NEW YORK CITY- Local real estate executives are calling Sen. Charles Schumer’s recent call for an additional 60 million sf of commercial real estate space a necessity if the city wants to keep business from bailing into Jersey City. On Monday, Schumer unveiled his plan to catch an estimated 300,000 new workers by creating business districts in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan’s extreme West Side.

According to broadcast reports, tax incentives, zone changes and new rail links will all be part of the program, which was created by a special panel of executives from a variety of disciplines. Schumer and former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin co-chaired the panel, dubbed the Group of 35.

In an exclusive interview with following the announcement, panelist and Newmark chairman Barry Gosin said that the 60 million sf is probably a low number. “There were 196,000 jobs created in the past 10 years,” he says. “That projection is conservative.” He explains that the numbers stem from “certain economic models based on growth over the past few years and projected forward.”

The goal, says the Newmark leader, is to “create an even playing field with New Jersey. That’s the baseline. We’ve got to be competitive.”

The plan is apparently getting the thumbs-up from the real estate community. For one, developer/owner Douglas Durst agrees. “New Jersey is a threat,” the Durst Organization president tells, “and each time we allow someone to leave the city because there isn’t sufficient space, it causes an increasing problem for Manhattan. You get a number of firms moving to New Jersey and all at once it’s no longer the cheap alternative, it becomes the alternative.”

An outsider to the panel, but certainly an insider to the market, Durst doesn’t see the targeted 60 million sf as particularly conservative. “It’s hard to go out 20 years, but it doesn’t seem like a lot of space. It’s a good number, not really conservative, but not overly aggressive.”

Gosin projects the ad hoc panel will grow into an ongoing advisory group. “Our purpose was to come up with a plan,” he reports. “We’ve drafted and submitted the plan to the general public; now the activity is to get it executed.”

How will the Group of 35 go about doing that? “Certain aspects will be taken up by legislature,” he believes. “It will require specific legislation to create ICIP zones and tax benefits for development.” There will also be the doling out of funds to fuel infrastructure improvements in the targeted submarkets. That could mean Port Authority involvement as well.

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