May 5, 2014
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well this is a very big day for New York City. And it is a beautiful day on top of that to celebrate what’s going to be something that changes the lives of all New Yorkers for the better. Let me first acknowledge some of the people who’ve joined us today and thank them. I want to start with thanking our Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who really has spearheaded this effort. And it’s her focus and her drive and her energy and her vision that have brought us to this day. So I want to deeply thank Deputy Mayor Glen. Our City Planning Chair Carl Weisbrod, our HPD Commissioner Vicki Been, our NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye, NYC Economic Development Corporation President Kyle Kimball, and the Housing Development Corporation President Gary Rodney – all of them have been crucial players in this intense effort over the last four months to put together this plan. And they and their staffs have done an absolutely extraordinary job.
I asked them to put together something that had never been done before in New York City. I told them it was essential to the future of our city, to protecting this as a city for everyone, to make sure this would be an affordable city in the future, to address the crisis in equality. I told them this had to be done on a scale never seen before. And they only had four months to put together this extraordinary plan, and they have done it with incredible skill, incredible passion, and you’re going to see it in the final result. So a profound thank you to all of the administration members who work so hard to bring us to this day. Let’s give them all a round of applause.
We have a lot of friends with us today celebrating this moment – David Picket, the president, and Joel Picket, the chairman and CEO of Gotham Organization that’s building this wonderful development here; Jerilyn Perin, the executive director of the Citizens Housing Planning Council; Hector Figueroa, the executive director of SEIU 32BJ; Gary LaBarbara, president of the Building and Construction Trades. And a number of other community and labor leaders have joined us today. I also want to thank our elected official colleagues who are here in support of this important development – Tish James, our public advocate; Eric Adams, our Brooklyn Borough President; Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez; and Assembly Member Walter Mosley. And we may be joined by others as we go along.
So let’s talk about this plan. This plan, over the next 10 years, will create opportunity for so many people who are currently being priced out of our city. It will create affordability in the midst of what has been the greatest affordability crisis the city has ever experienced. It will be a central pillar in the battle against inequality. This plan took a lot of effort, and it will take a lot more effort to implement it. But when we do, it will change the face of this city forever, and for the good of our people.
Now, it’s important to put this in perspective. This is literally the largest and most ambitious affordable housing program initiated by any city in this country in the history of the United States of America. It is the largest, fastest affordable housing plan ever attempted at the local level.
Yes, it is ambitious. We’re proud that it’s ambitious. Yes, it will take everything we’ve got, but that’s what’s needed to address an affordability crisis that we’ve never seen the likes of before.
Wherever I go all over this city, people talk to me about being priced out of their neighborhoods. They talk about that sense that the New York City they’ve known and loved may be slipping away. The city that was, for generations, a place for everyone, may be starting to change. It may no longer be a place for working people and people of every background from every part of the country, every part of the world. It may no longer be a place where people, generation after generation, can live in the neighborhood they love.
We understand that crying need. I’ve heard it from my fellow New Yorkers so many times, so urgently, so passionately. And so we said clearly from the beginning, we’re going to address this on the biggest scale possible. It is the biggest affordable housing program ever put underway because that’s what’s needed for this time. It is faster and more ambitious than anything we’ve seen before because the crisis is greater than anything we’ve seen before. And we’re going to use every tool of this city government, in ways more aggressive than ever attempted in the past, to protect the interests of our people and make sure that every kind of person can live in New York City.
When I talk about the size of this plan, the speed of this plan – to build and preserve 200,000 units over 10 years – that’s a pace never before seen in the history of New York City. And the total impact of this plan – when you include the public financing and the private investment it will leverage – the total impact of this plan will be $41 billion, $41 billion of attack on the problem of affordable housing.
We know that if we’re going to address inequality – particularly if we’re going to address income inequality – we have to both find every way possible to increase wages and benefits for the people of this city. But we also have to go straight at the biggest expense every New Yorker faces. And when you talk to people in other parts of the country about what we think is a normal percent of our income to pay for rent or to pay for housing, people’s eyes open wide and they’re shocked at what we have to deal with every day in this city. And because it is overwhelmingly the biggest expense each family faces, if we’re going to address income inequality it’s not just about increasing wages and benefits, it’s also about going at the number one expense in people’s lives, and doing it aggressively.
We know this plan will change the lives of so many New Yorkers for the better – 200,000 units translates into housing for at least a half million people. Let’s put that in perspective. A half million people, more than the entire population of Kansas City, Missouri, more than the entire population of Atlanta, Georgia, more than the entire population of Miami, Florida. That much housing will be created in the next 10 years through this plan, for New Yorkers.
And we know that we can’t wait. We know it’s the time to be bold. Because people’s lives are being affected right now by this affordability crisis. We didn’t want to take the easy way out. We didn’t want to take the slower path. We wanted to challenge ourselves to do something that had never been done before because our people need it.
For the half million New Yorkers who benefit, they won’t be paying 50 percent or more of their income in rent as so many of our fellow citizens do right now. They won’t be living doubled up with family or friends, as is the norm for so many New Yorkers. They won’t be living in homeless shelters. And yes, this affordable housing program will be one of the tools we use to reduce the number of people in shelters. People will have homes they can actually afford. And for those families, it will be life-changing.
Remember a home means so much to people. It’s not just a roof over your head, it’s a foundation for everything you do in your life. It’s a place where young adults put down their roots and start their families, dream their dreams. It’s a place where mothers and fathers help their kids with homework at the kitchen table, where they read their children to sleep. It’s a place where our seniors feel safe and secure. It’s the most fundamental part of our lives. And we want the people of this city to have that security – that economic security, that personal security – of a home that they can afford.
