By Jim Efstathiou Jr.
The drinking-water supply for 9 million people in New York City won’t be protected by New York state’s proposed rules on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, residents and politicians said.
“There is no possible regulation strong enough that you could come up with to prevent that one accident,” State Senator Tony Avella, a Democrat who has introduced a bill to prohibit fracturing, or fracking, said at a hearing yesterday at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. “New York state should never consider this process.”
The state has banned high-volume fracking while the Department of Environmental Conservation weighs rules that would let companies extract gas from shale with the technique. The agency has said it plans to bar the technology within 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) of unfiltered watersheds that provide drinking water for New York City and Syracuse. Final rules may be issued next year, spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said in an interview.
Energy producers use fracking, which forces millions of gallons of water, chemicals and sand underground, to break up rock and liberate trapped gas. Environmental groups have said the process has tainted drinking water in states such as Pennsylvania, where almost 4,000 wells have been drilled. While New York delays, its neighboring state has enjoyed new hiring and tax revenue, advocates of the process say.
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By Raanan Geberer
If you’re a board member, a manager or just a unit owner of a typical New York City-area co-op or condo, chances are you use an elevator every day, except if you live in a “garden apartment” complex in one of the outer boroughs or the suburbs. We’ve all seen those elevator inspection reports, but chances are that we don’t think about the inner workings of elevators very much. And it seems like the only times that elevators make the news is when something goes wrong, like the time a Chinese-food deliveryman was stuck for three days inside an elevator in a Bronx high-rise.
But if you look at the elevator, it’s a technological marvel, something we couldn’t do without. Like the automobile, it’s a fairly recent development. There have been elevator-like hoist devices throughout history, but in 1853, American inventor Elisha Otis invented a freight elevator equipped with a safety device to prevent the elevator from falling in case a cable broke. This increased the use of elevators. And when, around 1920, New York City finally allowed the use of self-service elevators in apartment buildings, as opposed to those operated by elevator operators, the number of apartment houses built with elevators grew dramatically.
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FHA loans could become the go-to financing option for homebuyers in New York and New Jersey, but with higher fees. By Kenneth R. Harney
After a year characterized by grumpy partisan gridlock, Congress came up with a Thanksgiving compromise that could change the mortgage choices of buyers and refinancers in more than 660 markets across the country: It raised maximum loan limits for the Federal Housing Administration while leaving loan ceilings untouched for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
In effect, this may make FHA the go-to financing option for borrowers needing loans up to $729,750 — with down payments as low as 3.5 percent — in New York, New Jersey, high-cost areas of California, metropolitan Washington, D.C., and scattered counties in other states, including Massachusetts, Florida and North Carolina. Fannie Mae- and Freddie Mac-eligible loans in those areas, meanwhile, stay capped at $625,500.
Equally important, the new plan raises the FHA ceilings for purchasers in hundreds of more moderately priced markets. In Hartford, Conn., the limit for FHA is now $440,000 — up from $320,850; Fannie and Freddie remain capped at $417,000. Seattle-area buyers’ maximum FHA loan amount jumped to $567,500, while the Fannie Mae-Freddie Mac ceiling remains at $506,000.
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New York’s real estate planning gurus tackle the next 50 years of zoning By Leigh Kamping-Carder
Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the city’s comprehensive “Zoning Resolution,” which dictated what types of development could go where.
The rules have undergone changes since taking effect in 1961, but in many ways, they continue to reflect the concerns of a prior era — when the automobile was king, manufacturing a steady source of employment and the Internet a far-off dream.
“We are occupying a social realm that’s different than [what] we constructed 50 years ago,” developer Jonathan Rose, founder of the eponymous real estate firm, said at a conference last month organized by the Department of City Planning, the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute of Baruch College.
As the Zoning Resolution passes the half-century mark, the kind of radical revamp that took place in the 1950s is not in the works. But city planners, academics and real estate professionals are crafting proposals that will shape the way developers build in the coming years: unlocking underused land, updating Midtown’s aging office stock, incorporating sustainability, and redefining “mixed-use” in ways that blur residential and commercial districts.
