STATE OF THE UNIONS
As promised, the City Council overrode the mayor’s veto of Intro 730, a bill dubbed the HPD Transparency Act, by a unanimous vote. Speaker Christine Quinn defended the 46-0 override saying, “This piece of legislation, which is simple in many ways, it’s just transparency. It’s just the info. Why don’t we want to have the info behind our Department of Housing out there? Why don’t we want New Yorkers to have all the facts out there.”
The bill has been criticized for it’s wage reporting standards, which opponents say adds an onerous bureaucratic burden for small firms and MWBEs. Opponents of the bill argue that the supposed transparency of the bill would do little to ensure quality construction. Just knowing how much someone gets paid does not guarantee a better building, the ostensible reason for the bill. When asked about how the bill might still achieve this, the speaker stood by Intro 730.
On March 23, Wendell Walters plead guilty to two counts of racketeering and bribery. As the assistant commissioner for development at the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, he oversaw billions of dollars in city contracts to build and repair the city’s vast stock of private affordable housing. The projects only grew over the past decade as Mayor Bloomberg launched a program to create or rehabilitate some 165,000 units of affordable housing.
During that time, the kickbacks to Walters also grew, totaling some $2.5 million over the course of a decade involving at least 10 different affordable housing developers in the city. Some payments were made in coffee cups, others in thick envelopes stuffed into Walters’ golf bag as he and the builders took in a round of golf. Among the gifts received was a brownstone on 139th Street in Harlem, free renovations to the townhouse and a honeymoon in Greece.
When he was arrested last October, Walters was paraded in front of the Brooklyn Federal Court House. Like so many perps, he was caught by surprise and still wearing his morning clothes, a black fleece pullover and black sweatpants. Tall and handsome with a shaven head, the 49-year-old Walters looked shocked, embarrassed, dismayed.
So was Matthew Wambua.
John Catsimatidis sat down with The Real Deal to talk about just how great Downtown Brooklyn is (who knew?!) and while that topic dominates the discussion, the real estate rag couldn’t help but bring up next year’s mayoral elections. After all, the grocery store magnate and billionaire developer has been bandied about as a possible Republican candidate in the race to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg. While he may no longer be interested in that job, he’s not sure the woman widely considered the most-pro-business candidate in the pack of potential Bloomberg successors is ready for it either.
Much of the debate around the expansion of the Chelsea Market has centered around not the former Nasbisco factory turned popular shopping center (and subsequent tourist attraction), but the old railroad trestle next to it.
Part of the justification for expanding the market by 25 percent was that, in addition to providing construction jobs and new office space for the city’s booming tech sector, the developer of the project, Jamestown Properties, would pay about $19 million to the High Line, to help fund ongoing maintenance. But there was also great community outcry over the fact that much of the new addition would be built on the 10th Avenue side of Chelsea Market, directly overhanging the High Line.
Earlier today, the City Planning Commission unanimously approved the project’s expansion, and addressed a few of these concerns.
If 1967 was the summer of love, 2012 might go down in the history books as the summer of snark. Just last week, Cindy Adams paid tribute to the departed Helen Gurley Brown by calling her chintzy and cheap, kvetching in The New York Post that the Cosmo editor and lipstick feminist once made her go all the way downtown to introduce her at a function, only to send a thank-you gift in a brown paper bag. (The gift, by the way, was a stuffed frog. If there was a coded message there, Ms. Adams clearly missed it while swiping at Ms. Brown’s old Chanel suits.)
It Takes a Village
NYU’s controversial Greenwich Village expansion is set to go before the City Council tomorrow, where it will almost assuredly pass. Not giving up, NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan—its his plan, not theirs, they charge—have launched a new site targeted at all New Yorkers, an attempted rallying cry pitched in the middle of the Village.
Gettin' High Line
A proposed expansion of the Chelsea Market is as big as some of its neighbors. Does that make it acceptable?
Jamestown Properties wants to add an eight-story addition onto the western end of the former Nabisco factory, which already is seven stories tall and encircles the High Line. Jamestown argues it should be allowed to match its taller neighbors, sating demand for techie office space. Locals counter that to do so would rob the High Line of the light and air and views that help make it more than a glorified Midtown sidewalk.
Borough President Scott Stringer has decided to side with them, voting against Jamestown’s proposal to expand. Among the recommendations he made yesterday to the City Planning Commission is that the bulk of the project should be shifted to the Ninth Avenue section of the building, where Jamestown has already proposed adding a hotel above Buddakkan—another feature Mr. Stringer wants eliminated.
“We have a Shakespearean, Elizabethean temper,” Al Pacino informed a seated crowd Monday evening in Central Park. As part of its 50th Anniversary Gala, the Public Theater was honoring Mr. Pacino with an award, in the form of a prop rapier he had once wielded on stage, “I’m a little nervous,” he laughed. “I wish I had water, but I have a sword,”
Affordable Housing or Lack Thereof
“We’ve been doing it the same way since before we had email,” affordable housing developer Martin Dunn lamented, speaking to The Observer about the grueling process through which New Yorkers have historically had to apply for subsidized housing in the city.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn put it even more starkly in her 2011 State of the City address, when she called on the Bloomberg administration to find a way to digitize and streamline the process: “In a 21st century world—where you can do everything online—we still make people apply for housing using 18th century technology.”
Today is the day, as they say, and as of working hours, NYC Housing Connect should be live, the first one-stop shop for subsidized housing online.
Tenant vs. Landlord
Sunday morning in front of the Chelsea Hotel, a crowd of eccentrically-attired, artistic types milled about the sidewalk while a scrum of reporters and local politicians scrutinized a collection of photographs propped on easels.
A passerby stopped to gawk. “What is this, an art show?” she asked.