New York: Businesses Hiring

With what is happening to the economy in America and indeed the world due to coronavirus, is there anything optimistic on which to focus?  Here, in New York, we would like to think there is.

True there is no denying that unemployment figures are substantially up.  Currently we don’t have the figures since the government is asking states to delay publication but we do know that New Yorkers – like those throughout the nation – are suffering.

However, there is one industry where employment is booming and there are vacancies to be filled: grocery stores. Even though of course our administration is taking measures to limit the spread of the virus (Kudos to Cuomo) people still need to buy food.  Thus grocery stores are considered one of those essential workplaces during this time.

In fact, just take a look in most local convenience stores and supermarkets and you will find items flying off the shelves quicker than staff can re-stock.  As such, Tops, Stop & Shop, ShopRite and Price Chopper are looking to hire.  In  a recent statement, ShopRite said:

“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, ShopRite is experiencing an unprecedented increase in consumer demand and volume at our supermarkets and we are looking to fill a variety of positions across our stores and warehouses.”

Furthermore, Hannaford Brothers Company reported that it is hiring throughout its 182 locations based in New York and New England as consumer demand continues to increase.

Recent Business Conference

The Win The Storm (WTS) Conference held last month was attended by over 3,500 individuals.  According to one presenter, founder and CEO of Elev8 Consulting Group Angela Delmedico:

“It was fantastic to share some much-needed knowledge with the industry on the first-ever marketing panel. As always, our breakout session was a hit! With over 15 years of experience, we are committed to providing education and tips on the latest and greatest in marketing and publicity.”

In attendance were contractors, industry experts, business executives and more.  Panel discussions centered around accounting, apps, business growth, education, marketing, safety and technology.

Today: Ban Against Pollution

Today marks the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  A ban has been implemented – that takes effect today – on the use of plastic throwaway bags in New York.  And with any luck we will see the state working hard to beautify the environment once again.

With this new law, business owners in New York will be barred from using thin plastic bags which for many years have been blocking landfills, gotten stuck in trees and gathered in reservoirs.  Only single use paper bags will be permitted but with a 5cents fee.

Environmentalists are concerned that business owners will try to find a loophole and they’ll offer out bags that are thick enough to be considered “multiple use bags” which would just augment the problem.  As one former US Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Judith Enck pointed out:

 “It is a giant loophole which they should close in the future. It’s not good for the environment if you go from thinner plastic bags to thicker plastic bags.”

Not all bags are being outlawed.  Those that can be washed, used at least 125 times, can carry the weight of at least 22 pounds over 175 feet and have an attached non-stretchable strap, will still be permitted.

Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program

If approved by the New York City Council, the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program will potentially put an end to dangerous motorists.  Any vehicle that gets at 15 local speed camera tickets or five red light camera tickets within the space of the year will be penalized by having to sign up for a driver safety course.  Failing to do so will result in their vehicle being impounded.

Currently, drivers who receive automated camera tickets do not thereafter get points on their license.  With this Bill, increased accountability will be put in place.  According to sponsor of the Bill, Council Brad Lander:

“We’ve done a lot of work to try to address the carnage that were too often see on our streets. We’re focusing on the most reckless drivers based on this camera data that we have. Nobody else in the country is doing it and the responsibility to do it in a smart way that works is high. I’d like to say let’s take everybody’s car away and then no one would get killed in traffic crashes. We hit the spot we believe that the program can be and will be run effectively.”

 New York has long been an area where laws are implemented to enhance driver, passenger and pedestrian safety.  For example, in 2001 New York was the first state to outlaw the use of cellphones while driving. But with constant fluctuations in infrastructure, building works and mass congestion there are always issues with keeping New Yorkers on the road safe. This new Bill could make some dents in that issue.

New York Realtor Greg Williamson Shows The Value of Being Local

There are many characteristics that make for a successful realtor.  One of them is having lived or worked in the region. Greg Williamson is a Douglas Elliman broker who was raised in Brooklyn Heights, has studied the entire city and now lives on the Upper West Side. Today he works with developers designing and planning 25,000-200,000 square feet condo buildings in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Williamson points out how he’s seen changes in the neighborhoods as a longtime resident, enabling him to actually “learn the product over time in an organic way.”  So, for example, specifically within New York, when people are considering a move from one borough to the other, he can give them the up to date, real-time information they need.

Residential condo building typical of those being renovated by local realtor, Greg Williamson
Residential condo building typical of those being renovated by local realtor, Greg Williamson

He says:

“There are a lot of people in Manhattan who are looking in Brooklyn — Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Dumbo. They’ve heard wonderful things about Brooklyn, and they have friends who live there, but they’re nervous about making the jump over the bridge. I tell them it’s a different vibe, it’s its own community, and a great alternative to moving to the suburbs or staying in the city.”

