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Behind mayor Eric Adams' decision to turn empty NYC offices into new apartments

The plan might birth 20,000 new apartments.

Anna Rahmanan
Written by
Anna Rahmanan

Earlier this week, mayor Eric Adams unveiled his plans to convert underused office spaces in New York City into new apartment buildings.

In total, the politician offered 11 recommendations that range in scope and function and are based on advice from a city-led task force that was established back in July of 2022.

"The need for housing is desperate, and the opportunity offered by underused office space is clear—we know what we need to do," Adams said in an official statement. "These concrete reforms would clear red tape and create the incentives to create the housing we need for New Yorkers at all income levels. [...] With this study, we have a roadmap to deliver on a vision for a more vibrant, resilient, prosperous, and affordable city."

The New York City Office Adaptive Reuse Study suggests changes to state law and city zoning requirements in an effort to ease regulations across 136 million square feet of office space (to put things in perspective, that would be the amount of office space available in Philadelphia as a whole).

It will be up to property owners to decide whether or not to convert their buildings but the hope is that the laxing of regulations will prove to be an incentive all around.

According to officials, the changes could create as many as 20,000 new homes within the next ten years.

The 32-page report, which you can read in full right here, clearly hinges on two main issues that the city is facing: a housing crisis and a very slow return to in-office hours following the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan would likely directly benefit both causes while also finally tackling problems associated with the city's zoning laws.

"It is essential for New York City to be adaptive to the changing needs and dynamics of New Yorkers in this post-pandemic era," said New York City Economic Development Corporation president and CEO Andrew Kimball. "The recommendations laid out in this report build off those put forth in the Making New York Work for Everyone action plan to reimagine 24/7 commercial districts across New York City. These proposals are designed to aid in the transformation of single-use commercial hubs into mixed-use, live-work environments and are necessary to building a more vibrant and inclusive economy for all New Yorkers."

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