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Is Office-to-Residential Conversion the Cure for What Ails NYC?
Or is the Cure worse than the Disease?

February 26, 2024, 6:30pm

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  • Alan Mallach - Author and Senior Fellow, Center for Community Progress

  • John Shapiro - Professor, Pratt Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment

  • Howard Slatkin - Executive Director, Citizens Housing Planning Council



  • Margaret Tobin - Real estate consultant, M. Tobin Company

Join us online on February 26, 2024 at 6:30pm for our webinar "Is Office-to-Residential Conversion the Cure for What Ails New York City?"

A shortage of affordable housing, combined with a high-rate of office space vacancies and with concerns about the possibility of a permanent decline in office space demand, has led some to see office-to-residential conversions as a way to respond to all these issues at once. The proposed citywide zoning text amendment City of Yes for Housing Opportunity includes a provision that would enable residential conversions in 136 million square feet of office space (more than exist in most major American cities). Meanwhile, a wide range of elected officials at all levels of government as well as community leaders have endorsed office conversions as a common sense multi-purpose solution? But is it?


This panel will explore the advisability and long-term implications of pursuing this strategy, differentiating among neighborhoods and considering alternatives responses to the challenges that conversions are meant to address.

Following the panel discussion, panelists will answer questions from the audience.



Allan Mallach

Alan Mallach is the author of The Divided City: Poverty and Prosperity in Urban America, and a well-known writer and thinker on cities and neighborhoods. A senior fellow with the Center for Community Progress in Washington DC, he has worked at the Brookings Institution and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, taught at Rutgers University, the Pratt Institute, and elsewhere, lectured at universities in the United States, Europe, Japan, China and Israel, and served as director of housing & economic development for the city of Trenton, New Jersey. His new book is Smaller Cities in a Shrinking World: Learning to Thrive Without Growth, which explores the prospects for small cities in a world of climate change and declining population and economic growth, and outlines a path forward for cities facing the daunting challenges of an uncertain future. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners.

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John Shapiro

John Shapiro is a full-time professor at the Pratt Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment and its former Chair. Before, he was for 25 years a principal of Phillips Price Shapiro Associates, Inc., one of the region’s leading planning consultancies. John teaches across disciplines, including multi-program studios, thesis in both the planning and placemaking programs, the economics of placemaking, downtown//main street (re)vitalization, adaptive reuse of historic structures, zoning and preservation, and implementation tools. He has contributed to books on participatory planning, preserving urban industry, and the future of zoning. During his three decades as a consultant, John worked on virtually every type of plan, from site-specific to regional and from rural to metropolitan. He is the former president of the Metro NY chapter of the American Planning Association. John and his work have won over 20 awards, including the national American Planning Association’s first Presidential Award.


Howard Slatkin

Howard Slatkin is the Executive Director of Citizens Housing Planning Council. He has over two decades of government service at the intersection of housing and planning in New York City. As Deputy Executive Director for Strategic Planning at the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP), Howard oversaw long-term planning and policy development and a range of citywide initiatives to promote housing supply, affordability, economic development, and sustainability. He has directed neighborhood planning initiatives that have produced tens of thousands of units of mixed-income housing alongside open space and other public improvements. As DCP’s first Director of Sustainability, his work promoting green buildings won the American Planning Association’s 2012 national award for Excellence in Environmental Planning. For his work on these and other initiatives to address the city’s housing and planning needs, CHPC awarded Howard its 2015 Public Service Award.

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Margaret Tobin

Margaret Tobin is the Principal of M. Tobin Company, a real estate consulting firm. Clients include local municipalities, investors, and institutions with real estate challenges and opportunities. She spent 12 years in public sector service for both NYC and NYS, during which time she initiated and secured approval for the recently completed $1.2 billion expansion of the Javits Convention Center and oversaw the creation of the Hudson River Park and of Chelsea Piers. Prior private sector experience has included Thor Equities, a real estate hedge fund where Ms. Tobin successfully led the construction or renovation of over 30 properties totaling 10 million square feet in markets across the U.S., and Vornado Realty Trust, where she had primary responsibility for the profitability of the company's new retail, mixed use, residential development projects, and for the creation of an outdoor signage district by Penn Station.

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