Friday, November 30, 2007

Tethered 3D Balloon Camera Helps Visualize Views for Pre-Construction Condo Buyers-Spectacular NY Harbor Views

Views are an important factor when considering purchasing a new condo unit. For a buyer of an existing building it is very easy to determine whether the view from a particular apartment is acceptable or not although there is always the risk that a new building will eventually be built that obstructs the current view.

However, for buyers of condo units in a pre-construction or during the construction phase of a new development, there is great difficulty in visualizing what the views will actually look like from their apartments when completed. A new service from Digital Design and and Imaging Service is being offered that will help buyers picture these views prior to moving into their new apartment.

According to an article in the NY Times:
...potential buyers involved at the conception of a project often relish the chance to compare the master-bedroom views from, say, Apartments 11-W and 11-E. Similarly, he added, the photos are useful to architects in figuring out where to place windows, or whether to avoid them at certain spots because the views might not be terrific. They also give developers a way to fine-tune unit prices, which may be higher if the apartment has a glimpse of the Empire State Building, or lower if the views are not as good.

...A recent client was 15 Central Park West, a 43-story luxury condo from Zeckendorf Development at West 61st Street. The building’s 199 units found buyers in 18 months and are now about 10 percent closed, said Richard Wallgren, the sales director.

The brisk sell-out was helped by careful pricing, which Digital Design’s photos aided, he said.

“They were a marvelous tool to guide the developer,” Mr. Wallgren said.

Aerial photos also helped the Extell Development Company determine the size and placement of windows at the Rushmore, a 43-story condo under construction at 80 Riverside Boulevard, according to Raizy Haas, a senior vice president. The windows were positioned to maximize water views, she said.
The bottom line according the the article is
:... “With new construction, it can be hard to visualize views,” she said. “And if you already have this aerial photography, then why not show it?”
Image is of crane being used to construct the new Hudson/Related Riverwalk condo on Roosevelt Island from Thomas R. Stegelmann.

Take a look at the view from proposed Observation Deck for the new World Trade Center site using Digital Design's tethered 360 degree balloon cameras to reach 1400 feet above Ground Zero. Spectacular and awesome aerial photos simply do not even begin to describe the view of lower Manhattan and New York Harbor from this panoramic image.

Click here for the full unbelievable 360 degree panoramic image.
More panoramic images of New York, San Francisco, Dallas and other cities are here.

This Weekend's Community Events on Roosevelt Island

From Roosevelt Island 360 comes this information on local Roosevelt Island Community events to be held this weekend that may be of interest to residents. Also, check out the video documentary of Roosevelt Island from 1966, then called Welfare Island, that he found. Very interesting.

Roosevelt Island Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony

Photo by Alexis Villafane

Photo by Alexis Villafane

Last night was a perfect setting for the Roosevelt Island Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony at Blackwell Plaza. The weather cooperated wonderfully with a clear chilly night but not so cold as to be uncomfortable and Roosevelt Islanders came out to attend the event in what appeared to me to be record numbers. There were several hundred people who listened to Christmas Carols sung by Roosevelt Island children and other residents as well as brief greetings by government officials. Santa Clause arrived with presents and then came the lighting of the Tree. A very nice event. Good job by RIOC!
Roosevelt Island 360 provides the picture of the lit Holiday Tree.

And here a video from Truveo of Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.

UPDATE - 12/2/07 - Here's another view of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting shot by a spectator.

This is just one of the reasons why New York is so beautiful during the Holidays.
You Tube link is here.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Roosevelt Island 2000 Census Data Surprise- No Farmers, Fishermen or Forest Rangers

From NY Times Freakonomics column:

Have you all played around with Zipskinny? It’s a site that takes data from the 2000 census and lets you search by ZIP code to see demographic information in your area, and compare it to others: income levels, racial breakdown, unemployment, education level, marital status, etc. It’s pretty basic information, little more than a snapshot, but it’s a good snapshot and a really nice interface.
Here is a sample of 2000 census data for Roosevelt Island using 10044 zip code.

