MORENYC- the Metropolitan Organization for the Real Expansion of New York City - works to expand the population and built environment of New York City in order to create jobs, lower housing costs and save the environment by encouraging more people to live in an urban environment of lower per capita energy use.

Superstorm Sandy brought home that climate change is a basic existential threat to the long-term survival of New York City.  A coastal city whose economic center is close to sea level could be wiped out by extreme weather if temperatures are allowed to rise significantly in coming decades.   And not only did the city have to suffer the frustration of partisan opposition to basic recovery help after Sandy, its residents know that national ideological gridlock on the issue means little dramatic action on climate change is likely at the federal level.

At the same time, even as billionaire-penthouses get built, New York City faces rising housing costs that are destroying its working and middle class neighborhoods year-by-year.  One result is that workers trekking in to clean the buildings and cook the food for those who can still afford the City are often forced to live in suburban sprawl and now face the longest average commutes of any city in the country.

These rising housing costs reinforce a skewed employment market, with many employers in middle-income job categories reporting that they would not expand in New York City because they would not be able to attract employees because of those housing costs and commuting times.

And while New York City is home to some of the wealthiest people on the planet, basic human services, transit and infrastructure remain underfunded.   Part of this is the inequality in the tax code that effects states across the country, but the fact that hundreds of thousands of commuters work in the City without paying city income or sales taxes is another key reason for the ongoing budget crises faced by NYC.

The Solution:  Build an Alliance of Environmentalists, Labor, Affordable Housing Advocates and Other Community Groups to Add Millions of Housing Units to the City

The overwhelming election of Bill de Blasio reflects the frustration of New Yorkers with the rising inequality and unmet needs in the City.   We can take advantage of that opportunity to permanently create the base for long-term gains for working families and for addressing the climate change crisis. 

Embedded in the empty parts of the skyline of Manhattan is the potential for massive social wealth—economic wealth to fund broad social needs like affordable housing, job wealth that can employ the City’s unemployed, and clean energy wealth that can be tapped as well to significantly address the threat of global climate change.  A program to massively expand housing and move large numbers of people from energy wasteful suburbs can create a path to progressive change.

While there are a wide range of tools that can help effectively expand housing, a key tool to ensure that housing will be affordable is inclusionary zoning.  Communities around the country have promoted affordable housing through allowing greater density in certain locations in exchange for building affordable housing on-site or paying an inclusionary zoning (IZ) fee.  New York City has a limited IZ program but an expanded one centered on Manhattan requiring an IZ fee of 30% of the sale price for all new luxury construction would yield massive funds to provide not only affordable housing in northern Manhattan and the outer boroughs but support the funding for the transit, educational, and medical infrastructure needed for a growing NYC population. 

For example, in a scenario of adding 100,000 units in lower Manhattan under a 30% IZ fee, this would yield roughly $43 billion in revenue given current average prices for new construction in lower Manhattan. Assuming 60% of that is dedicated to affordable housing, that would yield $26 billion for affordable housing and $17 billion for educational, medical and transit infrastructure needs.  Combined with other reforms to make residential housing more affordable, the City could build affordable units housing millions of people from low-income and moderate-income families.

Read the rest of the MORENYC Vision here

And please sign the petition to Mayor De Blasio urging him to implement something along the lines of the MORE NYC plan.