Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why is the new World Trade Center is taking so long? (from RENY)

LINK TO Latest World Trade Center Feature at "Real Estate New York"

Cody Lyon

Meanwhile, for its part, the Port maintains it’s met obligations called for in the 2006 Master Development plan, and “continues to meet them.” In August, Port Authority executive director Chris Ward argued that any arbitration decision under the 2006 MDA will not resolve the question of ‘when there will be a market for the two private office towers on the site, and how the ‘speculative’ private office space should be financed.

Almost sadly, the squabble of today seems decades away from the time eight years ago, when at least officially, a consensus emerged, that foresaw the timely rebuilding of the World Trade Center as a message of defiance and triumph that would serve as a symbol of New York City’s economic and real estate dominance as well as the major catalyst for revitalizing Lower Manhattan.

Another Excerpt:
Pataki tells Real Estate New York “we had an obligation to keep Lower Manhattan a viable commercial center, in fact, the financial capital of the world.” He adds, “that’s why, the commitment was made, not to just have the memorial, the transit hub and the upgrading of infrastructure facilities, but, as the insurance documents required, the reconstruction of office space.”

Long Island (GlobeSt.com and RENY)

Cody Lyon

Link to www.globest.com
HEMPSTEAD, NY-Early this month, in Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi and the Lighthouse Development Group announced a proposed lease agreement for the massive mixed use Lighthouse project, a planned mixed use development surround the Nassau Coliseum in the Town of Hempstead. The new agreement, was for a sports transaction and ground lease for the 77 acres surrounding the Nassau Coliseum, home to the New York Islanders hockey franchise.

Lighthouse Development Group is the joint venture headed by Islanders owner Charles Wang and Scott Rechler, CEO and chair at RXR Realty. The group seeks to build over 2,000 units of housing, retail and entertainment venues along with office space, a sports technology industry incubator, exhibition facilities as well as a multi-million dollar renovation of the existing 1970s-era coliseum. The group also plans a five star hotel, said to be Long Island's first, and it's all reportedly set to be done in eight to 10 years, provided all the necessary zoning and environmental impact approvals are granted by the Town of Hempstead. Before that stop, the project had already essentially been stalled for five years before Nassau County's governing body gave its green light to the project developer.

As RXR CEO and Chair Scott Rechler told GlobeSt.com in early October after the proposed lease agreement was announced, "it has been a lot of work to get a fully negotiated lease with Nassau County." But, he said, "we still need to get the municipality to provide the zoning approval. We've got to get over a roadblock in that." He added, "whenever you deal with these things, you get concerned that politics gets in the way. So until something's actually done, you just never know."

The “Island” beyond the borough of Queens consists of numerous borders and government entities, including two counties, countless townships, villages and hamlets along with various civic organizations each with its own set of regulations, interests. For developers, that often presents obstacles.

The days when open space beckoned millions from the crowded city to the green lawns of Long Island seem like ages ago. Put simply, Long Island has very little developable land, and with a recession raging across the nation, there are increased fears that unemployment may call for pro-activity by local government that include innovative incentives to lure business and job creation.

“Long Island has been known as a very difficult region to get developments off the ground, because of all the red tape and politics involved," says Gary Meltzer, a partner at Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone in Mineola, NY. "There are many agencies, all with power, so some projects can take years to get off the ground.”

In recent years, Meltzer says a more ‘progressive’ tone has been seeping into government, where officials were beginning to be more open to development. However, he says since the recession, that pro-development has only been accelerated since many officials are recognizing “development keeps local economies going.”

Currently, most indicators show that Long Island's economy, including commercial real estate is relatively stable. Office renewals have experienced uptick and other property sectors are holding their own. And, despite a few recent high profile blows, there have been indications the area could see growth in what some call the new economy, the bio-technology and tech research sector, thanks to incubators associated with area universities.

Detailed in a portion of Robert Caro's biography of New York City master builder Robert Moses, The Power Broker, Long Island is a study in the rapid suburbanization of America. In the years during and after the Depression, roads began to open the Long Island’s large swaths of open space to development. Growth, fueled mostly by New York City residents seeking relief from the crowded pavement of the city was rapid. In fact, during the decade after Moses opened the Southern State Parkway in Nassau County, 200,000 new residents moved in, but along with the explosion in population, only 12,000 new jobs in the area.

Even today, as many as 22% of Long Island's working residents commute to Manhattan according to a Federal Reserve Bank study. Currently, Nassau County’s per capita income stands as the third highest in New York State according to the census Bureau while Suffolk County ranks sixth.

Meltzer says the business corridors are around Uniondale near the Nassau coliseum. He says businesses also are interested in the Melville area in Suffolk County and Great Neck's Marcus Avenue section. He says the other big area is Riverhead, an area he says developers think of as the next frontier for Long Island.

Hoping to get Riverhead off the ground someday is Rechler Equity managing partner Mitchell Rechler. He says that in the 1950s, his grandfather started the company and by early 1960s, the company was developing Long Island, its first project on the island being the Vanderbilt Industrial park in Hauppauge. Rechler explains that the Long Island market has changed dramatically since the late 1980s.

“Long Island was really a defense industry-centric economy before the late '80s," he says. "There was a tremendous amount of engineering and manufacturing related to the defense industry.” But, Rechler says that in those years simultaneous to the last downturn, the defense industry cut back and closed literally millions of square feet of operations on the island.

Then, he says, over the course of the next five to 10 years, Long Island evolved into a service oriented economy that was serving the Island’s population, now around three million. “It’s rare that a headquarters moves here from someplace else,” says Rechler. Instead, he says, “they develop here, because there’s a huge amount of business growth and entreprenureal spirit.”

Rechler says there are some manufacturing firms still on the island that relate to computer technology, aeronautics, homeland security but, most of the office market is dedicated to servicing Long Island. He calls the area the classic infill market.

“At this point, Long Island is very developed,” says Rechler, whose company hopes to break ground in a year or so on a business and technology development at Grabreski Airport at Suffolk County’s east end. He says the mixed-use development, to be called Hampton Business and Technology Park, is the perfect example of Suffolk County and local municipalities working together in the approval process.

But on the other hand, Rechler couldn’t offer many details on the 300-acre business and technology center at Calverton. In that case, Rechler says the development is in the beginning stages of the approval process. Rechler says the project in the Town of Riverhead has the local municipality’s support, but local civic organization and state agencies are a challenge.

“There’s no big tracts of land in Nassau County at all,” and in Suffolk, “there are a few more that are possible for development, Riverhead being one of them.”

Dominic Paparo Jr., VP of business development at EW Howell construction in Woodbury, calls his company's relationships with Long Island municipalities solid across the board. He notes that each town has different rules and processes, but adds, “each one has the same goal, which is an inspected, safe building for the public." Still, he acknowledges, each one "has different processes for getting there. It's something where there is always a learning curve."

These days, he says the bulk of his work comes from government agencies, for example, three projects at Stony Brook. He said retail work on the Island has slowed significantly, while institutional is picking up, with more work expected from Brookhaven National Laboratory over the next two to three years.

Ellen Rudin, managing director of the Long Island Operation at CB Richard Ellis, says renewals indicate signs of stability on the Island. Rudin, who oversees day to day operations at CBRE's offices in Woodbury and Long Island City in Queens, says "many of the tenants on Long Island tend to stay on Long Island." She calls current times an opportunity for tenants looking to renew.

However, Rudin adds the price differential between a good market and a bad market is not that dramatic. "So to wait for a bottom, even a lot of tenants out here realize, doesn't make sense."

Rudin says landlords are being very aggressive. They don't want to lose tenants and more than ever, they are reaching out and working with tenants.

Mitchell Rechler affirms that observation, saying from a leasing standpoint, he was more active this year than the 12 months before. He said the vast majority of all his new leasing activity was industrial. By comparison, the office market is tougher and more competitive.

"Generally speaking, no one is looking to spend money," and the "cost of moving make the likelihood of an office tenant staying where they are, more likely than in previous years," says Rechler. “Where we had 96.5% occupancy rate this time last year, we have 93% occupancy this year."

Again affirming Rudin’s observation, Rechler say any new tenants he's seen have been Long Island companies. "We are signing some leases with companies that are growing." He tells the story of a company that moved out of a building in Brentwood to one of his properties, because of a company growth issue.

