How’s The Market

Hi! Happy 2015, and back to work for the Apple Sauce family. 2014 had some incredible things happen for me, David Rosen, my team and my partners. If this is the first time you are reading Apple Sauce – it’s a place to find out my perspective on what’s happening around town in the real estate market and everything related. As a member of the top resale only team in NYC at Douglas Elliman in terms of the amount of transactions, I guess I have a unique perspective. And since real estate is hyper-local, we take time to talk about Small Businesses, Artists, Restaurants, Theater, Sports Teams, Politicians, Gossip, Sex, Drugs, Rap, Graffiti, Yoga, Dogs, Pigeons,  and everything else with regards to living in New York City, you know – Apple Sauce.

Everywhere I go, people ask me, “How’s the market?” As of late, I have been selling a few listings and showing them a lot, each of which is beautifully staged and well-priced. Given the lousy weather, it’s often nice to take a moment inside with the buyer looking for a new home. When people ask me how the market is when I’m out to brunch, of course, it’s a little different. Sometimes people ask me how the market is when they are considering selling their home, and have invited me over to discuss the value of their property. And now, more than ever, people are asking me how the market is, when considering renovating their home – because I have teamed up with my cousin Ben and started Leopold City Construction.

On Rentals

70% of people living in the City are looking to rent a place. This is true for the rich and the not rich enough alike. There are inexpensive rentals and incredibly expensive ones. The most expensive unfurnished rental is in The Berwind Mansion at 828 Fifth Avenue, a 4 Bed, 5 Bath affair on 3 floors for $150,000 a month. Oh wait…. Update coming in. Rent was just lowered to $80,000 a month. That’s right. 47% discount in the last week. Also notable is 57 E 64th St, which despite being on the market for 315 days as of today, RAISED the asking price from $90,000 to $125,000 a month.

Obviously those are unique situations. The bigger rental picture for the overwhelming majority of people is a lot different. December is typically the best month for any tenant to rent a place, followed by January, as 40% rent discounts are not unheard of, even in much lower price ranges. Places that are $4,500 a month in the Spring can go for $2,900 with lower broker fees, for example.

It’s hard to find a good place to live in the 5 boroughs. Driving from Queens the other day, I commented that the rents in Manhattan, all things considered, are the same as those in the outer boroughs. The Brooklyn discount is long gone. Maybe the Bronx is the next spot – likely will be, but really, the City is the place a lot of people will be returning or staying in I think this year. Ask Vince from Entourage.  Even though the rents in Brooklyn and Queens are usually less than in the City, transportation costs often make up most of the difference. Rents will continue to climb in Brooklyn and Queens at a slower rate than last year, and stay flat in the City. Affordable housing continues to mean having a family friend who can let you stay and not much more.

The big buzz in the real estate rental conversation is about Air BnB. People are really torn about Air BnB. On the one hand, I think many people have experimented with using Air BnB while travelling with mixed results, often favorable. And many people have had a neighbor doing AirBnB, and it’s usually unsettling. Politicians are now frequently weighing in against Air BnB with the amount of available rooms in NYC increasing from 2,500 in 2010 to 16,500 in 2014. Here is the thing – you are unlikely to be able to really stop this kind of vacation rental activity through the law, whether it’s on one platform like Air BnB or another like craigslist.

Does it really hurt New Yorkers? I don’t think so. Does it deprive the market of rental units? Yes, I think commercial operators (people with multiple leases) are really exerting an unwanted upward pressure on the market in general. They only can do that in cooperation with shady brokers. A broker has to be a willing participant to rent to such an opportunistic tenant, and those brokers should be punished.

People should be able to Air BnB their own place, but that’s it, in my opinion. I think the buzz is more sensation than substance, and it does drive up rents, but you know what else drives up rents? Landlords. With lower oil prices I have to hope heating costs were as low as ever this Winter, and I think rents need not spike this year. There are also more good places to rent by a small margin than in past years, with many new buildings having been completed recently and more on their way. So good news!

On Sales

No matter what, if you own a home, and are committed to being a home owner, even if you move periodically, you will enjoy a lower housing cost than a renter. With respect to apartments and houses that people live in, 2015 marks the start of a totally new time in the real estate market in New York City.

For years, certain trends have been on the horizon. Here they are in no particular order: new development, retiring baby boomers, affluent millennials, strong dollar, low gold prices, high stock market, strong profits amongst the wealthiest, low unemployment, and little housing inventory…

What does this mean? Well if you on a home and you want to sell. Congratulations. Life is good. But many people own apartments in Manhattan, and can cash-out, but can’t buy within their own neighborhoods. If they don’t want to relocate neighborhoods, they can’t afford to sell. So much of what will sell are properties that sold last in the past 10 years, and properties that haven’t sold in the past 10 years, often only sell when the person is very old. So, a large portion of the market are properties that need significant updating. And often that renovation cost depresses the value quite a bit.

