Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Morning Links

Our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Mumbai.
Limited links this morning as I am remote and my laptop is just about out of juice. More later....
High Line Group Prods Related To "Save The Spur" (Observer)
Home Shoppers Rush In As Rates Fall (USA Today)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sixth Ave From Flower District To Herald Square: Kondylis Row If All Goes To Plan

"The Remy", 28th +Sixth- Inactive

835 Sixth Ave, 53 story condo/hotel on the way

Sixth bet 29th and 30th, 30 story tower if all goes well

The Future Tower 111

The current lot for Tower 111 (32nd and Sixth)

There is an impressive stretch from 28th Street to 32nd Street on Sixth Avenue where plans are filed and huge empty lots await a skyscraping bunch of condos with plenty of retail at the bases. One, between 29th and 30th is well underway, but you have to wonder about the others. Interestingly, Costas Kondylis, has an opportunity to dominate the area, but will it all go according to plan?

NW Corner of 28th and Sixth- This was billed as The Remy, and has been for a couple of years. It was designed by Costas Kondylis and would be a 31 story condo. The site now sits inactive.

Entire West Side of Sixth Ave from 29th to 30th- 835 Sixth is well underway. The 625,000 sf building by JD Carlisle Group is expected to rise 53 stories and combine lower floor retail with a 302 unit condo-hotel. Perkins/Eastman, architect- huh- no Kondylis?

Entire West Side of Sixth Avenue from 30th to 31st- From secretive developer Joseph Cherit, a 30 story condo tower with ample retail at the base. Designed by Costas Kondylis.

SW Corner of 32nd and Sixth. Tower 111, it's working name, is expected to rise 48 stories and house 337 units and more retail at the base. This is also by architect, Costats Kondylis.

It will be a banner couple of years for Costas if this all goes off, however the only one above ground at this point isn't his.

Mortgage Rates Drop Almost 1 Point In One Day On Fed's Plan

$7.7 Trillion later, it looks like the Fed and Treasury have finally done something to lower mortgage rates. Yesterday's $800 Billion plan aimed at "consumers" funnels $600 Billion to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy up debt. The mortgage market in response saw rates from from 6.38% to 5.5%. A significant drop in rates is an absolute must to stimulate the ailing housing market, and the Fed's move, though belated, is a relief. Let's hope that this is not just a quick knee jerk reaction, but a trend that will hold and continue.
U.S. Mortgage Rates Drop Most In Seven Years On Fed Plan (Bloomberg)
U.S. Plans $800 Billion In Lending To Ease Crisis (NY Times)
Trying To End The Mortgage Rate Lag (CNN)
Mortgage Seekers Benefiting From Fed's New Plan (Washington Post)

Wednesday Morning Links

Mortgage Rates Fall Almost A Full Point To 5.5% On Fed Plan (Bloomberg)
Soho Penthouse See better Than 50% Price Chop (Curbed)
Wall Street Bonuses To Be Halved (Observer)
Another LIC Hotel- This Time In Hunters Point (Queens Crap)
Related And Boston Properties Move Forward With 1 Mil. SF Tower On Eighth (The Real Deal)
MTA Text Messaging Plan Starts Monday (NY Times)
Office Rents Drop 3%, First Drop In Seven Years (Crains)
More Fabu Coney Island Renderings (Curbed)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Post Office Rant- I went to the Cooper Station Post Office a couple of minutes ago to buy a stamp and send out a time sensitive letter. Both stamp vending machines were dark and had notices that "as of November 21st, the stamp vending machines will no longer be in service". I was told by an attendant that I would have to wait in line for a stamp (usually a 5-15 minute wait). When I got to the window I told her I felt kind of silly going to the window for a stamp. After some quizzing, she told me that the position of the person who stocks and fixes the stamp machines was eliminated and so were the machines. What wisdom! Now the thousand or so people who go to the post office to buy a stamp or book of stamps from the machines will now have to wait in line, overburdening the attendants and presumably increase the need for more of them, which of course would cost more money than keeping the machines and the guy who stocks them. But then again, it's the post office, so we'll probably end up suffering even more in the name of mismanagement.
P.S. Another sign noted that "as of Nov. 29th we will no longer process passport applications".

A Stroll Down West 14th: Condos And More

14 West 14th, 10 Story, 30 unit, Condo?

Loft 14 (135 W. 14th)

North side of One Jackson (fr. 14th)

333 West 14th condo

446-450 West 14th (retail/office)

Some things never change. That was the thought I had on most of my stroll on West 14th from Fifth Avenue to the Hudson River yesterday. There were several stretches between Fifth and Ninth were the visuals would have been identical in the mid-1970's. I'm talking about beat up bodega-type storefronts, discounters, and buildings that have stood for a Century or greater and haven't been cleaned once in the interim.

