Surprisingly, New York City is loosening its grip on me


The Oculus, imposing portion of New York’s transit hub cum shopping mall that I photographed near One World Trade Center (also called Freedom Tower) in downtown Manhattan.

Thirty-five years.

That is how long I had made my home in New York City — only in Manhattan, from Washington Heights to Greenwich Village — in two long periods before moving to Phnom Penh toward the end of 2013.

How I loved New York over any other place I had lived such as Boston, San Francisco, Hartford and the Washington, D.C. area, where I went in my relative youth to work in the Pentagon and again, in 1995.  At that time, I worked in the U.S. Treasury Department before heading back to Manhattan in 2006 after having transitioned to real estate sales.

To my mind, Manhattan’s highlights run the gamut of the many clichés that you know as well as I do — energy, diversity, cultural opportunities, Central Park and, among so many other attributes, paradise for a food lover.
Continue reading

Buy or rent with great views, then see them get blocked


Adjacent buildings in Boeung Keng Kang 1 area of Phnom Penh.  Pity the owners in building at right.

It has been years since I blogged about lot-line windows in New York City.  Risk-takers or ignoramuses pay them no heed at their peril.  In Cambodia, however, it may make no difference to worry about them.

The windows in New York are in buildings constructed up to the limits of the lot they occupy, often for decades.  By law, the windows have chicken wire embedded in them so as to be recognizable as potentially obstructed.

It behooves Continue reading

What happens on the Internet, stays on the Internet


After I publish a post, I entertain myself by checking to see how many views my blog is getting. Usually, I am disappointed by the number while striving to remain philosophical that I write mostly to please myself.

A nice feature of WordPress, the platform I began using in 2009, is the statistics I see and the surprises they offer.

For one thing, I am continually surprised by two sets of numbers: One is how individuals from the all over the world seem to find my blog and the second is how old are some of the posts they discover.

Nearly two years after having moved to Cambodia from Manhattan and retired from selling and writing about real estate originally in the Washington, D.C. area and then New York, I am amazed Continue reading

Waking up in New York, be sure to follow the rules

(Flickr photo by joiseyshowaa)

No one credibly disputes that New York City is unlike any other in the world.  In fact, no city is like another — each is unique by definition.

I drafted this post two years ago, and finally want to unload it while I am traveling in Continue reading

Heading home warms my heart and lifts my spirits

Whittier, Alaska, which is dominated by a building in which almost everyone lives.

Whittier, Alaska, which is dominated by the Begich Building. (Photo by Jessica Spengler on Flickr)

When I moved from Manhattan to Phnom Penh toward the end of last year, most of my friends and family made clear their impression that I was heading to the least desirable outpost of the civilized world.

They were clearly wrong.

During my travels over the last month, I discovered Whittier, Alaska, which must rank on any list as one of mankind’s least hospitable municipalities.

The driver of the bus that dropped Lin and me at Anchorage Airport after a 90-minute drive from Whittier through a one-lane tunnel noted that the city began its life as Continue reading

‘Malcolm has landed’ is true but admittedly grandiose


View of central Phnom Penh from roof of my apartment building.

View of central Phnom Penh from roof of my apartment building.

Life in Phnom Penh seems to start unfailingly around 7 a.m., two hours after what somehow has become my routine wake-up time.

Sitting in the apartment that we’ll occupy probably for no more than six months, I hear construction starting on the house 10 floors below me in the neighboring lot.  I can see tuk-tuks gathering on street corners, hear Buddhist chants and notice other sounds of life, including birds, rising in volume.  Later this morning, the city’s inescapable energy is sure to peak.

(One reason for expecting to move is that the apartment we had to grab was merely acceptable and available following our arrival here on Dec. 3.  Two weeks in a basic hotel was quite enough, and the building is well situated in an area with a concentration of ex-pats, upscale coffee shops and, heaven help me, a Burger King that soon will open.  There goes the neighborhood.

(But I expect that the open kitchen with its two-burner electric stovetop, bath with pink tiles, master bedroom with bubblegum-pink sheets, lukewarm water in the shower and fluorescent lighting will prove to be too much to bear for an extended period — that and a bigger reason that I’ll detail toward the end of this post.  One attraction is the rooftop pool, however.

(For the $1,000 a month we’re spending on a furnished 2BR, how can I complain?  Well, you’ll see.)

Since I spent three weeks here in March, I have encountered a few surprises.   Continue reading

Weekly Roundup: Sales volume, borrowing sag

Here’s your chance to catch up with news included to inform, enlighten and perhaps even entertain you. To read about The Big Apple, check out the other of today’s posts and look for Out and About early next week.

Actor is lookin’ at selling his townhouse in Greenwich Village

His Honor adds to collection, picking up a notable Southampton estate for a rumored $20 million

Magically, three young actors invest £24.5 collectively on luxury properties

It’s loss actually for actor-singer

All-cash buyers propel resales, but volume remains slack

Number declines of homes listed for sale in June

Growth recorded in Continue reading

It costs $1,000, but for you, dahlink, no tax!

A friend of mine who asked to go nameless decided not long ago that he wanted a new bathroom sink.  After searching for a bargain online and in person, he reluctantly picked a model by Toto.  With new fixtures, the Toto total (say that five times) came to $1,000, including sales tax.

By the time the job was finished, however, his outlay had climbed to $3,700 as one thing led to another, about which more below. But the only tax he paid was for the sink, even though his plumbers and glazier were legitimate businesses that presented him with official receipts.

It can come as no surprise to you that contractors often offer their customers the opportunity to save money on the sales tax by paying cash. Yet I was surprised to learn that established companies–not just independent contractors such as your super–engaged in the risky practice of defrauding the government.  (However, I do recall that a respected business such as Saks or Tiffany was snared for doing so decades ago, and prosecutions are pursued with some regularity now.)

For both parties, it’s win-win.  But if you include financially strapped governments, it’s win-win-lose. I was unable to find the estimated total of funds lost, but I’ll wager that the money could pay for a significant amount of special education, transit maintenance and legislator perks (as if Albany needs even more of them).

According to New York City’s government, examples of sales tax evasion abound, including the following one:

A New York City retailer offers to let a customer pay cash and provide a false out-of-state address to avoid paying the City’s sales tax 8.75 percent. He offers to ship an empty box to the customer’s mother in another state as a precaution, so it looks as it the purchase is going out of state.

Now back to my friend’s situation.  Aside from the $1,000 he laid out for the sink, he paid $1,175 to have his tub and tiles reglazed and a grab bar installed.  (How could he live with tiling that looked shabby next to the sink?)

Because of the usual unforeseen complications, plumbers set him back a whopping $1,400.  In addition, he tipped the plumbers and glaziers $85 plus $40 to his building super, who hauled away the old sink.

Given the total he spent, my friend saved 8.75 percent of $1,400 plus $1,175, or $148.06.

For argument’s sake, assume that’s the only tax-free work he has done this year.  Then, assume that, say, only half of the city’s residents (call it 4 million) achieve the same personal benefit annually.  By my calculation, residents are saving and the city is losing a wildly approximate estimate of $600 million a year in revenue.

I don’t know about you, but I could live pretty comfortably on that amount of money.

As for my friend, who resides in a co-op on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the original octagonal floor tiles in his pre-war apartment look kind of scruffy to him.  Maybe he’ll get a deal for them too!

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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
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