Staten Island’s development challenges leave candidates skeptical about real estate transactions

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After seeing megaprojects on Staten Island’s north shore fail to materialize or have failed after construction over the past decade, some candidates vying to become the next generation of district leaders are campaigning against high-end luxury properties.

Several city council candidates are running to represent the North Shore – an area that attracts $ 1 billion in development plans, most of which are unfinished or unfinished, on land owned by the city – oppose the construction of the North River, the proposed trio of towers near the embankment and St. George’s ferry terminal.

Tower Resistance follows a pattern of Council campaigns across the city, with some candidates becoming increasingly critical of developers and rethinking plans at the fringes of luxury.

To Crown HeightsThe challengers criticized the outgoing Councilor for her support for the renovation of the local arsenal. In flushing, some contenders for the council rallied against the construction of a large waterfront.

Developers resist Super PAC launchby targeting candidates they consider to be opponents of the business and supporting those they consider closer to their corner

As Jeffrey Loeb, Treasurer of Common Sense NYC, a PAC real estate supercomputer targeting seven Board nominees, said, said the CITY recently: “People chosen for denial are all socialists. We think they didn’t have a better vision or perspective on the city. ”

But Laurie Honor, who is running for President of the Staten Island borough, said general skepticism about development among Democrats like her, and even some Republicans in the city’s most conservative neighborhood, is rooted in years of frustration.

“We never receive the goods,” she said.

“We need a change”

On June 8, the local community board voted against River North, whose developers, Madison Realty Capital, are seeking several zoning exemptions so that they can build 750 rental units in towers up to 26 stories high with views of Manhattan. According to city-wide zoning rules, 30% of apartments will be allocated as available.

The developer, which has pledged to create a public square with green spaces at the corner of one of the buildings, told the board earlier this month that the smaller project would not be financially feasible. Community councilors and applicants have opposed the project in its current form, arguing that the benefits for Staten Island residents are simply not enough.

Madison Realty Capital did not respond to requests for comment.

Xiamen Barnes, one of 12 Democrats running for a seat on the 49th North Coast District Council said the developer had to provide plans for a supermarket and more parking spaces than the 331 space offered.

“They are not against development,” the community said. But they want responsible development, ”said Barnes, former aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio. “There is a problem with the infrastructure. The developer company asks the community to vote for this [upzoning] but what do they actually provide and give to the community? “

Xiamen Barnes

Xiamen Barnes from Staten Island is running for city council.
Clifford Michelle / CITY

Jasi Robinson, an activist who organizes progressive groups in the North Bank, said this resistance is a natural culmination of residents’ frustration after years of failed and stalled projects.

“We needed to have a more transparent and active dialogue with the developers because we didn’t take into account most of the time,” Robinson said. “I’m so glad the candidates are saying we need change and that it shouldn’t be so one-sided.”

Wheel and more is stuck

While the project is likely to be decided by limited-time councilor Debi Rose, who said she would speak up after hearing from the community, the caution of developers with big plans marks a dramatic change for Staten Island’s political class.

In the past, Staten Island politicians and members of the Staten Island community have welcomed strong proposals such as Empire Outlets, a 340,000 square foot outdoor shopping complex; and Lighthouse Point, a rental complex just steps from the ferry terminal, as a way to stimulate the local economy. And while these projects failed, elected officials protected and supported the companies behind them.

But almost all projects now remain unfinished, unused, or unfinished.

An entire floor of Empire Outlets, which for a while was struggling to repay loans, is still closed and dozens of stores are still empty, and the plight of merchants is exacerbated by the pandemic. The mall was also supposed to build a hotel on the site, but construction never began and the city’s economic development agency allowed the developer to abandon the plan in March.

The Staten Island Yankees will not be playing this summer at the Richmond County Ballpark, next to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, which leases land from New York, on July 2, 2020.

Richmond County Baseball Stadium is a stadium without a baseball team.
Clifford Michelle / CITY

The $ 250 million Lighthouse Point rental complex is only partially completed and hasn’t made much progress on opening since its contractor filed for bankruptcy in September 2019. And the timeline for his future milestones, including the Westin, is stuck.

The New York Wheel – a giant Ferris wheel that was supposed to be the center of a dream of economic development for the area – has only its basic parts and a closed garage to show hundreds of millions of dollars spent on private property. … And next door, Richmond County Bank Ballpark, has been idle for nearly two years. But neither did the city economic development corporation give up.

“From the stadium, the wheel, the parking lot, the mall to Lighthouse Point, it’s all in the same neighborhood and so full of negativity and very small perks like union jobs, small business support,” Honor said. …

Beyond politics for some

Caution towards developers is not a purely party issue.

Councilor Stephen Matteo, a party-backed Republican running for the borough’s presidency, said he supported the introduction of new housing projects, but argued that the North River was simply too large and out of character for the area.

“Smart development and financial investment is absolutely essential for Staten Island, especially now that we are recovering from a pandemic economic recession,” Matteo said. “But, as I said earlier, I share the fears of my colleagues that a project of this magnitude will put a strain on the already inadequate infrastructure in our area.”

Councilor Stephen Matteo speaks at City Hall in 2018.

Councilor Stephen Matteo (left) speaks at City Hall in 2018.
John McCarten / Flickr

Rantee Oganleiye, the Democratic candidate in the race for District 49 Council, said the percentage of apartments flagged as available is too low to even consider.

“It’s not enough for the community,” said Ogunlei, director of the non-profit organization. “Community members have never been a priority. The priority has always been how to make more money for these developers. So the projects not only stalled, but they will never become available to the people who live here, work here and raise their children. It can’t be. ”

Some 2021 race candidates still support the project, including Leticia Remauro, one of three Republicans running for the district’s president.

Mike Schnall, the Democratic nominee for a seat on the North Shore Council, acknowledged that the project would receive more community support if developers sat down with activists and politicians to work together on beautification.

Mark Murphy, a Democrat running for district president with support from the district’s party committee, agreed.

“In my hours, the developer is not going to come and change the zoning of the North Shore so they can build a tower without the infrastructure to support it,” Murphy said. “Roads, schools, sewerage, sewerage and infrastructure should come first.”

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