Throughout this comforting urban blight there are some recent interlopers which grow more numerous as you go West and build to a crescendo at the Meatpacking District. The first is still a bit of a mystery, 14 West 14th. A permit is filed for a 40,000 sf, 10 story, 30 units building by architect, Kiska Group. No rendering was available on the architect's website, a google search was equally fruitless, and there is no indication, but it's likely to be a condo. Over the next few blocks, with the exception of One Jackson which peers over 14th at Eighth Avenue (although not actually on 14th), the interlopers take the shape of the mini-condo. These clean and glassy structures seem a bit out of place, like a visitor from the future. They also seem a bit lonely, not high profile splashy condos, but smaller boutique condos that don't get the same kind of attention. Sales of these units seem mixed. They fetch a pretty penny- $1300/ft. and up (and up), but there appear to be some prime units left at both 333 West 14th and Loft 14 (135 West 14th). You would think that someone would show these condos a little love. After all, they are smack in the middle of what is left of the real New York and with a close proximity to The High Line, Meat Packing, West Village and Chelsea, you couldn't be better situated.

As you head farther West it would seem that the transformation of the Meat Packing District to high end retail district continue in earnest. With the High Line as it's engine for optimism, every inch of usable or restore able space seems to either utilized or well on its way. The Standard Hotel (see yesterday's blog) on 13th and the river will certainly help fuel this trend. One interesting building was right across from the Mobil station, another High Line straddler, 446-450 West 14th. The lower 5 floors will be retail, it will have a roof deck, and then office space above.

While New York has changed quite a bit, you can only see it in bits and pieces on West 14th- until you get to the Meat Packing District that is!

Tipster: Gossip Girl Shooting At Dylan's Candy Bar This Morning

Tipster writes in:

Spotted... Gossip Girl shooting at Dylan's Candy Bar this morning. Vans around the corner listed Rufus, Vanessa, Eric and Lily as characters in the scene today. No spoilers here, as the windows were covered with gauze. This trendy show has shot all over the city in recent months with scenes at STK, One Oak, Pianos just to name a few hot spots.

A. Fine: "What's Gossip Girl"? Kidding, but I've never seen it.

Tuesday Morning Links

A Look Inside Calatrava's WTC Hub (Curbed)
A Look Inside The 7 Train Extension (Observer)
Architects Taking It On The Chin As New Development Dwindles (Crains)
Corcoran Calls Off Holiday Party (Observer)
Obama Rally Continues, Biggest 2 Day Gain Since 87' (NY Times)
Florida's New Home And Condo Sales Rise For 2nd Month In A Row (Marketwatch)
National Home Sales Down Slightly, Prices Down Big (CNN)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Balazs' Standard Hotel To Open 1st Week Of December

The Entry

Half draped

A party tent is being erected, drapes grace the windows on the lower 7 floors, and there are already well dressed (somewhat snooty looking) attendants roaming the ground floor. According to a staffer in the building they are ready for soft launch and their first guests on December 1st. I tried to cajole my way in to have a look at one of the finished rooms only to be told that the first pictures will be a Vanity Fair exclusive- excusez-moi! So, what I saw from the outside looking up was off-white sheer drapes, a white orb-like lighting fixture and a sixties-ish looking white chair at each window- so much for an exclusive. While the upper floors looked like they had a ways to go the lower 7 floors looked just about finished, as did the bright yellow revolving door. So finally, The Standard looks like a reality.
Citi "Rescued". In case you haven't heard, news came in overnight that the US Gov't has agreed to bailout part 2 for Citigroup. The deal involves a $20 Billion cash infusion (on top of the $25 Billion last month), over $300 Billion in loan guarantees, and a potential additional $15 Billion kicked in by the Treasury and FDIC should Citi see further devaluation in the junk paper the gov't is guaranteeing (oh, like that won't happen). In return the taxpayers receive preferred stock with an 8% dividend, warrants if things get worse, and one less bank failure to roil the financial markets. So, who's next?
U.S. Approves Plan To Help Citigroup (NY Times)
Citigroup Faces Further Loses, Share Dilution (Bloomberg)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weekend Links

Sky High End Loses Altitude (NY Times)
Inventory Rises, Sales Drop (NY Times)
The National Luxury Real Estate Wrap (Luxist)
Churches Forced To Boot Homeless (NYDN)
More Real Estate Related Tax Issues For Rangel? (Gothamist)
Mall Santas Out In The Cold This Year (Gawker)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Citi Watch: No Town Cars This Morning

Citigroup is clearly on the rocks. One has to assume that the Treasury and The Fed are again working overtime this weekend on some sort of scheme to rescue (if you can call it that) the bank. Many indicators point to either a nationalization of the bank, a break-up, or a combination of these, happening this weekend. It would appear that the leak of President-Elect Obama's pick for Treasury Secretary was timed to give added legitimacy to any negotiations which will likely involve the potential nominee Timothy Geithner.

