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.
A look at buyers and sellers
By Lauren Elkies
The bleak economy and credit crunch have claimed their share of victims in the New York City real estate world, but under the surface they have also shifted the foundations that buyers and sellers became accustomed to when the market was peaking.
This month, The Real Deal offers a series of stories about how buyers and sellers in the five boroughs and in the surrounding suburbs are dealing with one another and with the new financial terrain a little over a year into the crunch.
While prices have softened in some neighborhoods, first-time buyers are having more trouble than ever securing mortgages and getting a piece of the action (see Amid mortgage woes, first-time buyers seek solutions).
As their purchasing power has decreased, the pace of sales of the smaller units they tend to buy has slowed, creating a pileup of inventory. In Manhattan, there has been a sharp drop in sales of studios and one-bedrooms this year.
Meanwhile, some buyers fear more foreclosures could result in a growing number of vacant buildings, particularly in fringe areas of the city, which could contribute to an uptick in crime (see Watching for broken windows).
Experts weigh in on whether the so-called “broken windows theory,” which suggests that crime increases in areas of neglect, will play out in places like Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick and other neighborhoods with high foreclosures rates. Crime, of course, can put a damper on the appeal of a neighborhood and depress prices, driving away potential buyers.
In more prime areas, foreign buyers, who have been capitalizing on the weak dollar and propping up sales activity in the city, are now starting to pull back. As the dollar has started to rebound (at least a little), brokers say those with primary addresses in other countries are finally starting to hesitate and wait for deeper price cuts (see Fewer foreign clients buying).
On the seller side, market conditions and anxiety about the economy are causing some to drop asking prices to increase their chances of a sale, and prompting others to take their listings off the market altogether and wait until the market swings back (see Sellers feeling the pressure).
Even buildings are being put through the wringer. Co-ops have long put potential buyers through a rigorous board approval process. But now, lenders are turning the tables on them and more closely scrutinizing their books.
And, whether at a co-op or condo, gentrification continues to cause tension between existing board members and new residents, especially when the newbies push for expensive cosmetic upgrades for the building (see New buyers clashing with the condo board).
In the Financial District, the credit crunch has translated into fewer buyers at open houses (see Open house traffic hits wall in Financial District). And in the South Bronx, it has put activity on hold. The difficulty in securing cash has made it harder for small investors to buy into the area and stymied new residential development and rehabs there (see South Bronx buzz fizzles).
Beyond New York City, in suburbs like Westchester and Nassau and Fairfield counties, foreclosures on the rise are helping depress the overall market for sellers (see New York City’s suburbs slip).
And in parts of New Jersey and Long Island, there’s a real estate domino effect taking hold for so-called “trade ups” (see Trading up slows down).
Experts told The Real Deal that some sellers looking to unload their “starter homes” are out of luck, in large part because the buyers they need are unable to secure mortgages. And, until they pull their equity out of their homes, they don’t have the money to become buyers themselves.
April 13, 2008
By JOSH BARBANEL
REPORTS of a decline of the Manhattan real estate market may have been premature.
Since the release of first-quarter sales results on April Fool’s Day, brokers have been ruminating on the extent of a slowdown in the property market. One report prepared for Prudential Douglas Elliman by Jonathan J. Miller, an appraiser, showed a 34 percent drop in quarterly sales, compared with the corresponding period in 2007, the steepest decline in sales in memory.
This finding, however, was called into question by higher sales figures recorded by other brokerage firms. And even one of Elliman’s top-selling brokers, Dolly Lenz, said in an e-mail message to fellow brokers, “Something is very wrong somewhere and I need a plausible response, as will we all.”
In a later e-mail message to a reporter, she said that despite some stress “here and there due to overbuilding,” the “market is really quite good over all.”
Last Wednesday, Gregory Heym, the chief economist for Halstead Property and Brown Harris Stevens, sent an e-mail message of his own to brokers at those firms. He said that while each company’s sales figures were only estimates, the Douglas Elliman report was incorrect and “missing almost 600 sales, which were available for anyone to view” in the city’s online records.
Mr. Miller, the president of Miller Samuel Inc., said he used the same methodology that he has been using for 14 years, based on a variety of public and proprietary sources, and that differences in firms’ reports could be caused by the timing of data collection. “I stand by my numbers and the methodology used to compile them,” he said.
Because there is often a lag of several weeks in reports of property closings, each firm tries to capture closings filed in public records up to a few days before the end of the quarter, as well as additional reports of closings from managing agents and other sources.
But a review of closing documents filed by last Wednesday, nine days after the end of the quarter, showed that the number of sales was roughly flat compared with the same quarter a year ago. They fell, but by less than 1 percent, or a decline of 11 sales out of nearly 3,500 sales reported in April 2007.
Last spring, the number of closings rose to record levels, but with contract signings lagging lately and uncertainty on Wall Street, few brokers are predicting a similar surge this spring. Yet who would have thought that Manhattan apartment prices would hit record highs in the first quarter, while prices fell across the country?
NYLS is proud to be participating in our second annual Aids Walk on May 18th, 2008. Please join our team and help raise money by walking through Central Park for those affected by HIV/AIDS.
If you are interested in Joining this years NYLS Aids Walk Team, Please visit www.aidswalk.net and click on “TEAMS” and look for our two teams, “NYLS DOWNTOWN” and “NYLS GRAMERCY”. To donate to this worthy cause please click on “Donations” under our team name.
If you have any questions please visit www.aidswalk.net or give us a call at 212.962.3940.
(The 2007 NYLS Aids Walk New York Team)
Last night Team NYLS defeated Team “LIC” to win their 2nd “Urban Professional League” Championship…
GAME SUMMARY: With many fans cheering them on, Team NYLS got off to a shaky start and trailed by two points at halftime (22-20). In the second half however, Team NYLS got it together; led by leading scorer Laverne Goulbourne (22 points) and Michael Roche (14 points), NYLS hit a number of amazing shots to take the lead for good with 10 minutes left in the game. Team captain Giovanni Castro provided much needed leadership down the stretch and 6th man Ben Brown played great defense and provided excellent toughness in the second half. In the end it was Team NYLS 52 and Team “LIC” 43. Team NYLS finished the season with 13 wins and only 1 defeat.
Team NYLS would like to thank those who attended the game (and those who arrived just after the conclusion of the game) and the Championship Afterparty.