Business & Real Estate In
Sunnyside & Woodside
Sunnyside & Woodside NY is on the western end of Queens just east of LIC and is commutable via the # 7 subway line as well as by the LIRR at 61st Street. It is also centrally located for road access to the BQE, LIE and Grand Central Parkway. This section of Queens has a population of about 26,000 and 90,000 respectively and is one of the most mixed neighborhoods in the city. The demographic composition includes European, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Asian descendants.
Sunnyside Gardens were developed back in the 1920's under a program that was guided in part by Eleanor Roosevelt prior to her becoming Roosevelt's wife. The Gardens were designated a historic district in 2007 and are known for the English-style landscaping. The Sunnyside neighborhood has restaurant and shopping areas that run along Queens and Northern Blvds, as well as Skillman, Greenpoint and Roosevelt Avenues.
Click to view the Sunnyside & Woodside neighborhoods
Dining, Culture & Fun
Real Estate & Business
Phipps Proposed Real Estate Development in Sunnyside
I attended a town hall regarding a real estate development proposal put forth by the Phipps Houses organization. The Phipps Houses organization is a non-profit dedicated to building and managing affordable housing. They have a number of sites including the Phipps Houses in Sunnyside and they are partners with the Related Companies in the real estate development at Hunters Point South.
The meeting was a voluntary first step taken by the Phipps Houses organization to gather community feedback and engage with the neighborhood regarding a proposal to use the land they own that is across Barnett Street behind the Phipps Houses in Sunnyside. The strip of land is currently occupied by a parking lot which stands adjacent to the LIRR railway tracks.
The proposal is in its early stages and at this point in time we were told that nothing is in the works formally - meaning no proposal has yet been officially submitted for government review. To build the 200 unit apartment complex, they need to request a zoning change from the city and thus would have to go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure [ULURP] which can be lengthy and fraught with tension if the neighborhood is not, in some measure, on board.
What follows is an account of the presentation and discussion that took place Monday night October 26th, 2015 at the Phipps Houses in Sunnyside. The report includes a 7 minute video with highlights from the meeting which includes imporant points, some tensions, and a bit of laughter.
Click here to view the rest of our report on the proposed Phipps Houses real estate development in Sunnyside Queens.
Sunnyside Yards: Finding Our Place In Space & Time
Part III. A History Of Building Over Rail Yards In New York City
Click here to view our first report about Sunnyside Yards which provides a brief history of the development of transportation and real estate in Queens in the 19th and 20th centuries. Click here to read our second report about Sunnyside Yards which provides a far more in-depth history of the real estate development and transportation in the 20th century.
On this leg of the journey in our report series on Mayor de Blasio's proposed development of Sunnyside Yards, we take a more in-depth view of the history of real estate development of the air rights of rail yards in New York City. So with no further ado, let's continue.
The photo to your right shows the vision of
William J. Wilgus who coined the phrase "taking wealth from the air" as it was he who first proposed monetizing the air rights of New York Central and Hudson River Rail yards, which ran north along what is Park Avenue today.
This was an example of the ingenious thinking of the time, as he leveraged a new technologies, by electrifying the rail system, lowered the rail tracks and built platforms over them. I took the photo above right, of what I believe to be a 1902 graphic of his vision, which I found at a public exhibit in Midtown.
We return to the dawn of the 20th century, when horses and carriages were still one of the primary modes of inner urban transit, but this transportation mode would relatively quickly be replaced by the expansion of the trolley car system and eventually subway system in New York City. In 1900, according to historian Dave Lawyer, there were only 8,000 automobiles in the entire nation.
Overland transit between cities was a mix of horses and carriages and the rail roads, but over the course of the 19th century rail roads had become the most reliable means of long distance overland transit. Lawyer says that in 1900 there were 200,000 miles of steam rail and 14,000 miles of electric rail ways which were primarily for street cars and rail ways serving urban areas.
Transportation by water, which for millenia had been the most viable means of long distance travel between states and towns, continues to this day to play a role in long distance transit - although these days primarily of the transportation of goods.
The photo at right shows the Penn Station rail yards circa January 1908 as plans for its erection over the rail yards were getting underway. Pennsylvania Rail Road built Penn Station which was opened to the public two years later in September 1910. The station, one of the great New York City landmarks, was demolished amidst much public furor beginning in late 1963.
We'll continue with our report series about Mayor de Blasio's proposal to develop the air rights over Sunnyside Yards a bit later today or in the week.
Sunnyside Yards: Finding Our Place In Space & Time
Part II. History Of Transit & Housing In Queens: Sunnyside Yards
In Part I of this report series about Mayor de Blasio's proposed development of Sunnyside Yards, we saw how Queens evolved from the rolling woods and farmlands of the early 19th century, into an industrial and manufacturing center along the East River waterfront in the second half of that century. In 1898 Queens became a part of New York City and the dawn of the 20th century had begun.
