Is the Bronx the New Brooklyn?

Is the Bronx the New Brooklyn?

Some real estate professionals say there’s no doubt north is the way to go.

With only Manhattan separating them, is it time for the Bronx to admit that it has more in common with Brooklyn than previously thought?

According to some real estate professionals, the answer is a resounding yes. Even if the idea of the Bronx being a great place to live or invest raises eyebrows from hipsters to former-hippies now comfortable in their Manhattan apartments.

Consider this bit of history. When the Sex and the City character, Miranda, announced she was moving to Brooklyn the idea was so abhorrent to Manhattanites that the New York Post ran an article listing all the (real-life!) hip spots that Carrie and Miranda could frequent.

Now, only a decade later, Brooklyn’s average rent for a one-bedroom apartment runs between $1,600 and $2,900, depending on the neighborhood. It costs about $790,000 on average to buy a home, and well into the millions in trendier neighborhoods.

What’s a dedicated middle-class New Yorker to do?

Manhattan? Probably not with rents running $3,000 and buying about a $2 million endeavor.

It may be time to head north.

First, there’s the basic premise that Brooklyn prices are continuing to go up, so the Bronx is a more affordable option given the average rent of $1,200/month.

But consider the other benefits of the Bronx, like great transportation. The subway and other public transportation options are excellent—and traveling from midtown to the south Bronx is a fairly short commute.

For example, it’s only a 24-minute subway ride from Radio City Music Hall to Yankee Stadium. The residential areas just north of the stadium are considered up-and-coming, and affordable, according to multiple sources.

If driving is a must, it’s actually possible in the Bronx. I-87 along the west side of the borough is far easier to navigate than, say, the lower east side or Time’s Square.

For the more green-minded commuters, the recent opening of the historic High Bridge (New York’s oldest standing bridge, originally used to transport water from the Croton River to New York) offers a quick, convenient pedestrian and bicycle route from Highbridge to Upper Manhattan. 

Not only are the rents in the neighborhood still reasonable, but the apartments are often in renovated historic buildings, originally constructed in the 1920s and 1930s.

For even more gorgeous, historic, architecture the buildings along the 5-mile stretch of the Grand Concourse are an excellent option. While this area, originally inspired in the early 1900s by the Champs-Elysees in Paris, fell into considerable disrepair in the 1970s and ‘80s, an $18 million restoration and landscaping initiative in 2008 revitalized the neighborhood.

Further north still is Fordham Heights, which is flanked by both the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden, and much more affordable than the real estate near Central Park.

Continuing north (no worries, not Niagra Falls!) recent re-zoning along Webster Avenue has created spaces now open to residential development that is working and middle-class friendly.

While these areas are not all a short commute to the culture and delights of Manhattan, they are still within close enough proximity (about an hour on public transportation) for trips into the city, business meetings, or even daily commutes.

Plus, culture and great food is already a part of the Bronx! In addition to the Zoo and the Garden, multiple colleges and universities offer music, dance and theatrical events.

The food scene? Solid—and growing.

Many New Yorkers believe that the Bronx is home to “real” Little Italy. Practically disdainful of catering to tourists, Arthur Avenue in the Belmont Neighborhood is still lined with Italian shops, markets and restaurants that have been there since Italian immigrants settled the neighborhood in the 1950s.

For the real “foodies” of New York, it’s good to know that there’s a culture of food that’s diverse enough to bring Anthony Bourdain to the Bronx.

In 2014, CNN aired a Bronx episode of Bourdain’s show “Parts Unknown.” Bourdain sampled Arthur Avenue’s Italian offerings, but dove whole-heartedly into Puerto Rican, African and Caribbean dishes.

“If the Bronx were a neighborhood in Manhattan, sort of shrunk down, you’d have hipsters crawling all over this place.” Bourdain quipped.

Affordable, easily accessible by public transportation, and with vibrant neighborhoods and ethnic diversity–in a New York minute the Bronx may beat Brooklyn as the place to live.

