A More Affordable Manhattan

A more affordable Manhattan is a better Manhattan. Rent costs are down in many parts of the Borough, but for many hard-working families and individuals paying rent is a struggle every month, and often living in Manhattan is a pipe dream. We need to create more affordable units. Given the impact of COVID-19 on our business districts, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address the housing crisis and homelessness without the need for development projects that, quite literally, put our neighborhoods in the shadows. With more than a decade of experience as a Community Board member and Chair, I am uniquely qualified to navigate our Borough’s legislative process, so that we can ensure all New Yorkers are treated with dignity and respect while maintaining the iconic character that makes our neighborhoods special.

Convert more commercial space into affordable housing 

New York City – and especially Manhattan – has long faced a housing shortage. Any new housing helps alleviate the housing crunch, so we must be more flexible about what can be considered housing, especially when the pandemic has made so much commercial real estate vacant. We can’t afford to let whole neighborhoods sit empty and buildings go unused. The vast majority of Manhattan's unhoused live in shelters, because there is simply no available housing stock they can afford. 

 

I support reducing the limits on zoning and making it easier for new developments of housing of all types to go forward. This includes considering novel housing types like modular housing.

 

We can make it easier to convert commercial spaces into housing. In January, Governor Cuomo proposed legislation that would temporarily allow both hotels and commercial property to be converted for residential use. I support this legislation and will work to create a local version of this law to safeguard the program in case the Albany legislation fails to pass. Unlike the state bill, I would ensure any local iteration of the rule is permanent.

 

I support direct measures focused on the unhoused population, like creating more Single Residency Occupancy (SRO) units, and I will lobby for adding capacity to address the youth homeless population.

Create early Uniform Land Use Review Procedure warning system for community boards and new developments orkers

Community Boards and the Borough President play a crucial role in land use decisions as the first and second points of review for projects in Manhattan. If a project is recommended by both, it then goes before the City Council and Mayor’s Office. While the Community Board has 60 days to review a proposal, its members and the public do not always get the full plans to properly review them in a timely manner. As Borough President, I will push to create a warning system that would alert Community Boards and the Borough President's office of upcoming projects, so that they can adequately anticipate and prepare to review them.  

Commercial and residential vacancy taxes

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened an already devastating pre-pandemic increase in commercial storefront vacancies. In Manhattan, the commercial vacancy rate reached 15.1%, up from 11.1% in 2019, a twenty-year high. These vacancies are not just a blight on Manhattan’s streets; one or more vacancies often creates a local spillover effect. Once vacancies reach a critical mass, they can zap entire streets and neighborhoods of their vitality. 

 

I support a levy on owners of commercial and residential units that have been vacant for more than six months, based on both a unit’s square footage, existing rent, and length of vacancy. The levy would not apply in instances of renovation or improvements (or after a fire or natural disaster), and would be waived for nonprofits and nonprofit landlords who provide supportive housing. It would apply to tenants who sublease and likewise fail to keep a storefront or residential unit occupied.

 

These measures would improve affordability and keep local stores open for business by incentivizing landlords to lower rent rates to meet demand, rather than keeping them artificially high or holding a unit unoccupied.

Secure more NYCHA funding through a preservation trust

Ensuring each Manhattan resident has a secure and healthy place to live is a matter of public safety and public health, but despite controlling the nation’s largest system of public housing, NYCHA has long failed to meet tenant and community needs. Buildings in disrepair signal an urgent crisis and as Borough President I will prioritize widespread reform to NYCHA. 

 

Reforming NYCHA requires our immediate attention. Not only are our neighbors living in overcrowded, sometimes decrepit accommodations, but every year we wait adds an additional $1 billion to the already-lofty price tag of $40 billion needed to reform our public housing system. I support the plan proposed by NYCHA Chairman Gregory Russ to secure the much-needed funding to expand and renovate all NYCHA housing through a Public Housing Preservation Trust. The Trust, which would be created through State legislation, provides the necessary funds by pooling resources and generating revenue via bond sales. I will champion this proposal and work to ensure every Manhattanite has a safe and healthy place to live.