Here Are New York City's Most Frequently Blocked Driveways of 2014

Categories: Real Estate

Katie Toth for the Village Voice
It's not easy driving a car in New York City. Even just getting from point A to point B, you've gotta weave through a maze of traffic, one-way streets, and, most recently, determined demonstrators. Then comes finding a place to park, an adventure all its own.

And even if you're lucky enough to have your own private driveway, it's not always a guarantee for a simpler life. Especially if your building boasts one of the most frequently blocked driveways of the past year.

Ben Wellington, a visiting assistant professor at the Pratt Institute who also runs the popular blog I Quant NY, looked at open data for 311 calls and found the ten properties with the highest numbers of complaints about selfish rogues blocking their driveways. Five are in Brooklyn; four are in Queens; the "winner" is in the Bronx.

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Look Out for These Eleven New York City Scams

All illustrations by Curtis Tinsley
Tourists are easy (and the only?) targets for MTA card scammers.
December is the final busy month before New York sees its tourism dip in January and February, and with all those out-of-towners comes the opportunity for easy money to be made at subway stations, in Times Square, and even at one of the city's museums. So, with a month left before Christmas, we present this 2014 guide to New York scams, old and new. These first-hand accounts show you're always capable of having the wool pulled over your eyes, whether you're a tourist or a lifelong New Yorker. Happy holidays!

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The Third Rail: How It Feels to Support New York City FC, the Team That Doesn't Yet Exist

The Third Rail is the name of the supporters group for New York City FC, a team that has yet to play a game, put together a full squad, or find a permanent stadium. And up until the 11 a.m. hour on Thursday, they didn't know what their team's jersey would look like.

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How Can New York Stop the City's Worst Landlords?

Photos by Jena Cumbo
90 Elizabeth Street, one of many NYC apartments with rent-controlled tenants.
When the trouble came to 90 Elizabeth Street, it arrived quietly, in a flurry of white papers. They blanketed the mailboxes and the front doors of many of the tenants in the modest Chinatown apartment building, a forbidding snowdrift of eggshell, piled with angry black type. When 43-year-old Betty Eng got home one spring afternoon last year, she found one waiting for her, too. It was a lawsuit, filed by her new landlords against her, her younger brother, her father, and her mother. Eng's mother, who is in her eighties, suffers from Alzheimer's disease and had recently moved into a nursing home. Eng's father had been dead since 2010.

The suit said that the Engs, who had lived in their apartment since 1970, a year before Betty's birth, weren't actually living there full-time, and thus were not legally entitled to the rent-stabilized unit. It warned that an eviction proceeding would be initiated against them. The suit also alleged that the Engs hadn't been paying the rent. But Betty had been paying, she says, sending the checks through certified mail. Each month, Marolda Properties refused to accept them. They piled up, uncashed.

"They were refusing them," Eng says. "The envelopes would just come back."

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The Five Worst Landlords in New York 2014

Categories: Real Estate

Landlords never loved us.
For the fourth year in a row, the Public Advocate has released a list of the worst landlords in New York City. The registry, created under former Public Advocate Bill de Blasio back in 2010, is back this year to shame 98 landlords presiding over some 6,700 leaky, drafty, rat- and roach-infested death traps scattered throughout the five boroughs.

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City's Most Awesome Tax Breaks Clustered in Richest Areas

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Surprise! The vast majority of residential buildings that get the city's lavish 421a property tax breaks are located in the wealthiest districts.

So says a map provided by the Independent Budget Office. Per the IBO, in all, the tax breaks cost the city $1 billion a year in uncollected revenue. More than 150,000 units of housing get the break.

The 421a law exempts certain residential buildings for terms of 10 to 25 years. The payoff is that the developer often has to build affordable housing, either into the development or elsewhere.

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Queens Official Responds to the Voice Over Plan to Officially Change Long Island City's Name to 'LIC'

long island city.jpg
Google Images
Original Post: We get it, but the term 'Long Island' shouldn't carry this much of a stigma. Because it doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

Over the weekend, the Post reported that the powers that be in Queen's newest "New Williamsburg" are a bit ticked off by the fact that Long Island City . . . is called Long Island City. With more and more business on its way to the up-and-coming tech-centric neighborhood, business owners and officials have complained that the name hints to visitors who are unable to search on Google that Long Island City is nowhere near Manhattan.

Side note: Long Island City is one of the closest neighborhoods to the island fortress.