If the Fed and Treasury are plotting and planning this weekend, it would appear that the negotiations were not happening at the Citigroup building this morning. There were no abundance of black town cars parked outside. So, perhaps, negotiations are being undertaken downtown at the NY Fed offices?

We'll keep a close eye out. Something will happen this weekend.

Union Square Holiday Market Open For Business

They picked a great day, brilliant sunshine and sub-freezing temperatures, what better to get you in the holiday spirit.? Yes, the Union Square holiday market is officially open. Some merchants are still putting the finishing touches on their booths. The nice thing about the market is that there is a wide variety of products which are not found everywhere and prices are cheap and cheerful.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Afternoon Rally On Obama's Tresury Pick

The Dow Jones Industrial Average put on a pretty decent 500 point rally that started with President-Elect Obama's choice for Tresury Chief, Tim Geithner. Geithner currently serves as NY Fed Chief and has been involved with most of the bailout deals with the current Treasury Sec'y Hank Paulson. The choice removes one key uncertainty that has been a stumbling block to the financial markets. It also adds some continuity to the transition and also allows for the potential of more TARP funds to be deployed before Obama takes office in January.
Geithner Likely To Be Treasury (MSNBC)

Friday Morning Links

3 Days After Paulson Says No Major Bank Would Fail, Citi Explores Options (Bloomberg)
Spring Street Garbage Garage Approved (Curbed)
New Manhattan Sales Data Show 75% Drop In Contract Signings (Curbed)
Grand Central Shoe Shine Biz Down 15% (City Room/NYT)
Local Unemployment Dips In October (City Room/NYT)
Justin Timberlake Buys Big Pad On Washington (Realestalker)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thursday Morning Links

First LEED Certified Affordable Housing In Harlem Breaks Ground (Observer)
Triborough Bridge Officially Renamed R.F.K. Bridge (NY Times)
Bellevue Psychiatric Facility To Become Hotel? (Curbed)
LES/ East Village Rezoning Approved, Finally (Curbed)
Surprising No One, Study Says Cyclists Ignore Traffic Laws (Gothamist)
Los Angeles, New York Foreclosures Drop In October (Property Shark)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Alexander, Below The Radar, Glassing Up

The Alexander, at 250 East 49th Street seems to have gone up and sold well without much attention at all. Just a couple blocks from the U.N., this building features all the bells and whistles and the finest fixins, and according to the sign out front it is 70% sold! Considering the market and the impressive pricing at and average of $1700 per square foot, it amazing that this building hasn't attracted more attention. The one thing aside from impressive sales numbers that stands out is it's very large rounded shape which is getting glassed up as we speak. The pace of construction has also been impressive. A search on the net showed a picture on curbed from January of just a hole in the ground. These guys must have taken that 421-1 deadline pretty seriously!

Cooper Union Clearly Morphing

I was a bit stunned when I took a walk down to Astor Place and Cooper Union yesterday. It is a far cry from what it used to be- a haven for young and disaffected skaters, stoners, and anarchists. The cube in Astor Place, for instance, hasn't the slightest hint of graffiti. The streets are unusually clean. And, between Related's "Sculpture For Living" on 8th and the Cooper Square Hotel there are only one or two beat up walk-ups to break up the recently sanitized area. While, it pains me to see such order in a city that I love for it's grit, at least one new building gives me hope, Thom Mayne's (Morphosis) new Cooper Union Building.

While it may be reminiscent of the Pompidou Museum in it's current state (perhaps it's that external staircase that hasn't been covered yet), the building is clearly non-conformist and creative. It seems to lash out against convention and order. It says that despite all the cleaning and polishing of the area, it still retains some funk, some attitude. My favorite detail, the gash-like rip of the skin of the building to expose an atrium-like feature is not yet apparent. This departure from the ordinary is something that I look forward to.

