Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Articles 11.30.09

A call to action! The last mayoral election should have been a wake-up call to all of us in the real estate and business community. The Working Families Party has demonstrated their ability to raise money and organize voters to support their candidates. For those of you unfamiliar with the Working Families Party they are a union supported organization whose agenda is very detrimental to the real estate and business community of the City. Two candidates they supported in the Democratic primaries, John Liu, Comptroller, and Bill De Blasio, Public Advocate, won by very decisive margins. We have a choice. We can either complain about the results or we can become more active and make our voices heard. Believe it or not (and it is hard not to be skeptical) elected officials are influenced by the communications they receive from their constituents. REBNY has made it extremely simple for us to register our views with our elected officials. I urge all of you to go to their website and start participating in the democratic process. We need to make our voices heard! Currently, there is a proposal before the City Council involving the regulation of commercial rents. Visit the REBNY Action Center website and register your opposition to this pending legislation.

For the architectural critics among you, two recent postings on the Curbed.com website should be of interest. They list the 10 best buildings constructed in 2009 and the 10 best non-buildings of 2009.

And for those of you who like a dose of fantasy mixed in with their architecture take a look at these cities of the future.

The silver lining award: if you look hard enough you can always find a silver lining in every cloud. The silver lining during this downturn is that Bob Knakal has had the time to write some of the most thoughtful and illuminating articles about real estate issues that I have read in a long time. The two that I have enjoyed the most are "A 25 Year History Holds Clues to Multi-family's Future" and "The Value of a Building These Days." Both of these articles are essential reading for all of us in the real estate industry.

Sherlock Holmes would be proud. Next time you inspect an apartment in one of your buildings take this handy guide with you ("The Apartment Inspection Checklist"). It will give you a better idea of what to look for when you inspect a tenant's apartment.

Interesting fact of the month: the population of New York City increased by 293,000 people between the years 2001 and 2008. This increase is equal to the size of the entire City of Pittsburgh.

Another terrific blog. For anybody who is interested in food, travel and New York City check out Travel and Food Notes. Besides being wonderfully written by my wife, it contains great information about local restaurants and points of interest.

It is going to get worse before it gets better: Related to my first posting above, I'm concerned about the direction in which fiscal policy of both our State and City are headed. Both our state and local government have demonstrated repeatedly over the past several years the inability to make any headway against our looming deficits. Why is this? The comments by Dick Ravitch at a recent forum are dead on.

First, Ravitch said no incumbent of either party thinks he can win an election by supporting cuts to health care and education. He said it as a statement of fact, not judgment, but it amounts to a complete explanation for why the relatively modest trims Gov. Paterson proposed were rejected by the Legislature. Health and education spending are expanding entitlements that have become the third rail of New York politics, which is why Republicans have followed Democrats in abandoning fiscal restraint.

Second, he said unions have outsmarted the business community, with the result that spending is almost impossible to cut, even in a recession. Ravitch didn't say so directly, but the net effect is that pols would rather raise taxes than the hackles of unions. Put another way, no politician fears losing his job because business is unhappy. As Pataki added, any plan to cut spending gets a press release of approval from business leaders and $10 million worth of attack ads from unions.

Third, Ravitch said complaints by business leaders that the city spends and taxes too much are bizarre given that one of their own has held City Hall for eight years. It was a sly jab at those who blame the unions for unchecked government growth while acting as if Michael Bloomberg has played no role. Spending under Bloomberg is about 30 percent above inflation, the sort of record that helped make David Dinkins a private citizen.

By being unable to cut spending, our local and state governments face only one alternative, to increase taxes, fees, fines etc. The article "Spending an End to New York's Nightmare" eloquently describes the problems that this creates. By putting itself in a competitive disadvantage New York has had a net loss of over 200,000 high income individuals over the past decade. If this trend continues, New York will dig itself into an even deeper hole as its tax base continues to erode thus putting further pressure on our governments’ to either cut spending (which is unlikely) or continue their ill-advised policy of increasing taxes. A self perpetuating death spiral in the works. When will this end? Either when we are bailed out by a booming economy or we reach a crisis that requires us to take serious and drastic action or (preferably) enough of us get sufficiently fed up with this that we actually decide to do something about it.