Looking to the future, Rechler says, his firm designs buildings with tremendous flexibility. “If it’s a warehouse distribution-type user, we can accommodate because we design with the height and required spacing," he says. "If they require lab space, our mechanical systems are designed to provide flexibility, providing air conditioning and necessary environmental conditions for lab use. And, with office or combination facility, we can design buildings the client can split into smaller spaces.

Still, Rudin says there should be greater effort at growing and maintaining the area's burgeoning biotech sector. Local leaders have to recognize, she says, that governments in other parts of the state and nation are aggressively courting high tech companies with lucrative incentives.

As a case in point, this past July OSI Pharmaceuticals, the island's largest such company said it would consolidate its U.S. operations into a single campus in the Westchester County community of Ardsley. That month, Newsday reported that an OSI spokeswoman had said OSI wanted to expand at Farmingdale State College and that other companies would follow it there. At that point, OSI occupied 65% of the space there.

But, in an interview with Newsday, OSI's company chair Colin Godard said "we tried to make biotech work here, it hasn't, and with us going, it's going to be a real challenge to make it happen in the future." <

Reportedly, the company had run into resistance from Sen Charles Fushillo Jr (R-Merrick), who said OSI would be leasing and building on state property without any public bid.

More simply, Rudin says, the company was not able to get the deal it wanted, in the time it wanted. And despite being home to numerous biotech operations, companies Rudin calls success stories, the announcement that OSI would move and bring along its 200 employees caused everyone to pause, and ask, "what happened?"

In the end, leaders may have learned a very important lesson, she says. Of biotech that is born or grows itself on Long Island, Rudin says, "typically, they start small, with certain types of lab space with certain types of requirements, that was built out by the Farmingdale State College campus to attract that type of company. The hope is, they grow into a stand-alone building," as OSI did.

Of industrial, she says Long Island is home to distribution centers on the east end and near airports, are industrial centers. Problem areas include the middle of Nassau and Suffolk, where Industrial is not trading right now. "It's very flat," she says. In other words, "people aren't doing initiatives, if you will."

One sign of a green shoot is the site that calls itself "the place where the technology business grows," the Long Island High Technology incubator. LIHTI works through its affiliation with Stony Brook University to help new technology-innovative companies get on their feet by providing them with support, research and services. The nonprofit says that since opening in 1992, it has been associated with 70 businesses, and 44 companies that its graduated from its programs.

Noting that there are a few tech based incubators on Long Island, LIHTI executive director Anil Dhundale says the reasons they reside where they do is because of the research in places like Stony Brook, Cold Spring Harbor and Brookhaven. He says it's clear that people have become increasingly interested in the incubator model to build the foundations of a more diverse economy.

On Long Island, the job by government "could be done better," says Dhundale. But he adds, "there are a lot of organizations that exist on the government side," to help with finding appropriate real estate and other practical issues. "We all kind of know each other, and it's more of a network. But, because the world is changing, with economic downturns, money is slow to come, economic incentives take time with government." Ultimately, he says, New York State and Long Island have been "a little slow to respond to a company's needs."

But, Dhundale warns, "That inaction comes at a time when other parts of the country and world are soliciting these companies as they get ready to graduate the incubator, seeing that these new companies might be a good match for their states."

Of Long Island's OSI blow, he said "when it hit the papers, all of a sudden, everyone realized what had happened. But it was too late." He says that in fact, "the move had been coming for years. The facility they are moving to is a beautiful space for them. Overall, government was just to slow to respond. It's sort of like the marriage that was slowly going the wrong way. All of a sudden, you hear, 'I'm separating from you' and it's too late. You send flowers, but there are years worth of damage, and your efforts are met with non-responsiveness."

Dhundale spares no punches, saying that for the sake of Long Island's tech jobs future, there has to be a responsive team with the ability to make decisions on the local level. At present, he says, a company has to go through the New York Legislature to make decisions about leasing space on a local site.

The initial enthusiasm for biotech, he says, is closer to reality today than it was a decade or so ago, when there were overexpectations for the sector. "What happened was an overreaction on the part of investors and even on the part of lay public as to what bio tech is going to do for them. That phase led to a period of disappointment," but now, he says, "real productivity is beginning to show up."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Commission Approves Bronx Development

EXCERPT FROM www.globeSt.com

by Cody Lyon
...The Kingsbridge Armory Development, which has seen community opposition and controversy over wages and another debate over grocery stores, would be a $310-million outside investment in the poorest urban county in the United States by the Related Cos.

Project opponents are asking that Related and future tenants provide living wage jobs and benefits. The hourly "living wage" for one adult in the Bronx is $11.86 per hour. However, for two adults with two children, a living wage is $30.30 per hour, according to the Living Wage Calculator developed by MIT’s Amy Glasmeier.

Sources close to the developer-community disputes over Kingsbridge’s future point out to GlobeSt.com that with the exception of supermarkets, no retailer pays a living wage. As a research associate from the Fiscal Policy Institute noted in her June 2009 testimony before Bronx Community Board 7, the median wage of a New York City non-managerial retail worker is $10.78 per hour.

With that, Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr., who currently opposes the project, says he’s hopeful the developer will sit down and negotiate with his office prior to the City Council’s upcoming vote on the project.

Diaz tells GlobeSt.com that "the office is willing to help the developer identify tenants that would offer a living wage to its employees."

A Related spokeswoman tells GlobeSt.com that "Related has always committed to union construction and paid the employees within its direct employee a living wage." However, she says, "demands on the retail community to pay a living wage that are not required anywhere else in New York City or New York State render the project un-leasable, un-buildable and un-financable for Related or any other developer."

She adds, "The requirement would therefore result in the loss of 1,000 new union construction jobs and 1,200 permanent jobs that would be created at the Kingsbridge Armory."

Full story at

Friday, October 09, 2009

New York City gets FRESH with new Grocery Store Incentives

EXCERPT FROM www.globeSt.com

Cody Lyon
NEW YORK CITY-To the developer, owner or grocery chain looking for a potentially recession-proof and, perhaps, highly profitable investment opportunity, consider this: New York City, the most densely populated city in the United States, is experiencing a shortage of grocery stores and supermarkets, particularly in lower-income areas where lack of access to fresh produce contributes to higher rates of diabetes and obesity. Hoping to impact health outcomes by encouraging greater private investment in supermarket-challenged areas, the Bloomberg administration is proposing the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health program, or FRESH.

Through enticing zoning initiatives, the proposed action, set to be voted on by the City Council sometime this year, seeks to “facilitate the development of stores that sell a full range of food products,” with an emphasis on perishable items that are fresh.

“Part of what the incentives are meant to do is attract the attention of the business community to the opportunities they’ve been missing out on,” Ben Thomases, New York City’s first ever food policy coordinator, tells GlobeSt.com. He and representatives from other city agencies spearheading the proposal believe that "landlords, developers and supermarket operators haven’t quite put together that the growth of population in these communities, and the lack of high quality supermarkets, is a lucrative opportunity."

In fact, according to research by the Center for an Urban Future’s City Limits magazine, 1.67 million New Yorkers have, on average, less than one square foot of grocery store space each. Of those, 74,178 have no grocery store at all. More recently, the Department of City Planning summed that up more grimly, saying that three million New Yorkers are caught in areas with limited access to fresh produce, areas of the nation’s largest city it calls “food deserts.”

The stats tell a typical tale of urban sociological disparity. According to a 2008 study by the New York City Economic Development Corp. and the Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene and City Planning, a good number of the fresh food denied, live in low to moderate income neighborhoods. That lack of easy access and choice contributes to the fact that some city neighborhoods are home to some of the nation’s highest rates of diabetes and obesity and all the ills that come with it.

“We have wealthy neighborhoods in Manhattan where less than 10% of the adults are obese, and low income neighborhoods in the South Bronx, north and central Brooklyn where more than 30% of the adults are obese,” says Thomases. “Even if you factor out median income or mean educational attainment in an area, you still find that the presence or absence of a quality grocery store makes a substantial difference in health outcomes in that area.”

READ THE FULL STORY AT www.globest.com

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Who is Ground Zero's Ombudsman? (GlobeSt.com)

Excerpt From www.globest.com
by Cody Lyon
NEW YORK CITY-The sidewalks surrounding the 16 acres in Downtown Manhattan known as Ground Zero are still covered by tourists, who are forced to hold cameras high above their heads in an attempt to peek over the blue-shrouded fence guarding the construction site. Eight years after the event that drew those tourists there in the first place, construction at the site has been slow to come, marred by inefficiency and public frustration, and for the last year or so, a very public dispute between politicians, a massive public agency and commercial retail interests.

