Good Morning
Good Morning
NewsNew York

Governor, mayor square off on tax breaks for developers of affordable housing

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo appear at a joint event in October 2014. Credit: Getty / Bryan Thomas

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio each accused the other Sunday of favoring special interests over the working class, trading increasingly sharpened barbs in recent days over competing visions for a developer tax break.

Cuomo called de Blasio's proposal a "sweetheart deal to large real estate developers" while the mayor said his fellow Democrat "seems to want to continue giveaways to developers."

They spoke to reporters at opposite ends of Manhattan's Celebrate Israel parade. Both support an extension of the long-standing 421-a program as Albany's legislative session draws to a close, but de Blasio seeks modifications requiring recipients of the tax break to build units for lower-income residents. The mayor also is asking construction unions to work for less than "prevailing wage" in order to cut building costs.

The program offers real estate tax exemptions to encourage new construction of multifamily rental units. Begun in the 1970s, and modified over the years, it is set to expire June 15.

"I understand they need an incentive to provide affordable housing, but the mayor's plan would give . . . them [developers] a 35-year tax break," Cuomo said. "I mean, that is really extraordinary."

De Blasio accused Cuomo of being uninterested in the facts of his proposal.

"Anything short of our reform means lots of buildings will be built with no affordable housing, but they'll still get tax breaks," the mayor said. "That's ludicrous."

"Why would we keep subsidizing luxury condos?" he asked.

De Blasio said he wants new construction "to be built with union labor, but at a reduced rate that we can afford in the creation of affordable housing."

Cuomo said he won't back a plan that hurts unions. "The workers themselves that are building affordable housing deserve a fair wage," he said.

The mayor and governor separately cited their time working at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development -- Cuomo was the agency's secretary in 1997 when he appointed de Blasio as his representative in New York and New Jersey -- as a reason they understand and prioritize affordable housing.

De Blasio challenged Cuomo to put forth an alternative plan. Cuomo said the matter would be resolved in the end, vowing to have "a very aggressive affordable housing plan for the City of New York, but it has to address everybody."

About 40 members of the Laborers' International Union of North America's Local 78, which represents asbestos, lead and hazardous waste handlers, stood on the parade sidelines cheering Cuomo. They chanted "What about us?" as de Blasio passed later in the afternoon.

"There's a lot of workers out there that work for contractors that will get cheated," said union member Andy Culpepper, 51, of the Bronx.

De Blasio made his case on 421-a at a Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, church earlier Sunday. "We're not blind to petty politics," he said.

Cuomo at the parade said all parties need to take a "deep breath."

More news