Sierra in the News

Crain's New York Business reporter Amanda Fung has an interesting story about artists moving to Midtown and Midtown South as asking rents in SoHo and Chelsea become too expensive. She quotes our own Peter Braus:

“SoHo has been dead for a long time for gallery business,” says Mr. Braus, who just this month helped contemporary art gallery John Szoke Editions move to APF Properties' 24 W. 57th St. after 30 years in SoHo.


And the New York Real Estate Journal mentions Peter Braus and Peter Levitan new long term retail lease at Penn Tower, 132 West 31st St., with Savvy Fashion Handbags.

"Penn Tower is the ideal location for Savvy Fashion Handbags," said Braus. "The company has both retail and wholesale divisions, so it is fitting for them to be steps from both Herald Sq. and the Garment District."


Sierra represented the owner, C&K Properties.

Thanks to Crain's and to New York Real Estate Journal!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sierra in the News

Real Estate BisNow has a mention of John Szoke Editions' long-term lease for the third floor of 24 W. 57th St. Sierra Realty Corp.’s Peter Braus represented the tenant, while Promenade Real Estate Corp.’s Steve Pressler represented owner APF Properties.

Real Estate Weekly also mentions our new hire, Stephen B. Carter.

The Mann Report has a very nice article on the amazing Marianne Thorsen, our new Senior Managing Director. We are thrilled and delighted that Marianne, one of the city's most high-profile and creative professionals has made Sierra her home. Please join us in welcoming Marianne Thorsen!

The Mann Report is also kind enough to mention our new lease at 267 Lafayette Street (on the corner of Prince Street) with terrific clothing and shoe retailer Flight Club.

Thanks to Real Estate BisNow, Real Estate Weekly, and The Mann Report!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sierra Realty awarded exclusive agency for 229 East 60th Street

The Mann Report mentions that Sierra Realty's own Jeffrey Anderson and Barry Sanet have been awarded exclusive agency for 229 East 60th Street, an elegant brownstones between Manhattan's Second and Third Avenues. The space is used for offices and lovely galleries and showrooms. Congratulations to Jeffrey and Barry!

Executive Moves

Crain's New York Business kindly mentions our new hire, Stephen B. Carter, who was appointed senior vice president of residential property management. He joins Sierra Realty from Manhattan North Management, where he had been vice president and director of property management. Please join us in welcoming Stephen!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sierra in the News: More for Less

Read this interesting article in Crain's by journalist Adrianne Pasquarelli.

Restaurateur and nightclub owner Frederick Lesort is at it again—but this time, he’s setting his sights a bit lower.Mr. Lesort, who filed for bankruptcy protection for his Frederick’s Madison eatery in April and closed Frederick’s Downtown over the summer, is starting a French eatery where everything on the menu will cost less than $20. His plan is to cater to cost-conscious NewYorkers.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sierra in the News

Sierra Realty was mentioned in The New York Times October 23 article "Stuyvesant Town Ruling Worries Tenants and Landlords Alike."

Crain's, October 22 has an interesting story on The Limited's SoHo pop-up shop, doing brisk business, sticking around
through the holidays. Read "Retailer considers making its pop–up permanent" here.

The October, 2009 Mann Report mentions us twice, once in "Sierra Chosen As Managing And Leasing Agent for 648 Broadway," and then also in "Sierra Realty Corp. Secures Lease At 267 Lafayette Street."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Articles 09.21.09

OK, so it has nothing to do with real estate. This list of the best 1000 rock songs, as voted on by the listeners of 101.9, is a treasure trove of songs to be downloaded into your iTunes library. It is not the top 100 songs that is so interesting (although the selection of "London Calling" as the top song is a little bit puzzling) -- it's all the rest. Feel free to share this list with others. Rock on!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sierra in the News

Crain's New York Business has published my letter, Wal-Mart Debate Rages. Read it here. Thanks, Crain's!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Articles 09.16.09

The recent issue of CHIP (Community Housing Improvement Program) has published my article, "The Apartment Inspection Checklist." Recent court decisions, as well as proposed legislative changes, should serve as wake-up calls to those of us who own and/or manage multi-family properties. Read the whole article here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Articles 09.08.09

"We are not alone" is an article I wrote describing my experience of discovering my alter ego on the Internet.

Our friends in the city Council are once again contemplating a system of regulations for small retail stores in New York. I discovered this while reading a newsletter from Councilwoman Gail Brewer. I sent her a response -- read it here: "Commercial Rent Regulation."

