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Astoria NY is located in the northwest section of Queens. Astoria is commutable via the N, W, G, V and R subway lines. Astoria's population is about 165,000 and is comprised of Italians, Greeks, Middle Easterners and Latin Americans. Astoria covers about 5 square miles.
The Astoria community offers a wide selection of authentic ethnic cuisines in restaurants with ambiences that would satisfy a wide range of tastes. Astoria also has a robust artistic community, as well as fun and interesting shopping districts that line Steinway, Broadway, Ditmars, 31st Streets and Northern Blvd ... and many places in between.
Astoria Cove Real Estate Development
East River Waterfront Transformation Moves North
August 18, 2014 / Queens & Astoria Real Estate / Astoria Neighborhood / Queens Buzz. Unbeknownst to at least a few of the folks who live in the far northwest corner of Astoria and Queens, big plans for changes have been taking shape over the past couple of years.
The Hallets Point development passed Community Board One in May of 2013 and the Astoria Cove development is making its way through the governmental gauntlet of real estate development approvals.
The plan calls for a large new complex along the East River which will occupy the location where the building in the photo now stands, along with several other blocks of territory which will become its footprint. The building shown above is about a block east of Build It Green.
Community Board One and the Queens Borough President had issues with the development, primarily calling for a buildout of public infrastructure to support the development as well as for the inclusion of a higher number of affordable housing units. The development will be built completely on privately purchased land, which is in contrast to the Hallets Point development which was done using NYCHA [NYC Housing Authority] property.
We'll have more about this at a later date. By Michael Wood.
Steinway Mansion SOLD
May 5, 2014 / Astoria Real Estate / Steinway Mansion / Queens Buzz. On Friday May 3rd, 2014, the Steinway Mansion was sold for $2.65 million. The mansion went on the market in August of 2010 and was handled by a number of brokers - including Southebys International Realty, Halvatzis Realty Astoria and Prudential Douglas Elliman - before being turned over to Amorelli Realty of Astoria, which closed the deal.
At present, we understand that the land parcel remains intact, which last we heard was between one and two acres. This acreage is down from the 700 acres that Benjamin Pike, the original owner, purchased in the mid 1800's [circa 1858]; and the 70 acres owned in tandem with the mansion by the Steinways [circa 1870]. The most recent owners, the Halberians, held about a two acre lot in tandem with the mansion, which includes the grounds with which those who have visited the mansion in modern times are familiar.
The Steinway Mansion is currently zoned as residential and we were told that - as of this date - that nothing was underway to change that. Rumors have been circulating for months that the mansion would be turned into a restaurant, but we could not find anyone close to the owners who could confirm that.
Bob Singleton of the Greater Astoria Historical Society and Friends of the Steinway Mansion said that those two organizations continue to have an interest in helping preserve the Steinway Mansion an historic jewel for Astoria, Queens and NYC.
As we understand it, the Steinway Mansion is landmarked at federal, state and city levels, which means the outside of the structure may not be alterred nor may it be torn down. We were informed that Steinway Mansion LLC is a locally owned company, but the names of the owners have not yet been made public.
The realtors who closed the deal include Lauren Cornea, Christina Halvatzis and Paul Halvatzis - all of Amorelli Realty.
Click to view the Astoria neighborhood
Dining, Culture & Fun
Real Estate & Business
Steinway Mansion Under Contract To Private Buyer
Historic Mansion Was Built By Early NYC Technologist & Later Bought By Renaissance Man
Last Chance For Queens Officials To Act On Their Speeches About Historic Preservation, Nurturing Culture & Tourism
March 12, 2014 / Astoria Neighborhood / Real Estate In Queens / News & Opinion. Queens Buzz. Well, the saga is almost over. NYC and Queens government officials are about to let slip into private hands, the greatest historical relic of the 1800's in Queens. And what could have been - and could still be - one of the greatest historic sites / historic tourist attractions of Queens. The Steinway Mansion is under contract to be purchased by a private buyer.
It's not that Queens and NYC government officials haven't had a chance to save it. The historic mansion, which was landmarked for its historic signficance decades ago [landmarking prevents changes to outside of the structure], came on the market in August of 2010. The asking prices has been between $2 and $4 million, which given that far smaller homes with no significance are already selling for over $1 million in the Astoria neighborhood, it seemed like a reasonable asking price.
