New York City Real Estate

Votes to Extend Rent Regulation

By CHARLES V. BAGLI

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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BPCA and 11 Condos Reach Tentative Deal on Ground Rents

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

The End Of Amazin’

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.

Full Article Here

Board Backs Development of Site on Lower East Side With Housing

By CARA BUCKLEY

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.”

Full Article Here

Curbing Closing Costs

The New York Times
By LYNNLEY BROWNING
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 Bankrate.com, a financial data publisher; the average in New York State was $5,623.

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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.

By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE

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.   mchaban@obsever.com

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

By ELIOT BROWN

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

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.

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.