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Monthly Archive for April, 2012

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Challenge to Rent Laws

Owners of New York City apartments governed by rent laws were disappointed this week when the Supreme Court refused to hear a case brought by James D. Harmon Jr. and Jeanne Harmon, who own a five-story brownstone on the Upper West Side. In their lawsuit, which was filed in 2008, the Harmons said three of their six apartments are rent stabilized and that tenants in those apartments pay about 60 percent below market rent, resulting in an unconstitutional taking of their property. Nearly half of the city’s 2.2 million rentals are covered by rent regulations.

The U.S. economy slowed in the first quarter, according to Commerce Department estimates. Real GDP — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012 (from the fourth quarter to the first quarter). In the fourth quarter of 2011, real GDP increased 3.0 percent. The first quarter saw a slowdown private inventory investment and a downturn in nonresidential fixed investment, which was partly offset by increases in personal consumption and exports.

The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee pledged to maintain low interest rates through late 2014. The Fed has held short-term interest rates near zero since late 2008, and sought to further reduce long-term rates by buying Treasuries. The committee said it expects economic growth to “remain moderate over coming quarters and then to pick up gradually,” and that “the unemployment rate will decline gradually.”

Some housing experts are beginning to believe that that the housing market has hit bottom. The National Association of Realtors reported that contracts to buy previously owned homes rose 12.8 percent in March 2012 compared to March 2011, the highest level in about two years, and up 4.1 percent from February. Housing inventory fell in 28 markets tracked by the Wall Street Journal, and the lack of supply is prompting bidding wars in some markets. New home sales are up 16 percent this year compared to 2011, and in March the inventory of new homes fell to the lowest level since 1963 when record keeping began.

Meanwhile, the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for February 2012 showed annual declines of 3.6 percent and 3.5 percent for the 10- and 20-City Composites, respectively. In the New York metro area, home prices in February 2012 fell 3 percent in February 2012 compared to February 2011.

New York City is seeking to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030 by increasing the energy efficiency of buildings, which produce three-quarters of the city’s carbon emissions. City Limits profiled efforts taken by the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco) to introduce energy efficient measures in its buildings, including Intervale Green, a new green building in the Crotona East section of The Bronx. In addition, LISC and Enterprise Community Partners have invested $18 million in retrofitting 2,226 affordable apartments in Brooklyn, The Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens.

NYC Multifamily Sales Jump 34 Percent In First Quarter

Multifamily 1st Quarter In Review

In the first quarter of 2012, New York City recorded 145 multifamily transactions comprised of 222 buildings totaling $1.15 billion in gross consideration, compared to first quarter 2011 figures of 108 multifamily transactions comprised of 137 buildings totaling $548.9 million in gross consideration, and fourth quarter 2011 figures of 131 multifamily transactions consisting of 137 buildings and totaling $1.47 billion in gross consideration.

The first quarter 2012 report shows that in terms of dollar volume and number of buildings sold, demand is surging for multifamily assets in Manhattan. In Brooklyn, first quarter dollar volume for multifamily properties nearly doubled and multifamily building sales were up a healthy 70 percent, compared to the same period of 2011. Prices for multifamily buildings in Brooklyn appear to be rising at a faster rate than any other submarket, which is following the borough’s trend of rapidly rising rents.

The report also shows that portfolio sales are returning to Upper Manhattan, which in the first quarter of 2012 saw four portfolio trades, signaling investors’ faith in the area and that banks are more comfortable making loans on such packages.

Below are key highlights from the Multifamily Quarter in Review: NYC:

Manhattan (below 96th Street): Manhattan had 36 transactions, comprised of 62 buildings with a total value of $574 million in the first quarter of 2012, compared to 19 transactions, comprised of 23 buildings with a total value at $128 million in the first quarter of 2011. The borough’s average price per square foot is up 43 percent and average price per unit increased 52 percent compared to the first quarter last year.