Apps to Avoid Crowds in New York City

Apps to Avoid Crowds in New York City

In a city of eight million, you’re never alone. But with ever-emerging technology, some apps aim to be the cure for New York City agoraphobia. Some are useful for avoiding the Big Apple swarms, whereas some provide a respite from social media overload. If you need a break from the New York minute(s), you should consider downloading these innovative apps.

1. Density

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At its core, Density is a sleek, savvy foot traffic detection system.

Density, more a black cube or block than an app, works when businesses attach it to their door frames. Density then uses infrared distance sensors that can detect when someone enters or exits. What’s great about Density is that it counts traffic, not identity, so those entering and exiting stay anonymous through the process.

The device, which is being sold to startup companies in great numbers, is already being used in California and is expected to roll out soon in other cities, including New York by the end of this summer.

The hope is that places like grocery stores, the DMV, and trendy bars will use the device, giving business and users a more accurate gauge of the numbers inside an establishment at any given time.

2. Anti-Social

In this era of tweeting, checking-in to every destination, and Facebook-posting every moment in your life, it can be hard to disconnect. The barrage of social media games, ads, posts, comments, and photos make for a crowded afternoon. In other words, our lives are physically and virtually crowded. That’s where Anti-Social comes in. Though not a crowd-ridding app, Anti-Social de-clutters us from too much social media. With the plugin, Anti-social allows you to set blocks of time where you can turn off notifications from your friends on social media sites for up to eight hours.

3. Avoid Humans

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Austin, Texas’ SXSW drew a crowd of nearly 90,000 last year. In response to those masses, an Austin ad agency rolled out Avoid Humans to help ease the anxiety of attendees. Though the app is currently Austin-specific, it should be offered to other cities soon. The app works to manage crowding in different categories like food, nightlife, and coffee with color-coded clever prompts of overcrowding danger: Green is good and Red means avoid at all costs.

4. Avoid The Shopping Crowds

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Many of the apps designed to avoid crowds were in response to holiday shopping; Avoid the Shopping Crowds is one such app. Designed to keep the noble holiday shopper from the swarms during the holidays, Avoid the Shopping Crowds partners with Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter to monitor posts, check-ins and tweets. The app then monitors where all the people are converging, and updates users where not to be. Updates on the locations where you want to shop feature prompts like “calm”, “busy”, and “forget it”. The app is available in the Netherlands but similar apps are already developing in the U.S.

Like…

5. Last but not least: Google.

Like Avoid the Shopping Crowds based in the Netherlands (but more robust), Google has introduced a live app that helps you avoid the bars, restaurants, and other businesses with lines around the corner (which are a lot of places on a Friday night in New York City).

Google’s unrivaled algorithms and live analyses are the main component of how the tech giant determines the numbers of people who are visiting the establishment you are interested in visiting. Piggy-backing off its Popular Times tool, which updates you on when a business is at its busiest, Google’s latest iteration determines how crowded the neighborhood is within the hour specified. The tool collects data based on a  business’s historically popular peak hours with stored info on Google’s servers.

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The monitoring tool can also find a similar business in proximity to your original pick for you to patronize instead.

In New York, there are a few things that people cling to: a stolen Indian summer day, a great pizza, and a little patch of peace and quiet. People who want to avoid crowds range from people who want to avoid getting run over on Black Friday to people who are just a bit shy and need to de-stress and disconnect. We live in an age and a city where every part of our lives involves interactions with our devices or other people. It’s not surprising that apps, plugins, and tools are popping up all over the world to solve the issue––and users are lining up to download them all.

 

NYC Real Estate: Is the Market Softening, or Just Correcting?

NYC Real Estate: Is the Market Softening, or Just Correcting?

As reported by Bloomberg, what began as a softening of the luxury real estate market in New York has expanded to lower-tier properties. The top 20 percent of apartments are now experiencing price cuts.

Changes in real estate values tend to make investors and homeowners break out in a cold sweat, much like swings in the stock market. But, the current trend in New York isn’t anything to panic about. 2016 wasn’t anything like the crash of 2007-2008.  

