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NEW YORK CITY-In his opening remarks at the 29th annual BuildingsNY conference Tuesday, the state’s banking chief described the hundreds of billions of dollars in maturing commercial mortgages as “the next shoe to drop.” Richard Neiman, superintendent of banking for New York State, told his audience that the issues here were similar to the circumstances that brought on the subprime crisis, including lax underwriting and declining property values. However, he said, unlike the subprime implosion, which caught much of the US by surprise, “here is a time when we have the data and perhaps the time to act on it.”

Neiman called on the commercial real estate community to work together, and with government officials, to form what he called “critical partnerships” to get through the credit crisis. “Through healthier buildings we have healthier communities,” he said in his speech at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, adding that the vitality of commercial real estate depends on access to credit, which lately has not been as healthy as it should.

In addition to overseeing the state’s banking system, Neiman also has what he called “really a unique responsibility” as a member of the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel, appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. As part of his mission to help gauge the success of TARP, Neiman has presided over field hearings, including one on commercial lending held May 28 at New York University. With presenters including the Real Estate Roundtable’s Jeffrey DeBoer and Deutsche Bank’s Richard Parkus, “The data that we heard was quite sobering,” Neiman said Tuesday.

Even so, Neiman said New York’s community banks have told him they’re continuing to lend. With less involvement in subprime lending or securitization, they’re less weighed down by balance-sheet issues, and continue to follow an “originate and hold” lending model. Neiman said he’s told examiners to remind banks of their responsibility to extend credit when it’s prudent to do so.

Responding to an audience question, Neiman said that to date only 10 major financial institutions have been approved to repay a total of $68 billion in TARP funds. He noted that while there have been questions about the wisdom of allowing banks to get out of TARP, in his view it’s “a healthy sign” if an institution has passed its stress test and raised sufficient equity to no longer need federal loans.

Following his address, Neiman joined Jerome Belson, president of the Associated Builders and Owners of Greater New York, to cut the ribbon marking the start of this year’s BuildingsNY. The annual convention, which ABO sponsors and which continues through Wednesday, is marked this year by a partnership with Greener World Media and an emphasis on sustainability in its educational component. For example, US Green Building Council VP Doug Gatlin discussed the main changes to the LEED system and professional accreditation that USGBC is implementing his year, and there was a presentation on green retrofits by Michael Deane, VP at Turner Construction.

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