All posts by NYBusDist

Teaching about Clean Air

On T.V., in the news, and in the print media, climate change is a hot topic. Parents, teachers, and youth workers are looking for ways to teach children about pollution and air quality. According to environmental lawyer and health activist, Sumru Ramsey, nothing can protect people from air pollution, but we can pay attention to the issue and take some basic actions to educate our children so that they have a stake in their own future. Sumru Ramsey says that when they are familiar with the concepts, knowledgeable about the consequences, and informed about the ways they can minimize their own carbon footprints, they can take action.

Sumru Ramsey, Sumru Laurent Ramsey
Sumru, Laurent Ramsey wedding

Sumru, and her husband Laurent Ramsey, recommend keeping things simple. Explain to children that pollution is anything not naturally existent in the environment that negatively influence the quality of life (human, animals, or plants). Kids should understand that some pollutions can be seen or smelled, like smoke from a factory, and others are completely undiscernible.

WeWork: What’s Working and Who’s Not

WeWork is in trouble in New York.  Its Dock 72 space – spanning 220,000 square feet – seems more like a ghost town than a buzzing networking shared workspace. While it all seemed to be exciting when it opened – and then a few days following that – that has substantially died down ever since. 

Most of the private offices at WeWork are vacant with WeWork claiming 30 percent occupancy.  According to a recent NYTimes article written by David Trainer:

“If the economy stays strong over the next year, it’s possible WeWork could make progress towards profitability. However, it wouldn’t change the fundamental weakness of the business. The company’s strategy of taking on long-term lease obligations and then subleasing for 1-2 years leaves it vulnerable to an economic downturn and falling real estate prices.”

Attempts are however, being made to save it.  SoftBank has agreed to take over control and make some mega investments, on top of the $9bn it already has. It is aiming to decelerate its expansion pace, renovate, focus on its primary markets and more.

But perhaps WeWork is no long “WeWorking.”  Perhaps there has been a complete overhaul in attitudes to how we work.  That’s what German entrepreneur Lasse Rheingans might have us believe.  His idea was recently reported on in a WSJ article, which he is putting in practice in his tech start up firm.  He is developing a five-hour workday for employees to arrive at 8am and leave at 1pm at which point they are not expected to do any work until the next morning. BUT, while at the office, the phones must be left in their bags and use of social media is forbidden.  Meetings are limited to 15 minutes or less and work emails are only checked twice a day!

WeWork’s mission is to: “create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living,” but perhaps today Rheingans has a more practical way of arriving at this goal.

Enhancements to Local Landscape

The de Blasio office is attempting to diversify public art in the region.  One example of the endeavors being made in this sphere is the honoring of the Seneca Village property owners and educators – the Lyons family. 

A little bit of history: Back in the 1850s, an entire community was forced out of the Seneca Village neighborhood in order to create Central Park.  The majority of that community was black.  Now, NYC is planning to fund a private monument to honor this family that has roots that go back to that time.

One Upper East Side local, Jerry Montagu said the following:

“This is the right thing to do.  Sure – with 20/20 hindsight we see that Central Park was of course needed – but that doesn’t take away from the fact that an entire village was essentially wiped out.  It’s about time something was done to show respect.”

It will be an historical lesson as well.  As semi-retired landscape artist Moshe Victor Keinig pointed out:

“One of the most important contributions to a spectacular landscape is really, its history.  This new effort from de Blasio and his team is really an opportunity to right a wrong and to educate the people of New York.”

It is very often the case that people are completely unaware of their own history and what lies under the surface upon which they walk.  Keinig added:

“This is a great start for New York, its history and its future.  Let’s just hope that de Blasio and his people are regarding this as a first step in proper restoration.”

New York: Why It’s “Working”

New Yorkers are currently facing a strong job market.  According to a recent Fed report published by the Center for Microeconomic Data, lower income workers are increasingly meeting with the opportunity to leave their current positions as better jobs are coming up.  This rate is higher than it has been in five years.

In addition, CareerBuilder Chief People Officer Michelle Armer believes this trend is “unsurprising” given the current job climate and opportunities that exist.  Further, she refers to a study that predicted an increase of 3.1 million low-wage jobs from now until 2023, giving individuals the ability to look around and not necessarily accept the first job offer that comes their way.  As well as wages, there are benefits and other perks that could sway one to take a different job.

In New York itself, employment in the clean energy sector is booming. According to a recently report from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, 77 percent of all clean energy employment in the region is in energy efficiency.  Clean energy as an employment sector is very strong – in all its capacities – throughout the entire area.

Local Infrastructure News

Large states like New York are in constant need of financial infusions for renovating its infrastructure.  In this article we look at a few of the issues currently taking place.

We start with some good news and that is the $3m that municipalities are going to be able to access for the purchase of zero-emission vehicles and the infrastructure needed for them.  This donation is thanks to the Department of Environmental Conservation and features substantial vehicle rebates as well as large infrastructure grants for the installation of hydrogen filling station components and charging stations for electric vehicles.

Earlier this month an endeavor began to ban the use of private vehicles on one of the busiest streets in Manhattan – 14th Street – between 6am and 10pm every day.  During those hours the only vehicles that would be permitted to drive between Third and Ninth Avenues would be buses, trucks and emergency vehicles.   This endeavor is part of a larger plan to reduce the dependence New Yorkers have on their personal vehicles and facilitate the route of M.T.A. buses.

