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.

New Standards for ‘Safe’ Loans

By LISA PREVOST

Mortgages

New federal regulations require mortgage lenders to do what should go without saying: verify that prospective borrowers can pay.

Yet during the housing bubble, many lenders all but abandoned traditional underwriting standards, and the resulting wave of foreclosures has taken years to recede. An “ability-to-repay” rule, adopted last month by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and effective January 2014, is intended to protect borrowers from again falling victim to risky lending.

“The rule sets standards for what’s a safe loan and what isn’t,” said Kathleen Day, a spokeswoman for the Center for Responsible Lending, “and it takes away a lot of the tricks and traps that lenders were using to talk people into refinancing.”

Required under the Dodd-Frank Act, the rule prohibits the “no-doc” loans common during the bubble. Before making a loan, lenders must document the borrower’s job status, income and assets, debt, and credit history. Lenders must also calculate a borrower’s ability to pay the principal and interest over the length of the loan. They may not base their calculation solely on the payment due when an introductory “teaser rate” is in effect.

Via The NY Times

Full Article Here:

Manhattan the “New” Brooklyn (Again)?

By
 NEW YORK, NY - MAY 5: A group of musicians play their instruments in a Williamsburg subway station on May 5, 2012 in New York City. Over the past five years, Williamsburg has become a magnet for youthful artists, musicians, chefs, mixologists and fashion designers. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

“It’s exploding with young people and tattoos,” a woman tells the Wall Street Journal today about the Upper East Side.”These hipsters were moving in — you could tell they were hipsters because I used to be one too, so they stand out — and they were moving a mounted moose head into their apartment.” Manhattan, she says, “has the charm that you would want in Brooklyn that is quickly disappearing.” Oh, Lord. The larger point she’s speaking to, supposedly, is that rents in Brooklyn (by which the Journal mostly means Williamsburg) are now high enough to drive young people back to Manhattan. It’s a renaissance or something! We’ve heard this one before.

Full Article Here via The New Yorker

Lowest stabilized rent increase in decade infuriates landlords, tenants

Rent Guidelines Board Chairman Jonathan Kimmel (credit: DNAinfo)

The Rent Guidelines Board voted last night on the lowest rent increases for the city’s 1 million-plus stabilized rent units since 2002, the New York Daily News reported, and no one’s happy. Landlords claimed the increase, totaling 2 percent for one-year leases and 4 percent for two-year leases, wouldn’t cover rising costs and property taxes. But tenants advocates argued that any increase was unaffordable considering the current economic climate.

Landlord representatives wanted 5 percent and 9 percent increases as property taxes rose 7.5 percent in the last year. Joe Strasburg, president of the landlord’s Rent Stabilization Association group, said the inadequate increases would hurt small property owners, in particular, as many of those buildings are exclusively rented to stabilized renters that already pay well below market rate.

Full Article Here:

New York Restores Apparel Sales-Tax Break on Items Under $110

By Elizabeth Ody – Mar 28, 2012 2:04 PM ET

Those shoes you’ve been eyeing at DSW Inc. (DSW) will cost you less starting April 1 when New York state raises the sales-tax exemption to $110 for clothing and footwear purchases.

Shoppers will get a break from the 4 percent state sales tax as well as a 0.375 percent Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District tax. In New York City, purchases under $110 have already been exempt from the city’s own 4.5 percent sales tax which makes a total of 8.875 percent or about $8.88 in savings on a $100 item.

“You can’t split a suit in half,” to meet the exemption, said Wayne Berkowitz, a partner and head of the State and Local Tax Group with Berdon LLP in New York. “If you’re buying five items and they’re all under-$110 items, you’re good.”

The full tax exemption returns after a more than one-year hiatus when it was amended to help close a state budget shortfall. From October 2010 to March 2011 there was no relief from the state sales tax or the commuter surcharge. Those breaks returned for items of less than $55 in price from April 2011 through March.

Full Article Here: