Addressing New York’s Housing Crisis Through Public-Private Partnerships


By David J. Cooper

Public-private partnerships are a valuable tool to address New York’s housing crisis. It’s been just over a year since I published an article in the New York Law Journal concluding that this type of collaboration is crucial to finding solutions to the housing shortage that is driving young professionals out of the Hudson Valley. As another year passes without consensus on how communities can play their parts in combating the crisis, a recent trend of successful collaborations between private investors and the public sector using land development agreements (LDA) or similar arrangements demonstrates how these partnerships can effectively garner consensus on efficient and sustainable growth in the region.

Saving Taxpayers $17 Million in the Village of Pelham

In the Village of Pelham, an LDA between a developer and the municipality resulted in the construction of essential public infrastructure, such as a new firehouse, police station and Village Hall. This collaborative effort saved taxpayers approximately $17 million. Additionally, the partnership transformed a dilapidated municipal parking lot into a 127-unit rental building with ground-floor commercial spaces, revitalizing an entire block in the Village’s downtown core. The LDA identified clear mutual review milestones to streamline the permitting process, ensuring that both the municipal complex and residential projects could proceed to construction quickly after a comprehensive – but efficient – environmental review process.

Adding Affordable Housing Options in the Village of Haverstraw

Another example is in the Village of Haverstraw, where the Village has partnered with a joint venture between market rate and affordable housing developers to redevelop a long-abandoned industrial property and adjacent parcels on the Hudson River, known as the “Chair Factory Redevelopment Site.” Through Master Developer and Purchase and Sale Agreements, the parties have taken advantage of various public funding and grant programs, such as the Downtown Redevelopment Initiative, in furtherance of a plan currently contemplated to include a public waterfront promenade, 8,000 s.f. of commercial space and 450 multi-family residential units, with approximately 43 percent qualifying as affordable under Rockland County AMI standards. The parties recently completed a 9-month SEQRA review process after preparing an EIS, moving forward with adopting a new form-based overlay district to facilitate the waterfront redevelopment.

Bridging the Gap Between Public and Private Stakeholders

The cornerstone of these successful public-private partnerships appears to be the early execution of an LDA. The parties committed to cooperate in good faith and identified shared values to govern any disputes that may arise as they proceed through project planning, review and implementation. Effective LDAs like the ones used in Pelham and Haverstraw specify joint redevelopment priorities to use as the parties progress conceptual plans into actual site plans (e.g., density limits, affordability requirements, open space preservation, eminent domain, rezoning, PILOT, etc.).

This exercise allows the parties to acknowledge their respective – and potentially conflicting – concerns, such as maintaining the economic viability of a project vs. offsetting impacts through fair share mitigation fees. In addition, LDAs establish project milestones to ensure each party is living up to its commitment to ensure the SEQRA and other land use review processes are completed promptly (albeit the LDA cannot guarantee an outcome under NY law). This collaborative “partnership” approach provides a tangible framework for building thriving, inclusive communities that benefit the public and private stakeholders.

Zarin & Steinmetz LLP has represented both municipalities and developers in public-private partnerships across the New York metropolitan area and Hudson Valley, from Long Island to Poughkeepsie. Our unique perspective, formed through decades of representing both public and private parties in the largest public-private partnerships throughout the region, allows us to navigate complex issues and facilitate mutually beneficial collaborations. The firm is dedicated to leading the way toward empowering the creation of sustainable, affordable housing solutions throughout the Hudson Valley and beyond.

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