Northern Manhattan: Northern Manhattan in the first quarter had 26 transactions comprised of 42 buildings, valued at $167 million, compared to 25 transactions, comprised of 37 buildings valued at $103 million in the first quarter of 2011. Prices ticked up a modest six percent on a price per square foot basis and 19 percent on a price per unit basis compared to the first quarter last year.

The Bronx: A lack of portfolio sales led to a dip in dollar volume in the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2011, but year over year comparisons with the first quarter of 2011 show significant gains across the board. In the first quarter 2012, The Bronx had 26 transactions consisting of 40 buildings totaling $136 million, compared to 23 transactions, consisting of 27 buildings totaling $105.7 million in the first quarter of 2011. Prices are increasing moderately and consistently as investors seek out the higher returns the borough offers.

Brooklyn: In the first quarter 2012, Brooklyn had 41 transactions, consisting of 56 buildings totaling $170 million, compared to 24 transactions, consisting of 33 buildings valued at $88.6 million.

Queens: Following a relatively light year for Queens multifamily sales, the first quarter 2012 improved significantly from the fourth quarter of 2011. Queens saw 16 transactions, made up of 22 buildings totaling $98 million in the first quarter of 2012, compared to eight transactions, consisting of 11 buildings totaling $69 million in the fourth quarter 2011, and 17 transactions, consisting of 17 buildings valued at $122.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Please refer to our Comp-Trak application for a full list of transactions across the five boroughs.

Our Observations For the Week

The New York State Labor Department reported that the state added 21,500 private sector jobs in March 2012, and that since March 2011 the state has added 155,000 private sector jobs. Since the beginning of the state’s economic recovery in November 2009, New York has added 332,900 private sector jobs and regained all of the private sector jobs it lost during the recession. The state’s private sector job count — 7,317,400 — stands at an all-time high. Now for the bad news—because more people are entering the workforce, the state’s unemployment rate remained at 8.5 percent in March compared to 8 percent in March 2011, and New York City’s unemployment rate increased to 9.7 percent compared to 8.8 percent in March 2011. Nationally, the unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in March.

StreetEasy.com reported that in March 2012 compared to the same period a year ago the median listing price of Manhattan sponsor sales increased by 12.4 percent, the number of new listings fell 17.5 percent, and the number of contracts increased 24.5 percent. In March 2012 compared to March 2011, the median listing price of Brooklyn sponsor sales increased 16.4 percent, listings fell 8 percent, and contracts increased 37 percent. For the same period, the median listing price of Queens sponsor sales increased 16.8 percent, listings increased 35.5 percent, and contracts jumped 733.3 percent. The New Development Report is based solely on sponsor sales listings marketed on the StreetEasy.com site.

In December developer Jay Domb is expected to open The Bronx Opera House Hotel, a 61-room, $10 million hotel, on E. 149th Street in The Hub shopping district. The hotel will be built on the site of The Bronx Opera House, which opened in 1913. Domb has restored the Beaux Arts facade of the original structure, and renovated the four-story front section that housed the lobby and three upper level reception halls. The opera house’s 1,920 seat auditorium was condemned and a three-story section was built to replace it.

The NY Post is reporting that Facebook, Amazon, and IBM are seeking between 40,000 and 120,000 square feet of space in the Flatiron, Chelsea, and Meatpacking districts. Another tech giant, Google, is housed in a building in West Chelsea.

Manhattan Rents Break Pre-Economic Crash Records

Reports by Prudential Douglas Elliman and Citi Habitats show that Manhattan rents in the first quarter of 2012 broke pre-economic crash records. According to the Elliman report, average monthly Manhattan rents hit $3,650 in the first quarter, a six percent increase from the first quarter of 2011. Citi Habitats showed that the average Manhattan rent was $3,418 in March, which was the highest monthly rent since the firm began collecting data in January 2002. Experts say the demand for rentals is high because the restrictive home lending environment is forcing Manhattan residents to rent rather than buy.