Cooper Square Hotel Near Completion

It almost finally ready. After a controversial few years, The Cooper Square Hotel looks like it is just days or weeks from entertaining guests. While architect Carlos Zapata's design has both been widely criticized and applauded, I fall into the later category. While it is out of keeping with the surrounding community, this area is clearly changing and becoming far more modern. As modern design goes, I can appreciate the Burj-Dubai-like structure, the cantilever, and the overall feel. It is both clean and interesting.

Wednesday Morning Links

Corcoran's Parent Company On "Endangered" List, Risks Default (Crain's)
Retail: Fifth Avenue Breaks Out The Sale Signs Early (NY Times)
More MTA Madness: $100 Monthly Metrocard Next Year? (NY Times)
Memorial Sloan Kettering Surrenders $5 Mil Contract Deposit On 57th St. Buy (The Real Deal)
Observer Tells The Story Of 2008 Through 28 Properties (Observer)
Woman on 3 Train Fends Off 3 Punks To Save Purse With Green Card (NY Post)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pathetic: NYU's St. Ann Facade Preservation

The shrouded remains Of St. Ann's

A lone stained glass window

This may be one of the most pathetic things I have seen in all of my real estate blogging travels.
Is it the lamest attempt ever at historic preservation, or the world's largest lawn ornament? Whatever you want to call it, I call it mutilation, possibly sacrilege.

In what I guess was an attempt to appease angry area residents and preservationists, NYU, in it's pursuit of building the East Village's tallest building (a dorm, of course), the university decided to preserve the facade, or at least part of it. What is left is a steeple and front door in what is a 60' wide facade which is anywhere from 1' to 24' deep.

Yes, it was a beautiful structure, but to preserve such a small portion to adorn the sidewalk of faceless 26 story dorm is an insult. I really wish they had gone 100% one way or another. But, perhaps, this is a good thing. Perhaps, this will stand as a monument to our warped priorities or a warped culture, and future generations will learn from it. In the meantime, it is one of the most hideous displays in the city.

A little backround: At 120 East 12th Street once stood St. Ann's Church, built in 1847. From 1847 til 1856 it served as the 12th Street Baptist Church. From 1856-1868 it was home to Temple Emanu-El. And finally it was St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church.

Could The Corporate Stadium Sponsorship Curse Be Back?

It was a sign of the times. Excessive and overconfident corporations during the late 1990's and early 2000's that made a big splash, spending big money to have stadiums and arenas named after them. The corporations came from the internet field, telecommunications, and energy. Many of them went bust within months of a game actually being played in their new namesakes. This was one heck of a trend 6-8 years ago. Could history be repeating itself?

In 2001 the home of the Patriots was named for the internet company, CMGI, but before a game was even played there the company went kaput, bankrupt in 2002. Same for the Tennessee Titan's sponsor, Adelphia and the Adelphia Colesium, the communications company went bankrupt in 2002. The Baltimore Ravens sponsor suffered the same fate, remember PSInet? R.I.P.. And, of course, the most infamous of them all, Enron Field, home of the Houston Astros. We all know what happened there.

Corporate sponsorships have continued. Sure, after the excesses of the internet bubble, things calmed down for a few years, but now stadiums are commanding more money than ever for corporate sponsorships. The big suitors with the big money this go around? The banks. Oh, the irony!

Just 2 years ago, Citigroup paid $400 Million for the naming rights for the new home of The New York Mets. Since then, the stock is down over 80% and the workforce has been slashed better than 20%. Barclay's Bank made a similar deal for the naming rights to the Nets proposed home in Brooklyn. Since the announcement in January the stock has gone from $40 to $9. And there are many more from the TD Bank North Garden in Boston, M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Bank Of America Stadium in Charlotte and so many more. So, perhaps the Stadium Sponsor jinx is back in full effect. If it is, at least Barclay's has an out clause for the end of this year- it just might want to use it.
Flashback: Stadium Sponsor Curse Still Haunts Firms (CNN-2003)
A List Of Stadium Naming Rights (ESPN)

Tuesday Morning Links

Monday, November 17, 2008

Citigroup Announces 2nd Largest Layoff In US History

Citigroup announced today that it's latest round of layoffs will total 52,000 employees or close to 20% of it's workforce. Only IBM's announcement in 1993 of a 60,000 job cuts was larger. This is especially painful to New York City, as Citigroup is NYC's 2nd largest employer.
Did I mention the stadium naming jinx?
Citigroup to Cut 50,000 jobs (Marketwatch)
Citigroups Layoff Of 52,000 Makes History (Crain's)
Trend Watch- Why wait to move into a new condo to meet your neighbors? A new trend is taking hold, message boards and blogs to unite neighbors before they even close on their condos. Sure some of the info may not always be precise, and the collectivism and rapid dissemination of info can keep developers on their toes, but such is life with the Internet.

