Election day was still in the future when some of New York’s top real estate developers gathered for the annual “We Are the Golden Apple” panel at NYU Schack’s Capital Markets in Real Estate conference last week.
But the panelists were ready to trust the polling numbers and assume that Bill de Blasio will become the next mayor of New York — and they said they were confident that de Blasio, expected to be a liberal mayor, would not stand in the way of development.
“I think we’ve been through 20 years of extraordinary activity… and now I think it’s de Blasio’s turn, if he’s elected, to continue to build on everything that’s happened so far and ensure that the general policies continue going forward,” said Larry Silverstein, of Silverstein Properties.
The economic activity generated by something like the 15,000 construction jobs that will be created if the remaining two towers of Silverstein’s World Trade Center properties go into construction is the kind of thing de Blasio will appreciate, the developer said.
“He’s a very knowledgeable person, highly intelligent. He’s been a terrific public advocate,” Silverstein said. “He’s familiar with the city. He understands what needs to be done to have the city move forward.”
Creating affordable housing is an important goal of the de Blasio campaign, which the panelists welcomed.
“I assume every mayor comes in on a platform of promoting the thing we need most, which is affordable housing,” said Marc Holliday, CEO of SL Green.
If de Blasio is elected, Holliday said, “I think you would have a mayor who’s proven himself relatively pro-development, at least in his council record.”
Voting on major rezonings and big projects, Holliday said, de Blasio has “a track record there of recognizing that this is a city about density.”
Bill Rudin, of Rudin Management, emphasized the strong position the city is in on the eve of the new administration, and also looked forward to de Blasio’s push for affordable housing.
“The public advocate has been very clear that he understands the economics, he understands that in order to achieve the right balance, increases in density — not everywhere but in certain locations — are going to be an important factor in solving this problem, which I think we all agree is a critical problem, of affordable housing,”
In an interview on election day, Heidi Learner, chief economist at Studley, said that tax policy was a big difference between de Blasio and his opponent, Joe Lhota. The Republican is in favor of phasing out the commercial rent tax charged to tenants south of 96th Street who pay rent in excess of $250,000.
“Right off the bat — eliminating that would be a form of relief for any tenant in the city and would preserve the status quo,” Learner said.
The economist added that Lhota has spoken at length about reforming general corporate tax. “It’s interesting, because most states have general corporate tax that taxes income or capital. New York City imposes corporate tax that essentially taxes income or business investment capital. The status there is that it’s an undue burden to startups or small business that have a lot of capital at stake.”
Holliday, on the Schack panel, referred to the tax burden on commercial real estate tenants and encouraged the potential Mayor de Blasio to look to residential real estate as a source of increased tax revenue.