Archive for March, 2012
Saturday, March 31st, 2012
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on March 31st, 2012
Forty years ago, zoning laws were enacted in New York permitting joint live/work quarters for artists who were certified by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. They were necessary to protect the remaining manufacturing uses as well as artists who occupied vacant or underutilized buildings here. Now, SoHo/NoHo are vibrant and diversified mixed use communities occupied not only by artists, but also by individuals and families with a broad range of professions. In addition, the zoning does not allow retail use of the ground floors of many SoHo/NoHo buildings, even though most ground floors now have retail uses.
We live under a growing cloud of illegality and it’s time to clear the air. We can no longer ignore the long standing reality that the zoning of Soho and Noho does not match its current use.The SoHo/NoHo Action Committee has worked on behalf of the community to assess the current uses in the community and initiate appropriate changes to the current laws. They are committed to protecting everyone’s occupancy and livelihood, certified artists as well as non-artists.
Since meeting June 2011, the SoHo/NoHo Action Committee has made great progress and brought their concerns to governmental agencies such as the New York City Department of City Planning, the local City Council representatives, Community Board representatives, the Mayor’s office and others in the political community. BUT they cannot move forward without an accurate and comprehensive survey of how these loft buildings are occupied–both commercially and residentially. Here’s where they need your help:
The Committee is hiring an independent surveying team from the Real Estate Institute of Baruch College and they need to fund their work this summer. This survey is critical to progress on this important issue. No New York City agency will entertain this application without a survey of the existing conditions in the Soho/Noho neighborhood. Your support will enable bringing SoHo/NoHo into the 21st century and protect the property rights of countless owners who have contibuted to these vibrant neighborhoods. It is time to face the reality that lofts in SoHo/NoHo are no longer used for manufacturing, that many people occupy their spaces as residences, and that the manufacturing zoning which allows only certified artists is no longer the solution. This must change and this survey is a critical element to bring about this change.
The legal funding goal is $25,000 and must raise this amount by May 15th in order to complete the survey this summer. If each family in the community donated $100,or each building $1000, this goal would be reached quite easily. Please pass on the word to anyone living in Soho or Noho to join and help in this critical moment to affect the kind of change that respects the past and acknowledges the future of SoHo/NoHo. Make your checks payable to:
SoHo/NoHo Action Committee
c/o Margaret D. Baisley, 561 Broadway, Suite 10C
New York, New York 10012
Friday, March 30th, 2012
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on March 30th, 2012
Yesterday I had to move out the entire contents of my apartment while renvation work is performed to repair some damage sustained when a neighbor’s landscaper disconnected her irrigation water supply sloppily. I will be moving into a hotel next week for about 3 weeks while the repairs are done. Not the end of the world.
But last night after dinner, I walked home and was reminded yet again how meaningful it is to have a home. Yes, I could consider myself homeless right now, although thats a stretch, but last night walking the rather chilly streets of New York I imagined what it must be like for those who are truly homeless. In my world I always joke about my charitable career taking care of the “Homeless Millionaires”…..but I simply cannot imagine how awful it must be to be truly homeless. And last night made me think more closely about the subject.
Even for those with wealth, not being able to go to a place that is an environment that comforts and cocoons you after a long stressful day is difficult. There are times during the day when I think about my home and all its creature comforts, and it calms me knowing I have a place to go to at the end of the day.
So I want to say just how grateful I am that in a few weeks I will once again be able to head home to a place that provides shelter, displays things, furniture, art, etc that provide endless satisfaction, be able to sit down at my piano and ramble on, plonk on the couch and watch those lovely Staten Island ladies on TV, and fall asleep in a super-comfortable bed staring out at the setting sun. For the first time in a very long time, I truly believe that my helping people find and create really wonderful homes is a very important role I play in of the big picture of the lives of other human beings.
Monday, March 26th, 2012
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on March 26th, 2012
This morning Ben Bernanke spoke on the subject of the economy: his conclusion was that the improving employment and growth figures were a product of CATCH-UP. We can see the same thing clearly happening in the luxury Manhattan real estate market.
The above picture shows a line of prospective buyers (no this photo was not taken in 2007!) waiting to get in to an open house at 422 West 22nd Street over the weekend. The new building is one of very few new buildings offering ‘affordable’ price points for buyers eager to be in a top location and a brand new building. These price-points have been largely ignored in the past few years and even more so going forward as developers are mostly focused on the very high end of the market. More importantly this showcases how many buyers waiting for the ‘bottom’ of the market now feel they may have missed that. I spoke to some buyers over the weekend who regret not buying a unit I was selling at 245 Tenth Avenue…..it went to contract at the end of December 2011, and a very similar unit just went to contract…..3 months later……for about 12% more.
