The city needs bold policy to fix its worsening housing crisis — and a key zoning initiative pushed by the Adams administration isn’t enough to move the needle, according to Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso.
Mayor Eric Adams rolled out a wide-ranging plan in September, part of a citywide zoning revamp known as the “City of Yes,” that would make way for some 100,000 additional homes over 15 years. Adams described the plan — which involves offering density bonuses for affordable housing, easing office-to-residential conversions, and eliminating parking mandates — as ushering in a “new golden age of housing.”
Reynoso, who’s been discussed as a potential mayoral challenger to Adams in 2025, isn’t so sure.
“The ‘City of Yes’ should not be something that we’re applauding as a generational-changing thing,” Reynoso said at a policy breakfast hosted by the NYU Furman Center, while still acknowledging the plan as a positive step. “I think the problem we have is there’s no political will to do this stuff in an expansive way, and that we celebrate things like the ‘City of Yes’ like they’re bigger than they are.”
“Political will and boldness is not something that exists in the city of New York,” he said.
So, what would be truly bold, according to him?
For one, Reynoso said, the city should consider eliminating single-family zoning, which exists in neighborhoods like Forest Hills and Riverdale — a move that would almost certainly face staunch pushback from those and other communities. He plugged his comprehensive plan for Brooklyn and stressed the need to spread development more equitably across the city.
Black and brown communities “have done all the work” on housing, he said, while other Brooklyn neighborhoods like Bay Ridge, Sheepshead Bay and Midwood have done little.
That’s part of the aim behind the “City of Yes” effort as well, which seeks to make way for “a little more housing in every neighborhood,” as City Hall put it, rather than forcing certain areas to shoulder most of the burden.
“We need to open up every part of this city to working people,” Adams said in a speech on the housing plan in September. “Decades from now New Yorkers will see this moment for what it is: a turning point away from exclusionary policies and outdated ideas and towards a brighter, bolder and more equitable future.”
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FEDS LOOKING AT ALLEGED DEVELOPER LIST — THE CITY’s Greg B. Smith: “As part of its probe into the Eric Adams campaign’s connections to Turkey, the FBI is looking into whether an internal list of property owners seeking approval of fire alarm systems, kept by the mayor’s office under both Bill de Blasio and Adams, allowed prominent real estate developers to cut the line for crucial inspections, THE CITY has learned.
“Those developers allegedly include the government of Turkey as it sought to open a new midtown Manhattan consulate with Adams’ assistance when he was Brooklyn Borough President, an interaction that is now under scrutiny as part of the federal probe. The so-called Deputy Mayor of Operations (DMO) List started in 2021 as a way to cut red tape that was supposed to benefit small businesses. Instead, it wound up favoring big-money developers, according to allegations made in a lawsuit by Joseph Jardin, formerly the FDNY’s chief of fire prevention.”
IBX FACES OLD MTA DILEMMA — Gothamist’s Clayton Guse and Stephen Nessen: “Gov. Kathy Hochul is getting a hard lesson on the MTA as she pushes her plan for a light rail Interborough Express between Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and Jackson Heights, Queens. During an open house meeting on the project last week, the deputy chief of staff for the MTA’s construction department let slip a sobering reality: ‘The MTA can’t in good conscience invest in new infrastructure without making sure that we have the funding in place to secure our existing system.’
“MTA officials later tried to downplay the comment, saying the IBX remained a top priority of the agency. But promising new train lines only to divert the money to maintenance is a tale as old as the MTA.”
COUNCIL APPROVES HOUSING TARGETS — POLITICO’s Janaki Chadha: The City Council approved legislation Wednesday that seeks to spread housing production more equitably across the five boroughs by setting growth targets for each of the city’s 59 community districts.
The measure, introduced by Council Speaker Adrienne Adams in May, will require the city’s housing and planning agencies to develop a citywide “fair housing plan” every five years, starting in 2025. The plan would assess long-term citywide housing needs and outline production goals for every community district, including numerical targets for total units, low-income housing and housing for the formerly homeless.
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COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE IN TROUBLE — The Wall Street Journal’s Konrad Putzier: “Foreclosures are surging in an opaque and risky corner of commercial real-estate finance, offering one of the starkest signs yet that turmoil in the property market is worsening. Lenders this year have issued a record number of foreclosure notices for high-risk property loans, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. Many of these loans are similar to second mortgages and commonly known as mezzanine loans.
“Mezzanine loans have high interest rates and offer a faster and easier path to foreclose than mortgages. The Journal analysis found notices for 62 mezzanine loans and other high-risk loans this year through October. That is more than double the number for all of last year, and likely the highest total ever for a single year, as higher interest rates and rising vacancies punish the property sector.”
OFFICE CONVERSIONS IN FIDI — The New York Times’ Matthew Haag: “For all the talk about converting New York City’s languishing office buildings into housing, just one neighborhood has done it on a large scale: the financial district.
“In the past few years, luxury apartments have been carved out of a 1907 office tower at 84 William Street and an Art Deco skyscraper at 1 Wall Street that was once the Bank of New York’s headquarters. Five other office buildings are being gutted and turned into residences, including a project that is the largest such conversion in the United States.”
NEW YORK CRACKS DOWN ON DEED THEFT — NY1’s Jack Arpey: “New York is taking steps to protect people from deed theft. Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation Tuesday to shield New Yorkers from the practice in which property owners are defrauded out of the property titles to their homes.
“The legislation enhances protections by empowering the state attorney general and local district attorneys looking into cases of deed theft to pause related eviction and ownership dispute proceedings, while also expanding the list of crimes that allow prosecutors to invalidate fraudulent sale and loan documents.”
OFFICE LANDLORDS REVAMP LOBBIES — Crain’s C.J. Hughes: “Lobbies may no longer be merely places to pass through. Office landlords are taking the usually utilitarian spaces and turning them into venues to see TED speakers, play shuffleboard and sip Manhattans.
“In the face of persistently high vacancy rates, the extra oomph could help certain towers stand out, according to tenants, brokers and landlords. But there may be even more existential considerations, as the fate of swaths of the office sector can seem to hang on getting more workers to show up.”
— A Midtown office owner is grappling with major vacancies. (Crain’s)
— There were more than 16,000 housing units completed in the first half of the year. (The Real Deal)
— A new lawsuit accuses REBNY and more than two dozen brokerages of inflating commissions. (New York Post)