Commuter rail sees a resurgence- POLITICO

Welcome to the weekly edition of the New York Real Estate newsletter. We’ll take a look at what’s coming up this week and look back at what you might have missed last week.

There has been a lot of concern about the future of commuter rail since the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Commuter rail lines, many of which were built to accommodate the suburban sprawl of the 1950s and 1960s, experienced steep passenger drops as in-person work dried up. White-collar office workers who used to rely on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North for daily work commutes were able to stay at home.

But things appear to be improving for the commuter rail lines — particularly on the weekends. Ticket sales were down only 8 percent on Metro-North on June 4, a Saturday. Other recent weekends show ridership down by just 20 percent on the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road.

“Interestingly, we thought people weren’t going to come back from the suburbs [but] commuter rails have actually caught up to the subways,” MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said at a May breakfast event hosted by Crain’s New York, adding that weekday ridership is pushing 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

State officials attribute the surge to new ticketing discounts that were designed to lure riders back to the system. Monthly pass users now get a 10 percent discount and residents can take advantage of a new 20-trip ticket. Transit officials also expanded the City Ticket, which offers flat fares for those traveling within city limits.

As the city enters another summer with the Covid-19 pandemic, recent ridership numbers show there’s much to be hopeful for on the return of New York City transit.

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NUMBER OF THE DAY: $400, the cheapest tent price for a night glamping on Governors Island.

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BUDGET DEAL — POLITICO’s Joe Anuta, Madina Touré and Sally Goldenberg: Mayor Eric Adams announced a deal Friday for his first budget — a $101.1 billion spending plan that boosts funding for a host of public safety initiatives without growing NYPD’s allocation, offers homeowners a property tax rebate without reducing real estate tax revenue, and sets aside cash for modest raises as the city’s unionized workforce negotiates expiring contracts. The Fiscal Year 2023 budget, which takes effect July 1, accomplishes the mayor and City Council’s goals to finance their priorities while increasing savings. But it does little to achieve the belt-tightening Adams promised during the campaign last year. The budget is up $2.4 billion from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s final spending plan adopted one year ago — and $1.4 billion from Adams’ own proposal in April. The municipal workforce’s 305,000 headcount remains flat.

— Housing spending in the budget fell short of the $4 billion annual capital commitment the City Council and advocates were pushing for, but the deal included the $5 billion in additional funding over a decade that Adams had announced in April. “While this budget agreement marks a significant increase over years past on housing, it still falls far short of what is needed to address a housing and homelessness emergency that is rapidly growing worse,” Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference, said in a statement.

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UPSTATE FARMERS LOSE OUT TO WEALTHY URBANITES — The New York Times’ Elizabeth G. Dunn: “As first-time livestock farmers, Maddie Morley and Benjamin Roberts had beaten the odds in a profession that is often expensive and grueling for those starting out. They were making a profit selling their pasture-raised meats, and the next step was to buy a permanent home for their business, Grass + Grit Farm. But then the pandemic hit, followed by a rush of wealthy urbanites seeking fresh-air retreats in bucolic settings. Their affordable lease in New Paltz, N.Y., negotiated in 2015 with the help of a farming nonprofit, had just ended, and they were suddenly thrust into a market where buyers were paying above asking price….

“The Hudson Valley is a prime agricultural region stretching from New York City to Albany, N.Y., home to an eclectic mix of tractor dealerships, twee specialty food shops, dollar stores and high-end furniture boutiques. It has long been a popular destination for second-home buyers in search of a pastoral lifestyle. But since the pandemic, demand for properties there, especially farms, has surged.”

MIDTOWN MAKING A COMEBACK? — The Real Deal’s Harrison Connery: “Move over, Williamsburg. Here comes … Midtown? Residents and brokers who specialize in the area — known for aging office buildings and executives — say it has been transforming during the city’s recovery, getting younger, hipper and trendier. It can surely use the new blood. The skyscraper-laden district stretching from 34th Street to Central Park South was disemboweled by the pandemic and continues to bleed office tenants, even as other pockets of the city appear ready to move on from the pandemic. …

“But while older office towers languish, brokers say young home buyers have flocked to the neighborhood, eager to take advantage of prices that haven’t soared like they have in the rest of Manhattan and much of Brooklyn. ‘All of a sudden we have people moving from Downtown, all of a sudden you have these people who think it’s cool to be living further up,’ said Bertrand Buchin, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman.”

— A shortage in building materials is driving up the cost of building a home in the U.S., per a report from Bank of America.

— The Riders Alliance calls for more frequent subway service as an important crime deterrent.

— Amazon delivery drivers are clogging up city streets — with one claiming he got the green light from the NYPD to double park.

— You can go glamping on Governors’ Island for upward of $400 a night.

— Beehives that produce honey for residents and courtyards meant to draw migratory birds are among the green amenities in vogue at city condo buildings.