Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wednesday Morning Links

Happy New Year's Eve to all.
I raise a toast in the memory of the good old days when some New Yorkers actually went to Times Square and not only were the mailboxes not removed and the manhole covers soldered shut, you could actually bring a bottle of champagne and drink it right there. Back then people would actually linger in the square for hours after, partying, rather than disappearing within minutes of the ball dropping because they have been denied a bathroom break for 12 hours or longer. Ah, the old days.
Harvard Economist Says NYC Will Weather Recession Well (NY Times via The Real Deal)
Casino Owner In Luck With A Double At 15 CPW (Curbed)
5 Franklin Place Development For Sale, Yes The Whole Thing (Curbed)
National House Prices Continue Fall, NYC Falls But Not As Much (The Real Deal)
A Renter's Market For Office Space (NY Times)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

65th + Lex: Another Development Actually Moving Forward?

Two days and Two Upper East Side projects seemingly on the move! Today, I passed by, photographed and obtained information on the newly demolished lot on the Southeast corner of 65th and Lexington Avenue. Just a couple of months ago stood an unremarkable 4 story walk-up on a generous 35'x80' lot. Permits have been filed indicating a 15 story, 25 unit development. This may not seem huge, but just think about the wild $/per square foot that the area would command. The total square footage is unknown, but it's zoned for at least 25,000. So what will it be? Here is where we are seeing another trend indicative of the market- they are going back and forth- it could be a condo, a rental, or even a hotel. Speaking with a representative of the owner, there is one positive, they are confident in financing (knock wood). So, we should see something sprouting soon.

Tuesday Morning Links

Monday, December 29, 2008

A. Fine Blog More Than Triples Viewership In 2008

Thanks to all of the loyal viewers of A. Fine Blog!

Total visits for 2008 were up better than 257% and unique users more than tripled.

Thanks also to Curbed, The Real Deal, NY Observer, NY Times City Room, AM New York's Urbanite, LIQCity, Queens Crap, 2nd Avenue Sagas, 78th and 2nd, Wall Street Journal and The Daily Beast for all of the exposure.

Demolition Begins At 79th + Third, Fate Undecided

In response to a couple of inquiries, I have done some research into the 5 walk-ups that were vacated some time ago on the South East corner of 79th and Third Avenue. Demolition has officially commenced starting today.

Here is what I was able to ascertain about the site. It's zoned for residential with a height limit of 210 feet (21 stories). Cetra/Ruddy has been hired as architect for the site (good choice). And, according to a representative for Skyline Developers, the building will not be a glass curtain number- phew! However, in this climate that is all that is certain. No decision has been made as to whether the new building will be a rental, condo, or some sort of hybrid. The owner has been "going back and forth" on that one. The earliest construction would begin would be later in 2009.

At a minimum, it is good to see something happening on the lot. If the owner is truly undecided, I would recommend something along the lines of a Robert A.M. Stern-styled "Chatham" or "Brompton". Such red brick and limestone architecture would blend well with the neighborhood, and if past sales at those two buildings are any indication, the developer would do very well.

Dorky, Funny, But Effective Argument For Soda Tax

3 years ago I gave up Coca Cola. I also gave up all food that contained high fructose corn syrup. A year later I had lost 30 pounds. I haven't had a soda since and haven't gained a pound since. In fact, simply giving up that one ingredient and largely avoiding partially hydrogenated oils, my overall health has benefited. Losing 30 pounds will have that effect. Fortunately the food industry is catching on, and numerous items on my previously banned list have returned in a healthier form- things like potato chips, Thomas's english muffins, and organic ketchup. Even Pizza Hut had a commercial on tv last night touting that it's "natural pizza" had sauce with no high fructose corn syrup. Talk about progress!

While I differentiate between man-made processed sugar(HFCS) and raw cane sugar (which I have no problem with), I think the state is heading in the right direction with it's soda tax. Obesity is taxing us all to the tune of over $6 Billion per year in added health care costs here in NY State. Soda is a huge contributor. In the video above, NY State Health Commissioner, Richard Daines makes the case with numerous props and a sometimes funny deadpan delivery. While it comes off as straight dorky, he makes a good point.

