More Excitement In The Air In New York: Rent Regulation To Be Expanded And Tightened

A couple of months ago I wrote about the excitement in the air in New York City as the newly elected state legislature, with large progressive Democrat majorities in both houses for the first time in many years, looked set to pass a “pied-à-terre” tax for New York City on high value condos owned by non-residents. Finally, we were going to get even with those evil out-of-town mega-billionaires for their sin of coming to our city and spending their money. The idea was that the state legislature would authorize the City to impose special real estate tax surcharges thought sufficient to raise some $650 million per year from just 5400 super-wealthy people who owned very-high-value residences. That would be some $120,000 per year from each one of them. Take that, billionaires! One guy — a hedge funder from Chicago named Ken Griffin, who had just bought an apartment on “billionaire’s row” for $263 million — was theoretically going to get socked for about $10 million per year.

And then, as quickly as it had arisen, the excitement dissipated. Somebody noticed that the high end condo market in Manhattan was already in sharp decline. This tax threatened to kill it off completely, along with the jobs of the people building and selling the apartments. Meanwhile, the tax looked to be relatively easy to evade, as by a mega-billionaire subleasing his apartment and staying in a big hotel suite. The originally-$650 billion estimated annual tax take started to drop like a stone. Today, the pied-à-terre tax idea seems to have died, although with the legislature still in session anything could happen.

But suddenly a new excitement is rising up. A key progressive agenda item, tighter and stricter rent regulation, long blocked by the formerly Republican-controlled state Senate, now looks set to sail through before the legislature winds up in June. Finally, we will be able to achieve perfect justice and fairness in rental housing prices, through the magic of government command and control. . . .

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How Corrupt Is The New York "Affordable Housing" Game?

How Corrupt Is The New York "Affordable Housing" Game?

In New York City we have a dizzying array of taxpayer-subsidized “affordable housing” schemes: low income public housing; mixed income public housing; “limited equity” co-ops; the so-called “Mitchell-Lama” program; 80/20 and 70/30 “inclusionary zoning” requirements; and plenty more. Something around 1 million people live in one type or another of these subsidized projects. That would be about 1 person out of eight in the City.

The whole idea with these schemes is that each resident pays substantially less than what would be the market rent for the same unit. After all, by hypothesis, we have a “crisis” of housing cost, where market rate apartments are priced too high for many people to afford. Therefore, we need politicians to provide taxpayer-financed subsidies to create a large tier of the “affordable” apartments. The actual rents for each “affordable" apartment are then determined by a political rather than a market process. In the case of the low-income projects, the rent is set as 30% of the tenant’s income, meaning that a tenant with no income could pay as little as nothing in rent, even when the apartment is in a desirable location. Other apartments in different programs first have a rent set, and then are allocated to people whose income has been determined to be appropriate for that rent. Sometimes these politically-determined rents might be relatively close to a market rent for a comparable apartment in the same area; but other times the “affordable” apartments are located in desirable areas, and the local market rent for a comparable apartment could exceed the “affordable” rent by a factor of five, ten, or even more. Such disparities occur, for example, in desirable Manhattan neighborhoods, as well as in waterfront areas in Manhattan and also Brooklyn.

So we have large numbers of apartments that would have market rents of perhaps $3000 up to even $10,000 per month, going for perhaps $500 to $1500. Of course, long waiting lists develop for these subsidized apartments. Some designated political gatekeeper gets to decide who gets the next apartment when it becomes available. Now, what is the chance that such a process can proceed for years and decades without pervasive corruption? . . .

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New York Gets Crazier And Crazier Every Day

We last examined the total insanity of New York City progressivism back on April 23, with a post titled “Mayor de Blasio Sets Out To Accelerate New York City’s Decline.” The particular focus of that post was a proposal from our Mayor to impose onerous efficiency standards on office buildings as the latest progressive idea to “save the planet” from the scourge of climate change. If you thought that that proposal just had to represent the ultimate low point of progressive craziness, and that it couldn’t possibly go any lower, then you just haven’t been paying attention. In the last few weeks, the new emergency rules and bans that must be imposed immediately by government to save the world have been coming ever faster and faster. You almost can’t learn about one before the next one is upon you, each one somehow more urgent in the case made for it, more burdensome in its application to the citizenry, and yet even more trivial in potential effect (if any at all) on the planet or the environment or whatever it is we are trying to “save.”

First up, the package of six bills covered in that April post, going by the collective name of the “Climate Mobilization Act,” promptly passed the City Council and became law. The CurbedNY website provided a summary of the bills on April 22, including this gem:

Come 2024, the legislation mandates landlords move toward cutting their building emissions 40 percent by 2030, and would put the city on a path toward reducing its carbon emissions by a whopping 80 percent by 2050.

Of course, the new law puts the steepest burdens on the buildings that are already the most efficient (e.g., modern skyscrapers), while exempting huge categories of buildings that are the least efficient (e.g., City buildings, low income public housing, rent regulated apartment buildings, single family houses). Some City Council members took the occasion to make totally delusional statements about what they think will be the effect of their handiwork. For example, one of the prime sponsors was a guy named Costa Constantinides from Astoria, Queens. His comment:

“There are talks about the Rockaways, Coney Island, and neighborhoods in Staten Island literally being wiped off the map by the end of this century if we do not act,” said [Constantinides]. . . . “No single-handed policy can completely reverse the effects of climate change, but this policy, when enacted, will be the largest emissions reduction policy in the history of New York City or any city anywhere.”

