Monday, December 31, 2007

Condo Market Update: Midtown West

Area: Midtown West (West 38th St.-West 58th St.- West of Sixth Ave.)
Median New Condo $/psf: $1136.
Median New Condo Price: $1,015,000.
Price Ranges:
Studios: $500k-$800k
1 Bedrooms: $650k-$1.25Mil.
2 bedroom: $970k-$2.5Mil.
3 Bedroom: $2.3Mil-$4Mil.
4 Bedrooms: rare
Midtown West is an exciting area which has some of the best values in Manhattan and also some of it's best investment potential. The area includes Times Square, The Theater District and ample Hudson River views and frontage on the West Side. Areas which 20 years ago were absolutely derelict (like the far West Side and Times Square), have been cleaned, renovated, sterilized and are now the home to upscale condos with countless amenities. The area is very central and between Sixth and Eighth Avenue there are a dozen subway lines to chose from. Farther West transportation options dwindle to buses and taxis, however the 7 train is expected to be extended across 42nd Street to 10th Avenue and down to The Javitz Center. A 10th Avenue station is still being debated and makes a great deal of sense. Condo development and sales continue in the area at a rapid pace. Newcomers like The Platinum Condo, The 505 Condo, and Hudson Hill Condo have been very well received. With 2 bedrooms starting under $1Mil, and an average $/per square foot of just over $1000, it seems that there is still plenty of upside for this quickly developing and improving area.

New Year's Eve Links

Bloomberg Moves Closer To Presidential Run (NY Times)
Wave Of Foreign Buyers Hit US Market (Baltimore Sun)
Murdoch Builds Dream House At 834 Fifth (NY Times)
Building Worker Strike Averted (NY Daily News)
230 Park Sells For $1.15 Bil. (Gulf News/United Arab Emirates)
Wall Street Worries (The Peninsula/Qatar)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Condo Market Update: Columbus Circle/ Lincoln Center

Area: Columbus Circle/ Lincoln Center
Median $/psf: $1,468.
Median New Condo Price: $2,100,000.
Price Ranges (not including CPW or CPS):
Studios: (rare)..$675k+
1 Bedrooms: $829k-$1Mil.+
2 Bedrooms: $1.38Mil.-$2.8Mil.+
3 Bedrooms: $2.15Mil.-$3.5Mil.+
4 Bedrooms: $4.2Mil.-$15Mil.+
The Columbus Circle area is one of the most desired and expensive in the city. With multiple transportation options, abundant culture (Lincoln Center), and Central Park at your doorstep it's no wonder. Despite extraordinary prices at Time Warner, 15 CPW, and on Central Park South and Central Park West, there are still ultra-luxurious options at reasonable prices just a block or two off the park. In fact, there are a number of options in the $1200-$1400 psf range. The newest condo in the area is The Adagio, a very impressive loft-inspired luxury condo that is a short walk to both Central Park and The Time Warner Center.
If you haven't been in Columbus Circle in years you will be shocked by it's absolute rebirth. The Circle itself has been completely renovated and is now anchored by a functional fountain and an immaculate park. Where the old convention center (one of NY's worst blights) once stood, is now the gleaming Time Warner Center with a huge Whole Foods supermarket, upscale shops, restaurants, and an auditorium specifically for Lincoln Center Jazz performances. The area directly West towards the river, once home to seedy parking lots, is now quickly filling up with high end condos. While Columbus Circle itself has boomed in prices and that trend looks to continue, those areas West present exceptional value and have tremendous upside in my opinion.

Friday Links

Townhouse Sales Remain Strong (The Real Deal)
NYC Murders At Historic Low (NY Times)
Building Workers Prepared To Strike (NY Post)
Nation New Home Sales Continue Tumble (WSJ)
Ray Bari Flipping Last Pizzas? (The Real Deal)

Bonus Money Heading To The Hamptons?

Dan Dorfman reports in today's New York Sun that record Wall Street bonuses may have a positive impact on Hamptons real estate prices and volume. Mr. Dorfman cites numbers from the Suffolk Research Center which show that the median price of Hamptons real estate is up 14% to $717,000 from $625,000 a year ago. This is a far cry from the rapid deterioration of the national market. Median prices can be tricky however, as more and more multi-million dollar deals are transacted out East.

