A Stunning East Village Day

A few weeks ago my Dad was in town and he is a bad influence. While I want to obsess about real estate transactions, real estate transactions, sports, my fitness, and real estate transactions, he wants to talk about history, eat good food, and waste time with so called interesting people.

To mollify him we went to my Barber Jay, and then to B&H Dairy, which this week was notable in that it did not explode.

So another time we will talk about B&H and my Dad, and his telling of the Jewish history of Second Ave, the East Village, the LES. My Dad is an NYC Jew, just like myself, my sister Yoshi, and B&H Dairy, the best place for blintzes, whose tagline is CHALLAH! por favor. This is important to point out. To me- hearing about my ancestors struggles and immigrant experience, has always been a source of pride – and it is a heritage that is inquisitive, open minded, and appreciative of diversity.

I sell a lot of real estate in the East Village. Josh Rubin and I are among the top selling agents in the neighborhood. It’s notable because the apartments are quirky, and have certain idiosyncrasies that make sense if you have a sense of the history of the neighborhood. As a matter of fact in 2 weeks I will be releasing a PH (walk-up) One Bed with a private roof deck asking $700,000. Email me to see it first.

So this week, on the day that three buildings exploded, on Second Avenue, I was closing on an apartment at 347 E 5th St PHA where I represented the seller and buyer. It was a weird transaction in a weird building. Shout out to Michael Bensimon at Sterling National Bank for getting the loan done, despite 60% of the building being rentals.

On the day of the closing, we do the walk through, and there is evidence of a roof leak. This leads to conflict, negotiation, etc… Then on the way to the closing the Second Ave explosion happens so we are stuck in traffic. So we get to the closing late. But you know what – in the end we got the building to repaint the apartment (they had already patched the leak) and buyer and seller ended a curt business deal with more smiles that had been evident than at any point prior.

Then I go and check out something I have been meaning to see for quite some time, a jewel of the East Village, the art show Polar Opposites currently at NOoSPHERE ARTS at 251 East Houston St. Now, mind you, I didn’t actually know about the explosion and the fire. So while I am getting a private tour of the show, an infantry of fire trucks is going past me on Houston St. Later on I would catch wind of the news. Dramatic to say the least. And sad.

The art show was very dramatic in its own right. In fact with all the bullshit, traffic, leaks, nags, sirens, etc… that plague our New York lives, being able to see incredible creativity is one nice thing we can enjoy.

The show is made up of three artists, two photographers and a painter. As an artist myself, I am a harsh critic. I am also a loving critic. I really liked all the artists.

Here is what to look for when you go to the show (open now until 4/12.)

Kordan

Daniel Kordan: Thomas Kincaid-ish…. I hope that’s not a dig. Kordan is a magician. His idyllic Arctic Circle villages do remind me of Kincaid’s paintings though (which is like the kiss of death for an NYC artist, but it shouldn’t be.) Anyway Mr. Kordan is from Moscow (like most Brooklynites – jk/lol.) His use of exposure and surface really is evocative – in a way Kincaid is not. The juxtaposition of light, ice, and flowing water are painterly, luscious, and beautiful. These images are not ashamed of bold composition and clear moments of interest. A renaissance of the beautiful landscape emerges.

Christine Kjelsmark: the lone painter in the show, her work is plein-air meets street art, meets the Faro Islands. She has a fun style and includes legion birds doing cute things in their Mountain River Arctic Oasis as the clouds roll along. Her artwork shows a connection to the splendor of green and character of white and ice that only a Northern artist would be sensitive to.

Jeff Orlowski: Jeff’s photos are a bit political (sadly) and are an outgrowth of his Academy Award nominated film, Chasing Ice, chronicling the melting of the glaciers. Jeff identifies himself as a photographer and a filmmaker, and his work is cinematic and rich. Lively icebergs on Mountains give way to a feeling of adventure, and almost magical fantasy, made richer by the understanding this is documented majesty, not photoshopped fiction.

I want to thank Kirsten Wildfang for arranging for me to see the show, and I really recommend it if you want something new to do in the East Village / Lower East Side. Like all historic moments, it won’t be around forever.

