Posts Tagged ‘New York City’

2012 CoreLogic Storm Surge Report Contains Some Surprises

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Which American city is at the greatest financial risk from a hurricane?  If you think it’s New Orleans or Miami, you’re wrong.  According to CoreLogic, a data analysis firm, it’s New York City that is at the greatest risk, both from the number of properties impacted and the dollar value of the damage.  The area also includes Long Island and northern New Jersey.

“The summer of 2011 gave us some startling insight into the damage that even a weak storm can cause in the New York City metro area,” CoreLogic vice president Howard Botts said.  “Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm as it passed through New Jersey and New York City, but the impact of the storm was still estimated at as much as $6 billion.  Economic losses mounted swiftly as businesses shuttered, the New York City mass transit system came to a sudden halt and emergency response teams were called into action to prepare for the worst.”

A hurricane is more likely to make landfall in Miami than New York, according to Colorado State University research.  The odds are 5.3 percent for Miami and 0.2 percent for New York City.  Fast forward a half century in the future and the odds rise to 95.5 percent for Miami and 6.6 percent for New York.  Despite the discrepancy in numbers, the risk exists, especially from flooding.  While most people associate hurricane damage with wind, the storm surge from rising waters caused by cyclones has the greatest impact.

That fact became evident to residents of the northeast after last summer’s Hurricane Irene.  Although the insured impact of Irene on New York City was relatively mild, one of the insurance industry’s nightmares has always been a major hurricane traveling up the Hudson River and striking the city and its suburbs.  Some estimates believe that an event of this magnitude could cause $100 billion just in insured losses, with economic damage greater than that.  According to CoreLogic estimates, the property at risk in the New York City area is worth some $168 billion.

Core Logic said that more than four million homes in the United States are at risk from hurricane-related flood damage, with more than $700 billion in property potentially vulnerable.  There are 2.2 million homes worth more than $500 billion at risk along the Atlantic coast; another 1.8 million homes worth $200 billion are imperiled along the Gulf coast.  Approximately 35 percent of the at-risk homes are in Florida and another 12 percent or so in Louisiana, the firm said.  In terms of value of property, more than 40 percent of the risk is concentrated in Florida and New York.

The 2012 CoreLogic Storm Surge report provides the first-ever analysis of residential property hurricane risk along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts broken down by region and by state, as well as a snapshot of the risk by metro areas.

Though more frequently impacted states like Florida, Texas and Louisiana get the most attention when it comes to hurricane vulnerability and destruction, Hurricane Irene made it very clear last summer that hurricane risk is not confined to the southern parts of the country,” Botts said.  “That’s why we felt it was important this year to highlight storm-surge risk in a brand new way to establish a better understanding of exposure throughout the states that are most at risk of a direct hurricane hit.  As we got a glimpse of during Irene, our 2012 report shows even a Category 1 storm could cause property damage in the billions along the northeastern Atlantic Coast and force major metropolitan areas to shut down or evacuate.”

CoreLogic created its Storm Surge Report to improve understanding of the risk that it poses to homes in areas prone to tropical storms.  Storm surge is triggered by the high winds and low barometric pressure associated with hurricanes, which cause water to mass inside a storm as it moves across the ocean before releasing as a powerful rush overland when the hurricane moves onshore.

“The data we compile is useful for insurance providers and financial services companies, to help them better understand potential exposure to damage for homes — particularly those that do not fall into designated FEMA Special Flood Hazard Areas,” Botts said.  “Homeowners who live outside of high risk flood zones are not required to carry flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and may not be fully aware of the risk storm surge poses to their home or property.  When a storm strikes the coast, storm-surge flooding can inundate homes far inland and cause significant losses from powerful surge waters, damaging debris and standing water left behind.”

Rooftop Gardens Blooming in the Big Apple

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Green roofs are springing up in the concrete jungle of New York City – plants growing on waterproof membranes on top of buildings – in all five boroughs.  Considering the potential to reduce greenhouse gases, increase energy efficiency and capture storm-water runoff, this movement is understandable.  “Most of this work is small in scale so far, but it should get us all thinking,” said David Smiley, assistant professor of architecture and urban studies at Barnard College.  Green roofs are perceived as especially useful in New York because they absorb up to 70 percent of the rainwater that would otherwise drain away.  The city – built on islands and bounded by two rivers — has long struggled with excessive runoff after heavy rainstorms that overwhelm the drainage system that overflow with raw sewage.  Con Edison, the city’s energy supplier, pioneered urban greenery in 2008 by planting thousands of sedum on the roof of its building in Long Island City, across the East River from Manhattan.