Maya Angelou wrote in her memoir, “All god’s children need traveling shoes,” ‘The ache for home lives in all of us.’ In a just society, in a progressive society, in a progressive city, everyone should have the opportunity for quality affordable housing. And that’s what this plan sets out to achieve.
It’s a housing plan, yes, but it’s also fundamentally a plan to reduce income inequality. You know, we all noted once again, signs keep coming in over and over again. We saw a study that once again confirms that 46 percent of our fellow New Yorkers are living at or near the poverty level. We saw a study reported just last week that although this is still the richest country in the world, our middle class and our lower income fellow Americans are falling behind other countries more and more. An ever-growing portion of wealth going to the very top, more and more everyday people falling behind.
We’ve said from the beginning we have to fight income inequality with everything we’ve got. And that means efforts to improve wages and benefits like paid sick leave. That means efforts to help families with fewer burdens in their life, like pre-K and after-school and to create a future for our young people where they can compete economically by giving them a better education.
All of these efforts connect directly to this affordable housing plan. We’re trying to improve people’s lives and lighten their burdens in so many ways. And again, going after the number one expense that they face.
This plan is different from previous affordable housing plans, not just because it is the largest ever initiated in the history of this city, but also because we’re doing things in many other ways differently. The time frame is the fastest ever. The approach we’re taking to the real estate community is different. And there are a lot of members of the real estate community here, and I look forward to working closely with them, as do the members of our administration.
You know, I think we’ve been straightforward in saying, we’re going to drive a hard bargain. We’re going to get everything we can for the public. And we know that that can work for everyone in the end, because making sure there’s the maximum affordable housing is in the interest of all New Yorkers. We saw this at the Domino Sugar site. We took that plan and made it better. More affordable housing for the people of the community, more units for people at the lower end of the income scale. And you’re going to see more of that in this plan.
Compared to the previous administration’s approach, there will be a four-fold increase in the number of units devoted to the most low-income New Yorkers. At the same time, there will be a heavy emphasis on creating more units for middle-income New Yorkers who are also struggling to make ends meet. And there will be a huge employment impact via this plan. Our estimate is that over the course of the 10 years, 194,000 construction jobs will be created, and nearly 7,200 permanent jobs. So this plan also plays an important role in our efforts to create more jobs and better jobs for New Yorkers.
Now, the plan is the first step. It took a lot of work to get to this launching pad. And everyone involved deserves tremendous credit. But we know always in life, plans in some ways are the easiest part. The tough part is the implementation. And we’re going to approach that with the same urgency. Because our people need affordable housing now. You’re going to see an intensive effort over the course of these coming years, driving every day to create one more unit, to preserve one more unit. Every additional unit that we make affordable, every additional unit that we build, means one more family that finally has economic stability, that finally has a brighter future. That’s how we look at it. There’s going to be an urgency about adding one more and one more and one more again on the way to our goal.
And that urgency has been shown before in our history to great effect. The man who I undoubtedly believe was the greatest mayor this city ever knew, Fiorello LaGuardia, came into office in the midst of the Great Depression. He wanted to find a way to address the horrible housing conditions that so many thousands of New Yorkers faced – crumbling tenements. It was in the middle of a huge economic crisis. He could have thrown up his hands, he could have said we have to wait. Instead he moved forward with tremendous urgency. And within a month of taking office in 1934, he established the New York City Housing Authority. He created something that had never existed before. And he pushed immediately to get the federal government to join New York City in this endeavor. To create a new model for protecting the needs of the people and creating affordable housing in a way that had never been seen in this country before. He innovated. He pushed. He demanded. And little by little, it came to pass and it created a model that fundamentally changed the future of this city for the better and was emulated all over the country. LaGuardia was known for his passion and his urgency. He had no patience for delays, particularly in Washington. He said at the time, ‘We have had nothing but conferences. The thing to do is get architects and engineers and start building houses.’
I couldn’t agree more with Mayor LaGuardia’s sense of urgency. The time for talking about the lack of affordable housing is over. The time is now to get the architects and the engineers to build more affordable homes and preserve more affordable units. And this begins today.
I want you to hear from some of our colleagues who have joined us, who will be crucial partners in this effort. But first a moment in Español.
[Mayor delivers remarks in Spanish]
With that I’d like to introduce a colleague of mine who, for many years, has stood up for working families who needed affordable housing. She has sounded the alarm before, and I know she’ll be a crucial partner as we achieve this plan, Public Advocate Tish James.
Public Advocate Letitia James: Thank you. First I want to thank the mayor of the City of New York, Mayor de Blasio. It should not be lost on any of you that we are holding this press conference in Fort Greene, my former City Council district. A district where we have seen nothing but luxury development. At this particular site, I want to thank Mr. Picket for developing a project where 50 percent of the units will be affordable. It’s that type of project that we should build in the City of New York for individuals who are constantly being priced out of their neighborhood.
This morning as I had breakfast in a local diner not too far from here, the waitress said, ‘Tish, unfortunately I’m going to have to move from Fort Greene because I no longer can afford it.’ I then went over to BAM by mistake and one of the guards at BAM said, ‘Please, tell the mayor of the City of New York that we really need to build more affordable housing. I no longer can afford to live in Downtown Brooklyn.’
This I – I’ve sounded the alarm previously, and I am so happy and glad that the mayor of the City of New York has answered. He’s answered the needs of countless number of low-income individuals, moderate income individuals, who are being priced out of their neighborhoods. And a consistent number of individuals who unfortunately are seeing their homes being destabilized in the City of New York. And too many New Yorkers have to pay 50 percent of their income on rent. It’s now time that we focused on the needs of working people in the City of New York. And that we build it union and that we provide good jobs to preserve the middle class in the City of New York. I applaud the mayor, I applaud his team, and I’m so glad that we are focusing on the needs of those who historically have been left out of the previous administration. I thank you Mr. Mayor, and I applaud you today.
