A Review of the DeBlasio Administration:  Spot Zoning, Unjustifiable Restrictions, and the Soft Corruption of New York’s Land Use Regulations, and Other Regulations

What would I have spent my career doing if I had stayed at the New York City Department of City Planning, instead of leaving 21 years ago?  Nothing good, based on what I know, and it’s a good thing I got out when I did.  New York City is gradually becoming a giant co-op board, with different rules based on who you are, and who you pay.  There are plenty of obsolete and unjustifyable restrictions and exclusions on the books, many dating from the early 1960s when city planners decided the city would have to become a second-rate suburb to survive.  And as I increasingly discover, any rules at all are optional for those on the political inside.

In fairness, New York City has never been a place of simple, fair rules strongly enforced against everyone.  The trend of pretending to be tolerant and open because you only oppose the businesses and buildings the lesser people might patronize, not the people themselves, not only pre-dates the DeBlasio Administration, it goes back hundreds of years.  In the 1850s, according to the book Gotham, snobs wanted to prohibit the sale of alcohol on Sunday, the only day off for working class Irish and German immigrants to gather in their pubs and beer gardens for a beer.  “Reform” mayor Fernando Wood gave them the rules they wanted, then used selective enforcement as a source of graft.  Astute reformers noted that Wood’s anti-vice crusades were highly selective.  His men rounded up streetwalkers but left brothels alone, raided the grubbier gambling dens but not the fashionable establishments, and bypassed Sunday saloonkeepers who voted the right way.

Still, the trend toward regulation by special deals for the special people got worse under special interest-backed Mayor Bill DeBlasio, and based on who is contributing money to whom, and what even 21st century “progressives” are like, the trend toward different rules for different people is likely to continue to get worse.

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The City Planning profession is in a strange position.  One might fairly say that its only big idea is to try to undo the regulations city planners put in place after 1920, and in particular after 1970, to allow the types of development patterns the market produced on its own before the government intervened.  All over the county cities and small towns find that many or most of their most desirable and loved existing buildings and neighborhoods could not be built today, due to parking requirements, use restrictions, and bulk restrictions imposed to try to replicate the suburbs.  

To call these rules obsolete is to give them too much credit – they were never justified to begin with.  But political operators like the unjustified rules, because it requires anyone who wants to operate a business or build a building to crawl before them and cut a deal.  And all the land use lawyers and consultants, who make campaign contributions, take a cut.  Thus the city planning profession is unable to fix its own mess.

New York City isn’t the worst in this regard, despite the community boards and local political NIMBYs.  But it still has lots of stupid rules on the books that aren’t coming off, as I discovered as the head the Commercial Use and Parking Study in the 1990s.

The framers of the 1961 zoning decided that to compete with the suburbs, the government had to take the role of shopping center owners and carefully curate which type of business went where on a commercial street.  High volume retailers over here, lower traffic services over there.  Thus, only Use Group 6 is allowed in C1 zones, while Use Groups 7, 8 and 9, including workshops and repair shops, studios, small wholesale establishments, and places of assembly such catering halls, health clubs, and theaters were banished to C2 zones.  

The two types of zones alternated and were often right across a street from each other.  And a few decades later, there were as many businesses theoretically in use groups 7, 8 and 9 in C1 zones as in C2 zones.  You couldn’t tell the difference.  Enforcement was only in response to complaints, and those complaints came from business competitors, or those who didn’t like the race or ethnic background of the business owners or customers.  

When you make everything illegal, the authorities can target whoever they like.  And there are co-op board type people who like that just fine.  And in fact, any type of business that didn’t exist in 1961 is, in theory, illegal because it isn’t listed in the zoning resolution.  Umbrella and typewriter repair establishments?  Fine. Electronics repair establishments – not permitted anywhere in New York City, but tolerated for those who play ball.

In addition, the 1961 zoning eliminated zoning that permitted businesses in areas where businesses were already present, and required parking for new commercial buildings, in the hopes that existing storefronts would be replaced by a smaller number of strip malls.  That’s right, the zoning on the books is intended to replace urban main streets with strip malls.  In particular, new supermarkets were prevented by the parking requirements and the prohibition on food stores with more than 10,000 square feet in manufacturing zones, leading to food deserts.

This is something I tried to change in the 1990s.  You’d think the Giuliani Administration, based on what Giuliani said, would have been in favor of getting rid of useless restrictions on businesses.  All the research was done, the report was ready to be printed, and then it just didn’t happen.  I still have all the photographs of all the criminal businesses that were, in reality, no problem at all.

A couple of decades later, a former colleague introduced me to the next set of city planners.  They had been directed to all my research, and were ready to try to fix this mess during the DeBlasio Administration.  “Good luck” I told them.  And once again, despite their efforts, nothing happened.  The DeBlasio Administration had made a non-decision to leave new businesses vulnerable to harassment for no reason.  They didn’t even loosen up the parking requirement in manufacturing zones so that new loft buildings, suddenly in demand again, could be built like the ones that are already there.  I can only assume that the political level squashed them again.

I could write 100 pages on all things that the DeBlasio Administration should have been in favor of doing, if it were “progressive” and in favor of the disadvantaged like it pretended to be, but did not do because that was all a pose. 

Take for example school segregation.  DeBlasio made a big deal about the seven test-in schools such as Stuyvesant, precisely because their status as test in schools is a matter of state law and there was nothing he could do about it.  While not doing anything about the system that sorts children into winners and losers at age 3 and 4, something that was totally in his control, until he made a proposal – on his way out the door.  People can argue about whether or not it makes sense to bus kids all over the city to reduce segregation, but does it ever make sense to bus kids all over the city to increase segregation?  The Catholic Schools, what’s left of them, put all kinds of kids together until 8th grade, and only then sorts them out based on their differing needs.  That makes sense.  But New York City has campaign-contributing school bus companies to satisfy. 

Of course, this goes back a long way too, with the fake address scheme for the right people to get into the wrong schools.  It was even in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

But let’s talk about what DeBlasio did do, and given him credit for one thing.

On his way out the door, the DeBlasio Administration did make it legal to open a health club.

The Health and Fitness Text Amendment is intended to remove outdated and onerous regulations that exist for gyms, spas, and licensed massage therapy, making it easier for these businesses to open and provide health-related amenities in communities across New York City. The proposal would remove an existing special permit and restore these activities to as-of-right uses, as they were within the 1961 ZR 

The 1961 ZR listed Physical Culture or Health Establishments (PCEs)—a definition that included gymnasiums, reducing salons, masseurs, or steam baths—as Use Group 9. These activities were permitted as-of-right in most commercial districts. 

Use group 9 was only permitted in C2 zones, not C1 zones.

During the 1970s, concerns were emerging by members of the public and elected officials regarding the proliferation of commercial sex in New York City. Many establishments engaging in such activities were masquerading as health clubs and massage parlors. 

So they just required a special permit for all health clubs.  Large chains could just open and be legalized after the fact, after demonstrating they were not sex clubs.  But anyone who wanted to open an independent business was harassed – and had to pay “expeditors” who then passed on money to the right people.  It was not possible to open a health club or anything like it, such as a yoga studio, anywhere in New York City without a review lasting up to a year.

The BSA process for obtaining a permit is extremely costly, often adding six months and up to $50,000 in additional startup costs to open a gym, creating a high barrier for small and independent businesses.

In theory all of those special permits were in C2 zones.  In practice, if you hired the right expeditor, who paid off the right people, and convinced the community board you would be serving the right people, people the zoning distinction between C1 and C2 zones was simply ignored. The Board of Standards and Appeals issued one special permit after another to large corporate chains in C1 zones, “contrary to zoning.”  They simply ignored the (stupid) rule on the books.

When the DeBlasio Administration proposed getting rid of the special permit, many community boards (to which DeBlasio had long pandered) objected, because they liked the idea than new businesses had to bow and plead before them.