The Sexiest Thing Happening Behind Closed Doors

Text from my friend’s girlfriend: Dave!! The company I work for is having a benefit tomorrow and a showing, its 7 – 9pm , 25$ but drinks and food and music, cool peeps. I’m making XXXX come, but he would probably enjoy it better if you came hahah!! And there will dancer hot ladies!! Please say you’ll come!! :):):)

So… I went.

My buddy meets me and looks like a million bucks, which is cool, and I’m not dressed as nice, but nice enough. We sprint to get there by 7:00, find the building, and once inside are told directions by a stunning woman in an otherwise blah lobby, and take the elevator up to a high floor, where we get out in a non-descript hallway, make a few turns, and find more stunning / sexy / pierced / cleverly shaved and fit people sitting in a hall, and we then proceed to wait.

After some time the door opens on to the physical headquarters of Sidra Bell Dance New York, and we enter.

I use the words physical headquarters because Dance can truly transcend a space, and over the course of the evening, I would learn how powerful and intense the company is, which wasn’t immediately apparent, as the door opened into a dance studio with a DJ and speakers, a stage positioned 20” high off the ground, and a table set up with wine, crudité, and a raffle.

Ever the supporter of the arts I partake in the crudité and raffle tickets.  For $20 I purchase 12 tickets. The tickets are for 4 different categories, and range from a $50 iTunes gift card to illustrations of the dancers, tickets for future performances,  and Knicks tickets (for next year, obviously.) I spread my action over all 4 categories. This was a useful strategy which yielded a good ROI, because while there was only 1 Knicks ticket gift available, there were a lot of $50 iTunes Gift Cards, and so I actually won! (The End)

Sidra Bell

 

Continued – Anyway, before my victory, the company presented the first of three dance showcases. Look, I am not going to pretend to be a dance critic. I am going to share what I saw.

The Sidra Bell Company is made up of four dancers, and the highly lauded Artistic Director Bell is supported in her organization by a team including a vibrant Board, a sophisticated General Manager, and a team of support staff who are obviously creative, and function as the glue. Before the first of the dances, they were also “on stage,” metaphorically. Our hosts were mingling, sharing, and making us feel welcomed. A projector looped performances on a wall, and the mood was very inviting.

Jonathan Campbell, Austin Diaz, Associate Artistic Director Alexandra Johnson, & Rebecca Margolick are the performers. These are four human beings who do something they may call dance. For me, it was not so much a performance as it is also an intimate experience. Each of these unique creatures brings a wisdom and vivaciousness that lets the viewer know without doubt they are in the presence of a master.

The first number is incredibly sharp, as the company uses their 4 elements in a sequence of solos, building as multiple routines are happening in a way that the eye has to focus on one or two of the dancers, as you can’t see all 4 at one time, and they are almost acting out an homage to a rave, or a club scene, and on the way, sophomoric and light moments are punctuated by powerful vibrant moments. The motions are sexy. Powerful break dance themed moves yield to slower more tense movements, and the performers are owning the space. On the faces of the performers that are just a few feet away are expressions that is method acting at its height. The dancers aren’t trying to dance to the music, they are so focused it feels as if their focus and movement creates the accompanying bass beats and snares. And then, the last passage of the opening performance, culminates when the faux rave devolves into a dance circle, and Margolick does a routine that is completely campy and silly, and is laughing at herself, and the effect is to illuminate the divide between the hobby of dancing and the art form.

I can’t really do justice to describing the dance numbers, and frankly, they don’t need to be described, they need to be witnessed. What I would say though, unequivocally, is that the leadership is clearly pushing the envelope, the dancers are more than talented performers, they are iconic, and that the organization is in a strong place.

The last takeaway I had as the evening went on and I met many friends of the company, was the bonds and energy and work ethic that so clearly laid the foundation for this work. All of us have jobs or responsibilities, and the power of the commitment these people had, their mutual acceptance, complex self-conscious creations, and ability to be in synch inspired me not only as a spectator, but also as a businessman as it was really a great illustration of what corporations everywhere are striving to achieve.

