De Blasio Pushes on Land Use
Liberal Mayoral Candidate Would Continue Many of Bloomberg's Policies
Bill de Blasio has risen to the top of the polls assailing the Bloomberg administration, but if elected he could pursue even more aggressive policies than his predecessor on a crucial issue: creating densely packed new residential towers through land-use decisions.
Mr. de Blasio, the city's public advocate, would push for mandatory affordable housing and fewer tax breaks for developers. But he wouldn't differ from Mr. Bloomberg on a fundamental premise that building significant amounts of new housing is a top way to spur economic growth and control housing costs.
Mr. de Blasio's pro-development policies have helped allay fears in the real-estate industry that perhaps the most liberal Democrat in the race would, as mayor, be a fearsome opponent on big developments.
Mr. de Blasio said Friday he would differ from Mr. Bloomberg in taking "a more rigorous approach that focuses on community benefits like creating infrastructure like affordable housing, like local jobs, hiring for local residents. And I think we just need to do a lot better job at driving a hard bargain with the real-estate industry."
For some, however, Mr. de Blasio's support for new high-rise towers—even with more affordable housing—is dissonant with his campaign's theme of easing income inequality. As a City Council member in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, Mr. de Blasio was a strong supporter of the three major Bloomberg-backed development projects, including the project known as Atlantic Yards, which critics say has hastened gentrification and helped deepen the economic divide in that area.
Some liberal community groups said they feel betrayed. "The whole thing is a joke to us that people are looking at this guy as if he cares about the community," said Marlene Donnelly, a member of Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, a group that pushed to get the Gowanus Canal designated a Superfund site—a goal Mr. de Blasio unsuccessfully opposed. "I don't find any step of the way that he's actually been on our side here."
He has drawn praise from big developers, including Toll Brothers, which opposed the Gowanus Superfund designation, a move that helped kill its housing development with 30% affordable units. "When things got tough and he could have abandoned us," David Von Spreckelsen, a senior vice president at Toll Brothers, said of Mr. de Blasio. "He stuck with us, he stuck to his word. He was the only local politician who stayed with us."