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Friday, November 18, 2011
In the 19th century, when the preferred method of transportation was the horse-drawn carriage, the city was full of mews—rows of stables, often with accompanying carriage houses. The mews also frequently had living quarters for servants built above them, and were constructed around a paved courtyard. When, in the early 20th century, automobiles began to replace carriages, the mews were demolished, put to commercial use, or converted into residences. Today, few of them remain, but the ones that do—most of which are protected landmarks—exist as little pockets of seclusion in a loud, bustling city, and, as such, are prime real estate. And, since they’ve all been around for over 150 years, many of them largely unchanged compared to the surrounding areas, they contain quite of bit of history. We put all of the remaining mews we could find into a handy map.
Link Thru Here
The New York Times
By VICKIE ELMER
Published: October 6, 2011
“WE regret to inform you…” Nobody applying for a new mortgage or a refinancing wants to see or hear these words. But last year more than two million people were turned down for home loans, according to federal data, often because they didn’t meet certain lender requirements or because their applications were incomplete or otherwise problematic.
And that number, from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, doesn’t even include those who abandon the often-complicated mortgage qualification process. The Mortgage Bankers Association estimates that about half of those who try to refinance and 30 percent of buyers are either denied or drop out.
“A lot of people have credit banged up,” said Michael Fratantoni, the association’s vice president for research and economics.
Lenders’ underwriting criteria have become more rigorous in recent years; some banks have tightened up beyond federal requirements. Here are the six biggest triggers for rejection, according to industry experts.
INSUFFICIENT INCOME Lenders want to make sure you can afford to make the mortgage payments. Someone who earns, say, $40,000 a year need not bid on a $750,000 apartment, unless there’s a trust fund with quarterly payouts or other money available. Also, lenders typically look for at least a two-year track record of income, which could hurt those who may have switched jobs recently. “It’s common to get turned down if you have a gap in employment history over the last two years,” said Erin Lantz, the director of the Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, an online loan-matching service.
By EMILY B. HAGER
Marilynn K. Yee/The New York TimesA model of the faux-vintage electric car that horse advocates say could replace carriage horses in New York, with Ed Sayres, left, and Steve Nislick of NY-Class, the group that sponsors the cars.
The faux-vintage electric car that horse advocates want to replace Central Park’s carriage horses has classic white-walled tires, running boards, mahogany and an “ah-hoogah” horn.
On Thursday, in a fourth-floor conference room of Manhattan’s Hippodrome — where circus horses once performed — Jason Wenig set a model of it across the table from the car’s sponsors.
“Brass is going to be everywhere, and it’s going to be shiny and beautiful,” said Mr. Wenig, who runs a customized car design shop in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
NY-Class, a nonprofit group that lobbies for the removal of the carriage horses from New York City, revealed the car for the first time on Thursday.
NY-Class, which stands for New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, paid $12,500 to have the two-foot-long lime green model built. It is based on turn-of-the-20th-century cars. Lanterns perch on its sides. Tiny baskets that would carry a driver’s lunch or extra blankets hang from it. Its convertible top rolls back in sections. The car is intended to hold up to six tourists.
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The MTA just rolled out The Weekender, their map for any and all weekend service changes. Nothing groundbreaking, but everyone loves a new subway map to look at! According to their site, “The subway keeps New York moving 24/7, and keeping the subway moving takes maintenance. We do most of that work on weekends, necessitating service changes that can sometimes be confusing. So to help you get where you want to go, we created The Weekender. You’ll find it at mta.info every weekend, starting Friday afternoons.” So, yes, weekend subway service will still be the bane of your existence.
· The Weekender [MTA]
The city has been in the thrall of a bicycle backlash for the past year, after the city’s Department of Transportation ran lanes through the East Village, Upper West Side and, most controversially, along Prospect Park West, which led to a lawsuit filed by neighbors living on the thoroughfare.
Things seem to be finally calming down—the lane lawsuit was defeated, recent polls have put bike lane support north of 60 percent—but how will the city react when the Department of Transportation and its love-her-or-hate-her Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan roll out a massive bike sharing program across Manhattan and Brooklyn next summer?