Mayor: I’d like to thank some friends who have joined us, who really all of them have played a crucial role in recent years in pushing for more affordable housing and representing the interests of people who have been left out and who need this help. First Jonathan Westin of New York Communities for Change; Judith Goldiner of the Legal Aid Society; and Council Member Brad Lander. Thank you to all of them.
And now a man who knows from his work on behalf of this city – whether it was as a police officer or a police captain, whether it was as a state senator or now as Brooklyn borough president – Eric Adams understands the grass roots of this city. He has seen in his own neighborhood how much people have struggled to hold on in hope that more affordable housing would be coming. And he’s been a passionate advocate for the people of this borough, Borough President Eric Adams.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams: I want to add my voice with Public Advocate James in thanking the mayor for living through on a campaign promise. As we criss-cross this city and this borough in particular, no other issue has resonated more than the issue around affordable housing. Too many people are starting their days and ending their nights with empty plates and sleeping on subway grates. A cardboard box cannot take the place of a bedroom of a home. Housing is more than merely four walls. And it’s a precursor to the American Dream and countless number of Brooklynites and New Yorkers are living a nightmarish reality of not having a home. This is an empirical crisis moment, and the response by this administration speaks loud and speaks volumes. And I’m clear, build baby build. Build tall, build high. We don’t have more land, but we do have air rights. And we must be creative in our responsibility in ensuring that all Brooklynites, all New Yorkers have a place that they can call home. It is a foundation. It is the reality. It is the beginning of a home life that no one should go without. And so I thank you Mr. Mayor. I thank your administration. And I look forward to seeing that beautiful sound we hear behind us, that jackknife should resonate throughout the entire borough. No more nights of sleeping. We should –
Mayor: Jackhammer, it’s not jackknife.
Borough President Adams: That’s the police in me. The jackhammer should be heard throughout this entire city. And I’m looking forward to it.
Mayor: What the president meant to say was [inaudible]. There have been some really powerful voices of conscience about the inequality crisis. They’ve come from all different segments of this city. Some of the strongest voices have come from the labor movement, demanding that we not look away from this crisis and we come up with real solutions. One of the leaders of that effort has been Hector Figueroa, the president of 32BJ.
Hector Figueroa, Executive Director, SEIU 32BJ: Thank you Mr. Mayor and thank you to our public advocate and our borough president. And I’d like to be able to say today, with the support of our 145,000 members of Local 32BJ, that it’s a great, beautiful day. It finally has happened that a mayor of the City of New York has made a priority to address what is fundamentally one of the biggest reasons why income inequality has been growing the way it has been growing, and why so many New Yorkers, including the members of 32BJ [inaudible] really a harder and harder place to live.
It doesn’t matter if you came here to the city recently or if you have lived here for generations. It doesn’t matter if you’re low-income, homeless, middle-income. There is a crisis on housing affordability. And we applaud Mayor de Blasio for taking on this issue squarely and for putting a bold initiative that relies on both new construction, bringing buildings up to code, and really looking at the entire system on how this city government supports or provides for housing.
Our members of 32BJ are usually known more as the doorman union, but the reality is that our residential members, they work in luxury buildings as well as [inaudible]. In the outer borough’s condos and co-ops, as well as in rent-stabilized buildings. So we truly appreciate the need for a bold initiative that can bring together not only government, but unions, community advocates and the real estate industry. This is really groundbreaking, and hopefully we’ll break a lot of ground in the coming years. Because it could not be any other way. To take an initiative of this magnitude to make it successful, it will require the cooperation of labor, business, the city, everyone who knows that this is incredibly necessary for our city to prosper. And I’d like to also add that it’s not only important to look at the affordability of the housing that will be created under this initiative, which we are eager to study and examine and continue to contribute as partners in this effort. And I thank the mayor for that opportunity. But we also need to accept that in this time and age, we need to reconcile the need to create good jobs, to conserve good jobs in construction, in maintenance, with the need for working people and those who are also without work, but looking for one, to be able to live in this city. So we are really eager to jump in on this initiative. We are fully supportive. We welcome the opportunity and we ask all of the stakeholders, from the private sector to government to the community advocates, for all of us to engage in a very robust conversation and effort around this initiative and other initiatives and make New York City a city that can afford to have all of its citizens call it home. Thank you so much.
[Figueroa delivers remarks in Spanish]
Mayor: So we have the pleasure of standing at a site that’s going to be part of the solution and an example of what we need to do going forward. I’d like to now welcome David Picket, the president of the Gotham Organization.
David Picket, president, Gotham Organization: First of all I want to thank Borough President Adams for offering us that invitation to create as much noise as possible. I’ll be sure to forward you all the community complaints going forward.
Mayor de Blasio, on behalf of the Gotham Organization, I want to thank you and your staff for choosing this site to announce your new housing plan. Of course your choice makes perfect sense. I would like to believe it’s the fact that Gotham is the developer here that was the sole criteria for this selection. But perhaps it was the fact that this building, when completed, will provide 282 units of affordable and middle-income apartments to hundreds of well-deserving New Yorkers.
Maybe it was the 8,000 square feet of office space dedicated to cultural institutions. No doubt, it had something to do with the fact that this signals the further development of the Brooklyn cultural district into a world-class cultural Mecca, providing entertainment across every conceivable genre and accessible to all New Yorkers. But my money is on the fact that this project reflects the paradigm for future development in New York.
The piles being driven today on this very day – well not exactly right now, those were piles being driven somewhere else – reflect the foundation of how the government and the private sector can work together to produce housing across all income levels.
