By Ralph Esposito and Carlo A. Scissura
New York City is facing a critical moment in its history, and the eyes of the world are closely watching our next move. As we enter the third year of a global pandemic that has caused so much pain and loss, we understand our strategy must address not only the short-term needs of the greatest city in the world but must also have a lasting impact. Today, our decisions about the future count more than ever.
It was not long ago—two years ago during the height of the pandemic, to be exact—when naysayers throughout the world declared the death of New York City as we knew it. But in typical New York style, we dug in our heels and met these new challenges head on. We joined together as New Yorkers and began work to rebuild a city that is arguably stronger, more resilient and more equitable than it ever has been before. Only in New York could we complete one of the tallest buildings in the skyline, create more opportunities for affordable housing by updating the antiquated zoning, and begin staging one of the state’s first offshore wind projects – all in the midst of a devastating global pandemic and economic recession. We must continue this strong momentum today as we continue our journey toward tomorrow.
Our leaders, both public and private, must join together and advance a robust, comprehensive infrastructure spending plan that will unlock critical infrastructure and public works projects that will serve future generations of New Yorkers.
The New York Building Congress is already providing the necessary leadership and strategic guidance to make this vision a reality by prioritizing a 2022 Policy Agenda that is arguably our most ambitious ever.
Support building efficiency standards: We understand the role buildings play in climate change at a local level. Groundbreaking legislation such as Local Laws 97 and 154 will tighten building efficiency standards and ban gas hookups in new construction projects, and New York State is doing its part to deliver green energy to New York that is generated in Canada and off our shores. The New York Building Congress stands ready to pave the way and do the work necessary to meet these important mandates that will embolden our future. The effects of climate change also disproportionately impact communities of color and low-income New Yorkers. Extreme weather has become more severe, increasingly causing extensive infrastructure damage throughout the region, exposing weak spots in our systems, and putting vulnerable communities at risk. To combat this inequity, we will bring together industry leaders and elected officials to prioritize initiatives such as the Lower Manhattan and East Side Coastal Resiliency projects and the $4 billion Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act.
Prioritize affordable housing: New York’s housing and affordability crises put the city’s long-term health at greater risk. Both the 421a tax abatement and Brownfield Cleanup Program are set to expire this year, which means two vital tools to aid the construction of affordable housing will suddenly stop. Moving forward, New York must target rezoning initiatives in high-opportunity neighborhoods, develop new housing for all income levels, convert underused commercial spaces to residential uses, increase homeownership opportunities, and provide stable homes to those experiencing homelessness. The New York Building Congress will support these important measures.
Gateway Program: We must ensure our workforce can commute from newly-constructed housing to their workplaces on safe, reliable transit. The Gateway Program’s construction will soon be in full swing, so it is crucial that our infrastructure handle the thousands of additional riders pouring in and out of our city every day. That’s why the City and State must work as one to prioritize the reconstruction of Penn Station and create a transit hub worthy of its name.
Overcoming crises during times of great disruption is never easy. But this is who we are as New Yorkers and what we do. We will push forward. We will find solutions to improve the real estate and construction landscape to bolster the built world and strengthen the industries that depend on us to build their life sciences, healthcare, education, technology, transportation, commercial, residential and retail buildings. We are ready. Let us get to work.
Esposito is the Chair of the New York Building Congress and President of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic at Suffolk. Scissura is President and CEO of the New York Building Congress.