Sunday, September 30, 2007

Condo Market Still Hot...In Long Island City, At Least

Two new and affordable condos opened under one (on site) roof on Saturday, and the initial returns looked to reinforce the notion that the condo market is still hot, in LIC at least. One Hunters Point and Hunters View Condominiums held their long awaited opening on Saturday and the turnout was reminiscent of 10-50 Jackson last winter. We had many on the scene, and people were lining up as early as Friday afternoon for first crack at these affordable, upscale units which opened to the public Saturday morning at 9 a.m.. By Saturday morning at least 39 parties had taken a number and waited hours for the opportunity to lay down some cold hard cash. These condos have numerous pluses and minuses. The pluses are prices from the $600's per square foot, terraces, and upscale finishes. The negatives, include ordinary exterior architecture and locations that may be noisy- one hangs over the Hunter's Point train yard, the other over the Pulaski Bridge to Greenpoint. Still, views at One Hunters Point, over the train yard, are South and unobstructed and likely to stay that way for some time (assuming Ratner doesn't get any ideas). It would be easier to compare the condos to others in the area, but, Brown Harris, ironically (read:REBNY) and unorthodoxically, is refusing to co-broke the listings for an unspecified period of time. As a broker, that certainly enhances the mystery factor to say the least. We certainly look forward to having the developer and broker conform to industry norms in the near term, and will certainly update as soon as we have more info in that regard.
Additionally, The PowerHouse, although not publicized, is open for business, and if there are no huge price amendments, I can tell you, the project exceeds all of my expectations. The amenities are exceptional, the prices, also from the $600's per foot are great, and the finishes like the all Viking kitchens are the very best (O.K., I'm a sucker for Viking). Also, The Foundry LIC and The Crescent Club (LIC North) are expected to open imminently..So, of course, I'll keep you posted. Feel free to contact me personally for any further info on condos in the area.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What's The Deal With...Those Antique Houses At East Hampton Town Hall?

If you've been out in East Hampton lately, you've probably noticed some gorgeous old houses propped up on steel beams in at least a couple of locations. What's the deal? Well, the heir to Schlumberger, Adelaide De Menil, just happened to have an extra 14 of these 17th and 18th Century historic structures on her Further Lane property. Being a fan of modernism, and with charity in her heart, she has donated 8 of the structures to the town of East Hampton. She also paid to have them moved and donated $2 Million toward upkeep. An architect from Robert A.M. Stern's office is integrating them into a larger structure that may connect the buildings under a glass atrium on town property. Here are some links for more details:

Twenty 9th Park Madison Condo Gets Glassy!

"Twenty 9th Park Madison", that's what they call it...really! I guess they have officially run out of condo names or creativity or something. I have a couple of thoughts on the building. First, I will admit, considering the size of the project, I do like the look of the building. It's huge, but it seems to slice into the sky in a way that minimizes it's mass. Second, they are selling views, and I believe they are legit on this claim, and that they will probably have superior views compared to similarly priced Skyhouse Condos (now that's a name) a block away. The amenity package also seems to be in line with luxury standards with the requisite fitness center, roofdeck with barbeque grill, and an expresso bar in the lobby. I am, however, a little disappointed. While the 1 bedroom layouts seemed adequate, the 2 bedrooms with a 13'5"x 12'5" "master bedroom" leaves a bit to be desired. Second, although the idea of teak flooring sounds good, I believe it was a poor choice. Teak is a relatively soft wood, and it was apparent from the model that they can take a beating rather quickly. The finish on the floors is shiny, yet not glossy, and could be mistaken for imitation hardwoods. However, if it is views and a great looking building that you are looking for "The Excelsia", um, er, "Twenty 9th Park Madison" is worth a look.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tiki Scores, Miraval Punts

Miraval Living, the ultra-lux and ultra-amenities condo conversion on the far East Side of 72nd Street had a couple of interesting developments this weekend. First, Tiki Barber, of NY Giants and NBC fame, has entered into contract for 4 apartments for $6 Million which will end up being a combo unit totalling 4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths and 3500 square feet. Dolly Lenz of Elliman tallied the sale, but it doesn't stop there. Elliman, as of today, has taken over the project altogether. The Marketing Directors are no longer on the project. Closings are currently 3 months behind scheduled and counting. We are not sure exactly why they are so behind, and it was difficult to gather any visibility on the issue from the just deposed regime. Perhaps Elliman will be more forthright and transparent. Although gripes from some brokers have been well publicized, we have had little difficulty selling in the building. Maybe Tiki has made the right move at the right time, like he did so often for the NY Giants.We believe he has.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What's The Deal With...Those Flower Cabs?

A new installment to A. Fine Blog is a regular segment called "What's the deal with...?" If you are ever wondering what the deal is with something, feel free to email me at, and I'll try to get an answer for you. Today's topic: What's the deal with...those flower cabs?

By now nearly everyone has seen them -- your typical yellow cabs, but covered in colorful flower decals. They seems to be sprouting and multiplying throughout the city. Well, it is all for a great cause; a project called "Gardens in Transit" by the non-profit charity called Portraits of Hope. The flowered decals are all hand-painted, mostly by sick and disabled children, as well as children from NY City schools. It is the brainchild of brothers Ed and Bernie Massey who founded the charity in 1995. According to Ed Massey, who I met in Union Square where cabs were being "flowered" one at a time, 2000 cabs have had the makeover. Mr. Massey's goal is to get all 23,000 cabs in NY City flowered by the first week of October. He is relying on his salesmanship and peer pressure applied by the New York cab riding public. The "exhibit" will last through December. More on the Charity:

Fed Cuts Rates by 1/2 Point, Aggressive Move Good For Housing and Economy

The Federal Reserve in a suprising move has cut both the fed funds rate and the discount rate by half a point this afternoon in an aggressive move. "Today’s action is intended to help forestall some of the adverse effects on the broader economy that might otherwise arise from the disruptions in financial markets and to promote moderate growth over time" the Fed said in its accompanying statement.