The proposed action would categorize all facilities dedicated to physical fitness and health, limited to 10,000 square feet of floor area per establishment, as Use Group 6 and Use Group 14. This includes gyms, spas, and other facilities with activities designed to promote physical fitness. Through this framework, the use would be permitted as-of-right in all commercial and manufacturing districts.

Fair enough.  

But consider what else the DeBlasio Administration did on its way out the door.  It now requires an environmental review, a city planning commission special permit, to open a new hotel anywhere in New York City.  Anywhere!  

https://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/plans/citywide-hotel/citywide-hotel-overview.page

By establishing a new CPC special permit, the proposed actions would establish a case-by-case, site-specific review process intended to ensure that new hotels do not create conflicts with surrounding uses. 

Which is to say, that the proposed hotel would be “upscale” and only affordable to the affluent, so others can’t visit the city.  You didn’t hear an objection from the real estate industry. Those who overpaid for buildings and sites, and can only be profitable at $500 per night, are probably relieved that someone from Gujrat can’t open a hotel and charge $150 per night, the way they do everywhere else in the U.S.  But what about moderate- and middle-income households who might want to visit New York City, and wouldn’t mind staying with the Gujratis? And what about all the jobs those additional tourists could provide?

https://www.firstpost.com/world/how-the-patels-took-over-the-motels-299287.html

However, the proposed text amendment would retain the existing findings and regulations of the special permit for hotels in M1 districts (N 180349 ZRY), which was adopted in December 2018. The existing rules in M1 districts address specific issues related to common business activities in light manufacturing districts.

As in, making sure the hotel is costly enough that it can’t be used for less-well-off singles, the way old hotels were for hundreds of years before the hypocritical Democratic progressive snobs intervened.

This is an absolute disgrace.  Bill DeBlasio wants to run for Congress.  He should be asked over and over again how it is that he decided that any new hotel requires a political deal to open anywhere in New York City.  After all, that’s one place he got the money to run for another election to begin with.  What is the ideological, philosophical, moral values behind this?  What does this say about his values, so-called progressive values?

And it isn’t just that.

I happened to flip on, I believe, TV channel 25-2, and saw a public hearing on an application to rezone a large property owned by the applicant, and one smaller lot next to it.  The rezoning would allow a much larger residential building than other property owners could build.  The applicant presumably got the property cheap, because less was allowed to be built or the land was set aside for less lucrative but needed land uses (warehousing and transportation).  Now, by hiring lawyers and consultants and perhaps making political contributions, the city will in effect hand them a bunch of money that nearby property owners cannot get.  They may use the rezoning to build something, or just flip it for a cheap profit without having to do anything.

This is called spot zoning, and it is illegal.  I did a search of something I could link to back up that assertion, and was surprised to find this.

From the New York State Department of State, revised in 2015 but for some reason reprinted in 2021.  Why did they feel the need to do that?  

Consider the equal protection clause of the constitution.  You have two people or entities that own similar properties in nearby locations.  How can the government decide that one of them will have regulations that make their property worth less, and the other have regulations that make their property worth more?  Based on what?  Politics, connections, corruption, favoritism, race, class?

Basically, land use regulations are required to be based on legitimate public purposes such as health and safety, and to be consistent with a well-considered land use plan.  These were the legal requirements set down when the courts held whether, and under what circumstances, land use regulation is allowed to start with.

Spot zoning, as defined in the document above.

Spot zoning refers to the rezoning of a parcel of land to a use category different from the surrounding area, usually to benefit a single owner or a single development interest. Size of the parcel is relevant, but not determinative. Illegal spot zoning occurs whenever “the change is other than part of a well-considered and comprehensive plan calculated to serve the general welfare of the community.”

A review of the relevant cases reveals that spot zoning is the antithesis of zoning undertaken in accordance with a well-considered plan. The landmark case in the field of spot zoning is Rodgers v. Village of Tarrytown,29 in which the Court of Appeals defined the rezoning of relatively small parcels of land in terms of the comprehensive planning requirement:

Thus, the relevant inquiry is not whether the particular zoning under attack consists of areas fixed within larger areas of different use, but whether it was accomplished for the benefit of individual owners rather than pursuant to a comprehensive plan for the general welfare of the community”

New York City has no comprehensive plan.  We are on the verge of having every new business that opens, and every new business that gets built, subject to a co-op board-type “right kind of people” review.  With some types of people allowed to ignore every law, and other subject to unreasonable harassment and restrictions.

