Sustainability News: Rebuild by Design

Rendering Courtesy Rebuild by Design
Rendering courtesy Rebuild by Design

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there was lots of talk about rebuilding New York smarter and more efficiently to better withstand future environmental and weather disasters. Hopefully, that will be more than just talk.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development recently launched Rebuild by Design, a competition asking architecture and design firms to create post-Sandy, storm-resilient building solutions for waterfront development across the NYC area.

Rather than individual projects, architects were asked to dream up big ideas that could be implemented on a large scale throughout the region. More than 140 proposals came in from 15 different countries, and 10 were recently selected as finalists by a panel of experts. Among the best ideas chosen:

– A “Big U” series of connected blockades that would run all the way around the lower half of Manhattan, shielding the city from floods and storm surges while providing miles of new space on which to build parkland.

– A chain of barrier islands constructed across the New York and New Jersey coast, essentially man-made dunes that would protect our shores from storms and flooding.

– A series of flood barriers and raised streets throughout Red Hook that would shield that low-lying Brooklyn neighborhood, while also adding more space for development.

TOWN Aggregate Q1 2014 Report Details Manhattan’s Rising Costs

Sales prices in Manhattan have risen, while inventory has seen its scarcest days since 2007, according to TOWN’s Quarterly Aggregate Report. 

TOWN Aggregate New York City Real Estate Market Report Q1 2014

Fewer apartments were priced below $1 million, and an increase in apartments priced above $1 million led to overall market price increases nearly across the board. In conjunction, days on the market decreased by approximately 10 percent market-wide, but the inventory shortage showed the first signs of letting up, albeit slightly, as the absorption rate increased up to 3.99 months of supply.


TOWN Aggregate New York City Real Estate Market Report Q1 2014

For this quarter, market-wide average prices increased by approximately 14 percent, primarily due to an increase in the sales of high-end condominiums in terms of both the percentage and prices of such sales.

The luxury market also drove prices up this quarter, with the greatest average pricing increases among all product types.

TOWN Aggregate New York City Real Estate Market Report Q1 2014

Damien Parker, TOWN’s Chief Statistician, said year-over-year percentage increases should be taken with a grain of salt, since the first quarter of 2013 was a period of significant price declines.

“This quarter we saw a continued upswing in Manhattan real estate prices,” said Parker. “This is particularly noticeable in the year-over-year numbers.  However, it is important to remember that the first quarter of 2013 had fewer high-end sales than any other quarter in quite some time.  Hence, that period saw significant downward pricing trends.  So these year over percentage increases should be looked at with that perspective in mind.”

In short, Parker said the low sales of that quarter would result in overly optimistic percentage changes in a future time period.  That time period would be today.

Meet TOWN: Melanie Swanson

Meet TOWN’s Melanie Swanson, an energetic native New Yorker with a thirst for Manhattan culture.

 Melanie Swanson TOWN Residential

What is your most memorable NYC moment?

While growing up here as a child, I always enjoyed the pizzazz of the city and the energy from all the different people who call it home. I love architecture and never tire of walking around the City to appreciate the bright lights of Times Square each year during the holiday season. I went to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular from age four to 10. It always gave me bigger vision into adulthood.


What is your favorite Manhattan neighborhood? Why?

I have lived in and enjoyed the Lower East Side and West Village for over 25 years. I do a ton of walking and love finding new places of value to shop and eat. These areas are abundant with resources to make a good quality of life achievable and affordable. The charm and cobblestone streets of the West Village coupled with the low-rise pre-war buildings of both neighborhoods are a treasure of old New York. I always embrace the history of my hometown.


Why did you choose to pursue a career as a New York real estate professional? What is your favorite part of the job?

I chose real estate because it incorporates all of my past job experiences in entertainment, beauty and sales. I am creative at marketing and attend diverse events which allow me to meet new people. Networking is a huge part of this business and lines up perfectly with my lifestyle.


What is your greatest motivator?

When I’m able to share information with someone that enhances their circumstance, I feel powerful. I wear many hats in my personal life as a single New York woman. Getting up, dressed and going out to find something new to inspire me happens every day. People, places and things–always there is a story to tell.


What are your greatest passions?

Quality of life. Inspiring others through my strong faith is my greatest passion. Never give up, keep an eye on the good and keep going forward. This is my mantra day-to-day.


If you could invite anyone to a dinner party, whom would you invite?

President Obama, Al Pacino, Bono, Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, Maya Angelou and Lady Gaga–just to name a few!


If you had only one day left in NYC, how would you spend it?

Eating, shopping, and enjoying my favorite sights around town.


Stay connected with Melanie on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.

What You Can Buy for $1 Million In NYC and Beyond

Intermark Savills Michurinsky Pr 80

Dream of hanging up your Yankees hat and moving on to smaller American city, or even somewhere more exotic? Here’s a look at what $1 million can buy you right now in NYC and three other desirable international locations.

635 West 42nd Street, #2E
Soren Bech’s and Dane Gray’s TOWN Exclusive at 635 West 42nd Street, #2E


New York: Set in a luxury Midtown West building, this 700 square-foot one-bedroom apartment at 635 West 42nd Street, #2E, includes a private 450 square-foot roof terrace, along with drool-worthy details like gleaming hardwood floors, soaring 12-foot ceilings and an open chef’s kitchen with stainless steel appliances. On-site amenities in the luxury building including a media room, billiards room and a stunning roof deck with 360-degree city views.

