Mayor Adams on Monday renewed his push to convert office space into apartments by pressing Gov. Hochul and state legislators to loosen restrictions around such conversions. He also asked them to adopt a revamped tax break that until recently was used as an incentive to build affordable and market-rate housing.
Adams shared his thoughts on the matter during a tour of 160 Water St., a Financial District office building now in the process of being converted to market-rate apartments.
“The bottom line is that we need to make it easier to convert office buildings, like the one we just visited, into housing for New Yorkers,” Adams said, wearing a helmet. “We need to see how we have a different approach to this.”
The push for more residential space comes as the city struggles to address housing shortages, a high demand for affordable housing and office space that has fallen vacant as more and more people work from home.
The governor and mayor are generally sympathetic on the subject of conversions.
In December, the two announced plans to dramatically increase the city’s and state’s housing inventory over the next decade. They agree that conversions are one way to go and would like to see a new version of the 421-a tax break for developers to incentivize new units.
But enacting those policies will require buy-in from state legislators, many of whom are they oppose 421-a or similar tax breaks because they see it as a big bribe to already wealthy developers financed through taxpayer money.
Annually, the tax break has taken about $1.77 billion in tax revenue from the city.
Assemblyman Kenny Burgos (D-Bronx) said he is open to easing conversion requirements and a revised tax break, but said tax break revisions should include a provision for more affordable housing.
Adams took on opponents of 421-a on Monday, saying the break is “not a freebie” but “an incentive to get more affordable housing units.”
“Without it, we simply won’t be able to build affordable housing at the rate we need to,” he said.
Adams’ visit to the construction site Monday came as Albany lawmakers were deep in budget negotiations with Hochul and his team. During last year’s budget negotiations, the Governor included a revised version of tax relief 421-a, calling it 485-wbut lawmakers ultimately rejected that provision of their budget proposal.
This year, Hochul is negotiating with state lawmakers before submitting another revised tax break.
The existing 421-a tax relief has already expired. Hochul’s current budget proposal includes an extension of that program for projects already underway. But the budget does not include a prospective version of the program.
More than a year into his term, Adams, a former state senator, has a mixed record in Albany. He has bristled at coverage about his failed attempt to further change the state’s bail laws last year and is quick to point out that he won victories in Albany as mayor, including his bid to expand the earned income tax credit. among city residents.
On Monday, she was a bit more upbeat about this year’s state budget process, saying her team is engaging in “very fruitful and healthy conversations” in Albany to implement their goals.
“I have to say that both houses…understand the urgency of the moment, that we need more housing, and the only way we can have more housing is by building more housing,” he said. “We are excited about the possibilities of what will come out of Albany.”
But Burgos said Hochul’s team seemed much more proactive in talks about a tax break last year, and that this year’s talks seemed “a little loose.”
Spokesmen for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) did not immediately return calls.
The governor “looks forward to working with the legislature on a final budget that meets the needs of all New Yorkers,” Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays said.
When asked about the status of a revised 421-a program, Crampton-Hays referred to Hochul’s State of the State address, in which he said that without a program like 421-a, developers will “just build condos or they will build elsewhere, which is not the outcome we need.
Reaching an agreement to convert office space to residential is likely to be easier in Albany. The building that Adams and her staff toured Monday is eligible for such a conversion under current state law, but many other buildings are not.
Current law outlines restrictions depending on where the building is located and when it was built. Relaxing those rules would allow for more conversions.
“We are also seeking authority for a tax break that allows for the possibility of affordable and affordable units any time there is a conversion,” said Maria Torres-Springer, Adams Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development. “Those are the two things that have to work hand in hand.”