Mr. Mayor, you’ve set a high bar. But I can tell you that if your staff is willing to sit down with the development community and create sensible density bonuses, tax abatements and other incentives, that there is no reason we can’t create the thousands of much-needed apartments for those hardworking New Yorkers that struggle to find housing options. And for those coming from outside the city, hoping to make their mark in the greatest city in the world.
I’ve been told to keep my remarks short, so I will. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank the people who worked so tirelessly to make this project a reality. I would like to thank the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and the Housing Development Corporation for their help in turning this development into a reality. I would also like to thank our not-for-profit partners, the Actors Fund and Common Ground. Finally I would like to thank our financial partners, led by Wells Fargo, for their support in this endeavor. I would also like to acknowledge the politicians, stakeholders and community members who you see surrounding us today, that have come out today in support of the project and the mayor’s housing plan. We look forward to working with you in the spirit of mutual respect and commitment, toward improving the neighborhood and the city. Thank you.
Mayor: Last but not least, someone who knows so much about the affordable housing needs of this city because she also was commissioner of HPD earlier in her career. Now as the executive director of the Citizens Housing Planning Council, Jerilyn Perine.
Jerilyn Perine, executive director, Citizens Housing Planning Council: Thank you. Thank you so much Mayor de Blasio for having me here today. And you know, also for having it in Brooklyn, because usually when I speak I have to work really hard to sort of hide my Brooklyn accent, so now I feel like I don’t have to do that here.
So the mayor really understands that this is New York and here, we live and we die by our communities, our neighborhoods. It’s their rise, their prosperity, that is what makes our city great. Because that dream, that aspiration has to be there for everybody in every community. And it’s the aspirations that we have for ourselves, for our neighbors, and also for the people that are waking up right now, today, in another country somewhere else, or another city across America, and they have that same aspiration, that their future is going to be better if they come here. And so that challenge to make room for them all is something that the mayor and his amazing team have taken on and – you know, it’s incredible difficult and complicated and we really just applaud their efforts.
We know that it’s the private sector really that builds housing in this town, but it’s our city’s public policies that ensure that there will be room for everyone. And it’s a hard thing to drive housing policy across five boroughs. And this plan really strives to tackle some of the difficult issues. And the issues that won’t make it on a headline, like reforming building codes and zoning codes. And making it easier and more efficient to build housing. And there’s no buttons for that, you know. But that’s the hard work that the people in the government are taking on. And I just – we are so delighted that they’ve – that they’re doing that. And that they recognize that our city itself is changing. Our people are changing. And they are shaping their lives in ways that are very different in the 21st century. But they still have to squish themselves into a housing stock that was largely designed and built before World War II. And by recognizing all of this, this plan seeks to create not just more housing – although that’s great – and not just to preserve the building that we have – although that’s great too – but to really transform it for a 21st century New York, which is going to be bigger, it’s going to be better, and it’s going to have a housing market that’s going to make room for everyone. Thank you so much.
Mayor: So we’re going to be taking first questions on this topic, and then we’ll take questions on other topics. And just before we begin, I have to just have a point of personal privilege. If you look over there to Brooklyn Technical High School, in 15 minutes Dante begins his grueling AP Psychology test. So I just want to salute Dante, wish him the best. I’ve done my fatherly duty now. And now, questions on this topic first.
Question: Mr. Mayor, the development behind you – what's the percentage of the total for affordable housing, and also, the 80-20 model that it was so widespread through the last few years, it’s going to turn into what model according to this plan?
Mayor: So let me – let me speak to that just for a second, and what I'm going to do throughout the questions on this plan, is I will often have something to say, but Alicia Glen, Carl Weisbrod, Vicki Been, will also be stepping up to the microphone consistently as we answer these questions.
The 80-20 model was the model of the past. The model we have now is to maximize affordability in each and every situation. Every situation is different. Every site is different. I think what's clear in this plan is we're going to use every tool the city government has, and obviously we want to work aggressively with our federal and state partners, and we want to get them as deeply into this plan as necessary to make sure that we can push affordability to the highest level possible at each site. Now, for this site.
Picket: So, this site will have 50 percent market-rate housing, 30 percent middle-income housing, and 20 percent affordable housing.
Picket: So, the 20 percent part is for folks that are earning approximately 50 percent of the area median income. The – and then the middle-income part is sort of a flex between folks earning anywhere from 135 to 165 percent of area median income. The balance is simply market.
Mayor: I'm going to take this report back out – stay here a second, because they may want to – you'll notice, what is it? The helpful clarifying guide, for all of us that don't speak area median income. Page 19, you'll turn to page 19 in your handy plan. For the first time in human history, a translation of what "area median income" means to human beings.
Picket: I’m going to read that.
Mayor: Yeah. [laughs] This is a great step forward. So, say it again now that people can look at this chart to follow along.
Picket: Ok, so again, 50 percent is market, although apartments will be rent-stabilized once the folks move in, 30 percent of it is 135 to 165 percent of area median income, that's set forth on page 19 of the…and 20 percent is 50 percent of, or thereabouts, of area median income. Is that –? I'm sorry, for a family of four. So, if it's three or five or six, the income level adjusts slightly to accommodate.
Question: If I may, as a developer –
Mayor: I’m sorry, before you do I just want to clarify. So, just to again turn your attention, 50 percent of area median income translates to $41,000 dollars income for a family of four. That's obviously a family that is really struggling to make ends meet here in New York City.
Public Advocate James: And with a preference for Community Board 2.
Mayor: Wait, wait, first [inaudible]
Question: As a developer, what's the limit that you would recommend the city to demand developers as affordable or middle-income housing? What’s the limit that you’re willing to have here, for market rate, versus the other?
