May 27, 2014
Law360 quoted me in What’s Up Next In NYC Real Estate Legislation (behind a paywall). It reads in part,
New York City lawmakers have introduced a slew of new bills in recent months that could impact commercial real estate owners and developers with changes like new protections for rent-regulated tenants and more public review for zoning changes. Here are explanations and some experts’ thoughts about the proposed laws.
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Fighting Alleged Double Standards for Regulated and Market-Rate Tenants
City Council members Mark Levine and Corey Johnson are drafting a bill to combat what they claim is a trend of property owners unfairly discriminating against their rent-regulated tenants, preventing them from taking advantage of amenities that market-rate tenants can enjoy.
The issue gained a lot of attention last year when news broke that Extell Development Co.’s project at 40 Riverside Drive might have two separate entrances: one for owners of its condominiums and one for those living in the affordable units.
The “poor door” arrangement, which has reportedly been used at several buildings around the city, sparked outrage from tenants, who argued that developers were abusing the 421-a subsidy program, which gives tax abatements in exchange for affordable housing.
Levine and Johnson’s new bill would alter the city’s rental bias code, which protects tenants from discrimination based on race, gender or age, to include rent-regulated as a protected status.
Under de Blasio’s plan for mandatory inclusionary zoning at all new development projects, the bill appears to be an effort to establish actual integrated communities, said Brooklyn Law School professor David Reiss.
“Mandatory inclusionary zoning is not just about affordable housing; to a large extent it’s about socioeconomic integration,” Reiss said. “I think this bill about double standards is really not about protecting affordable housing as much as it is about respecting socioeconomic diversity.”
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Requiring Two Years of Experience for a Crane Operation License
In April, Manhattan Councilman Benjamin Kallos introduced a bill that would require crane operators to have at least two years of experience working in New York City in order to obtain licenses.
Industry insiders note that the licensing process is effectively controlled by a local union, and many are concerned that this new bill would give the union even more power, essentially blocking the use of any crane contractors that are not affiliated with it.
“There’s a spat between developers and unions, and the bill is firmly taking the side of the unions,” Reiss said. But he added that the real question is what is actually in the public interest. “What is the level of safety that we need?”
The Bloomberg administration had a more developer-friendly approach, creating a plan to allow operators to get licenses if they had worked in a similarly dense city before. But the crane operators’ union sued over those rules, and the litigation remains pending.