Comprising roughly 600 stations with 10,000 bikes, the scheme will, according to two people briefed on the plans, stretch from the Upper East and Upper West sides down to the tip of Manhattan and over the bridges into Brownstone Brooklyn, reaching as far as Greenpoint and Crown Heights. “The whole point is it needs to be dense,” a city official told The Observer. “It needs to serve a lot of different trips in order to be viable.”
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The ABC’s of D&O
By Lisa Iannucci
Good afternoon—and welcome to the board. Your mission should you choose to accept it is to make decisions to better your building. The residents may not like you and, more importantly, may not like those decisions. Nevertheless, keep doing the job you’re doing. In a worst-case scenario, you will be sued. Perhaps more than once. Should anything go wrong, don’t worry; you’re protected by the board’s D&O insurance. Good luck.”
You volunteer to be on your co-op or condo association’s board. You do your best to help make the right decisions and make your building a great place to live. Unfortunately, one of your fellow residents doesn’t like a decision you made and takes you and the rest of the board to court. They are suing for thousands of dollars—maybe even millions. Your home, life savings and other assets are at risk if you lose.
With stakes like that, it would be virtually impossible for co-op and condo boards to find volunteers if there wasn’t some form of protection from lawsuits resulting from the decisions made by board members in the course of doing their job. Fortunately, that protection exists, in the form of Directors and Officers, or D&O insurance.
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It is an all-too-familiar pattern in many communities: artists discover an inexpensive, underdeveloped neighborhood and move in, only to be ousted from the area by soaring retail rents once it catches on in popularity.
Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times
About half of the units in the Chelsea Arts Tower on West 25th Street are art galleries. The rest of the building’s units are devoted to fashion- and arts-related businesses.
Many argue that it happened in Greenwich Village, and most point to SoHo as the quintessential example of the phenomenon. Now, the same pattern may be occurring in Chelsea, where an explosion of residential development along the High Line is attracting retailers serving new residents — retailers who are now competing for space with the hundreds of art galleries that are the backbone of the neighborhood.
But some real estate experts say Chelsea’s fate may be different, because a healthy number of the neighborhood’s arts businesses had the foresight to buy their gallery and studio spaces, rather than lease them.
“The difference between SoHo and Chelsea is that so many artists, or even art companies or art investors, bought condos in Chelsea, so they actually made investments as opposed to leasing,” said Barbara Byrne Denham, the chief economist at Eastern Consolidated, a commercial real estate brokerage.
“I think that will preserve their spaces, and the flavor of Chelsea as kind of an art mecca,” she said.
Ms. Byrne Denham said there could be as many as 350 art galleries in Chelsea. Enough of them own their space that in a recent report on the commercial property sales market in Chelsea, Ms. Byrne Denham said, “we had to separate them as their own property type.”
“I said, ‘There’s something in this that really stands out: the fact that so many properties sold as art studios, art condos and art buildings,’ ” she said.
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|The campaign will spotlight downtown’s recovery since September 11, 2001
Starting next month, a new large-scale tourism campaign will help drive more visitors to Lower Manhattan — spotlighting the area’s remarkable recovery in the nine years since the 9/11 attacks.
Set to begin June 1st, the global initiative will promote downtown neighborhoods, restaurants, shops, museums, and open spaces among local and international tourists in New York City. The campaign will include new tour itineraries, special offers at local hotels, multimedia advertisements, and discounts at shops, attractions, and the new “Downtown Culture Pass.”
Announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg last week, the NYC & Company-designed campaign is launching in anticipation of a major tourism surge downtown — where the 10th anniversary of 9/11 already is drawing scores of visitors to the World Trade Center area.
“In less than four months time, the eyes of the world will be on Lower Manhattan, as we commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and open the Memorial,” said Bloomberg. “An important part of the story of 9/11 is how Lower Manhattan has come back in the past 10 years. Today Lower Manhattan is one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in New York City. Our new campaign will help ensure visitors from around the world know about that vibrancy and have an opportunity to take advantage of all that Lower Manhattan has to offer.”
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By Jill Colvin DNAinfo Reporter/Producer
MIDTOWN — Members of Midtown’s Community Board 5 endorsed a plan to re-zone the blocks surrounding FIT Wednesday night, despite concerns the new rules would eat up existing commercial and office space in the zone.