What makes the Hamptons market so special? It seems to be combination of several factors similar to New York. First, The Hamptons are an internationally regarded playground for the rich and famous, so again, we see foreign buyers increasing market share and taking full advantage of the cheap dollar. Second, domestically, income disparity continues to grow and the very high end seems to feel little of the recent ills of the country at large. In other words, the multi-millionaires and billionaires are doing just fine, thanks. Third, the Hamptons are experiencing a phenomena that made Manhattan special long ago- lack of space. There is very little buildable space left in towns like East Hampton and Southampton, especially in light of the fact that so many areas have seen zoning restrictions in the past 25 years that have greatly increased the amount of acreage needed to build. Finally- the baby boomer factor. The Hamptons, which used to basically close up shop after labor day, are quickly becoming year round communities, and many that have spent wondrous summers out there are aging and opting to retire there.

To be sure of the "trend", I have spoken with a couple of my contacts out East and they do report that volume has picked up just recently and new inventory coming on the market has dropped. While I am hearing that prices have not increased out there, many brokers are calling a bottom. With slipping inventory and higher volume, it would seem that in the least, a short term bottom may have been reached.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Condo Market Update: Upper West Side

Area: Upper West Side
Median New Condo $/psf: $1253.
Median New Condo Price: $2,100,000.
Price Ranges:
Studio: $500k-$755k
1 Bedroom: $839k-$1.16Mil.
2 Bedroom: $899k-$2.19Mil.
3 Bedroom: $1.5Mil-$4.6Mil.
4 Bedroom: $2.2Mil-$5.0Mil.

New condo development on the Upper West Side is pretty limited as is supply. At the same time, the bulk of the inventory is larger apartments geared to family living. A few new condos have come on line in the past few months, including The Harrison (read The Harrison Condo review), one of my favorites, a Robert A.M. Stern designed building which combines classic New York architecture with contemporary finishes ($1280psf avg.). For those with a more contemporary disposition, Linden 78, which averages $1889psf may be the new development for you. For those more price conscience, there are several condos between 88th and 99th Street which provide good value.
Prices in the area have been steadily rising, as more families are staying in the city, requiring larger spaces, and facing limited condo supply. The Upper West Side is one of Manhattan's most established markets and a conservative bet.

Condo Action On Jackson, LIC, Including New Mystery Condo!

10-50 Jackson (above)

10-63 Jackson (above)

One Hunters View (above)

Mystery Condo at 1114 49th Ave (above)

Things seem to be moving on up on Jackson Avenue in LIC. 10-50 Jackson, the first big condo on Jackson in Hunters Point, is topped and being insulated. 10-63, the triangular steel wonder is rising, and One Hunters View has risen in record time.
One point of intrigue is the building going up just South of Hunters View, at 11-14 49th Ave or 11-15 50th Ave, depending on how you look at it. The building is currently 4 stories and rising over the Pulaski Bridge. A search of DOB permits shows an 11 story, 170,000 sf building with 120 residential units and 30 parking spaces. Cetra/Ruddy, of One Madison Park fame, is listed as the architect- very exciting! A call to the listed owner's office was met with just scant acknowledgement that they own the property and a refusal to comment on any of the details. Stay tuned!

New Ways To Access A. Fine Blog

For added convenience, we have acquired the domain name which will get you right to our blog. The domain name just came on the market, and we were happy to grab it. Also, will also lead you right to the blog.
On the corporate side, will direct you to our company website ( We plan on opening a limited East End operation this spring. If you are looking for properties from Southampton and Eastward in the interim, feel free to give us a call.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

LIC Condos...Now With Bike Parking

Noticed this peculiar site last week on Jackson Avenue in LIC, just across the street from the new 10-63 Jackson Condos. Pretty fancy for a bike stand! More on the Jackson Avenue condo boom in Hunters Point coming soon...
Recent LIC Posts:

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Wishing all readers a wonderful holiday and a healthy and wealthy new year! I'll be posting intermittently over the next week. I do have some backlog of stories on LIC, Washington Square Park, and more- so check back, I'll be posting.

Friday, December 21, 2007

It's Official Wall Street Bonuses Up 14%!