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Buyers are looking for new and clean, and sellers are offering old and crappy, half the time. As a result, Douglas Elliman reports that the average property sold for 5.2% less than it originally asked for in December, an increase from 4.7% in November. Of course November and December closings were Late Summer contracts. So it’s not a seasonal depression, it’s an ongoing tension of people asking top dollar for subpar properties.

Another highlight of the Manhattan Elliman Contract Signed report is that while you hear a lot about the big $100M apartment sales, properties selling for more than $5M made up 11% of closings in December, quite a large portion historically, by the way.

7% of the market was $3M – $5M, 15% was $2M – $3M, 27% was $1M – $2M, and 30% was less than $1M. So more than half of all properties selling are selling to people paying less than $2M properties, on average those properties sold for 3.0% less than the last price they asked.

Apple Sauce Monthly  Market Overview:

So when people ask how the market is the answer is as of January 2015 it follows that:

  1. Landlords: don’t look to pursue rents that are higher than last year’s, with low heating prices, unfavorable foreign exchange rates when applicable, and other factors will keep rents stable with last year across the board.
  2. Tenants: Don’t expect big discounts in the outer boroughs, and if you know you are going to move, it might be cost effective to find a cheaper lease in February and cancelling your lease at a penalty as some landlords are giving big discounts right now, but less so then they were in December.
  3. Buyers: It’s a jungle out there. Nothing seems available and everything is asking much more than it did a few years ago. Find an expert who can help you negotiate 3% off the asking price when possible, as that is the market average. Don’t be afraid to look at places outside of your budget, they might come down in price. Lastly, if you don’t want to do work on a property (as most don’t) expect to pay 25% more per foot than similar properties in worse condition.
  4. Sellers: If you play your cards right you can’t miss. So why did 270 properties listed as of December 31, 2014 fail to sell, and fire their agents? It always comes down to price, presentation, and platform. If you can’t sell in this market it’s because your expectations are too high, because there has never been a better time to sell. The offers you are getting are the best you will see – and if you want more money, ask yourself, is my property really in move-in ready condition? Are enough people seeing it? How is it being marketed? Therein lies the answer.

Will This Take Long?

Hi Reader,

Apple Sauce has been getting a facelift (coming soon!) and I have had some great things happen to me business wise. Future posts will be authored not only by me, but introducing my Cousin Ben! Ben is my business partner in Leopold City Construction, online at Renovate.nyc. Ben and I also have a lot of other exciting things to share. You will see that this first post, and my first market-related post, will be the backbone of our column, which will also utilize our completely unique perspectives in less traditional commentary as well.

So stay tuned… David Rosen 1/26/2015

Will This Take Long
By Ben Leopold, President, Leopold City Construction

As the owner of an NYC construction company, I am repeatedly asked two questions, “How soon can you start” and “How long will it take”. Time, like most things in Manhattan, tends to be in short supply and fairly expensive.

My responses to these questions will oftentimes determine if I am asked to quote the job. I have learned to avoid over-promising, and when pressed with these questions I do my best to give the prospective client some basic indications of what to expect. Most importantly, I’ll try to establish whether or not there is a clear understanding of the process we are getting ready to embark on together. Laying the foundation for realistic expectations by establishing a clear roadmap of the pertinent steps is paramount to a smooth construction project. I will lay out the steps here and explain the purpose of following them right from the beginning.

Step 1 – Choose an architect:

Now that you’ve decided to take on a construction project in your home or business, it’s important to know what the rules are. The prerequisites involved in your specific project will vary by location. However, generally speaking, you will need a work permit provided by the applicable building department anytime you move a substantial portion of wall and/or modify your plumbing or electrical services.

The permit application will typically require a set of plans (including a complete Scope Of Work) stamped by an architect. There are varying degrees to which you might utilize an architect’s services ranging from a very basic floor plan to an all-inclusive design package. In NYC, we often include the permit application process in our architect’s purview. We do this because they have a deep knowledge of the building code and can, many times, “Self Certify” the job freeing us from the scheduling constraints of dealing with DOB inspections throughout the process.

A complete set of plans should include detailed lists (schedules) indicating all of the specific building materials (cabinets, countertops, floors, tile, trim, doors, paint, etc.). Getting estimates from General Contractors without these material schedules will lead to inaccurate pricing, unrealistic timelines and more often than not, change orders (aka billable change extras). In certain instances, a client will have very specific and well defined material selections and will act as their own designer. Even in these cases, I strongly recommend that the architect be involved in assembling the actual schedules and getting them on the plans.

Step 2 – Finding a General Contractor:

When selecting a General Contractor, there are various factors to consider. Let’s start with the obvious, quality and cost. Establishing a prospective GC’s level of quality should be your primary concern when shopping for a construction estimate. Try to consider the wasted money and heartache of a job completed in a subpar fashion: materials being torn down and re-installed, time wasted, and collateral damages during repairs, to name a few.