Social Indicators

Educational Achievement:
Marital Status:
(among people 25 years or older)(among people 15 years or older)
Less than 9th grade: 7.5%Never married: 28.9%
9th-12th grade (nongrad): 15.1%Married: 49.2%
High school graduate: 15.8%Separated: 3.5%
Some college: 10.8%Widowed: 10.2%
Associate degree: 4.9%Divorced: 8.2%
Bachelors degree: 21.9%Stability/Newcomer Appeal:
Graduate/Professional: 24%Same home 5+ years: 46.7%
High school or higher: 77.4%
Bachelors or higher: 45.9%

Economic Indicators

Household Income
<$10,000 15%(among employed persons over 16)
$10,000-$14,999 6.3%Mgt./Professional 61.9%
$15,000-$24,999 8.7%Service 7.1%
$25,000-$34,999 7.5%Sales/Office 23.4%
$35,000-$49,999 12.5%Farm/Fishing/Forestry 0%
$50,000-$74,999 16.7%Construction/Extraction/Maint. 1.8%
$75,000-$99,999 10.6%Production/Transportation 5.8%
$100,000-$149,999 13.7%Unemployment/Poverty
$150,000-$199,999 4.1%Unemployed 11.2%
$200,000+ 4.9%Below Poverty Line 16.9%
Median Household Income: $49,976

Image from wp clipart.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ferry Service for Roosevelt Island - Not so Fast!

Do you remember the Where's Waldo picture book series? The book's challenge was to find the picture of the cartoon figure Waldo hidden amid a crowded page of images showing tiny people doing amusing things. Similarly, can you figure out what is wrong with this NY Times article describing New York City's search for a company to operate a ferry service between Roosevelt Island and Manhattan.

From the NY Times:


New York City will seek a private company to operate an East River ferry service between Roosevelt Island and Manhattan to supplement the tramway service, Deputy Mayor Nathan Leventhal said yesterday.

Mr.Leventhal said there had been inquiries from five private concerns interested in operating such a service at no cost to the city.

He said the city hoped to have the ferries operating by mid-spring. The fare would be between $1 and $1.25, compared with the 60-cent tram fare, one official said. Roosevelt Island residents have been without the tram since Dec. 19, when a cable snapped.

It was learned that an engineering concern investigating three breakdowns of the tramway in a month had attributed them largely to the lack of proper maintenance by the operator. The report emphasized that the tramway itself had not been found unsafe.

Confused by this story? Did you figure out what the catch is? The answer is that the story was published and describes events from February 5, 1981, more than 26 years ago.
Same story, same problems, same inaction!
Image is of the North River ferries of the Pennsylvania Railroad from New York Ferries at the World Ship Society. More modern ferries here. Also, New York City Department of Transportation ferry information page.

Last Night's Roosevelt Island Tram Shutdown

Roosevelt Island 360

A reader sent in a message last night that the Tram was out of service. He was told the cause of the outage was "for mechanical reasons". At the time the RIOC web site and tram information phone line ( 212-832-4555) were advising that operations were normal. RIOC President Steve Shane explains that the Tram:
was out from 7 (I was sitting on the stuck tram) until 11:15. Electrical problem (something with the wiring boards). Posting should have been done earlier.
Roosevelt Island 360 reports that RIOC sent an email advisory message informing residents of the outage at 9:25 PM, almost 2 1/2 hours after the shutdown. Mr. Shane acknowledges that the advisory should have been posted earlier. Will RIOC implement a system to advise residents of future Tram shutdowns or other problems of immediate concern on a more timely basis? Perhaps such a system exists and the failure to alert residents this time was a human error. Let's see.
Here is a link to RIOC's emergency preparedness information page.
Image of Tram is from Roosevelt Island 360.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Feeding at the Public Trough - State and City Funds Sought for the Memorial to Louis Kahn at Roosevelt Island's Southpoint Park