A reader who is a future owner of a unit at 10-63 Jackson in LIC, with a message board (, reminded me of this trend. I also had a few owners of 5SL passing along info, some accurate, some not, from their message board. It's not all gripes or comparing notes, in many cases relationships and alliances are being built before people even meet face to face.

If you've had an experience of note as a result of a building message board or blog, do tell, I'd love to report on it.

The "Patrick -Taylor" Mortgage Fix Worth A Look

While all those in Washington- The Fed, Congress, Treasury, and White House have been all but absent in putting forth a plan that would actually do something about the core of the credit crisis- mortgages, there are plenty of plans that have been floated that make sense. One of them is the "Patrick-Taylor" plan which was detailed in the Saturday edition of the NY Times. The plan calls for a refinancing of all the loans that are entangled in the securitized mortgage web, a total of $1.1 Trillion. This move would re-inflate the value of all those CDOs and the like which have tanked Wall Street. Such re-inflation would be a bailout in itself to Wall Street and would staunch the flow of foreclosures. Ok, so it's a little complicated, but it seems to make sense. Before I try to explain the whole scheme, perhaps you should just read the article:
Fair Game: A Rescue Plan Without Taxpayer Money (NY Times)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weekend Links

An Ode To FSBOs (NY Times)
"Price Guarantees" Being Written Into Contracts At New Developments (NY Times)
Snow In The Forecast This Week For NYC? (Weather Underground)
Persian Gulf Shares Slide On Fear Of Real Estate Bust (Bloomberg)
Luxist's National Luxury Real Estate Wrap (Luxist)
MTA Getting Hammered On Lower Real Estate Receipts (Dallas Morning News)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Union Square Gets Curbed, Paved, And 9 Japanese Pagoda Trees

Major progress has been made on the North end of Union Square Park and the Farmers will be moving into their new, nicer spaces starting next week. Granite curbs have been installed, pavers cover the entire area, and best of all the 9 Japanese Pagoda trees have made a fall arrival after all!

It is a dramatic improvement from the beat up asphalt jungle that it was before. The clean, open space, with the addition of the trees and the crook neck throw back lampposts exude sophistication and a Parisian feel. I am sure that the farmers and shoppers alike will be happy as the new space has been designed with drainage in mind. The farmers have also been promised electrical and plumbing facilities, but I as of yet to figure out where they are located. So far so good at Union Square!

Friday Morning Links

City Council Rubber Stamps Mayor's Willets, Hunter Point Plans (CityRoom)
Lux Brokers Turn To Wine And Whiskey To Warm Up Buyers (NY Times)
Co-op And Condo Inventory Near High Water Mark (Miller Samuel via Curbed)
Rents Down, Inventory Up (Observer)
Qatar's Sovereign Fund To Buy More Real Estate In 09' (Bloomberg)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rental Deals, Incentives Increase, Prices Down

A Large 1 Bedroom doorman, $2800. offered with no fee in the East 60's off Third

There seems to be a marked increase in discounting and incentives for rental properties lately. Supply is up and landlords are reaching a point of aggressiveness not seen since the tragic events of 9/11.

The emails keep coming and the number of incentives are piling up. More and more landlords who have never paid the brokerage fee are now doing so, and those who are not are making up for it with aggressive pricing, or both. While the NYC vacancy rate is now estimated by various sources to be anywhere from 2%-5%, this is a far cry from 15 months ago when it was widely accepted that the rate was less than 1%. If I had to throw a number out there, I'd say the vacancy rate is 4%+ and slowly climbing.
As for pricing, while some apartments are keeping the premium, some are at prices I haven't seen in years. What were $2600 and $2800 studios are now going from $2000-$2400. 1 bedrooms that would have fetched $3400, going for $2800. And 2 bedrooms are seeing prices up to $1000 lower than this time last year. It seems like turn back the clock on pricing time. Some are saying rental prices are down 2% or 3%, I'll give it to you straight- they are down 10% and in some instances 20%. One thing is for sure, it's a great time to be a renter (for once).

133 West 22nd Pretty Much Done In More Ways Than One

I passed 133 West 22nd Street today, and the building looks just about finished. This building actually sold so quickly, it passed by many radars without much attention. Out of 90 apartments, it's 96% sold. While the building didn't get nearly the attention that Yves did, the two buildings have one thing in common- the involvement of Ben Shaoul, of Magnum. While Ben gets plenty of attention for his relatively young age, 30 or 31 now, he should get attention for putting up 2 developments that knocked the cover off the ball. He's definitely a candidate for the coveted A. Fine Blog "Developer Of The Year" award. My only disappointment is that the right side of the building doesn't seem nearly as wavy as the original rendering.