Next, with complete plans in hand, your potential GCs (3 is a safe number) should be able to provide you with a comprehensive and easily readable job estimate. It’s very important that you read through these estimates line-by-line. Oftentimes, the more detail-oriented a contractor is while pricing the Scope Of Work, the better prepared they will be to carry your project through completion without cutting corners, stalling timelines and billing for extras which should have been on the estimate to begin with. The old adage, comparing apples for apples is critical when reviewing multiple estimates. Look closely, the devil is in the details. Remember, avoiding change orders is the best way to keep your project on-budget.

Another important characteristic to look for when making your selection is basic conduct and demeanor. When embarking on any construction project, it’s important to consider the interface with neighbors, building officials, managing agents, coop boards, etc. This applies whether you’re upgrading your kitchen in the suburbs, doing a gut renovation of your two bedroom apartment in the city or building a municipal parking garage. Your GC and their team will be interacting to some degree with the surrounding environment, and the benefits of having competent, courteous and professional individuals in charge and on site can make or break a job. From the moment each prospective GC shows up for their initial walkthrough, be cognizant of their attitude and the basic gut feeling you’re left with. Throughout the estimating process, try to gauge the responsiveness and consistency of the various candidates. Ask yourself, how might you envision this individual responding to unforeseen issues with the neighbors, building inspectors, etc? Of course, it’s not possible to predict. That having been said, I believe that instinct should not be left out of the equation.

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Step 3 – Tracking progress and budget during the project:

Although it may seem much easier to sign, scan and email your contract back to your GC, I have found that meeting in person and reviewing the entire job together on paper is the best way to start with everyone on the same page. Take this opportunity to review the payment schedule along with as detailed a timeline as your GC can provide. Discuss contact numbers and any pertinent contingencies. Depending on the size and scope of your project, I would recommend scheduling periodic review meetings. These meetings are your opportunity to stay abreast of any challenges, time/cost improvements, unforeseen expenditures, etc.. Like it or not, it is unrealistic to expect that nothing unforeseen will occur throughout the duration of your project. The best anyone can ask is that due process and careful consideration have gone into mitigating the extent of the unforeseen. A competent GC will have no problem reporting any such events to you promptly and providing you with legitimate options for course correction. Through communication, you should be able to avoid surprises. Don’t hesitate to check in with your GC and ask them how the timeline and budget are looking. No one likes being micromanaged but a professional should be open and ready to provide accurate reporting on a reasonably regular basis.

Step 4 – Closing out the job:

You’ve almost made it and the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter every day. We call this punch list time and it can either be hugely stressful or a celebration depending on how well the job was scoped. Either way, painters doing touchups after the brand new floors have received their final clear coat tends to be a little tense.

By this point, you can expect to have paid the bulk of the contract with some sort of final payment left for completion. The little things are getting finished up and the crew is focused on the finish line. You’ll want to take some time to do a punch list walkthrough with your GC and carefully go over the entire written scope to make sure neither one of you will have any surprises coming to you. Talk about where your leftover (attic stock) paint, flooring, etc. will be stored. Discuss any final cleaning that may need to take place prior to their completion. This is also a great time to share any positive feedback you might have in an effort to boost moral through the finish line and remind everyone of how proud they are to be doing such fine work.

Conclusion:

Construction is a kind of controlled chaos. We take rough materials and turn them into finished spaces. We make a huge mess and (hopefully) create the pristine environment of your dreams. Indeed, a lot could go wrong, but if you follow the proper steps and chose the right teammate (GC) a lot can go just right and yours can be a success story. Before starting this process, it’s important to understand that choosing a GC needs to be a decision made from an educated standpoint. Taking a little extra time at the beginning to understand exactly what you’re looking for will save you exponentially in the end.

Nets will be all-Brooklyn by 2015-16: Team unveils $50M Industry City training center

Published on http://www.nydailynews.com Thursday, June 26, 2014 by Stefan Bondy

A 70,000-square foot Sunset Park warehouse will undergo a major renovation, beginning this summer, to create a ‘spa-like environment’ for the players and, they hope, act as a selling point to potential free agents.

On the Sunset Park waterfront with a beautiful view of the city skyline, standing adjacent to its nearest place of business — a strip club called Peyton’s Playpen — is an empty warehouse that represents the Nets’ transformation to full-fledged Brooklynnites.

In about a year, they’re cutting their last significant tie to New Jersey.

Representatives of the team’s ownership, minus the overseas-stationed Mikhail Prokhorov, unveiled the plans Thursday for a new practice facility set to open for the 2015-16 season. The cost is roughly $50 million, according to sources, and the facility — including the basketball courts and amenities — will be built on the roof of the warehouse, occupying 70,000 square feet.

Construction is set to begin this summer, and the Nets are touting the finished product as a “harmonious, spa-like environment.” The Nets have come a long way since practicing at a truck stop in North Bergen, with Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson having to shower and share a locker room with the truckers.

New York Nets

The theme of Thursday’s press conference was the location in Industrial City, and GM Billy King worked in a dig at the Knicks by noting that the Nets will be the only team to have its practice facility within the city limits (the Knicks practice in Greenburgh). Coach Jason Kidd cracked that he won’t spill any sodas when it opens, before turning serious about the advantage in attracting free agents.

“You look at the tools that can help (in free agency),” Kidd said. “You look at the practice facility, you look at Barclays Center and what the franchise stands for — which is first class.”

The hope is that the location of the facility, which is just three miles from Barclays Center, will be more convenient for players and staff who are commuting over a tunnel and bridge to get from the current facility in East Rutherford to the home arena.

Brooklyn Nets Training Center

In the franchise’s first two seasons in Brooklyn, not one player lived in the outer borough. Most rented in New Jersey. The others resided in Manhattan.

“Absolutely, I think they will (start living in Brooklyn),” Pavlova said. “As I rule, I think players tend to live where they practice because it’s convenient.”

Second-year center Mason Plumlee is on board.

“I’m looking to move into Brooklyn once the facility is done,” he said. “I don’t see any reason to live in Manhattan.”

The Nets will remain practicing this season at the PNY Center in East Rutherford, which opened in 1998 and was briefly closed in 2012 because of flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy.

The Rent Freeze That Wasn’t

The other day a critic of mine said, “Why don’t you write about affordable housing?” I said, “I don’t want to offend anyone.” Oh well… Here goes:

We don’t deal with anyone who lives in a rent stabilized apartment as part of our daily business, with some notable exceptions. Oftentimes people who own rent stabilized apartments want to sell them, and in doing so we interact, or sometimes a neighbor in a coop will be rent controlled, or an adjacent building with existing air rights. This is the rule of thumb: people with rent stabilized and rent controlled apartments don’t leave. They survive death as their heirs can inherit their apartments. Sometimes some of my very lovely friends who may have been raised in Manhattan are even lucky enough to negotiate buy outs, which can act as seed money to stake a family to buy their first home.

So on NY 1 News they had people calling in after the City Council adopted a plan that raised rent stabilized rents 1% over the next year and 2.75% for 2 year leases. The crowd wanted a rent freeze. The modest increase was in fact the slightest increase, as in the smallest, of the last 50 years. However, despite it being the best deal tenants have gotten from the City in most of their living memories, few were pleased.

Capture

Tenants were DISGUSTED, disappointed, irate, aghast. They wanted to know, “how do they expect us to pay more rent without an increase in real wages?”

Landlords were pissed! How can we only get a 1% increase when property taxes have tripled in the last 5 years?! Utility prices have gone up?! Maintenance for my building is subject to inflation and I can’t afford it!

However, ironically, no one was more upset than the bystander. The bystander is the market rate tenant. One caller said “Rent stabilization only exists in 2 cities in the country and the free market tenants are subsidizing the rent controlled tenants. It should be eliminated. It’s an entitlement.”

Now what does the Sauce have to say?

Dear tenants, you are a lucky mofo. Stop bitching. Say Thank You. It’s not everyone else trying to rob you. I would be sorry that the world is a mean cruel place, but luckily for you, you have a safety net. If I had a Mayor who promised a rent freeze and reneged, I might wonder why the Mayor keeps writing checks with his mouth his ass can’t cash, but I wouldn’t blame just him. I think the Mayor understands holistically that the cost of living is astronomical and that the City is organized chaos. 1% is equivalent to the US Soccer team getting to the World Cup finals. It’s a pleasant surprise.

Dear landlords, you are likely not all that sharp. And if society was left in your hands this island would resemble Lord of the Flies. Let’s look at this. If you inherited your buildings, well, sorry Mommy bought you a Toyota not a Lexus. If you bought your building – look, see the first paragraph. Rent controlled tenants don’t leave. You bought the building subject to their leases. The reason a landlord would want a rent controlled tenant is because the City (read the taxpayers) discount their property taxes in exchange. Landlords complain the rent controlled tenants are all sorts of bad things. Know what they really are though? Less fortunate than you! Count your blessings. Stop being such a pig. Learn how to share.

Dear bystander, you have no idea what you are talking about. Let’s look at the stats. NYC has mass transit so the public can efficiently get from point A to point B without owning a car. NYC has the best food in the world, great artists, some of the best schools in the country, and is the most in demand tourist location in the USA. Better than Los Angeles. Better than Miami, Chicago, and the town you grew up in. NYC has the most valuable real estate in the country. NYC saw the lowest decline during the crash. NYC has the least leveraged real estate. Why? It’s called infrastructure.

However, none of the parties are thinking of the big picture. All of this becomes like sports. No matter what your personal interests are, as a professional negotiator, you can’t hate a negotiated settlement. All of life is a negotiation. Your very DNA is a negotiation between your father and your mother. A successful negotiation is an enduring love. Without challenges we can’t have victories. A world without disagreements isn’t ideal, in fact it’s not our world at all.

Rent control is social infrastructure, and while staring at the details might distort your perspective, the bigger picture is that informed and wise urban planning have made this world city resemble other great global cities, places like Paris and Berlin, where government subsidy similar to rent control are the nutrients that keep an honest, active, and healthy labor force proximate to the goods and services they help deliver to the more affluent classes. In fact the wealth and affluence of the City society is a result of the infrastructure, not a vestige. Informed analysis shows that without social support you have bankrupt cities like Detroit, filled with crime. A city that doesn’t maintain all of its infrastructure actually can die. The clinical analyst who sees things in a vacuum would be wise to take a deep breath. For that matter, we all should.

Carmelo Vs. Carmela

So I caught the Colbert Report the other night and Edie Falco is being interviewed by Stephen Colbert, and not having the best time. Clearly not a match made in heaven. Stephen’s dry and ironic sarcasm is not penetrating Edie’s mind. She is a serious gal.

I flick over to Sports Center and amongst soccer players biting each other and LeBron James, the story us New Yorkers want to know about – where will leading scorer Carmelo Anthony go next year, is discussed. The consensus is the Chicago Bulls, who have great defense and coaching and check the ‘Big City’ box that’s apparently vital to the Knicks All-Star.

Wow, wow, wow. Carmelo and Carmela. Actually, they have a lot in common, though they handle their situations very differently. And while some of you might say Carmela is a fictitious person and Carmelo is real, eh, details.

On Commitment:

Carmela was the materfamilias of the leading syndicate family. Blood in, blood out. The closest thing she got to being disloyal was a sleepover with her Priest, Father Phil, and that was amongst a cacophony of cheating that Tony had put her through, and it was a rainy night, and nothing happened. Tony was cheating on his mistresses, let alone his wife. Carmela and Tony did have a trial separation, and she went out to dinner with one of her son Anthony’s teachers, but even then, she never lost her identity as Tony’s wife and Anthony and Meadow’s Mom.

When Uncle Junior shot Tony and he was lying in the netherworld between here and Kevin Finnerty (the pearly gates or something,) Carmela even stepped it up and made sure the family made its collections. She didn’t deviate or try to align herself with another star.

When Tony’s people killed her daughter’s boyfriend and best friend’s son for robbing a poker game, she never told. When the FBI came she never blinked. When Furio flirted with her, she sent his ass back to Italy.

Carmelo went to Syracuse University. I know a girl who went there too. She told me a story. She said she had a friend who had consensual relations with Carmelo. At the conclusion, he jumped up fist pumped and yelled “100! You’re the hundredth bitch!” Just gossip. I don’t know if he had a girlfriend at the time and am not accusing him of, ahem, infidelity. At Syracuse, with one other marginal NBA player, he chucked his way to the NCAA championship. This was no small feat, as his draft class was the second best of the last 25 years, his competition was also elite.

carmelo-anthony-knicks-three-pointer

Carmelo was drafted by the Nuggets, and paired with Allen Iverson, they were competitive in the uber-competitive Western Conference. Allen Iverson has since retired and is a known cocaine addict (fact check me.) One of those teams they were on won one playoff series. AI got a lot of the blame, not for the blow, just for being a chucking scrub, and so they got other guys in to replace him. Unfortunately the other guys, guys like Chris Birdman Anderson (suspended for drug use,) JR Smith (suspended for drug use) and Chauncey Billups, weren’t enough to take the Nuggets to the next level. At least not on the court.

Carmelo wanted out of Denver. He wanted out ASAP. He did not want to wait for Denver, or his contract to “finish.” So instead of playing out the last year of his contract, he forced a trade to the Knicks. He would only go to the Knicks. The reason he wanted to force a trade, instead of signing as a free agent, is so he could have a guaranteed 5th year on his contract. It was not to win a ring. It was not to help the Knicks advance in the playoffs. It was not to help the Knicks. It was 3 years ago when he signed his 5 year guaranteed max deal. Now he has opted out again. All it cost the Knicks was a decade of development.

Commitment Advantage: Carmela

On Leadership:

When Carmela knew that Adrianna was missing, and the story didn’t really add up, what did she do? She didn’t rat. When Tony left the house and AJ was being a brat, underperforming in school, etc, and Tony, super guilty as an absentee father (and taking the easy way out at every possible fork when it came to his family, except the time he took Meadow to see colleges) bought AJ a yellow Nissan Xterra, Carmela made Tony take the car away until AJ improved his grades. This made her unpopular with everyone (except AJ’s teacher who liked her and she rebuffed after one date) but she had principles and she stuck to them.

When Carmela’s Mom was nervous that their elitist friends would be embarrassed by Tony and his family, Carmela stood up to her Mother. When Meadow was embarrassed when she saw Tony out at a club, she confronted her husband, and made him reflect on the example he was leading by with his children.

When Carmelo played the Celtics in the playoffs, he got into an altercation with Kevin Garnett, who informed him his wife Lala, tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios. That was a surprise to Carmelo, who apparently hasn’t tasted Lala in years, as it came out that despite their public marriage, they are estranged. So while Carmelo is looking for a new team, Lala had previously said that Melo would stay in NYC. Melo responded that he loves and respects his wife, and those weren’t his words.

When Melo came to New York, he did his best to get along with the team and forge a winning attitude. In doing so he took a team that won 50 wins (a stellar benchmark) the year he arrived, with 2 co-stars, Amare Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin, and led them to being swept in the first round of the playoffs by Garnett’s Celtics. The next year, he led them to firing their coach, Mike D’Antoni, shipping Lin to Houston, and marginalizing Amare, with the hopes he would retire. Amare’s injuries aside, neither he nor Melo play D, and their redundancy didn’t directly translate into wins. Over 3 seasons in blue and orange, he leaves New York with a completely depleted roster, on the 3rd coach since he “came home,” and failed to make the playoffs for the first time in his career. While he may have done the opposite of elevating everyone around him, he did find a way to abdicate any responsibility for his folly and blame the Knicks for not supporting him.

Leadership Advantage: Carmela

On Charisma:

Carmela really has a disadvantage here. She was always so focused on the chaos of her family, she really only had eyes for one man, and did NOT go out of her way to charm anyone (even her husband.) While she apparently made a delicious Manicotta, her biggest charm points seem to have been gained on movie nights with Rosalie Aprile and Silvio’s wife Gab.

Carmelo has a sneaker. Have you seen anyone wearing it? No. Because Carmelo is an asshole. His closest friend on the team when he arrived – Chauncey Billups, was immediately cut with his championship career unceremoniously caught up in the collateral damage of Carmelo’s whims. His next bestie, JR Smith, forced the Knicks to sign his kid brother Chris Smith, which caused a huge locker room divide. So basically Carmelo isn’t big on things like, “friends,” “teammates,” though now we are supposed to believe he is really big on winning? I don’t think so. Because I don’t really like him.

The Power Broker

I am selling 2 apartments on Second Avenue, and while they are really great apartments in a wonderful doorman building, one of the obstacles I have had is that they are constructing the Second Ave Subway outside the property. The Subway is a spectacular and much needed public works. Every New Yorker, Republican, Democrat, Rich, Poor, Vegan, Sports Fan, Ludite, Undocumented Alien, Homeless, Pierced, Parent, Pet Owner, Pastry Chef, Painter, please! Please support this venture. It’s good for all of us.

It’s been going a little slow. And the later phases (the downtown parts) have not really been funded yet. One thing that is interesting is that I have been reading a very famous book called The Power Broker. It’s about Robert Moses. He, like me, had no middle initial. Mr. Moses had an amazing career. You can’t understate his accomplishments in his early career.

Robert Moses

He came up in a time where New York City had almost 200 separate City government departments. The reason for all of these separate departments was to provide jobs for poor immigrant families, and the reason departments and jobs were needed was that this was the currency of the City’s old masters, Tammany Hall. Tammany Hall was the name given for the working class political organization that put Mayor’s and, later, Governors, in power in New York. The power of an effective “Get out the vote” machine remains vital to winning an election. Ask Eric Cantor.

Well the moral and conscious, and wealthier taxpayers, thought wasting all of the city’s tax base on jobs for people basically given as bribes to ensure votes at the ballot was a pretty ruinous way to run a city. The City’s aristocracy developed something called a Good Government Movement. One of the darlings of this Movement was Bob Moses. And his first achievement was helping reform the City Government. The Mayor at that time, Alfred Smith (a Tammany chieftan) took a liking to Bob Moses.

New-York-Skyline-under-The-Queensboro-Bridge

And so Mr. Moses, in the name of doing good, cutting waste, reducing bureaucracy, was able to elevate himself, over the next 40 years, into the most powerful man in the State, and amongst the most in the Country. During the Great Depression, he was able to steer 1 in 7 of all of the Federal New Deal funds towards his own building projects (of which he controlled a no-bid awarding of construction contracts).

He was able to build an island – Roosevelt Island (used to be 2 islands, he literally built it) and put on top of it a bridge – the Triborough, and wrote the laws so that he controlled all the money that came from the tolls, and in doing so had more money available to him at any time than any politician to use to fund public works.

His successes were great and helped New Yorkers in the City and State tremendously. Every park in the City other than Central Park and Prospect Park (so parks like Marine Park, Riverside Park, and Jones Beach) were built by Moses. Many highways – the Belt, the BQE, etc… Built by Moses.

If his career’s later stages were corrupt and power hungry, his early stages were callous, bigoted and selfish, but his results were real. His philosophies were imperfect (it turns out building more roads doesn’t decrease traffic, it actually can increase the use of cars which increases traffic,) but his focus on GETTING THINGS DONE was admirable. Anyone who wants to know how the City of New York developed should read The Power Broker.

Game Of Homes

If you haven’t been following the much hyped Game of Thrones on HBO, because, well, you have a life, let me bring you up to speed. This is a television show about warring factions who are vying for the throne of a fictitious world where they are protected by a big wall that keeps out cannibal zombies, giants, and other baddies.

There are some key themes that translate to the life of New Yorkers. I was really sickened to read that someone was killed on the 6 train recently. I have a confession (It wasn’t me!) but I have definitely wanted to punch a fellow straphanger once upon a time. And especially on the 4, 5 trains. You know there is a certain etiquette to riding the train – you let someone off before you get on, give up a seat for an older person or a pregnant woman, and don’t blast your music please. All of that is basically often violated on a regular basis on the east side train.

Game-of-Thrones

As a result the City, in its infinite wisdom, decided to make a train on the Second Ave subway. And I support that idea. I am very grateful to all who have sacrificed in creating this vision. Then I read that the new Mayor Mountain had agreed to let one of the high density buildings that the old King Lannister Mayor Bloomberg had rezoned for politically active Petyr Baelish Mark Green.

In exchange for being able to build a huge skyscraper, the developer is going to give the city the following: they are agreeing to build an underground passageway from Grand Central for their commercial tenants to access the existing train station. Hey, Mayor, here’s a hint: if you are going to let these guys build their new trophy buildings, please make them, in exchange, finance the later phases of the Second Ave subway.

Even if the counterpoint is that the amounts needed are large and the amounts given are small, every little bit helps.

A Quiet War On The Water

I am leaving The Domino Sugar Factory. I have just been observing something so striking that once you witness it, you will never unwitness it.

As I drive myself urgently to the Upper East Side to show a listing, I marvel while sitting in traffic on the Pulaski Bridge of the amazing scope of monuments that New York Real Estate presents. Each skyscraping building is a singular masterpiece of finance, labor, architecture, technology, and a body politic that nurtures and preserves the presence of each one. However, the City isn’t about its buildings, the Apple is made sweet by its soul.

A hilarious stand-up comic friend, Drew Dowdy, who I grew up with in Park Slope, wrote on Facebook the other day “You Are Not From The Same Brooklyn I Am.” There is and has been among the City’s middle class a feeling the City has lost something almost irretrievable in the past 10 years. What has eroded are the artisans and artists, and blue collar workers, who used to have some legal protections.

I don’t mean to get heavy on you, BUT THE 50 TON AFRICAN AMERICAN SPHINX MADE OUT OF SUGAR. I just checked out makes no sense without making these specific background points. The art work was just presented to us by two persons, one from the team at Creative Time (an amazing not-for-profit Arts Organization that IS the needle in the City,) and one of the fabricators of the project, an alum of the NYU Museum Studies Department where my Stepmother Josephine Gear teaches.

Domino-Sugar-Factory-Williamsburg-Brooklyn

The artwork on its own is one of a kind. I have travelled the world seeing art and architecture. This is a local wonder of the world. It’s the only must-see I have ever known about in the history of New York City. Go see it.
The artist, Kara Walker, along with Creative Time and the team that have created the installation sure have their finger on the pulse. Kara is a 2D artist primarily, and worked from inspirations that included stereotypical depictions of sugar worker dolls and other imagery (on the site) to create the Sphinx and her processional (out of actual sugar, with foam and resin) as a statement of strength in the face of persecution.

Our host makes the point that the Sphinx was not only a guardian, but also a huntress. Of course, most people don’t need an Art History course as to why Ms. Walker created this symbol of strength at Williamsburg’s Domino Sugar Factory. It is a beautiful historical building being torn down.

Once the sight of local industry, it is now the site of private development, obscuring the river view (owned by the public) for the enjoyment of the few who will rent there. The building will be a high priced rental developed and managed by Two Trees. No one else will be able to live there without Two Tree’s permission, at the rents they set, etc… The public won’t get to trade them as condos, the City won’t get to preserve the site as a school or as affordable public housing, or a museum or Park. The mill of progress will grind away history to make way for a singular, narrow, and precariously high priced inflated vision for the benefit of one incredibly lucky landlord.

As I am leaving the Domino Sugar Factory, Hannah from Creative Time is walking me to the locked gate to let me off the property. I am gushing over the Sphinx, Creative Time, etc.. In the distance the soulless glass golems of 440 Kent St tower. Hannah says to me, “What do you do?” “I’m a real estate agent.” “Ah…”

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Club Med NYC

I have a confession. When I was 6 years old I flew over Shea Stadium during the 1986 World Series. Sometime a year later I went to a Mets Game.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is about how much I knew about Queens until I turned 30.