The publicist for the proposed Louis Kahn/FDR memorial at Roosevelt Island's Southpoint Park has been very busy with a stream of recent newspaper articles published. This time, the article is from the Associated Press which was picked up and reprinted by the Daily News, NY Times, MSNBC and ABC News and linked to by Curbed among others. According to the article:

Famed architect Louis I. Kahn drafted a design, but a city fiscal crisis delayed the project.
When Kahn died of a heart attack in a men's room in Penn Station a year later, drawings of the memorial in his pocket helped police identify the body.
Money problems, political inertia and faded public interest kept Kahn's plan on the shelf until it was recently dusted off as the centerpiece of a new effort to honor the former president.
The design features a sloping lawn and V-shaped promenades leading to an open space with granite walls, framing views to the south and west of the river and Manhattan towers, including the U.N. complex. It would border a 10-acre park, being developed separately.
"It's now or never," says City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, the FDR project's leading advocate, noting that once construction begins on the park next year, plans for the memorial could be imperiled.

Councilmember Jessica Lappin offers a false and misleading justification for this memorial designed to scare Roosevelt Island residents to believe that the only other alternative to the Kahn memorial is a luxury condominium development instead of a waterfront park without the Kahn memorial at Southpoint. According to Lappin:
''If the FDR memorial doesn't happen, there's no other plan for those three acres. People could put up luxury condos. It's up for grabs, and that makes me nervous.''
Councilmember Lappin knows this to be untrue. There is a plan for Southpoint Park developed by the Trust for the Public Land (TPL) called Wild Gardens/Green Room. Here is a link to that plan which won the support of the Roosevelt Island community. The projected cost for TPL's entire 10 acre plan for Southpoint Park without the inclusion of the Louis Kahn memorial is estimated at $30-40 million. In contrast to the price tag for the TPL plan, the cost for the purported Louis Kahn memorial to FDR is estimated at $40 million for only three of Southpoint Park's 10 acres. In the past supporters of the Louis Kahn memorial claimed that they would raise these funds through private supporters. After 35 years of failure they are now turning to the public for taxpayer funds to finance this project according to their fundraiser as reported in the AP article:
Gina Pollara, who manages the institute's fundraising effort, said she expected an infusion of more money soon. ''We hope this will include contributions from the city and the state, as they promised when this project began 35 years ago,'' she said.
In this time of City and State funding and service cutbacks, the Louis Kahn memorial should not be allowed to feed at the public trough.

The AP article does report that there is community opposition to the Louis Kahn memorial:
Comments on a community Web site tilted toward the negative, with critics saying it was too isolated; did not reflect FDR's legacy of social reform; would ruin a goose nesting ground; or was too expensive.
Dick Lutz, managing editor of The Main Street WIRE, the island's community newspaper, said that while some people support the plan as a way to block real estate developers, resistance stems from residents' desire for more green space, and a view that the project is "more a memorial to its architect than to FDR."
In fact, opposition to the Louis Kahn memorial is based upon the indisputable fact that one-of-a-kind, awesome and beautiful, panoramic views of the East River waterfront and Brooklyn/Queens/Manhattan skyline views that are currently available from any spot at the tip of Southpoint Park will be blocked and lost forever by the construction and placement of the proposed Louis Kahn/FDR memorial.

Why is that? Take a look again at these panoramic images here, here and here or the You Tube video above taken from Southpoint Park that will be blocked by the Kahn memorial. There is a huge difference between the open panoramic views that currently exist at Southpoint Park or those contemplated in TPL's Wild Garden/Green Room plan and that envisioned by the Louis Kahn design with:
V-shaped promenades leading to an open space with granite walls, framing views to the south and west of the river and Manhattan towers, including the U.N. complex
The framing of the views destroys the panoramic beauty that currently exists.

