City to advance first of three zoning amendments

Beat Memo

Last week was a disappointing one on the housing front for City Hall, as a suite of state-level proposals Mayor Eric Adams had sought to boost residential growth in the city fell to the wayside amid the collapse of a broader housing deal.

Nonetheless, this week marks a step forward for one of the mayor’s key land use initiatives, with the City Planning Commission expected to advance the first of three “City of Yes” zoning amendments Adams has proposed to remove barriers to development and boost housing production across the city.

The first such proposal, which would make a series of land use changes to facilitate clean energy and climate action, is slated to move into the city’s formal public review process Monday, during which it will be reviewed by community boards, borough presidents and the City Council.

The Adams administration is seeking to remove zoning barriers that inhibit the city’s carbon reduction goals, via a raft of changes that would, among other things, make it easier to pursue environmentally-friendly retrofits to buildings and legalize solar canopies on more than 8,500 acres of parking lots.

“Many of our regulations were crafted before the urgency of the climate crisis was understood, and even before our clean energy technology, so we need to take action here to make sure that New York City remains a global leader,” said City Planning director Dan Garodnick. “We want to make sure that the city is helping New Yorkers achieve their goals and is not standing in their way, and that is true for environmental initiatives, for economic development and for housing creation.”

The second zoning amendment, which is expected to enter public review this fall, seeks to lift arcane and outdated zoning rules that can be onerous to businesses and limit economic growth. And the third proposal, slated to move into public review next spring, would offer a density-bonus for affordable housing and make other changes to boost residential development around the city.

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Driving the Day

HOUSING SCRAPPED IN BUDGET — POLITICO’s Janaki Chadha and Joseph Spector: Gov. Kathy Hochul called her proposal in January to mandate new housing in residential communities a “big ask.” It turned out to be too big an ask. Hochul’s sweeping plan to require as much as 3 percent housing growth over three years to help reach 800,000 new homes in the next decade was quickly a nonstarter with lawmakers in the suburbs and outer boroughs. And they held firm.

Any hope at a deal — despite holding up the budget for weeks — were dashed Thursday when lawmakers said the major housing plan would be scrapped in negotiations in a bid to end the budget stalemate for the fiscal year that started April 1. Lawmakers are hopeful that with the housing issue off the table, they can reach a budget deal next week.

The latest defeat for Hochul has also led to the sides dropping a series of smaller-scale policies to boost housing supply in New York City — among them some of the top priorities of Mayor Eric Adams. There was plenty of finger-pointing.

OFFICE VACANCIES KEEP RISING — THE CITY’s Greg David and Sam Rabiyah: “...Office vacancy in the first three months of 2023 rose 16.1%, according to the real estate firm JLL, which means some 76 million square feet of office space is empty. The amount of space leased totalled only 4.6 million square feet, which is the lowest amount since early in 2021.

“The situation is not likely to improve anytime soon: Companies are wrestling with their space needs as they continue to sort out how many employees will be in the office each day. In addition, almost 14 million square feet of modern office space is under construction, which is expected to lure tenants from older buildings.”

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Odds and Ends

RGB REVIEWS POSSIBLE 16 PERCENT RENT HIKE — POLITICO’s Janaki Chadha: With landlord costs on the rise, the Rent Guidelines Board on Thursday reviewed possible rent increases as high as 16 percent over two years on the city’s nearly 1 million rent-regulated apartments.

The dramatic increase came in an annual report discussed by the panel, which included a range of hypothetical rent increases based on formulas that combine operating costs, revenues and inflation. Owners of rent-regulated apartments saw their operating costs rise by 8.1 percent between April 2022 and this March, the report found — compared to a 4.2 percent increase last year.

ADVOCATES PUSH BACK AGAINST HOUSING CUTS — City & State’s Jeff Coltin: “When New York Mayor Eric Adams is making budget cuts, he should hold off on housing agencies. That’s what more than 70 housing stakeholder organizations – real estate developers, homeless service providers and advocates for low income New Yorkers among them – are saying in a letter sent to Adams and Budget Director Jacques Jiha Wednesday.”

HOW SPECULATORS SEIZED BLACK-OWNED BROWNSTONES — THE CITY’s George Joseph and Samantha Maldonado: “...An investigation by THE CITY found that a group of investors — Doran, Jonathan Marcus, Vincent Longobardi and Earl Davis — have acquired or attempted to acquire fractional stakes in more than 50 properties, mostly in Brooklyn’s gentrifying historically Black and Latino neighborhoods, in some cases enriching themselves many times more than the heirs they profess to help.”

Quick Links

— The Real Estate Board of New York held a gala to celebrate 127 years as an organization.

— The Flatiron Building will go up for auction again, after the winner of the first one failed to put down a deposit.

— The MTA is seizing nine East Harlem sites to make room for its extension of the Second Avenue Subway.