The Federal Reserve’s Beige book shows that the economy in the New York District has picked up since the last report was released on Feb. 29. The job market is stable to slightly stronger; manufacturers report steady improvement in business conditions; commercial real estate markets remained steady in the first quarter of 2012; and bankers report increased loan demand, no change in credit standards, and the most widespread declines in delinquency rates in a number of years.

New York University has agreed to scale back its plans to build 2,275,000 square feet of dormitories and classroom buildings south of Washington Square Park by 370,000 square feet. A proposed 14-story building has been cut in half and will be a seven-story public school run by the city. Two academic buildings of 14 stories and eight stories will be shortened and reduced in size by 85,000 square feet. A dormitory and academic building planned where the current athletic center is located will set farther back. The local community board unanimously rejected the original plan for the development planned on two large blocks surrounded by LaGuardia Place, Mercer Street, West Houston Street, and West Third Street.

An art movement launched when artists began moving into the Mott Haven section of The Bronx in 2002 has gained momentum during the last decade and spread throughout the borough. At least four major group art shows opened in The Bronx recently, the borough had a showing in the Armory Show last month, and The Bronx Museum of the Arts is now offering free admission.

New York City Multifamily Sales Surge In February

Multifamily Month In Review

New York City multifamily sales activity surged in February 2012, far exceeding January’s lackluster figures and February 2011 sales. The strength of the month’s numbers suggest 2012’s 1Q figures will impress in a few weeks.

February 2012 multifamily sales saw 35 transactions comprised of 70 buildings totaling $404.335 million in gross consideration. This represents a 3% increase in transaction volume, a 49% increase in building volume and a significant 137% increase in dollar volume compared to January 2012, which saw 34 transactions comprised of 47 buildings totaling $170.855 million in gross consideration.

February 2012 figures were also up an impressive 21% in transaction volume, 89% in building volume and 153% in dollar volume compared to February 2011, which saw 29 transactions comprised of 37 buildings totaling $159.659 million in gross consideration.

The market was active both at the institutional and private client level. Ten transactions took place for $10 million but middle-market properties were also active as the median price for properties trading came in at $4.6 million.

Following a relatively light January, Manhattan led the month in transaction, building and dollar volume. The borough saw 13 transactions consisting of 30 buildings for a total of $218.68 million in gross consideration. The upper end of the market dominated as 7 of these transactions were priced at $10 million or higher.

A flurry of portfolio sales also led to a very active month in Northern Manhattan. This submarket was the second most active after Manhattan as seven transactions consisting of 16 buildings totaling $99.448 million in dollar volume took place. Notable trades included The West 116th Street Portfolio, which Ariel Property Advisors sold for $18.4 million at the beginning of the month.

For the second month in a row, Queens’ multifamily market showed strong activity. The borough had 4 transactions consisting of 8 buildings totaling $51.363 million in gross consideration. Most of this activity came from the sale of a 5-building portfolio in Jamaica that sold for $39 million.

Brooklyn’s multifamily market showed modest activity in February compared to other submarkets. For the month, there were 8 transactions consisting of 11 buildings totaling $21.143 million in gross consideration. This is down compared to January figures, but an improvement compared to February 2011, which saw only five sales totaling $19.245 million in gross consideration.

The Bronx also had a relatively light month as only 3 transactions took place consisting of 5 buildings totaling $13.7 million in gross consideration. This is down compared to both January 2012 and February 2011.

Trailing 6-Month Sales Averages: For the six months ended in February 2012 (page 8), average monthly transaction volume rebounded from a dip last month to 35 transactions per month. The 6-month average dollar volume also remained steady at $377 million in February 2012.

Manhattan (below 96th Street): Medium to large size transactions made up February 2012’s Manhattan sales. The largest sale of the month was 247 East 28th Street, a 130-unit elevatored building in Kips Bay. Silverstone Property Group and RWN Real Estate Partners made the purchase for $53 million, which represents $488 per square foot and $408,000 per unit. Another notable trade took place on the Upper West Side at 55 West 92nd Street, just off of Central Park West. This 55-unit, elevatored building sold for $19.5 million which represents $354,000 per unit and $351 per square foot.

