Business & Real Estate In
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 Food Fusion
Nutrition & Sumptuous Cuisine in Queens
March 6, 2013 / Food in Queens / Astoria / Queens Buzz. I attended a nutritious cooking class on February 27th featuring Rocco Sacramone, head Chef and Founder, of Trattoria L’incontro of Astoria; working in tandem with Effie Nerantzis, a Registered Dietician, from Mount Sinai Queens. The event was hosted by the United Community Civic Association at the Central Sushi Bar and Lounge in Astoria. And the program was sponsored by Mount Sinai Queens as part of their community health education outreach efforts, some of which we've covered in the past [see Queens healthcare section]. This particular program was intended to demonstrate how to prepare great tasting foods that are healthy and admission was free.
I knew going into this event that it had been fully booked. So I wasn’t surprised as I entered a banquet room, which was fully seated. Rocco and Effie were conversing off stage; while Shelly Felder, Sr Director of Marketing & Communications at Mount Sinai Queens, conversed with Rose Marie Poveromo, President of the United Community Civic Association. The show was about to begin.
Click here for our report, including recipes and slide show with photos of Chef Rocco Sacramone of Trattoria L’incontro preparing heart healthy foods.
Queens Employment Rate Continues To Best NYC Metro
Queens County continued its streak of besting three of the other four boroughs in New York City with respect to low unemployment. In the July period unemployment fell to 4.9%, which is slightly below what is generally considered a full employment unemployment rate of 5%.
Queens Employment Fueled By Building Boom
Queens is currently experiencing a building boom, with the epicenters in the neighborhoods of Long Island City, Astoria, Flushing and to a lesser extent Jamaica. In addition to the creation of temporary construction jobs which end when the building has been completed, some of the new commercial developments have targeted white collar office space, which has then been used to lure large commercial tenants from other boroughs, into Queens. Bloomingdales was one such recent company to announce a large move [a return] into Queens.
Click here to read the rest of our report on employment and unemployment in Queens, NYC and NYS.
Queens Library - Report Series
CEO Galante & Trustees Controversy
September 12, 2014 / Queens Neighborhoods / Queens Issues / Queens Buzz. Given the ongoing importance and drama associated with the Queens Library lawsuit, controversy and Reform Bill, we decided to create a section dedicated to it so that readers interested in learning more about it, may find a public record of what is happening to the Queens Public Library system.
Click here to read our reports about the Queens Library lawsuit, controversy & Reform Bill.
Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan
Proposal To Toll Tax Away NYC Traffic Congestion Caused By A Century Of NYC Infrastructure Designed With Manhattan As The Hub
Van Bramer & Peralta Support 'Move NY' Plan Which Calls For The Installation Of $8 Tolls On Queensboro, Brooklyn, Manhattan & Williamsburg Bridges
NYC Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and 14 Democratic Progressives recently embraced the Move NY Congestion Traffic Price Plan, which among other things, calls for $8 tolls [or $5.54 with the use of an EZ Pass] on all East River Bridges, including Queensboro, Brooklyn, Manhattan & Williamsburg Bridges.
NYS Senator Jose Peralta of Jackson Heights / Corona has been an early advocate of the Move NY Congestion Traffic Price Plan.
Most of the rest of the Queens government officials do not support the plan. And hence we decided to take a closer look into the plan, to better understand what the issues are.
And we were more than a little bit surprised at what we found.
How Do The Plan Assumptions Stack With Known Realities?
In this report we’re going to describe the Move NY repackaged Congestion Traffic Price Plan. Specifically we will explore the assumptions upon which the plan is based, and then go behind the curtain to explore some of the relationships between the different groups pushing the plan, in order to better understand the economics of the politics.
Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan Organizers & Shadow Lobbyists
After the meeting I started investigating the Move NY Fair Plan and stumbled across a website name that feeds into the Move NY organization's website. The current Move NY official website name is www.iheartmoveny.org - but you can also get there using www.move-ny.org - which will forward you to the same site.
