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Monthly Archive for March, 2011

Rent Laws Remain in the News

As the June 15 deadline for renewing housing regulations approaches, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-LI) said he is opposed to expanding rent laws, including efforts to raise the high income/high rent deregulation thresholds from $175,000/$2,000 to $300,000/$3,000. The Wall Street Journal, however, reported that Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, is reviewing the increase. “We are prepared to look at a higher number,” Mr. Spinola said. “It depends what the rest of the package is.”

Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for New York City and state remained unchanged in February compared to the previous month, but rates are inching down from the previous year, the State Department of Labor reported. New York City’s unemployment rate was 8.9 percent in February, down from 9.9 percent in February 2010, while the state rate at 8.2 percent for February was down from 8.8 percent in February 2010. The state only gained 100 private sector jobs in February, however, and has added 102,500 private sector jobs since the recovery began in December 2009.

New single family home sales in the U.S. fell by 16.9 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 250,000, the Commerce Department reported. In some regions like the northeast, which dropped by 50 percent compared to the same period the previous year, bad weather played a role. Nationwide, however, unemployment, slow economic growth, the glut of foreclosed properties, and homeowners with underwater mortgages continue to plague the market.

Economists and housing analysts surveyed by MacroMarkets LLC expect housing prices to fall an average 1.4 percent in 2011. The 111 respondents to the quarterly survey expect home prices to gain 1.3 percent in 2012, and recover more in 2013.

Encouraging news from the Commerce Department—an upward revision of fourth quarter GDP, the value of all the goods and services produced in the economy, to 3.1 percent from 2.8 percent. Troubled spots on the economic horizon remain, however, due to unrest in Libya and the disaster in Japan, which caused a spike in oil prices.

New Rent Stabilization Bill Proposed

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assembly Housing Committee Chair Vito Lopez, and David R. Jones, president of the Community Service Society of New York have called to extend and expand New York City’s rent laws due to expire June 15. They were joined by housing advocates to release a report The New Housing Emergency. A bill introduced in the Assembly would repeal vacancy decontrol; reduce allowable rent increases; cap the amount collected for major capital improvements; re-control certain units deregulated after Jan. 1, 2007; cut in half the percentage increase a landlord can raise rents after a vacancy; increase the high income/high rent deregulation thresholds to $300,000/$3,000; and permit New York City to strengthen rent laws beyond what the state allows. There are more than 1 million rent regulated households in New York City.

The Federal Reserve’s policy to stimulate the economy by buying billions of dollars in bonds is not reaching smaller real estate borrowers and properties, which will delay the recovery in the commercial real estate market, according to an article by the CoStar Group. “The split between cash-rich businesses and those in need of capital has set the stage for a bifurcated economy, with growing challenges for small- and medium-sized companies,” the article stated. Cash reserves totaling $9 trillion are held by the top 9,000 companies, making it easier for them to borrow.

The markets were encouraged on Friday after Libya declared a cease-fire, and the Group of Seven industrialized Nations jointly intervened in the foreign exchange market to sell yen, thereby helping Japanese exporters and aiding the country’s recovery. The developments helped boost stocks worldwide and prompted a drop in benchmark Treasury securities.

The office of former President Bill Clinton will remain on the top floor of 55 West 125th Street, but most of the offices of the William J. Clinton Foundation are reportedly moving downtown to the 18th Floor of 77 Water Street in an effort to cut costs, according to the New York Times.

President Barack Obama is planning to hold a high-dollar DNC fundraiser at the Red Rooster Restaurant on Lenox Avenue in Harlem, and later a “Thank You Reception” at the Studio Museum on 125th Street. The events are scheduled to take place later in the month.

NYC Residents More Confident About the Economy

Japan’s 8.9 magnitude earthquake, the strongest in at least 300 years, wasn’t expected to slow economic growth globally but could increase demand for companies involved in the rebuilding, according to market observers. U.S. stocks posted slight gains on Friday, the day after the Dow suffered its largest one-day drop since August due to Middle East turmoil spreading to Saudi Arabia, European debt woes, and negative economic reports from China. In the U.S., retail sales increased in February, but less than forecast, crude oil futures fell below $100, in anticipation of a slowdown in Japan, and the trade deficit jumped 15 percent in January because of higher oil prices.

Residents of New York City and State are more confident about the economy and are looking for work, according to the New York State Labor Department. That explains why the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the state increased slightly to 8.3 percent in January 2011 from 8.2 percent in December 2010, and in New York City to 8.9 percent from 8.8 percent for the same period. Also notable, the state’s private sector has added 95,100 jobs from the beginning of the recovery in December 2009 through December 2010, which includes 24,500 more jobs than originally estimated. During the recession, April 2008 to December 2009, the state lost 335,300 jobs, 17,400 fewer jobs than originally estimated.

