LOIS WEISS: Four More Years Of De Blasio? Really?
Are building owners and property tax payers ready for four more years of being beaten up by Mayor Bill de Blasio as he tries to play the savior of unions and affordable rental housing on a national stage at the expense of maintaining order in the city?
The current mayor never skips an opportunity to demean the wealthy, including co-op and condo owners, all businesses and, of course, “unscrupulous landlords,” all while encouraging more taxes on the wealthy to help the poor, more rules and fines on businesses and, as I’ve written previously, he takes great delight in punishing all “landlords" for the actions of a few.
“Treat working people with decency and dignity or suffer the consequences if you don’t,” he said.
“The consequences” are the threats he makes against anyone who stands in his way; like the building owners as he casts them as the terrible Goliath against honorable David tenants.
“We’ve all seen plenty of times when someone had all the money, someone had all the power, and it was David and Goliath,” he said, while signing a bill that has the city paying for attorneys to fight tenant evictions. "And good people lost because they just didn’t have the opportunity to defend themselves. But now we’re creating fairness. We’re creating actual equality."
Wouldn’t it also be fair if tenants actually paid their rent and small building owners didn’t also have to pay their attorneys to simply collect the rent they are due, and not have to give up months of back rent because judges don’t want to make anyone homeless?
“[It’s] something people have dreamed of for years: that we could actually stop evictions en masse if there was legal representation provided by the city,” he declared, making it sound as if hundreds of people are being rounded up and tossed onto the street every day.
Yet there are hundreds now living on the street and tens of thousands more in shelters. But he has unilaterally changed the rules and placed the homeless ahead of those in the legally mandated lottery for “affordable” apartments in some new apartment towers.
While the mayor also admits the city has a homeless and panhandling problem — so far, 700 people have been taken off the streets — he appears to be willing to allow it to go on forever.
“Someone who is homeless, someone who may have a mental health issue, for example, we’re going to keep working with them for months or even years, if that’s what it takes to get them off the streets,” he said.
Does that mean another vote for de Blasio means four more years of homeless and panhandling in the streets? It confounds residents who are tortured by those hurling insults and bodily fluids; it scares tourists and drives businesses away or to “new” neighborhoods.
Already, I’ve seen plenty of homeless on the benches of Hudson Yards, especially near the new bathroom. Squeegee men are also back and hitting up drivers on East 42nd Street. It's déjà vu all over again.
Safety concerns during the construction of buildings has also resulted in a union-backed bill to mandate safety training. What was originally proposed as 90 hours of mandatory safety training was pared down to 40.
“Brothers and sisters, I want to say to you on behalf of 8.5 million New Yorkers, New York City is a union town,” the mayor declared at a union rally.
Along with an insufficient number of teachers, the real estate and construction industries are worried the cost of the training will be a deterrent to immigrants — the very people who are not usually in unions, but start out on small nonunion jobs. Those accepted into coveted union apprenticeships already receive the training.
Still, just last week, two such workers lost their lives in falls — one union and one not — and another was injured at two separate jobs. Those are still under investigation.
The mayor’s love of the unions extended what was supposed to be a two-year moratorium on converting more than 20% of a hotel with 150 rooms or more to residences or other uses. It was renewed in June for two more years.
That’s not a moratorium, but a continued taking of someone’s property. Think about that: There are hotels that are dying because of new competition, but can’t switch to residential. Didn’t the mayor say he needed more housing?
The mayor also believes social justice is linked with climate change, saying he is proud of his environmental plan “because it recognizes and focuses on the fact that we have to fight climate change while fighting all forms of inequality simultaneously. They go together.” Huh?
He did go on to try to explain that head-scratcher: “When we think about retrofitting buildings, when we think about recycling, when we think about renewable energy, when we think about restoring wetlands, all of that comes with job creation that we want to target to people in our city who have been economically marginalized. We think addressing climate change and addressing economic inequality can go hand-in-hand.”
So, if you retrofit buildings, or collect food waste for compost, this somehow creates jobs for the “economically marginalized,” as opposed to those who own or work in those businesses already?
Yes, the mayor has fought for affordable housing, which is desperately needed, but is also doing it through mandates that have so far not stimulated the thousands more building permits that are needed. Still he brags, “We have the most progressive affordable housing law in the country now.”
But if a million more people are projected to need housing — and estimates peg it close to that number — and command a bare minimum of 200 SF for each, that’s still 200M SF that must get built somewhere, and no one wants buildings taller or built in their backyard.
This is leading to attempts like the current proposal that would spot zone parts of the Sutton East neighborhood to reduce the height of any new towers to be lower than the ones already there. That would also mean some of those there now could not be replaced at their current height.
The mayor does admit the roads are more congested, infrastructure is aging and the subways are more crowded. Thus, he is proposing a “millionaire’s tax" to fund MTA repairs and subsidize fares for the poor.
“I think those who have done really well, the 1%, the folks who make half a million or more, married couples [who] make a million or more, can pay a little bit more so that the subway can work for everyone,” he said of his desire for the new tax.
The mayor gets his digs in against the real estate industry whenever he can. At the celebration for Harlem Week, de Blasio quipped, “Please tell the real estate brokers that we don’t need a new name for Harlem. The name, Harlem, is plenty legendary enough.”
At that event, de Blasio also thanked someone who has consistently skipped out on his own tax bills.
“I was just talking to Rev. Sharpton about the extraordinary work he is doing all over this nation,” de Blasio said.
The mayor believes he is creating a great legacy as he molds New York City into his own image.
“We obviously have to do things very differently," he said. "We have to change the way we live. We have to change the way we govern. We have to change what we invest. I always remind people, here in New York City, we have values we stand by. We are a city for everyone. We respect everyone."
Sure, unless you are wealthy, own a business, own your apartment or own property. Remember, Election Day is just a month away.
Lois Weiss is a Bisnow featured columnist as well as a real estate reporter for the New York Post. She has covered New York City real estate for more than two decades and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.