NEW YORK CITY—If 2015 was the year of complaints, 2016 should be the year to do something about it. All too often I have heard criticism about a particular elected official, the state of the City or State, and new laws passed. However when it comes to taking action, many expect others to act. Or they ask questions such as “Why doesn’t someone from the business community run for office?”
It is incumbent on every citizen to voice their opinion, and mostly importantly, to vote. The voter turnout for New York City has been abysmal in years past. In 2013, only 24% of the registered voters showed up to vote for our Mayor, meaning that it would have only taken about 500,000 votes to win in a city with over eight million people. Back in 1950s, there was 93% voter turnout, and even in 1993, it was at 57%.
Until the next election, we must work with our elected officials to give input to issues which specifically affect the real estate industry. It may be difficult to gain traction on one’s own, but there are many organizations which are dedicated to the real estate industry and the health of our city such as REBNY, CHIP, The Real Estate Round Table, and The Chamber of Commerce. These organizations need our involvement.
REBNY will be reaching out to their 17,000 members in the coming months asking them to support their initiatives by reaching out to their politicians often times at the local level. There are 51 City Council members in New York City (plus dozens of State Senators and Assembly Members in New York City and beyond) who answer to those living in their districts. REBNY will encourage their members living in their districts to reach out to their elected officials by mail, email, and phone.
There are several key issues that REBNY is currently addressing including 421-a, the commercial rent tax, the process for designating landmarks and the overall tax burden for real estate owners. They are also working with the Department of Buildings to make its processes more effective and efficient. They were also active on past issues that were sidelined, but could resurface such as the pied-a-terre tax and restrictions on the size of retail stores on the Upper West Side. Any of these issues could have a dramatic impact on the economic health of our city and its neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, CHIP has been very vocal as of late as to the new Rent Guidelines act. Although a recent appeal lost, there are still many parts of the law which need to be interpreted. It would also be unthinkable to have rent regulated rents frozen again while operating costs continue to rise. Along with the Rent Stabilization Association, these organizations make sure that owners have a seat at the table.
Those in real estate may have differing opinions on these issues. Regardless, they should become involved on those issues most important to them, by reaching out to the corresponding politician and joining groups which can help gather support around these items. Let’s make 2016 the year to get involved.