Skip to main content

Shades of 2007? Another 421-a carve-out to developers generates outrage

Thanks to some investigation by the Metropolitan Council on Housing, which prompted coverage in the New York Daily News and by New York Times columnist Michael Powell, we now know more about a January giveaway to developers worth some $50 million to the largest project.

Note that this 421-a "carve-out" is worth far less than the "carve-out" in 2007 legislators gave developer Forest City Ratner regarding the Atlantic Yards project, wroth $150-$200 million.

The Daily News article, NY lawmakers mandate massive tax breaks for millionaires’ Manhattan apartments, was published 6/18/13:
The millionaires buying apartments in a soaring tower rising on 57th St. will get more than sweeping views of Central Park: They’ll also be eligible for massive city tax breaks.
So will the homeowners and builders of four other luxury Manhattan condo and rental developments.
Language quietly inserted into a bill that sailed through the state Legislature singled out the five developments to make them eligible for tax breaks — which could cost the city tens of millions of dollars in property taxes, the Daily News has learned.
The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), defended the tax breaks, saying the projects would create jobs and boost the economy.
“These projects were ready to go,” he said.
But Golden could not say who selected the five projects for special treatment. “I’m not sure where they came from,” he said.
And the Assembly sponsor, Keith Wright (D-Manhattan), said he knew little about the tax breaks.
“These five properties — it was important that they benefit from the piece of legislation probably, and I don’t know why, because some of the folks in the Senate wanted them to be included.”
The developers of four of the projects, their relatives and affiliated companies gave $1.5 million to various state campaign committees during 2008-12 — including $440,962 last year, records show.
So it all seems to hinge on Golden, who's "not sure where they came from. He's known for his ties to Forest City, which is not one of the five developers in this case. The leading one is Extell, Forest City's belated rival for the Vanderbilt Yard bid in 2005, and in that case the relative white knight.

Taking on Extell

Today, Gotham columnist Powell writes the more pungent Luxe Builders Chase Dreams of Property Tax Exemptions:
The latest evidence that our developers scour sidewalks for pennies might be found at the 90-story ziggurat known as One57, with his-and-her bathrooms, super deep freeze, titanium-reinforced views that reach to the Arctic, or at least Putnam County.
...Seven years ago, the New York State Legislature ruled out tax breaks for Midtown Manhattan developments unless they included affordable units; reformers noted reasonably that there was no shortage of construction cranes and fortunes to be had in that neighborhood. In all, 150,000 units in New York City receive the 421-a property tax abatements, for $1.1 billion in lost revenue for the city.
...Mr. Barnett and four princeling developers joined the Real Estate Board of New York last year, spreading a thick green carpet of cash for politicians, at least $1.5 million. (To peruse their donation lists is to glory in nonpartisan giving: the governor, the attorney general, the state party organizations that have proved so corrupt of late, and any politician, Republican or Democrat, who possessed the simple wit to create a “Friends of ... ” committee — all are awash in the developers’ cash.)
...In January, State Senator Martin J. Golden, Republican of Brooklyn, and Assemblyman Keith Wright, Democrat of Manhattan, attached a gilded little 421-a “carve-out” to the underside of a much-needed housing bill for New York City. Everyone voted for it. Just like that, Mr. Barnett’s development earned a property tax exemption worth at least $50 million, maybe much more, over the next 10 years.
Powell adds to the story by querying Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lentol, who unsuccessfully tried to retroactively extend tax breaks for converted lofts.

“Was this proposed tax break for these properties a good thing or not? I can’t say,” Lentol responded. “I don’t have enough knowledge to say it’s a good thing or bad thing.”

That's our legislature, folks.

The Met Council report

The Met Council press release, REPORT: 421-a A PRODUCT OF DEVELOPER CASH
According to a report released today by the Met Council on Housing, the 421-a tax giveaway was the product of Albany’s dysfunctional culture, which allows virtually unlimited cash from wealthy real estate developers.
Key Findings:
Combined, developers of four of the five luxury buildings gave at least $440,962 to PACs, state offices, and political par­ties in 2012 alone. (After an exhaustive search, we were not able to obtain data for the developer of the fifth building.)
Governor Cuomo, who had to sign the 421-a legislation, re­ceived $150,000 from the four developers in 2012. He was the biggest recipient of cash from these developers last year.
Contributions from Extell Development Company and its princi­pals, owners of One57, accounted for $229,262 of the 2012 total. Extell has given a whopping $771,436 to state committees and campaigns since 2005, spent $74,500 lobbying New York City on One57 alone and spent tens of thousands of dollars more lobbying the city and state to get new permits for its crane, among other issues.
Contributions to party committees, which benefit the most powerful legislators who control the movement of legislation, were also sizable: Republican Party committees received $53,000 and Democratic Party committees received $34,000 from the four developers in 2012.
Overall, these four companies gave more than $1.5 million ($1,531,531) to state elected officials, political parties and real-estate PACs between 2008 and 2012.
From the report:
That a handful of real-estate developers were able to win such a huge giveaway is a reflection of their outsized influence and just how broken the current campaign finance system is. Even legislators who have a long history of favoring the expansion of affordable housing voted for the bill, since it contained items they favored. But the 421-a tax breaks went beyond the typical horse-trading in the legislature.
..These tax breaks represent millions of dollars that the city has lost. The money could have been used for real housing needs, like rent subsidies for the more than 50,000 people sleeping in homeless shelters or for the repair of dilapidated apartment buildings. The 421-a program cost the City $755 million in 2010 in lost real property tax revenue, according to the Pratt Center for Community Development.5

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming + FAQ (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in January 2018, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won't be so cheap.

As …

The passing of David Sheets, Dean Street renter, former Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality

David Sheets, longtime Dean Street renter, Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality, died 1/17/18 in HCA Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green, KY. He was 56.

There are obituary notices in the Bowling Green Daily News and the Wichita Eagle, which state:
He was born in Wichita, KS where he attended public Schools and Wichita State University. He lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY, and was employed as a legal assistant. David's hobby was cartography and had an avid interest in Mass Transit Systems of the world. David was predeceased by his father, Kenneth E. Sheets. He is survived by his mother, Wilma Smith, step-brother, Billy Ray Smith and his wife, Jane all of Bowling Green; step-sister, Ellen Smith Alexander and her husband, Jerry of Bella Vista, AR; several cousins and step-nieces and step-nephews also survive. Memorial Services will be on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm with visitation from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday at Johnson-Vaughn-Phe…

Some skepticism on Belmont hockey deal: lease value seems far below Aqueduct racino; unclear (but large?) cost for LIRR service

As I wrote for The Bridge 12/20/1, The Islanders Say Bye to Brooklyn, But Where Next?, the press conference announcing a new arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders was "long on pomp... but short on specifics."

Notably, a lease valued at $40 million "upfront to lease up to 43 acres over 49 years... seems like a good deal on rent for the state-controlled property." Also, the Long Island Rail Road will expand service to Belmont.

That indicates public support for an arena widely described as "privately financed," but how much? We don't know yet, but some more details--or at least questions--have emerged.

An Aqueduct comparable?

Well, we don't know what the other bid was, and there aren't exactly parcels that large offering direct comparables.

But consider: Genting New York LLC in September 2010 was granted a franchise to operate a video lottery terminal under a 30 year lease on 67 acres at Aqueduct Park (as noted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo).

As…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…