Friday, November 18, 2011

Articles 11.18.11

A Primer on Walking in the City

Any time I get stuck behind a group of tourists crawling three abreast down Fifth Avenue staring up at the skyscrapers and stopping every 10 feet to take pictures, I think to myself that every tourist should be given a primer on how to walk in New York. The next best thing would be to give them all a copy of the article "A New Walking Code of Conduct".

Vacant by Design

A recent article in the New York Times told the story of property owners of four five-story walk up buildings in Harlem who have rented out their ground floor retail space but have boarded up the upstairs apartments and are leaving them vacant. The reason: the rents they were getting for the apartments barely covered their costs. It made more sense to keep them vacant then to rent them out. Housing advocates have decried this situation because of the blight it causes on the neighborhood and would like to find a way to encourage the landlord of these properties to offer more low and moderate income housing. What the advocates fail to realize is that the cost of operating residential real estate is not just a function of the usual operating costs such as fuel, taxes and insurance but, in New York, includes the cost of complying with volumes of building regulations, rent regulations, and dealing with a court system that makes it virtually impossible to evict nonpaying and illegal tenants (even those who blatantly flaunt the laws by operating their apartments for illegal uses). My suggestion: make it easier for owners to operate low income and moderate income apartments by eliminating many of these regulatory obstacles and make it much easier to evict illegal and nonpaying tenants.

Electric Cars

As these two photographs demonstrate, the infrastructure is beginning to be created to allow electric cars to operate around the city.

The Virtuous Cycle of a Successful City

I recently attended a symposium celebrating the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the 1961 Zoning Resolution. There were some terrific presentations made. Of particular interest to me was a description by former First Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff of what he called the "Virtuous Cycle of a Successful City" which he described as follows:

Invest in the city
More people come
More money

A very simple but insightful analysis.