There is also work being done to improve cellular coverage in the New York area, in particular upstate.   According to Governor Cuomo:

“Every New Yorker should be able to access a stable cell connection, yet our upstate regions have struggled for too long to make the connections that are vital to everyday life and commerce. Today we’re leading the way forward by establishing a task force of cellular service experts, elected representatives and environmental advocates who will develop concrete policies and help to ensure service is provided and infrastructure for it is built in a sustainable way.”

This is a very important measure since without strong cellular network coverage, the economy is potentially hindered, while communications and safety also take a hit.  This is very important for all states but in particular New York which 4 years ago launched a $500m New NY Broadband Program in an effort to generate high-speed Internet for New Yorkers.

NYC Taxi Drivers: Government Bailout

The government needs to devise a plan to bail out New York taxi drivers.  That is, according to Bronx and Queens Democrat Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who is pushing for a financial rescue plan to be made available for the thousands of drivers manipulated into less than legitimate loans.  At a recent congressional hearing about lending, she said:

“This is manufactured financial indentured servitude. And it is wrong. We need to bail out these drivers.”

Other Democrat representatives in New York – Nydia Velázquez and Carolyn B. Maloney – supported the words of Ocasio-Cortez.  There are also issues with New Yorkers trying to make more money by driving an Uber.  their hopes of supplementing their incomes have been dashed due to crippling car leasing fees – $500 weekly for a Lincoln with 30,000 miles on it.  One individual drove like this for three years working for Uber. His work days lasted 16 hours and he had already paid $78,000 for this “privilege.” when American Lease would not relinquish the car’s title, he quit.

Perhaps individuals like Velázquez, Maloney and Ocasio-Cortez can make this their next project.

New York Real Estate News

Charles Dickens’ words from the 19th century could apply to 21st century New York real estate.  “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”  Right now residential homes are faring badly in the real estate market, but commercially the situation looks far better.

From 2013 to the present, approximately 16,200 residential condominium units (within 682 newly constructed buildings) were completed in NYC. Today, only three quarters of these have been sold.  There are approximately 4,100 apartments – many in luxurious buildings – that are still for sale.  This number does not even account for the sales over units currently under construction.  There have been some drops in prices of units in towers and these figures could drop even further.

Tactics from past cycles could also be making a comeback: bulk sales of unsold units to investors, condos converting to rentals en masse, and multimillion-dollar “rent-to-own” options for sprawling apartments — a four-bedroom, yours for just $22,500 a month.  The slowdown is uneven and some projects are faring better than others, but for well-heeled buyers there is no shortage of discounts and sweeteners to be had.

Commercially however, the situation looks far better. There have been quite a few impressive real estate transactions in the area.  Examples of this include:

  1. the $7.25 million sale of 2021 Grand Concourse in the Bronx – a 59, 292sq. ft. 11 story building in Mount Hope
  2. the $63,800 annual rent of 39 West 32nd Street in Manhattan
  3. the $2.2m annual rent of 83 Maiden Lane in Manhattan.

In addition, Unizo Holdings – a Japanese real estate firm – is selling off the remaining parts of its New York real estate portfolio via CBRE brokerage.  HomeGoods retail store located in Mount Kisco has also been sold for $6,829,350.  At the time of this publication, the buyer remains undisclosed.

NY 7-Eleven News

7-Eleven Inc. – the multi-million dollar corporation boasting $782 million in revenue last year – has a humble history. Starting in 1927 John Jefferson Green began selling bread and milk convenience products in ice-house storefronts. Today there are 68,236 stores worldwide.

New York City 7-Eleven stores are now offering something extra.  A new feature with its mobile app.  Customers who have the store’s rewards program will be able to scan product barcodes, pay using a stored card/mobile-payment service and also scan a confirmation code post-purchase.  In other words NYC customers will be able to pay for their items from their phone, bypassing the checkout line completely.  Any promotions will be automatically featured in. According to 7-Eleven Chief Digital, Information and Marketing Officer, Gurmeet Singh:

“More people are on the go and looking for faster, easier ways to shop than ever before. 7-Eleven continues to redefine convenience with frictionless experiences like Mobile Checkout. Our customers use their smartphone for all kinds of activities that save them precious time. Now with the Mobile Checkout feature, customers can control their entire 7-Eleven shopping experience. Not only that, but customers can earn and redeem points on a variety of products when using Mobile Checkout. Customers are given lots of options when they walk into a 7-Eleven store, from product assortment and customization all the way to payment methods. Mobile Checkout is just one more way we can make someone’s day a little easier and give 7-Eleven customers a convenient checkout alternative to waiting in line during a store’s busiest times of day. It’s another reason to say, ‘Oh thank heaven for 7-Eleven.'”

Perhaps after last month’s news of what 7-Eleven Inc. did for a new baby, it’s not surprising the company is so successful.  J’Aime Brown was born on 7/11/19 (July 7), at 7: 11pm, weighing 7 pounds 11 ounces. Following the announcement of her birth, 7-Eleven pledged $7,111 toward a college fund for her as well as newborn goodies including special 7-Eleven Inc., onesies!