Consider something else that happened prior to the DeBlasio Administration.  In Corona.

Northwest Queens is the earliest area of the borough to be developed and the most urban, with extensive multifamily housing in proximity to the Flushing #7 subway line and other subway lines.  Queens is one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the United States, with immigrants from a large variety of counties living in enclaves, especially along the Flushing Line.   

Data for zip code 11368, including both North Corona and South Corona, reflects that diverse, immigrant, working class character.  According to five-year American Community Survey (ACS) estimates data through 2020 from the U.S. Census Bureau, just 14.0% of the adult population had a bachelor degree or higher, and 36.4% had not completed high school, and yet an unusually high 67.4% were in the labor force, working or looking for work.  Nearly 60.0% of the population was foreign born, with nearly 80.0% of the foreign born having been born in Latin America, and 70.8% of the total population speaking Spanish.  Corona is the most Latin American area of Queens.  

Only 14.4% of employed Corona residents drove their own vehicle to work, compared with 11.5% who walked and 63.2% who used public transportation.  An unusually high 34.0% of the workers were in blue collar occupations, with 37.4% in service occupations, 15.9% in sales and office occupations, and just 12.7% in management, business, science and arts occupations.  The median household income is $56,904, and 26.5% of the population is in poverty.

ACS housing data shows a densely populated but low-rise housing stock that was mostly built after WWII.  Only 30.4% of the total housing units are in buildings with 20 or more units, and only 10.0% were in one-family homes.  Two- to four-unit homes predominate, but are wood frame and mostly in poor condition.  A plurality of the housing stock, some 45.6%, was built between 1950 and 1980.  The population is packed in, with 27.3% of the housing units having more than one person per room.  About 80.0% of the occupied housing units are renter-occupied, and the estimated rental vacancy rate is just 0.8%, with a median gross rent of $1,686 per month, and 57.2% of renter households paying 30.0% or more of their income in rent.

With good transit access and Flushing Meadow park nearby, you’d think this would be the perfect place for new mid-rise housing development.  

Nonetheless, Corona was downzoned twice, once in 2003 and once in 2009. In the first rezoning, it went from R6 to R6A and R6B, which allow the same level of development but with consistent height limits.  I can agree with that.  If we want rooftop solar, you don’t want to have people installing $20,000 systems only to have a development next door put those solar panels in the shade.  But the next rezoning limited 68 blocks to one-and two family detached houses.  Much of the area is zoned R5A today.  R5A contextual districts permit only one- and two-family detached residences with a maximum 1.1 floor area ratio (FAR).  

Why?  Maybe to appease community board members like this, who also objected to bike lanes because they were associated with “change.”

So, what did the DeBlasio Administration propose do about all this?  Ignore it, and then propose to legalize, illegal cellar apartments.  Under the building code, basement housing – with more than half its height above grade is legal, but cellar housing – underground – is not.  Having prevented building up in Queens, the city turned a blind eye to building down – until it rained, and a bunch of people drowned.

https://www.nbcnewyork.com/weather/majority-of-idas-nyc-victims-died-in-illegally-converted-basement-cellars-city/3256778/

The Department of Buildings confirmed Friday that five of the six buildings where New Yorkers lost their lives had illegal basement or cellar conversions.

Why does allowing this, but not allowing new masonry buildings to replace deteriorating wood-frame buildings, make sense?  It doesn’t make planning sense.  But it makes political sense.

As does the snobby opposition to new businesses that seek to provide rapid delivery by occupying vacancy spaces on commercial streets.

City Councilwoman Gale Brewer demanded Wednesday that Mayor Adams and Gov. Hochul start cracking down on high-speed, app-based delivery services like JOKR, Buyk and Fridge — businesses she claims are violating the city’s zoning laws and possibly state liquor license requirements.