Picket: Well I think what the mayor has said before, is, that, I think the city, and rightly so, is going to be looking at each site in sort of an individual. I mean, will they be able to create additional density, are there tax incentives to offer the developer? Are there things that they – I mean, clearly, to pay market rate for a site, and put up 50 percent affordability against – it's just not feasible in this city. There's some very smart people standing here who understand that, and I think it's going to be a case-by-case basis, where we work with the mayor, and to leverage every incentive that's available, that's in their bag of tricks, to create the most affordability that we can.
Mayor: So, let me just jump in, then Marcia go next – but I want to say, look, I think that is a very fair articulation of what a lot of developers think is necessary, and we're going to work with them. And I also – think I've been abundantly clear over the last year – our job is to drive a hard bargain. So, the negotiation happens in good faith, site by site, you know, each company working with the city. We're going to make sure we get the most out of everything we do. When we open up a site for greater development, we want to get the most back for the people we can. If we make any kind of public investment, we want to get the most back for the people we can. We think there's more that can be achieved than was achieved in the past, which is why we're upping the ante. Again, 200,000 units in 10 years is really ambitious, but it's ambitious because we're going to use every tool we have simultaneously, and we think that's what's going to allow us to reach those numbers.
Mayor: A little louder.
Question: I wonder if you could enumerate for us the kind of enticements you can offer to developers so that the project – it can be made affordable as well as – you know, profitable for the developer, but also make it easy for them to build affordable housing?
Mayor: I’m not [inaudible] not just the "enticements" – I think the tools is the better way to say it. What are the tools we have to encourage maximum affordability?
Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen: So I think there's a variety of different tools that we have. One is our – obviously, our zoning powers, and so we're going to take a very hard look at where we're able to identify sites and neighborhoods where we can rezone, or upzone, that's consistent with the infrastructure available in those neighborhoods. Because when we can upzone, we're obviously creating more opportunity for housing. So that's a major, major tool that we're going to spend a lot of time looking at.
We also have our actual money, our actual capital and other sources of funds that the city has historically invested directly in housing. Much more so than any other jurisdiction in the nation, this city has committed their own resources to providing direct subsidy to achieve certain affordability, so that's really our second tool.
And our third tool is really thinking about the way in which the various tax incentive programs can work in conjunction with our zoning, and subsidy programs, both to drive more production, and to target more specific affordable income groups.
And then, of course, is all the various programs that the federal government runs which, sadly, Congress over the past decade or so, has really retrenched in many respects from that – business, if you will – putting additional strain on cities and states to come up with other creative and innovative partnerships to fill that gap.
So we hope that with those four levers, we'll be able to achieve this much broader range of affordable housing. Because really, affordable housing is how much you have to pay for housing. And that affects both a very, very low-income part of the spectrum, as well as our middle-income families.
Mayor: I want to just quickly follow on that. Look, I want to also say, we have real live examples since this administration came into office. And I want to give Alicia Glen and Carl Weisbrod and Vicki Been a lot of credit. The situation with Domino, where we said from the beginning, we need more affordability, we need more units for lower income folks. We got them. We were able to get more affordability and living wage jobs at Hudson Yards. We were able to add affordable units into the cornerstone project on Upper West – 57th Street. And, there's one other.
Deputy Mayor Glen: Lighthouse in Staten Island
Mayor: Lighthouse. We added affordable units to the Lighthouse project in Staten Island. The reason in each case we were able to do that was we said, this is our priority, and to move this project ahead, we have to see more. So, we'll always do a productive give and take and a very collegial process with our colleagues in the development community, but the bottom line is, we said from the beginning, we're raising the bar. And we have to see more in each development for the people of this city. Go ahead Julia?
Question: What role does public housing play in this? Any sort of improvement program for that or building more? Where does that come in?
Mayor: Public housing is obviously one of the foundations of affordability in this city, and god bless Fiorello LaGuardia for getting it started in 1934 when no one else had done anything like it. And now it's a pillar of this city, directly housing, again, almost half a million people. We want to do this right. We want to figure out the future of NYCHA carefully. Shola Olatoye is here, our chair of NYCHA, who's doing a great job, and she is someone who has a very clear vision of how to work with the tenants of NYCHA, with the residents, to figure out a plan in common for the future.
And that's going to mean investments, as we've already started to make in this current fiscal year by not requiring NYCHA to play – to pay the police payments, for example, that were done in the past. It's going to take a lot of pushing to get our federal partners to step up, but it's also about trying to figure out what we can do with all we have at NYCHA to maximize what's good for the tenants, and the long-term financial viability, and to see what it means for our larger affordability housing – affordable housing efforts. But Shola's mission is to set up a framework where there's an actual productive dialogue with the residents of NYCHA, which has not existed. And that's going to be the basis, and that's something she'll be pursuing over this course of this year, and then we'll have a lot more to say as that develops, about a long-term plan for NYCHA. Grace?
Question: About the 80,000 new units that this plan calls for creating. What – are all of those or the overwhelming majority of those – is there anticipation that the private sector will actually be building those, or is the city going to be embarking on actually building, funding on its own, affordable housing?
Mayor: There are – I'm going to let Alicia give you the more expert answer, but – or Vicki, whoever wants to join in. The – I think the bottom line to understand is that, obviously, again public housing per se, in this country, is essentially frozen at the level it's at right now. There are non-profit housing developments. But most of what we do is working with private sector partners – again, our job is to maximize in that equation, to up the ante to get a lot more affordability done in those deals. And – would you like to add?
Commissioner Vicki Been, Housing Preservation and Development: No, it will be financing the building, or preservation, but that building or preservation will be done by our non-profit partners, our for-profit partners across the city.
Mayor: Ok, yes?
Question: A question on sustainability, there’s two parts. So for the new, are you guys going to – is there going to be any areas of the city that you will not build in due to the new flood maps –
Mayor: I'll get Carl up. I'm going to give you a chance –
Question: On the old, is there – what are you guys going to do on the preservation aspect as far as sustainability goes?
