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 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.

1 comment:

Meryl Pearlstein said...

Looking forward to reading your comments about food and travel. Always open to great topics of interest. Meryl,