Hudson Yards and New York’s love-hate relationship with Mayor Bloomberg

(Updates with background on Fiscal Policy Institute, details on city bonds)

New York City’s Hudson Yards project – a $12 billion transformative development slated for Manhattan’s West Side – embodies several aspects of the Bloomberg administration’s strategies that infuriate critics while delighting boosters.

At a public hearing on Thursday, the developers will ask a city agency to approve $106 million of property tax breaks for the first office tower planned for the site. The new 46-floor, $1.27 billion building, which is expected to house luxury retailer Coach Inc, should start going up in October, and be finished in July 2015, according to the filing for the tax relief.

Critics say the developers – The Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group Inc – should not be tapping taxpayers’ wallets, but should instead be relying on their own deep pockets.

Argues James Parrott, chief economist for the Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank whose funding comes primarily from foundations but which also gets some support from unions:

This represents the culmination in the evolution over the past 30 years of city business subsidies, first to manufacturing, then commercial in the outer boroughs, then Lower Manhattan commercial, then to ‘smart buildings,’ and now to prime mid-town commercial properties in already heavily subsidized areas … This is the first of what could be several mega-subsidy deals in the Hudson Yards area in the years to come. A testament to the ever-growing influence of the real estate sector.

Personal safety and economic health in New York City

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg often makes the point that the city’s economic health depends on steadily reducing crime rates. Speaking late last week at at a conference organized by the Regional Plan Association, a group that tries to improve the quality of life in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, Bloomberg said:

A woman can walk in every neighborhood I know in the day without looking over her shoulder. There are some areas where I wouldn’t recommend it at night.

The way people manage car safety has also improved, Bloomberg added.

When was the last time you saw a sign saying ‘No radio inside’?

The metal bar locks that once straddled steering wheels also have disappeared, he said. Since the mayor took office in 2002, the number of major felony offenses – murder to grand larceny – has fallen to just under 107,000 in 2011 from almost 155,000, according to New York City Police Department data.

NY Transit shies away from “revolution”

New York does not need to go the way of other countries and create multi-state bureaucracies to finance and build mass transit systems, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s chairman. Joseph Lhota, who runs New York City’s buses, subways, commuter rail roads and major bridges and tunnels, dismissed that recommendation:

We’re talking revolution – that is a complete waste of time. It just requires people to come together with a common purpose.

Ironically, the MTA chairman made the comments late last week at a conference organized by a multi-state group, the Regional Plan Association. It was created in 1922 to improve the quality of life in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. Economists agree that New York’s mass transit system must be expanded to the city’s outer boroughs, Long Island and Connecticut, to keep its economy growing. New connections with New Jersey, which has its own transit system, are still in the early stages.