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NYC plan to convert obsolete office buildings into residential units would solve dual crisis — but City Council stands in the way

New measures are in the works to solve the metropolis’s housing and office crises — but they rely upon whether or not Mayor Eric Adams has what it takes to push them by way of the obstructionist City Council.

The housing-starved metropolis will want 473,000 new flats by 2032, in accordance to the Regional Plan Association, but solely 11,000 new ones had been constructed final yr – in contrast to 45,000 in 2022. At the identical time, office vacancies are at a report 20%, largely in older, undesirable buildings.

Transforming the obsolete office buildings into residential units has turn out to be the proposed elixir – particularly on the heels of Chicago’s highly-publicized plan to give landlords beneficiant subsidies to convert 4 vacant downtown buildings.  

NYC skyline
Office vacancies are at a report 20%, largely in older, undesirable buildings. Christopher Sadowski

However, piecemeal, location-specific packages like these in the Windy City gained’t make a dent in the Big Apple, a coverage skilled instructed The Post.

“It’s apples and watermelons,” the supply instructed The Post. “New York’s office market is more than twice as big as Chicago’s and has literally thousands of  buildings in trouble, not just a few.”

The greatest impediment to residential conversion in New York isn’t the price — a number of such initiatives costing greater than a half-billion {dollars} are ongoing  corresponding to at 25 Water St. —  but archaic zoning guidelines that severely restrict the areas and numbers of buildings eligible for conversion.

The present proposals would loosen present guidelines that forbid conversions of buildings constructed after 1961 or after 1971 in elements of Downtown Manhattan. New guidelines would enable conversions of buildings that went up as not too long ago as 1991 — making hundreds extra eligible.

The different change would develop the areas the place conversions are allowed in any respect — at the moment from Midtown and Downtown Manhattan and some different high-density areas corresponding to Long Island City, to almost 90% of the 5 boroughs.

The measures are at the moment beneath evaluations by borough presidents and group boards. The Council will probably vote on the proposed adjustments by the finish of the yr.

Urban planners  say such sweeping adjustments are wanted to promote wide-scale transformations of ineffective places of work to flats.

Mayor Eric Adams
Mayor Eric Adams faces a recalcitrant City Council that’s attempting to restrict his powers by requiring  approvals  over his mayoral appointments. Andrew Schwartz / SplashNews.com

The state not too long ago took a step towards relieving each the pressure on  the Big Apple’s office market and the shortage of latest houses by granting landlords  a 90% tax exemption to convert failing office towers to rental flats in the event that they make 25% of the units “affordable.”

SL Green CEO Marc Holliday, who plans to convert 750 Third Avenue, predicted that the so-called 467M program will generate 20 million to 40 million sq. ft in new residence creation.

City Planning Commissioner Daniel Garodnick stated the  rezoning proposals will liberate a whopping 136 million sq. ft of places of work — greater than 1 / 4 of the metropolis’s complete office inventory — for  conversion to houses.

“New York is taking on this challenge on a city-wide basis, throwing a lifeline to struggling office spaces in every borough, and enabling a variety of buildings to convert to new housing in the process. It’s a win-win,” Garodnick instructed The Post.

750 Third Ave.
SL Green CEO Marc Holliday, who plans to convert 750 Third Avenue (above), predicted that the so-called 467M program will generate 20 million to 40 million sq. ft in new residence creation. Robert Miller

Insiders stated it’s up to Adams to make it occur. 

“He needs to persuade the Council to approve it, if he has to horse-trade for future favors or send them pastrami sandwiches,” one insider joked.

Making conversions simpler might sound to be a no brainer. They’d require no outlay of taxpayer funds, no demolitions and no tenant evictions.

But Adams faces a recalcitrant City Council that’s attempting to restrict his powers by requiring approvals over his mayoral appointments.

Obstacles to conversion rule adjustments can come from the left and the proper.

Chicago skyline
Piecemeal, location-specific packages like these in the Windy City (above) gained’t make a dent in the Big Apple, a coverage skilled instructed The Post. Getty Images

Some “progressives” assist union arguments that residence conversions will price jobs in areas like the Garment District. Others don’t need to give builders any “favors” that don’t require “affordable” residence parts.

Opposition additionally comes from NIMBY-minded Council members who regard any neighborhood change as an assault on their constituents’ way of life — whether or not in Central Harlem or in Flushing or extra suburban elements of Queens.

“This will be a defining moment for Adams,” one political analyst stated. “He talks about  “City of Yes,” but his “Get Scaffolds Down” marketing campaign has but to make a dent  in the scaffold scourge and there are extra  unlawful pot retailers since his pledge to shut them down.”

“He really needs to step up on making apartment conversions easier.”

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