Over the past few days, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Silverstein Properties Inc. and the politicians who support them, have all raised the volume higher. The main players, including Gov. David Paterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, SPI and the Port Authority have issued statements and counter-statements that appear to point the finger at the other parties involved.

"If you get anyone involved who is part of the political process, or the construction process, you’ll get the same old tired answers," says construction attorney Barry LePatner, author of Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets: How to Fix America’s Trillion Dollar Construction Industry. "There should be huge outrage over this, but we’re in the middle of recession which draws our attention to a zillion other problems."

Others agree that that the volleying between the involved parties has grown confusing. "The political ping-pong game is very disconcerting to tenants and the brokerage community at large, because people are seeking clarity and specific direction in this marketplace," says Robert D. Goodman, senior managing director at FirstService Williams.


Saturday, August 01, 2009

What size is that next shoe to drop? CRE woes threaten Economy

excerpt from www.globest.com
by Cody Lyon
NEW YORK CITY-Last week, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke presented his agency’s semi-annual Monetary Policy Report to both houses of Congress. In response to Senate questions, Bernanke admitted that the rising tide of problems in the commercial mortgage market could pose "serious and major challenges to the banking system." But, when asked by New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez if the Fed had the tools to "stem" any approaching crisis, Bernanke replied that he did not know.
Experts agree that the sea of maturing commercial real estate mortgages is the next shoe to drop in the nation’s recession. But the size of that shoe remains to be seen, and just how far it falls is anyone’s guess. And there’s no consensus, on whether greater government intervention will jump-start the sleeping industry and perhaps soften any blows the crisis throws at the nation’s banking system.

"We’re in for some tough times," says Robert Dobilas, CEO/president at Realpoint LLC, the credit rating agency based in Horsham, PA. He adds, "we’re midstream in the fall."

Undoubtedly, the commercial sector’s nose-dive at least has the potential to further destabilize the nation’s financial markets. The Fed says US banks hold around $1.8 trillion in commercial real estate loans. Data from Real Capital Analytics’ mid-year report show that during the first half of 2009, the number of distressed commercial properties rose by $67 billion to $115 billion, an increase of 122%.


Thursday, July 02, 2009

A Body n Soul reunion on the Weekend of Independence

Cody Lyon
from July 2005
Although many New Yorkers grudgingly swear that more than half the
city’s residents are part of some loosely organized mass exodus to
a beach house on summer holiday weekends, those are actually the
weekends that the “left behind” can find the most memorable of New
York treats.

In fact, the non-jet ski set can sometimes find a dose of urban
spiritual nourishment that benefits the soul for months to come.

Not a religious experience, per se, but instead, a gathering of like
minded spirits, all very much alive, enjoying the fellowship of each
other, coming together for one reason, the music, at least that’s
what happened this past July 4th weekend.

The Body and Soul reunion party shook a collective booty to its core
at the PS-1 space in Queens, bringing together a cocktail of
cultures, families and sexual orientations that surely reminded
more than one participant that New York truly is a magnificent
mosaic as former Mayor David Dinkins once proclaimed.

Although Sunday afternoons at the Tribeca club Vinyl (later named
ARC) was the spot to meet the music on a weekly basis for many
years, the weekly Body and Soul party disbanded after facing
difficulty with the club space and other issues among the Djs and
organizers. But for one holiday weekend afternoon, Saturday from 3
til 9 was the time for church, as many of the party faithful liked
to call the Body and Soul experience, back in the day.

Djs Danny Krivit, Francois K and Joe Claussell did not disappoint a
crowd of thousands who had paid a ten dollar admission fee, and
another $6 each for ice cold draft beers that flowed far too easily
under a hot Queens sun in the concrete fortress of music at PS-1. The temperature kept getting hotter as a troubled nation moved another day closer to the 30 year anniversary of its highly celebrated bicentennial, a year that at least a third
of this party’s crowd, might actually remember.

A crowd wide chronic music infection was evidenced by smiles on faces
of every color of the human rainbow, every size on the scale, every
age from 3 to 65, all making moves to the beat of a different drum.
No judgment passed on who was cool and who was not, just pure
un-adulterated fun, joy, release and soul.

Occasionally, after a longer re-mix, or extended session people
would erupt into cheers and hollering this or that or whatever, it didn't matter as long as it felt good, real and true.

All the while, pulsing bodies poured in and out of the building at PS-1, moving among dancers on crowded steps that were crowned at the top with the DJ’s canopied booth. The sun gave everyone a glistening tone, some more than others, as sweat
flowed like a fountain, but, at this party, sweat was a badge of
success, a sign that you’d truly felt the light.

Speakers surrounded the main courtyard of the former school and
sound boomed against the old red brick walls rising up like a volcanic
eruption, only the lava was the sound, carried even further by
speakers in the back of the complex where others danced and played
in wading pools with their kids.

In its later years, Body and Soul saw pilgrimages by the curious
who’d heard about this place where the emphasis was on the music,
not the “scene.” Even European tourists began to make Body and
Soul part of the New York itinerary. According to those who’d
been, Sunday nights at Vinyl (ARC) were where one could still find
the real spirit of New York.

Certainly, like every nightclub party, there was rivalry,
differences, and any other number of shady events or normal human
interaction issues, but unlike most other dance club experiences,
Body and Soul was true to its name.

Martha Graham once said “I am absorbed in the magic of movement and
light. Movement never lies”.

Body and Soul did not lie to the participants left in the city this
past July 4th weekend. That day in Queens let everyone at PS-1 know
that movement is alive and well in New York City and New York is
still filled with magic.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Atlantic Yards Saga Continues (GlobeSt.com)

Cody Lyon
From www.globest.com
NEW YORK CITY-The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted 10 to 2 to sell its 8.5 acres of Vanderbilt Yards property at the planned Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn to developer Forest City Ratner Cos. for $20 million down, and $80 million spread over the next 21 years. As MTA board chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger pointed out after the votes were cast on Wednesday, "in real estate, you get what you can when you can."
Despite the latest generosity from the public coffers, the New York Times reported that FCRC needs to raise more than $500 million in bonds by Dec. 31 to build the project’s arena and qualify for tax-exempt status.

Specifically, Wednesday’s vote and subsequent new MTA payment schedule allows the developer to spread out payments until 2031. The new terms compare to FCRC’s 2005 original offer of $100 million up front. Even then, the $100 million FCRC bid was $50 million less than a competing offer from Extell Development Corp. for the property.

In a statement released after the MTA vote, Forest City Ratner sounded almost apologetic, saying “delays due to litigation and a difficult economic environment required the approved changes.” The statement adds “we have worked very hard, however, as have our colleagues in government, to ensure that these changes would in no way impact the overall benefits of the project.”

The project, steeped in years of controversy, litigation and now a dried-up credit market, has evolved into a scaled-down version of what was originally sold to public officials and city residents. More evidence of a project facing challenges arrived on June 5, when despite being the recipient of millions of city and state taxpayer-dollar subsidies, Forest City Ratner admitted the shedding of star architect Frank Gehry. Soon after, renderings surfaced that showed less than dynamic designs for the centerpiece arena portion of the project. On June 8, New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ourousoff referred to the project renderings as a “monstrosity.”

When asked about the scathing Times critique that lambasted what it called more than a “betrayal of a particular community,” an ESDC spokesman tells GlobeSt.com that a final design and rendering of the project has not been released. The spokesman says that “an initial rendering was released, but that will look very different from the end product.”

In the few hours leading up to Wednesday’s vote, a familiar cast of supporters and opponents waited and chanted softly in a block-long line on Madison Avenue under the watch of armed security men and police dogs. Later, the crowd packed themselves into two large rooms on two separate floors of the MTA headquarters, where several signed up to spend yet another three minutes supporting or defending the project before a set of public agency board members, as many of them had done before the ESDC board a day earlier before it approved the new general project plan.

The MTA board as well as observers heard pro-project arguments that pitched Atlantic Yards as an economic engine of urban renewal, a ray of hope in an economically challenged community hungry for union jobs and affordable housing. Others pointed to the restoration of Brooklyn pride that the promised arrival of an NBA basketball team would bring and collective identity that some say disappeared after the exit of Walter O’Malley’s Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1957.