Northern Manhattan: As mentioned earlier in the report, one of February’s notable trades was our company’s sale of The West 116th Street Portfolio, a four building package that traded for $18.4 million. The price translated to $189 per square foot, $198,000 per unit and represented less than a 6% cap rate. A $62 million portfolio of Washington Heights buildings sold to Alma Realty in February as well. This transaction represented $143 per square foot and $159,000 per unit. On the lower end of the spectrum, 22 Bradhurst Avenue, a 12-unit walk-up building sold for $1.6 million, which represented $200 per square foot and $133,333 per unit.

The Bronx: Perhaps the most notable February Bronx sale took place at 4396 Furman Avenue. This 6-story elevatored mixed-use building consisted of approximately 36,000 square feet with 44 residential units and 4 retail units. The property sold for $4.6 million, which represents $95,000 per unit and $128 per square foot, strong numbers for The Bronx that can be partly attributed to the retail. A 3-building portfolio also traded in Mott Haven for $6.1 million, though these numbers were much more modest at $61 per square foot and $50,000 per unit.

Brooklyn: After several months featuring large, institutional sales Brooklyn’s February activity was relatively light. Compared to January’s activity, transaction and building volume were down by roughly a third and dollar volume was down 59%. The largest sale for the month was the $5.050 million sale of 538 East 21st Street, a 53-unit elevatored building in Flatbush. Bed-Stuy was relatively active with 3 transactions for the month, one of which was a 10,000 sq. ft., 16-unit walk-up at 207 Nostrand Avenue. The property sold for $1.825 million, which represents $171 per square foot and $114,000 per unit.

Queens: Queens’ most notable transaction in February was the sale of a 5-building portfolio in Jamaica. Sold to Zara Realty Holdings for $39 million, the price represented $129 per square foot and $111,400 per unit. Another notable sale was 3506-14 94th Street in Elmhurst. This 2-building package contained 73 units and its $8 million price tag translates to an impressive $161 per square foot.

Please refer to our Comp-Trak application for a full list of transactions across the five boroughs.

Economic indicators
as captured by Ariel Property Advisors’ Landlord Dashboard show the following trends:

Unemployment: The first two months of 2012 has seen increases in the unemployment rate. The New York State Department of Labor presented an unemployment rate for January of 8.3% and for February of 8.5%. A 30 and 50 basis point increase over the 8.0% state rates for the end of 2011. Equivocally, the New York City unemployment rate for January was at 9.3% and the February rate was at 9.6%. A 50 basis point increase for January and 80 basis point increase for February from the 8.8% unemployment level in December 2011.

Financing: A panoptical view of interest rates shows an encouraging increase. The 10-year treasury yield saw a healthy increase from the previous month’s rate of 1.87% to 2.03%. Similarly the 30-year Treasury bond increased from 3.01% in February to 3.15% in March. The 5-year note increased 17 basis points from .72% in February to .89% in March. The 1-year T-bill increased as well from 0.13% in February to 0.18% in March.

Rental Market / Vacancy: The rental rates in New York City have seen little change. The 2012 February rental vacancy rate for Manhattan was at 1.25% a slight decrease from the January rate of 1.30%, a 5 basis-point difference. Additionally, rental rates have decreased by 2% for studios, increased by 2% for one and two bedrooms and remained unchanged for three bedrooms.

Expenses: The utility cost in New York City, for the time being has seen little change. The price of No. 2 home heating oil has decreased from 416.2 in February to 416.1 in March per gallon. Residential electricity rates for March increased by a cent per kilowatt hours (KWH) to 15.1 from the February rate of 15.0 cents per KWH.

Our Observations For the Week

Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 120,000 in March, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 8.2 percent, down from 8.3 percent in February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Private-sector employment grew by 121,000 in March, including gains in manufacturing, food services and drinking places, and health care. Retail trade lost jobs over the month.