One sign of a stumbling economy is the proliferation of burger joints throughout the city. For those of you taking Lipitor, check out the best burgers in the article "Burger Kings."

The article "Bronx Burning Failed Deals" describes the bloodbath that is occurring in the Bronx. As those of us who have been in this business over several real estate cycles recognize, marginal neighborhoods are the ones that get hit hardest during economic downturns.

Looking for opportunities buying distressed debt? Check out the article "Mezzanine Lenders Swoop in."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sierra in the News

Our friends at Real Estate Weekly mention that we've been appointed managing and leasing agent for 648 Broadway, ten stories and 50,000 square feet of cast iron -- it's an amazing space. The landmark 19th building is at the convergence of the most vital downtown neighborhoods: SoHo, Washington Square, the East Village, and NoLiTa. Thanks, Real Estate Weekly!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Articles 08.24.09

In my 6/6/09 blog posting, I mentioned that the average retail space per capita in the United States is 20 ft” per person, while in the outer boroughs of New York it is only 6 ft” per person. The suggestion was that the outer boroughs of New York are under retailed. However, the article "Repurpose-Driven Life" argues that the opposite is true. Compared to our our European -- and other -- counterparts, the United States is grossly over retailed.

"Where New York Ranks" provide some very interesting statistics and facts. New York, for instance, has the highest worker productivity among states but also suffers from the highest income inequality.

Lesson learned: hipsters are not a sound foundation on which to rebuild a new neighborhood. The bloodbath occurring in Williamsburg certainly attests to that.Not exactly a shock. A doff of our porkpie hat to the article "Billy Burg Bust."

A detailed description of how changes in federal policy has benefited, or will benefit, New York is explained in the article "Obama six months later."

Want to know what stores will be filling up all our vacant retail space? Check out the article "Return of the Chains." Coming to Madison Avenue: "Dunkin' Doughnuts" and "Subway"? That's an image: social x-rays (remember that term from Bonfire of the Vanities?") marching down the Avenue in their Jimmy Choos, cockadoodle in tow, chowing down on jelly doughnuts and Double Stacked Subs, between Pilates classes and Botox injections.

Some of New York's best sandwiches are described in "Heaven on Bread." Having tried several of the sandwiches, I have to agree that they are truly wonderful. Just make sure you wipe the crumbs off of your shirt when you're done.

The editorial "Meaning of Life" answers all our questions. It's all about the trade-off between longevity and quality of life. Would you rather be fat and happy but live a shorter life, or thin and miserable but live to be 120? If you want to live to be a ripe old age, skip the article "Meaning of Life." It might make you happy but it may also kill you. Some choice!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sierra in the News

We wanted to point you to Christine Haughney's article from July's New York Times -- about how wealthy (and not so wealthy) people in TriBeCa are dealing with the recession. Read the whole piece here.

Sierra in the News

The Real Deal has a nice mention of Sierra Realty Corp. being chosen to handle the management and leasing of 648 Broadway, a ten story commercial office building between Bond and Bleecker streets in Noho's historic district. The cast iron renaissance revival building is over 115 years old, and is stunningly beautiful! Click here to read the article.

Sierra in the News

Both Real Estate Weekly and gbNYC (Green Building in Gotham, which you must check out here) mention that UK shoe retailer Terra Plana signed a five-year deal for 2200 square feet of space at the gorgeous 254 Elizabeth Street in Nolita.

Click here to read the Real Estate Weekly article and here to read the gbNYC article.

Real Estate Weekly also notes that we secured a long-term lease at 425 West Broadway for the chic French handbag designer Cleo & Patek. Real the article here. Warm thanks to our friends at this excellent publication!

Sierra in the news

Our friends at the Mann Report mention that we are the exclusive agency for 801 Madison Avenue, between East 67th and 68th streets -- two 1,200 square foot floors currently occupied by luxury and high-fashion retailers Giorgio's, Max Mara, Dolce & Gabbana, and Donna Karan.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sierra in the news

Our wonderful friends at Crain's New York Business, Costar Group, and RealEstateBisNow have nice mentions of our new team members Marianne Thorsen and Blanche Baker Magill, as well as Peter Levitan's promotion to Managing Director. Read these three excellent articles here.

Articles 06.18.09

Some neighborhoods in New York are still hot notwithstanding the recent downturn in our local economy. I am pleased to see that Sunset Park in Brooklyn makes this list. I can attest to the strength of this neighborhood based on our successful experience with our condo conversion in this neighborhood. See the article "Hot or Not."

