Business Group Asks Mayor to Change Federal Aid Spending Plan

Mayor Bill de Blasio and REBNY president James Whelan (Getty, Whelan via Anuja Shakya)

An extraordinary amount of federal aid will flow into New York City over the next few years, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has no shortage of ideas on how to spend it. But to a newly formed alliance of business leaders and nonprofits, his proposals simply won’t do.

The group — which includes the Real Estate Board of New York and the Partnership for New York City — sent a letter to de Blasio and several City Council members urging them to reconsider plans for deploying an influx of around $22 billion in federal relief, the New York Times reported.

In the letter, members suggest the mayor’s proposals are well-intentioned but insufficient given the scope of the economic damage caused by the pandemic.

De Blasio’s plans are ambitious: He wants to hire 10,000 new workers for the City Cleanup Corps and fund universal pre-K education. His proposal would send one-off $300 tax credits to some lower-income homeowners at a total cost of about $90 million, and would allocate another $121 million for expanded mental health crisis teams.

But the group wants to see the city focus elsewhere, including real estate. They’ve asked the city to facilitate arbitration between tenants and landlords over lease disputes — likely to become a major headache when the eviction moratorium ends. Additionally, they’ve asked the city to extend its waiver on hotel room taxes through 2021, according to the Times.

The letter criticizes the administration’s proposals for creating new programs that will only require renewed funding once the federal aid phases out in 2026. In particular, the Citizens Budget Commission noted up to $4 billion in potentially recurring expenses that the city can cover with the aid — such as housing vouchers and expanded mental health capacities — but will not be able to afford once it’s gone.

Similar dynamics are playing out nationwide, as real estate battles back from its pandemic malaise. In Chicago, a hotel lobbying group requested $75 million in assistance from Mayor Lori Lightfoot. And in Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti said some of its federal aid will go toward rental assistance, the New York Times reported.

The 2022 city budget, which will approach $100 billion, must be approved by July 1, leaving just weeks for de Blasio and the City Council to finalize its response.

[NYT] — Joe Lovinger

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