Archive for Geezer Rants

The proposed 91st Street Marine Transfer Station continues to draw protests as neighbors fear noxious fumes and dangerous heavy traffic through their neighborhood.  Pledge2Protect produced this video describing some of the dangers facing the neighbors of this transfer station.

 

Excerpted from Curbed NY article

 

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Pledge 2 Protect (http://pledge2protectnyc.org/)  is a growing coalition of residents, organizations, businesses, educators and parents working together to protect the health and safety of tens of thousands of New Yorkers by stopping the construction of a dangerous and ill-conceived garbage station, the E. 91st St. Marine Transfer Station (MTS).  Major waste facilities do not belong in ANY residential neighborhood anywhere in the city.

Some points to consider:

  • The proposed marine transfer station would be illegal if it was proposed today, yet it is being grandfathered-in under subpar conditions.
  • The facility is expected to operate 24 hours a day, 6 days a week by 2015
  • Barges and long-haul trucks will serve the MTS continuously causing air and water pollution
  • Construction costs are expected to increase from $45 million to approximately $1 billion over the next 20 years.
  • There are 11 day care facilities and 16 schools in the primary and secondary EIS study areas
  • Two senior citizen centers are located in close proximity to the site.
  • The Isaac Holmes public housing complex and 2,200 residents are next door to the MTS.
  • 22,000 residents live within 1/4 mile of the dump.
  • Up to 500 garbage trucks will use the dump’s entrance ramp daily, through a playground for children under age 5 and Asphalt Green’s facilities used by 31,000 children every year.
  • Idling trucks lined up next to the playground will release exhaust emissions.
  • Industrial traffic will endanger children and adults accessing community facilities and pedestrian throughways.
  • The steady supply of garbage will attract rodents and other vermin which can spread disease, overtake open spaces and infest neighboring homes and businesses
  • The proposed location for the station is in Flood Zone A, which puts it in the highest risk of flooding and could result in the displacement of garbage from the MTS into waterways and neighborhood.

 

Read more about Pledge 2 Protect and their efforts  on their website at  http://pledge2protectnyc.org/mission/

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The friendly rivalry between London and New York City just tipped in New York’s favor in the global competition for wealthy buyers of million-dollar homes.  According to a recent study by Knight Frank, an international property consulting firm in London, the difference hinges on the tax burdens faced when heading to the closing tables in each city, with New York real estate purchases  over $3.1 million (about £2 million) resulting in about half as much in transaction taxes as those in buying in London.

In March, the British government raised the ‘stamp duty’ on properties valued over £2 million from 5% to 7% of the total purchase price.  Offshore corporations pay a staggering 15% to capture the revenue from wealthy foreigners who are the biggest buyers of central London properties.  For years, they have been legally avoiding paying stamp duty by structuring their deals through offshore entities.  Foreigners will also be subject to capital gains taxes when they sell their British properties.  The total sales in central London over £2 million has fallen by at least 3% from April to July compared to the same period in 2011.

Members of the London real estate community are outraged, saying the government is trying to wring more revenue from a thriving part of the British Economy.

European countries, who are struggling with recession and deficits, including France and Italy, have made similar moves to extract more from the wealthy.

Many billionaires who are, for the most part, obsessed with secrecy, tend to hide their identities inside complex corporate structures to protect their privacy.  These corporate structures will now cost buyers additional tax to protect their privacy.

The big question is, will the higher cost of buying in London and other cities in Europe drive high-end buyers to New York?  Even though New York is lagging in revenues, and already impose a ‘mansion tax’ on purchases of more than $1 million, there haven’t been any serious moves to push real estate taxes higher at this point.

Inspired by New York Times article

May
14

REBNY Sets Ground Rules for Apartment Smoking Ban

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Residential building owners may soon have to devise and disclose their smoking policies to renters or buyers if a new proposal by Mayor Michael Bloomberg is passed.  The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is generally supportive of the legislation given it is in line with recommendations previously issued by one of our subcommittees.  However, REBNY is proposing some important changes to the City’s bill.

Last week, Mayor Bloomberg introduced a bill that would require owners of Class A multiple unit residential buildings to disclose where smoking is permitted or prohibited inside the units, outside areas within 15 feet of entrances and doorways as well as the common areas, balconies, courtyards and rooftops.

