Sunday Summary: Hochul and Adams Make Moves

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Coming out of the holiday weekend two people seemed to dominate the headlines: Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams.

Hochul kicked off the start of the workweek on Jan. 18 by releasing her $216 billion executive budget that included plans to invest about $25 billion in housing across the state. 

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She pitched a number of changes affecting residential real estate including a property tax rebate for homeowners, an increase to the number of small, independent dwellings allowed on the same lot of a standalone house and more funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program that ran out of federal money on Jan. 15.

The budget also included proposals to fast-track the opening of as many as three new casinos in and around New York City, to which Hochul wants to issue licenses this year. That’s likely good news to developers like Vornado Realty Trust and L&L Holding Company, which have reportedly pitched opening gambling dens in the city.

Shortly after releasing her executive budget, Hochul visited the Brooklyn Army Terminal and announced a study that showed the state could get the Interborough Express — which would revive 14 miles of derelict railroad to shuttle commuters between Brooklyn and Queens — off the ground. 

Then she outlined her tweaks to 421a — the tax incentive for residential development in New York City that developers love and tenant advocates hate — and despite changing the name to 485w doesn’t look that much different than the latest version of 421a that went into effect in 2017.

The moves won further love from some in the real estate community who continued to shower the new governor with admiration … and lots of cash.

Hochul has pulled in $21.6 million in campaign donations so far, with real estate professionals making up plenty of her larger contributors. Vornado’s Steven Roth donated $69,700, Related Companies’ Stephen Ross dropped at least $50,000 and William Rudin of Rudin Management contributed $18,000.

Swagger returns to City Hall

Hochul wasn’t the only politician making moves last week. Adams — fresh off being lampooned by “Saturday Night Live” for his comments on bringing swagger back to Gracie Mansion — started work on taking the Big Apple out of the “swag-less existence” we suffered under de Blasio.

One of those was taking his first paycheck as mayor and converting it into Bitcoin and Ethereum (because nothing says swagger more than using a decentralized currency that swings in valuation and is championed by a former child actor who wears silly hats.)

But Adams also made moves that won’t just win over crypto yahoos. He vetoed his first bill that would have greatly increased fines for non-artists who bought lofts reserved for artist residency and workspaces in SoHo, saying he wants to “rightsize” the penalties and clarify enforcement.

He’s also considering exempting the New York City Police Department from the 3 percent budget cuts he ordered for all city departments and made a slew of housing and development appointments after weeks of them being up in the air.

He named former City Councilmember Daniel Garodnick as the chair of the City Planning Commission; Edith Hsu-Chen as the executive director of the Department of City Planning, where she currently serves as the Manhattan director, and Thomas Foley as the commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction (the agency responsible for everything from street repairs to building new libraries).

But not everything has gone over smoothly for hizzoner. His likely pick to head the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Carlo Scissura, came under fire after it was revealed he was contracted by a private developer to help push through property deals reportedly without registering as a lobbyist.

And climate advocates fear that de Blasio’s groundbreaking law to force building owners to reduce their carbon footprint will get gutted by Adams (but at least he’ll have swagger while doing it).

Not everything was political

There were still plenty of deals to write home about.

Cryptocurrency data and transaction company Chainalysis doubled its space at 114 Fifth Avenue to 77,608 square feet. The sports e-commerce giant Fanatics inked a deal to move its New York City office to more than 75,000 square feet at 95 Morton Street. And grocery stores signed some leases with Lincoln Market taking 16,750 square feet at 21-31 31st Street for its first Queens location and Key Food relocating and expanding its Upper West Side outpost to 14,000 square feet at 725-733 Amsterdam Avenue.

Meanwhile, Sitex Group expanded its Brooklyn industrial portfolio by dropping $30 million on a 98,000-square-foot Greenpoint asset, KD Sagamore secured a $52 million inventory loan to refinance its luxury condominium project at 199 Chrystie Street and Townhouse Management Company landed a $52.5 million refinance for The Aurora residential building in Murray Hill.

And on the West Coast, Amazon likely caused even more agita for struggling brick-and-mortar retailers by announcing its plans to open its first-ever physical apparel store, Amazon Style, in Glendale, Calif.

Modular future

Commercial Observer took a look into the modular construction startup Assembly OSM, at which Andrew Staniforth took the reins as CEO late last year. Under the guidance of Staniforth’s mentor — the legendary MaryAnne Gilmartin, who serves as an adviser to Assembly OSM — the firm is aiming to turn the preconceived notion of modular construction on its head and deliver architecturally beautiful, high-rise buildings that are greener, cheaper and faster to build.

While Assembly OSM is plotting modular world domination, another architecture firm is dealing with a shakeup at the top.

EverGreene Architectural Arts, one of the largest specialty contractors in the country, known for restoring the Empire State Building’s ceiling, suddenly lost its long-term president, Alan Weiner, in a move that left staffers shocked.

Chairman Jeff Greene told CO that the firm made “leadership changes that we believe serve the best interest of our vision for the future” despite giving scant details on the reasons to employees.

And while you gear up for next week, get excited about the news that Staten Island’s prodigal sons, Colin Jost and Pete Davidson, dropped $280,000 on an old Staten Island Ferry boat to turn into an entertainment venue. (Better that than a prison.)