I took a lot of heat back in October for predicting that Wall Street bonuses would actually be higher this year. I was called a "crazy broker" by, called various names by anonymous posters on the blog, and even taunted by someone who wanted to wager $10,000 that I was wrong. I'm not much for gambling, but I did offer to wager a cheeseburger, fries, and a beer which I doubt that I will ever collect. So here's what I said back then (Oct 4th):
"A Recipe For Higher Prices?
Today, the Associated Press reports that Wall Street bonuses have surged by 14% over last year, and the big 4 alone are paying out close to $50 Billion in compensation:
Bonuses On Wall Street Surge 14% (AP via Yahoo)

So here is my next bold prediction: Manhattan coop and condo prices will rise a solid 7-10% in 2008.
This year's Wall Street bonuses will play a part in 2008's price appreciation, but the majority of the gain will be attributed to a cheap dollar, low rates, and a shortage of inventory.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Union Square Scare

Ah, life in the big city! On return from a Harlem condo field trip this morning, I came out of the n/r train to see police and emergency vehicles swarming the area in front of my building at 41 Union Square West. Hazmat was called in, and the police perimiter kept expanding, eventually evacuating all of Union Square Park. After about 2 hours, the area has been cleared, and fortunately, once again, it was a false alarm.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Subway Riders' Bill Of Rights, A No Brainer!

Andrew Fine (l), Councilman Bill de Blasio (r)
By Andrew Fine

City Council members Bill de Blasio and John Liu held a press conference today in Union Square, on the eve of another MTA fair hike, to demand accountability from the MTA. While the fare hike is inevitable due to support from both Spitzer and Bloomberg, de Blasio argues that at a minimum, subway riders should be entitled to several basic rights. They include regular, on-time service, clean, well-kept and well-lit platforms, and real-time notification of service changes and delays. De Blasio points out that we use the largest mass transit system in the Western Hemisphere, but we are far from the best, especially when it comes to keeping New Yorkers informed and utilizing existing technology to do so. While commuters in New Jersey and DC have service changes and alternatives text messaged in real time, New York has yet to even address its P.A. system, which is the butt of jokes on "Saturday Night Live". As the notorious rain storm of August 8th revealed, we have no reliable communication with the masses. Heaven forbid, if there were a terror attack on our transit system, we are completely unprepared, and the cost could come in the form of human lives. I might add that the current fare hike -- which really singles out daily users (the working man) -- is regressive and is diametrically opposed to the goals of congestion pricing. De Blasio and Liu are right; at a minimum, subway riders deserve some form of accountability, and the subway riders bill of rights is a good start.
Councilmen Propose Subway Bill Of Rights (WABC)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Manhattan Market Remarkably Robust Going Into 2008

By Andrew Fine
2007 has been a year marked by uncertainty. There was a credit market freeze, a roller coaster ride stock market, a national housing market slump, a surge in nationwide foreclosures, and rumors of lenders going insolvent. While all this was going on, what has happened to Manhattan real estate? Well, not much at all, and more of the same. Prices year over year are up, sales volume is steady, and Manhattan just keeps going. There has been some price erosion in fringe areas like Harlem and The Financial District, but it has been limited and isolated to a handful of buildings which may have been overreaching in the first place. Every November and December, as reliably as leaves falling off the trees, you hear brokers crying about how it's slow, and then every January things start popping again. So what of 2008?
Looking forward there are some positives and negatives to consider. Negatives-economic growth looks anemic, it's an election year (more uncertainty), the credit crunch and related job losses continue, and the national housing market is still a mess. The positives are still plentiful. Rates are low and will likely go lower. The dollar is cheap and likely get cheaper. It's an election year- while there is uncertainty as to who will lead the country, it's universally accepted that you can't do much worse. Election years are also known for overspending so that those in power stay there. So, you may have 1% growth in the 1st Quarter, but come the 3rd and 4th Quarters the numbers should be much better. The national housing market is expected to recover either in late 2008 or 2009, so whatever drag it may have on our market is unlikely to last for much more than a year.
So what of 2008 for Manhattan? More of the same, I believe. It's hard for the Manhattan market to have a price correction with low rates and a cheap dollar. Price growth could be limited to 5-10%, and volume will likely be level. I don't believe the market will be too hot or too cold. In many ways, this kind of market is more civilized and easier to participate in. While by recent standards level sales and slowly rising prices could be considered a pause, I believe it will prove to be an opportune time to buy.