 

The Jetsons Would Be Proud – Home Automation Today

These days, home automation can be almost anything you want it to be. For the right budget, your home can become an extension of you. The basic function of home automation is to consolidate the points of control for multiple devices to one platform which is accessible from any number of user friendly locations. Typical applications would include keypads/iPads conveniently positioned throughout the home and full smartphone compatibility. With preset scene lighting, integral curtain/shade control, whole house audio/visual and smart climate control, you can chose your desired environment at the touch of a button from your smartphone or wall mounted iPad mini. Other options include access control, intercom, security, surveillance and remote control of all household functions from virtually anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

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Let’s begin by looking at two of today’s most common applications, lighting and home audio. Here’s a basic breakdown of the types of features you can expect to find:

Lighting-

Depending on whether your project involves new construction (or at least opening up walls and ceilings) or is a retrofit in a finished space, your lighting controllability options will vary in cost and in terms of what’s possible. When doing new construction or any time you have the capability of rewiring all of your light circuits, the preferred method would be to install all the light switches/dimmers for the home in one centralized location (like a tech closet, etc.) and control them with programmable keypads throughout the home. The advantage of this application is that you can designate the multiple buttons (usually 5) on each keypad to activate individual pre-programmed light settings. Some common settings include: scene lighting (using different light zones to create a desired atmosphere), entry, all on, all off, away, low, etc. There are also retrofit options for situations where centralized light switching is not in the scope of work. Various light switches can be removed and replaced with programmable keypads that communicate with one another via RF (radio frequency), creating a very similar functionality throughout the home.

Home Audio-

When it comes to home audio systems, retrofit and wireless speakers and component are readily available for those looking at minimal impact to finished living spaces. With wireless speakers throughout the house you can achieve a fairly balanced sounding system. Functionality and sound quality will depend on how strong your Wi-Fi is and how spread out the system is. Although wireless speakers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, you will compromise on a certain degree of overall sound quality. If the highest sound quality is what you’re looking for, nothing compares to wired speakers properly installed and specifically chosen for the space. With multiple apps to choose from when setting up your home audio, you should talk to your General Contractor and/or Home Automation/Audio professional about your specific intended usage of the system.

Check back in a couple of weeks when we dive into climate control, remote entry control and surveillance.

How to Cheat Death & Taxes

So it’s almost everyone’s favorite time of year. The time of year when you consider doing your taxes, realize you forgot to tell your friend about what your other friend said to their maybe ex, put it off, and file an extension. DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT AN ACCOUNTANT AND AM NOT QUALIFIED TO GIVE TAX ADVICE.

Recently people who had considered buying a home in the past are lighting up my line saying, we have to buy something, we need write offs. What, pray tell, are they referring to?

Well as a US Citizen, you might not feel your Uncle Sam hooks you up that much. In fact if you are a resident of NYC, you might hate your Uncle Sam, and his cousin’s Andrew & Bill.

Some highlights of these deductions are (and I am not an accountant, whom you should consult for any tax advice):

At least 95% of a mortgage payments during the first 20 years of a 30 year fixed, or almost 100% of an Adjustable Rate, or Interest Only note is interest. The interest is a tax deduction. So if your mortgage payment is $4,000 a month, and $48,000 a year, you can write off most of that. It’s kind of a big deal. This is only true of interest on up to $1,000,000 of debt.

If you live in a condo, you can write off the property taxes. If you live is a coop, a prescribed portion of the maintenance is tax deductible (on average, 50%) So if you have a monthly payment of $1,500, over a year you would have an additional $9,000 deduction from your Gross Income.

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One deduction that’s underappreciated, is depreciation. Commercial real estate depreciates faster than residential real estate, but residential real estate depreciates over 27.5 years. So if you paid $1,500,000 for a property, in the first year of living there you can deduct $54,545.45 off your taxes (again consult your CPA to verify.) The next year you can deduct $52,561.98  – a lower amount because you have a lower basis. This can be done until you have depreciated the property completely.

When you sell – you have to pay income taxes on the profits – which means you have to make the basis the depreciated amount. So if you depreciate $500,000, and you profit $500,000, your income from the sale is $1,000,000. However, the first $500,000 of profits in a real estate transaction for a married couple is TAX FREEZY.

You can also pad the basis by including all improvements you made to the property in the equation. So if you paid $1.5M, and then you spent $100K to improve it, you get to balance the ledger in your favor based on those costs.