Monday Morning Links

With two sets of weekend links posted already, there wasn't much left, especially since all the bloggers seem to be on strike or a work slowdown for the holidays, but here are a couple more:
2009 Residential And Commercial Real Estate Preview (Observer)
A $28 Million Foreclosure At 1 CPW? (NY Times)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

More Weekend Links

For more weekend links scroll down the page to Saturday and the "Weekend Links" post.
Pity: Madoff's Palm Beach Home Robbed (NY Post)
$30 Billion In City Pension Losses Could Damage City Gov't (NY Post)
National Luxury Real Estate Round-Up (Luxist)
Lower Rates Fuel Rush To Refinance (Houston Chronicle)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I've Added "Share This" To All Posts

You may notice a new widget attached to every post. The widget by "share this" allows you to share the post with any number of social networking sites, diggit, reddit, delicious, and the list goes on and on. The "share this" icon is a simple one button solution that beats having 20 buttons on the end of each post. Just click on the little green icon at the end of the post and pick your poison. If you like an article please buzz it up, post it, rate it, reddit, etc..etc..

Under Covered Story Of The Year: The Dreier Fraud

If it wasn't for Bernie Madoff, Marc Dreier surely would have been the fraud of the year. While his tally of theft pales in comparison, at only $380 Million, this rich, brash, Real Estate lawyer could easily compete with Madoff in terms of sheer audacity and... let's just call it chutzpah. Not only was Dreier selling fake promissory notes purporting to be those of Solow Realty, he was on occasion doing it right from Sheldon Solow's own offices. As a trusted lawyer for Solow, he would show up unannounced and take up residence in one of the real estate titan's conference rooms and sell the fictitious notes right there. In other situations he would impersonate other lawyers to get the deals closed. In the end, it was a receptionist that did him in. Apparently, one of the people he was impersonating just happened to show up to an office shortly after him. The receptionist saved the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan $33 Million.

The whereabouts of the millions is unknown, but the carnage is pretty clear. At least a dozen hedge funds and pension funds were scammed to the tune of $380 Million, $35 Million that was held in escrow is missing, and 250 lawyers are scrambling for work. It was a well regarded successful firm by all accounts, but in the end Dreier had not paid rent, funded the health care plan of the company, or even paid the liability insurance for the firm.

This is easily the most under covered story of the year. I hope to see a couple of stories by the likes of The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, or NY Times Magazine that really dig into it. While Madoff's madness was indeed the scam of the century, I think the Dreier debacle would make a better movie.
Lawyer Seen As Good Enough To Cheat The Best (NY Times)
Chutzpah Spree By Lawyer Nets $380 Million (Bloomberg)

Weekend Links

$5 Billion In Development Delayed Or Shelved (NY Times)
Living Around: Union Square (NY Times)
Housing Supply Increases, Especially In Near Burbs (NY Times)
Un-Pardoned Real Estate Scammer Would Have Been Able To Get License Back (Newsday)
Wave Of Retail Bankruptcies Likely, Some Look For TARP Funds (WSJ)
Tough Year For Trump: Loses Another Lawsuit (
Sunday Is Last Day For Nostalgia Trains (2nd Ave Sagas)
Did Bernie Have Help? New Focus On Socialite Walter Noel (The Daily Beast)
Low Rates Bring Signs Of Hope In Nevada (KRNV)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Aaarrrrrr! Pirate Like Living On Former Ferry

Courtesy Rob Bennett, New York Times

How would you like 6000 sf, an amazing skyline view, and tons of outdoor space? For free! That is the setup that five people have living on what was a ferry boat from Cape Cod. It may be a spartan existence, but the price is right. Check the full article and slide show in today's New York Times.

Friday Morning Links

Dreier's $380 Mil. Real Estate Scam Called "Chutzpah Spree" With "Mission Impossible Tricks" (Bloomberg)
South Street Seaport Only For Sale If Someone Is Interested (Curbed)
Record Rental Vacancy Rate Predicted For 2009 (The Real Deal)
Bush Un-Pardons L.I Real Estate Scammer That He Just Pardoned (NY Times)
Debt Market For Distressed Properties Getting Hot (NY Times)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Even though I will be blogging throughout, I wanted to take the opportunity to wish all a wonderful holiday!

Trend Watch: Urban Blight Making A Comeback?

Former "A Building" Condo Showroom

Sign at Union Square

Hydrant on 82nd + Third Ave.

Mailbox on 12th + B'way

For those of you who pine for the old, gritty New York, 2009 may be your year. While the massive city budget cuts have yet to even kick in, signs of urban blight are clearly on the rise. Graffiti appears to be on the rise as more retail remains vacant and unkempt. Subway service is clearly tanking, and basic maintenance on things like street signs and fire hydrants also appear to be lagging. While recent crime stats are mixed, murders were actually up by 5% in 2008, bucking an 18 year trend.