Current trends to regulate smoking in public spaces, such as in parks and restaurants, have sparked interest in pursuing non-smoking policies for residential buildings. Additionally, New York City’s Smoke Free Air Act already requires that individuals cannot smoke in public places, including the common areas of a multiple dwelling such as hallways, elevators and stairs.

The proposed legislation put forward by the Mayor’s office would require buildings to create a smoking policy if they do not already have one.  There are several concerns with the legislation.

  • In the current draft of the bill, buildings would have to comply within 90 days.   This is an unrealistic turnaround time for condo and coop boards. They would need at least 6 months to confer with their attorneys and have any smoking policy approved by the board members.
  • Under the legislation, the proposed notification requirement is the responsibility of many parties including owners, managers and leasing agents.  In actuality, given the various ownership and management structures in New York City real estate, each lease and sale transactions can be structured differently and can make it difficult to clearly delineate responsibility.  It may be straightforward to designate responsibility in an owner managed and leased rental building, but it may be less clear if a condo owner is subletting his/her own apartment.
  • Additionally, the City is seeking to impose hefty violations if this notification is not in place. We question the need for a complicated fine schedule.

REBNY will be working with the Mayor’s office and City Council to ensure that any bill that is passed is practicable for building owners and managers.

Related to the smoking issue, the Best Practices Subcommittee of REBNY’s Residential Management Council created a guide that serves as a starting point to help managing agents best inform their buildings and boards if they are considering implementing a no-smoking policy. This Subcommittee, which finalized the guide at the beginning of April, laid the groundwork to open communication and provided insight into addressing this issue.

Under existing city, state, and federal law, owners of rental apartment buildings are free to adopt a non-smoking policy with regard to the individual residential units that are free market. Currently, there are no laws in New York prohibiting smoking within an apartment in residential buildings, but implementing a smoking ban could lower maintenance costs and insurance rates.

Here are some highlights from REBNY’s guide for implementing a smoking ban in residential buildings:

Rentals

A landlord or owner can ban smoking in the building for each new non-rent-regulated tenant.  However, the landlord would have to add a rider to that effect to the lease.

In the event that an existing tenant has smoke emanating from his or her apartment and other tenants have registered complaints, the landlord may be able to use that as a basis to attempt to terminate the smoker’s lease.

Coops

An outright ban on smoking would most likely require an amendment to the proprietary lease, which would require the affirmative vote of the owners of a supermajority (typically two-thirds or 75 percent) of the shares.

The Board of Directors may consider whether the smoker’s conduct rises to the level of objectionable conduct sufficient to terminate the shareholder’s proprietary lease.  The Board of Directors could also use the prohibition against “objectionable odors” emanating from an apartment found in most proprietary leases to attempt to terminate the smoker’s proprietary lease.

Condos

Condominium’s By-Laws can generally be amended by the affirmative vote of the owners.  The Board of Managers has the ability to reject any purchaser who permits smoking in the unit.  The Board of Managers can also indicate a specific date in the future at which point no resident may smoke in the building including within the unit.

If the Board of Managers has the authority under the By-Laws to fine a unit owner who smokes in a unit and the smoke enters another unit, it may impose such a fine.  Absent such a provision, the Board or offended unit owner could sue the owner who smokes for monetary damages and an order enjoining the owner from smoking.

The Guide titled, Issues to Consider-Smoking and Second Hand Smoking in Multi-Unit Residential Buildings, is easily accessed on the member’s only side of REBNY.com.  Go to ‘Just for Managers’ and click on ‘RMC Subcommittees” for the full document.

From REBNY memo April 25, 2012.

MTA recently hired Parsons Brickeroff to conduct an air-quality survey.

Starting on September 12, 2011 and continuing throughout a 4 week period, the firm collected minute-by-minute data for various pollutants at 10 locations between E 69th and 87th Streets.  The final report, revealed that most measured pollutants were below national air quality and industry standards. 

  • High concentrations of one type of particulate matter were “attributed to local traffic emissions, other local sources such as commercial and residential boilers . . . with no significant contribution from blasting activities”, according to the report.
  • Another spike during the 3 to 7 pm blasting period showed concentrations below acceptable levels to indicate no adverse health effects.