So if you are renting, in addition to wasting money, and not building equity, you are missing out on interest deductions, property tax deductions, depreciation, and the tax exemption from the sale. If you do all these things you might also live longer.

In addition, here are some great tax deductions for:

And here is Johnny Cash singing “After Taxes”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RWEZ8ddexo#t=48

Equity Firms Are Lending to Landlords, Signaling a Shift

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Yanir Ram of DRI Holdings in California got a $36 million loan from Cerberus’ FirstKey Lending. He said DRI could then expand without borrowing from hard-money lenders. Credit Dustin Michelson for The New York Times

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, large private equity firms spent tens of billions of dollars buying foreclosed homes across the United States to operate them as rental properties.

Now some of those same firms are providing loans to smaller investors seeking to do much the same.

Three big private equity firms — the Blackstone Group, Colony Capital and Cerberus Capital Management — are betting that so-called landlord loans to small and midsize investors will become the next big opportunity to profit from the rebound in the United States housing market. The private equity firms are providing financing indirectly to hundreds of real estate funds buying single-family homes, something that until recently was not widely available.

Over the last year, subsidiaries and affiliates of all three private equity firms have lent collectively about $1.5 billion to smaller residential real estate investors, enhancing the capability of these firms to gobble up distressed single-family homes, said people briefed on the matter. All three firms are gearing up to bundle those loans into bonds — with the first securitization of landlord loans expected to come to market in the next few weeks with Deutsche Bank taking the lead underwriting role, these same people said.

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Thibault Adrien raised a total of $82 million from investors to buy hundreds of foreclosed homes to renovate and rent out. Credit Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times

The private equity firms see a rising demand for landlord loans — which can range from as little as $500,000 to $50 million — given that smaller- to midsize real estate investment firms historically have had to rely mainly on cash raised to make purchases. This new availability of credit comes as banks are still looking to unload 579,582 homes that the property research firm RealtyTrac estimates are still winding their way through the foreclosure process.

Blackstone, Cerberus and Colony are entering a market with little competition. Most of the banks that did make loans to investor-landlords left the market during the financial crisis. Currently, the only other significant lenders to single-family home landlords are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage finance companies. But financing from Fannie and Freddie is difficult to come by because it is limited to true mom-and-pop investors — ones who typically own just a few homes.

Some small firms, called hard-money lenders, make loans to real estate investors, but these loans tend to be for short periods of time and carry higher than normal interest rates. For that reason, many real estate investors tend to avoid hard-money lenders if they can.

The market then would appear to be a potentially large one for the private equity firms, with individual investors and small investment funds owning 14.6 million single homes in the United States, according to analysts with the investment bank Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. But it is a fragmented market with 86 percent of all investors owning 10 homes or fewer. Leaving aside the giant institutional buyers like Blackstone’s Invitation Homes, Colony’s own Colony American Home affiliate and American Homes 4 Rent, analysts at KBW estimate that just 14 percent of investors own about 11 homes to 250 homes each.

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Housing advocates, however, are concerned that landlord loans from private equity firms could fuel the purchase of homes by investors ill-equipped to manage rental properties. The advocates are concerned about the due diligence the private equity investors will do to make sure investors are not just good credit risks, but qualified property managers as well.

“Property management capacity and performance of borrowers matters a great deal when we contemplate new financing streams for smaller and midsize investors,” said Sarah Edelman, a senior policy analyst with the Center for American Progress. “Providing financing to help put excess foreclosed homes back to productive uses could be a good thing, but it’s important to think of what an investor will do with their homes.”

Representatives for the lenders say they have strict due diligence standards with regard to making loans. Investors say that it is in their interest to improve the homes they buy and maximize the return on their investment.

“We think of our tenants as our clients,” said Thibault Adrien, who four years ago raised $42 million from investors to buy hundreds of foreclosed homes to renovate and rent them out. “If we provide them good service they will be happy and stay longer in our homes.”

With an $11 million loan from Cerberus’s FirstKey Lending, Mr. Adrien is now looking to double his purchasing power on a second fund that raised about $40 million in investor cash. With the financing, his Lafayette Real Estate, a firm based in New York, will be able to buy more homes in the half-dozen states it currently operates in than it otherwise could, he said.

