Limestone, a facade material most associated with tony Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue uptown buildings has emerged in……of all places….West Chelsea, Downtown New York! Very few buildings Downtown boast this beautiful material: 15 Central Park West clad its entire facade in Limestone to emulate the cachet of 740 Park Avenue. Now we see this material being used on the Sherwood Equities building located at 500 West 21st Street…..soon to be followed by the magnificent Steven Harris-designed condominium across the street from Gagosian Gallery at 560 West 24th Street. West Chelsea is becoming awfully chic!
It is just a matter of time before the sidewalks of New York will be lined with charging stations for electric vehicles: I have always resisted the urge to get a car and driver as the thought of a car idling in front of a building for hours truly disgusts me. All to often I see lines of limos running idles, spewing the city with pollution and consuming energy that ultimately makes all our lives miserable, not to mention the noise.
Soon car manufacturers will be bringing electric/hybrid cars to the market to provide transportation that is both comfortable and not dismissive of the environment. Hopefully the electricity will be generated by solar panels and wind turbines so that the creation of the electricity is not polluting our streets and city.
The other day while observing the views from the West Side of Manhattan across the Hudson River to New Jersey, it was striking to see how similar the New Jersey skyline looked compared to Manhattan’s. Does Manhattan dictate the ‘look’ of a large city throughout the world? It certainly has influenced every major center in that it is largely credited for inventing and embracing the concept of the skyscraper. George Post’s New York Equitable Life Building of 1870 was the first tall office building to use the elevator, while the Produce Exchange of 1884 made substantial structural advances in metal frame design. The Home Insurance Building in Chicago, opened in 1884, is most often labelled the first skyscraper because of its innovative use of structural steel in a metal frame design. While Chicago was the earliest adopter of the skyscraper concept, Manhattan in my opinion owns the concept.
In this weekend’s Financial Times, a story addresses San Francisco’s concerns that the construction of new very tall buildings will make their City look too much like Manhattan. This is a huge challenge for all cities around the world: how to be distinctive and unique as a City. Often, the buildings we see constructed in New York are simply bland and dreadful. Manhattan should embrace its status as the world’s standard for big city appearance. Now Manhattan has to be careful to maintain those unique qualities and invent new ones that become the instantly recognizable hallmarks of the Manhattan landscape. Other cities around the world should follow suit, drawing on their own cultural and visual references to maintain a sense of uniqueness and distinctiveness. Sameness is a nagging topic that permeates throughout all designers offices: the safety of sameness has to be weighed up against the value of distinctive, bold, authentic design to avoid the world becoming one big monotonous repetitious mess.
This week’s profile in the NEW YORK OBSERVER…… http://observer.com/2014/07/leonard-steinberg-urban-compass-profile/
A Long Island Railroad strike is looming and at the core of the problem is a simple truth: commuters who use the LIRR cannot afford to pay more for the service in raised fares, there is a budget, and salaries cannot be raised in that budget if fares are not raised. The average salary of an LIRR employee is $ 87,182 per year including overtime pay.
The average monthly LIRR ticket costs $ 245.
Its that simple.
Yet, the union simply cannot accept this and insist they should earn more, even if those using their less-than-stellar service are not earning more. The negative economic impact on New York could be huge, not to mention the misery it would cause thousands of commuters who depend on this public service.
The MTA last month offered LIRR workers a 17% wage increase over 7 years….about 2.42% per year. The union was seeking 17% over 6 years….or 2.83% per year, a position that was backed by two federal mediation boards. The current inflation rate in the USA is 2.1%.
To help pay for the increase in labor costs, the transit system wants current LIRR employees to contribute 2% of their salary to health insurance; they currently make no payments. New workers would direct 4% to health care and, unlike current employees, would contribute to their pensions after 10 years.
This strike makes for a strong argument for living in the city and being able to walk to work.
Transportation systems around the world are held hostage frequently by their employees, so we are not alone: these demands make for a strong argument for automation and computers to replace unrealistic demands on those consumers who can least afford it. Think Detroit.
Posted on July 13th, 2014
It amazes me how large organizations such as the Federal US government are grossly mis-managed: A government watchdog agency said an estimated $106 billion in payments were made in error last year (thats about $ 350 per American, and much more for those paying Federal taxes): meaning they were the wrong amount, went to the wrong person or lacked sufficient documentation. There is something to be said for lean, efficient, organizations. Then again, its a lot easier to waste money when you have not earned it. Next time a politician talks about tax increases, they should be forced to talk simultaneously about where they plan to cut waste and mis-management. Often examples stare you in the face: for instance in New York, I often walk in bright daylight while street lights are left on, often in the middle of the day. There is a sports field across the street from my apartment where massive floodlights stay on all night for no good reason at all. I see government vehicles idling for no good reason across the City. Each instance is minor, yet collectively, multiplied over 365 days, the waste is extreme. The next political candidate who proposes a task force to cut waste and minimize inefficiencies will get my vote.
London is experiencing some BUYER-BLUES on the very high end and today its reported that home-price gains in London’s most-expensive neighborhoods are trailing the rest of the city because buyers are deterred by high asking prices and the possibility of new taxes. Values in prime central London rose 8.1% in the 12 months through June, yet home prices in the entire city jumped 26% in the second quarter from a year earlier, the biggest gain in 27 years: does this mirror what is happening here in Manhattan versus Brooklyn? At what point do price large gains cause buyers to become increasingly nervous that this is either unsustainable or unaffordable?
