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Crain’s New York

Eddie Small


The number of new construction projects planned for the city has reached its lowest point since the aftermath of the Great Recession a decade ago, according to a new analysis from the Real Estate Board of New York.

Developers filed plans for 1,187 new buildings during the first three quarters of the year, a decline of almost 22% compared to the first three quarters of last year, the report found. This is the lowest number since 2010, when developers filed plans for 1,009 new buildings during the first three quarters of the year.

Filings did tick up quarter over quarter, rising from 386 to 441, according to the report. Nonessential business activity was still shut during much of New York’s second quarter, which likely played a role in the increase.

Leaders of REBNY, the Building and Construction Trades Council, the Building Trades Employers Association and the New York Building Congress all framed the low number of new project filings as a major threat to the city’s economic recovery.

“This 10-year low point for new construction activity calls for an all-hands-on-deck response by elected officials and a laser focus on policies that will generate jobs and growth without setting back crucial recovery efforts,” REBNY President James Whelan said in a statement.

Brooklyn saw the largest number of project filings during the third quarter at 128, while Queens projects made up the greatest percentage of total square feet at 38.6%, according to the report.

The largest Queens project was a mixed-use building spanning almost 500,000 square feet at 90-02 168th St. in Jamaica, and the largest Brooklyn project was a mixed-use building spanning about 240,000 square feet at 2700 Atlantic Ave. in Cypress Hills, according to the report.

REBNY’s analysis featured multiple proposals for reinvigorating the city’s construction industry. These included prioritizing and expediting major developments already in the pipeline, such as Sunnyside Yards and the remainder of the World Trade Center. The industry group also proposed developing a regional master plan for transportation infrastructure that would focus on projects such as the Second Avenue subway extension and the LaGuardia Airport AirTrain connection.

The analysis also recommends doing more to incentivize development in life sciences, a sector that has historically been stronger in cities such as San Francisco and Boston than in New York. It specifically suggests making the Industrial and Commercial Abatement program available for new life science construction projects and creating a new tax abatement program for projects that dedicate at least 40% of their space to life science purposes.

In addition, it suggests allowing for as-of-right conversions of Class B and C office space to residential space as a way of making it easier to create new housing. Ideas around office-to-residential conversions have become more prominent during the pandemic amid lingering skepticism about the resilience of the city’s office market in the face of widespread work from home.

“Investment in construction and large-scale infrastructure projects are what drive a robust economic recovery,” BCTC President Gary LaBarbera said in a statement. “These projects create thousands of jobs that lead to family-sustaining careers with benefits, and that’s exactly what’s needed to generate the economic activity and mobility that will help New York City turn the corner on this economic crisis.”

Published on

Dec 11, 2020 by New York Building Congress