Click here to read the rest of our report about the Steinway Mansion Under Contract. The story includes photos and links to other stories we've done over the years about the Steinway Mansion and it's inhabitants and their endeavors. The story also includes the business case for taking the Steinway Mansion public and transforming it into a museum / cultural destination for all of Queens, NYC & the world.
Hotels In Queens
Hotels In Queens Neighborhood of Dutch Kills in LIC
March 21, 2011 / Long Island City LIC / Long Island City Real Estate / Queens Buzz. Over the past year I’ve watched the rapid growth of eleven hotels in the Dutch Kills neighborhood of Long Island City. They’re located within an eight block area, near the N / Q subway lines in LIC.
Construction on many of these Long Island City hotels appears to have been completed. Although there are at least a couple of them which appear to have quite a bit more work to do. Six of the new Dutch Kills Long Island City Hotels are already in operation.
Click here to read the rest of our report about new hotels in Queens - in the Dutch Kills neighborhood of LIC.
East Side Access Project Moving Along
How Will This Project Affect Queens Real Estate?
Queens Real Estate / October 4, 2010 / Queens Buzz. Progress on the East Side Access Tunnel project has been visible in Queens since early Spring 2010. The MTA has been busy drilling a new tunnel under the East River from LIC / Astoria, using the Sunnyside Railway Yard as its staging grounds. The photo to your left shows the view of the new tunnel being built underneath the East River from an Astoria / LIC perspective. The tunnel connects into Manhattan around 63rd Street.
Meanwhile in the Sunnyside railway yards, many of the buildings that once dotted the landscape have been demolished. Thankfully this doesn't include an old train station which has been around for many years [see photos in rest of story / slide show]. They’ve also cleared away a number of old warehouse and garage like structures along 43rd Street between Northern Blvd and 39th Avenue.
Click here to get an update on the East Side Access Project impact on Queens real estate.
Steinway Mansion - Astoria Real Estate
Lincoln Era Mansion & Queens History To Be Sold
Astoria / August 20, 2010 / Queens Buzz. On Wednesday afternoon I set to work on this story after returning from a fascinating four hour visit with Michael Halberian, owner and whose family occupied, the Steinway Mansion for the past 82 years. The mansion is located in Astoria, just north of 19th Avenue on 41st Street [map link provided at end of story].
I felt like I'd stepped through a time warp, back into the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The visit connected me to one of the legendary centerpieces of Queens history - the Steinway family and the mansion they occupied during their golden years ... but the mansion's history neither starts nor ends there.
Michael regaled me with anecdotal tales supported by the many books off his shelves, or by pointing to numerous remnants of the past, kept in pristine shape in this beautiful old Astoria mansion on the hill overlooking the East River.
Click here to read more about the Steinway Mansion For Sale In Astoria Queens.
Queens Economy - 2016 Outlook NYC
Currently Full Employment, Low Interest Rates, Low Inflation But Possible International Shocks
We took a look into the crystal ball over the holiday break to see what may lie ahead for the NYC economy in the coming year. We studied the stats and facts put out by many of the national data producers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department and the AIE. What follows is a brief summary of some of the statistics we gathered on the global, national and New York City economy including unemployment statistics by borough for 2015.
U.S. & NYC Economy Near / At Full Employment
Currently Queens and Manhattan are doing the best with respect to employment, with unemployment rates below 5%, which economists consider to be full employment as the 5% unemployed are viewed as normal ‘friction’ in the economy, accounting for people coming into, leaving and changing jobs within the labor force.
In 2009 - 2010, during the first two years of the Great Recession, the nation’s unemployment rate hit 9.4%, while the unemployment rate for New York City hit 10.4%. The employment picture for the nation and the five boroughs of New York City has slowly but steadily improved since then, with unemployment trending lower, reaching full employment this year at 5% for the nation and 4.8% for New York City this fall.
Employment Impact / Relationship to Inflation
Employment affects inflation, as when everyone is fully employed, recruiting firms bid up the price of labor and workers feel secure enough to spend aggressively, bidding up the price of goods. The Federal Reserve attempts to reign in inflation - because it creates economic instability - by raising interest rates which increases the cost of capital needed to expand operations or make large purchases more expensive. On December 16, 2015, the Federal Reserve raised its key short-term interest rate by 25 basis points (0.25%) to begin to get ahead of potentially inflationary issues that may lie ahead. We'll look into a few of these later in this report.
