Property Grunt

Friday, May 11, 2007

Stupid A$$ White Girls

Well it seemed fun at the time before all the landlords rejected us.

When the Grunt was a young lad, his parents enrolled him in art classes that were held in an art supply and frame store. At one class I was told a horrifying story by the teacher that occurred in the store.

One day one of the employees smelled a strong burning odor and immediately alerted the rest of the staff.

Now as innocuous as an art supply and frame store may seem, they are actually a huge hazard considering the flammable chemicals, paints and copious amounts of wood they store. In other words one spark and you got yourself a towering inferno.

Needless to say, the staff went completely nuts trying to figure out what was burning but they couldn’t find anything in the store. Then it got really interesting when the fire trucks came on the scene. Apparently they were not the only ones who smelled something was on fire. It turned out the culprit was their next door neighbor which was a shoe repair store. Apparently the owner forgot to turn his hot plate off which ended up toasting up some leather.

Why, pray tell did this man have a hot plate in his store and risk burning the whole block down? Because the idiot was using the store as his home.

I made this walk down memory lane after reading the NYT New York City Renters Cope With Squeeze.

Below are some points that I found interesting.

May 10, 2007
New York City Renters Cope With Squeeze
Like the legions of aspiring poets, tap dancers and musicians who came before her, Nina Rubin, a 29-year-old graduate of Wesleyan University, has struggled to find halfway decent housing in New York. Earlier this year, she ended up in her most unusual home yet: an office.

After taking a job as an instructor at Outward Bound, Ms. Rubin, along with some of her co-workers, settled into the top floor of the organization’s Long Island City headquarters. She camped out in a bunk bed; others converted nearby office cubicles into sleeping spaces, or pitched tents on the building’s roof. To create some privacy, they hung towels and sheets around their bunks.

While Outward Bound officials stress that they view these cubicles and tents as temporary housing solutions, Ms. Rubin, who has since moved to Vermont for a short while, was grateful for a free place.

I empathize with Ms. Rubin’s plight. I have met many a client unable to either afford the rent or the fee or both. It sucks. So you make do with what you can. And although it is admirable for how she and her friends have adapted to their new environment, but the fact that you have to live in an office cubicle says a lot about your occupation and choices in life.

As the apartment-huntitng season begins, fueled by college graduates and other new arrivals, real estate brokers say radical solutions among young, well-educated newcomers to the city are becoming more common, because New York’s rental market is the tightest it has been in seven years. High-paid bankers and corporate lawyers snap up the few available apartments, often leading more modestly paid professionals and students to resort to desperate measures to find homes.

Obviously this is a huge issue in New York City which is why the Bloomberg Administration has hit the ground running providing affordable housing. Unfortunately it will be quite a while until the affordable housing stock can keep up with the demand. In the meantime, New Yorkers get creative.

While young people in New York have always sought roommates to make life more affordable, they are now crowding so tightly into doorman buildings in prime neighborhoods like the Upper East Side that they may violate city codes.

They are doing so in part because the vacancy rate for Manhattan rentals is now estimated at 3.7 percent, according to data collected by Property and Portfolio Research, an independent real estate research and advisory firm in Boston. It is expected to shrink to 3.3 percent by the end of this year and to 2.9 percent by 2011.

“It’s only going to get more difficult to rent an apartment in New York City,” said Andy Joynt, a real estate economist with the research firm. “While rents continue to rise, it’s not sending people out of the city. There’s still enough of a cachet,” he said.

While New York City has always had a vacancy rate lower than most other cities, rental prices jumped last year by a record 8.3 percent. Some potential buyers, scared by the national slowdown in housing sales, decided to rent instead of buy. The housing crunch has also been exacerbated by the steady growth of newcomers.

The relocation division of the brokerage company Prudential Douglas Elliman had found homes for 4,000 families moving to the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area in 2006, a 15 percent jump from the year before, and many of them wanted to live in Manhattan.

Stephen Kotler, executive vice president of the division, said he expected business to increase by 15 percent again this year, based on the requests he has already received from banks, consumer-products companies and media firms. Even though his clients can afford high rents, he said, they do not have many choices.