The owners of the www.move-ny.org site are listed as Blue State Digital, which is a public relations firm. Their website says that they,
"... build and galvanize communities on behalf of some of the world’s leading nonprofits, advocacy groups, and brands."
They were written up in a New York Times OpEd piece by Thomas Edsell entitled Shadow Lobbyists, as a new class of public relations firms that galvanize public opinion in the same way that one galvanizes support for political candidates. It's still public relations, but the techniques are different. We'll probe the vested interested parties in more detail a bit further into the story.
In Move NY 'Fair' Plan There's More Than A Dozen(s) Of "Komanoff Assumptions or Estimates"
Charles Komanoff is a consultant for the Sam Schwartz Move NY 'Fair' Plan. The Move NY Plan appears to have relied very heavily [or entirely?] on Komanoff's BTA or Balance Transportation Analyzer. In a quick perusal at some of the underlying math, I found easily more than a dozen estimates and assumptions which were entitled 'Komanoff Estimate' or 'Komanoff Assumption'.
It's worth noting that in general, economic models such as the Balanced Transportation Analyzer or BTA, can be made to produce any conclusion one wants, if one is in control of the underlying assumptions.
Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan Assumptions & Pricing Elasticity
There are many underlying assumptions baked into the Move NY Plan that are worth questioning in far greater detail. But the biggest key assumption to investigate is the pricing elasticities baked into the plan. Pricing elasticity predicts whether or not people will drive over a bridge or a road, if the price of the toll on the bridge / road increases or decreases.
Based on a number of studies done over the past decade, including two in the New York City area, some drivers will adjust the time of day they travel over a toll bridge or road slightly, in order to obtain a discounted rate, but few appear to decide whether or not to use a bridge or toll road because of a toll price increase.
Part of the implicit positioning of the plan is that it will reduce carbon emissions. Implicit because both Komanoff who provided the BTA [Balanced Transportation Analyzer] econometric model for the Move NY Plan, and Matthiessen who runs the public relations firm lobbying for the Move NY organization, are on the board of the Carbon Tax Center. More on this later.
Independent Studies Have Shown That Toll Price Increases Negligibly Impact WHETHER Or Not Drivers Will Use Bridges Or Roads Vs Public Transit, But Can Impact WHEN
The studies of the impact of toll price changes on roads and bridges, were done by independent institutions like established universities and governments. The goal was to determine if pricing can be used to alter traffic patterns. We will provide you with the results of some of these studies further into this report, so you can judge for yourself whether or not to rely on the assumptions embedded in the Make NY Plan by consultant Charles Komanoff.
For those of you who didn't get a chance (or weren't interested) in studying economics, price elasticity is:
"… is a measure of the responsiveness of demand or supply of a good or service to changes in price. The price elasticity of demand measures the ratio of the proportionate change in quantity demanded to the proportionate change of the price."
An elastic price means if the price goes up, the quantity goes down and vice versa. An inelastic price means that people won't change their behaviors much in response to price increases - oftentimes because they don't have what they consider to be reasonable alternatives.
Take electricity into your household prior to deregulation as an example. If the monopoly power company took a price increase, you didn't quit using the lights, stove, TV, furnace or washer / dryer because the options weren't that reasonable. Apparently the folks who use the toll bridges and toll roads don't feel they have good options either. So if the price of a toll bridge or toll road goes up, there's a negligible change in usage behavior - except with respect to shifting the time of use.
Of course in this case, the Move NY Plan is really advocating more than a toll price increase, as they are advocating the introduction of tolls where they had not been.
Toll prices appear to influence bridge / road usage times [eg. motorists plan their trips either immediately before or after peak periods] but do not appear to alter the means of transportation chosen [eg. take the car vs take the train]. The implication is that there may not be an ecological benefit to this plan.
