New York’s first micro-apartment building hasn’t even broken ground yet, but the city is already planning more. At a luncheon hosted by the Citizens Housing Planning Council today, Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Matthew Wambua announced that new requests for proposals will be issued for more micro-apartment sites.
“We are considering RFPs for two or three micro-unit developments later this year,” a HPD spokesman told The Observer after the event. “We’re in the process of vetting a number of city-owned sites, and RFP guidelines will be tailored to the chosen sites.”
Back in 2011, AvalonBay abandoned plans to build a 44-story, 700-unit rental building on the block south of West 57th Street between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues. TF Cornerstone was rumored to be interested in the site, and it turns out the rumors were true: the Manhattan-based developer now wants to build a 45-story, 1,189-unit residential tower on the same site, according to documents filed with the Department of City Planning.
If approved, the project would contain a total of 1.2 million square feet of floorspace, with 42,000 square feet set aside for commercial use and a 550-space underground parking garage. Of the apartments, 20 percent—238 units—would be set aside as affordable housing under the city’s inclusionary zoning program.
the high cost of banking
During the depths of the Great Recession, Angelo Biondo, owner of K-9 Powerhouse Kennel in Park Slope, was doing great business. Mr. Biondo rented out his guard dogs to developers who needed someone—or some animal—to watch over their stalled sites, but couldn’t afford a full-time human guard.
He told The Observer in 2009 that he charged $1,750 to $2,000 a month for the service—a steal compared to what a guard of the primate species would cost. “Brooklyn is the No. 1 area,” he said at the time, though neighbors near stalled sites guarded by Mr. Biondo’s dogs were not always so pleased—two dogs at a Robert Scarano site once escaped and bit a neighbor and his dog.
The market has since rebounded—there aren’t many stalled sites left to guard—but when the next crash inevitably arrives, Mr. Biondo won’t be around to rent out Great Danes and Rottweilers to unlucky builders.
In recent years, the Upper West Side has been besieged by bank branches, with countless TD Banks and Citibanks, Chase Banks and Banks of America gobbling up once-vibrant street corners, the dull gleam of their ATM screens casting an eerie glow on the empty sidewalks late at night.
There has been hand-wringing, there have been outcries, there is even a zoning ordinance that prohibits banks from having storefronts wider than 25 feet. And unlike the cancerous spread of Duane Reades across every corner of our fair city, which for all their colonial tendencies offer a certain languorous refuge for the stressed city dweller, no one can quite understand what is driving the bank branches’ spread. Aren’t we always told that people are doing more and more banking online? Other than withdrawing cash from the ATM, how often do most of us really visit the bank?
“This is a street that predates Manhattan. It has been one of the finest addresses in the city and it has been skid row, and now it’s changing again,” said Bill Wander, offering an extremely brief history of the Bowery.
We were standing with Mr. Wander, historian for McSorley’s Old Ale House (yes, McSorley’s has a historian), in the Bowery Hotel, surrounded by other historians, preservationists, punk rockers, poets, Italian bakers and many a downtown bar veteran who had gathered to celebrate the Bowery’s recent listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Hipster vs. Hipster
In the pantheon of great New York City squares, Herald Square doesn’t rate very highly. Without the international renown of Times Square or the hip, downtown vibe of Union Square, Herald Square has been relegated to Manhattan’s mid-market chain shopping district.
And while nearby buildings have attracted some of the trendier bargain retailers, like Uniqlo and H&M, Herald Center at 1293 Broadway has had to content itself with Modell’s, Payless Shoes and the New York State DMV. (We’re guessing that Imelda Marcos, who once owned the building with her Philippine strongman husband—through front men Joseph and Ralph Bernstein—wouldn’t have deigned to buy shoes there.)
Williamsburg hipsters are very busy these days! Whether it’s butchering some kind of heirloom pig or smelting the umpteenth variation on a V-shaped necklace to sell at Brooklyn Flea, what burgeoning tradesman or woman has time to dig through thrift stores for the perfect pair of high-waisted Jordache jeans or frumpy/chic granny sweaters? Not to mention that the neighborhoods’ thrift stores have been hopelessly picked over since at least 2005.
Thank goodness Urban Outfitters—and maybe even Anthropologie!—will soon be coming to the neighborhood. The college campus staple and her older, wealthier sister (who’s always going off on trips to foreign lands, writing dreamy not-quite-coherent thoughts in her leather-bound diary) are both looking to move into the neighborhood, Crain’s reports.
New York apartments are notorious for being about as big as a shoe box, but those were typically 19th century tenements. Today, the Bloomberg administration brought tiny apartments into the 21 century with My Micro NY, the winning entry in a competition launched last July to create a miniature housing model for the city.
