Design Firm Suggests Fitting New York's Stalled Building Sites with...Icebergs

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Woods Bagot New York
Remember when we had to get used to seeing those damn cows all over the place in New York City? And then, today, we got the pianos, and some lost rubber ducky signs? Now design firm Woods Bagot wants to put recyclable iceberg structures in the place of all the "frozen" building projects around the city. Okay, we're gonna say it: This is...odd.

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Perps Walk! No One Cares! Barack Obama Gently Pulls Probe Out of AIG's Joseph Cassano

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Our question last October, posed by James Lieber: "When Do We Go After the Crooks Behind Our Financial Collapse?" Now we know the answer: Never.

Why aren't you more pissed off? Why is this story being underplayed?

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Carl Levin: 'Should Goldman Sachs Be Trying to Sell the Shitty Deal?!'

Try as he might, Senator Carl Levin can't get a straight answer out of Goldman Sachs during today's hearing of the Senate's Investigations Committee about how Goldman and its CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, bet against America.

At least not so far (tune in live here).

As the clip above proves, Levin is even speaking their language — it's "shitty deal" this and "shitty deal" that.

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Eliyahu Ezagui, Hasidic Scam Artist, Doesn't Get Jury's Blessing

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A jury found Brooklyn developer Eliyahu Ezagui guilty Tuesday of scamming his fellow Hasidic Jews out of $18 million in a subprime-mortgage scheme.

Ezagui had insisted that Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson had given him a "blessing" to build affordable housing in Crown Heights. Schneerson couldn't be reached for comment — the Rebbe died in 1994, but many of his followers believe he's the Jewish Messiah, "the most phenomenal Jewish personality of modern times," and is in fact either still alive or can speak to them from the grave, or both.

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Obama's New Bank Laws Would Re-Criminalize Wall Street Shenanigans; Panicky Dems Finally Listen to Paul Volcker

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Volcker: He told Obama so.
Finally, Barack Obama today unveiled a proposed major curb on Wall Street that would revive the "spirit of Glass-Steagall" — the Depression-era law that would have prevented last year's Wall Street meltdown if it hadn't been abolished during the Clinton administration.

In fact, new firewalls would separate commercial banking from investment banking, preventing banks from recklessly gambling as much and as often with the money they've raked in from Americans' deposits and mortgage payments.

We're not talking about the rigorous separation of commercial banking from investment banking that the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act demanded until it was in effect erased by Bill Clinton. Obama advisers like Larry Summers also worked hard to get rid of Glass-Steagall.

But now, seemingly in electoral desperation, Obama has chosen to follow Paul Volcker's advice instead. Details aren't yet known, but just the new Obama plan's general outline calls for a big shift in how Wall Street currently does business. It would in effect re-criminalize the unholy alliances and connections that allowed monumental consolidation of banks and let them gamble with our money and mortgages in ways that for decades had been highly illegal.

What does Wall Street think about this? See "Goldman Pans Glass Steagall 2.0."

Initial odds on passage of such a sweeping new set of laws and regulations? Slim to none. But the Democrats are hoping it sounds good to voters, especially in the wake of the GOP's new 41-59 Senate majority (as my colleague Roy Edroso put it yesterday). More »

Feds plan to battle foreclosure crisis with social awkwardness

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Treasury spokeswoman Meg Reilly announced Saturday that the Obama administration plans to step up their efforts to pressure mortgage companies receiving government bailout funds to modify loans and keep homeowners from defaulting.

Along with slowing payments to uncooperative mortgage lenders, one of their main weapons, according to Treasury Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions Michael S. Barr, will be embarrassment, which presumably will be more effective than the shame they deployed in August.

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U.N. Rapporteur For Housing Visits Tenants Facing Foreclosure In The Bronx

By Aaron Howell.

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Followers of the Times' City Room blog may have seen that the United Nations has dispatched Raquel Rolnik (pictured), its Special Rapporteur for housing issues, to America. She'll visit various U.S. cities on her trip, including Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans.

Right now she's in New York. Runnin' Scared caught up with her as she toured The Bronx, where tenants and organizers prepped her on what they described as the newest phenomena of housing woes, "predatory equity."

At an hour-long presentation at the Sedgwick Branch Library on University Avenue and 176th Street -- a futuristic 90's building that looks part space shuttle and part Star Wars, -- the rapportuer was told that in a four-square-mile area of the North and South Bronx, six private equity firms have officially driven 2,738 apartment units into foreclosure or risk of foreclosure.

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FDIC Sells IndyMac, Will Share Losses

mrmonopoly.jpgThe FDIC's work on IndyMac, which it seized in July, has not been in vain! Today it announced that it will sell the troubled lender to IMB HoldCo LLC, a consortium including honchos of Paulson & Co, Dune Capital, and other financial companies, and buyout specialist J. Christopher Flowers. Former Merrill Lynch CEO Terry Laughlin will run the joint. The Feds will get about $13.9 billion in the deal, but will share losses on New IndyMac's qualifying loans, "assuming the first 20% of losses after which the FDIC will share losses 80/20 for the next 10% of losses and 95/5 thereafter." FDIC estimates this will cost You the Taxpayer about $9 billion, although who knows.

New York Housing In Free-Fall; Opportunities for "Cash-Heavy Investors"

foreclosure.jpgSunday's Daily News had two sobering items on local real estate. They informed us that "In the last four years, Brooklyn suffered a stunning 52.7% drop in the sale of homes" -- with a 37.5 percent drop in the last year alone. Queens house sales dropped by 48.4 percent in four years, 34.8 percent in the past year. Even desirable neighborhoods like Richmond Hill and Astoria are feeling the pinch. And Deborah Gonzalez told the News that her two-family home in Bushwick -- which the Times was calling "The Next Neighborhood" in 2006 -- went on the market in April for $800K, but now she's asking for $540K. Bushwick's four- and one-year house sales drops are 72.7 and 56.7 percent, respectively.

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Times Says Most Homeowners Will Cheat Gov't, Should Be Forced to Rent from Banks

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The liberal New York Times steps up for the banks today in the person of David Leonhardt, who counsels that whatever modest aid may be given to "underwater" homeowners should make distinctions -- between those presumably deserving souls who cannot make their mortgage payments, and those who (in his view) simply see some sort of economic opportunity in abandoning the homes in which they live.

Leonhardt is sympathetic toward the "almost 1.5 million homeowners — out of about 75 million nationwide" who are two months behind on their mortgages. But he sees another, larger group who "may decide they don’t want to continue making" their payments because their homes have "lost so much value that they’re now worth less than the underlying mortgage" -- that is, mere speculators who happen to live inside their investments, and will demand compensation out of greed, after receipt of which they will remove themselves and their families to some cheaper address, and chortle over the fast one they put over on Uncle Sam to the tune of, by Leonhardt's estimate, $4 trillion. He cites in evidence a California saleswoman who comes close to expressing the cynicism Leonhardt imputes to millions of homeowners.

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