Mayor: So, I'll start, and pass it to Carl Weisbrod, the chair of the City Planning Commissioner. Look, in everything we do from now on, sustainability is going to be a part of our thinking. So, every development going forward is going to be looked at through the prism of sustainability, not just in terms of resiliency, dealing with threats that may exist from Mother Nature, but also, environmental sustainability, lowering emissions and creating a cleaner environment. So, that's going to pervade all that we are doing. Carl can explain that a little more, and also the question on whether there's any areas we will not be allowing development because of the results of Sandy.
Chairman Carl Weisbrod, City Planning Commission: I know that there are a few very small neighborhoods on Staten Island where the state, through its buyback program, has – and the federal government has – said that that area should be returned as wetlands. But for the most part, we believe that if we build in accordance with resiliency standards, and as the mayor said, sustainability, so that we can reduce our carbon footprint, and also make the cost of maintaining housing less expensive, we should be able to – as long as we follow those two principles of resiliency and sustainability, we should be able to build in most – in almost all parts of the city, with very few exceptions.
Mayor: You have to project a little more, brother. Come on, you can do it. Fight against the jackhammers. In the last administration…
Question: In the last administration, southern Brooklyn [inaudible] modify [inaudible] for larger families, for those who have six or [inaudible] kids.
Mayor: Okay, so the question about southern Brooklyn, and the question about larger family units, I'm going to give a broad answer. If anyone wants to join in, please do. So, this is a truly citywide plan. And so, you know, 200,000 units is enough for half a million people. By definition, we intend that to be in every part of this city. It will depend on available opportunities to build buildings, or preserve units, obviously. But I think we can safely say, that's pretty much in every part of the city. So, you're going to see a big impact in southern Brooklyn.
In terms of the units that we'll be building and preserving – one of the things we tried to do, and I give Alicia Glen and all of the other key figures in this administration a lot of credit – from the beginning, they recognized they wanted the units that came out of this plan to look like New York City, to actually reflect the changing demographics of this city. So you will see more units for larger families in this plan than in previous affordable housing plans. You're also going to see more units for senior citizens in this plan, because that's an increasingly large part of our city. So, yes, again, details will be spread out as each development moves forward, but the bottom line is there will be more units for larger families.
Question: Will their plan require any legislation from Albany in terms of rent regulation, tax abatement programs, things like that?
Mayor: So I'll start, and then Alicia will step forward, or Vicki. The plan makes clear that we need Albany, and we need Washington, to be partners. Even though it is a statement of fact, and I say this as a former HUD official – U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – I was there in the mid- to late-90s, and even compared to then, the federal government has stepped away from its commitment to our cities, and its commitment to affordable housing, in a way that I think is strategically very unfair to cities, and very unwise for the future of this country, and this economy.
And yes, obviously it started with Ronald Reagan, and then more with Newt Gingrich, and one thing after another, and we're paying the price now. But we insist, in this plan, that there be some real involvement from the federal government, and from the state government. We're going to work with them to determine the best way for that to happen.
Now, I am an optimist by nature, not given – notwithstanding, notwithstanding that unfortunate history – at this moment, at least in Washington, we have a federal administration that wants to work with us. We have a HUD secretary who's a New Yorker and wants to work with us. We have a governor in this state who got started in housing, and used to be the HUD secretary, who wants to work with us. We are hopeful that we'll get some of the pieces we need. But those have to be worked out with Washington and with Albany. Anything to add? I think we're good unless you have anything to add. Okay. Yes?
Question: The report talks about building platforms over rail yards to create more developable land, kind of like the Atlantic Yards. Can you talk about some rail yards where you’d like to see that kind of development take place?
Mayor: Building over rail yards, or other [inaudible]
Chairman Weisbrod: I would say, we don't have a specific rail yard in mind, and obviously, building over rail yards can be a very expensive proposition, but we'll – we're going to, we're prepared to look at any available site where we can produce large amounts of housing and affordable housing. And so, if there are rail yards that would work, we would be happy to look at them.
Mayor: I've got a rail yard I want to show you. [Laughs] Ok. Right there.
Question: The administration's been talking with construction labor union officials about possibly having them change the way that they [inaudible]. Is there any update on that, on those discussions? How do you [inaudible] being involved in this?
Mayor: I'll start, and then Alicia, or Vicki, jump in. Look, I think it's a well-known fact that I believe in the role of labor in our society, and I think organized labor and the labor movement has fundamentally contributed to the creation of the middle class, in this country, in this city. And, we always look for every opportunity to work with union labor. We also are trying to create affordable housing with real tight financial dynamics, and our job is to create it on an unprecedented level. So it really will take a lot of cooperation and creativity in that relationship, but I think we've signaled to the building trades that we want to maximize their involvement – Gary LaBarbara is here, and we appreciate his support – but we also know that we have to build these units, and we have to make the financial realities work.
Deputy Mayor Glen: I think the only thing I would add to that, is one of the great things about this plan is that there's going to be a huge different variety of housing that we're going to be preserving and building. And so, look at we're here today celebrating the building of a very tall building, that is being built by union labor, but there's also going to be a variety of opportunities, particularly in lower-rise neighborhoods, for local contractors, for non-profits, and other people to also participate in the plan. The objective is to really have everybody be able to participate in this, you know, economic engine, and we applaud the efforts of the building trades to work in collaboration with us to drive down costs, but we also understand that there can be a variety of different building types, and different kinds of folks are going to participate in that labor pool.
Question: [inaudible] a reference in there to NYCHA, going back to a [inaudible] that it used to have, which was essentially [inaudible] homeless shelters and putting them at the front of the line for [inaudible]
Mayor: I just want – I'm going to put it in my own words. Yeah.