Thursday Morning Links

Council Expected To Approve Hunters Point South Development (Crain's)
Deal Struck On Willets Point (Crain's)
Pepsi Sign Dismantled (Curbed)
Dubai Faces Hit As Property Boom Fades (WSJ)
Sign Of The Times: Bridge And Tunnel Traffic Drop 7% In Oct. (NY Times)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday Morning Links

As Drudge Report happily headlined for 2 days this week, the U.S. Government has given away $2 Trillion in aid to banks, financial companies, insurance companies or anyone who decided to call themselves one and refuses to account for it. Oh, if they told us where it went that would cause a run on those companies, and only hurt us they say. Then there is the $700 Billion dollar aid package that further nationalizes risk and amounts to a handout to banks who are happy to turn around and pay it out in bonuses and dividends- business as usual. What about the American homeowner who started this whole mess? Out in the cold, apparently. The mangy $50 Bil. for mortgage workouts has been scaled back. This paragraph from a NY Times article out today says it all. Quoting the head of the FDIC:

The plan “falls short of what is needed to achieve wide-scale modifications of distressed mortgages,” Ms. Bair said in a written statement on Tuesday. “As we lend and invest hundreds of billions of dollars to help institutions suffering leveraged losses from defaulting mortgages, we must also devote some of that money to fixing the front-end problem: too many unaffordable home loans.”

A Continuing disgrace.
White House Scales Back a Mortgage Relief Plan (NY Times)
Other links:
Banks Unwillingness To Lend An Ominous Sign For New Condos (The Real Deal)
Broker Looks For 4 Month, $6.5 Mil. Flip At Ritz Carlton (Observer)
The 20 Cheapest Apartments In Manhattan (Cityfile)
Construction Watch: Lincoln Center Shaping Up (Curbed)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Toll Brothers Offers Gruesome 4th Quarter Preview- Toll Brothers, the nation's largest luxury home builder reported overnight that it's 4th quarter sales would drop 41% vs. last year. Cancellations of contracts reached 30%. Bob Toll, the company's CEO noted that demand and traffic had dropped to a record low. Toll insisted that the government must get involved, perhaps by offering a tax credit to new buyers. More:
Toll Revenue Drops 41% as Luxury-Home Demand Slumps (Bloomberg)
Toll Brothers Reports Preliminary 4th Q Numbers (Marketwatch)

Tuesday Morning Links

MTA Mess: Fares And Tolls Likely To Increase Substantially (Bloomberg)
NYC List As One Of 5 Markets Most Likely To Rebound (MSNBC/Forbes)
NYC Proposes Bike Parking Requirement For New Buildings (AP)
Urban Digs Takes Digs At NYT Article Belatedly Calling Downturn (Urban Digs via Curbed)
Extell's West Side Medical Mart Steams Cleveland (Curbed)
Trump Soho Tops Off At 46 Stories (The Real Deal)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Manhattan: Upscale Residential On 101st And Lex

In case my last article on Carnegie Hill Place didn't convince you that luxury was lurching up Lex, here is another example: 1595 Lexington on 101st Street. I have confirmed with the owner of the building that this will be a luxury rental. One thing is for sure, this is not your average cookie-cutter. The 54,000 square foot building that will house both retail and 40 apartments is designed by Stephen B. Jacobs and Andi Pepper Interior who also designed Hotel Gansevoort, 325 Fifth Avenue and Hotel Giraffe as well as several others.

Pretty starchitect-ish for Harlem.

And if that's not enough for you- El Paso Taqueria, my favorite Mexican eatery in the city is just 2 blocks away!

Luxury On Lex Stretches Past 96th Street- Another 300 Units On 98th

A Third building is being added to the Carnegie Hill Place, and construction seems to be moving along at a pretty good clip. The new building will be 18 stories and house 298 luxury rental units as well as 16,000 square feet of retail. The location is on the west side of Lexington between 97th and 98th. All told, the 3 buildings combined will have a total of 669 units. A look at Carnegie Hill Place's website would indicate only 7 available apartments, or a slim vacancy rate of 2%. The available studios start at $2495, 1 beds from $2895., and 2 beds from $4895.. The developer, Kenbar group, is clearly onto something- the old "border" of 96th Street seems to be coming down block by block.