According to a statement released Thursday, MTA Capital Construction President Michael Horodniceanu  “Based on the results of the study, there are no concerns that Second Avenue Subway construction si causing any danger to the public’s health. We will continue to do everything we can to be a good neighbor as we complete this critically important project as quickly as possible.”

Several measures were implemented to mitigate the odors and dust :

  • “Dust Bosses” that spray water mist to force the dust particles to settle within the “muck house” structure were installed in two of the structures.
  • Wet burlap curtains were installed in the shafts to act as screening for dust.
  • Permanently sealing some overhangs
  • Installed additional vents
  • Increased time between blasts to allow for dust and smoke to dissipate.

Residents agree these measures have improved the conditions, but lament the delay in implementation.

The study findings will be presented by the MTA to the Community Board 8’ Second Avenue Task Force at Hunter College, 695 Park Ave, West Building Lecture Hall Room, 714W on January 26, at 6:30 which we will be attending.

Excerpted from DNAInfo.com article by Amy Zimmer.

Jul
08

Square footage: It’s a matter of opinion!

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I remember seeing a cartoon in the New Yorker Magazine Cartoon Bank showing two mice talking about the size of their in-wall apartment. One said to the other “Counting the space behind the pantry shelves, it’s eleven square feet.”

Nowhere is caveat emptor more applicable than when referring to the stated square footage of a Manhattan apartment.  Many real estate sites have disclaimers like this: “Exact Dimensions can be obtained by retaining the services of a professional architect or engineer.” At best all stated square footage and dimensions are approximate. At worst they are deceptive and misleading.

It is part of the overall marketing plan with most brokers: clean up, de-clutter, professional photos, and professional floor plans.  Brokers want to show the property in the most flattering light.  A floor plan in black and white (lately I’ve seen 3D color floor plans), provides a visual that shows walls, doors, fixtures and open space. 

In addition to the stated square footage, does the floor plan show the whole truth?  Are columns shown in the proper location and proportion to the space?  Are radiators and moldings shown?  How about the thickness of the walls?  Sometimes they are, sometimes not.  While technically correct, some graphic designers will measure from wall to wall, without taking into account such things as moldings and radiators.  But, these things eat into usable floor space.  Many times columns and window and door placements, even wall thickness are just estimates based on educated guesses and knowledge of building practices for a particular building.

For more information on how floor plans are created, see the New York Times article here.

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May
17

All Real Estate is Local. Very, Very Local!

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Truth, lies and statistics!

Earlier this month,  Zillow released its Q1 Real Estate Report.  Many in the press joined in and cried gloom and doom.

The hysteria was best summarized by a Curbed article that listed the 10 Most Depressing Things Mentioned in The Zillow Report.  Perhaps real estate prices continue to decrease in Phoenix, Los Vegas, Tampa, etc., but in New York City, especially Manhatan,  it’s just not the case.

You would be misled if you simply looked at the Zillow Home Value Index for New York Metro data and assumed it had anything to do with Manhattan Residential real estate sales.

  MoM QoQ YoY
New York Metro -.5% -1.6% -5.3%

But if you focus on coops and condo sales which account for over 99% of residential properties sold in Manhattan vs single family homes , you’ll see that in New York City there have been significant price increases

  MoM QoQ YoY
New York Coop+Condo +2.3% +7.5% +19.2%

As previously discussed with regard to the Case Shiller report discussed here, the Case Shiller report excludes new developments, condos and coops.  At least the Zillow report has that data available (perhaps not new development) but you have to dig for it.

All real estate is local.  So local, in fact that certain neighborhoods, blocks, buildings and even specific apartments have their own hyper-local real estate data.

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Consumer Confidence Indez

All real estate is local.

As I previously discussed here, the S&P/Case-Shiller indices are virtually useless for tracking Manhattan residential sales. Case-Shiller does not include sales of co-op and condo apartments even though those property types account for 99% of what is sold in Manhattan.

The data through August 2009, released today by Standard & Poor’s for its S&P/Case-Shiller  Home Price Indices show that the annual rate of decline of the 10-City and 20-City Composites improved compared to last month’s reading. This marks approximately seven months of improved readings in these statistics, beginning in early 2009.

This perceived improvement of real estate prices, if you can call smaller declines an improvement, is as irrelevant now as when I reported the uselessness of the S&P/Case-Shiller doom-and-gloom report back in June .