Question: Second one is, there’s a reference in here under rent-stabilized landlords who abuse the [inaudible] and there’s a specific reference in here to looking at [inaudible] city contractors [inaudible]. What are you going to do with that?
Mayor: Let me start with – let me start with NYCHA, and I want to make the first point, and then Shola can add to the previous point that we discussed, and then I'll come to the second question on the landlords. So, what we're saying is, we have an unprecedented and absolutely unacceptable number of people in shelter in this city – over 50,000. That number got hit last year, and we intend to turn that around. And we're going to take a variety of steps to do that. We will selectively use section 8 vouchers. We'll selectively use NYCHA units. We're not changing the basic admissions procedures for NYCHA. But we are going to make some targeted moves to get that shelter population down. There's a lot of other tools we're going to use in that process. Obviously, part of what we're doing creating permanent housing is to have opportunities for supportive housing that will relieve some of the pressure in terms of folks in shelter. You're going to see, in our budget plan, some new initiatives around homelessness prevention. So there're a lot of different tools. So I just want to contextualize it and say, some use of NYCHA units, but not changing the basic formula. And Shola, do you want to speak to the previous point, or just on the preservation point that you were raising.
Chairwoman Shola Olatoye, NYCHA: Right, as the mayor said – I mean, not since Mayor LaGuardia has a mayor really taken and thought about NYCHA as a continued asset for this city, and so our challenge over the next several months will be working with our core stakeholders, our residents, our community partners, our elected officials, and more, on a real preservation and development plan for NYCHA, one that thinks about participating in this plan, but in the context of preserving this city asset.
Mayor: Thank you. On the question of landlords, this obviously follows through on some of the work that I had the honor of starting when I held the office of public advocate. And we recognize not only were there landlords who were violating city laws consistently, but we also recognize that they were some of those same landlords who were turning around and getting contracts from the city for other types of work the city did. So what you'll see in this plan is some very aggressive efforts to interrupt that, and use that as leverage to get landlords to abide by the laws and abide by the rules. You're also going to see a very heavy emphasis on enforcement in general, to stop some of what we see in this city, of landlords – some landlords – I don't want to characterize the whole class, some bad landlords – pushing people out of rent-regulated units, and harassing tenants, or taking other actions to open up those units for market conversion. Vicki, do you want to add?
Commissioner Been: I just want to – let me just add one thing to that, and that is that we will be also working very hard to prevent evictions, rather than to try to deal with them after the fact. So we will be working to provide more assistance to tenants who are facing evictions, and they think they are being pushed out illegally or unfairly. So we will be working at that front as well.
Question: Just on the zoning issue again, under the previous administration the majority of the city has already been rezoned. How will – does that limit your ability to use zoning as a tool to encourage developers to build more affordable housing? And what about developers who choose to build [inaudible]?
Mayor: I think that the fact is there are still a number of areas that have not been covered, and Carl can speak to that. And so, we think there’s a lot of new opportunity. And we also think, even within existing zoning, there’s a lot more that can be done. But do you want to speak to that?
Chairman Weisbrod: Yeah, we think there are many, many areas of opportunity where additional housing capacity can be created. We’re going to work closely with local communities, and do community-based planning in order to maximize the housing opportunities in a way that communities find receptive. And I would say, as the mayor said, at the outset, most neighborhoods – in fact, not all neighborhoods – are facing an affordability crisis. So I believe that most neighborhoods are quite receptive to looking at areas where we can rezone. We’re definitely looking forward. There is a substantial capacity still, but we don’t preclude the possibility of also perhaps looking at some areas that have been rezoned in the past.
Mayor: The one other point on this – come over to this side in a second – one other point on this. I hope you understand how urgently people feel this in this city, meaning, this is not the same discussion about the zoning process you might have had ten or twenty years ago. We – what Tish said in the beginning – I experience this constantly. I get on a subway, I walk around my neighborhood, whatever it is, and people talk to me about being priced out. And they talk to me about their fear that they won’t be able to live in the neighborhood anymore. So I think there’s going to be an understanding as we embark on this plan that we need to create affordability everywhere. That what’s happening is that the New York City we have known historically, where every kind of person could live here – that is really in danger right now. And if we don’t do something very, very strong and bold, it won’t be that city anymore. And we are not going to let that happen. So I think the understanding here is that we’re going to use every tool we have. The zoning process is one of those tools. And we’re trying to reach every neighborhood, because almost every neighborhood is threatened by this crisis. Over here.
Question: [inaudible] timeline for zoning in the neighborhoods that you might target first?
Mayor: A timeline? Carl Weisbrod – a timeline for when rezonings will start to happen? Okay.
Chairman Weisbrod: Well, the first thing we have to do is embark on studies of those neighborhoods that we think are appropriate for rezoning. And we’ll be starting by talking – by first identifying those neighborhoods, then by talking to the local elected officials and communities in those neighborhoods. We want this to be a participatory process. But that process is going to start immediately. The land-use process is, as you know, does take some time. But it will start, literally right away. And we hope to launch well over a dozen studies pretty much immediately, and talking to local communities to get those underway.
Question: As the council members here know very well, when people look at buildings like the one behind you – it’s very tall – it sometimes freaks communities out I’ll just say.
Mayor: You’re using a technical term.
Question: I mean, how big should people expect buildings to grow? Where do you hope to focus those and what should people expect from this?