LIC: "Prism", Condo With Light Show Neighbors One Hunters Point

(image credit:Gilman Architects)

"The Prism" (near), "One Hunters Point (far)

Thanks to the commenter who asked me to look into the building which is rising just West of One Hunters Point. A fantastical building it will be. "The Prism" (working name for now), an 81 unit condo, will rise 125 feet on Borden Avenue between 5th Street and Vernon. This is no ordinary condo- this one comes with a 24 hour color light clock. As you can see from the rendering (which will soon be updated), there is a gap in the middle of the building that gives the illusion of a twist. That gap will be filled with a 24 hour light display with one color for every hour. If your building is cool blue, that means it's probably 3 in the morning and you've had a good night. Bright Red? Well, it's probably 11 am and you are late for work! The colors will slowly change hour by hour. The developer is also in talks with the MTA to see if it can project colors onto the monolith that houses the ventilation for the Midtown Tunnel a tad West of the new condo.

More details:
a water feature with a bridge to the lobby
ample parking
glass curtain wall
excellent views
marketing expected to start just around the new year
pricing yet to be revealed

Tom Gilman, founder and principal in charge of Gilman Architects, is the brains behind this project. I have to hand it to him, the project is imaginative and the antithesis of the plain jane condos that have become all too common in LIC. For once, it looks like the creative spirit of LIC may be properly reflected in one of its projects. You can add this to your list of colorful characters in LIC!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Weekend Wrap Up And Comment

Leave it to the NY Times, to make a big, gloomy headline and then back it up with a hodgepodge of facts that don't necessarily back up the argument. While the headline "A Downturn Begins" is sensationalist, the numbers The Times uses are downright schizophrenic. The cover graphic is inconsistent- it cites condo prices for areas like the Upper East Side and Upper West Side (which were good) and condo and coop prices for Harlem and Midtown East (which were bad). Why not just compare apples with apples? Also, I don't think I've ever heard Turtle Bay called a "fringe area" before. While the Times tries to explain that numbers for an area like the UWS were skewed by 15 CPW closings, the article in general is off kilter.

Here is what is really going on in the market. Sales have slowed down. It is a buyer's market. Prices in prime areas of Manhattan have not changed appreciably, but there is much more negotiability and bidding wars are gone. In these prime areas, you are looking at 5-10% off the true peak numbers of a year ago. In real "fringe" areas, like Harlem, prices have contracted at a greater pace.

It may be news to the Times, but the real downturn began last November, and it was confirmed and reinforced by the Bear Stearns debacle in mid-March of this year. When you are just taking straight condos sales numbers, you are offering a backward looking, inaccurate assessment of the market. Most new condo closings reflect contracts that were signed 12-18 months ago.

NY Times Belatedly Calls Real Estate Downturn (NY Times)
Ex-Wives Do Their Part To Keep NY Real Estate Afloat (Observer)
National Weekly Luxury Real Estate Wrap (Luxist)
Prices And Inventory Continue Down In Major Metro Areas (PRWeb)
City Pays Through The Nose For Willets Point Property (NY Post)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Two Boots Opens On 84th And Second

Two Boots, yes the Cajun/Italian pizza paradise, has opened on the Upper East Side. 84th and Second Avenue to be exact. Last night, its first, was a free pizza frenzy from 6:00 to 8:00. While pizzas were flying at the rate of 1 per minute, I still managed to get my hands on 3 half-slices of "Newman"s. Oh, they were just as good as the shops in the East Village and on Bleecker Street. I'm a happy man!

LIC North: Crescent Club Moving Along

Passed Crescent Club this morning (on Queens Blvd and Crescent St.) and things seem to be moving along quite nicely. In fact, unlike most LIC buildings, this one is nearly on time! According to a colleague intimately familiar with the building, they are over 70% sold. Closing are expected by January or February of 2009.

LIC North: Queens Blvd Muni Garage Finally In Demo

It's been a long time coming, but the hideously ugly municipal parking garage at the corner of Queens Blvd and Jackson Avenue is finally in demolition phase. Just a small but important part of the future Queens Blvd beautification plan that will include a small park just on the other side of the garage, as well as Park Avenue-like planters up and down Jackson Avenue, as well as other improvements. The muni garage lot will house an 800,000sf office building, part of Tishman Speyer's ambitious 3.2 Mil square foot Gotham Center development.
Related Articles:
LIC's Mega Project Is Healthy, Happening (Curbed, 10/17/08)
Big Tishman Project Moves Forward In LIC (The Real Deal 5/15/08)
Condo Explosion In LIC North (A Fine Blog 10/03/07)

LIC: Solarium Rising Quickly, Going Green!