Work On The Steinway Tunnel Resumes & Begins The Era Of The Commute
In 1892 William Steinway [he died in 1896] began digging a tunnel underneath the East River between Queens and Manhattan. He had envisioned completing it to enable mass transit flows between Queens and Manhattan to enhance the value of his vast Astoria / Long Island City real estate holdings, but he died before that vision came to fruition. The Steinway Tunnel, which was named in his honor and which it carries to this day, is now the underground tunnel for the #7 subway line between Flushing Main Street in Queens, and Times Square in Manhattan. I shot the photo to right at LaGuardia Community College in LIC which shows a newspaper account of a 1907 test run of the line, three years after the completion of the Steinway Tunnel between Manhattan and Queens in 1904.
Large Scale Real Estate Development Begins In Queens
Following the creation of the interborough subway lines, affordable housing developments followed in Jackson Heights, Forest Hills and Sunnyside. The photo at right shows a 1922 real estate development in Jackson Heights built for the upwardly mobile growing middle class. I shot this photo at the Jackson Heights Beautification Group's Historic House [Garden] Tour Weekend.
We ended Part I talking about Public Housing that ultimately became low income housing, and which had systemic problems attributed to the civil rights struggle of the mid 20th century, and which was followed by social upheaval accompanied by narcotics. While remnants of the past remain with us, the most egregious aspects of these historical issues have been ameliorated.
And so we begin Part II by taking a deeper dive into the evolution of New York City's transportation system and housing development, with an eye toward how mass transit and the auto enabled the daily movement of millions of people / workers between their workplaces in Manhattan to their homes in the outer boroughs - most notably of Queens.
What follows is Part II of a deeper look into the Mayor's proposed development of the Sunnyside Yards.
Queens Real Estate
Market Analysis Of Real Estate In Queens
Queens NY / December 7, 2009. This is a report on the Queens real estate market. The report covers the latter half of 2009. This analysis includes looking at apartment rental prices, as well as condo, co-op and home prices and availability. This Queens real estate market analysis focuses on the Astoria, LIC / Long Island City, Jackson Heights, Sunnyside and Woodside neighborhoods. While we found these neighborhoods mirrored or trailed many of the national trends, we found some interesting differences, including differences from neighborhood to neighborhood. Click here for our second half 2009 market analysis of Queens Real Estate.
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.
Taste of Woodside: Grammy Nominated Mariachi Music & A First Class Repast
Latin Grammy Nominated Mariachi Band Serenades Local Woodside Restaurant Feast
On Thursday I made my way to cover the Taste of Woodside at Gulshan Terrace at 59-15 37th Avenue in Woodside. It was a dry, pleasant November evening as I arrived along with a host of other attendees.
Inside the Gulshan Terrace event hall there was a bar off to the left and the ticket table off to the right. Straight ahead was a large open space that was populated with tables and chairs and an elevated stage. And off to both the left and right were the serving tables of the restaurateurs. I felt like I had arrived at the wedding reception of a young couple … but I had not.
Instead I was greeted by a young-at-heart couple of Woodside on the Move Board Members. Jim Daley wasted no time in making me feel quite welcome and Joanne Smith made me feel right at home … like I was one of the family. Before they had become too dispersed, I was able to gather the full Woodside on the Move Board for a photo, which is included at the end of the report next to the thanks and appreciation section.
This was the fourth annual Taste of Woodside, and tonight I would have the opportunity to sample the food of fifteen restaurants from Woodside. But alas, I was not able to sample all of them in the allotted time.
What follows here is a brief sampling of the foods I was able to sample at the Taste of Woodside. I have included a few photos of the fifteen Woodside restaurants at the Taste of Woodside and a video of the music performed by an all female Mariachi band.
Taste of Sunnyside in Photos
One might think that this location could be distracting with the subway moving to and fro overhead, but with the live musical performances going on in the foreground, I didn't once - during the hour and a half that I was there - notice the subway overhead.
The crowd attending this event has changed over the years. This year the people in attendance seemed to be primarily in their 20's, 30's and 40's. In prior years, many of the attendees had already endured an additional decade or two of wear and tear.
I was informed that there were well in excess of 600 paying attendees, and a number of additional tickets were distributed for business and charitable purposes. Rachel Thieme, Sunnyside Shines Executive Director, was the primary organizer supported by the Board including John Vogt, Chairman and Artie Weiner, Treasurer - all of whom are shown in the slide show included in this report.
Click here to read the rest of our report including a slide show of photos of Taste of Sunnyside 2014.
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.
QBP Katz State of the Borough Address
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz Gives Queens Address
I attended Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s second State of the Borough Address. It was held at the Colden Performing Arts Center at Queens College in Flushing on Thursday morning January 21st beginning at 10 am.
The event began with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a dance routine taken from Chorus Line performed by the Edge School of Arts. We were then shown a video segment about Queens Borough President Melinda Katz in a documentary produced by Queens Public Access TV, followed by the Queens Borough President’s speech.
The speech spanned about an hour. QBP Katz first talked about Queens as a tourist destination, and then looked back at the year of 2015, while touching upon some of the ongoing issues facing the borough like lack of affordable housing, aging transportation infrastructure including Queens airports, and overcrowded schools. She included mentioning some of the government efforts to address these issues, and concluded by talking about the Mets making it into the Playoffs. The address ended with the Mets mascots and management coming on stage.
The address was well attended, including a sizeable union presence, made noticeable by applauses when union efforts were highlighted. A reception was held after the address.
Click to view our section on - Queens Borough President.
|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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