Economists in one of the banking reports I received believe that there is still slack in the labor market that is not reflected in the numbers as many people have part-time jobs, while they would like full time jobs. Also the labor force participation rate fell during the Great Recession and it became more difficult to find work. Now with a full employment economy it is believed that some of those folks who gave up looking will try to re-enter the workforce. An example of the decline in participation rate might be a spouse who helped supplement household income but couldn't find the right work, and now starts looking again.
Click here to continue reading our report about the New York City NYC Economy Outlook 2016 which delves into full employment impact on inflation, interest rates, consumer debt levels, oil & commodity prices, domestic and international currencies & economic growth, the financial markets and how all of this may impact the different sectors of the Queens & New York City economy.
Albany Legislative Session To End Friday
Pending Bills: Public School Funding & Rent Stabilization Law
There are two important bills expected to be finalized by the New York State Legislature this week: 1) one having to do with taxation and funding for the public schools and 2) the second having to do with NYC rent stabilization law.
I've been paying some modest measure of attention to both of these bills, and the following is a brief snapshot of a critical talking point in each bill.
Use Public Money To Fund Private Education?
From what I can gather, perhaps the most contentious item in the public education funding bill is the provision for sizeable tax deductions for those who choose to send their children to private, not public schools.
As I understand it, these tax deductions would be included as part of the funding for the public schools budget and therefore will reduce what's left for the NYS / NYC public school systems.
It's worth noting that private school tuition in NYC can cost in the range of about $5,000 to $30,000 per year per student. And that there are about 900 private schools in NYC alone, so depending on how these proposed deductions are ultimately structured, the funds reallocated from the public schools to private individuals would be in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars and possibly more.
You might want to contact Governor Cuomo's office at 1.518.474.8390 to let him know you support or oppose the measure, since we understand that he's been the major force pushing for this public school funding change. You can also send him an email via the Governor's contact form.
Albany & Expiring Rent Stabilization Laws
The Rent Stabilization Laws are due to expire tonight, June 15, 2015.
There was talk earlier this year that there would be a push to expand or strengthen the Rent Stabilization Laws given the rapid growth in homelessness in New York City. The NYC homeless population is currently estimated at over 60,000 or nearly 1% of the entire NYC population. About 70% of New York City residents are renters, of which about two million of less than eight and a half million residents, live in rent stabilized apartments.
Over the past decade or so, the Rent Stabilization Laws have been curtailed in the favor of the free market and landlords. The curtailment of rent price control legislation is believed to have spurred additional real estate development investment, as the profits of most new buildings are no longer affected by rent stabilization laws.
Much of the rapid growth in homelessness over the past decade is believed to be the result of tenants losing their rent stabilized apartments, as new owners of buildings have found ways to circumvent the laws. A recent NYU Furman Center Study has shown the loss of over 330,000 unsubsidized affordable apartments since 2002, due in part to the rent stabilization legislative changes referenced above.
NYS legislative insiders told me that tenants rights supporters were hoping to make legislative gains this year, but that the NYS Assemblypeople and NYS Senators opposing the changes, were going to allow the rent stabilization laws to expire as a negotiating tactic.
Vicki Been, Commissioner of NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, informed us that the current rent stabilization laws remain in effect through the term of existing leases and leases up for renewal that are already in the hands of the tenants. She also said that tenants should call 311 with any questions or problems.
Cuomo & NYS Officials - Quinnipiac Poll
On June 3, 2015 Quinnipiac released a poll showing voters are feeling negatively about the NYS Legislature as a whole, while continuing to favor their local representatives. In the poll Governor Cuomo has only a 2% margin of those favoring him.
Governor Cuomo had a 44% approval rating versus 42% disapproval rating, as voters are not satisfied with his handling of the corruption scandals that have plagued Albany this year. In February 2015 Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver [Democrat Manhattan] was indicted on federal corruption charges. And in May 2015 NYS Senate Leader Dean Skelos [Republican Long Island] was indicted by a federal Grand Jury.
Less than a year ago, NYS gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout, a law professor at Fordham University surprised polls by garnering nearly 2 votes for every 3 won by the governor in the NYS Democratic primary. Ms. Teachout did not have much in the way of significant private backing or union support, but won nearly 40% of the vote waging an online campaign.