Mr. Adrien, who formerly worked for the private equity firm Fortress Investment Group, said the availability of financing was vital for midsize investors like him who are not interested in flipping distressed homes for a quick profit but operating rental properties for the long haul. He intends to borrow $40 million more from either FirstKey or another private equity lender.

The developing market for landlord loans shows how large private equity firms are working their way deeper into the fabric of the United States housing market. They are doing so at a time when there is increased demand for rental housing and many people still have dented credit histories coming out of the financial crisis and do not qualify for a mortgage.

Blackstone, for instance, which emerged as the biggest Wall Street-backed buyer of foreclosed homes, now manages about 45,000 single-family homes in nine states through its Invitation Homes subsidiary. The firm’s Bayview Asset Management affiliate is buying nonperforming mortgages from the federal government. Bayview is packing the worst of those mortgages into short-term bonds that pay out based on the liquidation value of the foreclosed homes.

Now with its B2R Finance subsidiary, which began in summer 2013, Blackstone is lending money to landlords small to midsize. The firm has begun running online ads that say: “KaChing. Cash for landlords. Leverage equity to buy more rentals.”

Jason Hogg, chief executive of B2R Finance, who joined the company in November and most recently worked with American Express, said demand for loans from investors was steadily growing.

“The rental investor segment has been growing at an exponential rate,” said Mr. Hogg, who early in his career was an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New York. “We are seeing steady demand from professional rental property investors — a near doubling in the last month alone, equating to over a billion dollars in the pipeline.”

Many of those borrowing from the private equity shops have sprung into existence in just the last few years. Many investors smelling fat profits jumped into the distressed housing market in the middle of the crisis when the number of foreclosure filings peaked at 2.87 million homes in 2010, according to RealtyTrac.

Now that housing prices in many markets have recovered a good deal, the bargains are largely gone making it necessary for those investors that remain to borrow money to increase their buying power. Most of the loans the private equity firms are writing are two to five years in length and have interest rates of 5 to 6 percent. Financing is backed by mortgages on the properties and sometimes the rental payments on the homes.

In January, American Housing REIT said in a regulatory filing that it had secured a two-year $5 million loan from B2R Finance at an interest rate of a little more than 4.75 percent to purchase additional homes. American Housing, controlled by Heng Fai Enterprises, based in Hong Kong, said the loan from B2R Finance was backed by a mortgage on 72 homes it owned in the United States.

The push to securitize landlord loans is following a similar path that big institutional investors like Blackstone, Colony and American Homes 4 Rent took with their own large portfolios of single-family homes. Over the last 18 months, the biggest buyers of foreclosed homes have sold 16 single-family rental bonds with a combined value of $8.9 billion, according to Kroll Bond Rating Agency.

Yanir Ram, chief financial officer of DRI Holdings, a California real estate firm, was one of the first to get approved for a loan from FirstKey. He said the $36 million loan, secured by 300 homes his firm bought and manages in the Antelope Valley region of Southern California, would allow DRI to expand its business without borrowing from hard-money lenders.

“If these guys didn’t exist I’d be forced to pay higher rates to another lender and there would be less proceeds for my business,” Mr. Ram said.

Source: The New York Times

Expediters being charged in massive bribery scheme

In a case of serious déjà vu for New York City, a group of middlemen known as “expediters” are among those being charged in the massive bribery scheme centered around building inspectors.

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Expediters receive money from developers to acquire building permits, address violations and fill out key paperwork — all as fast as possible, and often, through illegal means, the New York Daily News reported. The corrupt culture of expediters was first revealed fifteen years ago during a similar investigation, and prosecutors demanded that they be banned. However, the number of expediters licensed by the city has actually doubled since then, up to 3,200 from 1,600.

“Anytime you can’t interact with your own government without hiring someone to grease the skids, that means the system is broken,” said Daniel Castleman, a former Manhattan prosecutor who led investigations into expediters 15 years ago. “You’re going to see these cases every five or 10 or 25 years because the system is built in such a way that you gotta have an edge.”

Over the past several years, expediters have been cited for violations ranging from bribing officials with thousands of dollars to submitting doctored photographs. In most cases, the expediters are placed on probation and begin working again shortly after. In one case, a Brooklyn man named David Weiszer posed as an expediter paid a buildings department official $300,000 in exchange for clemency on code violations. He is now a fugitive.