What I do believe is significant is that the Consumer Confidence Index as reported today by The Conference Board today dropped to 47.7 from a revised 53.4 in September.  A measure of employment availability deteriorated to a 26-year low.

Unemployment in New York City (specifically in Manhattan) is very high. This fact, in addition to the seasonal slowdown in residential sales, will cause price reductions on properties where the sellers are motivated to move.

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Oct
23

Boomers and Empty Nesters Cry Foul on New York Daily News

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In an otherwise interesting article about the trendy set born between 1946 and 1964 flocking back to Manhattan in record numbers, the NY Daily News could have aroused the ire of many members of the Baby Boom generation.

The problem?  A casual opening sentence that said those Boomers bring “plenty of gray hairs and wrinkles” to the trendy and sophisticated borough.  Even the title is somewhat unfortunate: “Oldie but goodie: Retirees, empty-nesters flock to Manhattan – and thrive.”

Here’s some tongue-in cheek advice I’d give to the NY Daily News which is cluelessly unhip regarding Boomers and the empty nest crowd:

  • Don’t even try referring to Boomers as old until you’re sure most of them are at least 80 – that will occur in about 2045. Boomers are Boomers, not oldsters!  Being ahead of your time is often good, but not when describing Boomers.”
  • 80 may be the new old.  Until then, the Boomers may consent to being referred to as middle-aged.
  • Female Boomers very rarely have gray hair, and Grecian Formula hasn’t been around since 1961 because nobody uses it.
  • Be prepared for the Botox and cosmetic industries to rain scorn upon you.  Wrinkles are not the in thing, and a multi-billion dollar industry is not going to take this sitting down.  Spending on anti-aging cosmetic products has passed $75 million a year, and has been growing at about $8 million per year since 2004.
  • Be careful – plastic surgeons and other specialists involved in anti-aging services will be launching random scalpels your way.  Dermatologists and others will do heaven-knows-what – inject you with acne, perhaps? About 60,000 U.S. docs now profit from aging services, and anti-aging medical procedures are on track to surpass $15 billion per year by 2012.

Having assured my readers that I hear you, I’m off to start on an upcoming post about why Manhattan is a Mecca for the forever young. .

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Oct
14

The Most Annoying Words In Real Life & Real Estate

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Wordle 2br equal-greater compressed 1M

A "Wordle" of 2br/2bth co-ops & condos =>$1M in Manhattan

In a recent Marist poll, nearly half of Americans – 47% – said they find “whatever” most annoying.  The other sayings weren’t quite so loathed.  25% say they find “you know” most grating; 11% can’t stand “it is what it is”; 7% would like to ban “anyway” from all verbal exchanges; and 2% reported that they could do without hearing “at the end of the day.”

After reading thousands of Manhattan apartment descriptions, I have come up with my top  list of  real estate words and phrases that I find most annoying:

  1. Boasts
  2. Oversized (also ample or generous)
  3. Sun-drenched
  4. Residence
  5. Triple mint

Here’s a “finger-nails-on -the-black-board” apartment description:

This triple mint, sun drenched apartment boasts oversized windows and generous maintenance.  You must call me for the non-negotiable price, a private showing or whatever. Anyway, if you have to ask the price this residence may not be for you. You know, at the end of the day it is what it is.

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Jun
08

All Real Estate Is Local-Very Very Local

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Rule # 7 of  Really Simple Manhattan Real Estate (RSMRE):  Ignore the Case-Shiller Index if you are thinking about buying a coop or condo in Manhattan.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index methodology states:

The S&P/Case-Shiller indices do not sample sale prices associated with new construction, condominiums, co-ops/apartments, multi-family dwellings, or other properties that cannot be identified as single-family

Since 99% of all home sales in Manhattan are ” new construction, condominums, co-ops/apartments, multi-family dwellings”  the Index has no relevancy here.

Dr. Shiller in his June 6th article published in The New York Times reported:

HOME prices in the United States have been falling for nearly three years, and the decline may well continue for some time.

Nowhere in the article did he discuss or give a footnote on the methodology used or the property types included and,  with regard to Manhattan real estate, property types excluded.

No disclaimers or discussion of properties included or excluded on this  Bloomberg TV’s doom and gloom video report .

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