"Bulk Sales of Condos Spreading" describes recent efforts of developers to sell units in a low velocity market.

Three articles discuss the current economic situation in New York. The news is not all bad. The economic stimulus package may have softened the impact on the city. Moreover, unlike our experience during Republican administrations (who can forget following 9/11 the formula for the allocation of Homeland Security dollars that treated New York the same as North Dakota?), New York has received a very significant share of stimulus dollars. It helps that New Yorkers currently play a very significant role In the current administration and in Congress. The new urban agenda that is being adopted in Washington will certainly benefit the city over the next four years. See the three articles "Recession NYC Job Lost Estimate Ease", "Wall Street Job Losses", and "Where Does New York Stand".

"Central Perk" describes how New York's Central Park is not only just a green oasis in the center of the city but also a veritable gold mine as well.

For an excellent overview of some of the legal issues involved in the taking over of troubled properties see the article "Beyond the Workout."

Looking for cheap eats in Midtown? The website Midtownlunch is a perfect resource for finding excellent street food and cheap restaurants in midtown.

Interesting fact: the average retail space per capita in the United States is 20 ft.” per person. In the outer boroughs, it is a paltry 6 ft.” per person. Less than one third the national average. Why? The barriers to entry in New York are exceptionally high, which discourages retail development.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sierra in the news

Our friends at The Mann Report have my article on the budget crisis now affecting NYC and some ideas for addressing it. Read it here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sierra in the news

Crains New York Business journalist Adrianne Pasquarelli has an article up on retailers looking forward to car-free
Broadway here:


Sections of Broadway in Times Square and Herald Square, as part of the city’s initiative to curb congestion on streets and sidewalks, and many hope the changes will also increase business for area retailers. The thoroughfare, from 47th Street to 42nd Street and from 35th Street to 33rd Street will be closed to all vehicles, becoming a pedestrian walkway featuring chairs and benches.


Good news for these retailers in difficult times!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sierra in the news

We are thrilled to be mentioned this month in four of the very best real estate business publications:


Thanks to all!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Articles 05.08.09

Not all neighborhoods in the city are affected in the the same ways by the current economic conditions. The article "Four Neighborhoods Roll with Punches" describes how businesses in the four outer boroughs (yes, there is life outside of Manhattan) are dealing with current market conditions.

Has taxpayer bailout funds lessened the impact of Wall Street's demise on the city's economy? The author of "Something Slowing Plunge" seems to think so.

"Not that Bad" -- I don't know, is this supposed to be good news?

OK, baseball season is boring, football season is many months away, and your teenage kids won't even acknowledge your existence. Rather than sitting around and watching reruns of "Seinfeld" go explore some of New York's more interesting blocks. The article "New Yorkiest Blocks" describes certain blocks in the city that are worth exploring. Any time I get fed up with the city all I need to do is go out and explore a new neighborhood and I am reminded why after over 50 years I still love living here. There is always something new and exciting to experience.

For those of you who love to eat -- and who doesn't -- check out "Eat Out Awards."

My Kindle: usually I don't use this blog to promote products or services, but I recently purchased the new version of the Kindle digital reader from Amazon and must recommend this to anybody who likes to read.it is easy, convenient and for those of us whose eyesight is not as good as it used to be, the feature that allows you to adjust the Font size really eases the burden of reading tiny print. I use it to read all my newspapers and magazines (my New York Times and Wall Street Journal are downloaded automatically every morning) and when I travel I don't need to pack 10 pounds of books.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Real Estate & The City –- Bitten to Death by a Duck

In the midst of one of the most severe economic downturns that the City has experienced since the 1970s, the government on all levels is contending with the same elevated costs and lower revenue as the private sector. Taxable income and sales are down, jobs have been lost and the number of people in need of assistance has increased.

Increasing taxes may very well be necessary in this time of crisis. But if taxes are to be raised, it should be so that only urgently required revenue is attained without hindering the growth of the private sector. After all, more jobs, higher incomes and increased consumer spending all equate to more revenue for the City, making economic stimulus the most profitable and ultimately sustainable solution to municipal budget woes.

