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City Council approves Hudson Square rezoning

Hudson Square

The City Council voted Wednesday to approve the rezoning of Hudson Square in Lower Manhattan. The rezoning will allow developers — including the area’s dominant player Trinity Real Estate — to move forward with several large-scale hotel and residential projects.

As part of the approval process, Speaker Christine Quinn secured a commitment for a vote on landmark status for the adjacent South Village Historic District, according to a statement from Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, a preservation group. But community activists were concerned that the city did not discuss any landmark designations for sites south of Houston Street, which is home to nearly half of the proposed district.

“The landmarking commitment only covers about half the endangered area and won’t take effect until nine months after the rezoning, allowing developers ample time to knock down historic buildings,” Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village group, said in a statement.

Earlier this month, two key council committees approved a controversial part of the proposal, which would let developers build 2,000 to 3,000 new apartments — many of them affordable — in the neighborhood. —Hiten Samtani

Domino developer promises bikes, yoga, veggies, books

By Danielle Furfaro via The Brooklyn Paper
Courtesy of Two Trees Management Company
This is what Jed Walentas wants to build on the Domino Sugar factory site.

Here’s one way for a developer to ingratiate himself with the new neighbors.

Jed Walentas, the new owner of the Domino Sugar factory, will temporarily hand over a football-field-sized lot on his massive Williamsburg site for use as an urban farm, bike course, yoga studio, and reading room until the builder gets around to developing the property.

The east end of the Kent Avenue lot between S. Third and S. Fourth streets will be run by community space guru Bobby Redd and will include an all-weather reading room, a community farm headed by North Brooklyn Farms and a green space that will be used for activities including yoga, aerobics, and public events.

“We plan to establish a community green space where all are welcome,” said Redd. “We have had immense success working with the Bushwick community over the past 14 months and we look forward to working together with our new neighbors in South Williamsburg.”

The west side of the lot, which will be run by Jessica Kocher of Ride Brooklyn, will include a practice cycling space for young riders, beginner and intermediate bike tracks, and a pump track, which is a small course set up with bumps, jumps, and berms.

Volunteers from the New York City Mountain Bike Association will oversee the courses, and Kocher said she hopes to get a handful of loaner bikes for children and possibly adults.

“The purpose of this is to have a place to mountain bike in Brooklyn,” said Kocher, who lamented the fact that Brooklyn is the only borough without mountain bike trails. “Personally, we wanted a place to ride.”

Redd and Kocher submitted separate proposals, but Walentas’s company, Two Trees Management Co., merged them together, creating an urban utopia for the fixed-gear, organic-dining set.

“We married them,” said Dave Lombino, director of special projects at Two Trees.

Two months ago, Two Trees announced it was searching for operators to take over the space across the street from the main refinery building while it pushed its new plans through the city’s land-use review process.

Two Trees will not charge the interim operators rent, said Lombino, but they will pay utilities.

The initial agreement with the operators is for one year, and it could be extended, depending on how long it takes Two Trees to get approval and finish the site design.

Walentas has said the company wants to build on the Kent Street lot first, but Lombino said ground will not be broken until late 2014 at the earliest.

“For us, it’s silly to have this site fenced off from the community,” said Lombino. “We want to signal to the community that we are creative and ambitious.”

Loans for a Niche Market

The New York Times By LISA PREVOST

If interest-only loans were issued too freely before the foreclosure crisis, their availability now is restricted to a privileged few.

A staple of the jumbo market, interest-only loans continue to be used by affluent borrowers to help them manage irregular cash flow, reap a tax benefit, or free up cash for investment elsewhere.

In particular, people in the financial services industry who derive most of their compensation from yearly bonuses commonly rely on interest-only loans to keep their mortgage payments manageable the rest of the year. “Then they take some of that bonus and pay down their mortgage each year,” said David Adamo, the chief executive of Luxury Mortgage in Stamford, Conn. “And their monthly payment then also goes down.”