The Department of City Planning is hoping to spur development on the blocks south of Penn Station, which was once known as Manhattan’s “Fur District.” Today, the former manufacturing hub is home to a few remaining fur wholesalers, a smattering of small warehouses, and numerous parking lots, with little street life after hours.
The new “M1-6D” zoning designation, which would span West 28th, 29th and 30th streets between Seventh and Eighth avenues, would loosen regulations for new residential units to create what they hope will become “a more robust mixed-use, ’24/7′ community,” with more restaurants, services and retail, planners said.
The move in being spearheaded by Edison Properties, which wants to build a new 400-unit development between West 28th and West 29th on an existing parking lot. Twenty percent of the space would be reserved for affordable housing.
But members of Community Board 5′s Land Use and Zoning committee, which met to consider the plan Wednesday night, had serious reservations about the proposal, which was first presented to members at their meeting last month.
By Jeremy Smerd May 5, 2011 1:25 p.m.
Late Wednesday, the Bloomberg administration took a significant step toward the redevelopment of Willets Point, Queens. The state Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration approved the Economic Development Corp.’s environmental assessment of off-ramps proposed for the Van Wyck Expressway. The city, which has called the ramps essential to the massive Queens project, can now go ahead with a required public review process.
A handful of Willets Point property owners have been trying to halt the 61-acre redevelopment by arguing that the city reneged on a promise not to condemn any land until state and federal officials approved the two ramps. A court hearing next month on that question now appears moot.
“Receiving this approval allows us to overcome a number of procedural hurdles that have threatened to delay this important, job-creating project,” an EDC spokeswoman said in a statement to Crain’s. “Willets Point is now one step closer to becoming a center of economic growth and the site of a historic environmental cleanup.”
Once public comments are received, the city will resubmit its assessment for final state and federal approval.
In the meantime, the city said it will move ahead with the first phase of the project, which does not rely on the ramps. Splitting the project into two phases allowed the city to move ahead without acquiring the holdouts’ private property or getting approval for the ramps, which had dragged on for many months.
May 06, 2011 11:30AM By Kenneth R. Harney
What if the federal government spent years designing a tool to help consumers shop intelligently for mortgages — comparing lenders’ rates, terms and total settlement costs — but consumers ignored it or didn’t use it?
No need to speculate here; it appears to have already happened. A new survey of 1,000 American consumers suggests that the “good-faith estimate” disclosures that all homebuyers and refinancers receive at loan application to facilitate shopping are not getting the job done.
Federally mandated good-faith estimates spell out the lender’s charges, all anticipated fees for title insurance, escrow and settlement services, plus other key costs. The most recent version of the GFE, released at the beginning of last year, contains space for consumers to take one lender’s estimates and get competing quotes from as many as three others. It also requires lenders to stand behind their estimates — guaranteeing that some of them won’t increase by even a penny at closing, and others won’t increase by more than 10 percent.
Full Article Here: Via Real Deal
April 12, 2011 12:30PM By Adam Pincus
The first quarter of 2011 saw a steep decline in investment sales in New York City compared to the last three months of 2010, but the dollar volume for the whole year is expected to surge over last year, Robert Knakal, chairman of commercial brokerage Massey Knakal Realty Service, said.
He predicted the total volume of investment sales would jump to as much as $22 billion this year from $14.5 billion in 2010.
“We believe the dollar volume will increase by 40 to 50 percent over 2010 levels,” Knakal said at the firm’s quarterly press briefing at its Midtown headquarters this morning. “We are expecting that the total dollar volume is going to be in the $20 [billion] to $22 billion range.”
But that would remain far below the record $62 billion sold in 2007, he said.
In the first quarter of 2010, there were $3.9 billion in sales citywide, down 30 percent from the $5.6 billion sold in the fourth quarter last year.
Knakal blamed some of the decline this year to a surge in sales in the prior quarter by sellers fearing a change in taxes. But even as the first quarter lagged the previous three months, it was far more than the first quarter one year ago, when just $2.03 billion in properties traded hands.