Project opponents, many of whom lectured board members on the definition of fiduciary duty, described the pending board action as a public giveaway, staged in a time when just a month earlier, the transit agency had been the recipient of a taxpayer-funded bailout. Straphangers Campaign chairman Gene Russianoff told the board it should try to structure a better deal. The group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn even made a counter-offer, $120 million, which it said would place the property into a trust called “Unity.”

Another speaker, the Regional Plan Association’s Neysa Pranger, told board members that while the planning group opposed the deal as currently structured, it should be salvaged, but under stricter provisions. Calling Vanderbilt Yards a ‘major asset’ for the MTA and one of the most important transit oriented development sites in the region, RPA’s public affairs director said the “revised agreement appears simply too meager to sacrifice the long term potential of the site.”

Contacted after Wednesday’s meeting, an MTA spokesman defends the new deal, telling GlobeSt.com the agency “is pleased that we were able to reach an agreement with FCRC that acknowledges the current economic situation while still protecting the MTA’s transportation and financial interests.” Further endorsing the deal’s new terms, the spokesman points out that it means “the construction of a new rail yard sufficient to meet current and future LIRR needs, a new subway entrance at the arena and $100 million [net present value] to help fund MTA capital projects.”

The new GPP includes a scale-back of the original $455 million Vanderbilt Yards upgrade which at seven tracks with a 56 car capacity, is down two tracks from the original nine, which was set to contain capacity for 76 cars.

When asked about MTA’s comments, Pranger tells GlobeSt.com, “if you ask the ESDC or MTA, they say the net present value is the same as FCRC giving $100 million up front.”

She worries that the MTA’s pre-recession anticipation of revenue from Vanderbilt Yards and the West Side Rail Yards property sales blew holes in the MTA’s capital budget. And “that’s a problem, because they are relying on that money now,” she says. A major reason “why they should get more money up front, now,” she says. The deal for the West Side yards, a.k.a. Hudson Yards, has not yet closed as the MTA and the Related Cos. continue negotiating.

Pointing to the impact of nearly frozen credit markets, Pranger says “the MTA is renegotiating the deal with FCRC at a bad time. This negotiation period favors the developer. We thought there should be some caveats for realization of greater MTA revenues down the road if the market changes.”

At the MTA hearing, RPA also suggested that ESDC set up a subsidiary much like the city/state 42nd Street Development Corp. to guide future phases of the development at Atlantic Yards. RPA says that authority should include city, state and community representation that has the authority and professional capacity to evaluate and approve proposed changes in project design.

But an ESDC spokesman defends current efforts at community involvement telling GlobeSt.com, “we have been working with our partners at the city, MTA and FCRC over the past several months to create a modified GPP.”

RPA counters, “we recommend the subsidiary include not just agencies from the MTA and government, but from the community as well.” Pranger says that in the rush to secure the project before the end of the year, this element should not be overlooked.

Responding to the perception that the Atlantic Yards plan is being forced upon the public, ESDC says “one detail that seems to be missing from the majority of the press coverage is that the amended GPP presented on Tuesday was created by ESDC,” and that the new GPP will entail another public hearing, two public forums and a period to submit public written testimony.

Charging that the 22-acre Atlantic Yards site is important, Pranger says a 42nd Street Development Corp.-like subsidiary “could parcel the site out over time, which we think is an important point.” She adds “when you get these major mega projects, you can’t just fork the keys over to the developer.” RPA says “none of our recommendations preclude or eliminate the jobs aspect; they would still be created.”

“Maybe the project takes more time to develop, but at least it gets developed right” says Pranger.

When GlobeSt.com requested comments from City Hall on what’s become the constantly unfolding story of Atlantic Yards and RPA's suggestions, the mayor’s office “respectfully” declined.

Meanwhile, despite years of delay and national economic recovery still a term of speculation ESDC says it is looking forward to bringing “this important project to completion for the benefits of the city and state.” And with more hearings on the horizon, more testimony to be heard, it appears that at least for now, the Atlantic Yards story will only continue to unfold.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bloomberg's Frustration grows at WTC

EXCERPT FROM www.globest.com
by Cody Lyon

Link to full story:

When it comes to rebuilding the World Trade Center, the Port Authority needs to “figure out a way to come up with something” for financing the project, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg during a radio address on Friday. Staying on message, the mayor cited an earlier joint statement from his office along with New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver who say “this country’s not going to stand for a hole in the ground,” at Ground Zero.

Implying that both the New Jersey and New York Governors should exert greater influence over decisions at the bi-state agency, Bloomberg suggested that in New York’s case, the PA should also respond to the Mayor, not just the Governor, since many of its larger projects are within New York City borders.

But a spokesperson for Governor David Paterson’s office tells GlobeSt.com that the “Port Authority runs regional transportation facilities; it should remain in the hands of the Governors.”

That said, the Mayor used his air-time to propose tapping into another pool of funds to help finance the WTC project. He told listeners “maybe we can get Congress to help and re-allocate some of the funds for projects that probably aren’t going to get done in the short term, like Moynihan Station.” News reports later quoted Mayoral aides as saying he was talking about $2 billion in un-used tax credits Congress appropriated to city transportation projects after 9/11 including Moynihan Station.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Mother wins lawsuit Against Hotel for showing Gay Porn

excerpt from EDGE
On October 12, 2007, a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury awarded Edwina McCombs, a Tennessee resident on vacation with her two daughters, then aged 8 and 9, $85,000 after the two little girls were unintentionally exposed to hardcore pornographic material in a Value Lodge motel room in the suburban town of Artesia. According to the plaintiff law firm, the material had included "close up images of people engaged in sodomy and homosexual acts."

Link to full story below:

ELMHURST- (Real Deal)

Heeding the siren call...of Elmhurst
October 01, 2007 12:00AM By Cody Lyon and James Kelly

Elmhurst is a relatively quiet neighborhood in northwest Queens not known for much new residential development. But that reputation may change as the area is expected to add more than 120 condo and rental units to its inventory, including two controversial projects by developer James Pi that are back on track after having been stalled since February 2005.

Two new high-end condominium projects -- the C Condo at 79-35 Calamus Avenue and the Miramar Building at 81-14 Queens Boulevard -- and two large rental projects by Pi have been built or are in the process of being built.

The developments are being marketed to a demographic that's largely new to Elmhurst: professionals who work in Manhattan and who have been priced out of Queens neighborhoods closer to the city. C Condo, developed by the Criterion Group, is a four-story, 14-unit luxury building. It has sold more than half of its units since sales began in March.

"It's much harder to bring buyers from the city to Elmhurst than to Long Island City or Astoria, or parts of Brooklyn," said Adriano Hultmann, a senior associate broker at the Corcoran Group, who is marketing C Condo.

However, with significantly lower prices per square foot, Elmhurst seeks to compete. Hultmann said, "The average price per square foot of a unit in our project is $425. The same apartment in Astoria would be at least $600, in Long Island City maybe over $725, and in certain parts of Brooklyn over $800."

The remaining units at C Condo are priced from $280,000 for a 620-square-foot one-bedroom to $525,000 for a 1,200-square-foot three-bedroom, two-bath apartment. Parking spaces are selling for around $20,000.

In the past, developers have had little incentive to start new condo and rental projects in Elmhurst because its large immigrant population has at least in part seen the neighborhood as a pass-through zone rather than a destination. They often establish themselves with a starter home, then upgrade to a larger residence or move out of the neighborhood within a few years, said Jeff Silverbush, owner of Century 21 Best Realty, the neighborhood's largest brokerage. Also, resales of the neighborhood's old single-family detached and small multifamily buildings provided sufficient housing supply so as to not warrant new projects by developers, brokers said.

According to Century 21 Best Realty, homes turn over in Elmhurst an average of just over three years, compared to a city average of four years and a national average of seven.

Elmhurst homes also turn over faster than those in neighboring communities. County assessor data show 248 home sales in Elmhurst from 2005 to 2006, compared to 117 in nearby Rego Park and 183 in Maspeth Park, two areas that border Elmhurst.

Expected to bring noticeable change to the area, Pi Capital Partners is developing two mixed-use luxury rental apartment buildings at Elmhurst's busiest intersection, Queens Boulevard and Broadway. One of these, a four-story, 82-unit building at 86-03 Broadway, is slated to break ground by the end of the year. The ground floor will feature some retail -- offers have already arrived from Staples and furniture retailer Raymour & Flanigan -- and a community facility for either a nonprofit or a day-care center.

Jerry Pi, an operating partner of Pi Capital and son of developer James, was born and raised in Queens. He said the company views Elmhurst as the next economic boom center in Queens.