What will 2009 have in store? A solid guess would be a continuation of the trend.
Update 12/26/08: The hydrant has been re-affixed to it's base.

Wednesday Morning Links

While other blogs may be taking a holiday rest for the next week or so, A Fine Blog will keep on chugging. It may be challenging to find fresh links, but I'll find them and provide fresh content. Happy holidays to all!
Construction Union May Finance New Developments (Crain's)
Condo Sales Struggle In 4th Quarter (The Real Deal)
Big Madoff Investor Found Dead (WSJ)
Dreier (Real Estate Lawyer Turned $100 Mil. Con Artist) Had Help (AP)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Around Town: 15 USW In The Red, Rockrose Rentals...

15 USW- Ruby Red for the holidays.

The Lucida (86th+Lex)- It's Official, H+M Coming Soon!

455 West 37th- New Rockrose rental tower opens next month. I was invited to a broker preview and the pricing looked good- studios from $2000, 1 Beds fr $2600, cnv 2's from the low $3000's and 2 beds from the upper $3000's. There was a very large variety of layouts, and thanks to the building footprint, even those with compromised views were bright. Rockrose will be paying brokers, so it will be no fee all around. While the location is challenging, it's priced accordingly.

West Side of 37th + 10th Ave- More Rockrose rentals going up. These towers are at 20 floors and climbing. The Silver Towers are in the background. Despite the tough economy, the area seems to going under quite a boom. Now about that 7 line extension!

Tuesday Morning Links

Revenge Of The Stiffed Uptown Doormen (Observer)
Rudin, Ross Lobby For Federal Help (Observer)
Lawsuit, But No Sign Of Work On Solow's East Side Mega-Site (NY Post)
Is 56 Leonard Another Arrested Development? (Curbed)
Inside Balazs's Standard (Curbed)
MTA Weighs $3 Single Ride Fare (NY Times)
Leviev's Africa Israel Plans Asset Sales (Bloomberg)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Contributing To The Daily Beast

Hey, all. It's been an interesting year in the Blogosphere. To cap the year, I am happy to announce that I will be contributing to "The Daily Beast" on a regular basis.

Listed as having expertise in both real estate and finance, I am honored to be joining Ian Schrager, Barbara Corcoran, and Donald Trump in the real estate section and people like Maria Bartiromo, Mort Zuckerman and Madeleine Albright in the finance section. I only hope that I can humbly live up to such company.

The Daily Beast is the product of former Vanity Fair Editor Tina Brown, with backing from Barry Diller of IAC. While the website is just a couple of months old, it is well-conceived, informative and compelling. I believe that it will be a big winner long-term, which is why I have agreed to contribute.

Monday Morning Links

Good morning everyone! Happy holidays to all.
The big news in the market of late is the big move in mortgage rates. They are dropping like a rock with some 30 year conventional rates quoted as low as 4.5%. As the third link below points out, the number should be even lower. A more traditional spread would have rates at 4%. However, it's hard to complain, and the rush is on to refinance. It would be hard to see rates get much lower.
Mortgage Applications Soar, B of A Sees Market Bottom In Mid-2009 (WSJ)
Mortgage Rates Hover At Historic Low (Detroit Free Press)
Mortgage Rates Should Be Even Lower (Bloomberg)
Low End Now Supporting Real Estate Market (NY Times)
Condos Flood North Williamsburg (NY Times)
Barack's Posh Vacation House (AP via Luxist)
National Luxury Real Estate Round Up (Luxist)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Morning Links

Mortgage Rates Fall To 37 Year Low (WSJ)
City Council Approves 7% Property Tax Increase (NY Times)
The Roll Of A Tax Break In The Housing Bubble (NY Times)
Atlantic Yards: More Questions Than Answers (Observer)
Ft. Green Co-Housing Plan Falls Apart (Brownstoner)
Laurel Construction Accident Damages Nearby PS 183 (The Real Deal)
Treasury Charges That NYC REIT IS A Front For Iran (Guardian/UK)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Madness At Madoff Home

Out of curiosity I stopped by 133 east 64th Street, the home of Bernard Madoff, the swindler of the century. It was quite a scene. At least a couple dozen cameramen and photographers were staked out 4 feet from the front door. There were brief frenzies as it was rumored that Madoff would be coming out. A helicopter briefly roared overhead. A reporter stood on the CNBC truck giving reports. Cameras flashed at every false alarm. This morning at least, Madoff never left his house. A couple of police came and went as well as a couple of very FBI-looking suits. But, no Bernie.