Monday Links

2nd Avenue Deli Reopens (Eater)
Related, Vornado, And Tishman Early Leaders For Yards (NYDN)
Manhattan Market Stable (NY Times)
Related Gets $1.4 Billion Investment (NY Observer)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Links

Jennifer Aniston Buys At 15 Madison Sq. North? (NYDN)
Countrywide: Foreclosures Up, New Hamptons Branch Opening (NY Post)
More NYU Expansion Plans (Curbed)
Manhattan Retail Rents Soar (NY Post)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thursday Links

111 Central Park North Sets More Harlem Records (Curbed)
Building Workers Authorize Strike (NY Times)
NYC Named 2nd "Greenest" City (PR Newswire)
New Second Avenue Deli Opens Monday, Near Third Avenue (Observer)
NYC's Commercial Sales Record Shattered (NY Sun)

A. Fine Plan For Congestion Pricing

Congestion pricing is a controversial issue with common, laudable goals- reducing traffic congestion and reducing pollution. There have been so many ideas floated, and most of them are just plain bad. So, after much thinking I have put together a couple of proposals of my own, which I believe reflect common sense and are more palatable to all New Yorkers.
First, we live on an island and there is no better border than the rivers that surround us. A border in the middle of Manhattan, whether on 86th Street or 60th Street makes no sense. Such borders would divide neighborhoods and create a mangle of traffic at the border. This would cause vehicles to idle or circle pointlessly and would be counter-productive to the goals of reducing emissions and traffic. So, the borders should be the rivers. Not only could this reduce traffic in all of Manhattan, it also make sense from a logistical standpoint, as there are limited access points to our island, and this would make charging far more efficient. Of course, we would have to start charging at East River bridges which are now free, but no plan of this magnitude is pain free.
Second, charge all cars that enter Manhattan between 6am and 7pm $5, with no credit for other tolls as currently suggested. Although the fee is less than the $8 suggested by the city, the fact that everyone entering Manhattan would have to pay it would bring in far greater revenue. Plans suggested by the Mayor's office have called for a credit for tolls paid by tri-state commuters. Under current plans commuters from outside of the city, who are the vast majority of cars driving around Manhattan, get a virtual free ride, while City residents pay for the vast majority of the costs of congestion pricing. This charge will be one way, there should be no disincentive to leave the city. Additionally, cars registered to a city address should be exempt for the first 5 trips per month back into the zone.
Third, since trucks are largely responsible for both congestion and pollution on our island, a number of steps should be taken:
A- Trucks wishing to make deliveries into Manhattan should do so between 7pm and 7 am. In order to compel this behavior, a $40 fee should be enacted for trucks that wish to deliver during peak hours (7am-7pm).
B- The equivalent to 4 parking spaces on every Avenue block should be dedicated to truck loading and unloading between 7pm and 7 am. 2 of the 4 spaces should be dedicated for the same purpose during peak hours. Such an arrangement would greatly reduce double parking, idling, and congestion. The same spot, when available should also be utilized by taxis dropping off passengers. If a spot is available in the zone and the taxi does not drop off in that zone, the taxi driver will be subject to a fine. If all the spots are taken, no fine will be imposed.
C- Triple the fines for double parking and unnecessary idling and should be rigorously enforced. Again, this will help both pollution and congestion.
Fourth, A 50% discount should be offered to both cars and trucks which are hybrid. Every couple of years the fuel efficiency standard required to qualify for the discount should be reviewed and increased.
Fifth, the city must dedicate itself to the use of bicycles in the city. Real, safe, and segregated bike lanes should be established throughout the city. The city should also provide a tax incentive for it's citizens to purchase bicycles.
Finally, the city should accelerate mass transit projects like the 2nd Avenue subway and improve the service and capacity of our mass transit system.
So, that's the plan. It is a plan that I believe makes a great deal more sense and takes the burden from being solely on the backs of City residents. I also believe that this plan will have result in a greater reduction of traffic and pollution than the City's plan, while also garnering higher revenues to improve our mass transit system.
Comments and suggestions encouraged.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Bad Ideas For Congestion Pricing