“We’re slammed,” said Marni Majorelle, who founded Brooklyn-based Alive Structures to teach New Yorkers how to convert their rooftops into gardens.  “There’s a growing demand for green roofs from homeowners and developers. I see it as part of people’s plans – so many architects now include it.  It’s a new chapter for New York.”  According to a 2008 New York Times report on green roofs, New York City has 944 million SF of rooftop surfaces, but records of how much is used as rooftop gardens are limited.  It lags behind Germany and other American cities such as Chicago and Seattle, where – as Dwaine Lee, a green infrastructure professional, said – green roofs were have been planted for years.

New York is starting to catch up.  “It will keep growing, because the cost is coming down and the manufacturers of roofs are getting into the game,” said John Coogan, of OCV Architects, which creates roof spaces, predominantly next to non-profit-making organizations in affordable housing units.  It designed its first green roof in 2004 and has completed a dozen more spaces since.  Some believe that green roofs are just the tip of the iceberg.  Architect Vanessa Keith envisions an array of innovative ways to retrofit buildings – from roof ponds for cooling to electricity-generating water walls.  “Perhaps the current dilemma, rather than being seen as a death sentence or a depressing indictment of wasteful society, can provide an opportunity to rethink and retool our existing way of life,” she said.

Several New York urban farmers are innovating with their rooftop gardens For example, there is the nearly one-acre Brooklyn Grange, Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, Gotham Greens, and the aeroponic growing system.  An affordable rental building in the Bronx plans to open with a new rooftop commercial greenhouse, and the Brooklyn Grange will open a new farm on the Brooklyn waterfront to grow food and capture storm water, thanks to a grant from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection.

To encourage building owners to convert rooftops to food production, the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) released a proposed zoning text amendment that would exclude rooftop greenhouses on top of commercial buildings from the lot’s floor area ratio (FAR) and height limits.

The city has proposed that 1,200 acres of commercial rooftops be made available for urban farmers to build greenhouses.  “City law imposes restrictions on how tall buildings are allowed to be in different areas, which is one reasons why rooftops stay empty — developers often build to the maximum height possible,” said Sarah Laskow of Grist. “The planning department’s proposal would allow buildings to add rooftop greenhouses above regular height restrictions.  And according to a study from the Urban Design Lab, that would mean 1,200 acres of empty, flat rooftops would be eligible for green penthouses.”

Urban farms – especially those on rooftops – have many green features.  They insulate buildings; they absorb various gases that doesn’t belong in the atmosphere; and they help prevent rainwater runoff and pollution.  These rooftop farms would be “required to incorporate rainwater collection and reuse systems, which will help the city mitigate the pressure that big rainstorms puts on the sewer system.”

Green Metropolis Takes Aim at Environmentalists’ Conventional Wisdom

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Author David Owen thinks that New York is the nation’s greenest city.  David Owen, a staff writer with The New Yorker, has expanded on his 2004 article entitled “Green Manhattan” that roughs up some of the environmental movement’s most closely held beliefs in a new book entitled Green MetropolisA review by Catherine Tumber, originally published in The Wilson Quarterly, notes that “Eco-friendly suburbanites and small-town residents are only kidding themselves as long as they live in sparsely settled, spaciously appointed, auto-dependent communities.  If they really want to reduce their carbon footprint in any significant way, they should live in densely settled, pedestrian-friendly, public-transit-oriented cities like New York.”

Owen suggests that cities like New York build on their biggest low-carbon asset – their large population densities – and place less emphasis on green buildings, urban agriculture and increasing the size of the city’s parks.  He even believes that Central Park is too big and wasted space that could be used to support even more housing.  Additionally, Owen takes aim at “the spectrum of green-tech fixes under development, from residential solar panels and LEED-certified buildings to ‘net-metering,’ de-concentrated ‘distributed’ electricity generation, ethanol production and electric cars.  ‘Nature-conservancy brain’ and ‘LEED brain,’ as he calls these environmentalist fixations, are too often driven by PR and do little more than distract from the more difficult task at hand:  how to get Americans to kick the car habit and live together more closely, in smaller spaces,” Tumber writes.

