Posts Tagged ‘Manhattan’
Sunday, January 20th, 2013
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on January 20th, 2013
The New York Times did an interesting piece this weekend trying to answer the question: What is MIDDLE CLASS in Manhattan? The answer remains muddied.
In a city where the cost of housing overwhelms all other costs, where you live and how much you are paying for that housing truly determines what money you have left over to spend on other stuff. So I want to know where is the outrage by those paying market rates for their rent when a select few get the huge breaks through rent controlled and stabilized apartments? Often those are the people who could afford to pay above market rates. I know of a wealthy (rather famous) couple living in a very fancy Upper West Side building paying $ 2,000/month in rent while their neighbors pay up to $ 20,000/month in rent…….many have sold too in the $ 5m+ range. This couple divorced for technical reasons to hold onto their cheap rent and keep a fancy house in the Hampton’s. All of us have to pay for this abuse: It’s theft, no? Or does the changing meaning of the English language give this bad behavior a nicer sounding name? Doesn’t a large pool of rent controlled apartments reduce the volume of available properties thereby causing those available to cost even more?
I have argued for years that there should be tax breaks, just like the ones you get for having children or dependents, for cost of living based on the city you live in. If it costs double to live in Manhattan than it does in Minneapolis, surely that would be fair? Yet our tax system considers $ 250k/year as equal anywhere in the country. It’s absurd.
I think its time for the Manhattan middle class to revolt against the leaches of our society (not to mention the law-makers who allow it) who are abusing the system at their expense!
Tuesday, December 18th, 2012
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on December 18th, 2012
While Washington debates what is rich in the USA (we are up to $ 400k/year now….thats rich with 2 kids in Manhattan?), without any adjustment made for cost of living for the city you live in, no-one seems to want to address the dirty truth of how disparately rich people pay taxes: I know of people who earn $ 1 million per year who pay about $ 200,000.00 per year in federal taxes…..while others earning the identical income pay double. is this constitutional?
The United States was born with a Declaration of Independence that proclaimed, as a self-evident truth, that, “all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men.” According to the founders of the United States of America, all people are equal, by virtue of their humanity, in possession of certain rights (such as rights to liberty) that it is the responsibility of government to protect.The founders were not claiming that all individuals are equal in their personal attributes, such as physical strength, intelligence, or artistic talent. They were not saying that a government is established to enforce equality or uniformity in the way people think, act, or live. Rather, the founders were committed to establishing a government that would guarantee equally to all individuals the rule of law and security for liberty under the law. Well, this does not appear to be the case in our tax code.
So maybe instead of focusing exclusively on raising the tax rates for the ‘rich’, Washington should focus on who is paying what and how. Maybe if the tax rates came down on the ‘rich’ but those that were under-paying significantly had to cease their un-constitutional ways, the net proceeds would rise as significanlty as an arbitrary tax hike?
To those who care so passionately about our Constitutional right to bear arms, amongst other rights, maybe that passion should be equally applied to our rights to equality in the tax code.
Monday, September 17th, 2012
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on September 17th, 2012
Rumor has it that the $ 50 million penthouse at 212 West 18th Street (Walker Tower) has gone to contract with a rather rich oil+gas guy from Texas…..and the rumor goes further ….that he combined additional units to make a $ 95m combination penthouse. If this rumor is true, this would be the most expensive residential sale in Manhattan….ever. Not bad for a building on 18th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues above a Verizon building! ……if the rumor is indeed reality. As we all know, there is more rumor and BS in reality-land than anywhere: Just ask Snooki.
Thursday, May 24th, 2012
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on May 24th, 2012
This is what Manhattan is built on…..the picture above shows chunks of granite that were blasted out of the basement of a townhouse being renovated and shows just how intensely solid the foundation of a good chunk of Manhattan is.