The Traffic Mitigation Commission claims that new ideas have surfaced for congestion pricing that were brought to them either by the commission, or good ideas that have come from the public. Well, I made it to one of those meetings 2 weeks back, and I highly doubt that these, even worse ideas, have come from the public. Rather, I think the Commission, largely appointed by the Mayor, is floating even more draconian proposals to make their already poorly conceived ideas seem more palatable. Here is just a sample of these new ideas:
1- Not allowing people to drive on days that end in the same number of their license plates.
2- Color coding license plates and not allowing drivers to drive on every 5th day.
3- Making metered parking as expensive as garage parking.
4- Making it illegal to hail a cab below 86th Street. You will only be allowed to get a cab at a taxi stand.
These are all awful ideas. Is it really worth turning NYC into a fascist state in order to reduce traffic by 3-5%? Here is what is wrong with these ideas by number:
1 and 2- Why? Why should a New Yorker or outsider be barred from driving in the city on arbitrary days, when business, both economic and personal, does not run on such a schedule. Should we keep our kids home from school every 5 days? Should we not go to work on every 5th day? What if you have alternate side of the street parking on the day that your plate ends in? Ideas 1 and 2 are ludicrous!
3- Why? New York is expensive enough for both New Yorkers and those that do business in New York? Don't you think this would dramatically increase double parking? Wouldn't this hurt the small businesses that benefit from inexpensive parking in front of their stores?
4- The idea of a taxi is that it gets you from door to door. Suppose again that you have small children and it's a cold and stormy night. Would you and the cab driver get a ticket for picking you up at your door? Should you be forced to walk through the elements and then wait for a cab in the elements? Isn't the act of hailing a cab part of our culture? Another bad idea.
I want to make clear that I am not against congestion pricing. The idea of reducing traffic and reducing pollution is laudable. At the same time many of the proposals being floated are draconian and result in New Yorkers assuming most of the burden in a regressive fashion that hurts and alienates lower income New Yorkers the most. It is easy to shoot down these ideas as most of them make little or no sense. More difficult is crafting a plan that is sensible and actually works. Check back soon, as I plan to do just that, propose a plan that is fair and that works.

Fed Acts To Inject Further Liquidity To Credit Markets

In a dramatic move, the day after a 1/4 point rate cut, the Fed has announced a plan to inject liquidity into the credit markets which have been in very slow thaw since August. The Fed, The European Central Bank, Bank of England, and the Swiss National Bank have hatched a plan to make $40 Billion Dollars available this month in short term (1 month) loans to banks. The Fed will do this by auctioning these loans twice a month for the foreseeable future. While most don't understand the mechanics of the deal, the idea is to stimulate banks to lend and to make short term funds available for them to do so. Fed officials deny that the unveiling of the plan had anything to do with the negative reaction and disappointment of yesterday's move to lower rates by only 1/4 of a point.
The quick read here for NY Real Estate investors- this move may have some impact in keeping the national economy from slipping into recession in 2008. A stronger national economy would be beneficial to the stock market and reduce potential job losses in our local economy. Yesterday's move will keep pressure on the dollar, keeping our market cheap for foreign investment and of course, lower rates are almost always a plus for real estate. Will the number of moves by the Fed have a tangible impact? Time will tell.
Fed Joins Other Banks To Add Cash (NY Times)

Wednesday Links

City's Taxi Fleet Going Hybrid (Gothamist)
Will EC 3 Make Or Break LIC? (Curbed)
Jay Z In Chelsea Hotel Venture (NY Post)
City Council Kills Pro-Landlord Bill (NYDN)
More On Yves Condo (The Real Deal)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fed Cuts Rates Another 1/4 Point

The fed has made it official. In a widely anticipated move, the Federal Reserve voted to lower both the fed funds and discount rate by 1/4 today. The cut brings the fed funds rate by a total of 1%. While the move has made little difference to mortgage borrowers, it increases margins for banks and cushions the blow from bad mortgage loans. What difference does this make to the New York real estate market? Not much, but it certainly will not hurt. Unlike most housing cycles, this go round is different in that rates are low and the dollar is cheap- both are positive factors for the New York market.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Answer To Curbed: East Coast 3 Will Make LIC!

My article on East Coast 3, the condo coming soon, right on the LIC waterfront hit late this afternoon. The article was termed "Will East Coast 3 Make Or Break LIC". Well, I'd say neither. It will, no doubt, set the high water mark for LIC. Rockrose is a highly respected developer of high quality product, and there is no doubt that the location for EC3 has no equal in the area. 5SL, by Toll Brothers, is a quality building, and well situated, but there is no beating EC3's location. EC3 is on the water and the wide open views will never be obstructed (in our lifetimes at least) and it sits on a park and the river. And those views? Phenomenal. From The Financial District to the UES, not shabby at all. The kicker? I failed to mention that the prices I have been quoted do not include generous outdoor space included with most units. Manhattan Prices? Find me a Manhattan apartment with such views and such luxury, 3 minutes from Grand Central, for an average of $1150/ft. They don't exist. Will this building make or break LIC? Please, this building will make LIC for those that need a break from Manhattan.

And, 5th St. LIC Gets Paved!

It has finally happened! Yes, 5th Street in LIC starting from the 5SL condos at 48th Avenue and North to the Anabel basin has finally been paved! The much neglected street behind the Rockrose buildings has also seem a great deal of developer interest of late as well. In fact, every property from the Anabel Basin to 47th Avenue has turned over in the past 2 years- that's three full blocks. Rumors are rampant in the area. The latest one is that the block long property surrounded by newly erected grey wooden fence (pictured) has obtained a variance and will be a 13 story NYU dorm (I have yet to confirm this). As I mentioned a few days ago, the asking prices for buildable square footage in the area has boomed, and prices on the smaller lots (buildable of 7500-15000sf) has soared to over $250 per buildable square foot. While stunning, this rapid price appreciation is not a total surprise, as condo prices in the Hunters Point area have increased to better than $700 per square foot, and more condos are coming at higher and higher prices. For more on LIC investment/development opportunities, feel free to contact me.

Monday Links

Building's Chief Hid Scarano's Violations (NYDN)
Weekend Celebrity Real Estate Wrap Up (Curbed)
Condo Sales Market Share Nears 50% (Matrix)
Javitz Plan Toned Down (NY Times)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Laurel Condo Gets Glassy!

The windows have just started installation, and the building looks topped or pretty close to it. One word describes The Laurel!
But let's start with the number one negative, it's on First Avenue. I never thought I would see such an expensive building on First Avenue, but then again, I never thought I would see such a luxurious building on First Avenue either! Now on to the positives. Although on 1st, it's on 67th, a comfy stretch and fairly convenient to the 6 train. There is also St. Catherine's park and playground, which was beautifully renovated a couple of years back, diagonally across from the building. The building itself is gorgeous. It is not your modern sheet of glass, but a modern building of Indiana Limestone and over sized windows which blends the best on new and old. The finishes are modern. The kitchen is compact, yet has every imaginable appliance from wine cooler to convection oven, etc. The appliances are a mix of Sub-Zero and Gaggenau brands. I was not all that familiar with the Gaggenau brand, but from a quick search of the web, apparently they are British and probably the most expensive that they could find. The master baths are spacious and adorned with white marble throughout. It's most modern feature was an lcd tv built into the vanity. This was a big hit with brokers and prospective buyers at the opening party (for me, not so much). I actually preferred the 2nd baths and power rooms which used a little more color and crystal mosaic wall tiles, or maybe it was because there was no tv built into the vanity. The ceilings heights are all generous, ranging between 9' and 12' depending on the floor. The floors are solid white oak, which can be stained light or dark.
If you crave amenities, look no further. The "Trophy Club" gym is one of the very best in the city. Aside from a plethora of training equipment, there are 3 pools- a 50 foot lap pool, and 2 resistance pools. The "Laurel Club" is an extensive resident amenity area, which again, has it all- playroom, game room, screening theater, conference room, catering kitchen, and on and on...
Pricing is steep, but not off the charts at around $1550 per foot. If you want to save a little money, you may consider a low floor facing North and West. The View of St. Catherine's Park makes the exposure pleasant and bright.
Suffice it to say, The Laurel Condo has everything, and you may never leave the building, or want to.

East Coast 3 LIC Gets Bricked!

Topped off and moving quickly, Rockrose Development's East Coast 3 is getting bricked. The building will not be named "East Coast", but I am not at liberty to divulge the name of what is to be a high end condo project. There will be terraces o'plenty, incredible unobstructed views, and prices to start at "over $1000 per square foot and average $1150 per square foot" according to a reliable source. Sales for the building are expected to begin in the spring, although there are unsubstantiated rumors that Rockrose may be considering a late change to rentals. I don't believe that rumor to be true, but I will follow up on it.

Sunday Links

Webster Hall Headed For Landmark Status? (NY Times)
Bad Breath Doorman Back At Work (NYDN)
Townhouse Living: Good And Bad (NY Times)
Electoral Map For Bloomberg Win (Gothamist)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Saturday Special

