Williams: Hudson Yards ‘not for the majority’

BY TEQUILA MINSKY | At a press conference outside of The Shops and Restaurants at Hudson Yards, at 31st St. and 10th Ave., Jumaane Williams called out how the $25-billion Hudson Yards project focuses on the wealthy, in more ways than one.

While people knew this project was “not meant for the majority, to begin with, it’s like rubbing salt in the wounds,” the new public advocate said, pointing to some of the financials behind the massive new development just south of the Javits Convention Center.

“They got $6 billion in a tax supplement,” he said.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said Hudson Yards was cynically gerrymandered into a zone for “distressed areas,” linking it to public-housing in Harlem, so that the new megadevelopment could quality for a visa program benefitting wealthy foreigners. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)

Williams might have been referring to the $4.4 billion that included the extension of the No. 7 subway line, a new school, a major park and pocket parks. Crain’s New York Business recently wrote about a report by The New School university that listed a total of tax breaks of $ 1.36 billion for the megaproject.

“It is quite clear that this project was not for the majority of this city,” he charged. “And you can’t even buy food to eat if you work around here because Citarella and sweetgreen behind me are cashless, making it quite clear who is welcome here and who is not.”

Williams gestured to a map graphic of Manhattan and added, “Hudson Yards got $1.2 billion of a visa program that is here. It’s stunning.”

He was referring to a program targeted to help immigrants.

The map illustrates how the multibillion-dollar Hudson Yards technically qualifies as a “distressed urban area” under the EB-5 program, gerrymandered into a district that links it to public housing in Harlem.

Williams displayed this map, showing how Hudson Yards has been linked to public-housing complexes Uptown, allowing foreign investors in the new megadevelopment to get permanent-residence status for themselves and their families. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)

Under the EB-5 Green Card program, if foreigners invest $500,000 in a U.S. real estate project, they can get permanent residence for their families. However, this visa program is meant to help rural or economically distressed urban areas, according to Williams. Foreigners can also get the visas if they invest $1 million in projects in nondistressed areas.

Hudson Yards is not in a distressed urban area. But in 1990 when Congress created the EB-5 visa program, it didn’t specify how geographic boundaries should be drawn. According to the blog City Lab, “Without their knowledge, the residents of a number of public housing developments helped to make Hudson Yards possible.”

“Quite literally, this project was built on the backs of people who need the most help,” Williams charged. “This is an employment zone degraded. My guess is not a lot of people [from the actual distressed areas] are employed here — and if they go to lunch they better have cash.”

A sign at the new sweetgreen at The Shops and Restaurants at Hudson Square. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)

In response, a Hudson Yards spokesperson touted how the large-scale development project — the biggest private development in U.S. history — is an economic engine for the entire city and that a number of people from local housing projects have been hired.

Williams urged Citarella, sweetgreen and other commercial tenants at Hudson Yards to rescind their cashless business practices at a matter of good faith before the City Council takes action. A bill in the City Council would force businesses to accept cash payments. He further called on New Yorkers to boycott any cashless businesses at Hudson Yards and throughout the city.

And he charged that the Hudson Yards development partners, Related and Oxford Properties Group, have dragged their feet on constructing affordable units.

“At least build the 10 percent affordable housing that you said you would,” he demanded.

14 Responses to Williams: Hudson Yards ‘not for the majority’

  1. Shouldn't we just go ahead and rename it Bloombergville? ugh!

  2. Carl rosenstein

    What a sharp guy this new Public Advocate is. He's beside himself that a development project in Manhattan is directed at the affluent. It's not as Manhattan has the most expensive land values in the world, oh it's only second to Monaco.
    If the presence of public housing projects helped with financing, that's a bad thing? I'm looking forward to more enlightening studies by our new Public Advocate who most likely will be yet another unqualified 2020 candidate for Mayor.

    • We really need to help rich foreign investors and their families get green cards on the backs of NYCHA residents who will never see or benefit from one dollar of those investments or tax breaks? Williams is right to shine a light here. It’s shameful! He’s the right guy for this job.

    • The whole EB 5 program is a travesty which allows rich foreign families to buy into residency here. To make it worse, the one Hudson Yards used is a lower cost alternative meant for distressed areas. There is no documentation of how many jobs for low income Americans were actually created.