I can only wonder what it would be like to live in the building with the media camped out, from the non-curfew hours of 9 am til 7 pm. Most of the residents were jovial and joking. There were of course a couple of people who acted as if you were dealing them some incredible inconvenience for which they should never have to be subjected. The nerve of those people freezing their asses off for piddly wages covering the greatest Ponzi scheme in modern history.

You also ponder what it would be like to have that same swindler as your coop board president. Hopefully, the board president had nothing to do with investing the reserve fund.

Thursday Morning Links

Madoff Scandal Reverberates With Developers, Landlords, Brokers (NY Times)
Wilpon: Madoff Scandal Will Not Impact Mets (NYDN)
MTA Approves Budget, Faces Copycat Shoe Thrower (NY Times)
The Latest On The MTA Budget Crisis (Second Ave. Sagas)
Some Brokers, Owners Offer Gift Cards With Rental (The Real Deal)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Outrage: Madoff Allowed "House Arrest" In $7 Mil. Crib

Seriously, you must be kidding me! I just read on that Bernie Madoff, the confessed $50 Billion Ponzi scheme thief has just been allowed "house arrest" while he awaits trial. In his case, the house is his $7 Million Park Avenue apartment. Madoff, made the deal when he could not meet his obligation of having 4 people sign a personal recognizance bond for him. Here is a man who ran the largest Ponzi scheme in history, who completely wiped out families and charities, and threatened our fragile financial system. His reward? The comfort of his posh home. Really? Oh, and he only has to be there between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m., presumably so he can enjoy a couple more steak and cigar dinners before he ends up where he belongs-prison! I have a wife and 2 kids and I'm home almost every night by 7, so can we sign up for this "arrest" plan with Bernie on Park Avenue? I'm sure he's got room.

Implications Of The Latest, Last Fed Rate Cut

In terms of stimulating the economy through rate cuts, the Fed is now officially out of bullets. Yesterday's bold move to cut the fed funds rate from 1% to a target of 0%-0.25%, means that strategy is tapped. The implications of the cut are somewhat minimal. The prime rate drops to 3.5% which helps people who have borrowing tied to that rate, but it does not have a direct impact on mortgage rates (at least like it used to).

Not all hope is lost however, as the Fed has plenty of other weapons at it's disposal. Most significantly to the real estate market is the Fed's willingness to buy mortgage backed securities, which, in turn, drives down mortgage rates. The effects are already being seen as rates have dropped significantly in the past few weeks. The Fed made clear in it's statement yesterday that it will continue to buy up these securities, which should, at least in the short term, continue to drive mortgage rates lower. Just in the past few days, 30 year conventional mortgages have been quoted as low as just under 5%. This is a huge plus to the real estate market, as those able to refinance are less likely to lose their homes, impacting supply, and those that are looking for homes have significantly lower prices (nationally) and homes have become significantly more affordable. The Fed has learned a fair amount about what not to do when rates are at 0%. They have the Japanese to thank as a case study.

Between the fed aggressive intervention, low mortgage rates, and well constructed Obama stimulus plan (that should amount to something along the lines of 5% of GDP), there is a glimmer of hope that we may actually have a return to economic growth by the time 2009 has come to a close.

Wednesday Morning Links

Fed Cuts Rates To Near Zero, Pledges To Buy Mortgage Securities (Bloomberg)
Panavision To Split Space Between Manhattan And LIC (Globest)
Avenue B Retail Fading (Curbed/EV Grieve)
Barbara Corcoran Home Buying Tips (The Real Deal/NBC)
Woman Arrested In Apartment Application Scam (NY Post)
Companies Like Extell, Still Able To Secure Large Financing (The Real Deal)
Financing Death Watch: Atlantic Yards (Observer)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday Morning Links

City Gives Feds Green Light To Dump Toxic Sludge In Queens (Queens Crap)
AstroLand Death Watch: The Deconstruction (Curbed)
60 Minutes: Alt A Mortgage Mess Could Be Next (CBS via Curbed)
Fed Expected To Cut Rates By 1/2 Point Today (AP)
Mort Zuckerman's Charitable Trust Loses With Madoff (Bloomberg)
Rapper Doug E. Fresh Faces Foreclosure (US News And World)
What's New? More Bad News From MTA (NYDN)
Shoe Throwing Iraqi An Overnight Celebrity In Arab World (NY Times)

Monday, December 15, 2008

How Much Better Can This "Buyer's Market" Get?

