Archive for Green Things


Popular Kitchen Countertop Materials

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When picking kitchen countertops, the choices are many and varied. offers the following information about some of the more popular materials to help with the decision.

  • Soapstone Resistant to stains, chemicals and bacteria, Soapstone is a durable and natural choice for a kitchen.  At $80 to $100 per square foot installed, it’s pricy, but can be a good investment.
  • Granite A durable natural stone that has unique grain, many colors and customizable finishes, making it very popular right now.  Prices start at $50 per square foot installed, but prices climb quickly when you choose more exotic slabs or have a difficult installation.
  • Copper:  Less common than other natural countertops, it is easy to clean and maintain.  However if you’re a perfectionist, it may not be for you because it reacts to different substances.  If you love the look, be prepared to pay at least $100 per square foot installed.
  • Engineered Quartz:  Perfect for custom homes, it comes in every color under the rainbow.  Engineered from ground quartz, resin and pigments, it creates a tough, nonporous material.  The price is $95 to $105 per square foot installed.
  • Tile:  A durable choice, ceramic or stone tile is a great DIY countertop if you are so inclined.  Maintenance is a bit painstaking with the grout, but a durable, darker grout could ease these issues.  Budget about $30 per square foot installed.
  • Eco-friendly counters:  There are a number of materials that all into this category, with varied price ranges.  Look at salvaged wood, Bio-Glass and bamboo.
  • Zinc:  Fallen out of favor in modern kitchens, this metal has warmth that has made it popular for many years.  The tone darkens with time and zinc has antimicrobial properties.  Figure about $100 per square foot installed.
  • Recycled Paper-Based Counters:   Who would have thought of paper for a kitchen countertop, but it is remarkably durable.  It is blends recycle papers with resins and pigments, and has the look of soapstone for a fraction of the cost (about $40 to $80 per square foot installed)
  • Plastic Laminate:  Probably the most common of all countertops, Laminate countertops have customizable edges and finishes that can work with any design.  It is not the most durable, so if you’re a heavy-duty cook, you might want to choose something else.  Easily the most affordable at $8 to $20 per square foot installed.
  • Recycled Glass and Cement:  These countertops add character to a kitchen.  It is durable and customizable, but rather pricy at $100 to 160 per square foot installed.
  • Marble:  Always a classic look and forever in style, marble offers more variety than most other material.  It’s a softer stone than granite and scratches and stains easily.  Plan on $70 to $100 per square foot installed.
  • Concrete:  You can create many visual textures and colors with pigments, stains and dyes.  Concrete can be worth the cost if you use the right sealer.  Be prepared to shell out $100 to $150 per square foot installed.
  • Stainless Steel:  Professional kitchens use stainless steel because it doesn’t stain, is resistant to heat and easy to clean.  For home use, the fingerprints, scratches and smudges will be very noticeable.  At $80 to $90 per square foot installed, it’s more affordable than most stone countertops.
  • Solid-Surface Countertops:    an engineered product that can mimic the look of stone, wood or plastic, but is more durable and needs less maintenance.  Estimate $50 to $100 per square foot depending on the manufacturer installed.
  • Wood:  There are those who think wood doesn’t belong on the counter.  But the right wood and sealer can make a beautiful warm and long-lasting countertop.  Depending on the type of wood chosen, the price can range from $30 to $85 per square foot for materials, plus installation.


Based on post at

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Bloomberg Announces Micro-Apartment Design Winner

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the winner of New York City’s micro-unit apartment design competition this week.  The design competition we reported on in July seeks to address some of the City’s housing problems.   

The winning team of Monadonck Development LLC, Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation and nARCHOTECTS, designed the modular units with 10-foot-high ceilings, Juliet balconies, big windows and ample storage.  See the slide show of images  here.  The 250 to 370 square feet micro-apartments are being built as pre-fabricated modular units at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and will be placed on a city-owned site at 335 East 27th Street in Manhattan.  They should be ready for move in by September 2015.  It is being reported that 22 of the 55 units will be set aside for the low- and middle-income renters with a price range of $940 to 1870 per month.

Many of the space-saving plans including completion entries are featured in an exhibit at the Museum of New York City called “Making Room:  New Models for Housing New Yorkers”


Privately Owned Public Spaces

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Privately Owned Public Spaces, abbreviated as “POPS”, are an amenity provided and maintained by a developer for public use, in exchange for additional floor area.

POPS typically contain functional and visual amenities such as tables, chairs and planting for the purpose of public use and enjoyment. Privately Owned Public Spaces are permitted in the City’s high-density commercial and residential districts and are intended to provide light, air, breathing room and green space to ease the predominately hard-scape character of the City’s densest areas. Since 1961, the Zoning Resolution has allowed for several different types of privately owned public space, including plazas, arcades, urban plazas, residential plazas, sidewalk widening, open air concourses, covered pedestrian spaces, through block arcades and sunken plazas. POPS are primarily procured through incentive zoning, however some POPS were created as part of a variance or special permit granted by the City Planning Commission or Board of Standards and Appeals.

The most popular and most visually apparent type of POPS are the outdoor spaces – plazas, residential plazas and urban plazas, sometimes called “bonus plazas.” The provisions allowing for these outdoor spaces have evolved immensely since 1961; starting from very modest design requirements to more fine-tuned standards that require well-designed amenities that benefit the public.