Now I am a total fan of the North Eastern Borough. A year ago I wrote about a restaurant in Astoria called Queens Comfort. That place is cool if you want to see some weird menu items crush the status quo. However, if you really want to eat some G-DDAMNED good food, check out the Greek Captain Restaurant. Don’t read Yelp.

We had the following: Large Greek Salad (to share), Grilled Octopus, Dip Combo (Skordalia, Tzatziki, Taramosalata, Melitzanosalata,) Calamari, Zuchini Croquettes, and some White Wine. They also serve Garlic Bread which is AMAZING. The price was reasonable, we sat outdoors, and we had a lovely time. Others were eating lobster and larger entrees. I must say there were many, shall I say, people who looked like they had many good meals in their lives, dining alongside of us. You know what. Those people are experts in flavor. This is some good eating.

New-York-Queens-Borough-Art-Map

Look, everyone has had the Pita and dip combo somewhere, and this is not an out of this world demonstration of this appetizer. However, the octopus and calamari are just SOOO GOOOOD. SOOOO GOOOD. And the Zuchini Croquettes were just perfect.

This fed 3 people very well (we couldn’t finish.)We spent less than $100.00 (well less in fact including tip.) Across the street from this Greek Restaurant was a Brazillian restaurant, an Irish restaurant, and there are many other cultural opportunities to dine. On the walk to the restaurant we were able to see some dudes in a White Jeep Wrangler blasting music (like the stereotypical neighborhood guys of NYC’s yore, prehipster.)

Astoria isn’t new by any means, but in this time of a red hot Brooklyn market, it’s really nice to still have this refuge where prices haven’t skyrocketed in the same way and people are more down to earth and clearly have a history and a heritage within a neighborhood. I look forward to more cultural occasions in the hood.

Naked Girls Reading NYC Presents Naked Girls Reading SCI-FI V

Published on http://www.broadwayworld.com Sunday, June 16, 2014 by BWW News Desk

New York’s “Best Story Hour” (The Village Voice Best of NY) returns to outer space for more in-the-buff readings of science-fiction classics, as Naked Girls Reading NYC presents NAKED GIRLS READING SCI-FI V: Naked Girls Reading Into Darkness. After four successful missions bringing stripped-down sci-fi to packed houses, the hit nude literary salon launches an all-new evening of time travel, bug-eyed monsters, metal men from beyond the stars, and much much more.

Host Nasty Canasta is joined by Dangrrr Doll, Iris Explosion and brand-spanking-new Naked Girl Charles Stunning, as they explore strange new worlds of literature and boldly go where no Naked Girl has gone before – at NAKED GIRLS READING SCI-FI V: Naked Girls Reading Into Darkness. In space, no one can hear you read.

NYC Presents NAKED GIRLS READING SCI-FI V

Naked Girls Reading NYC is the perfect intimate live event: a monthly nude literary salon featuring in-the-buff readings by local burlesque luminaries, professional librarians, authors and other Naked Girls. Past themes have included Banned Books, Science Fiction and Tween Lit, as well as their annual holiday presentation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Guests to the salon are invited to sip a drink and listen with their eyes wide open as full-frontal literature meets fine art in the intimate theatrical setting of Under St. Marks.

“What did you get up to last Friday night? If you answered anything other than ‘went to Naked Girls Reading,’ you lose.” NBC New York
“Great literature stripped bare” Entertainment Weekly
“It did what a great reading should.” Elle.com

“After the first thrill of the initial disrobing, the pleasure of seeing beautiful women undressed fades besides the sense of intimacy achieved from someone bearing both their body and their soul at the same time. It was a remarkable experience.” Tor.com

Readers’ Choice Nominee, “Best NSFW Night 2012″ Time Out New York
Naked Girls Reading NYC is on the third Wednesday of every month at UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1st Ave and Ave A) at 9pm.

Tickets ($25; 2 for $40) may be purchased online at www.NakedGirlsReadingNYC.com or by calling Smarttix at 212-868-4444. Seating is limited to 45; advance tickets are strongly recommended.

NAKED GIRLS READING began in Chicago in March 2009 as the creation of international showgirl Michelle L’Amour and Franky Vivid. The idea had rolled around in their heads for a few years in different formats, but with the opening of Studio L’Amour in 2008 it materialized as the perfect intimate live event. Naked Girls Reading now has branches across the country and around the world; the New York chapter, produced by Nasty Canasta, was opened in October 2009 to great acclaim (“Great literature stripped bare” -Entertainment Weekly; “It was a remarkable experience.” Tor.com) and was named “New York’s Best Story Hour” by the Village Voice in 2010.

HORSE TRADE THEATER GROUP is a self-sustaining theater development group; with a focus on new work, it has produced a massive quantity of stimulating downtown theater. Horse Trade’s Resident Artist Program offers a home to a select group of Independent Theater artists, pooling together a great deal of talent and energy. It is also the home of FRIGID New York – the first and only festival of its kind in New York City.