There is an old saying on Wall Street: "buy them when they hate them, and sell them when they love them". No, this wasn't a Bernie Madoff quote, to my knowledge. This saying came up this afternoon when I was giving my sales team a pep talk. It occurred to me, how much worse can the NYC market get? One indicator of a bottom may be an article in the NY Times on Sunday in which a broker was completely unabashed to brag that the condo that she was working had signed 3 contracts in the past month. This, the article argued, is the new definition of "hot". Wow, what a far cry from just a year ago. Another interesting indicator came from Halstead last week. Sensing a very slow market, and bleak prospects for the winter, rather than increase incentives, and spend money on staff and advertising, the decision was made to simply close down the sales offices and put them on ice for now. I would argue that this is a bit defeatist, but that's beside the point. The important question is, have we reached some point of capitulation? Have people so thrown in the towel that we may be nearing a bottom? Is this the darkness before the dawn?

I would not argue that we are at a bottom, however, I would argue that it's better to be a bit early than a bit late. One thing that this market has going for it is that unlike prolonged dips during the 80's and 90's, we have mortgage interest rates at 40 year lows. Such low rates could make a bottom a blink and you miss it bottom.

On an empirical level, I have seen a few interesting developments in the past few weeks. First, the developers are desperate. I know that may seem a bit harsh, and the term applies more to some than others, but they are willing to work with buyers in a big way. Yes, mortgages are harder to get, and 20% down is the norm, but how bad is that if you manage to get the sponsor to write you a closing credit that can range up to 10%? Couple that with low rates, and affordability has increased markedly. Second, we are actually getting busier. Most clients we are seeing now are early bottom fishers. They want a great deal, and depending on their expectation levels some are getting them. How good? I would argue that a desirable apartment a year ago routinely saw a 10% premium to asking when the bidding war settled. Now, not only are asking prices coming down, you can negotiate up to 10%. What does this add up to? In many cases, 20% or more from the peak of the frenzy last year.

Nobody accurately calls a bottom. You always know when one happened months ago, but it is very difficult to time, if not impossible. As soon as the perception turns, the bargains dry up. If and when the developers and owners see a discernible uptick in volume, you can bet that these wild incentives will be gone in a flash. I, for one, am not ready to call a bottom, but all the great investments in real estate in my lifetime have been made when everybody hates them.

Monday Morning Links

NYC Housing Official Obama's Choice For HUD (USA Today)
National Luxury Real Estate Wrap (Luxist)
Trump Faces Tower Of Troubles (Crain's)
New Standard For New Developments, 3 Contracts In A Month Is "Hot" (NY Times)
What Happens When You Move For A School District And Then The District Moves? (NY Mag)
List Of Losers In Madoff's Mad Ponzi Scheme (NY Times)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Morning Links

Mortgage Rates Hit 4 Year Low (Inman)
A Look At "The Fairchild" On Vestry (Curbed)
Iconic Astroland Rocket Could Be For Sale (Curbed)
NYU Drops $210 Mil. On Purchase Of 726 Broadway (Observer)
City Hotel Revenue Down 22% (Observer)
Caroling To Sell Condos (The Real Deal)
Citigroup Center To Be Renamed 601 Lexington (Bloomberg)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Inside The Mind Of...Craig Newmark, 10 Questions

Picture courtesy of MediaBistro

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, the most committed customer service rep in the world, and social activist for change agreed to 10 questions.

Sure, I could have asked more, but, he's a busy man and I appreciate him taking time out for A Fine Blog.

1- Favorite restaurant in NYC?

No specific preference yet, but favorite coffee includes Joe's on Waverly, Sant Ambroeus, Grey Dog, 88 Orchard.

1a- Favorite fast food place (pizza, falafel, Knish, etc..) in NYC?

Gray's Papaya

2- When does the real estate market turn around?

I don't have a clue.

3- Obama won. Really he did! Has it sunk in and what change are you hoping for the most?

Now, the hard part begins, complementing representative democracy with networked, grassroots democracy. That's for real, just starting, a long process. Also, we're seeing a call to service, and people are responding. Me, I contemplate the metaphor in the Obama platform "a craigslist for service."

4- There is plenty of talk about renewable energy. Is there a new technology that you see taking off in the next 5-10 years?

Of interest are wind power generation, solar thermal, and the electric car and infrastructure system (Shai Agassi)

5- I know you are a cause guy. What cause do you fell most strongly about right now?

I'm not a cause guy but more of an on-line community organizer who supports using the net to help solve social issues across the planet. Some examples of folks who are doing a good job of using the net to help are who have a great model for getting education funding directly to the classroom to accomplish educational projects of individual teachers and schools who apply on-line and who are helping support our war veterans returning from the middle east who all of us need to better support. The networked grassroots democracy thing reshapes human history, and the new call to service, those are big to me.

6- What is your favorite NY Real Estate blog, aside from A. Fine Blog, of course?

Of course... and I guess

7- You've been at it for quite some time with Craigslist. Any sense of boredom? What's next?

No boredom, and I'm committed to CL customer service, forever.

8- What's the best book that you've read in the past year?

Maybe Anathem, Neal Stephenson.

9- You visit New York Frequently. If you had to live here, which neighborhood would you choose?

Working on that, probably the Village area, East, West, or maybe Nolita.

Thanks Craig! Let us know when you are moving to NYC, I'm sure A. Fine can take care of you!

Thursday Morning Links

November Foreclosures Drop (CNN)
Not Gonna Happen: Harlem Park (Curbed)
Forest City: "To Put Virtually All New Development On Hold" (Crain's)
Cooper Square Hotel To Open Today (Crain's)
Commercial Mortgage Delinquencies Up, But Below 10 Year Avg. (CPN)
Los Angeles Developments Follow The Nondo Trend (LA Times)
Rich Cowards Shop In Secret (Gothamist)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Random Idea For The MTA: How about a yearly MetroCard? You could charge slightly less, yet get the cash upfront for an entire year. That cash would reduce the amount of cash the MTA would have to borrow and save on interest costs. Just like a monthly MetroCard, if it is paid for by credit card, and lost, the buyer could get a replacement for a small service charge. If just 10% of regular riders buy it, there would be substantial cost savings because the machines would take less wear and tear and require less maintenance. Plus, it would be a major convenience to riders.
Sign me up for the MetroCard "Gold", thanks.

Wednesday Morning Links

Mega Price Chop On Macklowe Buildings (The Real Deal)
A Look At East Harlem's "The Tapestry" First LEED Building In The Area (Observer)
(Chart) Returns On S+P Threaten 1931 Record (BoingBoing.Net)
Council Votes To Increase Hotel Tax (Urbanite)
Stadium Costs To City Continue To Climb (Queens Crap)
Mets Sign A Closer To Go With New Stadium (ESPN)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Lucida: Nexus Of The Drug Store And Coffee Universe!

Newest Duane Reade, 84th and Lex (SouthEast Side)

Rumored CVS, 84th and Lex (NorthEast Side)

Convenience, you want convenience? Well, The Lucida, the condo on 85th and Lex, might just be the place for you! Sure, there are the 4,5, and 6 trains on the corner, but how about getting that scrip filled or a hot cup of joe? No problem. Really, really, no problem!

It seems The Lucida has found itself in the middle of Coffee and Drugstore heaven. There is a Starbucks across the street, but if the servers give you attitude or something, there is another one a block up Lex at 87th, or yet another on 84th and Third. Drugs, oh you can get your drugs from Lucida. Hopefully you like Duane Reade, cause there are plenty o' Duane Reades in these parts. There is one diagonally across the street at 86th and Lex and another newly expanded one at 84th and 3rd. Not enough, no problem, The Lucida showroom itself (84th and Lex) is now being converted to, you guessed it, a Duane Reade! Perhaps you shun 86th Street, and that Duane Reade a block away is just wayyy too far for you. Good news, the 2 vacant retail spaces on Lex between 84th and 85th (next to the nearest Starbucks) are being converted to a CVS. If you are cool crossing the street and all, you also have a Walgreen's on 86th and Lex. Did I forget about books? Ah yes, you have 2 Barnes and Nobles within a block to tide you over until a massive Barnes and Noble opens in your building. So within 2 blocks you have 3 Starbucks, 5 drugstores, and 2 Barnes and Nobles.

Don't even get me started on banks!

