New York’s most generous tax break may bite the dust
Hello. It’s Friday. We’ll look at the end of a costly housing subsidy that has shaped the city since the 1970s. We’ll also look at the inequities in parks and pools.
Since 1971, nearly every major residential real estate project in New York City has benefited from a grant known as 421a.
It’s the city’s most generous tax break, costing it $1.77 billion a year in lost tax revenue.
And in just over three weeks, it’ll likely go the way of Hobby Suits, Pet Stones, and the Ford Maverick.
The state legislature is unlikely to renew the grant before it expires on June 15. Worried builders have been racing to innovate on new projects to qualify for 421a before then, particularly in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood, which has been rezoned for large-scale residences. projects last year.
Governor Kathy Hochul pushed for a revised and renamed version of 421a, but she found no support in the Democratic-controlled Legislature. Lawmakers and real estate industry officials say there was reluctance to renew a lucrative tax break for the real estate industry ahead of the November election.
“A lot of people have very serious reservations about 421a as it’s currently constituted,” said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Democrat who represents parts of the Bronx, adding, “I just don’t think that we get what we pay for with the 421a”.
Developers were generally required to build below-market rents in exchange for tax breaks on market-priced apartments and condominiums. But critics of the provision say it amounted to a giveaway because developers kept the mix of low-income units as lean as possible.
“421a is a broken and absurdly expensive band-aid placed on top of New York’s broken property tax system,” said Brad Lander, the city comptroller who has pushed for an end to the tax break. “It’s good that it is not renewed.”
The impact of its expiry will not be felt for several years. Matthew Murphy, executive director of New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, said ongoing 421a rental projects will take time. After that, he predicted, developers will favor condominiums, which generate higher returns.
But ending 421a won’t make an expensive city more affordable.
“All it does is introduce a huge amount of uncertainty into development,” he said, “and exacerbate the long-term housing shortage.”
Expect a cloudy day, with temperatures reaching the 70s. There could be light rain in the morning. Showers are likely later, with overnight temperatures dropping into the mid-60s.
ALTERNATE SIDE PARKING
Suspended on Monday (Memorial Day).
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Swimming pools, parks and inequalities
Many of us will be thinking about hitting the beach or relaxing in the parks this Memorial Day weekend. But in aging cities like New York, summer doesn’t mean joy. The heat kills about 350 New Yorkers a year, and the risk is not shared equally. According to city data, black New Yorkers are more than twice as likely to die of heat as white residents. I asked my colleague Anne Barnard to talk about the inequalities that New Yorkers see every day without always realizing their impact.
Life unfolds again in public spaces as New York returns, somewhat in spurts, from the pandemic. Everyone is supposed to be able to enjoy parks, public swimming pools and libraries. But the facilities are not the same from one neighborhood to another, are they?
No. All last summer, New York Times reporters scoured the city to see how differences affect people’s lives. What we learned indicates who will suffer the most from the heat this summer.
Consider this: In Crotona Park East in the Bronx, 41% of residents live below the federal poverty line, 24% of households lack air conditioning, and few have cars to get to beaches or forests.
By contrast, in Carnegie Hill on the Upper East Side, one of the city’s wealthiest and whitest neighborhoods, 96% of households have air conditioning. And so many residents have the money and the ability to leave town in the summer that during the hottest weeks of last year, some streets felt empty. Central Park is nearby, but many of Carnegie Hill weren’t there to enjoy.
New York built large and elegant public swimming pools in the 1930s. They were symbols of civic pride and public investment. And now?
New York has less than one swimming pool per 100,000 people. That’s less than most U.S. cities, with more per capita in Manhattan and Staten Island, the wealthiest boroughs, according to the Trust for Public Land.
Black and Latino children struggle to access swimming lessons and drown at higher rates. And, in fact, many New York pools remain largely segregated.
Amid the tensions of the late 1960s, the city opened smaller pools in underserved black and Latino neighborhoods. But the restrictions imposed in response to the violence in swimming pools limit what people can carry beyond the change zones. Such rules created what Jesse Amaro, who lives in the Bronx, called “a prison yard mentality” when we spoke to her as she waited to step into the Crotona pool one afternoon the last summer.
Mark Focht, assistant commissioner of parks, said the city is working to improve pools in the hottest and most needy areas. Sixteen aging swimming pools across the city have been upgraded at a cost of nearly $5 million, he said, giving them “country club or resort vibe.
But it’s fair to say that the biggest pools are still a far cry from past glory.
Is the problem too little money?
Eric Adams, first as a candidate and more recently as mayor, said he would adjust park spending to a new base, 1% of the city budget. That would be about $1 billion, but his proposed budget only included about half that amount. His deputy press secretary, Charles Lutvak, said in an email that the budget represented “a down payment on his ‘percentage for parks’ promise” and that the full amount will be reached at some point while Adams is active.
I live in North Queens and I never drive in Manhattan if I can help myself. But one Sunday afternoon as I was sitting at home, I remembered that on my way home from work on Friday evening, I had parked in a plaza with Monday street cleaning from 9:30 to 11 a.m. and I had a 10 a.m. meeting in Manhattan on Monday.
I went out to try and find a place that didn’t require me to move the car the next day. After walking around several nearby blocks, I realized that the only spots available would require me to do so. Everything else was complete.
Accepting my fate, I found a possible space in front of my building. It was near a fire hydrant and actually big enough for two cars, but one was already parked there in a way that barely left room for mine.
Nevertheless, I stopped and had started to back up when I realized the driver was in the car that was there. I got out of my car and approached him.
“Are you going to stay here until tomorrow morning?” I said. “I want to back up against you so I don’t get in the fire hydrant area.”
“What time do we have to move tomorrow?” He asked
“9:30,” I said, “but I’ll be gone long before.”
“No problem,” he said. “Dark.”
I jumped in my car and backed up to less than 6 inches from his bumper. As I got out of the car, he called me.
He was holding a long, thin bundle in a white bread bag.
“Take this!” he said.
“What is that?” I asked
“One baguette. I have two! That’s cool.”
” It was you who did it ?
“Yes, enjoy it.”
“Wow! Thanks, I will.”
I turned around and walked into my building, trying to decide what to have with my cool baguette.
— G. Victor Paulson
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Submit your submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we can meet here. —JB
PS Here is today’s one Mini-crosswords and spelling bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Emma GrillonDavid Moll and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected]
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