So the real estate market’s energy is probably just like the overall economy…. playing catch-up. Its always easiest to see the best time to buy or sell in the rear view mirror. So what does the future hold? Several thousand new apartments are currently in the development stages, and already the sleeping giant that was new construction has awoken. Around the city fences are being erected around construction sites, and the roar of concrete trucks is being heard throughout the city….this is just the beginning. I think the result will be a surge in construction-related employment. Imagine just the downtown market alone where I am personally familiar with about 2,000 units that will be built over the next 2-3 years: thats lots of concrete, wood, windows, steel, bath fixtures, appliances, plumbing, electrical, cabinetry, security, engineers, architects, etc, etc. And once they are completed, all these properties will require furniture, electronics, movers, transfer taxes….what I am really trying to say is that when a sleeping giant awakens, the earth moves and we will see an unprecedented hive of economic activity in New York very soon.
One area that Bernanke addressed was those un-employed who could not find work because they did not possess the new skills the market is looking for. If you compare this factor to real estate, many home owners are disturbed how their apartments are not selling at the record prices they read about in the N ew York Times and Post….or worse, not selling at all. Often these apartments exist in buildings that are out of touch with what the consumer of today wants and expects. I own an investment apartment in a building that had the most hideous lobby and entrance: it looked like a border crossing. The lobby renovation is almost completed, and all of a sudden the pricing in the building just bounced upwards: its a lesson that just like those in need of learning new skills to function in todays new economy, apartmentss and buildings have to upgrade and evolve to compete.
Sunday, March 25th, 2012
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on March 24th, 2012
We just listed a $ 25million townhouse at 815 Fifth Avenue, a rarity if there ever was one. A little over 25 ft wide, with over 11,000sf, we suspect it will be bought by someone anxious to transform it to a single-family mansion. Already multiple parties are interested. The Wall Street Journal covered it this weekend in an article about how the very high end of the market continues to soar in New York City….
Friday, March 23rd, 2012
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on March 23rd, 2012
The recently proposed regulatory legistlation (The Corzine Rule) to be named after Mr. Corzine because his firm MF Global still cannot find where a few billion dollars went ‘missing’ made me think that maybe its time for us in the real estate industry to name some brokerage rules after brokers who have severely abused areas of our industry….Who would you name a rule after for the following abuses: please send us suggestions for:
THE _________ RULE: for pocket listings.
THE _________RULE: for consistently denying co-brokers access to their listings.
THE _________RULE: named after the broker who has the worst manners.
THE ________RULE: named after the broker who showcases the worst photographs of their listings, or no photos.
THE________RULE: for the broker who lies more about his accomplishments than any other.
THE _______RULE: for the marketing firm that spends more of its clients money than any other.
Any more suggestions?
I propose THE PINOCCHIO RULE: for all the brokers who lie more than little Pinocchio. There are so many broker names that come to mind that we cannot attribute this rule to just one broker. Maybe for all lies told, the broker has to wear a nose attachment for a month, its length determined by the size of the lie?
Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on March 20th, 2012
Is the ‘affordable’ market being ignored Downtown? It appears so. I have heard that over 600 people have already pre-registered to buy at the Brodsky developed Condop building across from the exquisite Seminary at 422 West 20th Street….and while the pricing is extremely attractive, just a bit over $ 1,100/sf, are buyers turning a blind eye to the $ 2+/sf monthlies (with only a part time doorman), the railroadish low-end layouts with 8ft wide bedrooms, mediocre ceiling heights and small living spaces……or are buyers so desperate to buy at this price-point (and so deprived)that none of this matters? While seemingly all developers focus on large expensive apartments these days, one has to wonder whether 422 West 20th Street will encourage developers to re-think the ‘affordable market’?
After this weekend’s marathon open house hot-cakes buying bonanza we shall see…..
Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on March 20th, 2012
Is a new trend emerging whereby ultra-fussy buyers who had passed on properties they visited some time ago return and re-visit with a new, fresh, less critical set of eyes? I see this happening right now in a few instances. Some buyers in the luxury real estate market in Manhattan learn faster than others, that perfection simply does not exist…..least of all in New York City…..and not at ANY price-point either! So these buyers who are possibly homeless many moths after they started searching are learning the hard way that evaluating the available inventory and picking ‘the best of’ can be better than waiting an eternity for the “perfect” place to come along…..and then only discover that it really does not exist.