The so-called dark stores, many of which promise delivery within 15 minutes, occupy spaces zoned by the city for commercial use, but, according to Brewer, they essentially serve as warehouses where the services store their products and dispatch their delivery workers from. That, she said, is not allowed under city zoning rules.

“I don’t think they’re legal,” she said just steps away from a JOKR storefront on the Upper West Side. “The concern is they are going to drive out our beloved bodegas.”

First of all, wholesale establishments with up to 1,500 square feet of accessory storage are in fact legal – in C2 zones, but not C1 zones.  Even if such establishments were in C1 zones, however, what right do existing businesses have to keep out new competitors who might offer lower prices, better services, and more fresh food?

You have savers who are looking for a place to invest their money.  Landlords who have vacant stores, in part because they paid too much for the buildings and are required to charge too much to pay the loan, in part because the city put independent businesses out of business during the pandemic, in part because shoplifting has been decriminalized.  They are looking for tenants.   You have people looking for jobs is a city with an unemployment rate double the national average.  You have consumers looking for a better deal.  What right does the city have to prevent them from voluntarily getting together and creating a new kind of business?  

And why do food selling companies from “socialist” Europe see opportunity in the U.S.

https://www.economist.com/united-states/2022/06/02/why-americans-are-poorly-served-by-their-grocery-stores

Even before the current bout of inflation, food prices in America had been rising faster than most other prices for the previous 20 years. A study in 2017 by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation found that the cost of eating healthily in America was 65% more than in Britain, and among the highest in the rich world (see chart). The inflation figures suggest that this will, if anything, have worsened since. Though Americans still spend a smaller proportion of their income on supermarket food than Europeans, the gap has been narrowing. In absolute terms they spend more, even though they also eat out more, and eat less healthy, cheaper foodstuffs.

And that’s the with the biggest and most efficient companies, let alone bodegas.

Do I think ordering food and getting it delivered in 15 minutes is a practical idea as a business?  Maybe not.  Is it for me?  I still don’t have a smartphone.  But I don’t think I have the right to tell other people what they can do without a very good reason.  If they don’t work out, they’ll go out of business and be replaced by something else – if the city deigns to allow something else.  Ah, but we want boutiques and cafés, not a neighborhood distribution hub frequented by blue collar workers on e-bikes!  Damn these kids with their sex, drugs, and rock and roll apps!  It’s our world and they are just living in it.

Mayor Eric Adams is moving to crack down on the proliferation of warehouse-like spaces that grocery delivery apps have created inside former Big Apple storefronts – ordering them to allow customers to shop there or move to the outskirts of the city, The Post has learned.

Critics including City Council members Gale Brewer and Christopher Marte have argued that storefronts operated by apps like Gopuff and Gorillas violate zoning laws because they operate mostly as warehouses and should therefore move out of neighborhoods zoned for retail use.

I’ve got a better idea.  Go after every business in a C1 zone that isn’t specifically listed in Use Group 6, and any business that doesn’t conform with the sign regulations (including every bodega out there), fine the hell out of them and shut them down.  But only in these two councilmembers’ districts.  (And perhaps publish a schedule of required bribes to allow them to stay open).

This is the same kind of mentality that emptied retail space in the City of San Francisco.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/05/san-francisco-bureaucracy-housing-crisis/629719/

An established ice-cream shop, Garden Creamery, was attempting to prevent a prospective soft-serve shop, Matcha n’ More, from moving onto the same block, using a provision of a state law designed to protect against environmental degradation.

Ensue public comment! The first caller asked why the question of whether two dessert shops could operate on the same block was an issue for the planning commission in the first place. The 64th caller was more blunt. “I support the new business,” the person said, per Fruchtman, whose tweet thread on the meeting went viral. “The whole process is dumb as shit.” Still, Jason Yu of Matcha n’ More ended up spending $200,000 navigating San Francisco’s bureaucratic processes. After two years of procedural wrangling, he gave up…

In San Francisco, “instead of bright-line rules, where a developer knows I’m allowed to build this here, everything is a negotiation and every project proceeds on an ad hoc basis,” Jenny Schuetz, a housing economist at the Brookings Institution, told me. Small-d democratic-citizen participation has led to profoundly regressive outcomes.

