The Big Apple: Schools, smoke, slides and more

If you can’t beat them, you don’t have to let bedbugs join you

Adam Greenberg, president of, one of the country’s largest online retailers of anti-bedbug gear, tells that, in comparison with the rest of the nation, New Yorkers are “ahead of the curve” on knowing what to do about bedbugs.  Says he:

“Therefore, New Yorkers are both more hands-on in the products they buy for monitoring and treatment of bedbugs and also more proactive at purchasing prevention items like mattress encasements and travel protectors.”

Because almost everyone knows someone who has experienced bedbugs by now, they know the value of the prevention items, Greenberg explains.

Topping his list of 10 preventative items purchased are luggage and clothing encasements–that is, containers for containers.  For the other nine, visit BrickUnderground.

New Web site points to best public schools using your maximum price to purchase or rent is for New Yorkers “who want to live near a great public elementary school but didn’t inherit a classic six zoned for P.S. 87,” the site maintains. “Tell us what you can afford and we’ll find great public schools near apartments that fit your budget.”

Many public schools in affordable neighborhoods are actually better than those in Manhattan’s toniest neighborhoods, SchoolFisher says, mentioning an “astonishing school in Queens” and an “incredible” one in Harlem, among others.

Aside from helping parents find such schools, the site explains why the Department of Education’s progress report grades are “useless” and how a school could get an “A” that has a quarter as many students reading proficiently as a school that gets a “B”.

“We tell you how a school’s student proficiency rates compare to those of other schools,” SchoolFisher continues, failing English grammar by using “to” after “compare” instead of the correct “with.”

But the site is correct in noting that any broker who gives advice on the quality of schools may be accused of violating the Fair Housing Act by implicitly endorsing one neighborhood over another, a discriminatory practice known as steering.

Price of Manhattan land bounces back to boom-time highs

Sale prices for Manhattan development sites rebounded in 2010 to their levels from the height of the real estate boom, according to a new report from Eastern Consolidated, reports the Real Deal.

Transaction volume was up modestly over the course of the year, but the average price per buildable square foot and the average transaction size soared to unexpected highs, the brokerage said.

Land sale prices, which had plummeted to below $200 per square foot at the end of 2009, rose sharply during 2010 to an average of $330 per square foot. The previous high was seen during the first quarter of 2008, when prices were at $321 per buildable square foot.

What if your neighbor wants to perform a gut renovation. . . via your own apartment?

Being neighborly does not include permitting your new upstairs neighbor to turn your bathroom into a construction zone, says lawyer Steven Wagner in response to a question posed to

Property manager Paul Gottsegen agrees that the letter writer had been placed in a highly awkward position and notes that a neighbor cannot be forced to permit access.

The renovation plans “may be overreaching the typical building standard for apartment renovation work,” suggests property manager Thomas Usztoke. “This may be compounded by what may possibly be a disinterest or lack of awareness” board/management behavior that is has them acting more like bystanders than arbiters.

There’s much more on what’s wrong and how to respond if you receive such a request.

Tobacco smoke becomes a burning issue in more condos and co-ops

At least half a dozen Manhattan co-ops are expected to ask shareholders during annual meetings this spring to vote on an all-out smoking ban that would prohibit residents from lighting up in their own homes, real estate attorneys say.

Another dozen co-op or condo buildings are considering such a vote.

“It’s the one topic, aside from bedbugs, that all co-op boards are talking about,” says Aaron Shmulewitz, a Manhattan real-estate attorney.

Disappointed buyers win court appeal against two developers based on disclosure requirements

A federal appellate court ruled that New York condo developers are required to strictly comply with federal land sale disclosure requirements or give unhappy buyers their money back.

The sweeping decision overturns two rulings by lower courts in a case involving two large condominium developments in Harlem and Long Island City. But the result could resolve longstanding disputes and force New York developers to return purchase deposits on hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of condos that have been sold over the last few years, lawyers said.

It was the first time a federal appellate court anywhere in the country addressed some issues raised in disputes on disclosure requirements at condo developments, according to lawyers in the case.

You’ll want to think twice about sharing an apartment after reading this hair-raising first-person tale

So does the story unfold, as told by Peter Kassel on the Refinery29 blog:

“In my experience, finding good housing in New York is largely based on luck, and I had that in low reserve.

“I tried all the usual avenues—Craigslist, friends, friends of friends, acquaintances of friends… and, after a few weeks of searching, I finally managed to be put in contact with a guy who had a spare room to sublet for a super-low price in the Lower East Side.”

Professional poker player tries a variation of Mae West’s classic line on paying her a visit

How do you connect two stacked penthouse apartments, especially if you live in the East Village?

If you’re a professional poker play who shares a whimsical sensibility with his architects, well, you think in terms of a playhouse.

Robot-signing scandal causes foreclosures to plunge in February

Scheduled foreclosures on New York City residential properties plummeted last month as mortgage servicers continued to reel from the so-called robo-signing scandal that surfaced last year and prompted a nationwide investigation into their foreclosure practices.

According to new data from, just 43 foreclosures were scheduled for the first time last month citywide, down 59 percent from the 106 scheduled in January 2011.

Co-op owners can demand that the board ensures their apartment is livable, but the law differs for condo residents

Is your apartment habitable? And do you, as a co-op or condo owner, have a right to habitability?

Habitat magazine consulted with Dennis H. Greenstein, a partner in the law firm of Seyfarth Shaw, for answers to several questions.

“The multiple dwelling law (MDL) and the New York City housing maintenance code (HMC) require cooperative corporations to maintain the premises in good repair,” he says.

“While proprietary leases generally require shareholders to paint, maintain and repair their apartment interiors, the MDL and HMC may require the co-op, as owner, to correct a condition inside the apartment.” Greenstein continues:

Suarez v. Rivercross Tenants Corp. quoted Park West Mgt. v. Mitchell to state that “[t]he co-op is no absolute insurer of services which do not affect habitability nor is it a guarantor of ‘every amenity customarily rendered in the landlord-tenant relationship.'”

Significantly, the court noted, “while it is not indisputable that health and safety are adversely affected by insufficient heat, not every such deprivation will constitute a breach of the warranty [of habitability].” A decision as to whether a breach occurred is based on many factors, including the extent, the effect on health and any corrective measures taken by the co-op.

There’s much more in the magazine.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
Web site

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