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Empty commercial space to become homes under CUOMO recovery plan

New York’s real estate leaders have applauded Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plans to rebuild the economy after COVID, which includes converting surplus commercial space into housing.

 “Governor Cuomo has laid out a clear path forward for defeating COVID-19, rebuilding New York’s economy and advancing an equitable recovery for all,” said James Whlena, president of the Real Estate Board of New York following Cuomo’s 2021 State of the State address this morning.

“The Governor and his administration have already laid the right foundation for this effort by smartly expediting COVID-19 vaccinations and taking crucial new steps to implement rapid testing resources for millions of New Yorkers.


“We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo and stakeholders across the spectrum to continue driving New York’s recovery forward and ensuring that our state emerges from this generational crisis even stronger.”

The governor called the pandemic “a historic opportunity to transform society” and set out a plan that includes converting empty office, retail, restaurant and hotel space into affordable housing.

“The housing problem in our cities has gotten worse,” said Cuomo. “But the crisis of growing vacancies in our commercial property provides an opportunity. We should convert vacant commercial space to supportive and affordable housing and we should do it now.”

He also vowed to protect property owners and tenants, saying, “We have thousands of tenants and owners who lost their jobs and livelihoods through no fault of their own. We will not leave them behind. We will provide them the resources they need for rent and mortgage relief to keep New Yorkers in their homes.”

Cuomo said homeowners and tenants shouldn’t have penalties and late charges on past rent or mortgage payments and small businesses should be protected from eviction.

Cuomo wants to join the 15 US states which have already legalized adult-use recreational cannabis.

His multi-point plan to rebuild the economy also included legalizing adult-use cannabis and online sports betting tax to help plug a $15 billion State deficit.

According to the Governor, even raising taxes to the highest in the nation on all income over $1 million, would only raise $1.5 billion. Along with postponing a tax cut for the middle class would save $500 million; freezing labor contracts for public employees would save $1 billion and cutting school fund 20 percent e would save $5.2 billion.

“Even after all of that pain, we would still need billions in cuts to healthcare in the middle of a pandemic and we would need to borrow billions at the cost of future generations,” said the Governor. “It would be devastating to all New Yorkers.  

“Our Federal representatives must deliver fairness for New York – and do it quickly. Our budget is due April 1. New York will do its part. We will legalize adult use recreational cannabis… we propose state sponsored mobile sports betting. We are a fiscally responsible state, we only ask for an equitable partnership from Washington.”

The Governor said the state will launch the “most aggressive construction and transportation development program in the country,” in an effort to jump start the economy with new air, road and rail systems; expand broadband infrastructure and “launch the most aggressive green economy program in the country.”

“This is another once-in-a-generation opportunity,” said the Governor. “ America must seize this moment of international transformation.  Some countries will succeed and some will fail. Some regions will rise and some will fall.  This is a moment made for New Yorkers.

“There are moments in life that can change a person fundamentally – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Likewise, there are episodes in history that transform society and COVID is one of those moments. New York sees the moment for the crisis it is but also the opportunity it presents.”

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