Real Estate’s Essential Role

The real estate industry plays a vital role in the economy of any city, but here in New York it is a load-bearing pillar on par with investment banking and mass media. In fact, $10 billion a year, almost one quarter of the City's annual budget, is paid in real estate taxes every year by the real estate industry. It is therefore in every citizen’s best interest that this industry recover as quickly as possible. As it does, many other sectors will follow its upward lead.

And yet, a litany of factors has coalesced into a perfect storm for local real estate. While not catastrophic for the industry individually, these measures, if adopted, will collectively act to profoundly hinder its recovery. We run the very real risk of being bitten to death by a duck.

Of course we have to start from where we presently stand. Financial losses as a result of the stock market collapse, for instance, cannot be magically undone. We do find ourselves facing a credit contraction that is hindering acquisitions, the funding of building improvements, or the ability to refinance existing mortgages as they roll over. The decrease in rental values for commercial space and apartments alike is simply an unpleasant fact.

The question is, how can these problems be quickly and effectively addressed?

Discouraging Economic Activity

To begin with, changes in Federal, State and City income tax rates on the highest earners –- whose wealth, and the will to spend it, fuels the machinery of New York real estate –- amount to increases from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, 6.85 percent to 10.3 percent, and 3.7 percent to 4.65 percent, respectively. Moreover, the real property tax rate was increased 7.5% in January, 2009, while tax assessments for 2009/2010 also increased significantly in spite of an across the board reduction in real estate values.

Finally, an increase in the city sales tax is proposed, from 8.35% to 8.75%, as is the elimination of the clothing purchase exemption. This will hurt local retailers, further hindering real estate’s recovery.

Changes Proposed to Rent Regulations

Many bills have been proposed to tighten the regulation of rent-regulated housing. These proposals include an increase in the threshold for luxury deregulation, or the all-out elimination of it. Another would modify major capital improvement increases so that they become surcharges that expire once landlords have recouped their investment, rather than permanent increases. Other changes have been proposed as well that if adopted will discourage investment, slow rent growth and severely affect real estate values.

Miscellaneous Fodder Feeds a Fire, Too

There are also the costs that are less easily categorized but which add up nonetheless. Among these is a recession-prompted, exponential rise in the number of tickets being issued and fines being levied for minor infractions. Another is bureaucratic delays in processing permits and applications, which adds significantly to the cost of doing business.

All of the above, when taken together, will have an extremely pronounced effect on the real estate industry. While many are still only proposals, it looks likely that many will indeed become law. If that happens, recovery in the real estate industry will be greatly delayed. Jobs will be lost and real estate as an asset will continue to decline in value.

Moreover, rather than helping tenants as rent regulation is intended to, these new policies would make many rent-regulated buildings not just unprofitable for their owners, but a major liability. A substantial number of properties, particularly in transitional and marginal neighborhoods, will be at risk of falling into a bad state and being abandoned as owners become unable to afford their maintenance. As investment in real estate is discouraged, many tenants will be condemned to living in substandard housing

If these things happen, the cost to the City will more than exceed the gains realized from tax increases and regulatory changes, quality of life will decline for some of the neediest residents, homeowners will be unable to sell their properties for their actual worth, and construction workers and other laborers who build developments and rehab existing properties will remain un or under-employed.

The loss of both property value and taxable salaries will have profound implications for the City and State budgets, both of which depend heavily on estate, transfer and related taxes, amounting to several billion dollars of income annually.

It is therefore in the best interest of all New Yorkers that a carefully thought-out strategy be adopted involving a balance between economic stimulus and urgently-needed revenue for the City. As it stands right now, we may just lose our balance and fall further into recession.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How property owners can deal with distressed tenants

I have an article in the New York Real Estate Journal discussing ways in which New York City property owners are going to be confronted with serious challenges over the next several years, and how concerned property owners can best protect themselves against these potentially serious problems?

Click here to read the whole thing.

Articles 04.15.09

How about some good news for a change? Apparently, despite recent economic woes, New York City is still the Big Apple and many young people's eyes. In fact, the recent downturn has actually resulted in many recently unemployed relocating to New York in search of their big break. This phenomenon is described in "Arrivals, New York."

"Recycling Suburbs" is featured in Time Magazine as one of the 10 ideas that are changing the world. This article describes the transformation that is occurring in many existing suburbs to bring them into the 21st century and to make them "greener."