According to Bloomberg, the luxury market and the tier just under that market (again, the top 20 percent of properties) saw price drops in the 5 to ten percent range.

The definition of a stock market correction is a ten percent drop. The drop, unlike real estate, is often hard to predict, but it’s still considered business-as-usual and not a crash.

In order to keep perspective, it’s important to understand why the real estate market is softening. What’s causing the current dip in New York property prices?

First, 2015 was a “record year for residential building permits in New York City”, according to Slate.

In December 2016, the magazine ran an article that stated, “With developers pressed by expiring loopholes, the city authorized nearly 35,000 new units in the second quarter and nearly 10,000 more in the fourth. Total permits topped 50,000—more than any year since the early 1960s. And many of them aren’t done yet—according to the U.S. Census Bureau, about half of all multi-unit projects take more than 13 months from the permitting date to be completed.”

Translation: the permits issued in 2015 created projects that were being finished in 2016 and early 2017. With those units on the market (or soon to be there), basic supply and demand theory indicates that residential real estate prices will drop.

Yet, New York is still an expensive place to live. Even with the building boom, finding affordable living options is still a challenge.

According to Fortune, “more younger folks are finding themselves attracted to medium-sized cities, which may not have the same professional opportunities as their larger counterparts, but provide housing affordability. Cities like Raleigh, N.C., and Fort Collins, Colo., have seen building permit issuance soar over the past six years as they attract younger adults seeking cheap rents and lower asking prices. Expect the trend to continue in 2017.”

Younger professionals whose wages haven’t kept up with the cost of living are moving to smaller, more affordable cities. So, when they do get to a point that they can afford to buy, they’re not buying in New York. Ironically, that could drive down the housing prices. Fewer buyers and potential buyers means more competition for the buyers that are still in New York.

Finally, there are truly only so many people who can afford high end, luxury, housing, even in New York.

Curbed’s sales market report states, “In 2016, contracts to buy Manhattan houses priced at over $4 million were 21 percent fewer than in the same period in 2015. And the properties that sold sat on the market an average of 291 days, or 54 more days than in the same time last year.”

A $4 million home, with a 20 percent down payment ($1 million) has a monthly mortgage of $21,099.  According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in the first quarter of 2016 Manhattan’s average weekly wage was $2,783.

Not nearly enough to cover the mortgage on a luxury home. So, maybe it is time for a little bit of market correction?

New York City’s Incredible Almost-Buildings

New York City’s Incredible Almost-Buildings

Although New York City is always changing, it’s hard to imagine to imagine it as anything other than what it is. But change is part of New York’s identity. It is manifest in the crowds of people swept up and spilled out of the island metropolis. Even evidence of New York’s history–in the recreated apartments of the Tenement Museum, for example, and the old City Hall subway station–still feel folded up in this vision. New York has endless layers: you can ascend seventy floors in an elevator to get to your office or descend four stories on the escalator to ride the subway.

To imagine another New York–a different New York, rather than one that has previously existed or secretly exists–is a different matter. It rings of an alternate timeline, so anchored is this city’s iconic skyline in its urban identity. Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin have documented just that, though, in their book Never Built New York. By canvassing architectural firms and archives when available, the authors have unearthed designs and plans for a New York that might have been. Not only could these designs have become a reality, but they might have taken the place of other now iconic architecture in the city.

Some projects were closer to inception than others, but many would have radically altered the cityscape. A gigantic dome over Midtown and a floating airport on the Hudson seem some of the more far-fetched ideas, as does an ambitious extension of downtown Manhattan into New York Bay. As the authors point out, however, these ideas may not have seemed so extreme when first proposed. “’It was a time when people really believed in the power of technology,” Lubell says. ‘And they thought, you know, we can do kind of anything. … We’re building spaceships that go to the moon, why can’t we build a dome over Manhattan to get rid of all this pollution, get rid of all the problems of weather?’”