Sorry I missed my usual posting yesterday. I spent the day in LIC where I was negotiating a land deal. So much has been said about a housing slowdown nationally, and even in the fringe markets in NYC, but I have to say LIC, specifically Hunters Point is a heck of an exception. Seems that there is a real land rush on out there, as it is evident that the area is transforming quickly, and prime development lots are becoming harder and harder to find. I think it's fair to say that prices for buildable square footage is up at least 50% over the past 2 years, and gaining momentum. As one broker with 3 lots on 46th Road off Vernon put it when quoting me a price: '2.6 Million per lot, that's today's price, at the rate things are going, it will be 2.8 Million next week, and 3 Million by the end of the month'. Scary part is, he's not kidding!
Here are some link that I missed yesterday:
Brokers turning down overpriced listings (The Real Deal)
Clinton Tells Bloomberg, Please Don't Run (NY Post)
Two Window Washers Fall 47 Stories (NY Times)
Ban On Horse Carriages Proposed (NY Times)
Madonna Sues Co-op Board (NY Post)
Oy Vay! Balducci's Offers Chanukah Ham! (NYDN)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thursday Links

Management Of Subways To Be Split (NY Times)
Moynihan Station Tries To Lure Macy's (Curbed)
Tiki Barber And Related Launch Affordable Housing Venture (The Real Deal)
Apple To Open Store On 14th In MeatPacking (NYDN)
NYC Starts Non-Profit To Help Foreclosure Candidates (NY Post)
Foreclosure Trend In Brooklyn: Flat To Down (Brownstoner)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Bush To Outline 5 Year "Rate Freeze" For Sub-Prime Loans

Reuters and various other news sources are reporting today that President Bush will outline a 5 year "rate freeze" plan for sub-prime borrowers who took out mortgage loans between Jan 1, 2005 and the end of this past July. The plan is targeted towards sub-prime borrowers who were enticed by teaser rates during the period and who have managed to keep up with payments to date. There are approximately 1.8 Million people who fit into this category who face possible default when the teaser rates are reset to market rates. Those with poorer payment habits are still eligible, but I guess they'll have to beg.
Is it just me, or does this all reek somehow? I'm not sure why the average taxpayer is paying the price for the poor judgement of both banks who should know better and for buyers who obviously overspent and could not have been dumb enough not to realize that a teaser rate is just that. It also reeks of something distinctly anti-capitalist, does it not? Wouldn't it be fair to assume that this "rate freeze" (really sounds like something out of Ann Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged'), will result in banks having to ask for higher rates for people who actually have good credit and are qualified for a mortgage loan? Why should the responsible pay and the irresponsible be bailed out? Won't such a rate freeze just prolong the housing shakeout?
Concurrently, I have not heard of any significant legislation that actually forces mortgage lenders to clean up their practices by law. So, effectively, we have a wound and a band aid, but no stitches or antiseptic. By the same reasoning, how about people that took teaser credit card rates, spent beyond their means, and cannot handle the real rate? Are they and the credit card companies that fronted them the money the next ones to get bailed out? And we joke about France!
Bush To Outline 5 Year Rate Freeze (Reuters)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Congestion Pricing Takes A Beating At 86th St. Meeting

When asked by an audience member who in the audience disagreed with the mayor's congestion pricing plan everyone out of the group, nearly 100 raised their hands with only 2 or 3 agreeing with the plan.
The crux of the issue was that East Siders were uncomfortable with was the fact that Manhattanites would bear the brunt of the expense of such a plan, while those coming from the burbs would essentially get a free ride since the tolls they pay would be credited towards the pricing plan. Most in the audience saw the plan as another tax, or revenue grab. To complicate the meeting, the city had few clear and concise answers. When asked what percentage of traffic was actually generated by people in the zone, there was no answer. When asked whether residents would have to pay $4 just to move a car for alternate side of the street parking, the answer was a vague "well, there is not a camera on every corner". Not much of an assurance. There were also serious questions about ramifications of the traffic pattern whether the line is drawn on 86th or 60th. The community thought either scenario would be a nightmare. People also felt as though the process was being railroaded without consideration of the people that it will effect the most. Apparently, community input meetings were scheduled on Thanksgiving week with only 2 days notice. If the constituency actually has a say in this program, you can bet that it will look much different. More later.....

