A housing crisis threatens New York City? A pair of politicians believe they have an answer: a new “league” of officials like themselves who want to welcome development, including development of market-rate apartments.
The two officials, Antonio Reynoso, the Brooklyn borough president, and City Councilman Erik Bottcher of Manhattan, started the group to counter the long-held theory that opposing development is a political win. That idea, many housing experts agree, has helped create a shortage of hundreds of thousands of homes in and around the city, driving rents and home prices ever higher as residents compete for the limited supply.
On Monday, the duo sent an invitation to all 160 state and city politicians who represent some piece of New York City to come to an inaugural meeting next month. Mr. Reynoso said he wanted officials to come even if they are skeptical, but not if they only want to resist housing.
“We do not want you if you’re just a straight NIMBY,” Mr. Reynoso said, referring to the phrase “not in my back yard,” often used as a label for people who oppose development.
So far, there are few specifics about what the “league” will look like. Mr. Reynoso said much of the group’s structure would be fleshed out at an initial, closed-door gathering in March.
But he is hoping the league can build on a growing willingness to embrace development among politicians who may have been resistant in the past. Both Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams have said the city needs hundreds of thousands more homes, and Mr. Adams is pushing to rezone areas near transit stations and around low-density neighborhoods to add more housing.
Mr. Reynoso’s counterpart in Manhattan, Mark Levine, has called for the construction of housing on underused lots in that borough. Mr. Reynoso said the two borough presidents have “a healthy competition to solve for the biggest issue in our city.”
Mr. Levine said in a statement that the city “needs elected leaders who are committed to this fight to come together to support each other.”
Some things the league could do, according to Mr. Reynoso, include: issuing statements against politicians who are resisting new construction; working with colleagues concerned that development could cause gentrification; and standing with politicians who want to back controversial new housing projects.
“What we want to do is have a show of force of people who are publicly supportive of housing development,” Mr. Reynoso said.
That could be a big deal in New York City, where proposals to build on certain lots or blocks turn into proxy fights over development and are sometimes torpedoed by local officials.
Last year, a lot in Harlem drew citywide attention when it was turned into a truck depot after the local councilwoman opposed the development of a high-rise complex. This year, neighborhood groups are fighting over a proposal to transform an industrial building in Brooklyn owned by a linen company, Arrow Linen, into two new residential towers.
“Historically, what lawmakers have said to constituents is, ‘If you elect me, I will help stop new housing from being built in our community,’” Mr. Bottcher said. “We need to turn that on its head.”
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