An influx of foreign born residents, higher birthrates, and fewer residents leaving New York City resulted in a net gain of nearly 70,000 New Yorkers in the 15 months ended July 1, 2011, Census estimates show. Brooklyn recorded the largest increase in population and The Bronx added more residents than Nassau or Suffolk Counties. New York City’s population is now estimated to be 8,244,910, although City Planning officials believe it is more than 8.3 million.

A breakdown of the Census data shows that 16,686 people left New York County for Bronx County from 2005 to 2009, more than the 15,020 who moved to Brooklyn. Nearly 70 percent of Manhattan migrants from 2007 to 2009 were Hispanic, with about 40 percent identified as Dominican, 22 percent were black, and 7 percent were white.

The median closing price for existing condos in Manhattan increased by 7.6 percent in the first quarter to $1,075,000, compared to the first quarter of 2011, according to a report released by Streeteasy.com. The first quarter median closing price for existing Manhattan co-ops fell 1.9 percent to $608,000, and median closing price for new Manhattan developments fell 17.5 percent to $950,000, compared to the same period the prior year. The volume of closings in Manhattan, however, increased 9.4 percent from last year and by 11.8 percent from the last quarter.

The NY Post reports that 188 storefronts on a 15-block stretch of Columbus Avenue between West 67th and 82nd Streets are 100 percent occupied, a rare achievement in New York City. The area is the target of a proposed rezoning plan that would limit how the storefronts can be used. The Columbus Avenue BID opposes the rezoning, claiming that ample safeguards are in place and the retail mix is already balanced.

Brooklyn Year-End Sales Report 2011 Shows Strength In The Borough

Brooklyn Year-End Sales Report 2011

Brooklyn saw 377 commercial real estate transactions in 2011 consisting of 562 properties and totaling approximately $1.8 Billion in gross consideration, according to our Brooklyn Year-End Sales Report 2011.

Rather than being viewed as a traditional ‘alternative’ to Manhattan, Brooklyn is becoming its own unique destination for residents and investors alike. Recently referred to as the ‘Coolest Place to Live in the World’ by GQ magazine, this strength is reverberating throughout the borough’s many neighborhoods, despite their proximity to Manhattan. This trend is particularly evidenced by the large number of transactions in the Bedford-Stuyvesant / Bushwick / Crown Heights area, the ongoing transformation of the area surrounding the Barclays Arena, and some blockbuster institutional multifamily and development sales in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

According to the report, the Bedford-Stuyvesant / Bushwick / Crown Heights neighborhoods had more than 40 percent of all the borough’s transactions in 2011. The multifamily market was the most robust commercial real estate sector, and cap raps remained within the attractive range of 6-7 percent.

With low interest rates, little supply, and many investors anticipating residential rents catching up with Manhattan levels, we expect cap rates to remain competitive and prices per square foot to increase throughout 2012. We believe that 2012 will be a breakthrough year for the borough and with the strong rental market, that we will see a rise in prices per square foot for the entire borough. With that, the major beneficiaries will be once again the Downtown / Park Slope area, Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

Anticipating a significant increase in pedestrian and vehicular traffic surrounding the Barclays Arena, which is slated to open in the fall of 2012, building owners in area are asking higher retail rents, according to the report. In fact, national tenants are actively seeking space and commercial rents are beginning to consistently command over $100 per square foot. Such rapid increases are naturally leading to major increases in property values.

The Williamsburg / Greenpoint area continues to show its strength. In 2011, 173 Kent Avenue was sold by Equity Residential for $73 Million to an institutional buyer. Warehouse 11, a condominium property that had a brush with foreclosure, represented an excellent case of recovery as all of its remaining units sold out. While the Williamsburg and Greenpoint areas still have a significant number of stalled developments, it is just a matter of time until they are restructured and recapitalized, especially as residential inventory declines.