Tuesday Morning Links

Block Of Bari Bowery Buildings On The Market (Curbed)
Bracing For A Retail Bust (The Real Deal)
Opening Of Standard Hotel Delayed Until Dec. 21st (Hotel Chatter)
Trend: Condo Buyers Get Litigious To Get Out Of Deals (Observer)
Happy Birthday! Queens Crap Turns 2 (Queens Crap)
The Ravitch Report: Where The Papers Stand (Second Avenue Sagas)
Half Of Modified Mortgages Default Again (Washington Post)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Up For Mortgage: NY Times Building

With credit tight and lines of credit expiring the New York Times has hired Cushman & Wakefield to secure either a mortgage or sale-leaseback arrangement in order to secure $225 Million. While The New York Times has had it's share of struggles, this move seems to be more reflective of a very tough credit environment than of the company's overall health. The real question is, how many other companies will have to resort to this kind of action, and what impact will it have on the supply and pricing of large commercial real estate in the city?
Times co. To Borrow Against Manhattan HQ (Int'l Herald Tribune)

Rockrose Offers Innovative "Price Protection Guarantee" At "The View"

I had heard rumblings that this may be happening, but I was actually stunned when I heard that that they are moving forward with it. Rockrose Development is currently offering price guarantees on the next 20 apartments that it sells at "The View" in LIC.

Here is how it works: you buy an apartment at "The View" and on the 5th anniversary of your closing, you have 90 days to exercise an option to sell the apartment back to Rockrose for what you paid for it, plus 10%. So, if the world comes to an end, you get your money back (assuming the long solid Rockrose is solvent), get 5 years of tax benefits, and you'll be the only person in NYC to legitimately claim to have made money on real estate. For the same 20 buyers, the developer is also throwing in 5 years of free parking.

This is clearly a bold and innovative move on the part of Rockrose. It shows great confidence in the LIC market, and also allows buyers in a skittish market to sleep at night. Impressive!

Monday Morning Links

It was a pretty light weekend for real estate news. Most remarkable was the first story linked here that Rockrose is offering a 5 year price guarantee for the next 20 apartment sold at "The View".
Rockrose Offers "110% Buyback Guarantees At "The View" (NY Times)
Rent To Buy Programs Gain In Popularity (NY Times)
National Luxury Real Estate Round Up (Luxist)
NY Times To Borrow Against Building (NY Times)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Apartment Flash: Gramercy Doorman 2 Bed With Skyline Views

I just came back from previewing a brand new listing off Irving Place in a doorman building. The apartment is undergoing an extensive renovation, which with this landlord means marble baths and a new granite kitchen. Three things stand out about the apartment:
1- Size: 2 large bedrooms plus dining 'L" in living room, make this a possible convert to a 3 bedroom.
2- View: Of the 3 exposures, the 18th floor's North View is most impressive. The living room and dining room windows unleash a wide open skyline view that includes the Chrysler Building, The Empire State Building, and The Met Life Tower.
3- Value- $4500. Seems like a no-brainer.

Friday Morning Links

Fed, Treasury Getting Serious About 4.5% Mortgage Plans (NY Times)
Work On Atlantic Yards Frozen, Lawsuits Cited (Curbed)
Toll Brothers Taking A Beating (Bloomberg)
Lame Duck Bush Buys Non-Lame Dallas Mansion (Observer)
Giants Stadium Looking Giant (WCBS)
Foreclosures Drop In Every Borough (The Real Deal)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mortgage Rates Could Drop To 4.5% If Paulson Scheme Works

Word from Bloomberg news today is that the Treasury is cooking up a new plan to drive mortgage rates lower, as low as 4.5%. The plan would involve the Treasury, already authorized, being more aggressive in buying Fannie and Freddie mortgage backed securities.

It is still perplexing that after $7 Trillion, the Treasury is just now starting to address the core issue in the housing market. Seems that they are slowly getting close to The 4% Solution.

In other related news, the dip in rates has created a spike in refinancing.
A Rush Into Refinancing As Mortgage Rates Fall (NY Times)

Thursday Morning Links

Arrested Development: Helmut Jahn's 50 West Street Has Been Delayed (Curbed)
Lawyer Charged With Stealing $75k Deposit For Nolita Loft (The Real Deal)
Renegotiating At Closing Time (The Real Deal)
Yankees Screw Neighborhood Kids (Queens Crap)
UES: Second Avenue Businesses Getting Killed (78th and 2nd)
Is The NYC Real Estate Party Really Over? (NY Post)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Broker Blogging Not So Common Says The Real Deal

Thanks to The Real Deal for multiple mentions in the December Issue (Brokers Blogging To Get Ahead).
I was surprised that the number of Broker/Bloggers is relatively few. The article referenced an Inman News article from last year that numbered our ranks as 300 nationally. Could we really be that rare? Wow. Even if it's 10x or 100x larger, it is still a pretty small number.