The same can be said for the eternal bachelor seeking the perfect bride…..usually by the time he gets married, he settles for a lot less than what was available near the start of his search. And he has spent a lot of money on dates, drinks and dinners. He looks and feels more tired most times. He has aged. And time has marched on, maybe denying him a few more happy years. I have always found the happiest buyers are the ones who are pragmatic. And the smartest ones have told me their horror stories of how they waited for perfection, or waited to time the market price-wise, only to be delivered certain disappointment…. And for those who want perfection, you can be almost certain you will have to renovate, so buy quicker and get the process started sooner. By the time you have exhausted your search for perfection, more than likely your renovation will be completed and you will probably have gotten more of what you really want….sooner.
Monday, March 19th, 2012
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on March 19th, 2012
Foragers City Grocer has opened in West Chelsea! And what a great addition to the area it is, certainly a welcome respite from the vulgar Gristede’s on Ninth Avenue and the rather generic Whole Foods on Seventh Avenue. It’s a high-quality market, somewhat similar to a Citarella or Balducci’s, but with much of the produce locally sourced and organic, as well as a fish counter that follows the sustainability guidelines of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It will also feature an old-fashioned butcher with an aging room. Its eggs — duck and goose in addition to hen — will be delivered to the store within 24 hours of being laid. Small upstate farms are providing the milk products. Cheeses will be American-made, and not the usual supermarket brands.
The space is a super-cool glass enclosed street front with warm woods, white tiles and concrete flooring. It’s a more contemporary, more compacted (and humanly scaled) version of EATALY. Fewer tourists too!
An adjacent wine shop, Foragers City Wine, features wines from small producers, often organic or biodynamic. And Foragers City Table, a 36-seat restaurant along the 22nd Street side of the market, will open this week. The chef, Douglas Monsalud, who worked in San Francisco and Napa Valley, will add some Asian touches to a farm-fresh agenda. He is also in charge of the market’s prepared foods, including rotisserie meats.
The owners — Anna Castellani, her husband, Richard Lamb, and their partner, Clifford Shikler, follow a decided “do-it-yourself” philosophy. Ms. Castellani said “We are attempting something most groceries would never attempt.”
Ms. Castellani and Mr. Lamb have a 28-acre farm in Columbia County where they are growing produce and will soon have eggs from their own flock of hens. They also deal directly with other farmers in the region. The market is a no-frills affair, very basic but with good lighting and some sleek wood paneling.
So think of Foragers as a 7 day per week Union Square Market in Chelsea.
Located on the South West corner of Eighth Avenue and 22nd Street at 300 West 22nd Street, Tel: (212) 243-8888, is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Neighborhood delivery is available.
Sunday, March 18th, 2012
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on March 17th, 2012
Do you pay $ 55 per month for rent? Probably not. In this morning’s New York Post, a pensioner proudly boasts how he does in fact pay $ 55/month in rent. Why? Because he is entitled to that rent….and you are not! It’s called rent regulation, a law enacted in New York in the 70′s that applies to a few of us……a select few.
I am not in any way saying that pensioners should not get a break from high New York rents that they cannot afford: but why are a select few people entitled to these breaks when others are not? Who is deciding this? God? The argument is always that a law exists to protect certain select people and their relatives…..and that same law simply does not address everyone else….sorry! I guess these people who hide behind a completely ridiculous law must also endorse the laws that allow individuals and corporations earning millions to pay zero taxes? I guess these same people simply don’t care about the next generation trying to get a go in life, or quite frankly everyone else who has to foot the bill? If I knew I only had to pay $ 55/month in rent I would have to work significantly less, wouldn’t you?
I don’t object to tax breaks. I don’t object to subsidies. I don’t object to rent assistance and relief. But why is it that only a few select people get to enjoy these enormous benefits?And where is the OUTRAGE at these abuses? Doesn’t the US Constitution protect us all and promise fair and equal treatment….to ALL?
Saturday, March 17th, 2012
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on March 17th, 2012
At Monday night’s Community Board meeting, Friends of the High Linee released the initial design plans for the third and final section of the High Line Park at the Hudson Rail Yards. This third section will connect the West Village/Meatpacking District to West Chelsea and ultimately take you all the way to the Javits Center on Eleventh Avenue where the new subway station is being constructed. The renderings from architects James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro are available on the High Line’s website and they show the final section of the elevated park incorporating familiar elements, as well as several brand new features. The design will be closely integrated to the massive Hudson Yards development, as the park will wrap around the new buildings of the Hudson Yards, and construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2013!
The third section’s total cost will be about $90 million (which comes from donors, not the city’s pockets), and it will be open to the public by spring 2014. The impact of this section will be huge for New York real estate, acting as a connector to neighboring areas in the form of an elevated promenade that will link an entire ‘new city’ to the more established parts of the west side of Manhattan. Watch real estate values soar around this new section: while it is definitely new turf, its proximity to the #7 subway extension will be critical. Now lets hope that what they build around there doesn’t look like the generic vulgarity that is Dubai….