The area boasts the country's most profitable mall per square foot, Queens Center, as well as smaller commercial strips along Queens Boulevard and Broadway with medical offices, restaurants and furniture and clothing stores.

"The areas [in Queens] that are going to see development in the next few years are Jackson Heights, Astoria and Elmhurst, and Elmhurst has a huge advantage because of the mall and the large volume of consumer spending," Pi said.

In comparison, he argues that Long Island City, Sunnyside and Flushing are overpriced and only offer good opportunities for developers "who really know what they're doing."

In early 2005, when Pi Capital first unveiled its plans, the rental buildings were to be 16 and 17 stories and would have drastically changed the shape of Elmhurst's skyline. Community Board 4 residents, angered by the proposal, came out in full force at a city land use committee meeting in February 2005, claiming that beyond being an eyesore, such an addition of residential units would be a burden on the neighborhood's infrastructure, including the police, fire department and schools. New plans for 86-03 Broadway, described in an interview with Jerry Pi, cut the building down by 12 stories to only four stories, and the building does not include condominiums as before.

Because the project is located above a subway line, it requires special approval by the MTA. Jerry Pi said this would be worked out within the next few months.

Pi Capital Partners' other rental and commercial project is planned a few blocks away at 86-15 Queens Boulevard and is expected to break ground in 2009. The developer is waiting for a Wendy's lease on the site to expire. Pi said that while the specifics of the second building have not yet been decided, the building should be completely designed and approved by the time the fast-food restaurant leaves.

Still, it remains to be seen how strong demand will be for new condos and rentals in Elmhurst.

The Miramar Building, designed by architect Peter Casini and located down the street from Pi's project, won an award for best new mixed-use construction in Queens last year from the borough's Chamber of Commerce, but has only sold half of its 30 units since sales began in July 2006. Prices in the complex range from $279,000 for a studio to $900,000 for the two-bedroom penthouse. Sales were also slow at the beginning of this year at the nearby 42-unit Boulevard Condominium at 81-15 Queens Boulevard, brokers said.

Hultmann remains upbeat about Elmhurst as several of the remaining units at C Condo are going into contract. He predicts the area will continue to blossom as more and more Manhattan residents, tired of paying large sums for smaller spaces, will discover areas in Queens like Elmhurst.

"There is this fear of the unknown," he said of Manhattanites who wait for others to become pioneers in outlying neighborhoods, a fear that may be eased by the relative bargain of living in Elmhurst.


Jerry Pi did not grow up in Queens I went to High School with him on Long Island.

Comment #1 Posted By: Kuz 10/28/08
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The Grim News of January...(GLOBEST.Com)

Last updated: January 16, 2009 11:23am ULI Panel: More Grim News ULI Panel: More Grim News ULI Panel: More Grim News ULI Panel: More Grim News By Cody Lyon NEW YORK CITY-An early morning crowd of real estate and financial experts was served yet another platter of gloomy news during the Urban Land Institute's "Economic and Real Estate Outlook: 2009 and Beyond" breakfast on Thursday. The packed house heard economists Mark Zandi and Dr. Sam Chandan offer details, predictions and sermons warning of at least two more years of economic adjustments, challenges and hardship. "We're going to suffer the worst downturn since the great depression," said Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com Moody's Economy.com Moody's Economy.com Moody's Economy.com . A year ago, Zandi, along with a few other noted economists, said the job market was operating at stall speed. In a wire report that appeared in the Dallas Morning News, Zandi forewarned ''either something is going to revive the economy quickly or we're going to get into an unraveling, vicious cycle of declining spending and even weaker job growth." Fast forward 12 months to the ULI breakfast in Midtown, where Zandi, marveling at how rapidly his earlier prediction came true, said that in his 25 years as an economist, "it's about as bad as I've ever seen it." Attempting to lay blame, Zandi said house prices roughly doubled in the first half of the decade, then the process of mortgage securitization, the process of global investor dollars and turning those dollars into mortgages of US homeowners was all fundamentally flawed. "No one in this process had the responsibility of making sure that the loans being made were good loans," he said. Zandi said one of the hallmarks of this particular recession is over-levered consumers who are struggling to manage debt loads and record delinquencies. President and chief economist at Real Estate Economics LLC, Chandan later added that over the course of '09, a challenge the real estate community will have to face head-on is the rising delinquency and default rate. "That default and delinquency will significantly impact the way our market is perceived as an investment class," he said. In 2008, the nation saw 1,400 commercial real estate transactions, down from 4,400 in 2007. And as of November in New York City, commercial real estate deals had fallen off by 61%. Zandi
Chandan said the ways by which public policy sought to support the commercial real estate market in '09 will be a significant factor in terms of judging and accessing the outcomes for the sector for the next year or two. "For the last part of '08 and now the first part of '09, there has been no CMBS market to speak of, and that has been particularly problematic," said Chandan. "By mid-'07, CMBS had become the dominant source of credit availability within the real estate space." Through most of '08, the banks had stepped up where they engaged in reasonable levels of underwriting, Chandan said. But he added that by the end of Q3, the balances on the books of commercial banks for commercial real estate were actually in decline. Even still, Zandi said the best illustration of the overall downturn's severity was the job market. "Nationally, we lost 500,000 jobs in December, which means since those declines began, the nation has seen 2.6 million jobs disappear." Zandi noted that it is the largest continuous employment decline since the end of World War II. He said that here in New York City, thus far, the local economy had held up by most measures when compared to the rest of the nation. However, he predicted that '09 will prove to be extraordinarily difficult, and that given the troubles brewing in the financial service industry, the city will be in for some of its hardest knocks to date. The fact is, this past August, the New York City Economic Development Corp. reported that the city's financial services sector employed just over 344,000. As Zander noted, the financial services industry is still the engine of growth in the city, although in terms of absolute jobs, it represents only around 10% of the overall job base. But in terms of income, those jobs have fueled 25% of the economy. Attempting to frame his prediction as optimistic, Zandi said that '09 would usher in the loss of 250,000 jobs and that by 2010, another 50,000 would join them. Zandi said one could write a book about how the country ended up in the current mess--and noted that in fact he had, written such a book, Financial Shock, a phrase that could describe the look on ULI attendees' faces by the end of the event. He added that the country was in the "third wave," a combination of flippers and speculators with negative equity conditions buying amid rising unemployment. He said that's a problem that will continue to rise through '10 and beyond unless there are significant policy changes. "The losses have undermined all the capital based in the system," he told the audience. "I can see the magnitude of the loans originated in the boom-bubble period from 2004 to '07." Calling the current situation a panic, Zandi said the genesis was the September '08 weekend the federal government took over Fannnie Mae and Freddie Mac. When that happened, it crystallized in the minds of investors that no financial institution is safe. Zandi predicted a 21-month long recession, with no roaring back to health as in recessions past. "I suspect it will be 2011 when people start feeling better."

Remembering the MTA crisis

MTA Nears ‘Doomsday;’ Still No Albany Action
GlobeSt.com | April 30, 2009

By Cody Lyon
Author Title
Original Filename


NEW YORK CITY-If Albany fails to reach a workable solution to close the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's budget gap over the next few days, the daily commutes for eight million New Yorkers will become more expensive, and the time it takes to get from point A to B, will increase markedly. In addition to decreased rail service, several bus routes will disappear on weekends and evenings while others disappear entirely. In fact, if a new funding mechanism does not see consensus at the state capital, the city that never sleeps may eventually see a complete shutdown of the transit system during late evening hours, under a "beyond doomsday" scenario MTA outlined on Wednesday after revealing that its deficit is even wider than originally forecast.

Fallout from what the MTA calls its "doomsday" plan has begun to spur outrage among city residents. On Tuesday afternoon, transit advocates came together with concerned citizens in Manhattan's Union Square, raising their voices against the proposed cuts. One speaker, 76-year-old resident Carl Van Putten of Hunts Point, shouted "where I live, we're not talking about inconvenience, we're talking about survival." Speakers at the event, largely organized on social networking site Facebook, sought to persuade attendees that New York City's economic backbone is its transit system and without it, the entire city suffers unimaginable trauma.

"I think it's a big myth that's been around for around 50 years that New York is somehow not a mass transit town," Wiley Norvell, communications director for the group Transportation Alternatives, told GlobeSt.com as trains rumbled underneath during another rush hour at the Union Square subway hub.