According to Owen, New Yorkers are environmentalists because they live in a city where a car is a luxury and residents tend to walk, take the bus or the subway.  “In urban planning in particular,” he said, “the best, most enduringly fruitful concepts have usually arisen accidentally, and have endured not because anyone was wise enough to identify and preserve them but because they serendipitously developed what was, in effect, a life of their own.  Owen argues that New York should be viewed as a model for other cities that want to reduce their carbon footprint.

Tumber notes that “Owen makes a point, almost in passing, that also deserves further conversation:  rather than reducing the carbon footprints of apartment buildings or growing food on precious urban real estate, cities should be focusing on ‘old-fashioned quality-of-life-concerns’ such as education, crime, noise and recreational amenities – the very troubles that drove people into suburbia in the first place.”

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.

Paul Krugman is Moving on Up

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Paul Krugman – winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, Princeton University professor and New York Times columnist – is taking advantage of falling home prices in a difficult market.  Krugman and his wife, economist Robin Wells, recently paid $1.7 million for a three-bedroom co-op apartment in a pre-war building on Manhattan’s upscale Riverside Drive.  The apartment had been on the market for more than one year and had an original asking price of $2.495 million, according to StreetEasy.com, a property listing service.

krugman-788178According to Krugman, “We really wanted a place that has the ultimate New York luxury, which is a washer and a dryer.  I do expect New York prices will fall some more, but we need a place.  And I came into some money.”  Krugman’s Nobel Prize included a $1.4 million cash award.  The six-room apartment has nine-foot ceilings, offers “romantic cityscapes” and has a monthly maintenance fee of $1,820.  Krugman’s long-time one-bedroom apartment on West 89th Street is under currently contract for a bargain $599,000.  Additionally, the Krugmans own a house in Princeton, NJ.

Median Manhattan home prices fell 18.5 percent to $835,700 from a year earlier, according to appraiser Miller Samuel, Inc., and broker Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate.  The number of sales is half of the 2008 number.

Krugman’s purchase comes at a time when the housing market appears to be stabilizing.  Existing home sales rose 3.8 percent in the second quarter to a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.76 million over the first quarter, according to National Realtor Association statistics.

Foreign Investors Like Luxury

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

You know what they say about polls.  Still, a recent one is an interesting temperature reading for the new economy.   Overseas investors in United States real estate prefer retail versus office or industrial space right now, according to a recent issue of Commercial Property News. This is just one conclusion in a survey that examined the influence of the current housing slump on the economy and consumer spending.  Nearly 200 members of the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate (AFIRE) revised their favored property rankings from the previous year.  Retail soared to first from fifth place, while hotels fell from second to fourth place  Office space plunged from first place to last. “While foreign investors are aware of the high occupancy and rental-rate increases in the office market, they fear that the credit crunch will cause tenants to lay people off and contract their space needs,” reported Karin Shewer, a principal for New York City-based Real Estate Capital Partners, which advises European investors about American real estate markets.  Shewer says multifamily’s lack of popularity is the result of a growing uneasiness with the United States condominium market.“Another issue with multifamily is that cap rates are very low right now and returns are limited,” Shewer said.  The strong preference for hotels relates to aging baby boomers.  According to Shewer, “A lot of baby boomers will inherit from parents who were conservative savers, and as they move toward retirement, they will have more time to travel, and they will occupy hotels.”  So why retail at the top?  Dan Fasulo, managing director for Real Capital Analytics, Inc., notes that “Retail is a diverse property type with many sub-niches.  What these investors might be referencing is high-end urban luxury retail.  We have seen a boom like never before in high-fashion apparel, jewelry and other upscale specialty stores that have been expanding globally as the worldwide economic expansion has driven up disposable incomes of affluent people around the world.”  The AFIRE survey also found that foreign investors still prefer American real estate to that in other countries.  To illustrate, AFIRE’s members collectively own $700 billion worth of real estate worldwide; $230 billion of that is invested in the United States.Lastly, AFIRE members were asked to rank their favorite cities for investment.  New York City and Washington, D.C., took first and second place.  London, Paris and Shanghai completed the list.