The increase in property sales was led by office buildings purchases, such as William Macklowe Company and ING Clarion Partners together buying 636 Sixth Avenue for $45.23 million.
The development market picked up as well in terms of volume of deals, but fell in the average price per square foot.
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Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
Mementos of previous tenants.
Published: April 8, 2011
FOR New Yorkers drawn to old houses and apartments, the reminders that they are hardly the first to inhabit their rooms can be thrilling. If those people had their way, no one would ever empty a cellar or clear out an attic.
“It’s the dream of someone who buys an old house to find things other owners had left behind,” said Chris Kreussling, a computer programmer who, in the basement of his Victorian home in Flatbush, Brooklyn, unearthed a trove of brochures, tickets and newspaper clippings from the 1939 World’s Fair.
From the tenements of the Bronx to the prewar apartments of Manhattan and the frame cottages of Staten Island, signs of earlier generations lurk in unexpected corners, “like cave drawings providing traces of previous habitations,” said Richard Rabinowitz, president of the American History Workshop. “And these finds are especially meaningful in a city like New York, where we always have the sense that we’re walking in the footsteps of those who came before us.”
New York City, home to a disproportionately large number of people living in buildings constructed decades ago, is especially rich in reminders of those who occupied our houses and apartments long before we did. According to the 2008 Census housing survey, 85 percent of New Yorkers live in buildings erected before 1970, compared with 42 percent of Americans generally. More remarkably, 39 percent of New Yorkers live in buildings predating 1930 and 17 percent in buildings predating 1920. Luckily for New Yorkers with a taste for past lives, many of these dwellings function as palimpsests of the city’s history.
As a place where the friendly ghosts of the past refuse to depart, it would be hard to top the blue frame house on City Island in the Bronx where John and Linda Nealon Woods have lived for 33 years.
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The State Assembly passed a bill on Monday that would strengthen rent regulation, while setting up a possible showdown with the Senate and the real estate industry.
State laws that limit the rent that landlords can charge on more than one million apartments in New York City and the suburbs are set to expire on June 15. Democratic legislators from the city and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had sought to extend and expand the laws during budget negotiations last month, until the Senate Republican leader, Dean G. Skelos, rejected the idea, threatening to delay the budget.
The bill in the Democratic-controlled Assembly would extend rent regulations until 2016. It would do away with vacancy decontrol, which lets landlords deregulate apartments when they become vacant and their rent exceeds $2,000. It would alter luxury decontrol, which lets owners deregulate apartments when the tenants’ income exceeds $175,000 and the rent is at least $2,000. Those limits would rise to $300,000 and $3,000. The bill would also limit rent increases for new tenants to 10 percent, down from 20 percent.
“Every year more than 10,000 rent-regulated apartments are lost because of loopholes in the rent laws,” the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, said in a statement.
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A year of negotiations between the Battery Park City Authority and a committee of representatives from the 11 original condominiums in the south neighborhood has yielded a tentative, 30-year agreement to roll back drastic increases in ground rent for apartment owners that would have started next year and continued for decades. The accord, brokered by New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, will save condo owners some $280 million over the next three decades.
“This has been going on for more than a year,” explained Rector Place condo owner Anthony Notaro, who was a member of the negotiating committee representing the 11 buildings. “We went through two different administrations at the Authority,” he added, in a reference to the change in both the 2010 change in both the BPCA’s board chairmanship and its presidency. He noted that the Authority, “always acted in good faith. They bargained fairly, but very hard. So when we finally reached a point where we felt like we couldn’t give any more, we turned to Speaker Silver. He weighed in with the BPCA and in a matter of weeks, we had an agreement.” Mr. Notaro continued that, “the Authority will still get increases in ground rent, so this is not a windfall or a giveaway. Everybody will pay more than they did before, for every year, but the increases will be less steep than they would have been.” He also observed, “the biggest benefit comes in 2027, when we roll back what would have been a catastrophic increase for everybody.”
In a statement, Mr. Silver said, “this agreement will protect Battery Park City residents from staggering increases that would have caused crushing financial burdens during a time of economic difficulty. By restructuring this payment plan, we will be able to keep more middle-class families in their homes and maintain Battery Park City as the world-class community that it is.”