Or this from City Council Speaker (and my own representative) Corey Johnson:

“Our planet is closing in on a breaking point … we have to transition from investing in fossil fuel infrastructure to clean, renewable energy,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said during the vote. “We have to act decisively and we have to act now.

Do these numbskulls actually think that by upgrading the energy efficiency of a few office buildings in New York they can somehow affect the level of the oceans? . . .

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Even Architectural Criticism Must Follow The Correct Political Narrative

Even Architectural Criticism Must Follow The Correct Political Narrative

This past Sunday I joined the good people from Maggie’s Farm on their annual “Urban Hike” in New York City. This year they rounded up a group of about 13. The hike started at the Museum of Natural History (80th Street and Central Park West — near the geographical center of Manhattan Island) and proceeded uptown on a meandering path of about 9 miles, stopping at sites that included things like Pomander Walk, Straus Park (Leo Straus was the founder of Macy’s who died on the Titanic), and Columbia University. The weather was chilly with persistent rain. Toward the end of the hike, at about 155th Street, we had just stood on Edgecomb Avenue at the top of the bluff overlooking the spot where once had stood the Polo Grounds (actually a baseball stadium that was the original home of the Mets, and before them the New York Giants baseball team), and we turned the corner, and suddenly this: . . .

Several gasps and “Oh my God”s erupted spontaneously. I heard the words “Darth Vader building” uttered behind me. Whatever this black block might be, there had been no mention of it in the hike itinerary that had been provided to us; and yet this building was clearly the dominant presence in the neighborhood. Viewing it from the street, its function was not obvious. Had this thing been dropped in by space aliens? What could it possibly be, and why was it here? . . .

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Mayor de Blasio Sets Out To Accelerate New York City's Decline

When Bill de Blasio took office as the new Mayor of New York City back in 2014, many on the right looked at his policy prescriptions and predicted the rapid reversal of the City’s economic revival, potentially followed by rapid economic collapse. But not me! As I had originally written in this post of April 16, 2013, the consequence of bad — even disastrous — economic policy is not immediate economic collapse, but rather what I called “gradual relative decline.” That post looked particularly at Venezuela, then 15 years into the rule of Hugo Chavez, and far into the process of adopting over-the-top socialist policies that a Comsymp NYC Mayor could only dream about — everything from nationalization of most of the economy, to doubling the size of the state sector, to government deficit of 15% of GDP, and so forth. And yet, in its official (fraudulent) statistics, Venezuela was still showing economic growth, just not as fast as the growth in countries that allowed private enterprise to flourish.

But could de Blasio, through the magic of destructive progressive policies, actually turn New York City around from the strong growth that it was experiencing when he took office, and bring back the decline of the 1960s through 1993? . . .

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What Will It Take To End Anti-Greenhouse Gas Insanity?

It was nearly six years ago, in one of the very early posts on this blog, that I wrote as to the global warming scam, “[E]ven as the cause becomes more and more ridiculous, the advocates just double down again and again.” At the time, world temperatures had failed to rise in accordance with alarmist predictions for about 15 years running, and I still had the naive idea that the politics of this issue ultimately would follow the scientific method; in other words, that the hypothesis of catastrophic human-caused warming would inevitably be forced to face the test of empirical evidence. Over time, empirical evidence would accumulate. As it became more and more clear that the evidence failed to support the hypothesis, the whole thing would gradually fade away. But up to that point, as I reported in that April 2013 post, what was happening was closer to the opposite. Extremely weak or completely negative empirical evidence for the hypothesis only made the advocates more and more extreme in their demands for immediate transformation of the world economy to “save the planet.”

The intervening six years have seen the ongoing accumulation of considerably more evidence, essentially all of it negative to the catastrophic global warming hypothesis, but my faith that actual evidence could resolve the issue has been almost completely shattered. Massive alterations have been made to the world thermometer temperature records by US and UK bureaucrats — almost entirely to reduce early-year temperatures and thereby create an apparent warming trend far greater than exists in the raw data. I have covered this issue extensively in a now-twenty-two part series “The Greatest Scientific Fraud Of All Time.” Meanwhile, every hurricane, tornado, drought, flood, or other damaging act of nature is presented by the progressive press as evidence of human-caused “climate change” — even as the actual occurrences of such events have been definitively shown to have no increasing trend over time. Actual evidence gets massively altered, buried and/or ignored.

And now here we are in 2019, and the demands of the anti-greenhouse gas activists have only become more shrill and strident. Exhibit A is the so-called Green New Deal, a call to end most or all GHG emissions by 2030 at a cost of maybe 100 trillion dollars or so. And we are treated to claims by seemingly serious elected officials that the world will end in 12 years if we do not follow these prescriptions. If mere adverse empirical evidence cannot end this insanity, what can? . . .

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