Daniel R. Garodnick on serving the City and his district

Daniel R. Garodnick

Council Member Daniel R. Garodnick, the recently re-elected representative for Manhattan’s 4th District and chair of the subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions & Concessions, takes pride in being born and raised in the district he represents. Garodnick grew up in a rent-stabilized apartment in the Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village community and still lives in that neighborhood with his wife. His district also includes parts of the Upper East Side, Midtown, and Murray Hill.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Garodnick worked as a litigator at Paul,Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. He also served as a public member of Manhattan Community Board 6, where he gained a deeper understanding of local issues and their effect on residents. When a City Council vacancy arose in 2005, Garodnick ran as the Democratic Party’s candidate and won 63 percent of the vote in the general election.

Role as a mediator. Garodnick has served as chair of the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions & Concessions since he took office in January 2006. His subcommittee reviews a variety of issues, including Urban Development Action Area Projects, dispositions of City-owned properties, community 197-a plans, and concessions. A few of the more controversial hearings that he has presided over include the new Yankee Stadium project, the Willets Point Redevelopment Plan, and the recently modified Broadway Triangle rezoning proposal.

As the subcommittee chair, Garodnick believes it is his responsibility to mediate any conflicts that arise between the City or a private developer and the local council member. He understands that land use issues are often controversial and emotional, and he does what it takes to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be heard.

Garodnick likes to focus on the details when considering land use issues. When reviewing a UDAAP proposal he wants to know whether there was a transparent planning process, whether it will provide home-ownership or rental opportunities, and who will be entitled to the new housing.

Community advocacy. In 2007, Solow Properties proposed a $4 billion development on a former Con Edison site along the East River. Garodnick both chaired the plan’s public hearing and represented his community, which was “absolutely opposed” to the project. He engaged in a long process of negotiations in order to balance the needs of his community with allowing a major real estate project with citywide implications to proceed. Ultimately, the developer agreed to provide affordable housing, a public school, four acres of open space, and buildings designed to avoid casting shadows on local parks.

According to Garodnick, his commitment to affordable housing is best exemplified by his leadership in a $4.5 billion tenant- backed bid to purchase Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village. Although the tenants’ bid lost out to Tishman Speyer’s $5.4 billion offer, Garodnick believes the experience demonstrates what a local elected official can achieve with some creativity and willingness to work with the private sector.

When Tishman Speyer attempted to deny lease renewals to tenants it believed illegally possessed rent-stabilized apartments, Garodnick set up clinics and a free hotline so residents could speak confidentially with a tenant-friendly lawyer. In October 2009, the Court of Appeals upheld the First Department’s ruling that Tishman Speyer illegally deregulated apartments while receiving tax benefits under another City program. Garodnick believes the ruling will lead to the re-regulation of 4,000 deregulated units, rent rollbacks, and compensation for overcharges.

Stalled development sites. The City Council recently passed legislation authored by Garodnick to improve safety at stalled construction sites. The legislation allows developers to temporarily keep their building permits as long as they keep their sites safe and secure, pay outstanding fines, and correct outstanding violations.

Garodnick disagrees with criticisms that the new law rewards developers for doing what they already should. He believes the law creates an important incentive for developers to promptly self-disclose when they cannot move forward and allows the City to “put its hooks in” and demand additional safety protocols. Otherwise, a stalled construction site might remain inactive for a year before the City takes any action. According to Garodnick, the program is the “right carrot” to ensure that the City is not dealing with site safety issues on a complaint-by-complaint basis.

The next four years. Garodnick said the goals of his next term include creating more affordable housing for those in the middle-income spectrum, preserving the affordability of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, creating contiguous East Side waterfront access, tackling issues arising from the construction of the Second Avenue Subway, and dealing with the overcrowding of public schools. Most significantly, Garodnick’s goal is to be “a constructive player” and “try to find pragmatic solutions” when unforeseen land use issues arise.    — Matthew Windman

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