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Housing Archive

September 28, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

Notes from a Reader: Bloomberg and the Gowanus Canal

From Katia Kelly, Pardon Me For Asking:

I am a neighborhood blogger in Brooklyn, New York. I have been writing extensively about the heavily polluted Gowanus Canal, which runs through the very populated areas of Carroll Gardens and Park Slope.

The EPA has proposed to place the waterway on its list of Superfund Sites, an honor reserved for the most toxic areas in the nation. The community has embraced such a designation. Mayor Bloomberg, however, has opposed it, mostly because he wants the banks of the Gowanus Canal to be rezoned for housing development. The city has come up with an alternative plan which is as unfeasible as it is laughable.

Though the EPA has promised to only take science into consideration, the mayor has lobbied Lisa Jackson, Washington EPA Administrator, for the last few weeks, and it looks as though she is buckling under the pressure.

Our community needs help to expose our Mayor’s blunt disregard for EPA science and for the wishes of the residents who have made the area their home.

Here is some background information:

[1]Bloomberg Still Pushing His Gowanus Greenwashing Plan Over EPA Environmental Science

[2]Please Help Get Bloomberg Politics Out Of The Gowanus Canal Clean-Up!

[3]Mayor Bloomberg, Your Band-Aid Approach To Gowanus Clean-Up No Solution

[4]Gowanus Superfund: City And Elected Officials Spinning As Fast As They Can

[5]Last Night’s CB6 Gowanus Superfund Meeting: The Pros Vs. The Amateurs

[6]Regarding Gowanus Superfund Designation, Our Local Pols Are Showing Incredible Lack Of Leadership

[7]‘Why The Gowanus Should Be A Superfund Site’ By Tom Angotti, PHD

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September 28, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

The Middle Class and the Race for Mayor

Fred Siegel, visiting professor at St. Francis College and a contributing editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, and his son Harry Siegel, an editor at Politico, envision a rough future for middle class New Yorkers if Mayor Bloomberg wins a third term.

Via The Daily News:

The candidate with working-class roots has been a ubiquitous figure this year, with ads touting a leader who attended public schools and is offering voters a “Middle Class Affordability Plan” and a “Five Borough Better Transit Tour.”

That candidate, of course, is the city’s wealthiest man and two-term mayor, who’s self-financing a campaign expected to cost about $80 million.

“A product of public schools, he worked and took out student loans to help pay his way through college,” reads the ad script. “But as far as he’s come, Mike Bloomberg’s never forgotten his roots. He works for a dollar a year as our mayor, and takes on special interests for the benefit of middle class families.”

Candidate Mike, friend of the middle class, emerges, groundhog-like, every four years – only to fade from view once the election is done, replaced by Mayor Mike, who raises property, sales and income taxes, tickets anything that moves, makes sweetheart deals with developers and touts his vision of a “luxury city.”
Read rest of story…

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September 27, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

Good Old Mike — The Affordable Housing Mayor

From Sue Susman:

Hi, all.

The article below says Gluck & Chetrit, developers of “Columbus
Square” (5 new apartment buildings and more between 97th and 100th Streets along Columbus & Amsterdam Avenue and in between) have agreed to put the apartments under rent stabilization in terms of increases – in exchange for tax abatements. But the rents are so high that tenants – at least in the second year after the special deals expire – will have to earn more than the “high income” at which landlords may legally deregulate the apartments.

I’m hoping to see the agreement – and whether Gluck & Chetrit agreed NOT to deregulate.

More specifically: Rent stabilization is based on the REGISTERED rents. But the article says “AFTER FACTORING IN THE OFFERS OF FREE RENT, one-bedrooms START at $2,799 and two-bedrooms at $4,103. Alcove studios start at $2,535, but there are no concessions on those units.” – emphasis added.

Given the 3 months free, the registered rents would be 1/3 more than the article reports – or $3732 for a one-bedroom apartment and $5470 for a two-bedroom. So if the tenants stay for a second year, their rents would be the higher amounts. And their incomes would have to accommodate that.

Typically, a prudent tenant pays no more than 33.3% of household
income in rent – and landlords often refuse to rent to tenants who would have to pay more than that percentage of their income in rent.

So the tenant in a one-bedroom apartment that rents for $2,799 would have to have an annual income of at least $100,764 — but if the actual rent is $3732, the income would have to be $134,352.

In a two-bedroom apartment that rents for $4,103, the tenant would need an annual income of at least $147,708 — but if the actual rent is $5470, the tenant’s income would have to be $196,944.