There it is.  Co-op board zoning, with the neighbors deciding if you and your clientele and employees are “upscale” enough to be allowed.  For businesses and buildings, not people by race, because, you, how, we’re “liberal.” 

If I wanted to live in a snobby, exclusive area like Westport, CT I would have moved there.  Actually…

https://www.ctinsider.com/news/article/Westport-tries-to-diversify-housing-options-with-16101349.php

Existing houses can have accessory apartments within the house itself, but they still can’t exceed 25 percent of the square footage. The proposed change would increase the maximum footage from 800 square feet to 1,500 square feet, however.

The commissioners were generally supportive of the changes to allow accessory apartments throughout town, but said there should also be guidance on the logistics for those who want to add them.

New York’s suburbs are worse, and New York City’s politicians are as bad as those in the suburbs.  Except that those with the money to provide “consideration” can always cut deals.

Getting back to Mayor DeBlasio, the battle over the Prospect Park West bike lane is a measure of the man.

Democratic mayoral candidates agree: the city failed to do enough outreach before installing the controversial Prospect Park West bike lane — but making a section of the street for cyclists only was probably a good idea anyway.

The consensus of true-blue hizzoner hopefuls at a May 6 forum in Park Slope was that the city should have gone further in getting neighborhood feedback before converting a lane of the thoroughfare into a two-way route for bikes. The change bred bitter hostility among many residents and provoked several lawsuits.

The bike lane had been requested by the Community Board, gone through a full public review process, and had the support of the local member of the City Council.  But several local Democratic pooh-bahs whose support for higher office DeBlasio was seeking opposed it, so he did as well.  When they lost and it was built anyway, he was in favor, but still said “the community” was not consulted.  Who is “the community?”

This is the same DeBlasio who had nothing to say about the Staten Island Expressway expansion from six lanes to ten getting approved with no environmental impact statement virtually no consultation with anyone at all.

When it comes to regulations, for DeBlasio and those like him it isn’t about “what.”  It’s about “who.”  DeBlasio pandered to the city as giant co-op board, and now we get even more of it.  A conservative is someone who thinks advertising is a free speech right but protesting is a quality of life crime.  A liberal is someone who wants to legalize marijuana and ban tobacco.  And a libertarian is a liberal who was mugged by a co-op board (or homeowners’ association or any board).

Given that, Mayor DeBlasio was probably saved by the bell, because a third term for the DeBlasio Administration would probably have ended up like Koch’s third term.

A summary…

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1160184.City_for_Sale

This is an insane story that should be turned into a true crime miniseries. You’ve got the shocking story of the two suicides of the Queens Borough President, a kickback and bribery scandal that ensnared three Dem county leaders, a Congressman and dozens of party hacks, the first Jewish Miss America acting as a beard for the-everybody-knew-he-was-gay Ed Koch, Giuiani when he was still an effective lawyer and the Trump Organization lurking at every corner.

Instead, that might be the Adams Administration.   With the BSA is prepared to approve anything, but only for the right people.  You know what land use lawyers call the seven findings required for a zoning variance?  The seven lies.

The big picture is, I’ve been irritated by these “environmental” and “process” NIMBY lawsuits and rules since back when I was a junior planner at NYC planning.

And disgusted at the extent to which city planning, and environmentalism, have been hijacked by “I’ve got mine jack” feudalism that has nothing to do with planning for the future or the environment.

Over time, I’ve come to be less offended by selfish people advancing a philosophy of selfishness than by selfish people hiding behind “progressive” and “egalitarian” motives. The sort of thing that is thick on the ground here in metro NY, home of exclusionary zoning in the suburbs and class (less so than race) bias in the city and suburbs alike.

