By Bill Parry
Long Island City, and other areas of the city, has been saved from even taller and wider towers than the ones currently under construction. The de Blasio administration was thwarted in its attempt to lift the existing cap on building density as a chaotic legislative session came to a close in Albany early Saturday morning.
“We already have numerous very high buildings in Long Island City with more on the way,” Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Long Island City) said. “There are a number of towers planned that I have opposed, including one by selling MTA air rights. Many planned are of unprecedented heights. I cannot permit any loosening of this restriction without a firmer commitment to infrastructure support, such as more schools and increasing the reliability and capacity of our mass transit system.”
The Department of City Planning pushed for the legislation that would remove the state law on the FAR, the floor area ratio, to allow for larger structures it claims is necessary to move the affordable housing plan forward.
“Any more changes to allow for even larger buildings is unnecessary and would be unconscionable,” Nolan said.
The end of the session at 5 a.m. Saturday was a disappointment for fellow Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth), a champion of the Child Victims Act for the last decade. That bill would have eliminated the statute of limitations for child sex abuse crimes but never made it to the floor for a vote.
“It was disappointing that, despite the best efforts of my colleagues in the Assembly and our leadership to put forward a very modest compromise bill that could become law this year, there was absolutely no way to move the staunch opposition of the Republican-controlled Senate and get any action on the issue,” Markey said. “So much for compromise to help protect children this year. I think we can look for disappointed survivors and supporters to hold them responsible at the ballot box this fall and a very different result when we bring a much stronger bill to the Legislature next January.”
The frenzied conclusion to the session garnered mixed reviews for the results and the process itself.
For instance, state Sen. Joseph Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach) was pleased that action was taken to combat the heroin epidemic that affects many young people in his district, but none was taken to replace the 421-a tax abatement for developers, leaving the building of affordable housing stalled.
“It always seems to happen in the New York State Legislature that the last hours of a six-month legislative session were marked by the appearance of ‘The Big Ugly,’ which can best be described as the kitchen sink of state government, with a wide variety of unrelated issues all thrown into one big piece of legislation and then served up on a platter for approval,” Addabbo said. “I still think this is a terrible way to do the public’s business, making and passing deals in the middle of the night, when important issues could have and should have been openly and honestly debated in the light of day over the last six months.”
State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) has seen it all since she first got elected to the Senate in 1999.
“It could have been a lot worse,” she said. “But I was not pleased that we didn’t do enough ethics reform, although we did take the first step with pension forfeiture ,and I don’t know how the Republicans couldn’t advance the Child Victims Act. That’s outrageous.”
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) called the session frustrating because Republican senators were regularly blocking important advances in basic matters, particularly the Dream Act, which would authorize conditional residence for undocumented immigrants. State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) agreed.
“Thanks to Senate Democrats, this year’s session achieved positive steps on raising the minimum wage, implementing paid family leave, addressing the heroin crisis and funding our public schools,” Gianaris said. “Unfortunately, however, despite the scandals rocking state government, the voices of New Yorkers demanding reform were ignored and needed ethics laws were not enacted. We need to end the Albany status quo and restore people’s faith in their government.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr