thousands more affordable apartments lost," Westin told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Thomas Waters, housing policy analyst for The Community Service Society of New York, told Gotham Gazette he simply doesn't believe dysfunction is going to get in the way of negotiating the issue. "We saw how quickly the Assembly moved on from Silver's indictment," he said.</p> <p>The protesters circulated a letter to Cuomo on Monday that read in part, "We write to express our outrage over your recent comments that displayed, at best, indifference to New Yorkers who are struggling to pay their rent in rent-regulated apartments. Low- and moderate-income tenants who live in more than 1 million rent-regulated apartments are at a breaking point because of the failure of leadership in Albany."</p> <p>Tenant advocates are increasingly unnerved by Cuomo's comments about the rent laws, 421-A, and Skelos. On Wednesday Cuomo said he would negotiate with Skelos because he couldn't pick who runs the Senate and that 421-A must be extended. He also was asked to explain his relationship with Glenwood Management. "They are a donor of mine. They are a donor of many elected officials across the state, and that's basically the interaction," Cuomo <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/05/8567503/cuomo-says-hell-stay-course-421" target="_blank">said</a>. "I've had nothing to do [with them], except they've been political supporters of mine."</p> <p>Valdes said his group plans to convey to Cuomo that recent scandals have changed the playing field because they've exposed how things work in the backroom.</p> <p>"The governor made comments in Syracuse that 421-A has to be renewed and yet it is in the complaint against Senator Skelos where he is getting kickbacks from the real estate industry," said Valdes. "There is a major disconnect here. The governor is supporting the status quo and the status quo just won't cut it anymore. We won't stand for tax breaks that favor millionaire developers while our members are driven out of their apartments.</p> <p>The complaint against Skelos alleges that Glenwood, Cuomo's largest campaign donor, provided Skelos' son with $20,000 for doing no work after Skelos pressured Glenwood reps to provide his son with business.</p> <p>It appears one of Glenwood's higher-ups is now <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/05/8567320/albany-shivers-after-bharara-flips-major-donor" target="_blank">serving as a witness</a> and informant for federal investigators. Cuomo defended Glenwood during an appearance in Syracuse on Wednesday, <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/05/8567503/cuomo-says-hell-stay-course-421" target="_blank">saying</a> he would not return donations from the company and its main players because there was no proof of "wrongdoing."</p> <p>"The difference this year is that it is all out in the open," said Westin. "We see how the billionaire developers influence policy with campaign donations and illegal bribes and we aren't going to let it stand."</p> <p>Advocates plan a two-headed strategy with tenant advocates tying Cuomo to major real estate donors and legislators and union members pushing Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to play hardball when it comes time to negotiate the rent laws.</p> <p>"Carl can't just go in there with Cuomo and Skelos to negotiate," said Michael McKee, treasurer of Tenants PAC. "He has to take hostages. If they want to get anything they want, Carl has to get stronger rent laws. It's up to him."</p> <p>Last Friday, legislators, union heads, and Mayor Bill de Blasio came together <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5707-strategy-meetings-signal-coming-flurry-of-rent-law-lobbying" target="_blank">for a strategy meeting</a> on rent law lobbying. According to numerous sources, the meeting convened by 1199 SEIU was designed to involve more unions in the effort and convince union heads that the issue is critical to their members.</p> <p>On Tuesday, de Blasio issued a statement supporting stronger rent laws and advocating a number of specific policy points like reducing how much landlords can raise rent for repairs, ending high-rent vacancy decontrol, and eliminating landlord's ability to raise the rent of rent controlled apartments by 20 percent after it is vacated. He did, however, also argue for the extension of 421-A, as long as it is tied to more clear mandates for the affordable housing that is supposed to come with the tax benefits.&nbsp;"No more tax breaks without building affordable housing in return," de Blasio said in a statement <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/07/nyregion/mayor-de-blasios-plan-aims-to-spur-more-affordable-housing-in-new-york.html?_r=0" target="_blank">to the New York Times</a>.</p> <p>"The biggest thing that has changed this time around is that we have the mayor on our side for the first time," said Waters, who said de Blasio is backing the choice measures out of the slate of policy reforms his organization supports. Getting over the hurdles of a Republican-controlled Senate and a real-estate friendly governor will not be easy, of course. Plus, many Democrats at all levels of government receive large donations from real estate interests.</p> <p>Landlord groups like the Rent Stabilization Association insist that a number of the measures in the rent laws that de Blasio and tenant advocates want eliminated are critical in allowing landlords to afford the costly maintenance of apartments. The RSA is currently running a television spot that laments the plight of landlords and Albany's inability to come up with a solution to help landlords maintain the housing stock.</p> <p>Valdes and Make the Road will be in Albany every Tuesday for the rest of session, they've said. Session is scheduled to go until mid-June, and advocates plan a large rally during the first week that month. Other rallies are expected across the city and in Albany, with major one in Manhattan's Foley Square on Thursday, May 14.</p> <p>Valdes said that his group sees an "affordability crisis" building across the city and the suburbs. "People used to think of this as a Manhattan problem but I can tell you it is an outerborough problem now."</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/make_the_road_activists.jpg" alt="make the road activists" height="338" width="600" /></p> <p>Make the Road activists (photo: @Met_Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Tenant advocates, angered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recent comments that they see as favoring landlords and the real estate industry, protested outside his Manhattan office on Wednesday afternoon.</p> <p>The action, which featured members of Metropolitan Council on Housing, Tenants and Neighbors, and Make the Road New York, is the first in what will be an onslaught targeting Cuomo and bringing up his close ties to the real estate industry, especially the fact that his biggest donor is Glenwood Management, the group tied to the federal complaints against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.</p> <p>As legislative session continues in Albany and key housing-related legislation is set to expire, advocates want to see an end to the 421-A tax break for developers and strengthening of rent regulations.</p> <p>Cuomo told The Association for a Better New York on April 24 that dysfunction in Albany <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/rent-talks-hampered-federal-probe-cuomo-article-1.2198513" target="_blank">could lead</a> to a straight extension of the rent laws and the controversial 421-A program that has also been at issue in the Silver and Skelos investigations. Tenant activists have taken Cuomo's comments and the possibility of his prediction coming true as an assault on their goals.</p> <p>"The governor's comments were unacceptable," Javier Valdes, co-executive director of Make The Road New York, told Gotham Gazette. "It shows a real disconnect about the crisis that is going on for tenants in New York and the suburbs."</p> <p>Jonathan Westin of New York Communities for Change said that his organization hopes to pressure Skelos, a Republican, and Cuomo, a Democrat, on rent laws so that there isn't simply a straight extension. "The governor supports the status quo and make no mistake about it, the status quo is a victory for real estate interests. The status quo means thousands more affordable apartments lost," Westin told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Thomas Waters, housing policy analyst for The Community Service Society of New York, told Gotham Gazette he simply doesn't believe dysfunction is going to get in the way of negotiating the issue. "We saw how quickly the Assembly moved on from Silver's indictment," he said.</p> <p>The protesters circulated a letter to Cuomo on Monday that read in part, "We write to express our outrage over your recent comments that displayed, at best, indifference to New Yorkers who are struggling to pay their rent in rent-regulated apartments. Low- and moderate-income tenants who live in more than 1 million rent-regulated apartments are at a breaking point because of the failure of leadership in Albany."</p> <p>Tenant advocates are increasingly unnerved by Cuomo's comments about the rent laws, 421-A, and Skelos. On Wednesday Cuomo said he would negotiate with Skelos because he couldn't pick who runs the Senate and that 421-A must be extended. He also was asked to explain his relationship with Glenwood Management. "They are a donor of mine. They are a donor of many elected officials across the state, and that's basically the interaction," Cuomo <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/05/8567503/cuomo-says-hell-stay-course-421" target="_blank">said</a>. "I've had nothing to do [with them], except they've been political supporters of mine."