'We Will Seize Their Buildings': NYC's de Blasio Targets Private Property

P. Gardner Goldsmith | January 18, 2019
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Billy wants to take a bite out of the Big Apple's private property with the force of government action. "We will seize their buildings," he says.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio might not have a lot going for him when it comes to grace and erudition, but, in the field of elitist, anti-individual, command-and-control minds, he’s near the top, and Reason’s Joe Setyon just released a story that offers us a great example of Billy The Kid’s big central plans for the Big Apple. So, let’s find out the news…

As Setyon writes:

Fresh off proposing yesterday that private employers be required to provide their workers with 10 days of paid vacation, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio set his sights on a new target: property owners.

And Big Billy’s tactics come in three not-so-subtle punches.

The first is a new “executive order” to create a “Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants”. Acting on the old, bogus precedent of the past US President blithely disregarding the US Constitution and doing virtually anything he wants within the ever-metastasizing, ever-expanding panoply of Executive Branch agencies, Big Billy, through the stroke of his mighty pen, created this new office, costing who-knows how much, and running along without any vote from the City Council. He also created it despite the fact that, as Setyon notes, NYC already has something called “The Office of Tenant Advocate”, which has not been funded.

Regardless, the whole point is to make the moves that will prepare for future property seizures, and deBlasio’s next punch came with a rhetorical jab during his State of the City address, which is available online for those looking for something to lull them to sleep.

In it, Big Billy said:

When a landlord tries to push out a tenant by making their home unlivable, a team of inspectors and law enforcement agents will be on the ground in time to stop it… we will seize their buildings, and we will put them in the hands of a community nonprofit that will treat tenants with the respect they deserve.

Which begs a few questions no reporter has put to the Mayor, for some peculiar, likely obsequious, reason: How do you and your new creation know that a landlord is trying to “push out a tenant by making their home unlivable”, Mayor? If a landlord is engaging in said activity, and likely is breaching a contract, wouldn’t the tenant have a reason to take the landlord to court? Wouldn’t potential tenants become aware of this behavior, and turn to other, competing, renters?

Ahh, but that assumes the city is a hospitable place for landowners to compete and offer apartments for rent in a real, functional market, which is far from the case in NYC. In a normal economic environment, things fetching high prices attract suppliers to enter the field. They compete, and offer more supply, driving prices down, creating efficiencies and adding amenities in the bargain.

But New York is a city full of bureaucratic rot. From zoning ordinances, to building codes, to “landmarking”, to environmental regulations, and more, few developers of living space find it an appetizing prospect to, as Mick Jagger said, “bite the Big Apple”. Politicians like de Blasio stop market supply from meeting market demand.

Instead, like most politicians – those self-styled paladins of the little man – they make things more expensive for the little men, and then they ride to the rescue on their bureaucratic steeds, creating “public housing” by taking private land.

Which is precisely what de Blasio is pushing. Setyon tells us about de Blasio’s third move:

According to his office's website, De Blasio is ‘pursuing new local law to seize upwards of 40 of the most distressed multiple dwelling buildings annually and transition them to responsible, mission driven ownership.’ Passage of this legislation would presumably give the Office to Protect Tenants the authority to seize land.


And this is nothing new for Billy The Kid. Like the legendary cowboy thief, de Blasio seems to have a gargantuan problem with the concept of private property. Setyon reminds us that in in 2016, de Blasio told New York magazine:

Look, if I had my druthers, the city government would determine every single plot of land, how development would proceed. And there would be very stringent requirements around income levels and rents.

Almost as friendly as hanging a “builders go home” sign, Bill.

No wonder supply can’t rise to meet demand. Politicians like de Blasio aren’t interested in risking their own capital to build new units. Instead, they want to tell others how to do it, where, and when, and if the others don’t acquiesce, they’re breaking the law.

Meanwhile, Billy The Kid wants to replace the private market with the government. But, as Setyon correctly observes, the final irony is that the city-run housing system is actually the most egregiously bad landlord of them all.

It's worth noting that the worst landlord in New York isn't even a private landowner. In December, then-NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, who's since been sworn in as attorney general of New York State, put the city's own housing authority at the top of her ‘2018 NYC Landlord Watchlist.’

Good thing the city is there to help take care of this problem the city created.

And it’s a good thing Mayor de Blasio doesn’t have a tail.

He’d be chasing it, forever.