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Transcript: Mayor Adams Appears on WCNY's "The Capitol Pressroom"

January 10, 2024

David Lombardo: On Tuesday, Governor Kathy Hochul delivered her third State of the State address which included a plan to develop more housing in the five boroughs, a plan that got a thumbs up from New York City Mayor Eric Adams who was in the Assembly chamber at the Capitol for the speech.

And Mayor Adams joins us on The Capitol Pressroom to share some of his reactions to the address. Welcome to the show, mayor.

Mayor Adams: Thank you very much. It was great being in Albany just interacting with Speaker Heastie and Majority Leader Cousins not only talking about the challenges but really just having some face time talking about our families and how we've got to navigate these times that we're all facing as New Yorkers.

Lombardo: Well, turning to policy, what was it about the governor's proposal to amp up the housing creation and the pace of housing creation in New York City that resonated with you?

Mayor Adams: Well, last year, as you know, we had nothing that came out of Albany around housing. The governor was really focused on housing, but we announced 500,000 units of housing in the decade that we wanted to do, a moonshot goal, but we were successful in getting that through Albany for a number of reasons.

But this year, I think that the stars are aligning correctly and number one, the state needs to do its part, that includes some form of tax incentive for housing, raising the FAR, how do we do conversion, basement apartments, but just being creative.

And then we have to do our part in the city, and that is the city‑wide text amendment and zoning changes that we want to do to really stop the failure of building housing. This is an inventory problem that we're facing with affordability.

Lombardo: Yeah, the items the governor laid out in her State of the State address and her State of the State book include the tax credit for new construction, a tax credit for conversions, ability to address density as well as basement apartment legalization, for lack of a better word. Are those all things that you feel like New York policymakers, New York City policymakers, excuse me, are willing to get behind?

Mayor Adams: Yes. You know, we're seeing real success as we move around the city to talk about these creative ways of building housing. We have to get back in the business of building housing. We're long from the days of the Mitchell-Lama programs and the teachers and officer next door program.

There were so many creative ways we saw in the past and we thought that we were just going to continue without replenishing our housing stock. And far too many communities are not building affordable housing at all in their neighborhoods. So, we can't say not on our block, we have to build on every block, every community and we have to make it affordable.

Lombardo: You have what you describe as this moonshot goal for housing creation. Do you feel like what the governor has laid out provides the tools to actually accomplish that? Or, does the plan from the governor need to go even further? Should state lawmakers look to tackle this in other ways that the governor has not proposed at this point?

Mayor Adams: Well, it's a three levels of government and there must be a three level of government approach. The governor laid out her portion and the four bullets that she produced really could assist just in the mere area of conversion of office space. We have about 138 million square feet of office space that's not being used right now, it could turn into affordable housing.

And we have our role in the city. The City Council and the Mayor's Office, we must look at how we have been building housing and how we have not been building housing in the city. Dan Garodnick, who's over at City Planning, laid out an ambitious plan, and I think this is an opportunity for us to finally start building housing that New Yorkers need.

Lombardo: Last year's effort to strike a grand bargain on housing was undermined in part by Governor Hochul's unwillingness to negotiate on the idea of so‑called good cause eviction, which is really important for at least a small but meaningful portion of the majorities in the state legislature. In terms of accomplishing something on housing this year, should the governor be prepared to accept some version of good cause eviction?

Mayor Adams: I think oftentimes we see that the bumper sticker slogans get in the way of producing a product that we're all looking for. Finding tenant protections and at the same time incentivizing building in the city and the state is a duality that we all should be able to live with. And I think that throughout the year there has been a number of conversations, there have been a number of them that people are willing to sit down at the table and find a place that we could land this plane. And I'm excited about looking forward to doing whatever I could on my part to assist in the process.

Lombardo: Does good cause just have a branding problem at this point? Do you have any ideas for a new name that might help it move through Albany?

Mayor Adams: Well, I think that tenant protections, that's what people are looking for. How do we protect tenants in a meaningful way without hurting at the same time small property landlords? If you have a nine, 10-unit house that you invested all of your resources in and it is the foundation of your wealth, if there's a problem with the tenant in doing their responsibility of paying the rent, we need to make sure that we do not harm those small property landlords. But we also don't want tenants to be harassed unnecessarily.

So, finding that sweet spot is what we can do and respecting the process. People brought passion to the conversation last year, and it's respectably so because housing means a lot to so many people. And I think that we have an opportunity now to let level heads prevail and come up with a solution to this problem.