There is much more to be said on this subject. Here is a link to earlier posts on the proposed Louis Kahn/FDR memorial. A brief excerpt from one of the posts follows.
Roosevelt Island Resident's Association President Mathew Katz sent the following letter to the NY Times in opposition to their recent editorial in support of the Louis Kahn/FDR memorial proposed for Southpoint Park, Roosevelt Island.
Roosevelt for Roosevelt Island?” Absolutely! Just not this three acre anachronism that was repudiated in a public survey taken in October 2004 by Southpoint Park designer, The Trust for Public Land. For seven years we Islanders have been a part of the planning for this thirteen-acre park and there is consensus that it should include an FDR Memorial. But we endorsed a “Wild Gardens/Green Rooms” design concept and rejected the Kahn plan as too formal and too sterile. The Kahn plan has hung fire for the last thirty-three years and now, as the $12.9 million Southpoint Park Phase I approaches the start of construction, the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute has put all their eggs in the Kahn basket. If our public officials no longer find the 2004 survey valid, why don’t they commission another? Parks should be built for the public that will use them not for the architectural community that will visit once and never return.
Here is a modest proposal as a possible solution from an earlier post.
Maybe supporters of Governor's Island development would like the honor of being the site for the Louis Kahn's memorial. In fact, a memorial based upon FDR's Four Freedom's speech (here is transcript and audio) is far more appropriate at a location facing downtown Manhattan and the World Trade Center/Freedom Tower site than on Roosevelt Island where it is not wanted and detracts from a real, green, waterfront park. A memorial to FDR, who overcame many health difficulties, on Governor's Island would also be a fitting tribute that complements Mayor Bloomberg's International Public Health Center proposal for Governors Island.

Roosevelt Island would be glad to cede the Louis Kahn Memorial to Governor's Island. To paraphrase the great, all knowing and wise Henny Youngman - Take the Louis Kahn memorial ... PLEASE!
Image of Kahn/FDR memorial is from Architectural Record.
You Tube video link of 360 degree view from Southpoint Park is here.

Roosevelt Island Holiday Tree Lighting - Thursday November 29th at 7 PM

Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony
Where: Blackwell Plaza
When: Thursday, November 29th at 7pm
Featuring live performances, food, hot chocolate and cider. Come join us to kick off the holiday season
Sponsored by The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation,
Roosevelt Island Building Management Companies,
The Chamber of Commerce and Amalgamated Bank

Monday, November 26, 2007

Roosevelt Island Riverwalk Condo Comparables

At Brownstoner, a principal and an associate from the Hudson Companies, real estate partners with the Related Company in the Riverwalk buildings on Roosevelt Island, are blogging about the development of Hudson's townhouse condo project located in Gowanus Brooklyn. This installment from the Hudson bloggers is on the importance of sale prices from comparable properties in determining the pricing for a new condo development. According to the Hudson bloggers:

Comps are critical from the beginning to the end of the project. Initially, we look at comps to see what is selling in the market and for how much. This information helps us set our offer for a site. During the design process, we use comps to talk about what demographic to design to – how many bedrooms are they looking for? Will they pay extra for a roof cabana? Banks like to see comps when loaning money for construction – they want to be convinced that we’ll sell at the targeted price (or better) so that they will be paid back quickly. You can’t get a loan without an appraisal, and all appraisals using the sales approach need to analyze comps for their valuation (as opposed to the replacement cost approach or income-production approach). At the end of the project, buyers are using comps to determine which project should be their new home and/or investment.