Monday, December 3, 2007

Condo Market Update: Upper East Side

Area: Upper East Side
Median New Condo $/psf: $1,494.
Median New Condo Price: $1,900,000.
Price Ranges:
Studio: $495k-$735k
1 Bedroom: $620k-$1.4Mil.
2 Bedroom: $835k-$3.4Mil.
3 Bedroom: $1.62 Mil.- $5.2Mil.
4 Bedroom: $2.75Mil.-$13.7Mil.
5 Bedroom: $4.24Mil.-$17.9Mil.
Condo prices on the Upper East Side have remained stable, while high end new releases have come into the market and sold very well. A great example is 255 East 74th Street. With 2 bedrooms starting at $2.25 Mil and 3 beds starting close to $3.5 Mil., the building has been selling like hotcakes. So much so that the building was better than 50% sold out before they spent $1 on marketing- talk about well received! They are not alone, The Lucida, with average prices above $1700psf is already 85%+ sold. The Brompton, the Robert A.M. Stern project which is more reasonably priced and opened later is around 60% sold. While pricey new condos may scare off potential buyers of moderate means, there are still some relatively reasonable new condos and new condo conversions with prices that are a bit more palatable. If you are looking for a studio or 1 bedroom and don't mind going a bit East in the 80's and 90's there are numerous options below $750k. If it is a family sized apartment that you need, there are a handful of options available for less than $2 Million in the 70's and 80's. The king of amenities, Miraval Living, has some units as low $1.8, and if it's the ever coveted PS 6 school district that is of utmost importance, at last check, The New Yorker Condominium had a 3 bedroom left for just under $2 Million.
In synopsis, the Upper East Side market has held very strong, while the appetite for higher and higher priced apartments is quite healthy.
Our full investment guide on Upper East Side condos is available upon request via email.

Congestion Pricing Plan Going From Bad To Worse?

Details are quickly emerging over various changes to the mayor's congestion pricing plan. Here are some of the new ideas being floated:
-move Northern border to 60th Street
-higher fees for on street parking
-new tax on parking garages (as if 18.25% is not enough)
-less cameras, reducing admin costs to 25% vs. 40%.
Personally, I do not like the plan, or any of the changes. Imagine trying to get onto the 59th St. Bridge if the border was at 60th? As if driving down 2nd Avenue was not impossible as it is. New taxes, higher fees? We pay enough! And, worst of all, commuters from the Tri-State area that come in a clog up our streets essentially get a free ride as their fees are offset by existing tolls. This plan continues to shape up as punishment for New Yorkers and only New Yorkers. I would love to see NYC Streets less congested and I would love less pollution, but New Yorkers should not be the only ones forces to foot the bill.
Public Criticism Has Congestion Pricing Commission Considering Changes (NY Daily News)
86th St: Congestion Pricing Battle Line (Streetsblog)
Bloomberg's Congestion Pricing Plan Shifts Gears (Crain's)
Upper East Side Forum On Congestion Pricing Tonight 7 p.m. (Streetsblog)

Monday Links

Buyers and Sellers At Stalemate (NY Times)
Clinton To Call For Foreclosure Freeze (WSJ)
Soundproofing Windows A Trend With Developers (NY Times)
Groundbreaking For 7 Line Extension (amny)
Gracious Home To Open In Chelsea (Crain's)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Day Trip: Cut Your Own Tree In Ct.

Place: Easton, Ct.
Distance From City: 63 Miles (1hr-1.5hr by car)
Project: Cut your own tree!
Pluses: Fresh Air, Family fun including, Hay Ride, Farm Animals, Cider, and of course, the freshest tree you can find, big or small for $55.
Comments: Had fun when I took the family and a few friends to the tree farm yesterday. Even though it was but cold, the kids had a blast. They had lots of fun on the hayride, pretending to feed the pair of live oxen, and loved running around 200 acres of gorgeous trees. I scored a super-fat 7' Colorado Blue Spruce which after erecting it in my living room, I realized, looked much smaller in it's natural habitat. The actual chore of cutting the tree is easier than it sounds. You are provided a saw, a tag for the tree, and a hayride to your chosen destination on the farm (different areas have different species). When you find your tree (that's the hard part since there are so many), cutting it usually takes 1-5 minutes. After you put your tag on the tree, you drag it to a nearby tree pick up area and it's is taken down the hill and tied up for you. A great day trip for the whole family. Bundle up, since it's usually 10 degrees cooler up there compared to the city.
Maple Row Farm (Easton, Ct.)

Snow Comes A Little Early This Year

Surprise, surprise! New Yorkers woke up to up to an inch of snow this morning and temperatures in the low 20's. The storm brewing in the Midwest was not supposed to reach our area until late afternoon, and at that point it was to be mixing with rain. A couple more inches could be in store today before a potentially dangerous ice storm could break out. Of course, forecasters can be wrong like they were last night.
Many of us have gotten used to mild winters here in the city. For those new to New York, generally speaking, if you see a flurry by Thanksgiving, or an accumulating snow before Christmas, it's early. Perhaps a real winter is on it's way.