Finance  ·  Industry

Kathy Hochul, Hakeem Jeffries Pledge Support to Black Real Estate Developers

New York’s governor and the U.S. House’s highest-ranking Democrat spoke at the 10th anniversary celebration of the New York Real Estate Chamber

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn addressed Black real estate developers Friday during the 10th anniversary celebration of the founding of the New York Real Estate Chamber (NYREC), where two of New York’s highest-ranking elected officials emphasized their commitment to using real estate development to increase economic opportunities for minority and women business owners. 

“These partnerships are important because while we passed the legislation, and are working on implementing the legislation in these areas, we can continue to lean into our state and local allies to say it’s our full and complete intention that opportunities are created for our minority- and women-owned business to the maximin degree possible,” Jeffries told the delegation of developers and executives seated at Midtown’s Harvard Club.  

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“I know the governor is committed to this, and Mayor [Eric] Adams and our city partners are committed to this,” the congressman added.  

NYREC was formed in 2013 as an independent chamber of commerce devoted to addressing issues faced by New York City’s minority business community such as improving access to capital, enhancing growth opportunities, and receiving a fair share of state and local development contracts. Founding members include Don Peebles of The Peebles Corporation, Gordon Bell of Shinda Management, and Darrell S. Gay of ArentFox Schiff

Craig Livingston, managing partner of Exact Capital and a founding member of NYREC, where he serves as chairman, spoke of the housing deficit in the United States — estimated at 7 million units — and the opportunity that brings for Black developers and real estate professionals. Livingston said they could capitalize on what he described as a $3.5 trillion market desperate for economic development.

“The good news is that through our efforts we’re able to monetize that $3.5 trillion opportunity, but we have to make sure it’s done in a diverse way, and people who look like me, people who look like the people in this room, are participating and getting their fair share of that pie,” Livingston said. “So I’m happy to have the participation of federal, state and local officials and leaders who are collaborating with us on that mission.” 

Hochul also touched on the housing deficit plaguing New York. The governor’s recent plan to create more than 800,000 new units of housing across the state died during acrimonious budget negotiations in Albany this spring — though she insisted she remains determined to pass something soon to alleviate the supply-and-demand strain that is causing record-high rents and housing prices throughout the Empire State. 

“We have a housing crisis that is among the worst in the nation,” Hochul said. “We’d love to be the best, but this is one area where we are among the worst.” 

The governor noted the hard truth that Midtown Manhattan is no longer as vibrant as it was prior to the pandemic, but said the lack of business activity creates an opening for more housing in previously corporate workspaces.   

“So we can sit back and lament that, or do we say there’s an opportunity here? Why don’t we change the laws to make it easier to convert office buildings to residential?” Hochul said. “Why not make 24/7 communities? Conversions are expensive, but there need to be incentives to make that happen, and these are the ideas we proposed.” 

Jeffries touted the success of the Biden administration and the productivity of the last Congress, which was led by his predecessor, former Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in passing numerous pieces of economically focused legislation: the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure and Jobs Act, the $280 billion CHIPs and Science Act, and the $700 billion Inflation Reduction Act. 

Jeffries said that many of those bills have carve-outs to aid minority communities and support economic development in New York and other states. 

“Some of the bills that we passed, at least 40 percent of the resources, by law, have been allocated to traditionally underserved communities,” Jeffries said. “Those communities would include places like Bed-Stuy [Bedford-Stuyvesant], Harlem, South Bronx, southeast Queens, and other similarly situated neighborhoods all across the country.”  

“And that was by design,” he added. “And it also includes parts of rural America and Appalachia, as traditionally under-resourced communities, as well.”

Brian Pascus can be reached at bpascus@commercialobserver.com