Make no mistake about it, a 50 basis point reduction in rates goes a long way towards stimulating up our economy, helps cushion the pain of the credit crunch, and increases the odds that Wall Street bonuses won't be so bad after all. All three factors have major implications on the New York City real estate market, and all three factors have improved with today's Fed cuts.

Fed Cuts Rates By 1/2 Point- More Soon..

The Brompton Condo Gets Bricked!

At first glance, the brickwork kind of reminds me of Camden Yards, but that is not a negative connotation. It does exude an old world, classic opulence, and need I remind you that this structure replaced a hodgepodge of low end store selling cell phones and jeans? So far, so good.
The building is growing nicely as well; around 16 or 17 stories, and should be topped off before the first freeze.
Brompton vs. Lucida, Round 5 (A. Fine Blog- 8/07)
Brompton Grows A Belly (A. Fine Blog- 7/07)

Union Square "Goodburger" Opens, Not Bad!

Well, I guess I should be thankful. Working in Union Square, it has been a long quest for a good, reasonably priced, fast and fresh burger. I have finally found it in Goodburger (, which has just opened on Broadway between 17th and 18th Streets. Goodburger is the offspring of "Burger Joint", the semi-secret and exceptional burger place hidden in the lobby of Le Parker Meridien hotel. If you haven't been there, make a point of going, it is one of the best burgers in New York. Goodburger was founded by former staffers of "Burger Joint" and it shows. While not quite as good, it's pretty close, and it's much better than waiting in line 45 minutes at Shake Shack. So, if you have a hankering, Goodburger, is, well, pretty good!

For the record, the 3 best 3 burgers in NYC, in no particular order: Melon's, PJ Clarke's, and Burger Joint.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rejoice! Long Island City Finally Has A Supermarket!

It's official, the biggest reason not to move to LIC is no longer valid. Thanks to the good deeds of Rockrose Development Corporation, Amish Markets is opening a 20,000 square foot gourmet supermarket in East Coast Phase 2 located at Center Blvd and 47th Ave..The store is expected to open this February. Let the dancing in the street begin!
More on Amish Food Markets (
City Cook on Amish Market (
LIC Condos Heating Up (A. Fine Blog)

Oh Shea Can You See...Citifield Rising

I had a nice trip out to Shea Stadium last night to cheer my beloved Mets to their 82nd victory of the season last night. Despite fond memories of the stadium from my first football game when the Jets played there in the 70's, to the 86' World Series win, the subway series, etc.., the place, quite simply, is a dump. Glad to see that Citifield, the new home of the Mets starting in 2009 is coming along so nicely.
More on Citifield (

Friday, September 7, 2007

Market Update: Little Down Now, Big Up Later?

Well, I'll readily admit that the Fall Season is very young, and it is far too early to make judgements or draw conclusions, but the feel I am getting from recent emails is that the NYC market may see just a tad of anxiousness building in. August, of course, is no indicator of real market activity, as those that have the money are largely out of town. So, in light of the recent "credit crunch", September will be quite a revealing and telling month.
Well, we are One week in and I can dutifully report that the vibe I am getting from my couple Hundred email listings per day is that I am seeing a number of listings with the title "new price", "improved price", etc.. I have also noticed that a couple of condo sponsors are starting to ratchet up commission incentives (raising broker commissions to 4% from 3% for instance). We saw the same pattern last October/November before the great Wall Street bonus tide rolled in, and we all know what has happened to prices since then (way up, in case you weren't paying attention).
We certainly have a variety of dynamics working in this market. The positives, as mentioned before which include the cheap dollar and low relative prices compared to the likes of London and Tokyo clearly continue. The negatives have picked up some ground; we have a credit crunch, a possible national recession lead by housing, and most prominent and new is that Jumbo rates have jumped.
But what of this rate jump? Is it a permanent feature? I think not. At the same time, I think this is the hidden bonus for buyers who may find a more buyer friendly market over the next few months. Here's the scoop. Rewind to May of this year. Jumbo rates were sitting at around 6.125%. At the same time the 10 year treasury (my best indicator of long term rates) was simultaneously just over 4.6%. A 30 year Jumbo was 1.525% higher than the 10 year. Throw the credit crunch in, and suddenly the spread between the Two has grown to 2.6%. Clearly, this is a market out of whack. If there was no "credit crunch" and related spike in rates, you could assume that the Jumbo 30 year should be at 5.9%. Consider these two things.
One, If the National housing market is as bad as it sounds, demands for loans will drop dramatically and the local banks that actually hold the paper and not resell and repackage it into some sort of slip shot collateralized security will be anxious for business, and if capitalism actually works (I believe it does), rates will become as competitive as they were before and drop dramatically. Second, considering the national economy, the seeping impact of higher oil and related commodity prices, drop in employment, and the fact that Wall Street clearly looks to be the tail wagging the Fed dog, it seems exceedingly likely that the Fed will lower rates a minimum of 1/2 % to 1% over the next several months. So, the number one negative to the New York Market could easily become number one positive over the next 6 months. I would expect that Jumbo rates are likely to drop from 7% to under 6% and possibly as low as 5.5% to 5.75% by Spring. A move from 7% to 5 3/4 % translates to a 17.8% reduction in mortgage expense, a huge plus for potential price appreciation (everywhere). So if you can get a deal now, while a few are quaking in their boots, you may see substantial benefit by refinancing just a few months later.
As usual, I will keep you posted with real-time reflection on market conditions.