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Lord Norman Foster, the hyper-modern British Pritzker Prize winner, is having a moment in New York, with numerous projects underway across Manhattan. But his latest hews away from the slick techno-futurism for which Lord Foster is best known, instead embracing a city landmark at one of our most famous intersections.
Last July, Spansh tile maker Porcelanosa, one of that nation’s largest producers of tiles and ceramics, purchased 202 Fifth Avenue for $40 million. Better known as the Commodore Criterion Building, the six-story granite structure once housed the Commodore Manufacturing Corp. and Criterion Bell & Specialty Co., two Brooklyn-based Christmas ornament makers (hence the building’s best known feature, a troupe of carolers permanently affixed to the second-story facade). Now, the 18,000-square-foot building will house Porcelanosa’s U.S. flagship, with interiors designed by Foster + Partners.
Tomorrow, Durst/Fetner will go before the Zoning and Franchise Subcommittee of the City Council, one of the final stops in the months-long public approval process for the developer’s angular apartment building at the western edge of 57th Street. Councilwoman Gale Brewer has sent a letter to the developer outlining her demands ahead of the hearing. They largely follow concerns she has had from the start, namely the affordability of the project, community space and an enticing streetscape for the project.
One of the big debates that has been raging around the rezoning of Midtown East is how it might impact development already underway around the city, much of it funded in part by the public sector, and thus taxpayers. Should these projects fail, Joe Public could lose out on his investment.
The World Trade Center and Hudson Yards have been two focal points, but Manhattan West, which broke ground yesterday, ought to be considered, too. While the project’s backers bragged at the groundbreaking about building without public subsidy, they are still competing for the same anchor tenants as their rivals further east. Furthermore, the $2 billion the city contributed to the construction of the 7 train nearby is to be paid back through property taxes on the new projects. No new development, no bond proceeds, big trouble for the city.
Still, Mayor Bloomberg is standing by the decision to fast-track the Midtown rezoning and ensure it gets completed this year.
For the second time in as many months, Mayor Michael Bloomberg trekked out the Far West Side for a groundbreaking on a major new development built over a set of railroad tracks. While Brookfield’s Manhattan West is not quite as big as The Related Company’s Hudson Yards, in its size and scale and heft and sheer exclamation of the arrival of this once derelict corner of the city, the project measures up pound for pound. Some 5.4 million square feet of offices and housing and shopping on not much more than one city block.
“With today’s groundbreaking, we’re taking a major step forward in the transformation and rebirth of the Far West Side of Manhattan,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said from the podium at the corner of 33rd Street and Ninth Avenue.
on the waterfront
The West Village, 1999. The meatpackers have all but left the nearby cobblestones, but a savvy buyer can still pick up a sprawling, newly-converted industrial loft for a little over a million bucks.
Enter Steve Roth, chairman of megadeveloper Vornado, who knows a real estate deal when he sees one and is renowned for waiting out the market until the time is right to sell.
The Neverending Story
Last month, Douglas Durst walked away from the Friends of Hudson River Park advocacy group over a disagreement with the trust that runs the Manhattan watefront park. The key dispute had been over what to do with Pier 40, the libertarian park‘s former cash cow that has become a drain as its pilings deteriorate and the parking garage cum ball fields ever so slowly sinks into the river.
The trust believes that housing should be among the options considered for shoring up the pier’s finances, and by extension its pilings, a move that would likely require a major overhaul of the pier. Meanwhile, Mr. Durst insists housing is undesirable and unnecessarily expensive, and the better option is to keep the pier largely as is, adaptively reusing the space to more efficiently house the roughly 1,400 cars that park on the pier, freeing up room to create commercial space, likely occupied by tech firms, art galleries and other decidely downtown tenants.
Last night, Mr. Durst presented his plan at a public meeting, where it was warmly if cautiously received.
As a resident of the West Village, Lee Ielpi trudged by a fence of ceramic tiles daily in the raw weeks after 9/11, one that developed a comforting presence over the next decade, transformed from an impromptu memorial to an enduring memorial. Now that they have been to a library nearby, on display for all to come see and remember that horrific day, Ielpi was fighting off tears at an unveiling this morning.
“Time does not heal the wound—it has a scab on it, and every now and then I peel it off and talk about my son,” said Mr. Ielpi, president of the September 11th Families’ Association. He lost his son, a firefighter, in the attacks. “We have an obligation to our children, to our grandchildren, to never forget. It is through education, it is through enlightenment. This is part of that process.”