Here's one of these wonderful parks on the Upper East Side located on the property of 211 East 70th Street

In 2007, the New York City Council adopted revised standards for all outdoor POPS, representing a significant update to and consolidation of all previous plaza design regulations into one outdoor plaza designation – the “public plaza”. The 2007 text is intended to facilitate the design and construction of unique and exciting outdoor spaces that are truly public. Since the adoption of the 2007 public plaza text, a follow-up text amendment was adopted by the City Council in June 2009, to clarify certain provisions in order to enhance the 2007 text. The Current public plaza provisions enable the creation of high quality public plazas on privately owned sites that are inviting, open, inviting, accessible and safe.

The current design regulations are guided by the following design principles:

Public Plaza Design Principles

  • Open and inviting at the sidewalk
  • Easily seen and read as open to the public
  • Conveys openness through low design elements and generous paths leading into the plaza
  • Visually interesting and contains seating


  • Enhances pedestrian circulation
  • Located at the same elevation as the sidewalk
  • Provides sense of safety and security
  • Contains easily accessible paths for ingress and egress
  • Oriented and visually connected to the street
  • Well-lit

Provides places to sit

  • Accommodates a variety of well-designed, comfortable seating for small groups and individuals


 From NYC Department of City Planning website.


East River Transfer Station One Step Closer

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Despite intense opposition, the plan to build a garbage transfer station on the East River at 91st Streetnear the Asphalt Green Recreation area  has received final federal regulatory approval from the US Army Corps of Engineers.  Construction is slated to begin before the end of this year.

The Bloomberg Administration developed a waste-manage plan in 2006, in part to rely more on barges to transport trash and decrease the amount of trucks used.  Each borough would also have to handle its own waste.  Currently Manhattan is the only borough without a waste-transfer station, making the East River transfer station a key part of the plan.

Opposition to the plan includes several unsuccessful lawsuits to stop the construction, and a current lawsuit brought by Assemblyman Micah Kellner of Manhattan which charges two other key parts of the plan have yet to be implemented:  building a recycling center on Gansevoort Street in Greenwich Village; and modifying the 59th  Street Recycling center to receive commercial waste; as well as the greater than estimated volume of waste coming to the 91st Street station.  The Bloomberg administration states the Gansevoort Street recycling center would be operational by 2016 with the W 59th Street station would be modified at that time to receive the commercial waste.

Other opposition is concerned about air quality and marine life in the East River and the proximity to Asphalt Green Recreation center.  

With a budget of $240 million, the construction contract will be forthcoming.  The waste station could be operational by 2015, according to city sources.

 Inspired by New York Times Article.  Map courtesy Google Maps

Recently ABC News did a story on Graham Hill and his group at showing how they turned a 420 square foot SoHo studio apartment into a veritable Swiss Army Apartment.  The apartment was gutted and rebuilt with convertible walls and multi-purpose furniture and fixtures that morphs into six different living spaces, all in a single room.

Dinner party for 10?  No problem with an expandable table with multiple leaves slides out from under the kitchen counter to seats 10.

Guests staying over?  Pull out the convertible second bedroom to reveal bunk beds to sleep 2 more.  Dark heavy drapes ensure privacy.

Even the kitchen is unique.  All the appliances, refrigerator, dishwasher and stove are tucked into drawers.  The stove top is actually two induction burners that store in a drawer and are placed on the counter-top when needed.

Technology is present all over the apartment.  Projection screen TV and Rumba Robot vacuum are two of the features. 

Nearly every space has dual purpose, including the bathroom that doubles as a ‘quiet room’. 

The apartment embodies the “Less is More” philosophy, and does so with style.



Recently, the New York City Council passed two bills supporting consumption and production of local foods and farming.

  • ·         Buildings with a rooftop greenhouse will not be considered an additional story by the Department of Buildings
  • ·         Greenhouses will be exempt from height limits as long as they take up less than one-third of the rooftop.
  • ·         The city will maintain a database of unused spaces in order to transform them for urban farm use.
  • ·         Another bill will require city facilities like jails and health centers to purchase locally grown food.

 The bills are being sent to Mayor Bloomberg, where he is likely to sign them into law . From inhabitat New York City article

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Tudor City: A Serene Wooded Escape From The City.

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Manhattan is dotted by many neighborhood or “pocket parks”, “all with a bit of peace in every nook“. If you make a left on 41st Street you’ll find, Tudor City, a serene wooded escape from the city.

“One of the most beautiful small parks is truly hidden in plain sight. The privately maintained Tudor City Greens, with charming pebbled paths, dazzlingly maintained vegetation and even one original 1927 lamppost.

The south side especially has the look of a botanical garden, with varied shades of green (and yellow and purple and red) leaves placed in strategic contrast. The view is dominated by Tudor-style apartment buildings of the enclave, named a city historic district in 1988”.

The residents of the Tudor City neighborhood have free access to these public, “secret” parks and enjoy such events as an Easter Egg Hunt, Spring Concert Series (May through September 7th), Halloween Party (October 31st–6pm), Fall Planting Day November 6th—10am to 2pm), Menorah Lighting (December 1st–6pm), Decorating for the Holidays (December 4th — 11am) and the Christmas Tree Lighting (December 9th —6pm ).

The neighborhood has a grocery/deli, a café, cleaner and even its own highly rated southern Italian restaurant, Convivio.

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If a Real Estate Blog Falls in An Empty Forest…

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If a tree falls will the mushrooms be edible?

If a tree falls will the mushrooms be edible?

If a tree falls in a forest, and nobody is around to hear it fall, does it make a sound?  

So that’s the question asked in the NY Times (Blogs Falling In an Empty Forest).

It seems from this survey that 90.7% of folks who think about these things said yes. So with that inspiration, I felt I could move forward with this blog.

Other deep philosophical questions like the sound of one hand clapping or timing the bottom of the Manhattan real estate market will be answered  in due course.

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