Charges against 50 people including building inspectors, expediters and contractors were announced earlier this month.

[NYDN] — Tess Hofmann – See more at: http://therealdeal.com/blog/2015/02/23/expediters-being-charged-in-massive-bribery-scheme/#sthash.wPV9rnea.dpuf

Material Selection 101 – Determining Factors

Carrera or quartz? Engineered or solid plank? Programmable keypads or local light switching? Spray foam, rigid, or fiberglass insulation? These are a small sampling of the various options available in today’s construction industry. As you get ready to plan your next (or first) construction project, identifying priorities such as form vs function, maintenance considerations, resale value and budget will help you narrow the search field considerably.

Form vs function:
There are those who’s aesthetic preferences are design driven and others who prefer to focus on comfort and ease of use. A space saving bifold closet door can be a great option in a smaller bedroom, unless you hate bifold doors. A custom fabricated trough sink may look fantastic, unless your kids don’t rinse the toothpaste out of its flat bottom basin every morning. You get the point. Nailing down your specific values in this regard is the first crucial step in ensuring that the project you’re planning will yield a finished product that truly reflects your vision and lifestyle.

Maintenance considerations:
What is the key function and purpose of the space you are creating? Is it a primary residence, a vacation home, a business, etc.? Do you have pets? Are children in the picture or might they be in the future? An equally important question is how much energy/money are you willing to spend on routine and spot maintenance? Certain materials can be highly durable as long as they are properly protected and maintained but will become susceptible to damage if the maintenance is not kept up. For instance, many types of stone are quite porous and will stain easily without being properly sealed (depending on the level of wear and the specific type of stone, sealing is something that will need to be done periodically). When choosing stone, be sure to ask your stone yard or contractor for professional feedback in this regard. By the same token, wood floors tend to be quite vulnerable without a sufficient clear coat. In high traffic areas, this clear coat will wear thin quicker exposing the wood grain to potential stains and scratches. Typically, prefinished flooring will have a more durable (factory applied) clear coat but is only available with micro-beveled edges, producing a look which is slightly different from that of a floor which has been sanded and finished in place. You should confer with your industry professional as to whether engineered or solid plank material is best for your specific application. If engineered flooring is the right decision, be sure to choose a product with a thick ware layer. The thickness of this top layer will determine how many times the floor can be sanded and refinished (a necessary part of routine wood floor maintenance over the years). Exterior finishes (wood, vinyl, stucco, brick, etc.) are another prime example of the degree to which maintenance requirements vary from one finish to another. Whatever finish materials you choose to go with, staying on top of routine maintenance will ensure the continued value of the investment you’re making.

material selection

Resale value:
As you enter the process of designing your project, you might hold more or less importance in the impact your choices will have on resale value. Generally speaking, it is best to avoid highly individualized/stylized design features if resale appeal is a priority. Consulting a design professional and/or your trusted real estate agent will help you to be more cognizant of the most popular building options as well as what kinds of choices to avoid in your specific area. A balance should be found incorporating a neutral style pallet while incorporating features which maximize the potential and individuality of the space.

Budget:
When identifying what your budget will be, first establish what’s driving the project as well as what’s controlling the budget number. Is this project in preparation for sale or refinancing? Is this a renovation based on necessity? Is the budget based on what you think you should spend to increase the property value or is it simply based on the amount of available funds? Either way, knowing what you want to spend on your finish materials early in the game is a big part of moving through the overall job estimation process with the least amount of distraction along with the least number of rewrites.

Without establishing these four basic parameters beforehand, selecting the materials for your renovation or new build can be a complex and overwhelming process. Taking the time to clearly define what your priorities are at the beginning is a good way to avoid being swept off course during the design phase.

Interloping At The Ellie’s

The secret to my success is that I am a complete fake. This was most true when I was pretending to be Josh Rubin at the Ellie’s at Cipriani last Thursday night. Josh is an incredibly visionary, bold, hard-working and scrappy person. Whereas most real estate agents would auction off their children’s team sports trophies if it meant getting a listing, Josh spent the Douglas Elliman awards ceremony away from the action, and sent me in his place to bask in the spray tan. Of course Josh is my team leader and all the transactions I do, I do with him.

Our team won three awards, and two were pretty special. Before I get to that, let me explain what the Ellie’s are. The Ellie’s are a once a year event where 1,000 or so of the 5,500 agents in our company are in attendance and the top performers are recognized by our company’s President and Majority Shareholder, Dottie Herman & Howard Lorber. Dottie & Howard do a lot of presenting, and in addition Steven James, and my office manager Chris Peters emcee the event. After all the talking there is drinking and dancing and eating. All on the house.

Since Elliman has expanded a lot, each year they roll out something new. One year it was that they were dumping Prudential. Another year we had a new logo and we were expanding to Los Angeles (in a deal that Josh was the procuring cause of between Howard Lorber and head of Elliman LA, Cory Weiss.) This year we discussed the new App – Elli, and that we have partnered internationally with Knight Frank & also Joseph & Co. in Aspen.

So, to the awards. The 2 big ones that I got to go up on stage for and get hugs from Chris, Steven, Dottie & Howard were for the Top 10 teams. We were #10 in the big prize of the night, Gross Commission Income. So when I tell you I’m on a Top 3 Team (or my new thing which is just saying I’m the number one agent on the number one resale only team in NYC) is an embellishment. In the place where it matters the most to the company, we were number 10. 10 out of 5,000. But not 3, or 4, or 5. Fredrik Eklund and John Gomes are number one. Fredrik, of course, is the star of Million Dollar Listing NY. He received his award from The Altman Bros. who flew in from Los Angeles (who had just joined Elliman LA that day. Also of note, Luis Ortiz and I were chilling briefly, he was recognized for his efforts with awards as well, of course.) The Eklund Gomes team, themselves, probably sold more than Keller Williams NY, and a handful of other mid-sized brokerages probably sold combined for the year. Their commissions were over $10M for 2014.

Before that grand finale award was our big award. We were Top THREE AGAIN in transactions. Now transactions aren’t as sexy as commissions, but we did 116 transactions in 2014, which was good enough to stay at 3. The Eklund Gomes Team was #2, and the Hoffman Meier Team was #1. Sometimes, if we are forced to compare ourselves to those teams (who work in the same office as us and whom we see every day) we make mention of the fact that ALL of our business comes from marketing and referrals, and those two teams are larger than ours and work with developers, which accounts for a huge portion of their transactions.

DavidRosen Rubin Team

I am part of approximately 30% of my team’s transactions. I am not the reason we were on stage, just a part of the reason. I was really jazzed to be up there with the big shots. And all I can say is thanks Josh for the opportunity. It’s been fun this last 4 years together, and I hope this year is even better. I may not be on TV, may not have a huge awards ceremony where I was the grand finale, but I was standing next to that guy (Fredrik Eklund, congratulating him like he needs my props,) and let me tell you something – those guys are great. The whole company is actually filled with fun and friendly people. Some are pretty good looking too! The Ellie’s was a ton of fun, from the Tuna Tartar to the DJ and the dancing girls. The most fun thing is the security of knowing now, that at my fourth visit to them, all of this hard work is recognized, and I am proud to have had the opportunity to have represented 116 families (times two!) directly or as part of a team, who needed to move, and succeeded.

Is Times exposé a NYC story?

Bad guys from around the world are buying up the most expensive apartments in New York to launder or protect their ill-gotten fortunes and hiding that fact through mysterious shell companies. They can do this because real estate interests blocked efforts to require property transactions to have the same strict scrutiny that comes with bank accounts and other financial dealings. This is hypocritical because the U.S. is insisting that other countries change their laws so the feds can pursue people who have hidden money and avoided taxes in places like Switzerland.

That summary seems to be the bottom line of the five-part New York Times series that anyone interested in New York real estate has been dutifully devouring in the past week. Yet the implications of all this remain somewhat mysterious—especially for New York.

The series points out that the luxury apartments these bad guys own pay very little in property taxes and that the individuals probably escape the income tax, too. That’s not exactly news.

The Times itself has published many stories about how the city’s controversial 421a tax abatement program reduces taxes on the most expensive luxury condos to absurd levels. So has Crain’s. I’ve written a lot about it, too, and about how the entire system for levying property taxes is unfair and benefits owners of pricey condos. The Independent Budget Office’s work on the issue is exemplary.