For a description of how the 47,000 miles of the interstate highway system can be adapted to better serve the 21st century see the article "Reinstating the Interstate." No longer was the interstate simply be a roadway to transport cars from place to place but it can now serve as the basic infrastructure for creating light rail systems and extending the power grid.

Have you ever been curious about what the various style hats mean that are worn by Hasidic men? I always thought that the style of hat indicated the region of Eastern Europe from which the family had emigrated. I was wrong. The correct answer, look at the article "Hasidic Haberdashery."

Most of us have very little idea how to interview a prospective employee or to check their references. For some guidance, look at the article "Reference Checks."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sierra in the News

Crains New York Business journalist Adrianne Pasquarelli talks to Sierra Realty's own Peter Levitan about retailer Flight Club signing their third Manhattan location. Read the whole thing here: Cut-rate Rent Makes SoHo Shop Shoe-in.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sierra in the News

Our good friends at Real Estate Weekly mentioned our new Sierra Realty Corp team member, Jeffrey Anderson, a former architect, who has joined our commercial brokerage division. Welcome Jeffrey -- and thanks to Real Estate Weekly.

Sierra in the News

The Residential April, 2009 issue of the Mann Report has another nice mention of this humble blog. Thank you!
Click here to read: Sierra Realty Amps Up Real Estate Coverage On Firm's Popular Blog.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Owners and tenants wrestle over rent reduction requests

I am quoted extensively in the March 2009 Florida Loan Specialist Weblog about the ongoing issue of rent reductions for retailers in these rocky times. 
And in Manhattan, Sierra Realty Corp. President Jim Wacht is dealing with a local retailer that is downsizing from 11 stores to seven stores as part of its bankruptcy reorganization. “This retailer is using bankruptcy to cherry-pick the leases and has basically given its landlords an ultimatum–the stores that will stay open are the stores that have the lowest rents,” he says. “They’re really putting the screws to the landlords, and if my client loses this tenant, it’s really going to cost him. He feels like he has no choice.”

It's an excellent, useful article.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Articles 03.16.09

There's little to be cheered these days if you are a developer with a project under construction. A small silver lining-construction unions and construction contractors are now willing to negotiate some of the more onerous provisions in their contracts. See the article "Fear and Grouting in New York."

For a case study of how a pro-business, pro-development strategy can help turn around an economically depressed area one only needs to visit the Bronx (who would've thought!) and read the article "The Bronx is up."

What can you learn by looking at ridership numbers for the New York City subways? You would be surprised. Take a look at the article "NY by the Numbers" to really get a sense of where growth has occurred in the five boroughs over the last 10 years. Ridership at some of the fastest growing stations has increased over 700% over the past 10 years.

"Soaking the Rich" outlines the combined magnitude of the proposed increases in the local, state, and federal tax rates. This is not for the faint of heart. I do not recommend reading this at the same time that you're reviewing your most recent brokerage statement. Such large tax increases coming at the same time as a substantial decrease in net worth for the wealthy will not be healthy for the economy. If consumer spending is what will lift us out of this economic slump, tax increases of this magnitude on those who historically are this country's largest spenders will only further discourage spending and exacerbate an already dire situation.

For those of you who know me, you know that I am a music nut. My tastes tend towards hard bop jazz and rock 'n roll. It's always interesting to see lists of what people consider that the top music albums of all times. For the 75 albums that Esquire Magazine (not too sure who reads this anymore, my wife sent me this link) think every man should own check out this link. Actually, many of these albums are superb and don't typically find their way on most peoples lists.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NYC Tenant Advantage

In the New York Real Estate Journal, SRC's Peter Braus explains how, in negotiating a restaurant lease, tenants have the leverage.

Click here to read the article.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Articles 02.23.09

Many cities in the United States have watched their downtowns and urban centers deteriorate as large shopping and power centers are constructed on their periphery. European planners, however, have used shopping centers to help revitalize the downtown areas of their cities. For more on this read the article "Revitalizing Urban Centers through Retail."

"Store Closings" is very simple. It is a master database setting forth stores that will be closing over the next year.

I've always been critical of federal and state policy that has promoted the suburbanization of America at the expense of inner-city investment. What is ironic is that high density city living is far more "green" than suburban living. Read the article "Green Cities, Brown Suburbs" to learn why New York City is one of the "greenest" places in America.

Forget "Girls Gone Wild." To really experience debauchery and drunken behavior see the article "Condos Gone Bad."