London’s Mayfair and Chelsea have risen by more than 70% since the 2009 GREAT RECESSION. Next year a capital-gains tax on homes sold by people living abroad is further dampening spirits and the Labour Party wants to implement an annual tax on homes worth more than 2 million pounds. Apartments and houses valued at less than 2 million pounds increased by about 14% in the 12 months through June, while those 10 million pounds or more climbed 3.5%.
Soon we will discover whether BUYER-BLUES are:
1) Frustration at limited inventory and choices.
2) Resistance to pricing out of concerns of a bubble.
3) Exhaustion at being unable to meet unrealistic expectations.
4) A realization that their incomes have not kept apace with housing inflation.
5) A pause to catch your breath.
6) Anger that they keep being out-bid by all cash buyers.
In the past few months all sorts of rankings have come out showing how real estate brokers fare next to one another in either the number of transactions they close, the total volume of sales, or the total volume of exclusives they have on their books. I think the whole system is a big mess and in dire need of re-evaluation. For example, a recent list omitted the fact that Raphael De Niro, Darren Sukenik and I each have about $ 200m+ worth of signed contracts from 150 Charles Street that were not factored into the rankings….
Granted, ranking brokers makes other brokers greedier and more ambitious. But is it really a fair system when some teams as large as 40 salespeople or more are compared to teams with just a handful of brokers? Is a broker that sells real estate in New York better than one who sells much cheaper real estate in Arizona…..but just because of the extreme variance in selling prices the New York broker is automatically destined to ‘win’? Brokers use these rankings to their advantage, and I will be the first to admit I have touted my sales volume achievements…..knowing others are doing the same and probably ‘distorting’ their rankings to elevate their status in the eyes of the consumer, thereby gaining a competitive advantage. Well, I think I am about to end this: I no longer wish to participate in this tired game. Which other profession prints the sales volume of their salespeople, thereby broadcasting their income? I think its all a bit tacky. Worse, I believe it takes away the credit some brokers who sell lesser volume (but do so incredibly well) deserve so very richly. Just because a broker sells LOTS, are they the best broker? Just because a broker has a lot of listings are they the best broker? What if that broker specializes in helping renters and buyers and does huge volume without many exclusives? What about individual brokers who have silent partners and assistants but claim to do it all by themselves? There is a rather well known broker team that claim they are the NUMBER ONE BROKER TEAM…..NATIONWIDE…..when in actuality they are not even in the TOP 10 nationwide.
Why are gross distortions of this nature allowed and endorsed? Its sadly falsified and misleading advertising in a State where even mentioning the word ‘steps’ is illegal as it could be viewed as discriminatory against those with disabilities. It is time for a reality check and an HONESTY check. Its high time to give credit and praise to those lesser volume brokers who do some of the best, most professional brokerage……NATIONWIDE!
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on July 1st, 2014
Alexander Bank on my team brought this Bloomberg article to my attention: Landlords are paying off more boom-era loans early, chipping away at $316 billion of debt maturing through 2017 that has loomed over the commercial-mortgage backed securities market since the credit seizure six years ago.
Owners of U.S. properties from skyscrapers to hotels have extinguished $17 billion of debt before it was due during the past 12 months, more than four times the amount retired before maturity in 2011 and 2012 combined, according to Credit Suisse Group AG. Proprietors of the Mall of America, the largest shopping center in the U.S., are getting a $1.4 billion loan to repay borrowings that don’t mature until 2016.
Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-01/bubble-era-debt-dwindling-in-new-commercial-mortgage-boom.html?__hstc=109812634.f0691326a1f959d74cdfec562bace898.1403892753070.1404222871085.1404235936482.3&__hssc=109812634.3.1404235936482&__hsfp=2390822794
In this morning’s NEW YORK POST: “The sale price for Manhattan apartments has skyrocketed 20 percent this year, a market report has found. Manhattan home buyers paid an average $1.69 million in the second quarter of 2014, compared with $1.41 million for the second quarter of 2013, says the report from realty giant Corcoran. But at the same time, there were 3,781 closed sales for the second quarter of 2014 — 10 percent fewer than the second quarter of last year. The number of signed contracts were down 22 percent, to 3,593, during the same period.”
We are experiencing the same conditions that were experienced a few years ago in what we termed the ‘PLAZA EFFECT’: Just as back then when the closings at The Plaza Hotel swayed average pricing artificially upwards, now too we are witnessing the same effect with several huge closings at 157 West 57th Street impacting the average closed prices for the second quarter of 2014 …..and those averages have soared. But is this short-lived? Two years ago we predicted this would happen as all the reports released report on closed sales, closings that often happen years after contracts are signed in ultra high end buildings. What we are seeing reported today is what happened in the market over a year ago. It does not apply to all properties in New York. And it is why these averages are so deceiving. Currently there are several hundred signed contracts waiting to close in the next 6 -24 months: will pricing soar another 20-40% when they close in bulk, thus impacting the averages even more so? What happens in quarters when these ultra-high-end buildings are not closing……do the averages drop dramatically?
This blanket reporting on the markets is about to change.