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By Sam Fenwick ’18 and Tommy Chan ’19
As the Bill de Blasio administration enters its second four-year term, affordable housing remains at the forefront of its plans to help sustain New York City’s growth. The administration recently announced a goal to create and preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing in New York City by 2026. At the 2017 Columbia Business School Real Estate Symposium, Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, joined Lynne Sagalyn, Earle W. Kazis and Benjamin Schore Professor Emerita at Columbia Business School, in a fireside chat to discuss affordable housing, economic development, and Amazon HQ2.
The conversation began with a discussion of the city’s strategy to reach its affordable housing goals. Glen stressed the importance of community development to strike the right balance of residential density, access to retail, and affordability. The city has undertaken an aggressive review of its zoning and land use regulations and is pushing to fully utilize its land assets. Reform of the 421a tax abatement program has also been instrumental in incentivizing developers to provide affordable housing with a wider income band in exchange for increased building densities. However, Glen stated that to remain competitive, New York City still needs more permanently affordable housing stock and housing for all income levels.
On economic development, Glen discussed the different actions the city can take to further stimulate growth. Glen described how New York City could become the “capital of hyphen tech” by utilizing its unique position as a financial services hub to empower industries that overlay tech with legacy sectors such as health-tech, fashion-tech, fin-tech, and ed-tech. On the talent acquisition front, Glen noted that the city has been supporting the shortage of talent by hiring faculty to help local colleges. Lastly, Glen touched on the city’s zoning strategy with the recent Midtown East rezoning as an example. As an incentive to help revitalize Midtown East’s aging building stock, the city now allows developers to buy FAR in exchange for public transit and amenity improvements. Landmarks can also sell their air rights as part of the new zoning regulations, but a portion of the revenue is given to the city for public improvements.
Professor Sagalyn then shifted the conversation to the city’s new ferry service which has been an overwhelming success with 2.5 million passengers over this past summer. Given the service’s success, the city has ordered more boats and is planning to launch two additional lines. Glen dreamed of implementing a ferry service even prior to taking office, describing it as the last missing piece of New York City’s coastal identity. Glen sees the ferry service as a way to reimagine New York as a multimodal city and hopes it becomes an integral part of how New Yorkers traverse the city.
The final topic of the chat was Amazon HQ2 and Glen shared the city’s approach to preparing its bid for the e-commerce giant’s planned second headquarters. Glen noted that the city wanted Amazon in New York City, but the proposal needed to be consistent with the city’s overall growth plan. The city submitted a proposal that offers Midtown West, Lower Manhattan, Downtown Brooklyn, and Long Island City as potential sites.
In closing, Glen listed the items that were high on the de Blasio administration’s second term. The administration will strive to grow New York City in a thoughtful way and to make long-term investments that will continue to create mixed-income mixed-use communities. While looking out to a predominantly male audience, Glen emphasized her personal goal of empowering women within real estate, the Government of New York City, and the corporate environment.
Samuel Fenwick ’18 graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a BA and MPA in Accounting. After graduating, he worked in investment banking at BMO Capital Markets. Sam then spent four years as an Associate with Three Rivers, an oil-and-gas portfolio company of Riverstone Holdings. As a member of the acquisitions team, he helped to source deals, develop investment theses, and lead acquisition presentations to management on total closings in excess of $400 million. This past summer he was with the Investments Team at CIM Group.
Tommy Chan ’19 graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and a M.S. in Engineering Management from Northeastern University. Prior to business school, Tommy worked as a project manager at Pinck & Co., Inc., an Owner’s Representative firm located in Boston, providing real estate development consulting services. He led design and construction efforts on behalf of private developers, non-profit organizations, and public municipalities for ground-up development and redevelopment projects. Tommy holds an Unrestricted Construction Supervisor’s License (CSL) in the State of Massachusetts.