Spitzer speaks on his waterfront project in Williamsburg
Speaking in a crowded ballroom at the Brooklyn Historical Society’s quarterly Real Estate Roundtable, held this year on Nov. 14, current developer and former Gov. Eliot Spitzer lauded the ever-growing real estate opportunities across New York City and commented on the development landscape generally.
In a conversation with David Maundrell III of CitiHabitats, Spitzer spoke about his waterfront development project “420 Kent,” which consists of three modular glass towers located along Kent Avenue in Williamsburg. Slated to be completed next year, the towers will feature 857 apartments and 77,000 square feet of outdoor space.
Spitzer, who was as a former prosecutor, New York Attorney General and served as governor of New York for 14 months, possesses a particular perspective on the relationship between government and real estate development. He champions urban planning that focuses on ease of movement and an expansion of parks and other public spaces.
Spitzer showed support for an expansion of the New York City subway system, while lamenting the delays and closings of certain lines. As an example, the loss of the L train, which MTA plans to shut down for 15 months beginning April 2019, could significantly impact growth in Williamsburg and other parts of Brooklyn.
Another topic drawing the ire of the former governor was New York’s revival of the 421-a tax abatement, renamed Affordable New York Housing Program. The program incentivizes creation of low-income housing in new developments through a break from city property taxes.
In this situation, “the government doesn’t own anything,” Spitzer said. He believes instead, that the state should stop the tax break and use the added revenue to create its own housing, bringing about the same benefits while allowing the state to possess the housing as an asset.
Essentially, the majority of the program’s beneficiaries are developers, including Spitzer himself, who is utilizing the program in his Williamsburg towers. A fifth of the apartments in the towers will be reserved for affordable housing.
This apparent hypocrisy highlights the public service and private enterprise sides of the governor-turned-businessman, who noted, “In government the difference between talk and productivity is 100 to one. In real estate, it’s vice versa.” Spitzer welcomes this change.
However, he adds, “There are the days I wish I could still serve subpoenas.”
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