Posts Tagged ‘Haiti’

Foreign Governments Paying Cash for Pricey Manhattan Real Estate

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Foreign governments are snapping up prime Manhattan real estate for consulates, U.N. offices.Foreign governments are a growth engine for New York City commercial and residential real estate at a time when many cash-strapped European nations are facing financial crises.  For example, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations has $8 million to spend and is looking at Manhattan office space.  Laos recently paid $4.2 million in cash for a five-story townhouse in the Murray Hill neighborhood.  Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Anton Troianovski notes that “Even the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country – Haiti – was gearing up to bid on a Second Avenue office condominium when the earthquake struck and derailed its plans.”

Foreign governments “are almost the only game in town,” according to Ken Krasnow, managing director with Massey Knakal.  During the boom years, foreign governments looking to buy real estate for consulates and U.N. missions found stiff competition from private developers.  Since last year, however, Senegal, Singapore, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates have purchased prime properties for redevelopment.  Additionally, governments are paying top dollar – usually in cash – for office space or land sites that are within walking distance of the United Nations.  Troianovski notes that “This trend underscores the bench strength of New York real estate:  When certain buying groups move to the sidelines, others are waiting to take their place.”

Dealing with foreign governments means that the transaction typically progresses at a glacial pace.  Philips International spent three years in negotiations with the Ivory Coast to close on an $8 million office condominium at 800 Second Avenue.  The transaction, which closed last September, spent 377 days in escrow.

Chile, Haiti Earthquakes Point to Need for Quake-Proof Buildings

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Civil engineers can design buildings that don’t collapse when the earth’s tectonic plates shift.  Two massive earthquakes in a single month – an 8.8 trembler in Chile and a 7.0 quake in Haiti – have raised the question of whether engineers can design buildings that don’t crumble when the earth’s tectonic plates crash against one another. Although the simple answer is that the technology exists to make buildings almost earthquake-proof, the cost of rebuilding sprawling cities that are hundreds of years old would be prohibitively expensive.

“Most disasters are created by human beings.  It’s how we build and where we build that creates the hazard, the disaster,” said Michael Armstrong, senior vice president of the International Code Council, a non-profit organization that develops building codes.  “Earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, floods are going to occur, but there are ways in terms of where we build and how we build that can reduce the impact.”

Essentially, the technology that prevents buildings from collapsing during earthquakes works by making buildings stronger or more flexible so they sway and slide rather than crumble.  For nearly three decades, engineers have constructed skyscrapers that float on systems of ball bearings, springs and padded cylinders.  Because these buildings don’t sit directly on the earth, they are protected from some earthquakes.  During a major earthquake they may sway a few feet in synch with the tremor.

Mehmet Celebi, a senior research civil engineer with the U.S. Geological Survey, pointed to a striking example where buildings constructed with base isolation performed exceptionally in earthquakes while others did not.  Base isolation is a collection of structural elements which should substantially decouple a superstructure from its substructure resting on a shaking ground, thus protecting a building‘s structural integrity.  He cited a University of Southern California hospital in Los Angeles that came through the 1994 Northridge earthquake with no damage.  A nearby hospital that did not incorporate the same technology suffered significant damage.

Texting to Save Haiti

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Texting for Haiti a bold new way to donate money to earthquake relief.Text “HAITI” to 90999  on your cell phone and $10 will be donated to the American Red Cross for earthquake relief in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.  That $10 donation will appear on your next cell phone bill – a quick and painless way to speed relief to a country reeling in the face of 7.0-magnitude quake that leveled much of the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

According to National Public Radio, “This is the first time that there has been a massive giving via text message in the United States.  mGive is the company that’s been working with charitable organizations to set up this donation method.  Tony Aiello, the CEO, says “people are used to interacting with local news sites via cell phone and text message.”  So far, the Red Cross has raised more than $4.7 million for Haitian relief, a number that is expected to grow.

Haitian musician Wyclef Jean, who runs the Yele Haiti charity, asked his Twitter followers to text “YELE” to 501501 to automatically donate $5.  So many responded that the website crashed for a time.

Charities are certain to look back on the Haitian earthquake as a game-changing event, the time when cell phones and social media came into their own as fundraising techniques.  The question is whether social media and new technologies generate more donations, or simply redirects contributions that otherwise would have been made online or by mail.