Despite its noble goals, critics have long argued that the 421-a tax abatement program is a one-sided deal that benefits wealthy developers at the expense of the city's coffers, with a negligible impact on affordable housing stocks. Now, as the program nears its expiration date in June, those critics have really been making themselves known.
Enter the good people at the Municipal Art Society, who have pored over city records to build an unbelievably detailed map of just about every building in the city that's been receiving 421-a tax breaks. Best of all, they've color-coded the properties to visualize the value of the exemptions, revealing exactly how and where developers are spending your money.
Unsurprisingly, the findings are depressing. According to the MAS, New York City lost $1.1 billion in 2014 to 421-a, 60% of which subsidized Manhattan developments like One57 (which, hilariously, got the breaks because it paid for a mere 66 affordable units in The Bronx).
"Reimagining 421-a as an engine for affordable housing was a well-intentioned but doomed idea," said MAS director Margaret Newman in a press release. "We've amended it again and again over four decades, trying to mold a program that was designed during a construction drought into one that makes sense during a construction boom. The geographic exclusionary area should do just that—exclude luxury neighborhoods from cashing in on 421-a."
· 421-a Tax Exemption [MAS]
· All 421-a coverage [Curbed]