Mayor: Well that’s a good question. I want to make clear that we’re going to work with every community. I mean part of what’s underlying this whole process – I want to speak about the grassroots, and that’s where I’ve spent the vast majority of my career. The people of this city are demanding we do something. And our job is to go out into every community and talk about what we can do that will affect the needs of the community. By the way, people are not saying, ‘We want you to build 200,000 units of affordable housing and put it in another borough.’ They’re not saying, ‘We want you to put it on the other side of our borough.’ They’re saying, ‘We need it in our community.’ Because so many people are being priced out of their own communities because there are so many seniors who are on the edge, who are on fixed incomes, who the community they came up in is everything to them, or their family and friends are nearby. Whatever it is, it comes back to the same answer – the people of this city expect us to do something very big in terms of the creation and preservation of affordable housing, and to make sure it reaches every neighborhood. The way to do that is to work with the elected officials and local stakeholders to figure out the best way to do it. So it’s going to look a little different in each neighborhood depending on what land might be available, what development opportunities might be available, or what might be preservable. But it will start at the grassroots with a very clear message – here’s the plan, here’s the goal, now let’s work out how we do it locally in each case. Yep? I am pointing at you.
Question: [inaudible] ever [inaudible] setting aside affordable units by age? Meaning [inaudible] for seniors [inaudible]
Mayor: There will be senior housing, and we’ll have more to say on that as the plan develops. In terms of traditional public housing, I think it’s fair to say at this point that because the federal investment is not going to be there anytime soon as it was in the past, we are staying with the number we have. If ever, you know the federal government decides to get back in the housing business the way it should, that would be an interesting and important discussion. But I think we’re – right now we have a fixed dynamic with traditional public housing. A lot more we can do with other types of affordable housing. Off topic. And now, Tish James.
Public Advocate James: Just to the previous question, you know, when we rezoned the downtown Brooklyn – all of downtown Brooklyn – there was a lot of individuals who were concerned with regards to these tall buildings. But what was promised then by the previous administration was public benefits – more affordable housing, schools, and you would preserve local businesses. None of that happened, and as a result of that, the individuals in this community were outraged. And so going forward, under this administration, some of those benefits will be realized and that’s why this is a win-win for everyone.
Mayor: Okay, we are going to do off-topic. Marcia?
Question: Mayor, there’s been a number of instances involving police officers lately where they have discharged their guns in what you would call an inappropriate manner. One recently, there was a police officer who fired at a civilian six times, mercifully didn’t kill him. But I wonder if there’s any steps you think should be taken to deal with police officers behaving badly?
Mayor: Yes, it’s unacceptable. I know Commissioner Bratton feels profoundly that this is unacceptable and it won’t be tolerated. I leave it to Commissioner Bratton to determine the specific steps, and I know he will do that assertively. But I think what he said already says it all. As the – one of the greatest police leaders in this country, he has said that he finds that behavior absolutely unacceptable, and undignified, and I'm sure he'll act accordingly.
Question: [inaudible] should be fired?
Mayor: There's a disciplinary process in place. I want to respect that process. But I know it will be approached very aggressively by the commissioner.
Question: Do you have any imminent plan to settle the lawsuit regarding gender discrimination with the school safety officers?
Question: Can you elaborate on that?
Mayor: When we have a settlement, we'll announce it, as we do with all settlements. But I think I've said very, very clearly, we're going to settle that case. We don't accept pay inequity. Every legal case comes with complicated matters that have to be worked through. Every legal case involves potential precedent-setting dynamics. So, once you're in a legal dynamic, you have to work your way through it carefully. It would have been better not to get to that point and resolve it up front. Previous administration didn't resolve it, therefore there was a lawsuit. We are going to settle that lawsuit, and we're going to make sure there's pay equity across our government.
Off topic, anything else, going once, going twice. Media? I don't know you, I'm sorry, go ahead.
Question: [inaudible] What's your position on permanent affordability [inaudible] units that are subsidized expire after [inaudible] leasing the land the city still owns rather than actually selling it to a developer?
Mayor: Leasing the land – Alicia, you think about that one while I answer the first one. Don't trip. Leasing the land that the city still owns. There are instances where we can reach permanent affordability, but the main thrust of this plan is to reach the most people as quickly as possible. So, if you look at the plan, it is oriented to getting to 200,000 units in 10 years. In many cases, that will not be with a permanent affordability guarantee, because the best way to get to the kind of numbers that will reach people now is to do it a different way. But in some cases, we can build in affordable – permanent affordability. The second question again? Did you hear it?
Deputy Mayor Glen: I think it was a question of leasing versus selling. We've historically done both, and it will depend on the nature of the program, whether it's a home ownership program, or a rental program. Ground leasing can help encourage longer-term affordability, and so as we redesign many of our programs, we'll be looking at whether ground leases make more sense.
Mayor: Ok. We are on – go ahead, last one on off. Last one.
Question: [inaudible] acquiring the property through the Build it Back program, in areas that are impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Will those areas be targeted for affordable housing? And then just kind of in general, some areas of the outer boroughs, feel that they’re overburdened already, overcrowded, poor infrastructure [inaudible]?
Mayor: On the second question – I'll do the second question and then pass the first question to you guys. On the second question, of course we are. The vast majority of us live in the outer boroughs. I think I've made clear my perspective in terms of the focus on outer borough neighborhoods. At the same time, those are exactly the places where people, rightfully, are clamoring for more affordable housing because they're so desperately concerned about being priced out of their own neighborhoods. So, we have to strike a balance. What we believe in is addressing the infrastructure needs up front. You've seen several situations where that wasn't done – to that effect, we're saying the policy of this administration is to address the infrastructure needs at the front end of what we do. And you'll see that play out in a number of the actions that we take. As for Build it Back, who's up? Vicki.
Commissioner Been: So, we're going to – we'll be looking at all of the properties that, you know, that are involved in Build it Back, and looking for opportunities either to, you know, assemble parcels, or to build affordable on some of those parcels. But we're taking it site by site, you know, look at every one of them. Okay?
Mayor: Thank you, everyone.