It is also a message about how digging a basement in New York is not an easy (or cheap) endeavour. Most New York townhouses that are renovated these days create more usable space out of their basements by digging deeper to create better ceiling heights. In London, the super-high-end houses are digging SUPER deep installing significant ‘below-grade’ living space that is very usable. Do-able, but not cheap, quick or easy……
Saturday, May 19th, 2012
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on May 20th, 2012
As news broke this week that the Thomas Juul Hansen designed penthouse at One 57 (157 West 5th Street) sold for around $ 90 million, a new record for New York City real estate pricing, I am in California observing other markets. And all I can hear is how the real estate markets around the country, especially on the high end, have come roaring back to life in prime locations. In Boston, Montecito, Miami, Bel Air, London, Monaco, new pricing records are being achieved. A friend of mine recently completed a renovation of a house in Boston: within days they had multiple bids, over the asking price.
I did find it amusing how Gary Barnett announced blatantly in the New York Times this morning that the buyer of the penthouse at One 57 was NOT Russian, as if having Russian buyers in a building would somehow de-value the building? Is it possible that the Russian selling his MAJOR apartment at Time Warner is indeed this buyer? Or is it democratically-elected-president-for-life Vladimir Putin who was simply too busy buying real estate to attend the G8 conference? Is it Borat, or just the dictator he plays in his latest movie?
I have heard similar sentiments from brokers and owners from St. Jean Cap Ferrat to Santa Barbara. Some buyers actually ask the question: Are there many Russians in the building/neighborhood? I thought that was illegal….. Russian buyers have certainly been a potent force in the Manhattan market in the past few years: In New York, might sentiments of this nature spark the re-surgence of the tough, secretive co-op board that could prevent the sale of an apartment to a Russian without providing any reasoning for a turn-down?
Sunday, April 8th, 2012
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on April 8th, 2012
Is the media in its attempts to remain profitable in a digital world diminishing in accuracy? NBC highlighted this phenomenon this week with the Trayvon Martin shooting. With fewer staff and less time to report accurately and check facts, and with so much information out there, I feel the quality of reporting is slipping badly. Statements and claims are made, reports are posted, and they become ‘fact’ forever on the web…..regardless of their accuracy. Does no-one have the time to determine accuracy or question anything anymore? I see this rather consistently in real estate land: articles about celebrities buying and selling and living in apartments they have never visited; reports of market activity that while accurate, don’t reflect what is happening in the market currently yet are never explained; broker lies quoted and repeated; ‘half the story’ reporting. It’s bad. Really bad.
I understand there is romance in virtual reality….. Reality TV certainly has taken the meaning of the word ‘reality’ to an entirely new plateau. Was the motivation for this fun, or is reality TV just a means to create Jerry Springer-style cheap content? Politicians espouse claims that are not fact based all the time: but in our digital world, without much scrutiny, those claims become fact and a new reality is created, regardless of truth. Kim Kardashian’s marriage is another bad example of UNREALITY TV.
Last week, all the real estate companies released their first quarter reports: the press reported on them as if these reports were a clear indicator of what was going on in the market right now, even though any mildly informed person would know that these reports are based on closed sales…..or transactions that happened mostly in the fourth quarter of 2011. Now imagine if I tried to report on the price of Apple stock to-day (trading above $ 600) if I referred to the trades that happened in November 2011 ($ 400)? The reports are not to blame for this warped perspective: those reporting on the reports should be explaining what is really happening. Its just awful.
Rick Santorum rages against the wealthy Mitt Romney who he claims cannot understand the simple hard working folk like himself, yet he earns around $ 1million/year……is that so working class? President Obama joked about Mitt Romney’s use of the word MARVELOUS as if to imply that Mitt’s aloof country-club culture could have absolutely no understanding of poor people like Obama……really? Obama earned over $ 5million in 2009. Yet Obama is the man for the common folks? In New York $ 1million does not buy you a mansion, yet you have to pay 1% in MANSION taxes when buying a $ 1million+ home?
NBC reported on the phone call made by George Zimmerman to police the night he fatally shot Trayvon Martin…..they played a version of this call that was edited in a manner to imply that Zimmerman purposefully killed Mr. Martin with racially biased motives. NBC is a major source of information to our planet: Fortunately, the outrage was loud enough to get this producer fired. Mis-information can be dangerous.
