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After Biden Win, NYC CRE Sets Sights On Stimulus, Gateway Funding

New York City was awash with impromptu street parties Saturday after news of Joe Biden’s presidential victory, and many in real estate issued a sigh of relief for one main reason: Much-needed federal funding could soon be on its way.

Crowds gathered at Columbus Circle to mark Joe Biden's win.

“Had Trump won, I think New York would have been in deep trouble, this is a big relief, frankly,” GFP Real Estate Chairman Jeffrey Gural said. Gural was formerly the head of brokerage Newmark. 

“New York City is basically bankrupt, and the only way out is for the federal government — which prints money — to step in to help the states and local governments survive until things get back to normal," he said. "The reality is Donald Trump hates New York because we didn’t vote for him.”

While Trump has so far refused to concede the race, many are expecting President-elect Biden will direct funding to the city in ways the Trump administration did not, as well as soothe a tense nation and more effectively tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Specifically, city real estate is zeroing in on help for the Gateway Program — a major revamp of the Northeast rail corridor, including the Hudson River Tunnel, an elderly rail link that runs beneath the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey. They also want a cash injection for the ailing Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the all-important subway system and the Long Island Railroad.

On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the Biden win was a “turning point” and he expects federal funding to be on its way soon.

“That stimulus that will put us on our feet. A stimulus big enough and focused enough to help New York City and New York state get moving,” he said.

Last week, the mayor said he expected the funding would be comparable to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal, which created many federal agencies and helped rescue the country from the Great Depression. Right now, the city government is preparing itself for a $13.5B shortfall through 2022.

Jill Biden, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Douglas Emhoff celebrating Biden's presumptive win of the 2020 presidential election.

“Any relief plan must include direct funding to both the City and State of New York, as well as the Port Authority and MTA,” New York Building Congress President and CEO Carlo Scissura said in a statement Saturday shortly after the race was called. “It has been proven that infrastructure investment in times of crisis can uplift our nation, and now as much as ever before, our country needs a significant federal infrastructure stimulus plan — one that includes funding for the most important infrastructure project in America, the Gateway Program.”

That program has been held up for years because of a federal funding shortage. 

Real Estate Board of New York President James Whelan issued a statement Monday, congratulating Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and stressing the need for a new infrastructure plan and immediate funding.

“Millions of New Yorkers are still in dire need of a new stimulus package that delivers comprehensive rent subsidies along with unemployment support and additional state and local aid,” Whelan said. “Washington must address this crisis and act quickly to address its unprecedented economic impacts. Just as we look forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration to implement any new stimulus plan passed by Congress, we also look forward to working with their Administration to advance policies — including a new infrastructure plan — that will create good jobs, produce more housing and get our economy back on track.”

Bisnow reached out to major city landlords and developers including Brookfield, Vornado, Rudin and SL Green, all of whom declined to comment. Representatives from Durst Organization and RXR Realty didn't respond to a request for comment.

Celebrations near Trump International in Manhattan

Gural said keeping service cuts at bay and maintaining a reasonable quality of life for the city is paramount to the real estate industry's survival.

“We’ve been devastated, much more than other cities. I have talked to tenants of mine who are national, I ask them what is happening throughout the country, they all say it is rebounding everywhere but New York City,” he said, adding he expects Biden to be able to work effectively with Congress. 

“If services decline, if you don’t have enough police, fire, hospitals and schools, people won’t want to live here and have their offices here," he added. "No one in their right mind wants to be in a city that's not safe." 

While attention shifted to a gripping election in recent days, coronavirus cases continued to surge across the country. On Monday, Biden stressed the importance of wearing masks to Americans, after he met with his virus advisory board.

He did so even after encouraging news that Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine was 90% effective in early trials, which buoyed investment markets. The stocks of publicly traded New York landlords like Vornado, SL Green and Empire State Realty Trust spiked after the news.

“You can see today a more thoughtful, scientific approach to COVID and utilizing the federal government to act as the quarterback where appropriate to help [the] city and states,” Fisher Brothers partner Winston Fisher said.

His company owns 7M SF of office space in the city and condominium developments 225 East 39th St. and 111 Murray. 

“[We need to get] people back to work safely and have them feel secure, especially in New York City," Fisher said. "The biggest impediments to New York recovery is public transport ... so the more we can institute strong policies that make people feel safe, the better for New York.”

Like most, he is expecting a Biden funding package to help the city immensely and is focused on Gateway and MTA funding.

“I was hoping Trump would focus on infrastructure and building America ... He never made it a legislative priority, which was very disappointing,” he said. “I was hoping he’d be a different president, but he wasn’t.”