For comps to be good, they need to be recent (6 months to a year is best), from a similar neighborhood, and ideally should be for similar projects. A single family house or a 17-story elevator building are not the best comps for Third & Bond, though information on sales is still useful. Likewise, projects similar in size, amenities, and finishes that are located outside of Carroll Gardens & Gowanus, but in a similar type of neighborhood (e.g., access to transit and type of retail) could be a good comp.
What comparable sales comparisons will the Hudson/Related developers use for the Roosevelt Island Riverwalk Court condos now being built and about to go on sale as soon as the offering plan is approved by the Attorney General's office? I would think the most useful comparison would be Riverwalk Place, the only other market rate condominium on Roosevelt Island. Riverwalk Place is located at 455 Main Street, about the equivalent of one block from Riverwalk Court, and was built by the same Hudson/Related development team approximately two years ago.
Here is a sample range of comparable sales data for Riverwalk Place at 455 Main Street, Roosevelt Island from Property Shark:
Penthouse 1 Bedroom 751 sq. ft. sold for $665,000 in November 2006
14th Floor 1 Bedroom 714 sq. ft. sold for 650,000 in June 2007
12th Floor 1 Bedroom 737 sq. ft. sold for $605,000 in March 2007
11th Floor 1 Bedroom 737 sq. ft. sold for $628,000 in February 2007
4th Floor 1 Bedroom 737 sq. ft. sold for $613,000 in May 2007
14th Floor 2 Bedroom 970 sq. ft. sold for $755,000 in February 2007
14th Floor 2 Bedroom 996 sq. ft. sold for $778,000 in December 2006
12th Floor 2 Bedroom 996 sq. ft. sold for $745,000 in October 2006
5th Floor 2 Bedroom 996 sq. ft. sold for 722,500 in July 2006
1st Floor 2 Bedroom 1263 sq. ft. sold for $853,000 in November 2006
16th Floor 3 Bedroom 1374 sq. ft. sold for $1,275,000 in September 2006
3rd Floor 3 Bedroom 1395 sq. ft. sold for $975,000 in June 2006
Again, according to Property Shark, the most expensive condo sale at Riverwalk Place was for a 3 Bedroom, 1340 sq. ft. apartment on the First Penthouse level with a very large terrace facing Manhattan that sold for $1,650,000 in August 2006. Current condo apartments for sale at Riverwalk Place on Roosevelt Island are listed here from the NY Times, Streeteasy and Craigs List.

Image is of Roosevelt Island's Riverwalk Court.

UPDATE - 11/29/07 - NY Sun article, Prices cut at new condo developments.

UPDATE - 12/2/07 - Wall Street Journal on Manhattan housing market (subscription required):
Fewer apartments are being sold -- 858 went into contract in September, a 9.9% drop from a year ago and the lowest total in two years, according to brokerage Corcoran Group -- and the inventory of unsold apartments is increasing.
Developers used to seeing yet-to-be-built apartments get snapped up sight-unseen are increasingly offering incentives, from help with closing costs to museum memberships, to jump-start sales. "Buyers are more hesitant," says Hall Willkie, president of brokerage Brown Harris Stevens.
On the other hand:
Some brokers say they haven't seen a drop-off at all. Pamela Liebman, chief executive of Corcoran Group, says the brokerage is on pace for a record year and says that after a September slowdown, October showed an increase in sales. Jacqueline Urgo, president of the national real-estate firm The Marketing Directors, says sales in most of the company's Manhattan properties improved in mid-September after a brief lull. Even many brokers who have seen a falloff say the shift says less about the current market than the frenzied one that preceded it. "We're just seeing the market return to normal," says John Burger, a broker at Brown Harris Stevens.
According to NY Times there is a stalemate between buyers and sellers:
... No one really knows where the market is headed.

Manhattan is apparently full of sellers who think foreign buyers, or bankers who might still get big bonuses, are ready to pay full price for their apartments. These sellers do have recent history on their side. For the first three quarters of this year, Manhattan apartments over all continued to sell at record prices.

Now, brokers say, they see a stalemate developing between buyers and sellers in Manhattan, especially for apartments in the $1 million to $5 million range. Sales in this range made up more than half of the total dollar volume in the market in the third quarter of this year, according to data tracked by Radar Logic.

UPDATE 12/3/07 - Blogger and Real Estate Broker Property Grunt comments on the above NY Times article:
Manhattan has been able to weather the storm, however the question on everyone's mind is not if but when the s**t hits the fan for Manhattan. The reason why these buyers are going bargain hunting is not because their douchebags but because they want to hedge their bets and not get caught with their pants down.
Sellers, if you want to be taken seriously, well you need to sit down with your broker and put together a new game plan. If the product is not moving, then some drastic price cutting maybe needed or sellers may decide to take it off the market till the next cycle which looks like it won’t be happening for quite awhile.