Thus, interest-only loans have evolved into a financial tool, and no longer a means to affordability.

Freddie Mac stopped backing the loans in 2010 after suffering big losses; as a result, fewer lenders offer them. Those that do have strict qualifying standards. Lenders generally require that the borrower have at least 30 percent equity in a property, and a minimum FICO score of 720. Determination of ability to pay back the loan is based on the fully amortized payment, not the interest-only payment.

Additionally, “a lot of lenders will want to see assets to cover as many as 24 months’ worth of principal, taxes and insurance payments,” said Richard Pisnoy, a principal of Silver Fin Capital, a brokerage in Great Neck, N.Y.

Interest-only loans are primarily adjustable-rate products with an initial fixed period when only interest is due. Available in 5-, 7- or 10-year terms, they “are generally done for 10 years so there’s no payment shock in the near term,” said Tom Wind, the executive vice president for residential and consumer lending at EverBank, a national lender based in Jacksonville, Fla.

Interest rates are usually an eighth- to a half-percentage point higher than on fully amortized jumbo loans. After the fixed term is up, the mortgage re-amortizes, and both principal and interest are due.

Full Article Here:

Architecture review: Tootsie Roll conversion brings welcome change to Soho

DDG’s 325 West Broadway will bring condos to former chocolate factory

March 21, 2013 03:30PM
By James Gardner

325 West Broadway project rendering

A particularly ugly part of West Broadway in Soho will soon become unimaginably better. The best thing that can be said for the existing structure at 325 West Broadway, at Grand Street, is that in the days when things were still manufactured in New York City it used to be a factory that produced Tootsie Rolls — those delicious, caramelized confections that we all remember from our younger days.

Now I yield to no one in my reverence for Tootsie Rolls, but that does not obscure the fact that the drab and unadorned building from which so much joy once issued is itself an eyesore, confected out of bare, albeit vaguely caramel-colored, brick.

All of that is about to change: the development firm of DDG has gotten the go-ahead from the Landmarks Preservation Commission to tear down the factory and put up a luxury condominium. DDG revealed new renderings for the project earlier this month. Standing nine stories plus a rooftop penthouse level, the building will have seven units ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 square feet.

The planned building, designed by DDG’s in-house architect Peter Guthrie, consists of a cubic structure clad in a pristine glass curtain wall, covered in a cast aluminum façade screen, with an elegant glass façade at street level, given over to retail and to the building’s lobby, the renderings show. (Beyhan Karahan Architects & Associates designed an earlier plan for the project.)

The results, to be completed in 2015, will look especially good when viewed beside the drab 19th century pile to its left, which could also profit from the strenuous ministrations of a developer.

Freddie Mac Raises Bar for Refinancing With Home-Equity Debt

By Jody Shenn – Nov 15, 2011 5:22 PM ET

Nov. 15 (Bloomberg) — Freddie Mac, the government- supported mortgage company, made it harder for some borrowers with second-lien home equity debt to refinance as it released guidelines for its version of the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program.

For a borrower with loan-to-value ratio of less than 80 percent, the McLean, Virginia-based firm will require total housing debt, including second loans, of less than 105 percent of a property’s current values, according to a notice to lenders posted on its website. Previously, there was no cap.

“The rationale is to manage risk better,” Brad German, a spokesman, said in a telephone interview.

President Barack Obama has said he directed Freddie Mac and rival Fannie Mae to expand their HARP programs to help ease the U.S. housing slump and aid consumers. The companies, which were seized by the U.S. in 2008, are detailing the changes today, after they were announced Oct. 24.

Full Article Here

Insuring Your Board’s Decisions

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.”

On-the-Job Protection

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.

Full Article Here:

New Tourism Campaign Puts Focus on Lower Manhattan

The campaign will spotlight downtown's recovery since September 11, 2001
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.”

Full Article Here: