Curbing Closing Costs

The New York Times
Published: January 27, 2011

BORROWERS have some weapons for keeping closing costs down, the result of recent guidelines requiring lenders to disclose certain fees, but perhaps the most underutilized consumer tool simply involves old-fashioned haggling.

Good-faith estimate rules, part of a tougher Truth in Lending Act that emerged from the mortgage crisis, mean that lenders must provide a clear picture of the costs involved in buying or refinancing a home. Yet consumers may not realize that some of those numbers are actually negotiable, mortgage experts say.

“There’s a lot of room for negotiation in the costs of closing,” said Barry Zigas, the director of housing policy at the Consumer Federation of America, a consumer advocacy group, “and consumers should examine every charge and not hesitate to challenge them and try to bring them down.”

Closing costs can run a borrower 3 to 6 percent of the price of a property, according to the Federal Reserve. In 2010, the average cost for a $200,000 purchase rose by nearly 37 percent, to $3,741, according to, a financial data publisher; the average in New York State was $5,623.

Full Article Here

Cuomo taps Kenneth Adams to lead ESDC

The president and chief executive of The Business Council of New York State Inc. will leave to take on the same title at the Empire State Development Corp.

By Daniel Massey

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday nominated Kenneth Adams, who has headed the state’s top business organization for the past five-plus years, to lead a restructured Empire State Development Corp.

“With Ken Adams as president and CEO, the Empire State Development Corp. will fuel New York-based innovation and create jobs at home while helping to transform the state into a world-class center for business and new ideas,” Mr. Cuomo said, in a statement.

Already, Mr. Cuomo had appointed Leecia Eve as senior vice president and counsel to the agency and Paul Francis to the newly created role of director of agency redesign and efficiency. He is still looking for a chairman, who will focus on upstate issues. The governor said the appointment of Mr. Adams is part of his plan to change the leadership structure of the agency that directs the state’s economic development strategy. Mr. Adams succeeds Dennis Mullen.

In his new role, Mr. Adams will work closely with Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy to create 10 Regional Economic Development Councils across the state that will compete for funds. He will also serve as commissioner of the Department of Economic Development.

“Ken knows doing business in New York can be like swimming upstream, but now he is in a position to change the tide,” said Kevin Burke, chief executive of Consolidated Edison and chairman of the board at The Business Council of New York State Inc. “Business leaders know and trust him, and for good reason.”

Full Article Here

State Assembly May Tie Property-Tax Cap to City’s Rent Rules

Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

Sheldon Silver, the assembly speaker, in the chamber in Albany last week.


ALBANY — Democratic leaders in the State Assembly are signaling that they are ready to embrace a cap on local property taxes, which could clear the way for its passage this year.

The cap, popular with voters in New York’s suburbs, who pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation, is one of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s top priorities and already has support from the Republican-led State Senate.

But in what will very likely be one of the defining legislative battles of the year, Assembly leaders are indicating they want something else for their mostly urban constituents: stricter rent regulations for New York City, a measure strongly opposed by Republicans and the real estate interests that helped Mr. Cuomo capture the governor’s office in November.

“In a day and age when we’re talking about giving people the ability to live in their homes and not be priced out of their homes, we should not forget people who have rent protections,” the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, said, adding, “I just think the philosophy behind the tax cap is the same as the philosophy behind rent regulation.”

Full Article Here


Buildings Dept’s New Deputy Commish Brings Law Enforcement Chops to Job

Department of Buildings Deputy Commissioner of Enforcement Eugene Corcoran. (Courtesy of the Department of Buildings)

By Jill Colvin – DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN — Undercover investigations and online stings are tactics typically used by police and prosecutors, not building inspectors. But there’s a new sheriff in town at the city’s Department of Buildings — and he comes armed with three decades of law enforcement experience.

Eugene Corcoran, a former United States Marshal and 20-year veteran of the New York State Police took office in May as the buildings department’s Deputy Commissioner of Enforcement — a first for the department, which has been plagued by corruption and a string of fraud-linked tragedies, including the Deutsche Bank building fire in 2007 and two deadly crane collapses in 2008.

Since his appointment, Corcoran has been taking the lessons he learned tracking down serial killers and reconstructing plane crashes and using them to crack down on absentee building owners and contractors who don’t play by the rules.

Full Article Here

LMDC Approves $20 Million for W. Thames Pedestrian Bridge

BPCA, which oversaw design process, will manage construction

Lower Manhattan residents who can’t avoid crossing West Street in the vicinity of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel got an early Christmas present at the Monday board meeting of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), which approved more than $20 million in funding for the long-requested, much-delayed pedestrian bridge over West Thames Street.

“This is terrific news,” said Community Board 1 (CB1) chair Julie Menin, who also serves on the LMDC board. Ms. Menin led the fight earlier this year to have more than $200 million of federal funding, originally allocated to the LMDC to defray the cost of utility reconstruction Downtown, redirected to what she calls “critically important, worthy projects for the residents of this community.” She cites the West Thames pedestrian bridge — a design for which was unveiled in June 2009, only to have the Bloomberg administration cut funding for the project a few months later — as one example of the kind of project that will be funded by this money.

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said in a statement, “after a year of leading the effort to build a pedestrian bridge at West Thames Street, I am extremely pleased that we have succeeded in getting the funding approved. Improving safety along dangerous intersections at West Street has been a top priority for me and this latest decision is one that could well save lives. With the successful opening of PS 276 this past September, children and their parents will now have a safe and reliable way to cross over West Street at an intersection that sees heavy traffic, particularly trucks and other large vehicles coming and going from the World Trade Center site.”

Full Article Here: via The Broadsheet Daily

Cinema Lobby To Move Inside

Goldman Reclaims Ground Floor Theater Entrance

The entrance lobby will be moved upstairs.

The entrance to the Battery Park City Regal Cinema is undergoing a facelift — literally. “The box office and entrance to the theater are being moved upward to the second story,” explained a Regal employee who asked not to be identified. “The space where customers currently buy tickets and then board the elevators and escalator is going to be absorbed back into the hotel,” this staffer explained.

This move is taking place against the backdrop of larger changes at the Embassy Suites, which is slated to close shortly after the Christmas holiday for a gut renovation that will transform it into a Conrad Hilton, the upscale brand operated by the same parent company.

As part of this renovation, the space that currently houses the theater box office and entrance will become part of the retail corridor that the hotel’s owner, Goldman Sachs, plans to populate with trendy food venues, such as Shake Shack and Blue Smoke.

“Movie customers will come through the same door,” explained the Regal employee, “but they will go straight up the existing escalator on the left side of the lobby, which will take them to the second floor,” where a new box office is being built. At that point, this Regal staffer said, “they can board the existing elevator or escalator to take them upstairs to the theaters.”

A second Regal insider said that the theater is expected to remain open through the renovation of the hotel, and that the reconstruction work to the box office and lobby should be finished before the end of December.

via – The Broadsheet Daily

Church Destroyed on 9/11 May Sue Port Authority

Greek Orthodox Church Destroyed on 9/11 May Sue for Right to Rebuild

Archbishop Demetrios, second from the left, led a service in honor of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at Ground Zero in 2006. The archbishop will return to the site for another service this Sunday. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)


By Julie Shapiro  DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

LOWER MANHATTAN — The St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, destroyed on 9/11, may sue the Port Authority for the right to rebuild their house of worship, a church spokesman said Friday.

Negotiations over how and where to rebuild the Cedar Street church stalled nearly two years ago, and the two sides have not spoken since.

In the meantime, the Port Authority has commandeered the church’s land to build an underground parking garage and loading dock for the World Trade Center.

“The site of St. Nicholas, which is the property of the church, has been used by the Port Authority for over a year, and we never authorized them to do that,” said Mark Arey, spokesman for the church. “The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has looked at legal [action] very seriously.”

Full Article Here:

Google Buys in Chelsea $1.8B

Bigger than the Empire State Building.<br /> (Bing Maps)  

Proving yet again that it is more than just a search engine, Google has now beat out some of the city’s top developers as it heads toward the largest real estate purchase of the year. Google signed a $1.8 billion contract for the 2.9 million-square-foot 111 Eighth Avenue yesterday, according to The Times.

That is less than the $2 billion the deal was expected to fetch in late October, but it’s still great news for the city, writes Charles Bagli:

The contract not only signals a rebounding real estate market, at least for office buildings full of high-profile tenants paying good rents, but also reflects a vote of confidence by an expanding technology firm in New York City.

Some tech watchers were skeptical that Google could purchase the building where it has its New York headquarters, but never underestimate the need for more scootering space.

Businesses see BIDs as Antidote to Hard Times

By Amanda Fung

Hudson Square in lower Manhattan has come a long way in recent years, as ad agencies, media firms and others have replaced the printers that once dominated the area.

But it wasn’t until last year, when local businesses banded together to form a business improvement district, that Hudson Square finally got noticed. The BID adorned the area with promotional banners and planted trees along its corridors.

“We helped put Hudson Square on the map,” says Ellen Baer, president of the Hudson Square Connection BID, which just last week tapped a team of seven leading urban designers to give area streets and squares a pedestrian-friendly makeover.

Today, business owners in two nearby neighborhoods, SoHo and Chinatown, are hoping to follow in Hudson Square’s footsteps by forming their own BIDs, as is another group along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. In addition to those three, four existing BIDs—NoHo and the Lower East Side in Manhattan, and two in Brooklyn—are hoping to expand. Others, like Myrtle Avenue in Queens, are just in the “thinking about it” stage.

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Barclays Center starts to Rise – Atlantic Yards

Photo by Bess Adler

The first steel girders of the Barclays Center rose above the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues on Tuesday, a tangible sign that the future home of the Brooklyn Nets is moving forward.

“The installation of steel is always a major milestone for a construction project,” said Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner. “With the foundation work largely done, we are now poised to go vertical.”

One hundred tons of steel arrived at the site last week, a small portion of the 10,500 tons of the stuff that will be used in the arena.

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Mortgage purchase apps reach 6-month high

November 24, 2010 08:30AM

Mortgage applications for purchases spiked 14 percent during the week that ended Nov. 19, to their highest level since May, according to the latest weekly survey from the Mortgage Bankers Association. According to Michael Fratantoni, vice president of research and economics for the MBA, “the increase in purchase applications last week aligns with other incoming data suggesting that consumers are feeling somewhat more confident with their financial situation.” Meanwhile, refinancing applications fell 1 percent week-over-week, to their lowest level since June, as the interest rate for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.5 percent — its highest since September. The average contract interest rate for the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 3.83 percent from 3.87 percent one week ago. 

Via: The Real Deal

Bridge to Pier 1 is Approved

By Andy Campbell

The long-awaited footbridge linking Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1 and Brooklyn Heights is officially a go.

Squibb Park Bridge — which will extend from the sunken park at Columbia Heights and Middagh Street over Furman Street and down to the verdant former pier below — is off the chopping block after the Brooklyn Bridge Park board of directors approved the construction contract for the $5-million bridge last week.

Park officials hope that the pedestrian pathway will curb complaints over access to Pier 1, which is quite a schlep from any direction. That said, park officials touting the bridge as being “nearby” the A, C, 2 and 3 train lines is misleading — in fact, the trip to Pier 1 at the foot of Old Fulton Street would only be cut down by a block or two when walking from the south.

Continue Article Here:

Mini Empire State Building Tapped For Landmark Status

MIDTOWN — Three Midtown buildings are being eyed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission for landmark status, including a miniature Empire State Building and what was once deemed the “world’s biggest hotel.”

Members of Midtown Community Board 5’s Landmarks Committee scrambled to weigh in on the Commission’s plans, which they were notified of just two hours before their monthly scheduled meeting Tuesday evening.

The Commission is set to hold a public hearing on the designations on Oct. 26.

The first building, the 12- story Hotel Wolcott on W. 31st between Broadway and Fifth Ave, was designed by architect John H. Duncan, the man behind Grant’s Tomb in Riverside Park and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch in Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza, according to descriptions provided by the Commission.

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Landmarks Reviews Morningside District

The Landmarks Preservation Commission will meet Monday to provide information to homeowners about the proposed Morningside Heights Historic District, Harlem + Bespoke reported. The meeting is one of several initial steps in possibly getting the district set up, based on community feedback. The meeting will also determine the size of the district, which, at its widest point, runs along Riverside Drive between 106th and 119th streets, according to the current proposal.

Full Article

Zoning Changes for Comptroller


A task force commissioned by City Comptroller John Liu is poised to call for a major change in the way that the city determines what amenities—such as affordable housing and parks—to extract from real-estate developers in exchange for approving their plans.

Those decisions are among the most controversial parts of the city’s rough-and-tumble land-use approval process and are often criticized for the inconsistent way in which they are made. A draft report by the task force, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, recommends that new groups made up of community representatives—and monitored by the comptroller—negotiate benefit deals with developers involving major rezoning decisions.

Currently there’s no formalized way in which these deals are made. Rather a collection of interest groups typically participate, including elected officials, community organizations and others, with the ultimate decision on the zoning being made by the City Council.

Full WSJ Article

NYC construction, Real Estate Industries see August job growth

September 17, 2010 09:00AM

The city’s construction industry added 1,700 jobs last month, making it one of the best-performing employment sectors for August, second only to retail, according to a new report from Eastern Consolidated. Year-to-date, 3,000 New York City construction jobs have been created, representing 2.6 percent of the industry, but construction employment is still 11.8 percent off its August 2008 peak. Meanwhile, 400 jobs were added in real estate, bringing the total for 2010 thus far to 4,100 new employees in the city’s industry, or 3.5 percent of the workforce. New York City real estate, which Eastern Consolidated considers to include brokerage firms, leasing agencies and management companies, has now all but entirely recovered the job losses incurred during the recession, with employment down just 0.3 percent off its peak. Architecture, meanwhile, continues to suffer, losing another 200 jobs last month, which brings the yearly total for the industry in New York City to 1,200. New York’s architecture industry has lost 4.8 percent of its workforce this year and 22.8 percent of its workforce since August 2008, Eastern Consolidated data shows.  via TRD

City Revamping Plan for Red Hook, Brooklyn Streetcar Line


A long-shelved plan to restore trolley service in Brooklyn is back on track.

The city has hired a transportation consultant to study running a mile-long trolley or light rail line from the Red Hook waterfront to Atlantic Avenue at the southern edge of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The URS study could also look at extending the route another half-mile east along Atlantic Avenue to the transit hub at Borough Hall, sources said.

The city Transportation Dept. is finally tapping into a $295,000 federal grant Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn) secured for the five-month study in 2005.

Full Article Here:

Seeking Designated Buyer

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

DEREK JETER has spent his entire Major League Baseball career as a New York Yankee. But with his contract up at the end of this season, his life might be in for some adjustments. For now he is making at least one big change, selling his New York apartment.

Mr. Jeter has listed his 5,425-square-foot condominium at Trump World Tower, near the United Nations, for $20 million.

The listing broker, Debra Stotts, who is the sales and leasing director for the building, did not respond to a request seeking comment, but the listing provides some details. It describes a south-facing four-bedroom apartment with five and a half bathrooms. And through the 16-foot floor-to-ceiling windows, it says, one can see the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, Central Park, and all the way out to the Atlantic Ocean.

Full Article Here

WTC’s Remake Advances


One year and one day from now, after years of sometimes anguishing delay and controversy, the World Trade Center memorial will be dedicated.

But then what?

While organizers are finally on track to open the memorial by the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack, they haven’t figured out the logistics for opening it up to the public afterward.

Challenges are manifold. The memorial, after all, is in one of the country’s biggest construction sites and what was in the past a prime terrorism target. During construction, the skyscrapers and other buildings rising on three sides will pose a safety risk for the millions of visitors who are expected to visit.

A wide number of other issues also aren’t resolved, from how visitors to the memorial will be screened to where the scores of tour buses will be parked. “It’s a matter of figuring out, within all this heavy construction, how do you get people onto the site safely and off the site safely?” said Joe Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, in an interview. “We don’t have all the answers yet.”

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City approves tax breaks for Manhattan properties

The city’s Industrial Development Agency voted today to approve Thomson Reuters’ application to shift up to $20.8 million in unused city and state sales tax subsidies from the construction of 3 Times Square to seven other Manhattan properties, Crain’s reported. The approval was a blow to the Newspaper Guild of New York, which is in a contract dispute with Thomson Reuters and had mobilized elected officials to pressure the Bloomberg administration to table the application.

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Conde Nast to 1 World Trade Center

A 2006 rendering of the Freedom Tower. It is now known as 1 World Trade Center.

Condé Nast’s decision in 1996 to move its headquarters, chic magazines and black-clad editors to Times Square proved to be a transformative moment for a still rough-and-tumble district shunned by many New Yorkers.
Reuters, Ernst & Young, “Good Morning America” on ABC and millions of tourists soon followed the media company’s path, pushing aside the pornographic shops, prostitutes and hustlers who once dominated a neighborhood known as the crossroads of the world.

Fourteen years later, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is hoping that Condé Nast can work that kind of magic downtown. On Tuesday, the authority signed a tentative deal to move the Condé Nast headquarters to 1 World Trade Center, the 1,776-foot skyscraper now under construction at ground zero. That would make it the building’s largest private tenant so far and one with trend-setting cachet to boot.

Full Article Here:

New York Living Solutions wins Aire contest

The Real Deal Online, NY Living Solutions wins Aire contest

July 21, 2010 01:30PM By Candace Taylor

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Bob Scaglion of Rose Associates (left), NY Living Solutions’ Gannon Forrester and the Aire at 200 West 67th Street

Aiming to gain an edge on the other new luxury rentals just hitting the market, Upper West Side tower the Aire held a contest last month, offering bonuses to the brokerage that completed the most transactions in the building.
The 80-agent sales and rental firm New York Living Solutions won the contest, helping to bring the building to roughly 25 percent leased, according to Rose Associates, the on-site leasing agent for the building.

The contest, which ran from June 1 to July 4, offered bonuses to the firm which completed the most transactions in the 43-story building, located at 200 West 67th Street, during that time period. The prize was $1,000 for each agent who completed a transaction in the building, plus $5,000 for the firm. (The developer, Kalimian Properties, is also paying a one-month broker’s fee.)

New York Living Solutions management is using its prize money to host a celebratory cruise around Manhattan for all its agents, said Gannon Forrester, a managing director at the firm. Agents will receive their $1,000 bonuses then, he said.

The company is focusing special attention on lease-ups of new rental buildings, he said, so the contest fit with that goal. “We made sure all the agents knew about it,” Forrester said.

Forrester directed inquiries about how many transactions the firm did to win the contest to Rose. Bob Scaglion, senior managing director at Rose, would not disclose that number, but said during the period of the contest, about 50 of the building’s 310 units were leased. Three other firms were hot on New York Living Solutions’ heels, he said, adding that Kalimian is running a similar contest at the building this month.

The goal of the promotion, in conjunction with a recent broker party, was to create buzz about the new building, which started leasing in May.