The bad guys in the Times series pay no income tax because they don’t spend half the year in New York City or New York state. They probably escape federal income tax, too, because they don’t spend half the year in the country. The Times’ own James Stewart has written a series of insightful stories on this and explained how other global cities are moving to impose taxes on the global, mobile rich by broadening their definition of residency.

Of course, Americans who buy luxury condos at places like the Time Warner Center, the focus of the series, usually benefit from both tax breaks. Ownership through a shell corporation makes no difference, either. Whatever the real estate taxes are, they have to be paid by someone. The bad guys would have to pay income tax if they lived in the city long enough and generated some income here.

Except perhaps for the developers building the super-luxury towers, virtually no one believes condos like this should get 421a abatements that phase in real estate taxes over as long as 25 years. Many people support an overhaul of the property tax system, though it appears to be an impossible task politically. Broadening residency rules make sense. But none of this has anything to do with bad guys and shell companies.

In the end, the Times series may be set in New York, but tells us little about the city.

NYC building inspectors, contractors surrender to authorities over bribery scheme

Nearly 50 city building inspectors and construction contractors — some with alleged mob ties —turned themselves in Tuesday as part of scheme in which builders paid off city employees to fast-track projects. Inspectors also routinely took cash to overlook building code violations, authorities said.

BY ERIK BADIA , GREG B. SMITH NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Published: Tuesday, February 10, 2015, 8:20 AM Updated: Tuesday, February 10, 2015, 10:47 AM

A big takedown of corrupt city inspectors Tuesday uncovered a disturbing pattern: Inspectors routinely took cash to look the other way on serious building code violations, authorities said.

By late Tuesday morning, 49 of 50 defendants were in custody, paraded out of the 1st Precinct stationhouse in Tribeca in handcuffs to await arraignment on a variety of corruption charges in multiple schemes dating back to 2012.

The tainted crew included eight building inspectors, two Buildings Department borough chiefs, five Housing Preservation and Development inspectors, and a Small Business Services employee, according to a source familiar with the case.

Also arrested were multiple contractors and property owners or managers. A handful of defendants are associated with the mob, the source said.

One building inspector arrested a month ago by the city Department of Investigation and the NYPD was caught with cocaine and guns, a source said. The worker was in city uniform and getting into a city car, where cops discovered bags of cocaine packaged for apparent sale. A search of this worker’s home then turned up illegal firearms, the source said.

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The investigation began two years ago and over time investigators uncovered multiple unrelated schemes — an indication of just how pervasive the bribe-taking was.

Perhaps most disturbingly investigators with DOI and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Rackets Bureau caught property owners who’d been cited for serious code violations during renovations paying off inspectors to claim the problems were corrected — even when they weren’t.

All told more than 100 buildings are implicated, mostly in Brooklyn and Manhattan, the source said.

The perfidious parade of suspects began early Tuesday as dawn broke and a slight snow fell. They were led out of the police station in handcuffs and loaded into four vans.

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The suspects said nothing as they passed reporters. Most lowered their heads and tried to cover their faces with their coats as they were taken to court, where bribery charges are expected to be filed against them Tuesday afternoon.

The arrests were first reported Monday afternoon on nydailynews.com.

Investigators uncovered a disturbing pattern of give-to-get, where building inspectors would expedite projects and sign off on certificates of occupancy — for a fee.

The Buildings Department is tasked with approving all new construction and major renovation work in the city, ensuring it is safe and up to code.

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If an inspector withholds approval, a project can be delayed indefinitely, running up costs. Sources said contractors made regular payments to multiple inspectors to make sure their jobs received fast approval.

The bribery scheme hatched by the contractors and Buildings employees has been playing out across the city for years, sources told The News.

Construction in the city has increased dramatically in the past few years, with a 14% jump in job filings in fiscal 2014 and a 35% increase in new building permits, records show.

At the same time, there’s been a spike in complaints to the Buildings Department, up nearly 20% in fiscal 2014, to more than 70,000 from 58,900. Because of the increase in complaints, the department made an extra 10,000 inspections and issued more than 47,700 building code violations — a 10% spike.

The department currently has 185 inspectors, 169 associate inspectors and 49 administrative inspectors, records show.