According to the Quinnipiac poll, voters by a margin of 52% - 32% said that with respect to Albany's corruption problem:
"... the Governor is part of the problem, not part of the solution."
As for the NYS Assemblymembers and NYS Senators the Quinnipiac Poll reported the following:
"Voters disapprove 60 - 26 percent of the job the State Legislature is doing, but approve 44 - 37 percent of their own Assembly member and approve 54 - 31 percent of their own state senator."
"At the same time, 45 percent of voters say their state senator should be thrown out in a general house-cleaning, while 40 percent say their senator deserves reelection."
"Voters are divided 41 - 41 percent on whether their Assembly member should be reelected or thrown out."
As you can see, the sentiments collected in the Quinnipiac poll seem a bit contradictory, as the answers received depend on how the questions are stated. Nonetheless, this looks to be an interesting legislative week as things wind down in Albany, and as the 2016 election cycle begins to ramp up.
Click to view our section on - New York State Politics & Government NYS.
De Blasio's State of the City Address 2016
Moving NYC from 'Tale of Two Cities' to 'One New York'?
I attended Mayor de Blasio’s second State of the City Address delivered at the Performing Arts Center at Lehman College in the Kingsbridge Heights neighborhood of the Bronx. In spite of its northern, non-central location, the speech was well attended. About three dozen protesters also made their way north of Manhattan into the Central west Bronx, wielding placards asking the Mayor to stop gentrification and something about fair labor practices.
I took my place among the press corps where we were seated right in the middle of the auditorium. After settling in, I started photographing the slides whizzing by on the main stage, showing the accomplishments of the de Blasio Administation during its first two years. I have included a slide show a bit later in this report, which contains some of the slides that I photographed.
Unlike last year, when the Mayor and the Police Commissioner were having difficulties adjusting to each other, this year the mood seemed buoyant. In front of me was a group of students from the Laboratory School of Finance & Technology - MS 223 - at 360 East 145th Street in the Mott Haven neighborhood in the Bronx. The school is connected with Bronx Prep and hence handles grades 6 through 12.
Click here to read our report of Mayor de Blasio's State of the City Address 2016. The report includes video excerpts of the Mayor's speech, as well as two other short video pieces including the harmony singing of the National Anthem by a talented Bronx choral group, and the teachers and students of MS 223.
|NYC Congestion Pricing - Move NY Congestion Pricing Plan|
Which Queens 'Democratic' Pols Support $8 Tolls?
Several Queens Officials Support $8 Tolls on Queensborough & Other East River Bridges & at 60th Street to Raise Capital for the MTA
Queens Democratic Party Chairman Joe Crowley & NYS Governor Cuomo Supported Congestion Traffic Pricing in the Past
The new Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan has been making its way into the legislative process over the past year. Just last week NYS Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, a Democrat from Manhattan introduced the bill on March 23, 2016. The Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan is being sold into the legislature as a means to raise revenue to fund MTA Capital projects.
Currently NYS Senator Jose Peralta, Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs Mark Weprin & CCM's Van Bramer, Richards & Reynoso publicly support installing $8 tolls on the Queensborough & other East River bridges to raise capital for the MTA.
Governor Cuomo's Words Are ...
Governor Andrew Cuomo supported the Congestion Pricing Plan put forth years ago, which wasn't popular with many of the voters in Brooklyn & Queens. The two boroughs have a combined population which rounds to 5 million or 25% of the 20 million people who live in New York State.
Cuomo was quoted as making the following statement by the Observer in an article published a year ago on March 15, 2015,
“It’s not, ‘Can I support it?’ Will the people support it? Can you get it done? Can you get a congestion plan passed and we’ve gone through this a couple of times and it was an overwhelming ‘no’ and I haven’t seen anything happen that would change my opinion,”
The Governor has essentially been repeating this position publicly ever since.
Inconsistent with Governor Cuomo's Staff Actions
But while the Governor is publicly distancing himself from the measure which is unpopular in Queens and Brooklyn, former NY City Councilmember Mark Weprin, who is now Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs, has supported the Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan.
Weprin vehemently oppposed Congestion Traffic Pricing in 2008 when he was a NY City Councilmember, but in 2015 Weprin began publicly supporting the revised Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan as he transitioned from NY City Councilmember to becoming Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs. NYS Assemblyman David Weprin, Mark's brother, continues to publicly oppose the plan.