I’ll say it again:  Under capitalism, you get what you earn, at least in theory. Those who believe that people need an incentive to work and innovate can agree with that. Under socialism, you get what you need, at least in theory. Those who believe that we are all part of one human family can agree with that. But over time, when you have the same group of people in power, both capitalism and socialism degenerate into feudalism, under which the privileged expect to continue to get what they have been getting, and perhaps a little more, whether they need it or not, deserve it or not. For those who have real needs, and who produce real earnings, it’s just tough luck.

For those who have the deals, those who are already there, those who are working the system, feudalism has its appeal, and it can be the basis for a political career.  But the idea that having this kind of arbitrary power and selective enforcement will ever work to the benefit of the less powerful, less advantaged, less wealthy is a fraud.

https://www.economist.com/united-states/2022/06/02/las-mayoral-race-may-reveal-the-limits-of-progressive-politics

It appears that retail renegade Rick Caruso is running for Mayor of Los Angeles.  Good for him.

Caruso was an early pioneer of the “lifestyle center” form of shopping center, one that attempts to bring the social advantages and feelings of a downtown or main street to the suburbs.  And to bringing mixed-use to the suburbs, with apartments at the shopping center.  The public wanted it.  The city planners wanted it.  Local politicians wanted it.  It was approved.  But since he was building a better mouse trap, owners of a crummy old shopping mall attempted to use California’s out of control “environmental,” NIMBY and litigation culture to prevent him from opening it.

Caruso beat them.

In 2001, the city of Glendale awarded Mr. Caruso a 15.5-acre site near the Galleria in downtown Glendale to build Americana at Brand, a $369 million open-air shopping center. The next year, General Growth bought the Galleria, an enclosed mall with five anchor department stores. It owns the mall in partnership with the New York State Common Retirement Fund.

General Growth, which has interests in more than 200 shopping centers in 45 states, including the South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan, tried several strategies to keep the Americana from opening and potentially siphoning off the most desirable retail tenants.

General Growth, a real estate investment trust, first collected enough signatures to hold a referendum on the project, but voters approved its construction. A lawsuit challenging the environmental impact statement for the project was also unsuccessful.

Scheduled to open in April, the Americana is similar in concept to the Grove, except that it will have 238 apartments and 100 condominiums in addition to 475,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space.

In 2004, Mr. Caruso filed a lawsuit against General Growth accusing the company of antitrust violations and unfair competition as well as illegal interference in his lease negotiations with store chains. The antitrust and unfair competition charges were recently dismissed.

The case was closely watched by analysts who cover mall companies because retail brokers have complained for years that large operators use their power to dictate where retail chains open their stores.

As an environmentalist with a masters in city planning who is disgusted by the bastardization of both environmental and land use regulation, I was pleased to see him win.  He struck a blow against it.  What are developers to think of land use regulation when some are hassled for trying to do anything, while others get away with everything?  I turns the whole thing into a scam.

1 thought on “A Review of the DeBlasio Administration:  Spot Zoning, Unjustifiable Restrictions, and the Soft Corruption of New York’s Land Use Regulations, and Other Regulations

  1. larrylittlefield Post author

    https://www.thecity.nyc/2022/6/1/23151011/eric-adams-real-estate-development-council

    Believing everything the real estate industry says isn’t the right policy either. In the meantime, however:

    “Manhattan commercial and business districts have struggled, with office occupancy below 40%, according to Kastle Systems.”

    Kastle has a small sample size, but everyone is quoting them because there is no other information available. But I wrote to a New York City agency late in 2021 and explained how they had the data, in their billing records, to show exactly where people are spending their time — now, compared with before the pandemic, and the worst of the pandemic. I suggested that they compile the data and sneak it out between administrations, when there were no political appointees to stop them. That agency showed interest, but it didn’t happen, and now any data would presumably have to be vetted by campaign contributors before it is released.

    I’ll give you a hint. New York seems to be a place where assholes are the only people who matter, and this agency knows, in detail, where assholes are. Combined with data from another agency, they could know what type of buildings in which areas, or even specific buildings, they are in, or not in.

    Reply

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