Wednesday Morning Links

Self Employed Are Being Frozen Out Of Mortgages (WSJ)
A-Rod Cuts Price For 2nd Time At Trump Park Ave (Cityfile)
A-Rod And Madonna Looking For Love Nest? (NY Post)
Van Valkenberg Reportedly Chosen For Mid-Block West Side Park (Observer)
Mets Betting On Citi's Survival (Crain's)
Number of Delinquent NYC Mortgages Could Double Next Year (Crain's)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

From Shea Rubble Rises "Citifield", But Why Don't We Call It "New Shea"?

I had a couple of reasons for heading out to Shea Stadium and the new "Citifield" this morning. First, I was lost for blogging ideas, so I hoped on the 6 train and figured I'd just play it by ear. Then, I decided that perhaps I jump out at Grand Central and hop the 7 to LIC. Before reaching Grand Central I started reading George Vecsey's article in today's NY Times sports section decrying the continued presence of Citigroup's tarnished name above the majestic new stadium. Having wanted to blog on this issue last week and being unable to find any real good pics online, the decision became a natural.

It was a familiar sight, pulling up on Shea via the 7 train and seeing the Stadium rise in the distance. In this case, they must have sold the "Shea" and the "S" for stadium as it only reads "TADIUM" right now. There was a twinge of sadness. From the time of my childhood during the 70's, the arrival was a familiar and anticipated event. Things are different, times change, and I am certain to get over the loss, as the reality is, Shea was a dump. It held memories, tons of them, and my favorite seat in sports, the loge boxes just inside the foul pole in right field. They were somewhat underrated seats- they were cheap, almost always available, they had a decent overview of the field and there was always the exciting prospect of catching a home run. But, that too can be replaced- I can find a new favorite spot in the new stadium, although not as cheap, for sure.

As much as the carnage of the familiar stadium was depressing, the glory of the Mets future home is filled with hope and promise. My first reaction was that Robert A.M. Stern must have gone into the stadium building business. The structure looks like a blend of Stern's The Harrison, The Brompton, and the intelligently retro-designed Camden Yards. From the exterior, at least, this looks like a world class stadium befitting of the great city that we are. There is only one thing wrong- Citi.

Much has been made of late of the $400 Million Dollars being paid over the next 20 years for naming rights in light of $45 Billion taxpayer dollars being paid to Citigroup to keep it afloat, not to mention the over $300 Billion in guarantees, again courtesy of the taxpaying public. I think the public has every right to be outraged. Whether it's a bonus or a stadium name, it is now coming out of our pockets. Besides, "Citi"is now synonymous with collapse and failure. As Vescey points out, the way the past two Septembers played out, the Mets can tell you about collapse and failure. A new stadium is a chance for a new beginning, new hope, a new legacy to be built. I think it's time that the Mets and Citi throw out the agreement. The Mets should either find a new sponsor, or better yet, continue to pay tribute to William Shea, the lawyer who realized his dream to bring National League baseball back to New York. Now that's a legacy that we can all live with. Besides, the taxpayer will not only save $400 Million, but the MTA would save on all the signs that would have to be changed. Rumor has it, they could use a little help too.

Takin' It To The Streets

With another case of blogger's block, I'll be takin' it to the streets today in search of new material. We'll see what I come up with. In the meantime, if you have anything that you think is blog-worthy, let me know. Feel free to email me at

Tuesday Morning Links

The big news yesterday was about the deteriorating rental market. A report out by broker TREGNY showed large increases in vacancy (although no precise vacancy rate). The report also alleges that some larger landlords may not releasing their entire availability lists for fear of showing their hands and further driving prices down. Sounds more like some conspiracy theory to me. I doubt that there is some widespread collusion going on to keep prices up. The reality is that rental prices have dropped, and incentives have increased dramatically. The shifts in the market have been dramatic. I detailed these shifts back on November 13th. While my observations were derided by some, they are being embraced 3 weeks later. You heard it here first.
How Many Vacant Apartments Does NYC Have? (Observer)
Hot Shills: Landlords Tempt Tenants (Curbed)
Plunge In Demolition Permits Signals Major Slowdown (The Real Deal)
Storied Apthorp Apartments Hit The Condo Market (Curbed)
Whopper Lawsuit Alleges Real Estate Deal Proceeds Go To NY Observer, And McGreevey's Boyfriend (NYDN)
How Tough Is It Getting For Trump? (The Improper)