Full Article via The Broadsheet Daily
By Kenneth R. Harney
With hundreds of thousands of homeowners having negotiated loan modifications or short sales or been foreclosed upon during the past year, the Internal Revenue Service has issued fresh guidance on how to handle canceled mortgage debt in the upcoming tax season. It’s a huge issue, widely misunderstood by consumers, and involves potentially billions of dollars of tax liability.
When most debts are canceled by a creditor, such as unpaid balances on student loans or credit cards, the forgiven amounts are treated as ordinary, taxable income by the Internal Revenue Code. But under a special exemption adopted by Congress covering distressed home mortgages, many owners can escape the ultimate double-whammy: Getting kicked while you’re down, hit with extra taxes because your mortgage went seriously delinquent or you lost your house.
In its latest guidance, the IRS focuses on several key points that owners — and former owners — need to know. Tops on the list: Just because a lender wrote off a portion of your mortgage debt, this doesn’t mean you automatically qualify for special tax treatment. To the contrary, there are essential tests you need to pass to qualify: The debt your lender canceled must have been used by you “to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence.”
(source: Eastern Consolidated)
New York City lost fewer jobs than previously estimated as it emerged from the recession, shedding 141,300 jobs between April 2008 and September 2009, instead of the 179,000 previously reported, according to the January 2011 employment report from Eastern Consolidated. Since that September 2009 low, the city has experienced a net gain of 50,700 jobs — 18,000 of which were added in January 2011 — putting city employment levels at 2.4 percent below the April 2008 peak. The city’s real estate industry gained 600 jobs in January, putting employment in the sector at 5.4 percent, or 6,600 jobs, below peak levels from April 2008. Nationwide, employment across all industry is also 5.4 percent below its January 2008 peak, having shed 7.48 million jobs since then.
Mets’ owners made money in real estate. Now their survival hinges on baseball
When Fred Wilpon bought a stake in the Mets, New Yorkers knew little about the man beyond where he got his money: real estate.
“Mets Owner a Big-League Builder,” a New York Times headline blared in 1981.
Thirty years later, as he and his family face the likely need to cough up hundreds of millions of dollars in connection with its investments with Bernard Madoff, property is no longer where the money is for the Wilpons. While they still have major property holdings, those are tied up in investment funds that would be hard to unload quickly. Instead, the Wilpons are seeking to sell off pieces of the most liquid asset they have: the Mets.
“For the Wilpons, there are no good choices right now,” said Wayne McDonnell, a professor at New York University’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management.
The rush to sell off a stake in the sports franchise is symptomatic of a remarkable shift in the makeup of one of New York’s best-known but least-understood family fortunes—the Wilpons’—and their holding company, Sterling Equities, which was built on property development.
Financially, anyway, the tail now wags the dog—much as it did for George Steinbrenner. The owner of an even more storied New York sports franchise, he began as a wealthy shipbuilder and ended up as principal owner of the Yankees and the team’s lucrative YES Network. His sons have taken over the business.
Both families prospered in their new line of work. However, while Mr. Steinbrenner’s American Shipbuilding went bankrupt in 1993, the Wilpons’ real estate empire remains profitable, if illiquid. What threatens the Wilpons today is the result of what they did with some of their winnings: They invested with Mr. Madoff.
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After sitting fallow for 43 years as the Lower East Side’s popularity soared, a desolate stretch of parking lots along Delancey Street is closer than ever to being transformed into housing and shops, marking the end of a long and bitter stalemate over the future of the sites.
On Tuesday night, Community Board 3 voted unanimously in favor of guidelines to develop the five parcels, collectively known as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area.
Under the guidelines, the properties would become the site of about 1,000 housing units — roughly half of which would be allocated to middle- and low-income earners — along with retail shops, green space and, potentially, a school.
On Monday, after a subcommittee approved the guidelines, the State Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, whose district includes the land, gave the plan crucial support. “The final guidelines that were approved by the committee tonight strike an appropriate balance between the needs and concerns of all stakeholders,” Mr. Silver said in a statement, “and will result in a development that will ensure our neighborhood continues to thrive.”
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