From the NY Times:
Seven years ago, the New York State Legislature ruled out tax breaks for Midtown Manhattan developments unless they included affordable units; reformers noted reasonably that there was no shortage of construction cranes and fortunes to be had in that neighborhood. In all, 150,000 units in New York City receive the 421-a property tax abatements, for $1.1 billion in lost revenue for the city.
Whatever. A subsidy is like catnip for a developer; the more difficult the pursuit, the more glorious the catch.
State Senator Liz Krueger watches such unneeded tax subsidies — for energy, insurance, tobacco and luxury development — slip like barges down a darkened canal. She notes that the housing bill “was held hostage so a few well-connected developers could rob taxpayers to the tune of millions.”
Perhaps we should admire the gumption of our developers. They often argue that without tax breaks, the city would be a desert.
But in this case, the property tax exemption arrives as the Extell tower, a dull sheath of blue glass that spirals above the skyline like an exercise in ego architecture, is near completion. Mr. Barnett has been blessed with a retroactive tax break. “A tax incentive given retroactively is the stupidest thing in the world,” notes Senator Krueger, with a tone suggesting that she’s becoming expert in the stupidest things.
Assemblyman Wright, who represents Harlem, did not return a phone call. Several of his fellow legislators occupied themselves last week trying to pass another such tax break.
Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol, Democrat of Brooklyn, sponsored a bill to retroactively extend tax breaks to developers who had converted old factories into luxury lofts. That bill passed the State Senate. Alas, it foundered in the Assembly. And that, he noted, broke the hearts of a few developers.