NEW: Congestion Pricing Experience In London
London, Stockholm and Milan have implemented Congestion Traffic Pricing Plans in parts of their cities. One cannot underestimate the differences between New York City and its European counterparts including road widths [the plans targeted European Medieval town centers], the population density [Manhattan is many times more dense than of any of them], the geography [Manhattan is an island connected by 18 bridges and tunnels, while London, Milan & Stockholm are not] and so forth.
That said, London was the first city to implement congestion traffic pricing in 2003. We will take a brief look into some of the outcomes of that implementation later in this report, but the two key findings that stick with me are: 1) London never went forward with extending the Congestion Traffic Pricing zone and 2) it's been reported that the implementation infrastructure costs were very sizeable.
New York City Transit System Designed in 1900 & Built by 1961 When NYC Was A Different Place
In 1900 Manhattan represented 52% of the population of New York City and Brooklyn represented 33% - the remaining 15% was spread in the other three boroughs which were somewhat rural and low density population areas.
Around the turn into the 20th century city planning, by necessity, came into vogue. And it was also the time during which New York City mass transit began being built. By 1940 most of the build out was completed save the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (1950), the Verrazano Narrows Bridge (1961) and the Throgs Neck Bridge (1961).
Today Manhattan represents about 20% of the population, while Brooklyn is about 30%, Queens 27%, Bronx 17% and Staten Island 6%. If you look at the map below, you'll see how the bridges and tunnel transportation infrastructure converges on Manhattan because that's historically and still the New York City hub.
Can The City Toll Price Its Way Out Of A Century Of Infrastructure Design & Build?
The total bridge / tunnel crossings of the outer four boroughs is 28 and 15 of them are with Manhattan. Manhattan by itself has a total of 18 crossings, including the 15 just mentioned and another 3 major crossings coming in from New Jersey.
Decades of prior New York City Mayors and New York State Governors & the respective legislative bodies have failed to recognize and address perhaps the most basic reality and issue facing the New York City transportation system today - that the overall transportation infrastructure was designed and built 70 to 100 years ago to serving Manhattan as the hub.
While the population densities of the boroughs has changed significantly, Manhattan still remains the center of the city in terms of commercial and cultural activity and this is due in part to its accessibility.
How Fair Is The Move NY 'Fair' Plan?
Sam Schwartz's Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan appears to be a socially and economically regressive tax increase because if it succeeds, the brunt of the pain will be borne by the lower and middle income wage earners who will bear the costs if they can't leave their car - and if they do, who will put an even greater strain on the subway system which already appears to be running near full capacity. The subway system is a transit category upon which the Move NY Plan only marginally touched upon.
Geographically the burden targets the Bronx, Manhattan and other motorists who cross Manhattan at 60th Street and the motorists including from Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan who cross the East River. They are not, as the Move NY Plan states, crossing for free because they contribute plenty to the public coffers in high rents, property taxes and municipal taxes that support both New York City and New York State infrastructure. And many of whom likely need to use their cars to enter Manhattan because they probably don't have good choices, contrary to what Move NY Plan hypothecates.
The Move NY Plan will certainly raise needed funds for public transit, and might possibly reduce carbon emissions IF the motorists re-schedule their trips AND the new tolls REDUCE bottlenecks at the East River Bridges and along 60th Avenue in Manhattan - not make them worse. Currently neither the bridges nor the 60th Street cross line have tolls.
The research indicates that the plan will not likely reduce the number of motorist trips as toll pricing appears to be inelastic and thus not a deciding variable as to whether or not people use their cars. And if the London experience is any guide, expect a sizable chunk of new revenue to go toward creating and managing the implementation of the Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan in lieu of investments in other public transit.
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.
MTA - #7 Subway Line in Queens
Service Disruptions On #7 Subway Line - October / November 2013
Click here to read our report about the #7 Subway line service disruptions in Queens October / November 2013.
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