Heard Around Town

Heastie: ‘There’s an understanding’ on tenant protections in NY budget

The Assembly speaker told reporters he hopes state budget negotiations will result in a deal on housing.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie speaks with reporters Tuesday.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie speaks with reporters Tuesday. Rebecca C. Lewis

As the April 1 budget deadline quickly approaches, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said that negotiations between state leaders are advancing well even if he wouldn’t say that any of the big issues have been “locked down” just yet. “Sometimes in the budget, you might be in a different galaxy,” Heastie told reporters on Tuesday, referring to the Assembly's  position relative to the governor and the state Senate’s. “I think we’re all now even on the same planet.” But he didn’t rule out the possibility of an extender to keep the state running if they don’t finish on time.

According to the state comptroller, legislators must pass a budget by noon next Tuesday in order to keep state workers paid and the government running. Otherwise, they need to pass an extender, a prospect that Heastie said is a possibility even if he doesn’t necessarily expect one before the end of the week. “We may have to deal with that on Tuesday, but if you start to say extender, then you’re kind of admitting that we’re not going to get it done,” Heastie said. “We’re not at that point.” He did confirm that legislators would pass the debt services bill this week, which traditionally gets approved before any other spending bill to ensure the state doesn’t default on its loans.

As state leaders continue to work on the specifics, Heastie said that he remains “cautiously optimistic” that a housing deal will be included as part of the budget. “I think there’s a path, I think there’s an understanding,” Heastie said, with the caveat that “nothing is settled” yet. He also said that “there is an understanding” that new tenant protections need to be a part of a housing deal. Gov. Kathy Hochul has been resistant to tying those protections to measures to increase the state’s housing stock. “I don’t want to speak for her… but I think there’s a wide understanding,” Heastie said. “And that’s what I mean about us being on the same planet. I don’t know if we’re in the same country yet.”

Any housing deal, in addition to including tenant protections, would also include a new tax incentive for developers to build affordable housing. But the details remained elusive Tuesday even as Heastie expressed his belief that a package would be part of the budget. “Those are all things that are being discussed,” Heastie said of specifics like affordability requirements for developers to receive an incentive. 

Also still in the air regarding a replacement for the 421-a tax break: a wage deal between unions and developers for projects approved as part of the hypothetical new program. “A wage deal has to be part of it,” Heastie said. “As I said, I am optimistic that it will come to be.” But discussions between the New York City Building and Construction Trades Council and the Real Estate Board of New York have hit a stalemate after the trades rejected an offer from developers last week. Some trades harshly criticized what REBNY had to offer as unacceptable, while developers characterized the rejected compromise as a balanced proposal in good faith. It was presented as a final offer, but REBNY remained open to negotiations continuing.