And, because of this, the municipality is losing money -- one hotel owner said 5 percent (give or take) of the hospitality business there is lost to misidentification. So, the proposal: change Long Island City officially to "LIC" -- it's three letters, it's hip, it's catchy and, hey, who doesn't love a good real estate nickname change? ProCro, TriBeCa, DUMBO -- why not LIC?

Well, you can't really change the name of a neighborhood through City Hall. Those aforementioned nicknames are started by hasty brokers and then filtered into the public sphere via Robert De Niro or the way-too-trendy. That means that Long Island City is here to stay; you can call it "LIC" to your clients on the phone. Or just tell them to buy a map before they come.

[UPDATE, February 21st, 4pm]

Rob MacKay, an official at the Queens Economic Development Corporation, responds to the Voice's original post after the jump.

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Why Oligarchs Need Not Despair About Those Dirt Cheap Manhattan Rents

Categories: Real Estate

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Manhattan rents declined for a fifth straight month in January! "Renting in Manhattan may not be out of reach, after all," reports today's New York Business Journal. "Renters who have given up the dream of an affordable Manhattan apartment may have a second chance," concurs the Wall Street Journal's Josh Barbanel. "The sizzle is coming out of Manhattan and Brooklyn's rental market" is the assessment of the New York Daily News.

The average rental in New York in January cost its lucky tenant a mere $3,794 a month. Would you believe that is actually less than the gross monthly income before taxes of the median American household? And at $2,663 the average Manhattan studio is so obscenely affordable that a minimum wage earner will only have to work 74 hours a week to cover the rent if Robespierre Hussein Obama succeeds at strongarming Congress into going along with his $9 minimum wage. Shit's gotten so freaking "affordable" in the Upper East that leading slumlord Steve Croman is converting a 20,000 square foot apartment building he owns on 72nd into a single family home for his household of five and perhaps a few privileged servants.

But don't throw in the towel yet, landlords/speculators/tax shelterers/etc. Obama has a big treat coming your way, he just had to couch it in the usual PC loser lingo of liberating huddled masses etc. "Comprehensive Immigration reform"...turns out to be code for "giving out permanent visas to anyone anywhere who can cough up a half million dollars cash on a cockamamie property venture."

Tens of thousands of foreigners have gotten green cards in exchange for ill-advised property ventures since the 2008 crisis under the EB-5 visa program, which awarded a record 7,641 EB0-visas last year.

But while 23 years old, the EB-5 program is supposed to be temporary, and you know what kind of existential torment that kind of "uncertainty" inflicts upon the oligarchs! This is why President Obama last week not only went out of his way to assure an audience of real estate speculators gathered in Las Vegas that he was dedicated to making permanent the Visas-For-Condominiums regime, he's been working with the legislative branch on a pilot program to lower the price of a visa to $100,000 for "entrepreneurs" who promise to hire employees of their own within a year.

All of which raises the question of what the hell all those Chinese and Thai sucker-entrepreneurs are expecting to do with their high priced green cards. I think the implication of this story is that they often find employment as valets and concierge staffers at the very developments they are financing? Which if I know anything about real estate developers pays just enough to cover the rent...

Trinity Church Has Its Way With Planning Commission Approval of Hudson Square Rezoning

Categories: Real Estate

Trinity Real Estate
Trinity Real Estate's map of its holdlings in the Hudson Square area.
As we wrote in December's cover story More Money Than God, Trinity Wall Street is a lot more than just a church -- it's a real estate company sitting on something like $1 billion dollars in New York property -- a dual role that sometimes brings it into conflict with its neighbors.

Now it appears that Trinity's real estate holdings are about to become even more valuable, and once again critics say the church's pursuit of profit is coming at a high price. Yesterday the City Planning Commission approved a contentious rezoning proposal brought by Trinity for Manhattan's Hudson Square neighborhood, where Trinity owns some 40 percent of the buildings.

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In the Future, All Our Apartments Will Have Magical Folding Furniture

When I first started apartment hunting in New York, a dear friend warned me that it wasn't possible to find a place in Manhattan with cheap rent, decent closet space, and privacy. (He was right. I moved to Brooklyn.)

Everyone who lives in this city has had a similar experience, and many of them have settled for paying exorbitant rents on studio apartments in the East Village. But! One man in SoHo has figured out how to solve the space conundrum with magical folding furniture (see the link for a video). Manhattanites, rejoice, for in the future, your single-room apartments will be able to transform into ten (twenty? thirty?) different setups, including a fancy dining room!

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