This week New York Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a plan for a post-pandemic New York that aims to turn the city’s sleepy commercial areas into 24-hour neighborhoods, among other initiatives.
Titled “New New York: Making New York Work For Everyone” the action plan is the culmination of six months of work from the New New York panel, a commission launched by the Governor and Mayor, earlier this year, led by former deputy mayors Robin Hood CEO Richard Buery and former Sidewalk Labs CEO Daniel Doctoroff. The plan comprises a set of 40 recommendations that could be enacted by the city and state together through legislation, policy mandates, and a rejiggering of finances, among other means, with ideas on how to shorten commutes, add housing, build up the workforce, and improve economic mobility.
With few details around project timelines or funding, the report seems mostly to signify city and state leadership’s willingness to work together. This collaboration is a marked departure from the fraught relationship between former Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Governor Andrew Cuomo, who sparred publicly over issues big and small.
In the coming year, the state and city want to break down regulatory barriers that prevent office-to-residential conversions to address a dire housing shortage and to enliven neighborhoods that go dark after 5 p.m. Citywide, office vacancies have almost doubled since 2019. In the main business districts of Midtown and Lower Manhattan, restaurant and bar sales are down around 35 percent and foot traffic is around 80 percent of what it was prior to the pandemic.
While city rules allow the conversion of older (pre-1977) Financial District offices into housing, the same types of buildings in Midtown have to be built before 1961 to qualify for conversion. These rules, plus the massive shift to remote work, have contributed to the district’s emptiness. To affect these changes, the report says city leaders will push for a zoning amendment and collaborate with state lawmakers to change rules that hinder conversions. The report also noted that while there are tax incentives for new-build mixed-income housing, there aren’t tax incentives for mixed-income residential conversions, a discrepancy that it suggested addressing.
“Thanks to an extraordinary partnership with Mayor Adams and the New New York Panel, this report is providing the road map toward a stronger, fairer, and more accessible New York,” Governor Hochul said in a press release. “We are no longer living in the same New York as we were at the beginning of the pandemic, and these proposals will help to revitalize our business districts, ease New Yorkers’ commutes, promote equity and tackle our 800,000-unit housing shortage. These are the types of bold, ambitious ideas we need right now, and my administration looks forward to closely reviewing the panel’s recommendations in the coming weeks to determine how we continue to make New York an even better place to live.”
In other local news last week Mayor Adams announced another ambitious plan to build 500,000 apartments across the city. “Get Stuff Built” responds to the city’s dire housing shortage and hopes to reach its lofty construction goal over the next decade.