Fried Frank Taps City Planning Manager to Serve Company’s Developer Clients – Business Observer
Land use issues in New York are never straightforward, and the ever-changing regulatory landscape can make the city a perilous maze for developers. To help their clients navigate this complex landscape, law firm Fried Frank recently appointed Anita Laremont, former director of the New York City Department of Urban Planning, as a partner in its real estate and property department. its practice of land use, zoning and development. Partner Insights spoke to Laremont about the issues she will address on behalf of the company’s developer customers.
Business Observer: Talk about some of your most proud accomplishments during your time at city planning.
Anita Laremont: I am proud that we have enacted Mandatory Inclusive Housing, a groundbreaking program which requires that where, through zoning action, residential capacity is significantly increased, any further development must include between 25-30% affordable housing at all times. . We carried out a feasibility analysis to ensure the requirement was financially feasible for developments across the city. We also completed eight major neighborhood rezonings, with at least one in every New York borough, which created capacity for more than 35,000 additional homes, at least a quarter of which will be affordable.
Also, I’m extremely proud of the two rezonings we’ve done in East Midtown. The first resulted in One Vanderbilt, which was the first new office tower in Midtown in over 20 years and a project my current colleagues at Fried Frank advised on. We followed this rezoning with the Greater East Midtown rezoning and modernized zoning for the entire neighborhood, where the building stock lacked the floor plates and amenities desired by businesses looking for office space. Class A today. Since then, Fried Frank has served as counsel for a number of projects located in the neighborhood, including the JPMorgan Chase headquarters building at 270 Park Avenue, which is currently under construction. This rezoning was a phenomenal success, as several projects sought to develop under the newly established rules very quickly after the rezoning was enacted. I believe this rezoning will help ensure the continued prominence of this important central business district. I was also very proud that we established permanent resilience rules, which will be very important for flood-prone areas.
What do you think are the biggest land use issues facing New York City today?
The existential issue is our housing crisis. We are simply not producing enough housing to meet the demand and keep up with population growth. This resulted in the high cost of housing that we experience today and is the cause of displacement and gentrification. If we don’t build more housing, we risk losing our place as a world-class city. Companies will not find this location attractive as housing will be too expensive for their workers. Part of the problem is that there is significant anti-development sentiment, as well as garden variety NIBMYism. Some people don’t seem to understand that if we don’t continue to expand so that more people can afford to live here, we won’t be able to prosper and grow. And not having a tax abatement program like 421a will make the problem even worse.
What do you think will be the most important issues you will face for Fried Frank customers?
Currently, developers are trying to figure out if there is a path to 421a-free development or an alternative tax reduction program. We are therefore working with them to explore alternatives, in particular by making projects with the State. Having been general counsel at the Empire State Development Corporation for several years, I understand that the state has the ability to do certain things that are more difficult for the city. People are also looking to understand how to navigate the approval process in new city and state administrations, and we are thinking creatively about what types of development would be most appropriate given the scarcity of funding and Construction sites. Then there are proposals that the developers tell us about. Clients are studying the feasibility of commercial conversions of certain class B and C office buildings and hotels. Clients want to understand the requirements governing the conversion of these buildings into residences. Additionally, customers are interested in using the Zoning for Transit Accessibility text, enacted by City Planning last year, which allows developers to earn a bonus if they are willing to provide a transit easement to the MTA, and we advise them on the applicable rules. and procedures.
How do you think the extensive experience you have on the government side will benefit Fried Frank clients?
Government regulations are extremely complex and often very obscure, and it is always helpful for clients to have an attorney with a thorough understanding of these regulations. In my case, not only do I have this expertise on the city side, but my experience as General Counsel for the Empire State Development Corporation allows me to advise clients on alternative routes to obtaining approvals. I can also advise clients on how to strategically present their case to decision makers and assess how a client’s plans may resonate with decision makers.
What are some of the more specific areas where a company like Fried Frank can most help clients with land use issues?
We have a unique practice group, where three of us have served as general counsel for planning. We are uniquely positioned to help our clients understand the Uniform Land Use Review process and its intricacies. We also have a member of the team who was General Counsel for the Board of Standard and Appeals and helps advise clients on these issues. Having this experience in-house is invaluable to clients, as you can explain why a particular provision was drafted the way it was, especially if you are the person who drafted it. You can advise on potential pitfalls and challenges, and which government official to discuss particular issues with. Additionally, many of the development challenges that our clients face are not challenges that can simply be resolved by going to a municipal agency. We can navigate through everything that needs to happen for a project to be approved.
With your experience, you could have landed in so many prestigious firms. Why did you choose Fried Frank?
There are several reasons why I chose Fried Frank. Several people who appeared before me when I worked in government are now my partners in this practice. I consider them to be at the top of the profession – they are simply the most knowledgeable people on land use in the city. This group has the largest number of highly skilled land use practitioners I know of in New York. The other reason I chose Fried Frank is that the real estate practice here is extensive. Land use is only part of what we do. This is truly a full-service commercial real estate practice. This creates enormous synergies and allows us to provide a comprehensive service to our customers. Also, as it is a fact of life that a number of land use actions result in litigation, I am very pleased that we have expert real estate lawyers in-house who provide stellar defenses and sound advice to help us reduce the likelihood of a project being disrupted.