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A year of progress on major planning projects.

In 2006, The Real Estate Board of New York made major contributions to the City's economy and growth through its vigorous support of various planning initiatives and legislative proposals.

Locally, we vigorously supported the continuation of the Hudson Yards project and the revitalization and rebuilding of Lower Manhattan.

REBNY continued to strongly support the Hudson Yards redevelopment plan as a mixed-use neighborhood. In August of this year REBNY provided testimony before the New York City Industrial Development Agency in favor of an amendment to the Uniform Tax Exemption Policy regarding guidelines for the Hudson Yards area. This policy is an attempt to balance the need for tax incentives to encourage new office development, offering smaller incentives for the eastern section of the area and larger incentives for sites further west, where the market for office development is not as strong.

Also, the policy attempted to create a catalyst for new office development without creating a tax incentive that would unfairly attract office tenants from existing buildings. As part of our continued support for Hudson Yards we supported the expansion of the Jacob Javits Convention Center. The renovation and expansion will ignite activity on related hotel project sites in the vicinity of the center and create new vitality for this area of Hudson Yards.

REBNY has been involved in the development of the request for proposals to be issued jointly by the administration and the City Council for the development of the Eastern and Western Railyards. The goal of this process is to create a plan for the development of the railyard site that was to be the location of the New York Jets stadium that complements and enhances the Hudson Yards plan.

In addition, a disposition of the railyard site owned by the MTA would provide important and crucial funding for the agency's capital program. The Hudson Yards plan will develop a large and underutilized section of the city into a vibrant mix-used community.

REBNY continued its steadfast support for the revitalization and rebuilding of Lower Manhattan. We welcomed the opening of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center. This new office whose creation we had vigorously advocated will coordinate the significant amount of construction activity both on the World Trade Center site and in the larger Lower Manhattan area. Furthermore, REBNY will now have a desk at the Command Center in order to quickly learn of any potential problems or emergencies that might arise on Lower Manhattan's construction sites and in turn provide immediate assistance and resources.

We have also supported the numerous planning proposals announced for Lower Manhattan, from a complete transformation of the East River waterfront and Fulton Street corridor to the ongoing conversion of older office buildings to residential use. All these efforts have brought about a significant improvement in the Lower Manhattan commercial market and a great deal of optimism for the year ahead.

In August REBNY supported the proposed North Tribeca rezoning and text amendment and the proposed mixed-use amendment for Block 224. This area, bounded by West Street, Hubert Street, Watts Street and Washington Street, is close to Hudson River Park and is a perfect location to increase residential density in the city.

The proposed plan would produce 836 residential units in this growing neighborhood, but could have permitted more density to better address the needs of our growing population. This rezoning plan allowing residential uses was long overdue, considering the rapidly changing character of Tribeca and its surrounding neighborhoods.

We enthusiastically supported the proposed project to convert a portion of the Farley Building into a rail passenger terminal, renamed Moynihan Station. Penn Station was designed to hold 250,000 travelers daily. At present 500,000 people pass through the station each weekday. The proposed Moynihan Station would allow a much higher traffic flow than even 500,000 people. This project is a wonderful opportunity to reuse a historic building, build a grand transportation hub with all the elegance and grandeur New York is known for and generate significant economic benefits and tax revenue for the city.

The Environmental Impact Statement prepared for the project contains an alternative to the initial Farley Complex proposal that includes the relocation of Madison Square Garden to the western end of Farley, replacing the proposed commercial uses. This alternative would create an unprecedented opportunity to transform Penn Station and integrate its activity with the Moynihan Station and a new terminal planned to serve the new rail tunnel from New Jersey proposed by New Jersey Transit. This alternative would create additional development opportunities here that would complement Hudson Yards.

At the very end of last year's session, Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Extension Act, which REBNY had pushed for all year, which extended the federal terrorism insurance backstop for two years, albeit with modifications to the original program. REBNY members recently had a very positive meeting with Sen. Chris Dodd, the incoming Chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over the issue. Sen. Dodd indicated that finding a permanent solution for terrorism risk coverage acceptable to policy-holders and to the insurance industry is a top priority for him. Additionally, REBNY has continued to support the work of the Rand Center for Counter Terrorism Risk, which has issued several studies and advises Congress on the issue and potential solutions.

We are pleased to report that Congress has passed the 15-year depreciation for capital improvements, a bill REBNY supported and fought hard for. We continue to push for the New York City tax credit trade-in to be used for a rail link between lower Manhattan and JFK airport and expect this decision to be finalized in the first quarter of 2007.

In recent months, the Mayor established a task force to review and make recommendations to amend the 421 a tax exemption program. In December the City Council adopted a bill that more dramatically reduced the tax exemption benefits available citywide. We vigorously opposed numerous aspects of this bill as harmful to the production of market rate and affordable housing. However, a significant accomplishment was the retention of the 80/20 program. There was an organized effort by a large number of low-income housing advocates as well as 20 members of the City Council to eliminate the 421a program citywide, unless a new project set aside 30% of its units for low-income households. The support for this 70/30 position was strong and steadfast throughout the process. Prior to the Council's adoption of the compromise bill negotiated with the administration, this group proposed the imposition of an assessment cap on 80/ 20 projects. We strongly and successfully opposed this modification.

In the coming year, the state legislature will have to extend the 421a program. It is our goal to retain unchanged the 80/20 program and restore in a modified form an ability to qualify for a 421a tax exemption in the enlarged geographic exclusion area by building affordable housing off-site but in the vicinity of the market rate building receiving the tax exemption.

This fall, REBNY supported a Certificate of Appropriateness for 980 Madison Avenue, calling for the historic building to be restored to its original design and build a residential addition designed by Sir Norman Foster. If approved, the Certificate of Appropriateness for 980 Madison Avenue will add an architecturally exciting dimension to the upper Madison Avenue corridor that will keep with the Upper East Side Historic District's mix of styles and building heights to this well-established and highly sought area.

REBNY will continue to dedicate itself to ensuring these vibrant and important neighborhoods receive appropriate and important development unencumbered by anti-development interests that attempt to advance their agenda by a misuse of the Landmarks law.

Our legislative and planning accomplishments were the result of the active support of our many members and the informed leadership of our outgoing Chairman John Zuccotti, the Board of Governors, the Divisions' Board of Directors and the Committee Members. Their generous time, energy and knowledge all made for a successful year for us and the City.

* Page 1 photo: A computer rendering produced by Arquitectonica of how a re-developed Hudson Yards could look.

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Author:Spinola, Steven
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jan 17, 2007
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