  3. I cant remember when any new

    economic development project that was to

    Benefit the Poor –

    if it did its a temporary gesture

    The second you clean up or improve you –

    price people out –

    And the whole basic premise is to make it livable and attract new people to the neighborhood .

    Which kind of exclude

  4. Carl Rosenstein sounds like a developer or who has a relative who is one, and doesn't care about anybody but themselves. Money speaks! I did not vote for Mr. Williams, but now I know I should have. Corruption continues in our city (and elsewhere, I'm sure). I agree with Valerie – Mr. Williams is the right guy as our Public Advocate.

    • He's not. He's just an angry guy on Broome Street who's been driven crazy by the fact that his street is a crosstown off-ramp to get from the bridge to the tunnel, and there's nothing he can do about it. Since he's not happy, he tries to make sure no one else is. Just sour grapes from a grumpy curmudgeon. What a waste.

  5. I almost feel bad for the developers, architects, investors, etc. and esp' Bloomberg. Almost. Cuz there is not a single positive review of Hudson Yards, the Shawarma, or the Shed. This place and its amenities are universally hated. Everyone from the regular public to the most charitable critics have panned every part of it. It must be hard to sleep at night with the only concession being that at least you got paid. So sad.

  6. Hudson Yards and the adjoining Brookfield properties are for the top 1%, literally. Yes, there are low paying jobs for the unskilled in security, parking garage attendants, food prep, baby sitting, maids, personal servants, nannies, janitors, waiters, low level retail cashiers and sales clerks. But it is basically providing for the top 1% as servants.

    • Ok. Key word…”unskilled.” Tough to make an argument when you admit apathy and complacency for life amongst the masses.

  7. Scooter Debouter

    To start with, the site was a rail yard that produced little economic benefit. The project will generate enormous new tax revenue that financed the 7 train extension.

    As for the tax breaks, they are a small part of this new money and are not a cost to taxpayers. The progressives like to brag about the $4 billion Amazon tax break they saved these taxpayers; as if the $25 billion in lost revenue was worth it to keep the evil corporate predators from benefitting.

    If a developer invest $30 billion to build an extraordinarily complex and very expensive project finished to top quality standards, is it surprising that they would want the best tenants to pay top rents. Should the retail space have a fast food court? Maybe Newman Marcus should be required to have a Dunkin Donut – Taco Bell franchise inside it’s main entrance.

    Growing up in New York in the 60’s, we knew that Park and Fifth Avenues were closed to all but the rich, but we did not begrudge them their what we condemn today as privilege. We did not resent them, but let ourselves imagine living there. These privileged precincts fueled dreams that many dreamers achieved,

    Thousands of workers earned top wages building Hudson Yards and many more jobs are being created to service it’s tenants and visitors. It is a permanent generator of cash to support government and people.

    Building a world class quality mega-development like Hudson Yards was a great thing for New York to do. Yes, they got public benefits, but the city got far more back in return.

    • "We did not resent them" — Well, maybe you did not, but many others did. In fact, there are entire books written about that very upper/lower envy. So, you're just flat out lying, but maybe you don't know better. And everything else you write could be true, but it does not mean that Hudson Yards had to be what it is now.

      Actually, since it was built on govt property (not just cheap – we owned it, so Free), we could have built a very middle class enclave with a vast amount of diversity and density (the rich don't like either); and it still would have been a big economic benefit, generated enormous tax revenue, paid thousands of workers, created many more jobs, and be a permanent generator of cash. It didn't have to be a 1% haven. It could have been so much more and still have done all you wanted. These things are not mutually exclusive. Giant missed opportunity.

  8. Devil wears NIKE

    I'm here to comment on the EB-5 program. Foreigners will never ever invest in (inner city) projects that can potentially put them and their families in harms way. Have you been to these neighborhoods? It's a third world country; Gangs, murders and Drugs. A lot of the inhabitants within these distressed neighborhoods are fixated and accustomed to a certain life style. Until they change their mentality and conduct themselves in a civilized manner – their hood will continued to be distressed. Rich people are not indebted to people with no money or with lesser means. SALTY Politicians!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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