According to the MTA, a plethora of service cuts will be phased in over the next few weeks and months. The cuts began Thursday, as the traditional seasonal Long Island Rail Road service to Belmont Park was eliminated. But perhaps the true reality of the crisis will begin to settle in on May 31--when fare hikes of up to 29% are set to start on the subways and buses, with LIRR and Metro-North following suit the next day.

Then, June 28, train service cuts begin on a set of subway lines that reads like an elementary school chalkboard. The A, D, E F G N, Q and R lines will all see significant service reductions that day. Meanwhile, a list over two pages long details bus routes that will be either sharply reduced or eliminated entirely cutting off entire neighborhoods from the transit network.

"The people who will lose out the most on these cuts are people from Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx who when they lose their neighborhood bus lines lose their public transit altogether," Norvell told GlobeSt.com.

Blame has largely centered on members of the state Senate who have made their opposition to bridge tolls widely known. Norvell makes no qualms about it, saying it was the Senate that was essentially blocking the proposed plan constructed by former MTA chairman Richard Ravitch's commission. Speaking to what he called the shared pain contained in the Ravitch proposal, Norvell says the plan is the only way the state can raise $2 billion in a politically expedient way.

Introduced last December, the Ravitch plan would have instituted a payroll tax in the 12 counties served by the MTA, implemented a $5 toll on East River and Harlem River bridges and increased fares on the subways moderately. The plan called for a transfer ownership of the East and Harlem River bridges from the city to the MTA, a process that Ravitch described in 2008 as "very complicated."

Despite complications associated with the transfers, Gov. David Paterson strongly supported the plan, as did regional leaders including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. "The speaker was supportive and is strongly supportive of the underlying concept behind the Ravitch Plan which is that all of those who benefit from the public transit system should share in its cost," a spokesman for Silver tells GlobeSt.com.

The spokesman stresses that the people who benefit from the MTA aren't just its actual users, but also businesses and motorists who benefit indirectly, as with drivers who enjoy less congested roadways. "The speaker often talks about the last transit strike, when it took up to three hours to travel from Brooklyn into Manhattan," he says.

MTA leadership, including executive director Elliot Sander, endorsed the plan, saying it was fair and offered both a lifeline for continued operation, but also a means to continue progressing capital improvements and opening windows to future infrastructural improvement and expansion. But opposition to the bridge tolls stood in the way leading Silver to introduce a compromise plan, reducing the bridge-crossing fee to $2 from $5.

However, some Ravitch plan opponents says it was not opposition to bridge tolls per se, but instead what they call yet another fiscally irresponsible mechanism for raising much needed revenue. "Senate Majority Leader Malcom Smith's opposition to bridge tolls is not politically motivated," a Smith spokesman tells GlobeSt.com. "If the MTA assumes ownership of the bridges to collect tolls, they actually assume ownership of four of the oldest suspension bridges in the country. Over the course or the next few years, it's very likely, to almost certain, those bridges will incur significant costs for maintenance, upkeep and general deterioration. He adds that those costs would be passed on to straphangers.

Nonetheless, the severity of the crisis required the Senate to introduce its own plan, which did away with bridge tolls. The most recent Senate version being touted by Smith would include a tax on rental cars, fees on drivers' licenses and a $1 per drop-off fee on taxi drivers--with the exception of livery cabs.

Smith's spokesman says that contrary to critics, including state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the numbers in the Senate plan unequivocally add up. However, he adds that Sen. Smith is open to discussing improvements on the Senate legislation.

"We understand that we have to come together to clean up this mess we inherited, and the senator is confident that over the course of the next week, we'll be able to do just that," Smith's spokesman tells GlobeSt.com, adding that "the MTA has displayed years of gross mismanagement and fiscal irresponsibility."

Silver's office says there are a number of ideas on the table, and as of Thursday, conversations continue. "If there's a plan in the Senate that has the 32 votes to pass, it's something the speaker is going to look at," says the spokesman for Silver.

The most vocal opponents to the bridge toll aspect proposed in the Ravitch plan have been state Senators Karl Krueger of Brooklyn's district 27, Rueben Diaz of the Bronx's district 32 and Pedro Espada from the Bronx's district 33. On March 26, Espada insisted to GlobeSt.com that it was the need for increased financial transparency and accountability that the MTA needed to show the State Senate. Saying his district hadn't seen real capital improvements in its subway lines, Espada said the MTA needed to present an actual capital plan to the legislature before the Senate would approve any revenue streams.

However, alluding to automobile commuters, Espada said the MTA rescue must not have a disproportionate impact on any single group of constituents in his district, as well as throughout the city and Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. As GlobeSt.com reported on April 21, of the 77,284 residents of Espada's district who commute daily, 54,348 take public transit while only 22,936 drive an automobile.

Toll controversies aside, the MTA's doomsday budget was in great part related to the effects of what has turned into a severe economic recession, more specifically the transit agency's dependence on a volatile real estate market's revenue and taxes. "Month to month revenue the MTA takes in from real estate taxes and other sources of revenue fluctuate quite a bit," an MTA spokesman tells GlobeSt.com.

He adds "those taxes are sensitive to the health of the regional economy, the worldwide and global economy really." The spokesman tells GlobeSt.com that the MTA had forecast some reduction from real estate taxes, but the magnitude in the drop "has been beyond what we had forecast."

According to data provided by the MTA, around 8.75% of the agency's budget needs are met by real estate taxes. When broken down, a complex myriad of collection and distribution methods emerge. The tax formula is composed of two major components: the urban tax and the mortgage recording tax.

Urban taxes consist of two taxes applied to certain commercial real property transactions and commercial mortgage recordings within New York City. Tax receipts are available only for transit purposes in New York City with 90% of the receipts earmarked for New York City Transit general operations and 6% used for the partial reimbursement of NYCT "para-transit cost." The remaining 4% earmarked as subsidy for the New York City private buses; the city is currently utilizing these funds to reimburse MTA Bus expenses.

MRTs consist of two separate taxes on mortgages collected in the 12-county region served by the MTA. The first, MRT-1, is imposed on the borrower for recorded mortgages of real property, subject to certain exclusions, at the rate of 0.3% of the debt secured, raised from 0.25% in June 2005. Money collected from the MRT-1 must be applied, first, to meet MTA headquarters operating expenses and, second, to make deposits into the NYCT Account--55% of the remaining amount--and the Commuter Railroad account--45% of the remaining amount.

MRT-2 is imposed on the institutional lender of certain mortgages secured by real estate structures containing one to six dwelling units in the MTA's service area at a rate of 0.25%. MRT-2 gets applied first by the MTA, transferring an amount in excess of $5 million each year to Dutchess, Orange and Rockland Counties based on a formula found on page II-29 in the MTA's Preliminary budget. In 2007, this transfer was $32.9 million, says MTA's spokesman. Second, MRT-2 money is used to pay MTA operating and capital costs, including debt service and debt service reserve requirements if any exist.

New York Governor Touts New Innovation Economy


Cody Lyon

In an effort to create new jobs, New York Gov. David Paterson said Monday that the state would set aside $100 million for new "Innovation Economy Matching Grants" meant to drive federal stimulus dollars towards New York State research facilities and institutions. But, despite broad pronouncements and a pummeled financial services industry, questions remain on how best to incubate and diversify new economic engines in a city where the cost of doing business remains so high.

Speaking to an audience at the New York Academy of Sciences at 7 World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, Paterson noted that the average salary of an individual working in the "innovation economy" is over double the salary in the "non-innovation economy," adding later in a release that those jobs produce a "higher multiplier effect." In other words, for every one created in this sector, 3.5 jobs get created overall.

"It is our responsibility to act, and to act with the interests of future generations in mind," the governor said Monday. "We are a state rich in resources, the most impressive of which is our human capital." Pointing out worldwide economic trends, Paterson said "a new economy is emerging: an economy based on knowledge, technology and innovation."

Full Text:

Friday, May 01, 2009

MTA Nears Doomsday: NYC Subway Could See PM Shutdowns: What led to this?

Excerpt from globeSt.com story
by Cody Lyon
NEW YORK CITY-If Albany fails to reach a workable solution to close the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s budget gap over the next few days, the daily commutes for eight million New Yorkers will become more expensive, and the time it takes to get from point A to B, will increase markedly. In addition to decreased rail service, several bus routes will disappear on weekends and evenings while others disappear entirely. In fact, if a new funding mechanism does not see consensus at the state capital, the city that never sleeps may eventually see a complete shutdown of the transit system during late evening hours, under a “beyond doomsday” scenario MTA outlined on Wednesday after revealing that its deficit is even wider than originally forecast.