The Real Deal reported that a 32-story, 166-unit rental at 290 Third Avenue between 22nd and 23rd is in contract for $125 million. The buyers are Invesco, an Atlanta-based global investment firm, and its operating partner Adellco.

Two Stars for Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s recently opened Red Rooster Harlem. The New York Times reviewed the restaurant at 310 Lenox Avenue at 125th Street and recommended its dirty rice and shrimp, duck-liver pudding, mac and greens, fried yard bird, meatballs, oxtail, steak, apple pie, and malted frosty. “The scene is amazing: a pulsing, cheerful, and virtually always-packed bar that gives way to a crowded and sleek dining room beyond it, decorated with the work of local artists,” reviewer Sam Sifton wrote.

January Shows Steady Volume, Steady Pricing

January statistics are in and for the month there were 28 transactions that consisted of 47 buildings and $188,737,283 in gross consideration.

Brooklyn had the highest number of transactions (8) in which 14 buildings sold and second highest dollar volume with $43 million in transactions. Manhattan led in dollar volume with $69.35 million in gross consideration trading. Northern Manhattan showed only 5 multifamily assets trade for $39.547 million in sales, but showed the 17 buildings trade, the highest of any area in the city.

Several notable sales took place. The largest sale of January was the $48 million sale of 101 West 87th Street. The former condominium conversion represented $362 per square foot and $516,000 per unit.

Upper Manhattan and The Bronx saw a $22.25 million portfolio sale. The properties consisted of 239 units and 25 stores primarily located in Washington Heights and the South Bronx. The sale price represented $105 per square foot.

The Flatbush area of Brooklyn had a particularly active month with over $20 million in sales over 4 transactions, which ranged from $80 to $130 per square foot. Long Island city also saw 3 transactions totaling $12.95 million and averaged about $200 per square foot.

As has been the case in the Bronx, the four transactions recorded averaged $75 per square foot and $72,000 per unit. January sales were generally in line with recent indicators pointing to a steady market. We expect transaction volume to continue to pick up over the course of the year.

Our Observations for the Week

Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 192,000 in February with gains reported in manufacturing, construction, and some service-providing industries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last month, the unemployment rate fell from 9 percent to 8.9 percent, which is the lowest rate in nearly two years. Since February 2010, total payroll employment has grown by 1.3 million. Local government, however, has lost 377,000 jobs since September 2008.

Bankers in the Second Federal Reserve District, which includes New York and parts of New Jersey, reported increased demand for commercial and industrial loans, particularly commercial mortgages, according to the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book. Delinquency rates for commercial mortgages fell, and the market for housing and office space remained stable. The Beige Book is published eight times a year.

NY State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has stated he will refuse to support renewing 421a tax incentives for developers unless rent stabilization laws are strengthened in favor of tenants, according to an article in the New York Observer. NY State Sen. Adriano Espaillat of the Bronx and Northern Manhattan recently proposed a bill that would raise the level at which a landlord can deregulate an apartment from $2,000 to $3,000; end the conversion of vacant apartments to market rent; and return apartments deregulated in the last 20 years to stabilization.

Another tony shop has arrived on the bustling commercial corridor of Frederick Douglass Boulevard in Harlem. Levain Bakery, featuring cookies and muffins, recently opened a 3,200 square foot retail store at 117th Street.

Northern Manhattan 2010 Year End Retail Report

Retail Market Overview

After suffering major declines in 2008 and 2009 amidst the worst recession in recent memory, retail rents largely stabilized in Northern Manhattan throughout 2010. Benefitting from an abundance of condominium units that came online, Frederick Douglass Boulevard in particular experienced a significant boom along its retail corridor. This was only bolstered by the opening of the Aloft Harlem Hotel, which should help expand tourism and retail activity along the 125th Street corridor.

The East River Plaza also opened several major outlets in 2010, including Manhattan’s first Target, resulting in significant increases in foot traffic in East Harlem. The new Hunter College School of Social Work is expected to open its doors in 2011 and could provide a significant boom to Third Avenue retail this year.

With the worst of the recession behind us and continued population of new residential developments uptown, we believe the Northern Manhattan retail will continue to strengthen over the course of the year and could begin to see appreciation in the 4Q.

This report is available for download in PDF format here.

In addition to the usual quantitative information this report provides, we provide a detailed map of Northern Manhattan that shows all of the retail tenants along major commercial corridors uptown. You can download the map (2.5MB) here.