It is going to be a while before this one hits the market (spring), but the quickly rising Solarium condo in LIC should have a lot going for it. On a desirable stretch of 48th Avenue, 2 doors East of 5SL, Solarium will be Long Island City's first legit LEED certified green building. The full service doorman concierge building will have 40 units, plenty of outdoor space, and a green roof with pool. While the Schedule A pricing is still a ways off, the studio, 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments are to be priced very competitively. Stay tuned.

Friday Morning Links

World's Largest Real Estate Conglomerate (Inc. Corcoran, Sotheby's, and CB) Loses $50 Mil In 3rd Quarter (Observer)
Mayor Plans "Plastic Bag Tax" (NY Times)
Obama Racks Up More Votes In Areas Worst Hit By Real Estate Downturn (Phoenix Business Journal)
Citi, Goldman Begin Handing Out Pink Slips to 12,000 This Week (
Prosecutors Let Spitzer Off The Hook (Crain's)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Two Park Views For Skyline Altering One Madison Park

One Madison Park, The condo to the stars designed by Cetra Ruddy and Koolhaas has made quite an impact on the skyline as seen from Union Square. Looking north from 14th Street, the building gives the optical illusion of being as tall as the Empire State Building.

While some may be irked that the building blocks some views, the lucky few who will live inside of the building certainly won't be complaining. While the Madison Square Park views are highlighted, it would seem that many residences will enjoy the view of Union Square Park as well.

Must be nice!

15 USW Loses The Garbage Bags, Tops Off

It was quite unsightly for a while, adorned with black tarps resembling huge garbage bags. Yet, the tarps that was swinging off the building are gone, and our 2007 "condo of the year" is looking better than ever. It is clear that the building has been topped, and it is getting glassed up pretty quickly. And oh, those arches, just love those arches! The former Tiffany Building looks like it will remain a jewel.

535 West End Avenue Takes Shape

Billing itself as "21st Century prewar residences", 535 West End Avenue, an Extell development, is taking shape. Assuming that the slogan does not portend another war around the corner, I think all is good.

In seriousness, this development is quite intriguing. Perhaps drawing from the success of Robert A.M. Stern with modern classics like 15 CPW and The Brompton, Extell looks like it is going all out to emulate a degree of quality and luxury from a different (better) age. If the website is any indication, it sure looks like a prewar, yet it mixes in modern amenities in demand like a pool, fitness center, and lounge. The other huge plus is that you can live this prewar lifestyle, without having to deal with a crusty old coop board.

I'm not a West Sider, but if I was, given my lust for prewar, this would be well worth a look.

Thursday Morning Links

Development Du Jour: 50 Franklin/Tribeca (Curbed)
Spontaneous Celebrations For Obama Take To The Streets (Vanishing New York)
Cops Mix It Up With Obama Celebrants In Willy B (CityRoom)
"Hard Money Lenders" Thrive As Developers Get Desperate (The Real Deal)
Mayor Seeks Immediate 7% Increase In Property Taxes (Observer)
U.S. Agents Woo Foreign Investors With Mixed Results (Int'l Herald Tribune)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wednesday Morning Links

Big night for Obama, and a big change is coming to America. The world, of course, is thrilled. While we are certain to see more harmony on the international front, the domestic front is a major challenge to say the least. Now comes the hard part!
At least we don't have to hear about Joe the...never mind. Oh, and since Michelle is now first lady-elect, can someone please get her a fashion consultant, pretty please!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

NYC Polls: Upper East Side Mobbed! Harlem, Not So Much

West Side Of Mt. Morris Park Polling Place

Line extending 3 blocks from P.S. 290, 9:15 am

I have never seen lines so long in my lifetime on the Upper East Side. At P.S. 290, on East 82nd Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, lines stretched both East and West from the front door, circled the block and nearly touched on the other side of the block. So, 2 block long lines on both sides. At Wagner Junior High on 76th Street, the line was longer than a block, and on 70th and First, the line was about the same. For people on the 1 block lines, the wait was about an hour. It could be fairly estimated that it was at least a 2 hour wait at P.S. 290.

But here is the shocker. I took a ride up to Harlem expecting even longer lines, but the longest one I could find was only 30 or 40 feet long. In fact there 4 or the 6 polling places I rolled up on had no line at all. They included 106th and 1st Ave, 128th St. West of Malcolm X and the West Side of Mt. Morris Park (minimal line-pictured above). Not what I expected. A small sample, granted, but a shocking one.

Still plenty of time to vote folks! If you haven't done it, get to it!

Election Day Links