BUT the current law is that when the rent of an occupied rent stabilized apartment is $2000 or more AND the household income exceeds $175,000 for 2 consecutive years, the landlord can remove it permanently from rent stabilization.

The bill that would increase high-income decontrol so that the income would have to be $240,000 might help the tenants who move into Columbus Square – if the bill passes. But so far, no major tenant bills have passed the state legislature.

– Sue

Via The New York Times: Bounty for Brokers

WITH the economy sluggish and rents falling, new rental buildings have been offering ever larger incentives to tenants and their agents. But Columbus Square, the complex of five new glass rental buildings going up on the Upper West Side on and around Columbus Avenue between 97th and 100th Streets, is raising the stakes.

The developers, the Chetrit Group and Stellar Management, have already been offering free rent and broker fees in the first two buildings to be ready for occupancy. Last week they sent brokers an e-mail blast with the subject line, in capital letters: “$1,000 agent bonuses plus three months’ free rent.”

Brokers get the $1,000 bounty if they bring in buyers who move in by Oct. 15. Jeffrey Davis, the project manager at Columbus Square, said the project was not facing any financing or other deadlines. But, he said, the developers wanted to speed up business toward what they consider the end of the summer leasing season, and get renters to move in while construction is still under way.

“In this market you have to be creative,” Mr. Davis said. “I figured if I could incentivize everybody I would get more deals done.”

The offer raises ticklish questions for real estate agents who bring in renters, because the agents technically represent the interests of the landlord. Do they disclose the possibility of a $1,000 bonus, and if so, do they use the bonus as an incentive for the renter — instead of keeping it themselves — to help close the deal?

The first building in the project, a 29-story tower at 808 Columbus Avenue, has 359 apartments, of which 200 are now completed and 110 rented, Mr. Davis said. The building’s amenities include a 70-foot saltwater pool, an outdoor sundeck and a Whole Foods grocery.

A second building, at 801 Amsterdam Avenue, is also near completion, with 13 of 100 apartments rented. The free rent offers — three months at Amsterdam Avenue and two months at Columbus — lower the costs to renters, but preserve the higher rent written into the lease.

The high rent may be particularly important at a project like Columbus Square, whose developers agreed to take part in the state’s rent stabilization program, limiting rent increases in exchange for tax abatements. Mr. Davis said the regulated rent levels would be based on the initial rents.

After factoring in the offers of free rent, one-bedrooms start at $2,799 and two-bedrooms at $4,103. Alcove studios start at $2,535, but there are no concessions on those units.

The new development was bitterly opposed by residents of its neighbor, a 2,500-unit development called Park West Village. As part of the Columbus Square project, a T. J. Maxx store, a bakery and a bank are going up on Columbus Avenue.

Mr. Davis said the new retail stores would turn this section of Columbus Avenue into a more attractive destination for renters.


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September 23, 2009 @ 11:28 am

Mike Bloomberg — Friend of the Middle Class, Friend of Homeowners?


People say it diminishes credibility to be as angry and strident as this tour guide. Maybe so. But we admire and applaud his passion. Folks, the Bloomberg strategy is to collect enough celebrity and “leadership” endorsements, create an aura of invincibility, spend a hundred million to blanket the city with BS, put voters to sleep, and pull out his own supporters. Shame on the celebrities who are supporting this very, very nasty oligarch.

Shame on you Whoopi Goldberg, Matt Damon, and Jorge Posada. Let’s let them know how we feel.

Wall of Shame

Filed under Housing, Reading List · 1 Comment »

September 19, 2009 @ 2:07 pm

Citywide Tenant Demonstration: Oct. 1

From Sue Susman:

The Rent Guidelines Board votes on rent increases (never a decrease!) each June that go into effect for leases starting on or after the following October 1st. This year the increases are the higher of 6% or $60 for 2-year lease renewals, and the higher of 3% or $30 for 1-year lease renewals.

Tenant groups are planning a rally to highlight the roll of the RGB — all of whose members are appointed by Mayor Bloomberg – and to protest the increases:


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September 15, 2009 @ 11:18 am

Gotham Gazette on Real Estate Money in NYC Elections

The candidates who have collected the most in campaign contributions from the city’s developers: Melinda Katz, William Thompson, Eric Gioia and David Weprin (Image by Ya-Hsuan Huang)

From Kenny Schaeffer:

I agree with almost everything here except “Nothing is going to change.” Met Council has endorsed Thompson because we think he has a real chance to defeat Michael Bloomberg, an opportunity we can’t afford to miss. While Thompson may accept real estate contributions he differs from Bloomberg in stating that the mayor should lead the fight to restore NYC home rule over rent and eviction protections.

Thompson is also committed to naming public members of the RGB who understand rent regulation and understand that their job is protecting the public from unwarranted rent increases.

Some things will change, but only if Bloomberg is defeated. Tony
Avella’s record and his positions are exemplary but some of his
statements during this campaign are playing into Bloomberg’s hands.

Hopefully both camps will work together after the primary.

Real Estate’s Last Stand

By Courtney Gross, Gotham Gazette

Under the glare of television cameras at the final mayoral primary debate last week, Councilmember and mayoral candidate Tony Avella took aim at his favorite villain.

“My opponent,” he said referring to Comptroller William Thompson, “has taken huge amounts of money from the real estate industry.” He paused, raised his voice and declared, “Nothing is going to change.”
Read rest of story…

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September 10, 2009 @ 7:44 pm

Where Oh Where Are The Tenant Leaders?

We cannot object to funds appropriated to build or renovate affordable housing. But hundreds of thousands of units of affordable housing have disappeared during Bloomberg’s reign due to privatization of publicly subsidized developments, the actions of his appointees on the Rent Guidelines Board, and the refusal of the Democratic governor and Democratic-controlled legislature to provide meaningful preservation of the affordable housing that once existed and will continue to disappear.

It seems almost a mockery to allocate this much money for these paltry results. Think of the politicians and developers as little children building sand castles on the beach. They pile up the sand, the waves flood in, destroy most of the castles, they build again, and eventually everyone goes home. The kids have had a good time, but no castles remain.

And there are the usual culprits, Lopez, Espada, Smith, and Silver trumpeting their affordable housing initiatives. We suspect, too, that if we picked up the rocks, we would find a few of the politically wired grantees making some serious money in the name of affordable housing.

Where oh where are the tenant leaders?
Read rest of story…

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September 10, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

Bloomberg Revealing His True Attitude About Affordable Housing

Bloomberg: Mitchell-Lama tenants just want to get rich by buying their own apartments.

Many previous posts have detailed how Mitchell-Lama developers made fortunes by getting urban renewal land at bargain prices, getting government-financed construction loans at 1% interest rates, getting multimillion dollar government-financed developer fees (cash in their pockets), getting additional millions of dollars in limited partnership tax shelter deals, and too many other ways to explain in this short post, some legal and some not. Even Mitchell, a lawyer, and Lama, an architect, both of whom were state legislators, made tons of money in these deals, as did many other politicians.

Mitchell-Lama developers all made fortunes beyond the rents they were allowed to charge. The rents were the smallest parts of these deals. Everyone who has had anything to do with real estate development knows this to be the case. And yet the story line that Michael Bloomberg continues to promote is that in exchange for keeping rents low they got a few tax breaks, and when thirty years were up the deal was they could sell the developments. And tenants just want to get rich!!!
Read rest of story…

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September 9, 2009 @ 4:31 pm

NY Times: Stuy Town Owners Near Default

For years, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, built with massive government subsidies, was a middle class oasis of 11,227 affordable apartments. Then “Mike” the pre-election friend of the middle class–if we are to believe his advertising blitz–stepped aside while his friends, the giant predatory equity real estate firm Tishman Speyer bought the complex. It offered investors 20% returns based on its plan to force out those who couldn’t afford the planned massive rent increases. Those close to the situation said the mayor didn’t merely step aside, his actions actually helped Tishman Speyer win the bidding. Those credulous New Yorkers who buy into the idea of Bloomie the Benign or Just Mike, the friend of middle class New Yorkers, ought to take a close look at this deal and the mayor’s comments when it went down: “”MetLife owns it, and they have a right to sell it.”

Via The New York Times
Buyers of Huge Manhattan Complex Face Default Risk

Three years ago, the sale of the 110 red brick apartment buildings at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village in Manhattan amounted to the biggest American real estate deal in history.
Read rest of story…

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September 7, 2009 @ 9:20 am

Reading: State Senate shelves key tenant-protection bills

Why aren’t we surprised?

Tenants cannot hope to get meaningful protection from Albany or New York City until they depose Michael Bloomberg and Christine Quinn, and by doing so, send the message to all the other real estate-financed politicians that they finally understand the game that’s being played at their expense. They won’t understand the game until some tenant “leaders” retire and are replaced with those who tell tenants the truth.

Speaking Truth to Power is far less important than speaking truth to the powerless: The powerful already know the truth.
Read rest of story…

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