Midtown East Rezoning
Hundreds of opponents and supporters of Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s controversial plan to rezone a 73-block area in Midtown East descended on the City Council Tuesday for a public hearing leading up to a final vote on the proposal scheduled for next month.
The rezoning, brought before the packed house for a final hearing before the vote, could Read More
West Elm, the high-end home furnishing retailer, will uproot from the Two Trees-owned space in Dumbo it has occupied for more than 10 years in exchange for a prime position at the soon-to-be renovated Empire Stores on Brooklyn’s revived waterfront.
The Dumbo-based retailer has inked a 150,000-square-foot lease at Empire Stores, an ancient complex of 19th century coffee warehouses at 55 Water Street, which shot back into public view earlier this week when the city tapped Midtown Equities to restore its crumbling facade.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is a proponent of equality. His approach has been slowly gaining steam in the mayoral race. In the most recent Quinnipiac poll of likely Democratic primary voters, Mr. de Blasio (21 percent) only trails Christine Quinn (27 percent).
In a press release Tuesday, New York City’s Economic Development Corporation announced that ConnectNYC Fiber Access will begin accepting applications for a second time.
ConnectNYC is part of the suite of initiatives launched in July of 2012 by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to help expand broadband connectivity to businesses. The program covers the cost of construction and installation of fiber in commercial buildings.
The waning months of Mayor Bloomberg’s reign are expected to be marked by a series of high-powered departures, as one official after another jumps ship before the mayor leaves office. The latest is Bloomberg stalwart and Dan Doctoroff protégée Seth Pinsky, who is stepping down from the Economic Development Corporation to take a private sector gig with RXR Realty, as the agency announced today. Kyle Kimball, who is currently the agency’s executive director, will succeed him.
Stat of the Week
As you have no doubt heard, last Monday marked the debut of the bike-sharing program Citi Bike. Proponents including Mayor Bloomberg say that Citi Bike, which could be a capstone of the mayor’s environmentally and health-conscious administration, will revolutionize and greenify commuting in New York while making its citizens healthier and leaner. (People over 260 pounds are prohibited from riding the 6,000 bikes, though the stations do not feature scales.)
To the program’s detractors, the 300 stations are obtrusive eyesores, the bikes are an inevitable hazard on clogged Manhattan and Brooklyn streets, and the flagrant Citibank advertising at the docks and on the bikes is obscene. The Commercial Observer took to the streets on the third day of the program to ask employees of businesses near various stations how they felt about the initiative and whether it had led to an uptick in customers.
The current difference between average Class B Midtown and Midtown South asking rents is $6.45 per square foot. If we polled brokers on which market’s asking rent was higher, nine out of 10 would probably choose Midtown.
And they would be wrong.
2012 Owners Magazine
Last week, news that Bruce Ratner would be stepping down as chief executive officer of Forest City Ratner rippled through the real estate industry, even as others in New York wondered aloud what it would mean for the company’s
yet-to-be-completed Atlantic Yards project.
After the jump, a brief and incomplete timeline of Mr. Ratner’s career and life.
A few years ago, a city Department of Finance official noticed irregularities in the way certain residential properties had been appraised by the agency, leading to slightly lower-than-normal valuations.
To compensate, the official suggested the department decrease its assessments across the board for the group, which mostly comprised single-family homes and small co-op buildings in an area of one of the boroughs.
Dropping the valuations slightly below usual thresholds would reduce the taxes the city could collect, but only by a few percentage points—a seemingly harmless amount in the face of the billions of dollars the agency assesses—and it would allow the department to restore uniformity and equanimity to its calculations, one of the mandates of its process.
What appeared to be an innocuous adjustment, however, garnered a backlash that was swift and forceful. Top officials at the department were summoned to Mayor Bloomberg’s Upper East Side townhouse. There they were confronted by the mayor and irate senior executives from the city’s budget office, the person said.
Though the theme of the meeting was ostensibly to discuss the irregularities and why the department had chosen lower assessments, the underlying message was clear: don’t trifle with the city’s revenue.
“I feel like we got taken out to the backyard to get whipped,” the source said, requesting anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the meeting.
The New York Genome Center has signed a 20-year, 170,000-square-foot lease at Edward Minskoff’s 101 Avenue of the Americas to establish the largest genetic sequencing facility in the city.
Mayor Bloomberg, who was on hand at a press conference held at the Hudson Square building this morning to announce the deal, said the lease was evidence of how biotech and life sciences companies were moving to the city and helping to diversify the local economy.
Can The Commercial Observer party at its own party? You bet! The CO got down at its annual Power 100 celebration, which honors its picks for the top 100 most powerful, influential and successful real estate figures in the city. Held at the Core Club in Midtown on Monday night, the gathering featured a collection of the most distinguished owners, brokers, executives and politicians. After the jump, a minute-by-minute color commentary on the city’s most powerful human beings.
In the spring, the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability will release data for the first time revealing energy consumption in office buildings in the city.
By making such figures available to the public, Mr. Bloomberg hopes to essentially do to building owners what he has done with national food chains: incentivize them—or shame them, depending on your perspective—into significantly reducing their energy consumption.
“A customer will go into a restaurant now and they’ll say to themselves, ‘maybe I won’t have that doughnut that has 500 calories’,” said Constantine Kontokosta, a professor at New York University and director of its Center for The Sustainable Built Environment, a working group that is assisting the city with its analysis and release of the electrical consumption data.
“On the producer side, you have companies like Starbucks who are also responding to the disclosure, rearranging their offerings so they no longer have 1,000 calorie cupcakes but healthier fare.”
As the entertainment and media bubble grows, Andrew Kimball’s head begins to hurt.
“It makes me crazy when I hear an economist report on the sectors in the city and the manufacturing bubble is always shrinking,” said Mr. Kimball, president and chief executive of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp., the nonprofit tasked with managing the 300-acre site for New York City, which owns it. “But you see right next to it the entertainment and media bubble and those are expanding.”
The Neverending Story
It is very obvious that we are approaching election season in New York, as the fundraisers and calls from local politicians are starting to come with greater frequency.
Given the budget deficits that New York is facing, both at the city and state level, one of the questions I always ask politicians looking for donations is what three specific line items in the city budget do they believe could withstand cutbacks. I have never received a straightforward answer to this question and most of the time the default position from the politician is, “We must work hard to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse.”