Credit: Stanford University Libraries va pri.org

Credit: Stanford University Libraries va pri.org

That’s all well and good, but what about Frank Lloyd Wright’s proposal to transform Ellis Island into a bubble city? And his plan might have been preferable to the immediate alternatives: a prison or a resort. Ellis Island wasn’t in use for long after WWII, so it makes sense the city would want to develop it. No landmark is sacred, as proved by the demolished old Penn Station. And Grand Central Station isn’t still standing for lack of trying.

Many city landmarks might have looked very different if, for example, City Hall had been rebuilt as a “neo-Egyptian pile” in the style of Scottish architect George Ashdown Audsley around the turn of the turn of the twentieth century. And the Federal Reserve Bank could have been made of glass and elevated many stories above the ground via steel columns!  Speaking of columns, residential towers were once considered for use as supports of bridges spanning city rivers.

Although some of the designs may sound impossible, some would have undoubtedly complemented the city, like Edward Larrabee Barnes’s 1974 biosphere. Some might have improved the skyline, like a Columbus Circle building for ABC designed in 1963 to take the shape of a flower. There’s also the proposed 2004 Olympic Village, situated on the now booming Queens waterfront…

To help New Yorkers and visitors imagine a Big Apple that might have been, the authors are working with the Queens Museum to reconstruct atop the museum’s existing model of the city. The exhibit will open later in 2017.

Featured image: American Weekly via pri.org 

Prepare for Four More Years of Trump Traffic

Prepare for Four More Years of Trump Traffic

New York City has already accommodated for Trump supporters—and Donald Trump’s headquarters in Midtown leading up to the 2016 election and beyond. Now, the city is preparing for four years of tightened security and more traffic as presidential motorcades make their way in and out of New York City during Trump’s term. Commuters, Manhattan residents, and taxi drivers are all going to be part of larger swarms of traffic going in and out of New York City on a daily basis. If you’re planning to move into the city or are already living in the city and exploring housing options, don’t overlook the traffic forecast in the neighborhood as we see an increase in vehicles and tighter security measures because of Trump’s election.

While residents and visitors to Manhattan are already used to traffic jams and traffic headaches day and night, having a New York resident serve as President of the United States means there will be many presidential motorcades and security officers patrolling the streets. The streets around the Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan were almost impossible to maneuver the week of the election and for a few weeks afterwards as both protesters and supporters made their way to the tower to share their views.

Since Donald Trump has New York City roots and a team in the city working with him, he may be making many trips to area restaurants, event venues, and other points of interest at a moment’s notice. This won’t give the city much time to block off roads, divert pedestrian traffic, and take other security measures to ensure Trump, his family, and his workers are safe — and that New York residents and drivers aren’t entirely affected by Trump’s next move.

In a letter to Obama and Congress about Trump’s inauguration, Mayor Bill de Blasio pointed out, “It is a high-density neighborhood and street traffic easily obstructs pathways to and from the building, making it profoundly challenging for the NYPD to establish a secure perimeter.” The first bill to cover Trump security costs was an estimated $35 million.

So what can we expect now that election season is over? Any major events where Trump will be present will require additional security and NYPD may be involved in redirecting traffic. We might see a disruption in tourist flow when Trump is traveling across the city. Director of the New York Taxi Workers’ Alliance, Bhairavi Desai, shared with the Wall Street Journal that 20-minute trip turns into a 40-minute trip when Obama was in town. Many cab drivers will be looking at similar traffic delays and the possibility of changing routes at the last minute now that Trump, a local resident, will be in town more often than not.

The recent election has shaken up New York City in many ways and we can expect to see a significant impact on traffic patterns and tourist flow in the upcoming years. Current residents and future residents to the city will need to accommodate for large-scale traffic jams and ongoing traffic problems as Trump and his crew make their way around the city for events, appearances, and day-to-day travel needs.

Real Estate in 2017: 5 Important Trends to Consider

Real Estate in 2017: 5 Important Trends to Consider

New Year’s resolutions for many Americans might include taking a leap in the housing market, whether it be buying, renting, or selling a home. Identifying possible behaviors of the real estate market in 2017 can help those entering the real estate market make informed and timely decisions. Predictions show that competition for affordable homes will be fierce this year due to increasing numbers of home buyers who are on the hunt for affordable homes that just aren’t as readily available as they used to be. Knowing these trends can give renters and buyers the upper hand in a competitive market. Here are some other factors that are shaping real estate in 2017.