Fallout from what the MTA calls its “doomsday” plan has begun to spur outrage among city residents. On Tuesday afternoon, transit advocates came together with concerned citizens in Manhattan’s Union Square, raising their voices against the proposed cuts. One speaker, 76-year-old resident Carl Van Putten of Hunts Point, shouted “where I live, we’re not talking about inconvenience, we’re talking about survival.” Speakers at the event, largely organized on social networking site Facebook, sought to persuade attendees that New York City’s economic backbone is its transit system and without it, the entire city suffers unimaginable trauma.

“I think it’s a big myth that’s been around for around 50 years that New York is somehow not a mass transit town,” Wiley Norvell, communications director for the group Transportation Alternatives, told GlobeSt.com as trains rumbled underneath during another rush hour at the Union Square subway hub.

According to the MTA, a plethora of service cuts will be phased in over the next few weeks and months. The cuts began Thursday, as the traditional seasonal Long Island Rail Road service to Belmont Park was eliminated. But perhaps the true reality of the crisis will begin to settle in on May 31--when fare hikes of up to 29% are set to start on the subways and buses, with LIRR and Metro-North following suit the next day.

Then, June 28, train service cuts begin on a set of subway lines that reads like an elementary school chalkboard. The A, D, E F G N, Q and R lines will all see significant service reductions that day. Meanwhile, a list over two pages long details bus routes that will be either sharply reduced or eliminated entirely cutting off entire neighborhoods from the transit network.

Liink to full story at www.globest.com

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bullying, Suicide and The Golden Rule

Bullying, Suicide and The Golden Rule

by Cody Lyon

Today's America is markedly different than it was when I was growing up in 1970's Alabama. While much among us has changed for the better, especially in the realms of official equality and social justice, mean-ness, as my Grandmother would have called it, still runs rampant throughout our society. One need only go online and read headlines from across the country that detail economic inequity, corruption and acts of brutal violence that have in many ways numbed our souls. Clearly, the biblical Golden rule that would have us do unto others, as we would do unto them, is still an afterthought, perhaps forgotten by many.

Compounding the daily litany of horror stories is a constantly arriving stream of evidence that we've all been living on borrowed dimes, that excess and corruption have run rampant in our financial foundations, that thousands have died in wars sold on misinformation and elements within our government are still under the influence of powerful self serving interests. All accounted for, then pondered, one worries about how best to change the direction of what some might call a wayward ways.

Perhaps too you wonder how best to change the minds of those still infected by narrow thinking, where self interest, misconstrued messages and fear distort calls for teaching tolerance, acceptance and respect in schools. Instead, you watch as those messages get spun as radical, sinful or part of some greater 'sexuality' associated agenda. It becomes further frustrating when you know those calls are in fact based in hope and faith that with each passing generation, decency becomes a mantle by which to live life, a community connected, where the goal is to treat one another with respect.

And, then, hopes for the future become further frustrated as a headline reaches out grabs you, saddens,enrages, and then, sets you back.

According to published news reports, this past Monday, an 11 year old Massachusetts boy, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover went to the top room at his family's home in Springfield, and hung himself. Reportedly, his Mother had said that he made this tragic decision after enduring the taunts and bullying by other children. His Mother says she'd plead with school officials at the New Leadership Charter School, where he'd tried to make friends to intervene. But instead, he was made fun of for his clothing, called "gay" and threatened with physical harm. He would have turned 12 on April 17.

The Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, a national education organization that seeks to ensure safe learning environments for all students, says that Walker-Hoover is the fourth middle school aged child's suicide linked to bullying this year. GLSEN says a vast number of children who suffer at the hands of bullies, often encounter anti-gay taunting and often, physical violence. As most adults outside liberal enclaves in the North east or West coast know, being openly gay is sometimes not an option, unless one is truly brave. And, as research shows, society's often quiet acceptance of intolerance trickles down to children, where gay or fag is often the insult de-jour, often meant to inflict the ultimate in hurt and pain.

No doubt, it's a cruel world out there and kids will grow into adults who will encounter 'mean-ness' throughout their lives in one form or another. And certainly, calling on kids to stop calling one another names might be seen as, interference by adults, maybe even some sort of censorship by PC elitist forces that are out of touch with the more harsh realities on the ground in many communities throughout America, a land where bullying is the last thing on anyone's mind right now. But, perhaps the tragic death of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover should give us all pause. As we ponder this sad news, maybe we ought to ask ourselves a question or two.

If we are to truly reconcile the tremendous positive social changes we've seen since my childhood with the contradictory rot of corruption that has permeated so much of our society, should we not demand that our future generations prepare for future challenges in institutions where respect, tolerance and the Golden rule is just that, a rule that is enforced? Does an adult demanding that a child treat his fellow child the way he or she would want to be treated smell of radicalism or part of an agenda? This is not about asking anyone to accept anything other than human decency.

Friday, March 13, 2009

NYS Attorney General says Regulation Encourages Growth/Competition (globeSt.

Excerpt from Incisive Media's www.globest.com story
by Cody Lyon


The attorney general told the mostly under-40 audience, "I’m trying to sort through the economic issues, the Wall Street issues" adding that problems first have to be exposed, then people have to believe you understand them and that justice was done with the problem.

Comparing the rapid spread of the current crisis to that of a computer virus, Cuomo stressed that competition in business has to adhere to rules and penalties, much like those in the world of sports. He charged that allowing competition to go unfettered much as it had been during the past eight years, got us where we are today.

In the rapid cadence of a sermon, Cuomo recalled a pattern where "one party gets more aggressive, it causes the other party to get more aggressive, one person pushes the edge of the envelope while the competitor has to push the edge of the same envelope" and "then you get to the place where you have 110% loan to value on a mortgage," to which he paused and asked the audience, "why?" then answered "because the housing value will always go up. Since when is that the new assumption we’ve accepted into the marketplace?"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Nation's Crumbling Infrastructure and the Stimulus (Real Estate New York)

from RENY-Digital and www.globest.com copyright Incisive Media

Link to digital version of magazine

by Cody Lyon
Analysis feature takes in depth look at the nation's crumbling bridges, highways, tunnels and energy grid. Also discussed, transformative infrastructure and how investments could change the face of the country. But also, questions about why government has not stepped up investment in the country's physical economic backbone.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Developer Procida's 100 Day Plan to Save Real Estate and the Economy

Procida has been promoting his Plan 100 for a few months now. He argues that instead of funneling billions of dollars into the nation’s largest banks, the federal government should deploy $100 million, each, to 100 local investment managers. Those managers would then be required to purchase defaulted loans and make new loans to customers within 100 days. He says there is tremendous flexibility on the number of managers, but no compromise on the amount of time those investors would be able to hold the cash.

"Time is the key to the plan," Procida tells GlobeSt.com. "If the government had told the banks they had 100 days to deploy the capital they were given, you and I wouldn’t even be talking now."

But Procida is talking, and he says he has been attempting to capture the attention of policy makers while hoping to further inject his 100-day plan into the national conversation. Procida says he began writing the Obama transition team last Nov. 25, when he introduced himself and his plan. He stressed an emphasis on localization and a return to banking and business fundamentals. Nine days later, on Dec. 4, Procida wrote again.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How bad will it Get? Economist Dent says much worse (GLOBEST)

From my story at GlobeSt.com

NEW YORK CITY-The current downturn is no ordinary economic crisis and nothing like it has been seen since the 1930s, economist Harry S. Dent told a CoreNet Global audience here on Friday. Author of The Great Depression Ahead: How to Prosper in the Crash Following the Greatest Boom in History, Dent warned attendees at the CoreNet luncheon not to expect miracles from President Barack Obama’s stimulus package.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

(GlobeSt.com) NYC: No 70's Reruns

by Cody Lyon

Since 2005, New York City has claimed the distinct title as America’s safest large city—in other words, home to the lowest per capita crime rate among the nation’s 25 largest cities. That distinction is the apex of a years-long trend that has increased and solidified the city’s remarkable appeal as a place to work and live.
“Look at the quality of life afforded by a cleaner, safer city,” says James Lansill, senior managing director at Corcoran Sunshine Realty. He’s referring to the transformation of New York City, once perceived as simply crowded, foreboding and dangerous, into what might be appropriately seen as the nation’s urban crown jewel.

