New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

HABITAT

NYC MAYOR'S RACE 2021: SCOTT STRINGER

NYC Mayor's Race 2021: Scott Stringer

Habitat, the Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums and the Presidents Co-op and Condo Council interviewed New York City mayoral candidates about their thoughts on issues facing the co-op and condo community. These interviews were conducted prior to the June 2021 primary.

Geoffrey Mazel:

My name is Geoffrey Mazel. I'm a practicing attorney in New York city who represents co-op and condo boards, and a member of the executive committee of the Presidents Co-op and Condo Council, a co-op and condo activist group, whose members represent over a hundred thousand units in New York City. We are thrilled this morning to be able to speak to New York City comptroller and mayoral candidate, Scott Stringer. Comptroller Stringer, New York has faced many challenges and for co-op and condo boards of directors, one of the most pressing is how to keep housing corporations affordable for the hundreds of thousands of folks who own apartments. We'd like to speak to you about some of these issues and get your thoughts on them. An important issue that we're asking all our candidates is, have you ever lived in a co-op, and have you ever served on a board of directors?

Scott Stringer:

I've never owned a co-op or served on a board of directors, but in my role as state assembly member, in my role as borough president, as comptroller, I've represented co-op and condo owners throughout our city in very different forms. I do believe that homeownership has always been a central path, to generational wealth and in New York that often means co-op and condos. And so I'm happy to be here to talk about home ownership and stabilizing home ownership. It's a part of the fabric of our city, especially as it relates to affordable housing.

Geoffrey Mazel:

Okay. As mayor, you will inherit a city that is on the leading edge of climate mobilization, and we all applaud that effort and we all want to see a greener city and a greener society. But to get there is an expensive proposition. As a co-op attorney, I'm going through the numbers with many of my clients and it's quite a daunting proposition. What will you do as mayor to help co-ops and condos meet the city's ambitious carbon neutrality goals?

Scott Stringer:

As mayor, I am the first to say that helping buildings, co-op and condo owners meet the missions and reduction requirements will not happen on their own. We need to equip buildings with the resources, the technical information, the financing strategies, and help cut the red tape that will go a long way to meeting the needs of climate and New York City's air. But also to make sure that we have a solid financial foundation for co-ops and condos. As mayor, I'm going to direct city resources to facilitate education efforts aimed at the co-op and condo board members to walk through compliance strategies, and to ensure that boards are not left without the assistance they need. And I will also give the city's Retrofit Accelerated the resources that it needs to disseminate best practices with buildings working towards better efficiency. Look, the there's a lot that we can do, through PACE loans and programs, the federal stimulus in particular, but also utility rebates and other funding mechanisms to ensure that buildings have the resources they need to improve energy sufficiency. But there has to be a true collaboration – and I think you see it in your practice – between the city that actually wants to be helpful, because the greater goal is a better planet and a cleaner city. But we also have to remember that a lot of co-op and condos are the backbone of people's economic security. It's the one thing they own. It's what they're going to retire on. It's their financial security. And a mayor actually has to have the skills and the experience to take the time to make programs that can benefit the world and also benefit our street corners.

Geoffrey Mazel:

Next question is one I'm sure near and dear to your heart, and one I know you've worked on for many years, because I know you and I have met over this issue and discussed it on several occasions. For decades, co-ops and condos have asked for the same tax treatment as other homeowners. How will you address the issue of property tax reform and specifically how it relates to co-op and condo owners?

Scott Stringer:

I believe very strongly that we need to find solutions where we create a fair and just tax system. Many people may not remember this, maybe you will, that I was chair of the Real Property Taxation Committee in the assembly. So I'm the only mayoral candidate that actually has worked on these issues. And when I was the chair of the committee during the tax assessor's scandal, the $1 billion tax assessor scandal. And through my legislative work and holding hearings, I was able to talk to a lot of co-op and condo owners, attorneys, people concerned with the validity of the system. The mayor and the city council have issued a number of recommendations based on their commission. That commission was stopped in its tracks, primarily because of COVID. I will revitalize that commission and bring recommendations to the entire city and then try to find solutions. You know, within the four classes  people’s solutions as to who's going to win and who's going to lose, real property taxation – I have a different view. We have to come up with a strategy that equalizes the system, makes it more fair, especially for the middle class, people who are just being overwhelmed by property taxes, to the point of no return. And I'm going to work on these issues with all of the different stakeholders, because this is exactly what has to happen on day one. A commission is only as good as the outcome, but we have to actually listen to people and come up with creative solutions.

Geoffrey Mazel:

One thing I've seen in my daily practice is the growing number of unfunded mandates, such as building facade, maintenance, elevator control upgrades, fire safety, emergency planning, energy benchmarking, et cetera. These safety measures and building measures are necessary. But again, like the climate mobilization they're costly and they have a a significant impact on the budgets of the co-ops and condos. What will you do as mayor to help co-ops and condos meet these multiple requirements? And what, if any, mandates do you particularly think are important in pursuing?

Scott Stringer:

Well, there's no question that the government asks property owners to do a lot to maintain their buildings. Facade work is important because it prevents bricks from falling; elevator upgrades and fire safety protect residents; and energy benchmarking helps, as we talked earlier, the whole climate challenge we face as a world. But the least the city can do is make it easier to deal with the bureaucracy and get out of people's way in making these repairs. I have every intention to fundamentally reform DOB by separating its permitting and inspection functions so each can operate efficiently. I'll add technology and accountability so that no homeowner needs an expediter just to maintain their building in sound conditions. What is hurting our homeowners is the tremendous bureaucracy of our city agencies. And when you think about all that we can do to reform a lot of these protocols and do it now, that has got to be the job of the next mayor.

We cannot continue to have expediters interface with you because no one else is willing to get on the phone and help. And as someone who has worked a lot to challenge the Department of Buildings, to challenge the bureaucracy within these agencies – you know, I'm the only candidate for mayor that's actually audited and investigated most of these agencies over time. So I can tell you quite clearly where the inefficiency is, where the money is being wasted, and what is happening to the constituents who are interfacing with these agencies. It's not good and we have to improve it.

Geoffrey Mazel:

This discussion will be going out to thousands of co-op and condo homeowners in the city. I'll give you the last word. What would you like to say to them?

Scott Stringer:

Well, look, the city has gotten hit hard by COVID. We were knocked down, and it's really not how we got knocked down. It's how we get back up. And when you look at the co the COVID challenge, even before the pandemic, we had a 3.4% unemployment rate, and we had added 970,000 jobs to this economy over 10 years. Within 30 days of COVID, we lost 900,000 jobs and the unemployment rate went to 20%. We're still down 600,000 jobs. So this is not a mayoralty on training wheels. We need a mayor who has vision, experience, leadership ability to know exactly how to bring those jobs back, centering small business recovery, making sure that the city's quality of life is maintained. That's the value proposition a mayor has with its people. Good parks. Open space. Making sure that kids get to have good schools. Safety. And that is what my public career has been about. As borough president, as an assembly member, and as the chief fiscal officer of the city, I have worked unlike almost any candidate in this race. I have worked to dedicate my life to the city that I love most, and I would be honored to have all of your support. I'm going to do everything I can to earn it in the next few weeks.

Geoffrey Mazel:

Scott Stringer, on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of co-op and condo homeowners in the city of New York, we thank you for your time.

Scott Stringer:

Geoffrey, thank you very much. Talk to you soon. Be safe.

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