“A lot of the brokers weren’t familiar with the building, so having the party and the promotion was very good,” Scaglion said.

At the Aire, studios range in price from $2,500 to $3,600, one-bedrooms range from $3,600 to $5,000, two-bedrooms range from $5,600 to $12,000, and three-bedrooms are $11,500 to $15,000 (that’s not including a one-month-free concession currently being offered to tenants.) There are also a few as-of-yet unreleased “trophy” apartments that will rent in the range of $20,000 per month, Scaglion said.

The Aire faces stiff competition from other new Upper West Side rentals, including the Corner at 72nd and Broadway (both buildings were designed by Handel Architects.)

But brokers say the high-end rental market is showing surprising strength.

“You would be amazed at the number of rentals above $15,000 a month all over Manhattan,” said Nancy Packes, head of the eponymous new development marketing firm, which handles both sales and rentals.

This is due in part to a pickup in relocations that started early in 2010, she said. “Our core industries are hiring,” she said. “These people are very often coming from far away from New York.”

These new hires, many of them families with children, tend to rent rather than buy when they first move to the city, she said.

And while lavish spending has become socially unacceptable since the financial crisis, wealthy renters are still out there.

After the Lehman Brothers collapse, “everyone was concerned about buildings like the Corner and the Aire,” Scaglion said. “Actually, the depth of the high-end marketplace is good. People are just quiet about it.”

The top end of the luxury rentals marketing is now pushing $80-per-square square foot, up from the $60s during the downturn, Scaglion said.

“If you build a better product, they will pay for it,” he added.

A Final Spitzer Holdover Departs Governor’s Office, Heads to Moynihan Station

Catching up on a little news from the long weekend, minutes before the close of business Friday, the Paterson administration announced that Tim Gilchrist, a top aide to the governor on all things infrastructure and transportation, would leave his job as senior advisor to the governor.

His new job: president of the Moynihan Station Development Corporation, the state agency charged (for at least the past decade) with expanding Penn Station into the Corinthian column-lined Farley Post Office across Eighth Avenue.

Mr. Gilchrist was the highest ranking member of the Spitzer administration left in the executive chamber. He initially served as deputy secretary for economic development and transportation; as his fellow deputy secretaries each left, he took on more turf, coordinating how to spend the state’s stimulus money received from the federal government

Full Article Here – Via NY Observer

Private Mortgage Insurance Easier to Obtain

WITH private mortgage insurance considerably tougher to get last year than at any point in decades, many borrowers flocked to loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

They had little choice. Lenders typically will not offer mortgages to borrowers with down payments below 20 percent, unless the borrowers get insurance to indemnify the lender in the event of a default. And the federal government was the only entity willing to back many of these borrowers during the housing market slump.

Now private mortgage insurance, or P.M.I., could be making a comeback. Some mortgage insurance companies like Genworth Financial and Radian Guaranty have been easing underwriting standards — sometimes eliminating geographic restrictions, in the case of Genworth, for instance, and offering insurance to some borrowers with down payments of as little as 5 percent.

Rohit Gupta, the chief commercial officer for Genworth’s domestic mortgage insurance business, attributed the relaxed standards to a more stable housing market, along with improved financial conditions for the nation’s major mortgage insurance companies.

Full Article Here – Via NY Times

Congress: Cap ATM fees at 50 cents

By David Ellis

NEW YORK ( — As Congress debates the new rules of the road for the U.S. banking industry, some lawmakers have an ambitious proposal: They want to cut ATM fees.

Last week, a trio of Democratic senators led by Iowa’s Tom Harkin proposed capping automated teller machine fees at just 50 cents.


Currently, banks and other ATM operators are free to charge consumers whatever they want for using their machine. And backers of the amendment maintain that those who tend feel the brunt of those fees are lower- and middle-income Americans, precisely those who can’t afford it.

Full Article Here: