Property Grunt

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Let's Play Torchwood

The twenty-first century is when everything changes. And you gotta be ready.

Captain Jack Harkness

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a Con Edison representative about my utilities account. Now Con Edison has a new policy that you have to either give your social security number or put up a deposit. In the past when I have setup my Con Ed account, I just gave them my address and phone number and that was it. Now they were asking for an arm and a leg.

I wasn't keen on either option. First of all, I am very aware of how prevalent identity theft is these days and one of the best ways to prevent it is to limit the exposure of sensitive information. I chose the deposit came out to a very significant chunk of change. According to the Con Ed rep, the amount of deposit is determined through the average use of one month. So those of you who opt for the deposit, limit your utility use for one month to get a better deal. If you are a good customer and pay your bills on time within a year the deposit will be refunded to you or be credited to your account.

I was curious why Con Edison implemented this policy and the representative provided a very sobering explanation. She explained to me that Con Edison was in dire need of funds and so they were taking every measure to insure that would get paid.

What really got my attention was when she informed that there was always a segment of the customer base that would cut and run but in the last year it has gotten worse which was another reason why Con instituted this new policy. What also was freaking her out was that she noticed that more businesses in the city were disconnecting their services and that was an indication of the economy was entering very rough waters. I asked if any Wall Street firms were shutting down, she replied that industry was fine, it was the smaller business that were getting hammered.

Today I had an interesting conversation with a customer services representative of a credit card company regarding an ID protection plan. Pay 12 bucks a month and you get to check on your credit report from all three major companies anytime you want. She claimed that as long as you were personally looking over your own credit it would not impact your credit rating. I told her I would think about it.

5 months ago she used to work in mortgages and she saw the writing on the wall and opted for a transfer to the credit card department. I mentioned that during the REFI boom, a large number of people were using their homes as ATMs and some analysts stated once people tapped out their homes they would switch to credit cards. She did notice that the credit card industry was currently doing exceptionally well. She emphasized that people need to take care of their credit because no cares anymore about how much money you have. They just want proof that you are financially responsible and the creditors will get their money on time.

Now I realize these two anecdotes barely qualify as bell weathers but as far as I am concerned it is just more evidence that we are entering the FUBAR phase of our economy. In fact a recession maybe on the horizon. So what are we going to do about it?

I propose we take the offensive. I say we research and take steps to insure that we do more than just ride out the storm but to also take advantage of any opportunities that come out of the woodwork. I am not just talking about foreclosures, I am also talking about our personal finance and well being. It is not going to do any good to sit on our duffs and mope. Everything changes now. So we gotta be ready.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Champion reigns

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very rough, mean place, and no matter how tough you think you are, it'll always bring you to your knees and keep you there, permanently, if you let it. You or nobody ain't never gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. If you know what you're worth, go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not point fingers saying you ain’t where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that, and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!

Rocky Balboa

I was going to hold off on blogging till next week due to feeling like utter crap however I received an important email from Jonathan Miller regarding the future of his appraisal firm.

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - September 27, 2007) - Radar Logic Incorporated, the data and analytics company enabling derivatives trading in the RPX™ market based on daily prices for residential real estate, announced today that it has reached an agreement to acquire leading residential real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel Inc. The acquisition will strengthen both companies' insight into the residential real estate market while opening new lines of business, including monthly commentary and analysis of the Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), for which Radar Logic publishes data. The first of these reports is scheduled for release in early October.

In April 2007 the companies formed Radar Logic Research LLC to publish real estate research and offer enterprise-specific consulting services. The acquisition will further this goal, combining Miller Samuel's 21 years of unbiased real estate valuation expertise with the proprietary technology and analytics of Radar Logic.

Jonathan Miller, co-founder and current President/CEO of Miller Samuel, will become an Executive Vice President of Radar Logic Incorporated. He will serve as the Director of Reasearch for Radar Logic as well as continue to be actively involved in the ongoing business of Miller Samuel, including the publication of its widely read market reports (1.2 million copies distributed annually). Dina Miller, a co-founder of Miller Samuel, will become CEO of Miller Samuel and oversee its continuing operations.

"We are excited about the unique opportunity to leverage our valuation and market reporting expertise with the groundbreaking data analytics pioneered by Radar Logic," said Miller. "It's a perfect fit."

According to Michael Feder, President and CEO of Radar Logic Incorporated, "This acquisition brings Radar Logic true in-depth, practical experience in real estate markets and valuation. The executives and staff of Miller Samuel will form the core of Radar Logic Research and advisory services. We are delighted with this key step forward in our broad business plan."

In his own words.

Its an exciting day for all of us at Miller Samuel

Our firm, which has been tirelessly providing unbiased appraisal reports and market studies since 1986, is being acquired by Radar Logic, the data and analytics company enabling derivatives trading in the RPX™ market based on daily prices for residential real estate.

We are “business as usual”

Miller Samuel will continue to be a real estate appraisal and consulting firm.

We will continue to prepare our market report series for Prudential Douglas Elliman.

Whats new?

We will be able to leverage our valuation and market reporting expertise with the groundbreaking data analytics pioneered by Radar Logic.

Stay tuned!

Those of you who are familiar with Miller Samuel will know that it is one of the best appraisal firms of New York City. You will also know that Jonathan Miller has built this firm through his own blood, sweat and tears which has not been an easy road for him.

Which is why I thought of that quote from Rocky Balboa. When you are an owner and operator of a business, the great thing is that you are the boss. The bad thing is that you are the boss. In other words you are the first and last line of defense. If something goes wrong you are the one everyone yells out. When something goes right, you bask in the glory of everyones praise. One of the goals of a business owner is to have more days of glory for that usually translates to higher profits. For Jonathan Miller it has gone beyond better profit margins to playing a key role in elevating the real estate appraisal game.

Jonathan Miller deserves every bit of success because being an appraiser is probably just as difficult as being a broker and in the last 5 years of this market it has been brutal to be an appraiser. Whatever hits Jonathan took, he shook them off and kept moving forward and here he is. I salute you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sick Day

I caught a bit of a stomach bug. Feeling better. But I am going to take it easy for the next couple of days. More later.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sometimes it takes a dying man to set you straight.

He was heralded as the person of the Week for ABC News last week. If I had it my way I would give him the Nobel Peace Prize. His name is Professor Randy Pausch and recently gave his last lecture. When I mean last, I mean in his lifetime.

A Beloved Professor Delivers
The Lecture of a Lifetime
September 20, 2007; Page D1
Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer-science professor, was about to give a lecture Tuesday afternoon, but before he said a word, he received a standing ovation from 400 students and colleagues.

He motioned to them to sit down. "Make me earn it," he said.

What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? For Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, the question isn't rhetorical -- he's dying of cancer. Jeff Zaslow narrates a video on Prof. Pausch's final lecture.
They had come to see him give what was billed as his "last lecture." This is a common title for talks on college campuses today. Schools such as Stanford and the University of Alabama have mounted "Last Lecture Series," in which top professors are asked to think deeply about what matters to them and to give hypothetical final talks. For the audience, the question to be mulled is this: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance?

It can be an intriguing hour, watching healthy professors consider their demise and ruminate over subjects dear to them. At the University of Northern Iowa, instructor Penny O'Connor recently titled her lecture "Get Over Yourself." At Cornell, Ellis Hanson, who teaches a course titled "Desire," spoke about sex and technology.

At Carnegie Mellon, however, Dr. Pausch's speech was more than just an academic exercise. The 46-year-old father of three has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months. His lecture, using images on a giant screen, turned out to be a rollicking and riveting journey through the lessons of his life.

He began by showing his CT scans, revealing 10 tumors on his liver. But after that, he talked about living. If anyone expected him to be morose, he said, "I'm sorry to disappoint you." He then dropped to the floor and did one-handed pushups.

Randy Pausch and his three children, ages 5, 2 and 1.
Clicking through photos of himself as a boy, he talked about his childhood dreams: to win giant stuffed animals at carnivals, to walk in zero gravity, to design Disney rides, to write a World Book entry. By adulthood, he had achieved each goal. As proof, he had students carry out all the huge stuffed animals he'd won in his life, which he gave to audience members. After all, he doesn't need them anymore.

He paid tribute to his techie background. "I've experienced a deathbed conversion," he said, smiling. "I just bought a Macintosh." Flashing his rejection letters on the screen, he talked about setbacks in his career, repeating: "Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things." He encouraged us to be patient with others. "Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you." After showing photos of his childhood bedroom, decorated with mathematical notations he'd drawn on the walls, he said: "If your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let 'em do it."

While displaying photos of his bosses and students over the years, he said that helping others fulfill their dreams is even more fun than achieving your own. He talked of requiring his students to create videogames without sex and violence. "You'd be surprised how many 19-year-old boys run out of ideas when you take those possibilities away," he said, but they all rose to the challenge.

He also saluted his parents, who let him make his childhood bedroom his domain, even if his wall etchings hurt the home's resale value. He knew his mom was proud of him when he got his Ph.D, he said, despite how she'd introduce him: "This is my son. He's a doctor, but not the kind who helps people."

He then spoke about his legacy. Considered one of the nation's foremost teachers of videogame and virtual-reality technology, he helped develop "Alice," a Carnegie Mellon software project that allows people to easily create 3-D animations. It had one million downloads in the past year, and usage is expected to soar.

"Like Moses, I get to see the Promised Land, but I don't get to step foot in it," Dr. Pausch said. "That's OK. I will live on in Alice."


Readers, if you were giving your last public address, what advice would you share, who would you thank, what stories would you tell and who would be on your mind? Share your thoughts2.
Plus, watch Dr. Pausch's full lecture3 at Carnegie Mellon's Web site.Many people have given last speeches without realizing it. The day before he was killed, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke prophetically: "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place." He talked of how he had seen the Promised Land, even though "I may not get there with you."

Dr. Pausch's lecture, in the same way, became a call to his colleagues and students to go on without him and do great things. But he was also addressing those closer to his heart.

Near the end of his talk, he had a cake brought out for his wife, whose birthday was the day before. As she cried and they embraced on stage, the audience sang "Happy Birthday," many wiping away their own tears.

Dr. Pausch's speech was taped so his children, ages 5, 2 and 1, can watch it when they're older. His last words in his last lecture were simple: "This was for my kids." Then those of us in the audience rose for one last standing ovation.

His words have given me alot to think about, particularly what his words on walls. There are going to a ton of walls for all of us in the next couple of years.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A sign of bad things to come

As everyone knows, newspaper advertising has taken a big hit in the last couple of years. However one thing that newspapers have always counted on is real estate advertising. And now it appears that has taken a dive in the New York City area.

According to some intelligence from a source in ad sales, real estate ad sales have taken a significant drop. It was August when I first heard from this source and figured that there would be bit of a downturn since the real estate season doesn't start until after Labor Day so brokers aren't rushing out to buy ads. But when I checked in with my source this month, it was pretty much more of the same.

The irony though is that it appears that ads for foreclosures have gone up. So in the end it evens out.

So if you got to sell, sell. Unload your s**t now while people are fooled by the euphoria of the market because of a rate cut.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


This is a particularly good hunt because this is par for the course in New York City. There is no such thing as a perfect apartment, especially if you have a low budget. What Tabitah and Benjamin have experienced is another reason why people should really understand what they are dealing with when they decide to move to this city.

This is truly an amazing place to live. But there is a steep price to pay. And if you can't bring the cash and then you might have to sacrifice your sanity.

September 16, 2007
The Hunt
Can It Get Any Worse?
IF only they had it to do over again, they would never have moved from that first rental on East 17th Street.

Instead, Tabitha Shick and Benjamin Klein unwittingly embarked upon a cycle of serial moving, hunting first for a home that would be bigger and better, then for one that would be affordable and livable. The couple found themselves rushing from one ill-advised choice to another, living in five apartments in the last two and a half years.

They never intended to be endlessly on the hunt. “We have almost always moved out of necessity,” said Ms. Shick, 22, who is from Upper Sandusky, Ohio. “I don’t want to be one of those people who moves constantly and is discontent in her home. It is so stressful to move so many times.”

Ms. Shick met Mr. Klein, 25, a native of Los Angeles, when they were students at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, Calif. In January 2005, both transferred to New York University, where they lived briefly in dorms in the financial district. Ms. Shick had roommates who kept her awake at night. Mr. Klein found the neighborhood a “weird vortex” of desolation. That spring, they embarked on a search for a place of their own.

Desperate to move, they rented the apartment on East 17th Street, paying $1,650 a month for a small one-bedroom. One wall in the narrow living room was so sharply angled around the window that it made part of the space unusable. “You can catch claustrophobia,” Ms. Shick said. “It happened to me.”

Looking back, she said, “I made the mistake of wanting to have a full living room and a full bedroom and a place to work.” The two could have bought a sofa bed and turned the bedroom into the living room, or something. But, back then, they still believed it was possible to live in the city without compromise.

They received more loan money from N.Y.U. to defray housing costs and believed they could upgrade. “It was easy to say we’ll spend the extra $100 a month, then $200,” Mr. Klein said. “An extra $300 a month is only $150 each.”

Feeling flush, they got picky. They declined places with no dishwasher and with too many student tenants. Finally, they saw a 700-square-foot one-bedroom on West 55th Street that was everything they wanted, all for a too-pricey $2,500.

They were going to pass it by, until they were told that the landlord would pick up the broker’s fee. That was the incentive they needed.

“We couldn’t have been happier,” Ms. Shick said. That lasted a year. Then the rent was slated to rise to $2,600.

Ms. Shick figured they could get a better deal if only they hunted hard enough: They would start in Brooklyn, looking at places for rent by owner, thereby avoiding a broker’s fee. A top-floor one-bedroom in Park Slope, for $2,150 a month, fit the bill. It was fully renovated, with a dishwasher, fireplace, washer-dryer and terrace. The owner lived downstairs.

“We couldn’t imagine how this place couldn’t be perfect,” Mr. Klein said, not realizing they would be living as houseguests in the home of a novice landlord, who let himself in to make repairs and then criticized their housekeeping.

They were told not to leave a bottle of olive oil on the marble countertop. “I said, ‘If you have special rules for the counter, you could have told us two months ago that marble is delicate,’ ” Ms. Shick said.

They were told their television made too much noise, so they bought wireless headphones.

When workers let themselves in to reach their terrace, “we said it is fine if they need to get through, but could they knock first,” Mr. Klein said.

One chilly fall day, the landlord insisted they open their windows to clear the air of the smell of cigarettes.

“We don’t smoke,” Ms. Shick said.

“We do,” the landlord replied.

“He said that smoke rises so you have to air the apartment out.” Ms. Shick said. “From this place we discovered that looks aren’t everything.”

After a screaming match with the landlord, Ms. Shick and Mr. Klein declared their intention to move out.

By now, Mr. Klein was planning to attend film school at Columbia University, so the couple decided to search on the Upper West Side.

They were turned down for one nice brownstone apartment in the West 80s because Ms. Shick had run up some credit-card debt and because their guarantor, Mr. Klein’s father, didn’t have an annual income of 80 times the rent of nearly $2,000.

The building’s manager, though, also had a place on West 103rd Street. How could they be qualified for one place but not the other? It was a different owner, who had different requirements, said the agent who rented them the apartment.

Desperate again, the two signed a lease for $1,950. The eight-unit building was a noneviction co-op with three co-op units, one of which they were renting. Five units remained rent-regulated.

“We were thinking, we can work within this space,” Ms. Shick said. “We can fix things.”

But they couldn’t fix the water, which was almost always cold. “It was like the Arctic in the bathroom,” she said. The neighbors told them, “We listen for the pipes and see if other people are taking a shower,” she said. “I don’t have time to sit around listening to other people’s pipes. For almost $2,000 a month, I should be able to take a shower.”

Then there were the mice. An exterminator spackled some holes in the walls. Ms. Shick had visions of cartoon mice, “laughing at us and chewing through the concrete. We would see the concrete in crumbled little piles.” She caught 13 mice in six months. Dali, their dog, was uninterested in helping.

They broke the lease, claiming the apartment was uninhabitable. By now, the couple were willing to hunt for a bare-bones place they could afford. Moving expenses — movers, boxes, fees — were taking a toll. “It was clear we needed to live within our means,” Mr. Klein said.

They turned north, to Hamilton Heights. One apartment had a bathroom filled with dead roaches. “If you see them when you look at the place, you are going to see them for the rest of the lease,” Ms. Shick said. Another had all its windows directly on the street. “There’s no point to having windows if you have to use shades all the time,” she said.

A one-bedroom on Hamilton Place, just $950, was grungy for sure, but also dirt cheap. Taking it was the smart thing to do, they decided. Ms. Shick, who graduated in the spring, had just landed a job coordinating the production of television commercials and needed to begin repaying those school loans.

The two moved in during the summer. “I have never had to deal with neighbors who play music so loud the floor vibrates,” Ms. Shick said. “The noise is unbearable. I feel like such a complainer. Is there something wrong with us that we are so finicky, and at the same time have such terrible karma?”

They have flashbacks to 17th Street, their huge regret. “The fatal mistake was we didn’t push ourselves to adjust,” Mr. Klein said. “How much simpler our lives would have been if we had just stayed there.”

And now there is something new.



One of the tactics used in affordable housing is to mix affordable housing tenants with market rate tenants. What occurs is what is called a corrective effect and the affordable housing tenants adapt to the new environment. Call it institutional peer pressure where the affordable housing tenants will learn the proper social cues to relearn new habits and be better neighbors. And if they do not or are unable to comply, their new peers will call cops.

The reason why they are hearing so much noise from their neighbors is that their neighbors don't care. They are probably living in a similar hell hole and feel they can do whatever they want. Hamilton Heights is way out on the west side near Columbia. It is not known for its nightlife or entertainment. Their neighbors are probably too poor to afford to go clubbing or too far away from the nearest hot spot. So they turn their own homes into a place of drink and dance. It is also a way for these people to cope with their living conditions. Some people drink, others toke up and some people just play the bass really loud.

This is the reality when you don't have the budget.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Now he tells us

"Let's play catch the hand grenade! You first!"

From the Drudgereport

Thu Sept 13 2007 12:30:11 ET

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan admits he "didn't really get it" that the subprime lending trend was significant enough to hurt the economy until very late 2005, but still defends his lowering of interest rates from 2001 until 2004 that critics say caused the crisis in the first place. Greenspan, who led the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank through 18 years and four presidents, speaks to Lesley Stahl in his first major interview, to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, Sept. 16 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Greenspan says he knew about the questionable subprime lending tactics that gave loans to homebuyers and investors with low adjustable interest rates that could rise precipitously, but not the severe economic consequences they posed. "While I was aware a lot of these practices were going on, I had no notion of how significant they had become until very late," he tells Stahl. "I really didn't get it until very late in 2005 and 2006."

Even though one of the Federal Reserve governors raised a red flag on those lending practices, Greenspan says there was little he could do. "Well, it was nothing to look into particularly because we knew there was a number of such practices going on, but it's very difficult for banking regulators to deal with that," says Greenspan.

Several of Greenspan's former Federal Reserve governors have since said that Greenspan's policy of lowering interest rates for three consecutive years early in the decade was wrong because it opened the door for the subprime lenders. They think he kept rates too low for too long. "They are mistaken," Greenspan tells Stahl. "It was our job to unfreeze the American banking system if we wanted the economy to function. This required that we keep rates modestly low," he says.

Some believe today's market slide -- U.S. stocks have lost significant ground over the past few months -- could have been slowed had the current Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke lowered interest rates like Greenspan did early in the decade. Would he act as dramatically and quickly now as he did then if he were the current chairman as some believe? "I'm not sure that's true," says Greenspan. "We were dealing in an environment back there where inflation was easing. We could have acted without the fear of stoking inflationary pressures. You can't do that anymore... I'm not certain I would have done anything different [if he was the chairman today]," he tells Stahl. "I think [Bernanke] is doing an excellent job."


When Greenspan was a young man he had a dream of becoming a great jazz musician and became an accomplished clarinet and saxophone player and joined a jazz ensemble. He realized that he might be better suited for a career in finance when he did a better job taking care of the bookkeeping and taxes for the ensemble than playing.

I bring this up as an example of Greenspan's foresight and awareness. He's not just bright but he has the uncanny ability to see all of the angles. Also the Fed is run by some very smart people. I mean crazy smart. I mean the type of people who would take the LSATS cold just for fun. The type of people who try to determine man's existence through calculus. In other words an army of Spocks.

That is why I am having a hard time believing he did not know about this game of pass the hand grenade and that he was caught unaware of the subprime crisis. I also find it unbelievable that none of his people ever ran a worst case scenario with the sub prime market.

I do find a bit of humor in his response since he is acknowledging the situation but he is not taking responsibility for it. Apparently, it was something he was well known for since he was a kid.

An excerpt from Greenspan: The Man Behind Money

Greenspan played clarinet in the school orchestra, sporting a blue sweater emblazoned with a white "GW." He was also a member of a school dance band organized by classmate Hilton Levy. The band went by the name Lee Hilton and His Orchestra—"Lee Hilton" being young Hilton Levy's stage name.

Levy was extremely entrepreneurial. He managed to finagle a letter of introduction from bandleader Glenn Miller and, armed with this letter, Levy would case the Brill Building—the famous song-writing factory in Times Square—wandering from floor to floor, hitting people up for free sheet music for the band. Thus, Lee Hilton and His Orchestra's repertoire included standards such as "Bye Bye Blackbird," "Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie," and "Sweet Georgia Brown." In deference to their benefactor—and also because it was a huge crowd-pleaser—the orchestra ended each show with Glenn Miller's "In the Mood."

Levy, Greenspan, and an ever-changing roster of anywhere from seven to ten musicians played school dances and proms at George Washington High. They also tooled around their neighborhood performing at socials held by temples and churches. Standard pay was $2 a show per band member.

Levy, who remained in the music business for many years, and legally changed his name to Lee Hilton, remembers bandmate Greenspan as rather abstruse. "He never said anything definitively. It was always double-talk—very much like today." But he also remembers that they had a good time together. "We thoroughly enjoyed what we were doing, and we were getting paid for it," says Hilton.

And the band played.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

6 years ago

We will always remember.

Monday, September 10, 2007

As bad as it gets?

I saw this last night.

Housing Market Slump Forces Couple To Open Brothel
CBS) NEW ROCHELLE The downturn in the housing market appears to have driven two Westchester homeowners to desperate and illegal measures.

New Rochelle Police raided a 3-bedroom home on North Avenue Friday night arresting four alleged prostitutes and the homeowners.

The house, they say, had been turned into a brothel complete with heavy shades over all the windows and a red ribbon placed out by the sidewalk to indicate they were open for business.

Richard Werner and Heather Mezzenga are charged with promoting prostitution. The two are both mortgage brokers who moved out of the house roughly two years ago so they could begin renovating a home on Mountain Road in Pleasantville.

Digg This Story!

New Rochelle neighbors told CBS 2 the house had originally been listed for $750,000 but didn’t sell even after the price had been dropped to $600,000.

David Saperstein said, “He couldn’t get his price, then he rented,” but a series of families came and went and the house fell into apparent neglect until new occupants apparently arrived two weeks ago.

Saperstein says the lawn was cut, and heavy shades were put up on all the windows but he never saw the new neighbors.

“The air conditioning was running all day and no one’s there,” he told us. “But at night there’s five, six, seven cars there.”

Natalie Nanzo said she had even thought about buying the house when it first went on the market and couldn’t quite get over the allegations that the home had been turned into a brothel.

“I’m in shock,” she said, “because these people were business people. I can’t believe they would be involved in prostitution.”

One of the couple’s Pleasantville neighbors seemed pretty sure business problems were at the root of the shocking news. “I know they’re mortgage brokers,” Peter Passidomo said. “And I know it’s been a tough business, so I assume they might have had financial difficulty.”

He said the front of the Mountain Road home had been under renovation for the entire two years the couple had lived next door with their little boy, who appeared to be of Kindergarten age.

Both homeowners, as well as the four alleged prostitutes, who range in age from 21 to 30, are free on bail.

I knew things were bad, but mother of mercy!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The R word

Yeah, I said it. What are you going to do about it?

Bear Stearns said it.

Alan Greenspan said it.

Now, we are just waiting for Bernanke to put his two cents it. My bet is that he is going to wait till the last minute before he gives in. At that point, well, it'll be too late to do anything about it.

It is going to be a fun year.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Roll Call: The Momma say knock you out. edition.

Boxing, green buildings and hipsters. I would actually pay to see some hipsters smacking each other around in a green building.

Dumbo Improvement District to Host Inaugural Fundraiser

DUMBO Fight Night: the Fight to Preserve DUMBO!

BROOKLYN, NY – On Thursday, September 20, St. Ann’s Warehouse will be a buzz of activity for the Dumbo Improvement District’s inaugural fundraiser, DUMBO Fight Night: the Fight to Preserve DUMBO! After a successful first year of operations, the Dumbo Improvement District has created a signature fundraising event to bring the community together for the widely shared goal of preserving DUMBO’s historic and artistic integrity.

Playing into DUMBO’s rough manufacturing infrastructure and today’s world-class cultural reputation, DUMBO Fight Night combines the beauty of the arts in stark contrast to the force of hand-to-hand combat. When developing the concept for DUMBO Fight Night, the Improvement District did not have to look far for fighters in their corner. Neighborhood cultural organizations and businesses quickly rallied behind the event, offering their services and talents for the production of DUMBO Fight Night. The end result is an exciting event program showcasing the talents of some of DUMBO’s most gifted residents.

In the first round of the event, classical musicians from Bargemusic will take on hip-hop artists representing the Room Service Group, demonstrating the wide ranging talents of musicians who make their home in DUMBO. In the second round, modern dancers from White Wave Dance Company will go head to head with break dancers presented by the powerHouse arena, both showing unique approaches to expression through dance. Rounding out the performance component of the evening, the third round will feature performers from the Brooklyn Arts Council and Galapagos art space in the ring. The evening will finish with USABoxingMetro sanctioned boxing matches facilitated by DUMBO anchor institution, Gleason’s Gym.

Confronted with DUMBO’s quickly changing landscape, the “Fight to Preserve DUMBO” is more than a catch-phrase. All monies raised from the event will be directed into a maintenance fund for the restoration of DUMBO’s Belgian block roadbeds, ensuring that the historic character of the neighborhood’s streets is not lost. Additionally through the participation of neighborhood cultural groups, the event will bring the cultural community of DUMBO to a City-wide audience, ensuring that DUMBO remains synonymous as a home for arts and culture for many years to come.

“DUMBO is the Creative Capital of NYC and we are proud to present DUMBO Fight Night as an evening dedicated to showcasing the cultural organizations that make their home here.” said Tucker Reed, Executive Director of the Dumbo Improvement District. “It is our sincere hope that this event becomes an annual fixture in the community, rallying our diverse stakeholders together for the both the celebration and preservation of DUMBO.”

DUMBO Fight Night

Thursday, September 20, 2007 – Doors open at 6:00P.M.

St. Ann’s Warehouse, 38 Water Street, DUMBO, Brooklyn

Tickets: A $50 ticket admits one individual to the Fight

A $100 ticket admits one family to the Fight

Group rates available by calling (718) 237.8700

For more information about DUMBO Fight Night or to purchase tickets, visit or call (718) 237.8700.

