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New development needed for industry and NYC.

For years now, since New York's economy went into a recession, we've been reading how real estate values in the city were declining, how the city itself was declining. And there was evidence to support these views: commercial buildings were vacant infrastructure systems were showing their age and breaking down, businesses were leaving the city, unemployment was up - only last year we lost some 140,000 jobs.

But there was and is another side to the coin - the things we can do, the tactics we can implement to foster construction and help put the real estate market and the city back on a growth track. Isn't it time we began to put such things at the top of our agenda?

These proposed, construction tactics - and the multiplier effect they have - were among the key reasons the Building Congress, organized labor and the construction community demonstrated 75,000 strong last December in a City Hall Park "Jobs Now" rally. We called on government to prime the city's economic pump by rebuilding essential service infrastructure systems.

The potential of the growth tactics we proposed also is why - even in the face of budget stringency - we urged the Mayor to restore at least some of the capital budget cuts he had ordered. (He did and we know he did the right thing.) The potential of new construction also is why the Real Estate Board, the Congress and others have called for an expanded Industrial Commercial Incentive Program.

It also is why we are again calling on local government to accelerate several planned developments that are about to begin moving through the city's approval pipeline - the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). These should be advanced quickly. The real estate and construction industries and the city need them.

The Building Congress' current participation with municipal bond dealer James Lebenthal in a campaign called "Built by Bonds" is a reflection of my belief that those who delay proposals for construction activity in New York City are not doing the city a favor. An independent study sponsored by the Congress - "Fast Track to Recovery" - shows clearly that when real estate and construction are healthy, so is the city.

The "Built by Bonds" campaign is intended to join the influence of the design and construction industry, including organized labor, with the Public Securities Association to encourage a commitment to modernizing all city infrastructure systems - which may include municipal offices, waste disposal facilities, affordable housing and industrial parks.

Data cited by the Financial Control Board's Allen Proctor at a Building Congress meeting show the city had exceptionally large infrastructure requirements: New York City capital spending on a per capita basis is 1.5 times more than what Los Angeles or Philadelphia spend, and over four times what Chicago or Houston spend.

Obviously, maintaining these systems costs money, but they're worth it because every time the city makes headlines when pieces of a bridge break off, or a highway collapses or our schools crumble, the city's image as a world financial capital is tarnished.

For similar reasons we can't afford not to have the most modern urban facilities - office space able to handle high tech equipment and affordable housing for all who work here. We must move ahead on construction proposals that reflect these more positive aspects of the city's potential and capabilities.

For example, there was the recent announcement of the Riverside South Development planned on the West Side site of the former Penn Central Railyards between 59 and 72 Streets along the Hudson River.

Though greatly scaled back by developer Donald Trump from his original plan, the $3 billion project is the type that lends credence to our "world-class" claims for the city. Its key elements include 5,700 luxury and affordable apartments, 182,800 square feet of neighborhood retail space, 163,400 square feet of professional office space and 300,000 square feet of general; office space, a 21.5-acre waterfront park up to 3,500 parking spaces, and, perhaps the project's center-piece, a 1.8 million- square-foot modern film and television complex that could help the city retain aspects of the communications industry.

Another major construction proposal, the West Side waterfront development plan to be build under a Hudson River Park Conservancy, a subsidiary of the Urban Development Corporation, also has attributes that project a modern image for the city.

In one form or another, this West Side plan for developing parks, a highway and some commercial properties - in all, some 270 acres along the waterfront from 59 Street to the Battery - has been around for a decade and deserves to be advanced as quickly as possible. The current plan has been scaled down from its predecessors, and we can see no valid reason for holding it up. Opposition to it smacks of delaying tactics designed to abort the plan entirely.

Redevelopment of the West Side waterfront was one of the key planks in the list of demands the design and construction community issued at the "Jobs Now" rally. The waterfront development plan was announced by Governor Cuomo and Mayor Dinkins recently and there were no surprises in it. The members of the West Side Panel that had been charged by the Governor and the Mayor with developing an acceptable waterfront improvement plan discussed each key point, and held public hearings before making the recommendations that have been accepted by the Governor and Mayor.
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Title Annotation:Review and Forecast, Section II; economic viability for real estate industry in New York, New York
Author:Coletti, Louis J.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jun 24, 1992
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