July 20, 2015

The Real Estate Board of New York has raised $3 million to bury a provision that would require construction workers be paid a prevailing wage on 421a projects, according to a filing with the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

Television ads created through an entity called “Putting New Yorkers to Work Inc.” contend that a prevailing wage requirement will stymie affordable housing efforts. The filing shows a flurry of activity from May 8 through June 18, with some of the city’s biggest developers donating to the cause in time for the passage of the 421a deal.

Ultimately, the city’s former 421a law was extended for four years, with a requirement that the involved parties agree on a wage deal before the renewed tax break takes effect in January. Developers have considered suing over the provision.

“If we want to create more affordable housing, we can’t just talk about it—we need to build it, in neighborhoods across New York City,” a narrator says in the ad. “But now, special interests are pushing a deceptive wage proposal that would stop builders from hiring local workers, severely restricting new affordable housing construction and denying thousands of families a place to call home.”

REBNY collected $500,000 from the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, a group of for-profit affordable housing builders. Two Trees Management, The Related Companies, Durst Organization and Tishman Speyer Properties each donated $250,000.

“Putting New Yorkers to Work was funded by some of the largest employers of unionized construction workers in New York City. Even they realized that imposing a prevailing wage requirement for construction work on 421-a projects will dramatically reduce the amount of affordable housing built in New York City,” REBNY president John Banks said in a statement.

In April, a bill was introduced in the city council that would require workers be paid a prevailing wage on any city-assisted projects. [Capital NY] — Tess Hofmann