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Broker Fees Just Won’t Go Away, the Rat Epidemic, and Other News

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Here’s everything else that’s been happening around the city this week.

A view of several tall buildings in Midtown, Manhattan. Shutterstock / James Andrews1

Broker’s Fee Ban Decision Is Delayed — Again

Back in February, New York renters rejoiced at the prospect of tenant-paid broker’s fees being eliminated, as the Department of State recommended. Ranging between 12 to 15 percent of one year’s rent, the hefty fees add to the pile of money that’s necessary to get a lease in New York.

But banning the fees has proven to be a slow process, and now it’s going to take even longer. First, in early March, the industry groups including the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and several large brokerage firms, filed a lawsuit against DOS, which prevented the rule from taking effect pending a court date in June. Then the pandemic hit, and all parties agreed that the hearing should be pushed until September 11 or later. This week, the court date was pushed to October 23, according to The Real Deal.

While the court process grinds along, the real-estate market has changed significantly. And with rents dropping and working tenants harder to come by, broker fees — are at least for now — becoming scarce in certain areas (like Manhattan). When Compass broker Robert Khederian takes on a new listing there, he asks that the landlord pay the fee, “because right now, the majority are no-fee and in order to compete with the other apartments, it also needs to be no-fee,” he says. However, in other parts of the city, like Astoria, Queens, most of the listings are still asking for a fee.


Pushing Back the Retail Apocalypse (and Other Real-Estate News)

Commercial tenants, like residential renters, have a new reprieve from evictions. But the new guidance is unfolding in the same maddening way — including dueling orders from the governor and the courts — as the residential-evictions process has. On Thursday, state courts suspended evictions for commercial tenants until at least September 4, but only hours later, Governor Cuomo announced that he signed an executive order extending the moratorium on “COVID-related commercial evictions” until September 20. That new order, which the governor has yet to publicly release, clearly contradicts aspects of the Office of Court Administration’s directive, leaving business owners and attorneys holding the bag.

The city’s hotels and short-term rentals will have to collect “quarantine registration forms” from travelers from high-risk states before letting them in. It’s the latest effort by the city to enforce quarantine rules and prevent a resurgence of the virus driven by out-of-state travelers. Those who flout the rules could be slapped with fines of up to $10,000.

The so-called pied-à-terre tax, which would hike property taxes on well-heeled New Yorkers’ second homes, has taken a step forward in the State Legislature. The bill’s sponsors have overcome a technical issue with co-ops that kept the bill from passing last year. The tax could raise $471 million per year, half of which would come from just 280 homes worth more than $25 million.

The controversial Industry City rezoning got the green light from the City Planning Commission this week. That sets the stage for a showdown between Sunset Park Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who opposes the plan, and other lawmakers who argue that the city can’t afford to turn down the influx of jobs the project would bring in light of the pandemic.

Other Stuff Going on Around Town

The rats are taking over: Between city budget cuts and more people creating more trash at home, there has been a surge in rat complaints to 311 since March.

Staten Island, the only borough without a bike-share system, will remain that way until 2021, when British-outfit Beryl says it will finally launch after delays related to the pandemic.

Brooklyn Bridge Forest, the winning design in a speculative competition intended to push the city to reimagine the Brooklyn Bridge, would transform the span with lush “microforests” and triple the amount of space for cyclists and pedestrians.

Lox lovers are drooling over this salmon-colored tie-dye T-shirt designed by actor Jake Gyllenhall in partnership with Lower East Side staple Russ & Daughters. All proceeds go to the Independent Restaurant Coalition.

Governor Cuomo released the next phase of plans for the mammoth Empire State Complex, centered around an expended Penn Station and capped with, of course, lots of new office high-rises.