1. Finding value in older construction

While new homes are desired by many, it could be advantageous to look at older construction that could be remodeled, giving buyers the opportunity to incorporate features that fit their preferences. There is also potential to save money by going with an older construction, especially since the price of new construction is going up.

Lately, homebuyers can’t seem to staff enough construction workers to complete jobs. In fact, the National Association of Homebuilders estimates that there are roughly 200,000 unfilled construction jobs in the U.S., which is a jump of 81 percent since 2014. Areas of the U.S. that were hit hard by the housing market crash saw a significant decline in the number of construction workers available for employment. Now, homebuilders find it hard to convince these skilled workers to return to the industry.

This labor shortage is increasing builders’ costs, worker’s wages, and slowing down construction. The time it takes to develop homes is increasing since the demand for workers is growing. Since costs are increasing, developers are pressured to focus on high-end jobs in order to make up for their losses. Meanwhile, contractors are eager to dive into renovation projects for buyers who take on a remodel.

2. Millennials will enter the housing market

Older millennials are now in their early 30s and are looking to settle down and buy their first home. In fact, Realtor.com’s annual survey of potential home buyers shows that 78 percent of first-time home buyers will be in the 25-34 age group in 2017. This large percentage of millennials in the first-time buyer category means that competition for affordable homes will be aggressive, especially in the suburban housing markets. Numerous studies have shown that millennials are attracted to the suburbs more so than large cities due to the availability of well-paying jobs. So it may be worthwhile for buyers to expand their search to urban areas where there may be more options and less competition.

3. Housing inventory will decrease

According to the Realtor.com 2017 National Housing Forcast, housing inventory is down by about 11 percent in major metropolitan housing markets, and this percentage is not expected to increase in 2017, which will mean fewer options for buyers.

The reason for low inventories of homes across the U.S. is thought to be due to several circumstances. First-time home buyers from roughly five years ago are now eager to move out of their starter homes and into the next level home. Unfortunately, these homeowners are discovering that those next-level homes are unaffordable. Their homes are not going back on the market, contributing to a decrease in inventory. Additionally, homeowners who purchased their home before the housing market crash now owe more on their houses than what they are worth. This prevents another category of homes from going back on the market.

Continued low inventory, coupled with an increasing demand, isn’t doing home prices any favors. Home prices have steadily been on the rise, which have increased by an astonishing 8.2 percent.

4. Mortgage rates are on the rise

Mortgage rates are still relatively low and it’s a prime time to enter the housing market. However, rates are beginning to climb, so buyers may want to get pre-approved as soon as possible. According to the Federal Reserve’s recent indication, there will be three more rate increases in 2017. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) predicts the following rates for 2017 by quarter: Q1= 3.9%, Q2=4.1%, Q3= 4.3%, and Q4= 4.4%. Continued mortgage rate increases could lead to ‘rate lock,’ causing homeowners to be hesitant to sell. As rates steadily increase throughout 2017, it will be more beneficial for buyers to make their move in the winter or early spring before mortgage rates get any higher.

5. Home appreciation will slow down

Home appreciation is expected to slow down in 2017, but it is not expected to stop altogether. The Realtor.com Housing Forecast predicts that home prices will grow by 3.9 percent annually, compared to an estimated 4.9 percent in 2016. This can be seen as a positive trend for 2017 since continual appreciation for too long can lead to a market bust similar to what we experienced several years ago. Despite some of the other trends that are increasing the price of homes, this trend will help to stabilize prices.

Due to a shrinking pool of available homes and increasing mortgage rates, buyers who intend to enter the housing market in 2017 would benefit from doing so sooner rather than later. They also might want to consider expanding their search or exploring non-traditional options like renovations. Depending on circumstances, renting may be a viable option as well.