It's worth mentioning that the Weprins and the Cuomos have had close family political ties spanning two generations.
Congressman Crowley's Position Circa 2007
Queens Democratic Party Chairman, U.S. Congressman Joseph Crowley, supported the Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan backed by former Mayor Bloomberg, according to a June 11, 2007 report by the New York Times which quoted Crowley as saying,
“the overall  plan — and congestion pricing is just a part of it — will make this a more livable city and make it easier to attract the best and the brightest not only from around the country but from around the world.”
We've not yet seen any comments by Congressman Crowley on the current Move NY Plan which was recently introduced.
Move NY's 'New & Improved' Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan
We studied the Move NY Traffic Congestion Pricing proposal by first taking a closer look at what groups are pushing the plan [follow the money]. Gridlock Sam Schwartz Consulting LLC is one of the primary promoters of the plan, and the consulting company is owned in part by a large, multi-national, transit infrastructure contractor. We also evaluated the assumptions they used to create the estimates provided in the plan, which we found to be inconsistent with fairly recent independent studies by respectable institutions, and we also looked at what happened in one of the other cities around the world that implemented the plan.
In essence the plan retrofits [re-prices] the fossil fuel infrastructure, by making a significant investment to install and operate tolling around the center of Manhattan. The remaining proceeds would then go to fund other MTA capital projects [in London this was about half the proceeds]. The pricing would require those who can't afford the $8 tolls [each way] to either use mass transit [recent NYC metro studies have shown this switching doesn't happen] or to cross the bridge at other times at which time the tolls would cost less. The proponents say this would enable those who can afford the tolls to cross the East River bridges and 60th Street more quickly and move around mid Manhattan more easily [less traffic congestion with the rest of the community priced out of their way]. How 'democratic' is this?
Previously MTA Invests Billion$ in New Subways Appearing to Accommodate Billionaire Manhattan Developer(s) & Now Pols Want Metro Residents & Employees to Fund a System to Toll Tax Them to Fund MTA Capital Budget
The MTA during the Bloomberg (Republican) Administration made approximately $8 billion in MTA capital investments for about 30 to 40 blocks of Manhattan subway lines. One line travels from Times Square to the Javits Center [$2.4 billion mostly paid by city] and the other, which was strongly supported by NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, is expected to travel along Second Avenue from about East 60th Street to about East 86th Street when it is completed [ran way past budget and time estimates - currently about $5.2 billion].
The latter subway line has been called the 'subway to nowhere', while the other isn't much different - as it terminates at the Javits Center and billionaire real estate developer Steven Ross' & Related Companies' new Hudson Yards development - without any other subway connections. Pundits have opined that one [new #7 Hudson Yards station] and possibly both of these multi-billion dollar investments were made to accommodate Manhattan real estate developers [such as Ross], more than to facilitate transit for commuters and residents of New York City.
When I confronted an MTA spokesperson with this perspective, they told me that the Q line extension would alleviate a considerable amount of the congestion on the north / south east side Manhattan subway line, but made no comment regarding the Hudson Yards station.
The photos above show no passengers on the Javits subway [at an admittedly random time and not long after it was installed], while the second photo shows the #6 subway along the Upper East Side, also at a random time [I have #7 photos that look the same, but didn't have time to find one]. The map to your right shows the new #7 subway line extension ending as an unconnected spur.
Perhaps if the MTA and the government officals who oversee MTA capital project spending were more judicious in their selection of multi-billion dollar projects and allocation of funds, they wouldn't need to make a huge investment of the public's money in the creation and operation of an expensive new tolling system which they plan to use to charge taxpayers $8 tolls to cross 60th Street and the East River Bridges.
This plan essentially aids the wealthy by making their lives easier, while economically discriminating against those with less wherewithal, by making their lives harder. This doesn't strike me as a solution that's 'democratic' at all. There must be less costly, more fair ways to raise additional revenue for transit that NYC commuters - not Manhattan real estate developers - really need.
Click here for the rest of our story about the Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan as we explore in greater detail a connected web of people, lobbyists and organizations behind Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan and their possible motivations. We critique the plan including a review of the assumptions, and a closer look at independent studies done with regard to motorists response to toll prices and changes.
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