The report highlights multifamily, development site, and retail and commercial property sales, and the market fundamentals that influenced investment sales in 2011, as well as a map of the transactions that took place in Brooklyn in 2011 separated by property type.

In 2011, Brooklyn’s multifamily asset class saw 223 transactions consisting of 285 buildings sold for an aggregate consideration of $925 Million. This activity accounted for 51 percent of the area’s total dollar volume.

Prices per square foot (PSF) in the Downtown / Park Slope region were the highest in the borough, reaching on average $300 PSF. Williamsburg closely followed at $265 PSF and Southern Brooklyn at $180 PSF.

Development Sites
The borough’s development market has started to wake up, according to the report. During 2011 there were 47 transactions comprised of 126 properties. The total consideration was over $200 Million. The majority of the significant development activity was in the Williamsburg / Greenpoint region, but the Bedford-Stuyvesant / Bushwick / Crown Heights region was not far behind.

The development market is strongly affected by the banks willingness to lend. The expectations for 2012 are that the banks will loosen their loan requirements and more money will flow to the development market. Therefore more transactions will take place.

Market Fundamentals
Brooklyn condominiums traded at an average price per square foot of $664 in 2011. This is mainly because the majority of the transactions took place Downtown and in Park Slope, the higher priced areas of the borough. This volume should become a trend in the upcoming years due to the influx of young families.

Overall, residential rents in the borough were up. The areas that saw the highest increase are the areas with the highest number of free market apartments: Downtown / Park Slope & Williamsburg / Greenpoint. Rents in these areas were at or above $30 PSF. These high rents are in contrast to the rents collected for rent stabilized buildings which averaged around $18 PSF.

Retail rents and free market rents are usually in correlation. The areas that attract higher paying tenants also have higher paying retail rents. Williamsburg / Greenpoint and the Downtown / Park Slope areas are the major story with retail rents averaging between $35 and $40 PSF. Naturally this can vary significantly and is very location specific. In 2012 and future years, we expect that the Barclays Arena area will command significantly higher retail rents. In fact, rents in this area are reportedly starting to exceed $100 PSF on a consistent basis.

Our Observations For the Week

The City’s Department of Environmental Protection is proposing a 7 percent increase in the water rate for Fiscal Year 2013. Following five public hearings, the Water Board will formally adopt the FY13 water rate on May 4, 2012, and the new rate will become effective on July 1, 2012. Ariel Property Advisors’ Landlord Dashboard shows that water rates have steadily increased in recent years, more than doubling from $1.44/100 CF (748 gallons) in January 2003 to $3.17/100 CF (748 gallons) in January 2012.

According to the New York City Quarterly Housing Update (Q4 2011) released by NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, home sales volume continued to decline in the fourth quarter of 2011, with the number of transactions citywide down 15 percent from the previous quarter and 11 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010. Also, the number of new residential building permits fell by 60 percent between the third and fourth quarters of 2011. The report showed, however, that housing prices in the city have stabilized and foreclosure starts fell 33 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010.

NYC Economic Development Corp., on behalf of the City of New York in collaboration with the MTA, is seeking proposals from developers to purchase and redevelop seven properties—three in the Bronx, one in Queens, one in Manhattan, and two in Brooklyn. The submission deadline is June 29, 2012.

The Department of Planning is rezoning of a 44-block area bordered by 110th to 124th Streets and Morningside Park to Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem in the early 2000s has resulted in 1,100 new housing units, mostly along Frederick Douglass Boulevard, new retail shops and restaurants, and the 124-room Aloft hotel, according to a NY Times profile of the area. While housing development stalled during the economic downturn, which in turn led to a slowdown in foot traffic, new restaurants and shops continue to open.

Middle class professionals are moving into buildings along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, reversing the trend that led to the exodus of 300,000 residents from the Bronx 40 years ago, according to an article in the NY Times. While affordable co-op prices under $300,000 are the draw, a yoga studio, farmers’ market, and art galleries are opening to serve the community.