Stuy Town Sale Going South?

November 16, 2006

stuyvesant.jpgCrain’s is reporting that the largest real estate deal in American history is headed for an iceberg. Last month MetLife agreed to sell Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village to the highest bidder, Tishman Speyer, for $5.4 billion. It was supposed to close this week. The 110 building complex on First Ave. between 14th and 23rd Streets, was built by MetLife for returning veterans from World War II. Since then, generations of middle class and working people have lived and raised families there, as the rents are significantly below market rate as a result of stabilization laws.

Now Crain’s is reporting on a long-forgotten agreement dating back to 1942 between the City of New York and MetLife that the company would not make more than a 6 percent annual profit on the development in exchange for a 25 year tax break. Presumably this referred to the rent collected from tenants, but a lawyer representing the tenants, who only recently discovered this agreement, is making the argument that it applies to the sale of the property as well, and that all profits above 6 percent from the sale should go to the city. Needless to say, Tishman Speyer probably wouldn’t be down with that.

Is this a last minute “desperate” effort to derail the deal? Of course! Is it also a legitimate claim based on a binding legal agreement? Depends on the judge. And you can take it to the bank that a judge will be getting involved.


Flushing, New York

November 15, 2006

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While New York lags behind other global cities in providing safe and clean public bathrooms, leave it to the private sector to step in and fill the void (at least temporarily). In an absolutely brilliant public relations move, Charmin is going to open a public restroom in Times Square, which will be stocked not only with TP but human attendants through Dec. 31. And of course, there is a screaming billboard telling the 15 million tourists who come to New York over the holidays where they can “Go In Style.” According to the Times article:

“Let’s face it — there aren’t a lot of environments where a bathroom tissue message is relevant,” said Dennis Legault, brand manager for Charmin. “But the message is very relevant when people really need to go.”

So true! I was wondering where I would take my dad and his wife when they visit for the hollidays, and now I’ve got the perfect spot: The 20-stall public restroom at 1540 Broadway, between 45th and 46th Streets, which — in addition to the billboard — will be advertised by people walking around Times Square dressed as toilets.

Happy flushing, New York.

UPDATE:

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It seems I’m not the only one who recognized what a brilliant PR campaign this has been for Charmin. From a story in today’s Times covering the ceremonial first flush yesterday:

“The mind boggles,” [Mayor Michael R.] Bloomberg said when asked about the Times Square event during a news conference in the Bronx. “The person that sold that is somebody I’d love to have come to work for my company.”

Tim Tompkins, the president of the Times Square Alliance, the business group that, among other things, organizes the city’s New Years Eve celebration, said, “I’ve never seen so many television cameras in my life, not even on New Year’s.”

Each bathroom has its own sink, original decor, baby-changing tables, and of course rolls of Charmin.


Coney Island, Holy S**t

November 14, 2006

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Thor Equities has been planning a Coney Island redo for a long time now, and The New York Sun comes through with a nice article about the latest plans, a $1.5 billion mega-project. Not much can be added to the renderings, except to say that I don’t see a whole lot left of the freakshows. Other than a nod to Nathan’s, there’s absolutely nothing here to reassure people that Thor will respect the history of Coney Island. One can only hope that the collapse of the real estate market will seriously scale these plans back to a more subtle version of Las Vegas. (For a slideshow I took last year of real-life people who actually go to Coney Island, click on over to Photo Essays at the top of the page and scroll down.)

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Two more renderings, by Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects, after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


Updating the High Line

November 7, 2006

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At a luncheon today hosted by AREW (Association of Real Estate Women), the topic was the High Line, an old elevated railroad on the far west side of Manhattan. Even though I’ve written about the plans (click here for a pdf) to turn it into one of the most unique greenway spaces in New York, if not the entire United States, I still learned a few things while eating a really bad chicken breast lunch. First of all, I was unaware of the fact that the elevated greenway design only recently got funding for phase 2 from EDC (NYC economic development corporation), and that the design as it currently stands does not extend all the way up to the Hudson rail yards. Friends of the High Line (check out their website for tons of great images) still needs to raise $40 million, and designs have not been totally finalized (they’ll be on display next summer at an exhibit at Grand Central Station). The designs by Field Operations and Diller, Scofidio + Renfro that have been widely circulated and approved of are more or less schematic in nature. Of course, this is about as far along as one could possibly hope at this point, but the High Line seems to be a bit more in flux than I thought, especially considering how fast the buildings all around it are coming up. The Caledonia at W. 17th — a massive 540,000 square-foot residential building with 190 condos (60 percent sold) and 288 rental units — broke ground four months ago and will begin rising out of the ground shortly, according to Charles Bendit, principal of Taconic Investment Partners. So it seems that the development frenzy kicked off by the High Line will surge ahead of the High Line itself.

Photo by Joel Sternfeld, who has a whole show of High Line photos opening tonight at the Caledonia sales office at 111 8th Avenue, Suite 516 (through Dec. 15).


Unsafe House

October 24, 2006

The New Yorker’s financial writer, James Surowiecki, has a really good piece in this week’s issue about the real estate market. The main questions he answers are, if there’s an oversupply of housing, how come the median sale price has not dropped, and is it true that home prices have not fallen for a full year since the depression?

People have been building bigger homes—the typical new home is about twenty-five per cent bigger than it was twenty years ago—and putting money into improvements like central air-conditioning, home theatres, and pools. And the impact of quality adjustments isn’t trivial; a study of home prices between 1977 and 2003 found that adjusting for quality reduced the return to homeowners by forty per cent. As for the much vaunted statistic about housing prices never falling for a full year since the Depression? That’s true only if you forget about inflation.

To read the whole article, click here.


Stuy Town/Cooper Village Sold

October 17, 2006

The Times is reporting that Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village have been sold to the highest bidder, Tishman Speyer, for $5.4 billion. With more than half of the apartments rent stabilized, the 110 building complex on First Ave. between 14th and 23rd Streets, is one of the last bastions of middle class housing in Manhattan, where teachers, nurses and police officers have lived for decades. It’s a sad day for affordable housing in New York, and even more troubling that Mayor Bloomberg “stood on the sidelines” while tenants tried to put together a package to buy the complex themselves. The complex was built by MetLife (which is the seller in this transaction) for returning veterans from World War II. There’s simply no question that Tishman Speyer will be doing everything it can to de-regulate the apartments as quickly as possible to recoup its investment.


120 St. Marks Update

October 12, 2006

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An afternoon stroll on this beautiful day took me past 120 St. Marks Place, the last known squat on this storied street. The building, known as The Cave, is where the well known Mosaic Man, aka Jim Power, lived for years before being evicted (a situation I wrote about extensively on my previous Polis site over at Blogger, click here for the original post). In fact, Mosaic Man continued to live in a make-shift shack out front of 120 St. Marks for months while demolition of the building was underway. Now it seems to be only a matter of weeks before the building will be all but ready for occupation. No word yet on the management’s website of whether it will be apartments or condos, but either way, there’s no doubt it will be expensive. I haven’t seen Mosaic Man lately, but I know he’s still around the nabe from seeing sidewalk chalk promos for his website, EastVillage.com.