Special thanks to our production sponsors: St. Ann’s Warehouse, halcyon the shop and Gleason’s Gym.


The Dumbo Improvement District is dedicated to the enhancement and promotion of one of New York City’s most historic, dynamic and compelling neighborhoods. In no other place throughout the five boroughs can one find such impeccable views, alluring public spaces, charming streetscapes, unique shops and restaurants and celebrated architecture all within a five-block radius. The organization’s programs, which range from enhancing the streetscapes to supporting small businesses and hosting events to promote the community, are all geared toward developing the neighborhood’s intriguing and ever-evolving sense of place.

And something about hipsters and green buildings. Apparently word on the street is that they are going to Bushwick. BTW, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS EAST BUSHWICK. IT IS A LIE CREATED BY SOME OVERZEALOUS CORNELL STUDENT TRYING TO LOOK COOL.

NYC’s Hipsters heading East &

Their ongoing affair with Eastern Neighborhoods

A Green building settles in boundaries of East Williamsburg redefining urban trend sets.

NEW YORK, NY (September 2007) — All New Yorkers have witnessed the city’s hipster tendency of heading east, and how these tenants skyrocket the value of where they settle. Now, Rafi Elbaz, founder of Lifeform studio, has developed a new project that goes further east and settles in the up and coming neighborhood of Bushwick, with 163 Montrose; a newly renovated green building for the young, hip and environmentally-conscious.

With clear examples of previous eastern neighborhoods, these so called hipsters are known to have an urban vision of where the city tends to grow. As seen in the East Village during the 1960’s, when Warhol hosted parties in Saint Mark’s St. and the Lower East Side when the Ramones performed for their first time at CBGB’s in 1974. All of these trendsetting minds are known to shape up these old neighborhoods turning them into hip and extravagant.

During the late 1980’s, NYC’s young and creative, kept heading east and crossed the bridge to settle in the new “it neighborhood” of Williamsburg, due to the cheap rent and its close proximity to the city. They settled in industrial spaces where living and working areas were more generous than what the city offered. By 1996 Williamsburg’s artist population had swelled to more than 3,000 and continues to grow to this day.

Today, with the meticulous transformation of a rundown apartment building into a green-design project 163 Montrose is attracting a new breed of hip and environmentally-conscious tenants. It is now occupied by young professionals including photographers, fashion editors, journalists and Ivy League professors. It counts with outdoor areas accessible to the tenants, and rescues the original flooring and building’s structural members in a fresh new way.

Elbaz is known to trend set in these up and coming neighborhoods. When he first moved to New York in the 1980’s he settled in the Bowery, just above CBGB’s. During these years he attended Cooper Union and became at home with the then flamboyant Bowery. In the 1990’s, he moved to Williamsburg, crossing the bridge with many other adventurous minds in pursue of a specific lifestyle.

He began to work on various projects and got involved in numerous dwelling, including the first condo conversion in Williamsburg; The Esquire, making him an insider of the “eastern hipstern” movement. In 2003, Lifeform won the first step housing competition, a shelter project for the homeless located on the Bowery; this project is now under construction. Elbaz, has since been involved in the development of N7, the first green-design housing condo on the north side of Williamsburg and recently finished 163 Montrose.

Lifeform believes in contributing positively to the developments in these up and coming areas, by incorporating progressive style and sustainable materials into its projects.

THE PROJECT: 163 Montrose

The neighborhood of Bushwick, located in East Williamsburg Brooklyn is conveniently situated on the Montrose stop of the L train. 163 Montrose transformed a run down construction into a three stories loft like apartment building.

The renovations included gutting out apartments and the structural reinforcing of the building, foundation, new kitchens, bathrooms, electrical, plumbing, the entire renovation of the backyard, and the construction of a second floor outdoor deck.

Environmental features were given to this renovation by restoring the wooden floors to its original condition in a recycling process. The facade was fully reformed using a natural mineral plaster and energy saving double glazed windows. Most notably, the studio has salvaged old wooden columns and beams and reused them for structural and architectural purposes. The apartments provide the inhabitants a healthy stress less environment.

In the last year the project has helped to spark of a new wave of trendy Bars and cafes on the block, that have further encouraged the economic growth of the area.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Then came another.

Welcome to the party pal!

After eating a Rosie O'Donnell sized meal of mac and cheese courtesy of SMAC, I checked my email to find a message from a broker blogger who is just as bitter, jaded and insane as I am about real estate.


Diary of An Anonymous New York Real Estate Agent

Here's a sample of this blogger's genius.

My boss has been known to make disapproving comments at those taking off on, say, New Year's Eve. Government holidays such as MLK, President's Day, or Columbus Day? Forget having those off. That's when you're supposed to be even more available, because people are theoretically using the extra day off to look for apartments. I find people generally don't do the apartment hunt on July 4, Memorial, or Labor Days. Thank the Lord for small miracles.

Speaking of the Lord, I'm not a religious person, but I've come to appreciate the Jewish holidays, because the real estate biz really slows down during that time. Even if you aren't observing anything, it's nice to have a lull every now and then.

So yes, real estate has a way of creeping into every day of your life. People will call you when you're off, or late at night because they think it's okay. Holidays, nights, and weekends don't belong to you 100%. Ever.

Even in your off time, people want to talk shop, want real estate market predictions, etc. They seem to think I have a crystal ball and can predict the future. If that were true, do you really think I'd be doing this for a living? Now I think I sort of understand what doctors and lawyers must feel like. But at least they're paid decently.

For what I'm putting up with and considering what I'm giving up, I should be making triple what I'm currently making.

Totally badass!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Cautiously Bullish

Fed asks mortgage servicers to help borrowers

Regulators including the Federal Reserve asked banks and other institutions Tuesday to pursue "loss mitigation" strategies for borrowers at risk of losing their homes, the latest move from Washington aimed at defusing the crisis in the subprime mortgage market.

Translation: Don't even think of asking us for help. We are barely holding on as it is.

I have heard some light chatter about the Manhattan market, apparently deals are being made at very high prices despite the uncertainty of the market. Even with the subprime contagion running wild.

My analysis is this: I do not abide by the party line that Manhattan is a different market which is the reason that apartments are still selling. I think it because buyers are under a different gun. No longer is it irrational exuberance and bouts of last buyer standing. Instead of bidding wars they are under pressure to get the best mortgage they can get as lending standards begin to tighten. The quicker they can sign the contract, the quicker they can lock in a good rate.

Sellers, put on your Sunday best and get those open houses ready. This might be your last chance to make a profit for a long time.

On a personal note I would like to congratulate Joey Arak on his recent promotion to full-time editor at Curbed. From working with Joey, he has proven to be an outstanding editor with a keen eye for detail and an uncanny ability to turn a mess of words into poetry.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Here comes the cavalry?

It seems that the stock market make any excuse to have themselves a rally.

The first punch came from Bush

Mr. Bush, in formally announcing administration proposals that had been outlined the day before for a handful of news organizations, said the measures were intended to help families keep their homes through a mixture of actions, legislation and persuasion. But he said the administration would not bail out “speculators” in the housing industry.

“The government has got a role to play, but it is limited,” Mr. Bush said. “A federal bailout of lenders would only encourage a recurrence of the problem. It’s not the government’s job to bail out speculators, or those who made the decision to buy a home they knew they could never afford.”

Then Bernanke jumped in with his pledge

Ben S. Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, declared on Friday that the central bank “stands ready to take additional actions as needed” to prevent the chaos in mortgage markets from derailing the broader economy.

Mr. Bernanke avoided any specific promise to lower the central bank’s benchmark federal funds rate at its next policy meeting on Sept. 18. But he acknowledged the dangers posed by the twin storms in housing and mortgage lending, adding that conditions are changing quickly enough that the Fed might act even before then if the next batch of economic data looks unfavorable.

In all honesty, this doesn't give me a warm fuzzy in my stomach. First of all our Commander Chief's track record in saving the day has been, well, it sucks.

Remember the Tsunami? It is a really bad sign when your father and your predecessor have to do a PSA to get money.

And Katrina? Well, let me put it this way. If you have a major American city reduced to a third world country after a hurricane, well you have a problem.

Currently the Army is now offering 20K bonuses for people to enlist.

And now we have people like Nick Sloan who are risking their lives to get out of debt.

All this milk money is coming straight from Uncle Sugar’s teet. In fact our fearless leader is planning is asking for more money for the war.

Do you think foreclosures are going to be a high priority on his list of thing to do before he leaves office?

As for Bernanke, he stated
“stands ready to take additional actions as needed” to prevent the chaos in mortgage markets from derailing the broader economy.

What are these additional actions going to be? I am sure whatever they are won’t be painless, at least for the little guys.

Also what is definition of prevention? I am sure it is helluva lot more different than ours.
And according to the New York Times it maybe too little too late.

But the Fed’s main weapon for restoring confidence — reducing its benchmark federal funds rate on overnight loans between banks to 5 percent or less, from 5.25 percent now — would have little effect on fears about credit quality.

“The reason there isn’t a market for these credits is that people don’t know what price they should be trading at,” said Edward E. Leamer, professor of management at the University of California, Los Angeles, who presented a paper during the weekend at the Federal Reserve’s symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyo. “That’s not going to be affected by a small change in the federal funds rate.”

As far as I am concerned the storm isn’t over yet.