Lombardo: Well, before we move on, let me reintroduce you, for listeners just joining us. This is The Capitol Pressroom and we're speaking with New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

In Governor Hochul's State of the State remarks, she said that her plan for addressing New York State's migrant crisis will be revealed in the state budget, which is expected to come out next week. What are you looking to hear from the governor on this issue, and specifically, what sort of state commitment for New York City do you want to see in the budget proposal when it comes to addressing the influx of asylum seekers?

Mayor Adams: We should be clear, she has been a partner. She has been a voice to our national leaders including the White House. She has assisted in the opening the Humanitarian Relief Centers on Randall's Island, at Creedmoor facility as well as out at Floyd Bennett Field. And she has really allocated well over a billion dollars to this issue. It's costing us $12 billion over three years.

But I think right now it's a financial concern, we're going to need more from the state. And at the same time, we need a decompression strategy here in the [inaudible] so that it does not fall solely in New York City. And we've had some great conversations with her, and I'm looking forward to her budget announcement.

Lombardo: But do you have a dollar amount in mind?

Mayor Adams: Jacques Jiha, who's my budget director, he has been meeting with the budget leaders over at the governor's office. I'm going to let them handle that. I don't want to do anything that's going to interfere with those negotiations. And he knows the exact dollar amounts we need, and we're going to present that to the governor's people.

Lombardo: Does that represent a newfound, I guess, tact, for dealing with Albany in the way you're talking about the dollar amount, you're not getting ahead of the governor by potentially throwing out a number that's above what she might be prepared to offer?

Mayor Adams: No, actually, it's the same tact. You know, it's often lost in the conversation how well we have been able to get real victories out of Albany. Look at my two years in office. We got everything from Earned Income Tax Credit, decreased the cost of childcare, NYCHA Land Trust, able to get those who are being employed, local hiring.

When you look down the list, every year, 90 percent of the things that I needed from Albany, they gave. And it's about respecting the process and respecting their ability to negotiate within their chambers and the respective houses. And so understanding the process, because I was a former senator, knowing don't get too far ahead of those up there and stay in line with them, you could get the things you need done. And that's what we have been able to accomplish.

And that's how we got where we are. Listen, crime is down, jobs are up, tourism is back, we have more private sector jobs in the history of this city. We are successfully negotiating with our partners on all levels of government.

Lombardo: One of your allies in Albany, Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar, a Queens Democrat, has been carrying legislation that would allow the state to issue work permits for asylum seekers as opposed to waiting for the lengthy Byzantine federal process to play out. Is that something you think the State Department of Labor and the Hochul administration should be exploring?

Mayor Adams: Yes, I do. I believe we must be creative to solve an unprecedented crisis in our city. I was surprised when I met with the mayor of Albany today when she talked about, you know, being able to allow people to work and they need a judge to listen to some of the cases, but there's no judge in Albany County. The closest judge is in Buffalo. This is unbelievable when you think about it, that the federal government must put in place infrastructure that is going to allow us to solve this problem. That is what a real partner would do.

So, Assemblywoman Rajkumar, who's also doing the cannabis bill and now looking at giving asylum seekers the right to work, it's just showing the creativity that many of my colleagues up in Albany are showing. We've got to solve these real problems and we can't do it by being mentally stagnant on how to move forward.

Lombardo: Governor Hochul has repeatedly drawn a line in the sand on increasing taxes, and that's something that came up again in her State of the State booklet. Is that the right decision considering it will limit the state's ability to send dollars to New York City at a time when serious cuts are on the table and you need aid from Albany?

Mayor Adams: Well, when you look at it, we are one of the highest taxed states in the country outside of California. And you have to find the right balance. The last numbers that I checked in New York City in general, two percent of New Yorkers pay 51 percent of our taxes.

We're seeing a hemorrhaging of not only working-class people, but you know, we're concerned about losing that high tax base because that tax base pays for our police officers, our teachers, our firefighters, keeps our streets clean. And so, she must find the right balance with the leaders in Albany of how do we come to an economic understanding without hurting our long‑term plan and our long‑term tax base. So, I respect her decision to make the right decision for New Yorkers.

Lombardo: So, that means you're comfortable with sort of the status quo in spending based on the projections without the governor increasing taxes?

Mayor Adams: It's not comfortable, it's trust. I trust her decisions around this, and I'm sure that there are going to be those in Albany who's going to speak on raising income taxes, particularly for high income earners. And I think this is the part of Albany where you sit down and come to a fair negotiation strategy and come up with a plan that everyone can live with.

Lombardo: So, you won't be dropping a new version of your "show me the money" speech?

Mayor Adams: Not this year, but I sure enough want to see the money down in New York City.

Lombardo: Well, we've been speaking with New York City Mayor Eric Adams. Mayor Adams, thank you so much for making the time. I really appreciate it.

Mayor Adams: Thank you. Great speaking with you. Take care.


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