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NYC Building Q&A with Carlo A. Scissura, Esq.

NYC Building Q&A with Carlo A. Scissura, Esq.

Design 2147 CEO Sisto Martello recently had the opportunity to speak with Carlo A. Scissura, Esq., President & CEO of the New York Building Congress, about the latest building developments in New York City and what the future holds. Here are some of the important takeaways from the conversation.

Q. New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently gave his third State of the City address and he reiterated his commitments to continuing to move the City forward. What does that look like in practice?

A. I’m going to start by saying we’re in a bit of a strange time – not just in New York, but in the world. Post-COVID, redefining how we live, work, how we travel, how we play, how we move has changed. So people are not in offices five days a week anymore. They’re maybe in three or four days a week. They’re spending a little more time at home. Communities that used to be bedroom communities are now a little busier during the day. Movement is different, commuting is different. The world is different, but I would say this: never bet against New York. New York is the global capital of the world. The finance, the fashion, the art, the food, the music, the construction, the development, the education, the healthcare, the culture, the tourism.

What I would say is, maybe right now we need to tinker. I think the Mayor is phenomenal. He gets it. He is pro-development, pro-growth, pro-building the five boroughs. That’s what we do.

We want to see housing built: affordable, market, workforce housing for cops, firefighters, teachers, nurses, who can’t afford to live in New York. We want to see investments in education, in schools, investments in NYCHA, investments in hospitals, and then of course transit. So if we don’t really focus on investing in transit, our subways, our rails, our airports, our waterways, our bus systems, all of that is critical to the future of our city.

Q. One of the latest developments is the IBX, the new train connection from Bay Ridge to Queens. What’s particularly significant is that each train station on that line will mean major development.

A. It’s really what makes New York City great. I live in Bay Ridge, so if I want to go to Queens, and I take the Interborough Express, I will connect to 16 New York City subway stops that can take me anywhere. This is like a life-changing, life-altering thing for so many New Yorkers.

Q. The IBX is also using an existing right of way, correct?

A. Yes, an existing train line that is part of the freight rail. The freight rail has one train a day at most, so the IBX will be able to coexist.

Q. One of the things that we work hard to educate our clients about is the zoning process. When you hear on the news that an announcement has been made (for example, that the Garment District will be rezoned), it’s easy to forget that those kinds of changes take so much time and so much input from so many people.

A. Rezonings have been happening in New York for our entire history. The City Council just voted to approve the Willets Point rezoning. So if you’re at Citi Field, you will no longer look out and see derelict buildings and abandoned streets.

Mayor Adams is proposing rezoning the Garment District from manufacturing to mixed-use residential, and Erik Bottcher, the City Council representative from the Garment District, has already said he’s in favor. Fifty years ago, the Garment District was where they made everything we’re wearing. That doesn’t exist anymore. Today, I think something like 3-5% of the Garment District is garment manufacturing.

The Garment District also has some of the best transit in New York City. There are great buildings that are not being utilized. The Mayor and City Planning have identified three parts of this area where you can do office-to-residential conversions. It will be exciting. That’s what a city should be. Every neighborhood should be mixed-use. Every neighborhood should have what we had growing up: stores and people working and businesses.

This is a moment where we’re going to see over the next five, ten, fifteen years, another renaissance of New York: a Midtown Manhattan that doesn’t close at 6 o’clock when people leave. A place where you wake up in the morning, maybe you work from home in your new building in Midtown, but you use the coffee shop, the restaurants, the parks, the schools, you travel around in the subway system.

Q. The New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) is projecting that they need 30,000 to 40,000 additional seats for students. Is that what you’re hearing?

A. Yes. Lorraine Grillo, who’s not there anymore, was probably one of the greatest in terms of building schools and understanding the needs. From Bloomberg to de Blasio to Eric Adams, the one constant among mayors is they’ve invested in school construction. It’s not just building new schools, it’s a lot of renovations. And as the population shifts and people shift around New York, you will need schools to meet the population demands.

Q. What would you say is the biggest priority for New York City?

A. I think it’s a couple of things. One is infrastructure. We have to rebuild our subways and expand them. We have to fix the streets. We have to do something with the BQE; it is a lifeline for commerce and for people and I think this mayor gets it, and they’re going to do something.

Roads, bridges and tunnels are also important. A new 2nd Avenue subway. The IBX. Metro North. A new Port Authority bus terminal. It will be the largest bus terminal in North America. So infrastructure through the roof, but housing right after that. We have to build housing. We really need to keep people in New York.

Q. Being in the business for 38 years this year, I’ve seen so many things, and I’ve learned how great cities find a way to partner with private development. And if that is not there, everything comes to a halt.

A. LaGuardia Airport is a public-private partnership. Kennedy Airport is a public-private partnership. The future of economic development is no longer “government is going to throw money in and everyone’s going to smile.” Government, the private sector, corporate, Wall Street, investors, we’re all going to come together. And builders and contractors and engineers. And say, how can we do this? And that’s the future of Penn Station. And that will be the future of many projects.

Q. There’s been a lot of rumors – and some press – recently about the possibility of casinos coming to New York City.

A. In 2025, probably about a year from now, New York State will award three new casino licenses for downstate. It could be the five boroughs. It could be Long Island. It could be Westchester. The three casinos will be incredibly large, full-fledged, full-service casinos with gaming tables, restaurants, shopping, hotels, open space, the whole deal.

Q. How is that site determined?

A. There are a bunch of operators who have entered into partnerships with a construction firm, engineering firm, design firm, architect. They put together a team; there’s one for Willets Point and one for Long Island. And everybody applies. Hudson Yards has a bid. The east side of Manhattan, where the UN is, has a bid. SL Green has a bid in Times Square. They will all apply. The state will then say, we are going to give licenses to three entities. Those three entities still have to go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

Ten years from now, you’re going to fly into a new JFK. You’re going to be able to get from JFK to Midtown in a new air train. You will have casinos around you, a new Penn Station, a new Port Authority Bus Terminal, a new 2nd Avenue Subway, a new IBX, new parks, new schools, and hopefully 100, 200,000 new units of housing.

It is a city and a region, because we’re no longer just a city. It’s Long Island. It’s the five boroughs. It’s Connecticut. It’s parts of New Jersey. We’re one big region. And the largest infrastructure project in America is the Gateway Tunnels, which is building two new tunnels to bring high-speed rail so that eventually, you will get from Manhattan to DC in less than two hours. It is a moment of growth for this city.