</p> <p>Valdes said his group plans to convey to Cuomo that recent scandals have changed the playing field because they've exposed how things work in the backroom.</p> <p>"The governor made comments in Syracuse that 421-A has to be renewed and yet it is in the complaint against Senator Skelos where he is getting kickbacks from the real estate industry," said Valdes. "There is a major disconnect here. The governor is supporting the status quo and the status quo just won't cut it anymore. We won't stand for tax breaks that favor millionaire developers while our members are driven out of their apartments.</p> <p>The complaint against Skelos alleges that Glenwood, Cuomo's largest campaign donor, provided Skelos' son with $20,000 for doing no work after Skelos pressured Glenwood reps to provide his son with business.</p> <p>It appears one of Glenwood's higher-ups is now <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/05/8567320/albany-shivers-after-bharara-flips-major-donor" target="_blank">serving as a witness</a> and informant for federal investigators. Cuomo defended Glenwood during an appearance in Syracuse on Wednesday, <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/05/8567503/cuomo-says-hell-stay-course-421" target="_blank">saying</a> he would not return donations from the company and its main players because there was no proof of "wrongdoing."</p> <p>"The difference this year is that it is all out in the open," said Westin. "We see how the billionaire developers influence policy with campaign donations and illegal bribes and we aren't going to let it stand."</p> <p>Advocates plan a two-headed strategy with tenant advocates tying Cuomo to major real estate donors and legislators and union members pushing Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to play hardball when it comes time to negotiate the rent laws.</p> <p>"Carl can't just go in there with Cuomo and Skelos to negotiate," said Michael McKee, treasurer of Tenants PAC. "He has to take hostages. If they want to get anything they want, Carl has to get stronger rent laws. It's up to him."</p> <p>Last Friday, legislators, union heads, and Mayor Bill de Blasio came together <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5707-strategy-meetings-signal-coming-flurry-of-rent-law-lobbying" target="_blank">for a strategy meeting</a> on rent law lobbying. According to numerous sources, the meeting convened by 1199 SEIU was designed to involve more unions in the effort and convince union heads that the issue is critical to their members.</p> <p>On Tuesday, de Blasio issued a statement supporting stronger rent laws and advocating a number of specific policy points like reducing how much landlords can raise rent for repairs, ending high-rent vacancy decontrol, and eliminating landlord's ability to raise the rent of rent controlled apartments by 20 percent after it is vacated. He did, however, also argue for the extension of 421-A, as long as it is tied to more clear mandates for the affordable housing that is supposed to come with the tax benefits.&nbsp;"No more tax breaks without building affordable housing in return," de Blasio said in a statement <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/07/nyregion/mayor-de-blasios-plan-aims-to-spur-more-affordable-housing-in-new-york.html?_r=0" target="_blank">to the New York Times</a>.</p> <p>"The biggest thing that has changed this time around is that we have the mayor on our side for the first time," said Waters, who said de Blasio is backing the choice measures out of the slate of policy reforms his organization supports. Getting over the hurdles of a Republican-controlled Senate and a real-estate friendly governor will not be easy, of course. Plus, many Democrats at all levels of government receive large donations from real estate interests.</p> <p>Landlord groups like the Rent Stabilization Association insist that a number of the measures in the rent laws that de Blasio and tenant advocates want eliminated are critical in allowing landlords to afford the costly maintenance of apartments. The RSA is currently running a television spot that laments the plight of landlords and Albany's inability to come up with a solution to help landlords maintain the housing stock.</p> <p>Valdes and Make the Road will be in Albany every Tuesday for the rest of session, they've said. Session is scheduled to go until mid-June, and advocates plan a large rally during the first week that month. Other rallies are expected across the city and in Albany, with major one in Manhattan's Foley Square on Thursday, May 14.</p> <p>Valdes said that his group sees an "affordability crisis" building across the city and the suburbs. "People used to think of this as a Manhattan problem but I can tell you it is an outerborough problem now."</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p>