Greg Williamson, Douglas Elliman broker

The results speak for themselves.  Since joining the firm, Williamson has consistently been ranked in Douglas Ellman’s top 1% nationwide and a regular winner of the firm’s prestigious Pinnacle Award.

Is This the End for New York City’s Brokers

One somewhat burdensome fee that New York City tenants have traditionally been subject to are real estate brokers.  Given the acutely oppressive rental market, tenants have been highly dependent on this profession, sometimes having to pay up to 15 percent of the annual lease to a broker.

But as of last Wednesday, they have been eliminated. In an addendum to last year’s New York State rent laws, regulars out-ruled the broker fees being charged to renters.  This move has the potential to completely turn the market on its head and offer tenants huge protection.  This will eliminate the financial leverage that brokers in New York have been holding over the rental market.

Brokers will still be able to take a fee, but these will have to be paid by the landlord.  The only case where this will not happen will be when a prospective tenant hires them to actually find the apartment.

So for example, those coming from outside of NYC who have found their own rentals online will now no longer be forced to pay a broker’s fee (since the broker has actually not done anything!).

Hudson Yards New Construction

The Vessel, by Thomas Heatherwick

Thomas Heatherwick – the award-winning British architectural designer – has already earned his reputation in the Big Apple.  Hailing from England, the London-based designer became famous for his interlocking staircase at Hudson Yards Public Plaza.  The structure – completed in 2019 – became known as The Vessel and comprises 154 flights, 2,500 steps, 80 viewing landings and can be compared in size to 15 storeys.

Heatherwick’s latest project is a 181-unit condominium. The two tower development – known as Lantern House – uses textured brick, features glass and bronze-colored aluminum bubbles reminiscent of hurricane oil lanterns.

Heatherwick has been praised immensely over the years by many experts.  Former architect and landscape designer Moshe Victor Keinig who for the bulk of his career was based in Israel said:

“I could only dream of reaching his level.  I was so astounded by his work – especially the B of the Bang sculpture measuring over 56 meters in Manchester, UK – had me moved to a different plane.  I literally must have spent an hour just trying to take it all in.”

Sir Terence Conran, fellow designer, retailer and writer – who also mentored Heatherwick – said:

“I think he’s brilliant. I wish I had some of his genes.”  He went on to refer to him as “a Leonardo Da Vinci of our times.”

NYC: The Not-So-“Lone” Recipient

While sometimes loans are necessary and just a part of everyday living (one example being for a mortgage), sometimes they can be incredibly overwhelming.  This has become the situation with many taxi drivers in New York City.

In an endeavor to facilitate this situation, a panel of individuals has been appointed by the New York City Council.  A bailout for the many taxi drivers who have been exploited by loans is being proposed.  The price tag could potentially hit $500m with a new partnership made up of public officials and private individuals who would take on the debt that cab drivers have which they used to buy their own cabs. Many of them fell into the category of immigrants who wanted to find a way to make money when they first came. According to City Council speaker Corey Johnson:

“We know that folks in this industry have suffered tremendously. I’m really excited that after six months of painstaking work and effort, the task force is going to be releasing a variety of recommendations that we think could stabilize the industry, plan for the future and help alleviate the suffering.”

Cab drivers aren’t the only New Yorkers who have been overwhelmed by loans.  But earlier this month a very old student debt was just reversed in New York Bankruptcy Court. The argument used by the lawyer in the case was the enormity of the debt that was too unrealistic to be paid.

Between 1993-1996, Kevin Rosenberg took out student loans, then went to the Navy for five years and then needed more loans for his 2001-2004 stint in law school.  All in all he owed over $116,000 which swelled to $221,000 by the end of 2019.  While paying it back he ended up with negative $1,500 per month.

The Fluctuating Landscape of NYC

The New York City landscape is often in flux.  Looking at last year we can be proud of the re-opening of the TWA Hotel terminal that had been closed for many years.  The terminal – originally constructed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen as the TWA Flight Center – is now the spectacular TWA hotel, featuring a perfect combination of the classic architect’s style with modern amenities.

An expansion of 40,000 feet has been made at MoMA, providing it with the space to display its collection.  The recent passing of the $1.7bn Green New Deal will construct 250 miles of protected bike lands, 15 miles of lanes just for buses and a million square feet for pedestrians.  This will be put in place within the next five years. Furthermore, new signaling technology will be implemented.  The idea behind this is to eliminate traffic violence and enhance road infrastructure for users.

All this (and more in the landscape development area of NYC) is crucial for developments, businesses and even jobs.  As Robert Rodriguez, Sarah Fitts & Jamie Rubin recently pointed out in an article:

“Simply put, we can’t grow if we can’t build our public infrastructure.” What is going to help achieve this goal is the recently-signed NYC Design Build Act enabling the creation of a union between architects, constructors and engineers, and give NYC the opportunity to select contractors who can offer the best work and schedule timing, rather than just being forced to chose the cheapest one.