GL Analysis: "Beat the Downzone" & "Beat the Tax Break" Will Make Things Worse
In light of the awful crane accident over the weekend, and the periodic, but less dramatic mishaps at Brooklyn construction sites, it's worth asking if construction safety and construction-related violations of quality of life are about to get dramatically worse over the next few months. We say this because developers all over Brooklyn are going to be playing Beat the Tax Break, trying to get foundations poured before changes to the 421-A developer tax break program kick in this summer. Starting July 1, the program will require inclusion of affordable housing in many neighborhoods in order for new buildings to get deep tax abatements that help market them to buyers. If one adds to this the various games of Beat the Downzone underway in some neighborhoods where developers are racing to get ahead of downzonings, there's a chance that public safety could be even more compromised than usual.
This week's Brooklyn Paper quotes an executive from Massey Knakal saying that the odds are 50-50 that the buyer of a building on N. 10 Street whose sale we wrote about a couple of weeks earlier will be able to beat the 421-a deadline. (The article doesn't identify 421-a by name and mistakenly calls it a zoning change, but the point is quite valid.) One wonder what kinds of corners might be cut as a developer tries to get a building demolished, a site excavated and a foundation poured by summer. Meanwhile, on Grand Street one is presented with the spectacle of a developer simultaneously demolishing a building and digging a foundation for a new building to try to get ahead of a downzoning that would cut a building's height from 15 stories down to six.
All over Williamsburg (to name just one neighborhood), one can find development sites where builders seem to be bending over backward to get buildings demolished and foundations in before the clock runs out on them. At a minimum, it means that residents will suffer from after hours and weekend work and that calls to 311 will result in very little action. At its worst, construction workers could end up being hurt or killed as safety rules are violated with impunity in the race to get things done.
There is every indication that these are going to be especially dangerous and noxious months in Brooklyn as developers and contractors violate more laws than usual to try to beat tax break and zoning deadlines. If the past is any guide, the Department of Building won't be able to keep up or individual inspectors won't care to enforce the law.
It is going to be a rough spring and summer.
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Labels: Construction Issues