Brokers, keep the faith. This is not the time for despair. This is the time to find good buyers or have a sit down with your sellers. You have to figure another plan of attack.

Latest Condo Amenity Craze Hits Roosevelt Island - Rooftop Cabanas at New Riverwalk Court Development

The new Hudson/Related Riverwalk Court condo development currently being built on the Roosevelt Island waterfront is joining other amenity filled luxury buildings such as Dumbo's 70 Washington Street, Williamsburg's Mill Building and 125 North 10th Street as well as Long Island City's 5th Street Lofts by offering residents the opportunity to purchase private rooftop cabanas.

According to this NY Post article on rooftop cabanas:

NEW Yorkers love to sneak up to their rooftops, whether it's to suntan, barbecue or watch the fireworks.
And many building developers are looking to indulge residents who want a view from the top - and duplicate the success they've had selling parking spaces and subterranean storage units.
Enter the rooftop cabana, a private, fenced-off space with electricity and a water hookup.
The cabanas are deeded separately, and owners must pay property taxes on both their apartments and their cabanas. In the event they sell their apartment, cabana owners must also sell their cabana.
David Von Spreckelsen of Toll Brothers City Living, who put 10 cabanas on his North8 building in Williamsburg, believes there's genius in this cabana idea.
A developer "is only able to utilize a certain amount of square footage, meeting with the city's building codes," he says. "The open roof spaces with partial covering don't count against that number."
Von Spreckelsen ranks rooftop cabanas ahead of backyard gardens and parking spaces as a marketing outlet. He recently sold a 500-square-foot cabana with a great view of the New York skyline for $195,000.
More from NY Times on apartments with outdoor space including rooftop cabanas. Also, here's Curbed on cabana fever.

Image is from Riverwalknyc

Roosevelt Island Bridge Pedestrian Sidewalk Will be Temporarily Relocated

From RIOC's Closures and Advisories web page:

Roosevelt Island Bridge - Ongoing Project

The Roosevelt Island Bridge pedestrian sidewalk will be relocated on or about Monday, December 3, 2007

Beginning on or about Monday, December 3, 2007, the New York City Department of Transportation, Division of Bridges will begin performing the temporary relocation of the pedestrian sidewalk of the Roosevelt Island Bridge.

An alternate pedestrian path will be located on the Roosevelt Island Bridge roadway in which concrete barriers will provide safety by separating pedestrians from vehicular traffic. In addition, two ADA compliant ramps will be constructed to mitigate the height differential between the sidewalk and the roadway.

This closure is necessary for the building of the containment system for painting activities.

This relocation will be in place for approximately three months, until painting activities conclude.

As part of their rehabilitation effort of the Roosevelt Island Bridge, the New York City Department of Transportation
has advised us that beginning Tuesday October 9, 2007 and continuing until further notice, there will be a partial lane closure of the east (Astoria) bound lane, Mondays thru Fridays from 7:00 AM to 3:30 PM.

Two way traffic will be maintained over two reduced width lanes.
The effect will be reduced traffic speed over the bridge that may contribute to minor delays.

NYCDOT promises to keep us advised of any future actions that they take which will affect bridge use.
More on the Roosevelt Island Bridge from NYC Roads.

Type of bridge - Vertical lift
Construction started - March 17, 1952
Opened to traffic - May 18, 1955
Length of main lift span - 418 feet
Total length of bridge and viaduct approaches - 2,877 feet
Width of bridge - 40 feet
Number of traffic lanes - 2 lanes
Clearance over mean high water (closed position) - 40 feet
Clearance over mean high water (open position) - 100 feet
Height of towers - 170 feet
Structural steel used in lift span - 1,000 tons
Structural steel used in bridge and approaches - 3000 tons
Number of cables used in lift cables - 48 cables
Diameter of each cable - 12 3/8 inches
Strength of each cable - 200 tons
Cost of original structure - $6,500,000