Despite the tough economy deals are getting made. My partner, Peter Braus, recently authored the article "Wooing Tenants in a Down Market" which outlines strategies that property owners can adopt to adapt to the realities of the current market.

When you're at a dinner party, do you put your olive pits on the bread plate to your left or to your right? You'd be surprised at how many people lack proper dining etiquette (me included)! The article "Dining Etiquette" will help you to avoid committing major dining faux pas.

Sierra in the News

The Mann Report has an article up about this humble blog. We were also mentioned in Brokers Weekly and Real Estate Weekly. Thank you!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Articles 01.30.09

To understand the magnitude of the issues facing our city over the next several years it is instructive to understand what happened in previous downturns. “Future of NYC: How Bad Will It Get?” provides an invaluable history lesson. When reading this article keep in mind that current predictions are that the City will lose a total of about 250,000 jobs by the middle of 2010 although this number has been climbing every month.

For those of us who have been compelled to sit on the sidelines the last couple years while the spreadsheet cowboys have been chasing deals with cheap money, the article “Return to Fundamentals in Time of Crisis” is a breath of fresh air. Isn't this how deals were always supposed to be done?

“London and New York in the 21st Century” is an interesting analysis of what these two cities must do over the long term to maintain their stature as the foremost commercial centers of the world.

For the brave souls among you who would like to celebrate The Year of the Ox, “Fine China” offers recommendations for several restaurants in Manhattan's Chinatown. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Economic Indicators for Dummies

Economic Indicators


Every day we are barraged with news stories touting all the various economic indicators that economists and other business and social scientist types like to refer to as a guide to how badly our economy is doing. For the most part these economic indicators read like a laundry list of all those things that caused your eyes to glaze over and you to lapse into a head bobbing, drooling stupor in Economics 101. So in an attempt to devise my own economic indicators I've come up with the following lists. Please feel free to make recommendations for other items that should be included:

Leading Indicators of an economic decline

1. Cocktail conversations sprinkled with any of the following words or phrases:

a. "burn rate" (remember that one? My all time favorite)
b. "new paradigm"
c. "new metrics"
d. "traunch”
e. "mezz financing"

2. men getting plastic surgery

3. Condominium developments that include such amenities as dog spas, billiard rooms (ever notice how the cue sticks never last more than one week), and lap pools.

4. The sale of derivatives and other securities that only those with a degree in physics from either MIT or Princeton can understand. Good luck to any broker peddling this stuff to really explain the risks to their customers.

5. A proliferation of glossy magazines containing 350 pages of ads featuring hot young models younger than your kids wearing clothes that nobody in their right mind would ever wear and only three pages of content.

6. Restaurant dishes containing at least three ingredients that you never heard of, written on menus in type so small that most of us require a magnifying glass and flashlight to read.

7. Yoga studios on every corner

8. Botox

9. $4 cups of coffee


Trailing Indicators

1. The reappearance of squeegee men and graffiti

2. a proliferation of sidewalk preachers urging us to repent

3. Being able to get a table without a reservation at a trendy neighborhood restaurant on a Thursday night.

4. Snooty salespeople becoming polite and friendly.

5. Increased beer sales.

6. Availability of taxi cabs during rush hour on a rainy night

7. Your son's bar mitzvah fund has more money than Bear Stearns, Citibank and the country of Iceland, combined.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Real Deal Interviews Peter Braus

New York real estate news magazine The Real Deal's reporter Adam Pincus interviews Sierra Realty's own Peter Braus.

Peter Braus, executive vice president and principal at property owner and manager Sierra Realty, said tenant brokers have more leverage in the commercial leasing market today as vacancy rates rise and new tenants are hard to find.


Click here to read the whole thing.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Excelling in Tough Times

The next several years will present serious challenges to all businesses. With unemployment rates rapidly escalating, banks cutting off credit, and consumer confidence plummeting, many businesses will fail or see their revenues significantly decrease. By adopting the right approach and attitude, however, a handful of businesses will be able to take advantage of the opportunities this market presents them and will strengthen and grow their businesses during these times of economic contraction. What can you do to strengthen your business over the next several years?

For a printable checklist for how to excel in tough times not only in the New York Real Estate industry but all businesses, click here.