What is mostly missing from this new equation is PUBLIC OUTRAGE: And this NBC story may just be the most effective opportunity for all to question everything they see and read just a little bit more, to return a bit of reality to this new virtual reality.
So when real estate brokers ask me if they have a future in a world where so much information is at the fingertips of the consumer, my response is that there will always be a place for an honest, informed broker who truly understands the market and gives opinions and summaries that are legitimate and well researched…..a broker who can sift through the maize of overwhelming information and identify the truth. These future ‘editors’ will be highly sought after, and will also be a very, very rare breed.
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.
Saturday, November 5th, 2011
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on November 5th, 2011.
Have you noticed how the bulk of newly built New York residential buildings possess as much charm as Ann Coulter or Al Gore? Does modern design have to mean sterile design? Understandably, re-creating aged patina can be a bit Disney-esque, but surely within the vast array of good modern design, there MUST be some way of making people’s homes (yes, when they come home and walkthrough that lobby, that is the beggining of their ‘home experience’ just the way a driveway and front yard would be in the burbs) more of a pleasant experience. With the 1% (yes, that’s the luxury market in New York real estate) under much greater scrutiny and derision than ever before, coming home should feel like a big hug, a way of saying “yes, you have more than the other 99%, but it’s not your fault…it’ll be ok….you earned it too!”
I am horrified on a daily basis when architects and designers think that a lobby or hallway overwhelmed with fluorescent lighting that renders a ghostly, sick complexion on humans is acceptable design. Throw in some material choices that are either reminiscent of a bomb shelter or worse, a psuedo-boutique-fashion-of-the-moment hotel and one truly has to wonder whether these designers know anything about the human psyche.
It is easily possible at any price point to achieve a more charming experience with a newly designed building by integrating materials, lighting, artwork and possibly something unique and special to the environment. Attempting to re-create a pre-war experience a-la-15 Central Park West (that while beautifully executed looks like any high end Ritz Carlton) is not what I am calling for. I do believe good modern design can be both inventive and human.
Come on starchitects and world class designers: human beings are not machines….yet.
Thursday, October 13th, 2011
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on October 12th, 2011
As the BLACKBERRY BLACKOUT continues, I as a real estate broker vow never to complain about my Tech ever again, even though at times it may be warranted. Life in real estate land in New York is simply HORRIBLE without a functioning Blackberry. I feel I have lost a part of my brain. It reminds me of the times we schlepped the streets of Manhattan with appointment books and just Cell phones. It’s not that doing business was impossible, but it was significantly slower, bound us more to an office environment, and in my opinion it was a lot less efficient. The stress of reading and responding to hundreds of e-mails a day while on the road has now been replaced by the stress of knowing you will have to address them once you get back to your desk. And while I do love my I-pad, it simply does not compare to that hand sized little wonder we have become so accustomed to.
Sunday, July 31st, 2011
Posted by Leonard Steinberg on July 30th, 2011
We have covered this subject before in LUXURYLETTER: Manhattan and New York City sidewalks are constantly covered with hideous, unsightly construction sheds and scaffolding. Always dark, somewhat sketchy, and often covered with graffiti, the sheds leave much to be desired, which is why the Department of Buildings hosted the UrbanSHED Competition, asking designers to create a more aesthetically pleasing design for these sidewalk canopies. A prototype of the winning design has just been unveiled: the arched steel structure with a transparent top is a breath of fresh air. Designed by winner Young-Hwan Choi with architect Andrés Cortés and engineer Sarrah Khan of New York-based Agencie Group, the new canopy is a huge improvement from the standard pipe and plywood shed.
It is time to really evaluate this ugly scaffolding once and for all: While I love the concept of re-designing the scaffolding and making it more attractive, personally I see permanent sidewalk covers as the solution. The cost to building owners to rent these structures is prohibitive. With the sun a lot less desirable these days, why not cover sidewalks (a la Meatpacking District and Tribeca) with permanent canopies. These (attractive) canopies could be made of solar panels to generate power and also transmit light. Something needs to change.