While there is no sociological consensus on what spurred that transformation, the timeline of crime that peaked during the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s indicates that marked dips can be traced to the years after 1993, when the nation and city began a period of economic resurgence.

But this was also a period when New York City began to rely more heavily on tax revenue from the financial sector as other industries dried up or downsized. Soon, the new infusions from Wall Street were helping pay for extensive but vital public services, including beefed up law enforcement.

LINK to Story

Thursday, January 08, 2009

(REUTERS) Israel accused by Red Cross

Israel accused by Red Cross (Reuters)
(02:19) Report
Jan 8 - The ICRC says Israel held up ambulances for days while starving children waited for help beside the bodies of their dead mothers.
The neutral International Committee of the Red Cross is accusing Israel of breaching international humanitarian law.
The Israeli army said any serious allegations would be investigated properly on receipt of a formal complaint.
Paul Chapman reports.

(REUTERS) Inside Gaza with the Israeli army

Inside Gaza with the Israeli army (REUTERS)
(01:39) Report
Jan 8 - A group of foreign television crews have been allowed into Gaza for the first time since the start of Israel's offensive, but restricted to accompanying Israeli troops.
The first footage captured by an embedded TV crew showed Israeli forces preparing for their entry and then crossing the border in tanks and armoured personnel carriers (APCs).
Once inside the Strip, the soldiers moved from house to house, with a muzzled dog, securing the locations.
Sonia Legg report

Monday, January 05, 2009

Nightmare After Christmas shows need for Air Passenger Bill of Rights

By Cody Lyon

The United States Department of Transportation says there is no federal requirement for airlines to compensate passengers who have been stranded because of a delayed or canceled flight.

That was a spooky post holiday truth I learned first hand in Milwaukee Wisconsin this past December 27 during an Air Tran airlines connection point on the way from Atlanta to New York City. The hours-long incident was a reminder that there is little, if any government oversight of some of our most basic but important consumer activities, like commercial airline travel.

Some might say, with the exception of safety, United States airline passengers are basically at the mercy of a profit driven business where passengers are basically left to their own devices to get from point A to B, almost like fighting your way onto the subway or buying a burger at a busy Manhattan McDonalds.

In most cases, if a flight is canceled, an airline will re-book you on the first available flight to your destination at no additional charge. But, as was the case in my experience, finding extra seats could prove difficult, especially if you’re out and about over the holidays. In a nutshell, this led to a couple of hours of travel trauma as my fellow passengers and I tried to make it back to New York City.

That night, flight, #514 from Milwaukee to New York, was the last leg of a long itinerary that had been delayed earlier because of mechanical problems in Tampa. Originally scheduled to depart Milwaukee at just after 5, the plane was eventually boarded at around 8:00 pm instead. Once all the passengers were seated, stowed, etc., the pilot unexpectedly came on the plane’s intercom and made an announcement saying we would all have to leave the plane. Apparently, there was a legal issue that involved the number of hours the onboard flight crew had worked.

These were problems beyond the airline’s control, but it was what happened after we had de-planed some might call questionable. To us on that plane, the next few hours were a sign that America’s airports are temples of chaos and abuse. If that night in Milwaukee is any indication of a greater picture, airlines are allowed to operate with no clear rules of consumer protection or mandated guidelines guaranteed by government oversight.

Back in Milwaukee, at around 9:00 pm after all the passengers had left the Air Tran flight confused and irritated, we watched as uniformed Milwaukee law enforcement officers slowly strolled up to the gate and perched against the podium as the agents on duty filled us in. Obviously, the arrival of “the law” signaled that the news passengers were about to get, would probably spark tempers among the passengers, some who were already barking at agents. Clearly, the agents had been through this sort of thing before.

But repeat performance or not, traveler anger was understandable. The agents told us there was nothing they could really do. Instead, passengers were told to call 1866-airtran and reschedule another flight to New York. It was then that the truly frightening moments of the evening arrived.

Most of us assumed that “rescheduling” meant we’d be booked on a flight that following day. But alas, ignorance is bliss.

In fact, when some passengers made the call to Air Tran’s customer service line, they were told the earliest they could fly would be the following Thursday, better known as New Years Day. The reason being that earlier Air Air Tran flights from Milwaukee to New York were booked solid.

I called right away, and was initially told Tuesday would be the earliest I could get home, but while speaking on the phone begging the agent for something earlier, she paused, then casually told me, oh well, ‘now that flight’s full,’ which then put me at Thursday as well.

The problem was, I had to work that following Monday. I felt the tears knocking on the door in this room full of strangers as a sense of helpless rage infected my soul. As I began to boil over, one of the uniformed Milwaukee deputies eyed me and after I exclaimed a loud “Oh No!” he told me to grow up and act like a man.

Truth be told, Air Tran agents on the scene and phone were clearly ill prepared for the questions they were being peppered with and that included: could other airlines accommodate us, what about a hotel room and others, instead the agents on duty ducked heads and typed furiously into the screens in front of them as they told the furious interrogators they were ‘checking on it.’

But then, after an hour or so of more tears, chaos and childlike confusion, one of the agents took a microphone and shouted to the stranded group that events were developing fast, that in fact, we might be leaving Milwaukee at 5 am that following morning. But, by then, a cloud of suspicion hung over the airport leading most in the room to not watch and question every move, not trusting anything they were hearing.

In fact, once the group fully understood the problem was due to over worked flight attendants, a few passengers decided to take things into their own hands and began begging and offering money to arriving flight attendants deplaning other planes, begging them to accompany us on the New York flight.

In the end, cash tips from passengers weren’t necessary.

Behind the scenes, a new plan was taking shape. Flight 514’s pilot was busy making phone calls to other planes. Along the way, he apparently secured another flight crew to fly with us to New York. Now, we wouldn’t have to wait a few days or until 5:00 am, but instead, it looked as if we would fly to La Guradia as soon as the new replacement crew landed in Milwaukee, scheduled for around midnight that same evening.

By the time the new crew arrived, the on edge passengers had bonded thanks to the shared trauma of it all. Some said they were shocked at America’s apparent lack of control over the beasts it had apparently created through full deregulation.

There were sweet moments in the night that included meeting several interesting individuals, including a New York Social worker who worked with elderly clients, a teacher and a former neighbor from the East Village. And, we all enjoyed an assortment of snacks and free soft drinks, provided by Air Tran. In addition to the snacks, we were compensated with a free round trip ticket any place that Air Tran flies, including Cancun, Puerto Rico or Alaska.

We arrived in Queens at around 430 am, around seven hours late.

In the end, nothing excuses the fact that many of us were almost stranded in an unfamiliar city for what could have been days. What if some of us had placed our employment in jeopardy by missing work? And, while it may seem petty, what about our holiday plans?

The truth is, if it hadn’t been for caring and diligent pilots along with the flight attendants who took our flight some of the passengers on Air Tran-Flight 514 might still be eating Wisconsin Cheese.

Perhaps its time for consumers to demand that government take cooperative steps with airlines in establishing some form of reasonable passenger rights legislation. Perhaps then, not only will Americans feel safer about flying, they might have time to relax as well and still enjoy hopefully reasonable air fares in the future.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

(From GLOBEST.COM) How Offshore breezes could power 300K homes

(GLOBEST.COM)- ATLANTIC CITY-Ocean breezes, currents and waves could someday provide up to 1,000 megawatts of power to an estimated 300,000 homes in New Jersey if a Seattle developer sees his windfarm project to fruition off the coast here. And, in addition to the mitigation of global warming, the project could prove profitable for the developer and his investors.
Link to (my) story at Globest.com

(New York Times) Frank Rich lambasts our last Eight Years

Published: January 3, 2009
WE like our failed presidents to be Shakespearean, or at least large enough to inspire Oscar-worthy performances from magnificent tragedians like Frank Langella. So here, too, George W. Bush has let us down. Even the banality of evil is too grandiose a concept for 43. He is not a memorable villain so much as a sometimes affable second banana whom Josh Brolin and Will Ferrell can nail without breaking a sweat. He’s the reckless Yalie Tom Buchanan, not Gatsby. He is smaller than life.

LINK TO "New York Times" Frank Rich Column

From Reuters: Should Government bailout Newspapers

By Robert MacMillan - Analysis

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Connecticut lawmaker Frank Nicastro sees saving the local newspaper as his duty. But others think he and his colleagues are setting a worrisome precedent for government involvement in the U.S. press.