Q. Why are you running?
A. Primarily to spread the message that with less overregulation, we can have a more affordable and greener city.
Q. Why are you qualified?
A. As the "About" section points out, my record of land use scholarship gives me some expertise in relevant issues.
Q. Which party will you be nominated by?
A. I have been endorsed by the city's Libertarian Party. (I would happily accept the Conservative or Republican endorsements as well, but it does not seem likely that I will get either). In the past I have contributed to moderate and Libertarian-leaning Republicans like Mitt Romney, Rand Paul and Bill Weld.
Q. You say that new housing will make the city cheaper. What evidence do you have to support that?
A. If the past year has taught us anything, its that the law of supply and demand applies to housing! As demand for housing in midtown and downtown has declined, rents have nosedived. If lower demand means lower rents, it logically follows that increased supply will lower rents as well. Moreover, cities that allow lots of housing (for example, Sun Belt cities like Charlotte and Houston) tend to have cheaper housing. Only 1.7 percent of New York City’s housing was built after 2010, as opposed to 4.9 percent of Houston’s housing- evidence that the city has not permitted enough housing to keep up with demand.
Q. But I thought that the city had a building boom. Isn’t the city bursting at the seams with new condos?
A. Not true! In 1963, over 60,000 housing units were built in New York City- more than twice as many as were built in any year in the past twenty years.
Q. But isn't it true that new housing is usually unaffordable?
A. 1) New housing is usually more expensive than older housing- but the same is true for new cars or new clothes. Does that mean we should prohibit new cars and new clothes? 2) the positive impact of new housing isn't limited to the people who live in the new housing. When expensive new apartments are built, some well-off people move from older units to those apartments. That means that demand for the older units declines, thus making those units cheaper than they would otherwise be.
Q. But doesn't new housing cause gentrification?
A. Actually, the absence of new housing causes gentrification. When people are priced out of already-affluent areas like the Upper East Side, they don't just magically disappear: instead, they move to poorer areas like Bushwick and gentrify them.
Q. Wouldn't it be easier to build public housing?
A. Unlike many more conservative Republicans, I'm not against public housing in principle. But you need a strong tax base for public housing, and a pro-business, pro-construction city is likely to have a stronger tax base than a city that drives away businesses.
Q. How does the environment benefit from a bigger, denser city?
A. The overwhelming majority of Manhattan residents don't own cars. If people are priced out of Manhattan, some of them will move to Manhattan-like neighborhoods in the outer boroughs (such as Park Slope). But many of them will move to the suburbs or to Sun Belt cities where a car is a virtual necessity. More cars means more carbon emissions and more of other types of pollution.
Q. Won't new apartments be gobbled up by rich people who will keep them vacant?
A. This argument assumes that new apartments are so expensive that only foreign oligarchs can afford them. There are a few new apartments that are beyond the reach of Manhattan's doctors and lawyers- but this is a small percentage even of new condos; the last time I looked on zillow.com, only 10 percent or so of new condos cost over $10 million. At any rate, this argument certainly doesn't apply to rental units.
Q. Why should we build new apartments when existing units are vacant?
A. Actually, a high vacancy rate is the sign of a healthy housing market. When vacancy rates are higher, that means there's enough housing to go around, and rents are down. When vacancy rates are low, people fight bidding wars for the tiny number of homes that are available. For example, cities like Atlanta and Houston have higher vacancy rates than costly San Francisco (or at least did before COVID-19).
Q. Why not just build in the outer boroughs, which aren’t as dense?
A. If we are ever to become more affordable, we are going to need new housing everywhere- not just in places you don’t live.
(NOTE:: More detailed explanations of these points are available in my articles and blog posts, many of which are linked to in the "Scholarship and Blogs" section of this site).
Q. Is Manhattan really less car-dependent than other places?
A. According to the Census Bureau, only 22.4 percent of Manhattan households own a car. And only about 7 percent use that car to get to work!
Q. What can be done to make life easier for the 77.6 percent that don't?
A. Just to name a few policies: More medians on the avenues, so that pedestrians don't have to outrun four or five lanes of traffic at once. More bike lanes separated from auto traffic, because when bikes and cars mix the result is unpleasant for drivers and dangerous for cyclists. (Of course the subway is important too, but the state rather than the city controls the MTA).
Q. What's the Borough President's role in transportation?
A. A Borough President appoints community board members who can obstruct improvements. I will try to appoint community board members who are pro-walking and pro-biking and pro-bus.