Even the rich are getting their asses handed to them.

“There’s going to be limited inventory and a lot of demand,” Mr. Kotler said. “There just hasn’t been enough rental product built,” he said, as, developers have said that the price of land and the costs of construction in the last few years have made it impractical to build rental buildings. They have instead focused on condominiums.

Renters without high salaries have not been shut out of the market. They are squeezing in extra roommates or making alterations as never before much to the frustration of landlords. The rents for one-bedroom apartments in Manhattan average $2,567 a month, and two-bedrooms average $3,854 a month, according to data from Citi Habitats, a large rental brokerage company, but rents tend to be far higher in coveted neighborhoods like the Upper West Side and TriBeCa.

Because landlords typically require renters to earn 40 times their monthly rent in annual income, renters of those average apartments would need to earn at least $102,680, individually or combined, to qualify for a one-bedroom and $154,160 to afford a two-bedroom.

Young people making a fraction of those salaries are doubling up in small spaces and creating housing code violations, said Jamie Heiberger-Jacobsen, a real estate lawyer with her own practice. She is representing landlords in 26 cases that claim overcrowding or illegal alterations in elevator buildings in Murray Hill, the Upper East and Upper West Sides and the Lower East Side. A year ago, she handled a half-dozen such cases.

Ms. Heiberger-Jacobsen said she was seeing the overcrowding not only in tenement-type buildings, but also in doorman buildings. “It really does create fire hazards,” she said. “You can’t just have beds all over the place.”

I have to side with Ms. Heiberger-Jacobsen. Just because you rent a place doesn’t mean you can do whatever the hell you want to it. Rules need to be followed and not because the adults want to ruin your fun but because it is for the safety of all who live there. Sure, it doesn’t seem like no harm is being committed when you violate a few fire codes, but it is only when the bodies pile up at the morgue that people realize why overcrowding and illegal alterations to a building are a bad thing.

But more renters are finding that they cannot afford to stay in the city without resorting to less conventional living arrangements. For the last five years, Mindy Abovitz, 27, a drummer and graphic designer, has been living with four roommates in a 1,500-square-foot loft with one bathroom in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which has become a haven for young people, that rents for $2,600 a month.

Her rent is a bargain, she said, because comparable spaces now cost as much as $4,500 a month. To accommodate everyone, the roommates created five bedrooms out of three by building walls from drywall and lumber. Then they soundproofed the walls with carpet padding to limit the noise.

Dividing the space has been an affordable solution, Ms. Abovitz said, though the loft becomes crowded when she and her roommates get ready for work or prepare meals. “The kitchen and the bathroom are where you find the most traffic,” she said.

Those of you who dream of living in the big city, I implore you to do your homework. That means visiting the city and seeing how things really work. What Ms. Abovitz is describing is not something you do for a month or even a year, this something you do for a life. Especially if you do not have the financial resources to survive on your own or chose an occupation that is not known for its high salaries. New York City is an insanely expensive place to live and if you don’t have the dough, then you got to go.

For those of you who bought condos as investment properties, this is the opportunity to take advantage of the rental season this summer. There is a ton of qualified candidates out there so get your paperwork together and a good broker who can expedite the deal as quick as possible. And make sure you are crystal clear about the rental polices of your condo.

Students on tight budgets find it especially tough to find housing. Last fall, Kate Harvey, a part-time nanny and a junior at N.Y.U., and eight friends saved on rent by camping out in vacant offices at Michael Stapleton Associates, a downtown explosive-detection security firm. For nearly three months, they told the guards at 47 West Street that they were interns, even as they trudged in near midnight or pattered through the lobby at 10 a.m. in pajamas and slippers.

Ms. Harvey’s father, George Harvey, who is the chief executive of Michael Stapleton Associates, had lent them the space, which included two kitchens and two baths, after his company moved into a new office before the lease on its old one expired.

They sneaked furniture into the 11th floor on the freight elevator, squeezed three beds into the former chief executive’s office and turned filing cabinets into clothing drawers. One student pitched a tent. They brought their cat, Sula, past the front desk. They knew pets were allowed, they said, because the company had allowed bomb-sniffing dogs.

While most of the students who were interviewed said that they came from families that were fairly comfortable financially, they said that area rents were so high that they could not afford both housing and tuition.

“It was nine girls and a cat,” Ms. Harvey said, sipping on steamed milk in a Greenwich Village coffeehouse. “At least three of the nine would have had a really hard time paying for school and staying there.”


Mr. Harvey said his daughter told him that some friends had spent the summer sleeping on friends’ couches and even in the N.Y.U. library because they could not afford rent.

College is a 4, sometimes 5 year period where a young person gets educated and grows intellectually and spiritually. It is also a nonstop orgy of drinking and debauchery. Dealing with debt and trying to find a place is supposed to happen after graduation.

“They were in some tough financial situations,” Mr. Harvey said. “It occurred to me that all this space was going to waste.”

Mr. Harvey’s heart is in the right place. And who can blame the guy? He’s a Dad. And he wants to help his little girl. However I can’t condone what he has done. What he should have done was either tell his daughter to commute from home or transfer to another school. Or perhaps he should have rented her an apartment in the first place.

Ms. Harvey probably watched a lot of Sex and the City and became entranced with going to school in Manhattan. But if she was facing this amount of trauma trying to find housing, she should have just transferred to a SUNY, which btw are great schools and are at the fraction of the cost of NYU. In fact there are plenty of cheaper and better alternatives like Virginia Tech, Rutgers and City College. You need to seriously consider those options if you want to avoid the hardships of living in the city.

Even though the offices were vacant, a commercial lease was signed which most likely had provisions that disallowed this type of activity. So basically living there was illegal.

Remember my story about my art school? What if these girls had accidentally started a fire? What about the people working in the building? Even if the sprinklers go off and there is no loss of life what about the damages to the businesses of the other building’s tenants? What about the people who are employed by those businesses? If those business had to shut down those people would have been completely f**ked because a bunch of NYU students decided to play Martha Stewart in their offices.If those girls had hurt themselves or others while moving using the freight elevator, it is possible that the building’s insurance would not cover the illegal costs under those circumstances

Now, the closest I have to military experience is being a fan of GIJoe. But even someone who has read comics knows that you always keep your base of operations secure and if you even suspect that it has been compromised, you go into lockdown. That means you don’t allow your daughter and her friends bunk in your barracks, even if it is completely empty.

I am baffled that the parties involved have even allowed their identities to be revealed especially the one who works in a very sensitive arena. By blabbing about their exploits they are asking for serious trouble. If Mr. Harvey wants to move to another office space, whoever his potential landlord will be is going to be doing a background check on him and when he googles his name, I can guarantee you that this article will pop up.

Once his new commercial landlords finds out that Mr. Harvey likes to use his vacant offices as a college dormitory well, if they do not reject him outright, they will demand a ton of conditions to ensure that if Mr. Harvey decides to play RA then he will be penalized for his actions.

The people who become commercial landlords, go into commercial because they do not want to deal with the headaches associated with being a residential landlord. Like their residential counterparts, commercial landlords have a lot of f**king money. And if you are f**king with their investment they will carpet bomb you senseless with every legal option at their disposal. And they will win because as far as I know residential squatters rights do not apply in a commercial setting.

Now Ms. Harvey and two roommates from the office are looking for a new place to live. Each can spend up to $800 a month. Ms. Harvey has been searching the Craigslist Web site for apartments, but so far she has had no luck.

She says she is hopeful that they will eventually find something in Brooklyn, perhaps in the outer reaches of Park Slope. “We’re definitely going to have to expand our definition of Park Slope,” she said.

The only thing you are going to expand is your budget because with $2400 you will either get a closet in Parks Slope or you will all be living comfortably somewhere in Flushing that is a 20 minute bus ride to the 7 train. That is if your landlords are accepting of your past history of creative housing.