In New York City, where buying and selling real estate is a high-stakes endeavor, the topic of historic and landmark designation is frequently raised. There are heated discussions on the subject of listing neighborhoods or buildings on the State and National Register of Historic Places or having them designated by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. It’s important to know what those organizations do and the distinctions between them. You could even be eligible for significant financial aid for your renovations if you own property in an historic district.
stuff you should know
Doorman at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel. Image Steven Pisano/flickr
Every December, building staff across the city leave seasonal cards under residents’ doors. If you’re new to life in a full-service building, don’t be fooled—this card is not simply a chance for staff to extend holiday cheer to you and your family. These cards, which usually arrive in the first week of December and list the names and years of seniority of all building staff, are the first reminder that it is tipping season. While no one is obliged to tip, whether you’re a renter or owner, choosing not to tip is discouraged.
Ahead we go over everything you need to know about tipping, including the economics of it all, when to leave it, how much to give, protocols for renters versus owners, how to present your tip, and what not to give.
In October, city officials unveiled plans to rezone a large swath of East Harlem. The major thrust of the rezoning initiative is to bring more high-rise buildings to a corridor running several blocks along Park, Second, and Third avenues. By building up, city officials hope the neighborhood will increase its housing stock, including its affordable housing stock. In the long term, the proposed rezoning will also radically reshape the East Harlem’s appearance and street life, turning it from a mostly low-rise to high-rise neighborhood. What is about to happen to East Harlem, however, is a familiar story. Since 1916, when New York passed its first zoning resolution, the city has been profoundly shaped by zoning regulations.
The Atlantic Yards (now known as Pacific Park) in Brooklyn where eminent domain was used to take property. Image via Atlantic Yards Report
It has been called the most coercive public policy after the draft. It has also been said that without it, construction in major cities would come to a shuddering stop. What is this powerful, controversial tool? Can both statements be true?
Eminent domain is the policy by which a governmental agency can acquire or “take” property from an owner unwilling to sell in order to build something else there, and it has been around for centuries. Some say it derives from the medieval concept of the divine right of kings, empowered by God the Almighty to be sovereign over all. And by inference, that includes the land, which individual owners occupy and trade at the king’s sufferance. When he wants it back, it is his right to take it. So under eminent domain, all land theoretically belongs to the state, which can assume control at any time.
Photo by Mary Frost of the Brooklyn Eagle
It’s a longstanding New York City tradition—families relocating to live in a desirable school district or zone. Currently, all five of the city’s boroughs are divided into districts and zones and both come with their own currency. Districts, which usually cover large swaths of a borough, impact students’ middle school and in some cases, high school choices. Zones, by contrast, can run just a few blocks and are usually the sole criteria for assigning students to schools at the elementary level. Like many things in New York City, however, a block can make a world of difference.
With rising real estate prices and shrinking spaces, flex apartments are growing in popularity with roommates, couples and families who are looking to add another room but can’t afford to move into a larger space. Flex apartments, for those who are unfamiliar, are typically a studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom unit large enough to be converted up one level with the addition of a pressurized wall. However, while many listings will tout being flex as an added bonus, this is not always the case. Ahead we’ll go over why the ability to legally flex an apartment has become increasingly difficult, and what you need to consider if you’re seriously thinking about buying or renting a flex apartment.
Image of One57 © Wade Zimmerman courtesy of Agence Christian de Portzamparc (ACDP)
“For whoever owns the soil, it is theirs up to Heaven and down to Hell.”
Most folks outside the architecture and real estate industries are likely to believe that putting up a new skyscraper is simply about finding an empty lot to build up. However, those in the know understand that it takes much more than a stretch of space and a good engineer to lock in neck-craning heights. So, how do developers squeeze ever more building onto small lots? Two words: air rights.
Ahead we will go through the history of air rights in New York City and how imaginative but completely lawful interpretations of zoning laws have opened up the city skyline to crazy tall towers like One57 and 432 Park (“You can be really creative the way you snake your way around the block,” says Thomas Kearns, Partner at Olshan Law Firm). We’ll also find out just how much owners of Manhattan’s precious air space can squeeze out of developers that want to build big.