  • Reduce Expenses: Review every recurring expense and aggressively renegotiate pricing and credit terms with your vendors. Many vendors would rather reduce their prices or loosen credit terms then lose business. If necessary, switch vendors to those that will provide you with better pricing. Rent is often one of the biggest recurring expenses that a business incurs. Review your lease and evaluate your options for obtaining a rent reduction from your landlord. If your lease is expiring soon, take advantage of the decline in rent rates and aggressively shop for the cheapest possible deal. You may ultimately renew with your existing landlord but having market information available to you and offers in your pocket will let you negotiate the most favorable deal. An experienced and reputable real estate broker can help you here.
  • Employees: For an employer this is now a buyer’s market. Take advantage of it. Take a hard look at your employees and determine which are valuable and which are under performing. There is much talent out there to be hired. Upgrade the quality of your staff without incurring an increase in payroll.
  • Reconnect with your clients and customers: Don't take your existing clients or customers for granted. Contact each client personally and make sure they understand that you value their business. Each year I make a point of asking each of my clients to review the quality of our services. I meet with them personally to discuss their observations. Now more than ever you need to make each client feel as if they are the most important client of your firm. It is far easier to keep an existing client than to find a new one.
  • Evaluate any weakness in the quality of the work that your firm performs: Make sure that you are providing an exceptional product or service. Address any deficiency immediately. Replace any underperforming employees and, if affordable, upgrade your infrastructure.
  • Aggressively pursue new business: Many of your competitors will be impacted by this economic downturn. They may be required to make cutbacks in staffing, delay making much needed infrastructure upgrades or take other actions which may seriously compromise the quality of the work they perform. This is an ideal opportunity for the well-positioned firm to increase market share by picking up the dissatisfied clients and customers of these firms. How best to do this?
  • Marketing: This is not a time to scrimp on marketing. Use intelligent marketing through public relations, advertising, direct mailing, cold calling etc. to get the message out that you're still in business and provide a quality service.
  • Networking: Network like crazy. Attend events where you might meet people who could be potential customers. Let your professionals, vendors and existing clients and customers know that you're actively seeking new customers. Perhaps there are people they can refer you to. Don't be shy! And make sure that all your contacts are aware of all of the lines of businesses and services you can provide. Sierra Realty provides a full spectrum of leasing brokerage and property management services. It is surprising how many of our leasing brokerage customers are unfamiliar with our property management services and vice versa. We continually need to educate them so that they can refer new business to us. Don't assume your clients know everything that you do.
  • Leverage your relationships: Use the business that you give your vendors and professionals as a way of encouraging them to refer potential customers to you. When I hire a new vendor or professional I make it clear that I expect them to refer business to my company.
  • Incentivize your employees: Think about giving your employees incentives for finding new business for the company. Make your employees "partners" in your enterprise. Incentives can range from gift certificates to a percentage of the business they initiate.
  • Get involved: I urge every one of my executives and employees to get involved in organizations outside of work. These can be religious organizations, alumni organizations, charitable endeavors, community groups, sports leagues, political clubs, reading groups etc. The list is endless. Not only can it be amazingly gratifying, it is a great place to develop relationships with people who might be able to refer business to your company.

Tough economic times are difficult for all. The uncertainty of what is to come can unnerve even the most seasoned of business executives. Yet by following some of the steps outlined above and taking a proactive approach to the economic downturn, a savvy business owner can not only survive this market but emerge from it a stronger and better company.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Articles 01.09.09

"Stress in the City” offers a quick snapshot of what's in store for 2009. While these numbers are cause for concern they must be kept in perspective. It is projected that the city will lose 175,000 jobs over the next one or two years. While this is a very high number it is lower then the 225,000 jobs that were lost in 2001, the 325,000 jobs that were lost in the late 1980s and the 610,000 jobs that were lost in the 1970s.On the other hand, it feels to me as if the City's economic circumstances are far worse than they were in 2001. Let's hope that job losses do not exceed the 175,000 jobs that are currently projected to be lost.

Now for some good news: a recent Appellate Division, second Department decision determined that a residential landlord has no duty to mitigate damages arising from a tenant's lease default. See the article "Damages" for the full text of the decision.

In a divided decision, Appellate Division, First apartment has reversed a former decision that allowed residential landlords to terminate the lease of a tenant that is subletting her apartment for an excessive profit. For the full text of the decision, see "Roommate Profiteering."

For the foodies among you, I include the article "The Simpler Pleasures," which is New York magazine's list of where to eat in 2009.