Is Rent Out of Reach? | Mayor Renews Affordable Housing Push | Hysteria Over de Blasio Zoning Plan

May 29th 2015

Image Credit: Associated Press

  1. Is Rent Out of Reach? As More Americans Become Tenants, Study Shows How 11 Big Cities Stack Up Renters are on the rise in America’s biggest cities, but many tenants are scrambling to keep up with growing rent bills and shrinking vacancies, according to a study released Thursday. From Boston to Miami, New York to Los Angeles, more than half of tenants are paying what experts consider unaffordable rents, says a report by New York University’s Furman Center, which studies real estate and urban policy, and bank Capital One, which is a leading affordable-housing lender and financed the research. While various housing experts have noted such trends, the study zooms in on 11 of the nation’s most populous cities. Overall, it’s a portrait of increasing competition and often slipping affordability, but the picture isn’t universally bleak and looks noticeably different from city to city. [Star Tribune – 05/28/15]
  2. Mayor Renews Affordable-Housing Push in Meeting with Cuomo New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to strengthen his city’s rent regulations and modify a real estate tax break to require more affordable housing, saying there is no excuse for inaction on issues affecting millions of city residents. Mr. de Blasio traveled to the capital city Wednesday to press his case personally, meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and top lawmakers at a critical time for his legislative agenda. He discounted predictions that the recent arrests of both legislative leaders have paralyzed state government, saying the final weeks of the legislative session offer ‘a chance for Albany to turn the page’ on its recent scandals. [Crain’s NY Business – 05/27/15]
  3. City Acts to Tamp Down Hysteria Over de Blasio Zoning Plan The de Blasio administration’s citywide rezoning proposal, although it is being diluted and could be changed further still, continues to frighten community leaders. Yesterday, Park Slope Civic Council trustee Peter Bray dispatched an email message urging opponents to attend a meeting Thursday at which Department of City Planning officials will attempt to explain the plan, which he characterized as ‘the de Blasio Administration’s proposal to dismantle existing contextual zoning protections in Park Slope and neighborhoods throughout New York City.’ [Crain’s NY Business – 05/27/15]
  4. City to Rezone Grand Central Area, Allow 1,500-Foot Tower The City Council on Wednesday approved a rezoning for a five-block stretch of east Midtown, allowing SL Green Realty Corp. to build an enormous skyscraper near Grand Central Terminal and setting the stage for much bigger changes. The approval of the new laws, by a vote of 49-0, is a policy win for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is seeking to do what his predecessor could not: Rezone all of east Midtown, where some aging office towers have struggled to compete in the new tech-driven work world. This five-block change, acting as a test case, serves up the first solid evidence such changes might be politically feasible. Local Councilman Dan Garodnick, who is co-chairing a committee studying the broader rezoning, was a strong advocate for this so-called “Vanderbilt Corridor” rezoning. He said the area is now more like a “a back ally than a vibrant business district. [Capital New York – 05/27/15]
  5. Andrew Cuomo Pulling Back $100M That Would Have Gone to Fix NYCHA Roofs Deemed ‘at or Past Useful Life’ They are the ‘worst roofs’ in public housing — 123 leaking, decrepit sieves at 18 developments so bad that NYCHA has deemed them ‘at or past useful life.’ NYCHA planned to repair the soggy problem by using $100 million from the state, but then Gov. Cuomo pulled the rug out from under those plans and redirected the money, leaving thousands of residents suffering until the Housing Authority finds another way to get the job done. City Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx) accused Cuomo on Wednesday of ‘playing politics’ with the New York City Housing Authority, stating, ‘The governor has politicized the use of the $100 million and does nothing to address the needs of tenants.’ [NY Daily News – 05/28/15]
  6. Brooklyn Bridge Park Settles Housing Lawsuit The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation has settled a lawsuit brought last summer by a community group, allowing park officials to begin to move forward with the final phase of their development plan. The group, People for Green Space Foundation, had argued that the park corporation, which oversees development of both the park’s public spaces and commercial real estate, had modified its original plan, principally by including affordable housing in two towers long planned for Pier 6, near Atlantic Avenue. Mayor Bill de Blasio last summer announced that 30 percent of the units in the towers would be set aside as affordable. The changes, People for Green Space argued, required a new environmental review and an application to amend the plan. [New York Times – 05/27/15]
  7. Why Are There So Many Shuttered Storefronts in the West Village? At the end of this month, the House of Cards & Curiosities, on Eighth Avenue, just south of Jane Street, in the West Village, will close its doors after more than twenty years in business. It was, admittedly, not a store whose economic logic was readily apparent. Along with artistic greeting cards, it sold things like small animal skeletons, stuffed piranhas (which were hanging from the ceiling), and tiny ceramic skulls. Nonetheless, it did good business for many years, or so its owner, James Waits, told me. Its closing leaves four shuttered storefronts on just one block. With their papered-up windows and fading paint, the failed businesses are a depressing sight in an otherwise vibrant neighborhood. [The New Yorker – 05/24/15]
  8. Crown Heights Board Moves Ahead with Controversial Rezoning Study After more than a year of controversy, Brooklyn Community Board 9 voted Tuesday to again recommend the city study zoning changes in parts of Crown Heights. At the end of a three-hour meeting marked by chanting, shouting and a constant police presence, CB9’s members voted 26-6, with 3 abstentions, to accept a rezoning resolution to the Department of City Planning, requesting that the agency start studying possible land-use changes in the parts of southern Crown Heights and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. [DNAinfo – 05/27/15]
  9. The Price of Housing Preservation: Linden Plaza’s Saga “We call it ‘pre’ July 2008 and ‘post’ July 2008. It’s like two different worlds.” That’s how Pamela Lockley, president of the Linden Plaza Leaseholder’s Tenant Association Council, refers to the refinancing that took place seven years ago and resulted in a 93 percent rent increase at her 1,525-unit Mitchell-Lama complex in East New York. Lockley describes evicted residents placing their furniture outside for sale, then dispersing to relative’s homes, to upstate, to Pennsylvania, to the South. She knows several people who tried to get into shelters, and one woman who ended up sleeping with her children in a church office. At first, it sounds like the tragic but familiar story of a Mitchell-Lama building going to market. The statewide Mitchell-Lama program, launched in 1955 to provide affordable housing to middle-income families, has lost 47 percent of its units since the 1990s, as owners pay off their loans and surpass the program’s required 20-year term of affordability. [City Limits – 05/27/15]
  10. What’s Next for New York City’s Many Abandoned Landmarks? In the 50 years since New York City’s Landmarks Law was passed, over 1,300 individual landmarks and 109 historic districts have been designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, amassing an impressive array of protected properties and neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. The landmarking process, however, does not guarantee a permanent safe harbor for buildings, and over the years many designees have been lost to decay, demolition, and legal maneuvering. Today, a surprising number of official New York City landmarks are abandoned, having been left to rot for decades, and are in danger of becoming victims of demolition by neglect. [Curbed NY – 05/28/15]
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