Welcome to CityLand‘s fifth annual top ten stories of the year! We have selected a range of our most popular and prominent stories, and guest commentaries concerning New York City land use in 2016. Our fifth year as an online publication was marked by the fight to pass the Mayor’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing plan, proposed reforms to the building code to prevent illegal home conversions, and capped by the passage of state laws prohibiting Airbnb advertising in New York City. We at CityLand are excited to continue providing in-depth coverage of the latest land use projects, cases, and legislation in 2017 and look forward to seeing what the year will bring. Thank you for all of your support and have a happy new year!
1. Airbnb Opposition Makes for Strange Bedfellows: (Commentary by New York State Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal on burgeoning Airbnb controversy) “There are some things you can always count on here in New York: alternate side of the street parking, the subways always running (except when they’re not, like late nights and weekends), the Yankees making the playoffs (except when the Mets do) and landlords and tenants being diametrically opposed. Like Superman and Kryptonite, oil and water, landlords and tenants have always had one thing in common – a mutual distrust of one another.”
2. How Small is Too Small: the Trivial Doctrine in New York Law: (CityLand‘s analysis of recent judicial decisions surrounding municipal liability for uneven sidewalks) How small is too small when it comes to trip hazards on New York City sidewalks? New York courts, grappling with this issue for over 125 years, have declined to advance a standard based solely on the size or dimensions of the defect or hazard and instead have opted to evaluate each slip, trip and fall case on the merits under a totality of the circumstances test. The result is that it is difficult for the City and private premises owners to win dismissal on trip and fall cases based on the triviality of the defect.
3. Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability Proposal Modifications Approved by Council: The City Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises and Committee on Land Use voted to approve the Mayor’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposals with modifications. CityLand created a comprehensive chart outlining the modifications made to MIH and ZQA and approved by the Council. To view CityLand’s article on the Subcommittee and Committee meetings, click here.
4. Full City Council to Vote to Approve Affordable Housing Proposals: Both proposals have been approved by the full City Council at its stated meeting. The MIH proposal passed with 42 votes in favor of its passage and five votes against it. The ZQA proposal passed with 40 votes in favor of its passage, six votes against it, and one abstention. (See Full CityLand coverage of Stated Meeting vote: here).
5. Mayor Bill de Blasio Announces New Crane Safety Plan, Effective Immediately: On February 5th at approximately 8:30AM, a large crane collapsed onto Worth Street, spanning two blocks between Hudson Street and Church Street, damaging at least one building, including New York Law School, injuring three pedestrians, and causing one casualty. Due to increased wind speeds, the work crew responsible for operating the crane refrained from beginning construction work and was in the process of moving the crane into a secure position when it collapsed. The new set of safety measures arose in response to a fatal crane collapse incident, which occurred on February 5, 2016 in the TriBeCa neighborhood of Manhattan. “No building is worth a person’s life,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
6. City Council Subcommittee Chided EDC over Downtown Brooklyn Development: “Council explored the failure of the 2004 rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn to result in much needed commercial space. The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises raised concerns about the aggregate effect the mass development of Downtown Brooklyn will have on school resources during a hearing on an application to construct a new 49-story mixed-use building at 141 Willoughby Street in Downtown Brooklyn.”
7. Say Hello to Mandatory Inclusionary Housing!: (Commentary by GoldmanHarris LLC’s Howard Goldman on the development of MIH) “Mandatory Inclusionary Housing has gotten off to a rocky start with the lapse of the 421-a tax incentive program. The financial feasibility assessment underlying Mandatory Inclusionary Housing assumed that a 421-a tax abatement would be available. Although it is generally expected that 421-a will be replaced, its final form is unknown, and a reevaluation of the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program may be required when that form is known.”
8. New Bill by Council Member Gentile Takes Aim at Illegal Home Conversions: New York City Council Members Vincent J. Gentile, Jumaane D. Williams, and Barry S. Grodenchik introduced legislation that would impose high penalties on bad actor landlords and equip the Department of Buildings with means to gain entry into suspected illegal conversion sites.
9. City’s Failure to Preserve Deed Restrictions on the Rivington House Explored: City Council questioned the First Deputy Mayor, the Corporation Counsel and the DCAS Commissioner on the controversial Rivington House sale. The issues within the existing deed-modification policies and procedures were brought to light in February 2016 when the Rivington house, a former nursing home located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, was sold to private condominium developers immediately after the use- restrictions were lifted from the property.
10. Preservation Consultant Gregory Dietrich on a Unique Path to a Unique Career: Profile of Gregory Dietrich, Principal of Gregory Dietrich Preservation Consulting, who works as one of the small number of privately practicing historic preservation consultants. His vocation brings him into close contact with regulatory bodies, developers, land use agencies, advocacy groups, non-profit organizations and more.