Coldwell Banker 849 North Franklin #1605
Photo courtesy Coldwell Banker

Chicago: The Windy City’s real estate market is quite healthy as well, but you will get a little more space for your money over in the Midwest. This three-bedroom duplex, set in a stately new condo building in the trendy River North neighborhood, has an attractive open floor plan with custom built-ins throughout, two and a half luxurious granite baths, and three full outdoor spaces, as well as two-car tandem garage included in the sale price. 10 Edward Lane
Photo courtesy

Dublin: With the Euro still strong against the dollar, buying anywhere in Western Europe hasn’t been particularly appealing to most Americans in recent years, but there are some deals to be had. Ireland, which saw a building boom and housing bust quite similar to our own in the last decade, has plenty of stylish new-construction homes. This ultra-modern three-story home includes three spacious bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, plus a giant open-plan living/kitchen/dining area spanning the entire first floor.

Intermark Savills Michurinsky Pr 80
Photo courtesy Intermark Savills


Moscow: If the Winter Olympics have you dreaming of exploring the Russian empire, Moscow has plenty of Western-style developments hitting the market. This very red, design-chic apartment is on the 21st floor of a new skyscraper, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and panoramic city views. The apartment comes fully furnished, with a supremely sultry design scheme that is…hmm…did we mention red?

The Top 10 States for LEED

Top 10 States for LEED


Top 10 States for LEED
Image courtesy U.S. Green Buildings Council

The US Green Buildings Council recently released a list ranking the Top 10 States in the U.S. for LEED-certified construction. (LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is the world’s most widely used and recognized system for rating environmentally-friendly construction.) New York has welcomed many green properties in recent years, yet the rush of building to LEED standards here is only good enough to earn the state a #5 ranking. The #1 state on the list is Illinois, with the mid-Atlantic region of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. also placing high. New York tied with California for fifth-most LEED buildings per capita.

New York LEED Ranking
Image courtesy U.S. Green Buildings Council

The rankings are based on both commercial and institutional green building projects that were certified throughout 2013, and adjusted per capita based on U.S. Census data. The good news for everyone is that LEED-certified buildings – spaces that use less energy and more sustainable materials, while reducing carbon emissions and contributing to a healthier environment for residents – continued to rise throughout the nation.

LEED U.S. State Rankings
Rankings from U.S. Green Buildings Council

On the Map: Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo Real Estate
Sao Paulo Real Estate
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons / Andre Deak


With the World Cup coming to Brazil this summer, all the world’s eyes will be on South America’s largest country, an emerging market those in the luxury real estate business have been aware of for quite some time. Everyone knows Rio, but Sao Paulo in particular has seen amazing growth in the real estate market over the past half-decade. The question on everyone’s minds now is: will the market there continue to grow, or is it a bubble ready to burst?

Brazil in general has overseen a booming economy, with Brazilians across the spectrum – but particularly on the higher end – earning rapidly growing salaries with many of them buying high-end real estate in New York. Add in low interest loans and a burgeoning mortgage market, and housing prices in Brazil have gone through the roof, to the tune of 126 percent growth from 2008 through 2013. According to the Bank for International Settlements, that’s the most growth seen anywhere in the world – and particularly impressive given that much of the rest of the world was suffering through an economic downturn during the first half of that period.

In Sao Paulo, the World Cup stadium currently being erected is only one part of a construction bonanza taking over the city’s skyline. Luxury condos, hotels, and more modest single-family dwellings are all quickly attracting buyers, and leading to a whopping 181 percent growth in local housing prices solely in Sao Paulo.

All this growth lead to plenty of euphoria among anyone who bought Sao Paulo property prior to 2008. However, it has also left some analysts fretting about the possibility of a coming crash. Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller, a housing expert who predicted the 2008 burst of the American housing bubble, warned late last year that the signs for a similar situation are lining up in credit-happy Brazil. But at least for now, the real estate boom in sunny Sao Paulo shows no signs of slowing down.

Monthly Fluff: Older Dogs of New York

Susie's Senior Dogs
Susie's Senior Dogs
Photo courtesy Susie’s Senior Dogs


When Internet-famous “Humans of New York” blogger Brandon Stanton branched out from people and posted a photo of an especially cute lap dog named Susie, flippantly dubbing her “the greatest dog in New York,” Stanton had no idea he was about to create a movement. The photo went viral, and a week later Susie’s owner asked Stanton if he wanted to adopt the dog – which, despite her advanced age (13) – Stanton did.


Susie was one lucky dog. While most people want a playful new puppy, older ownerless dogs very rarely end up getting adopted. But the success of Susie’s story inspired Stanton’s girlfriend Erin O’Sullivan to action. O’Sullivan founded a Facebook page called Susie’s Senior Dogs, which she dedicated to matching the humans of New York, and elsewhere, with senior citizen canines. Susie’s Senior Dogs posts photos of older dogs in need of adoption every day, and has already matched several dozen pets with new owners – and elicited more awwwws than anything in recent Internet memory.
If you’re interested in adopting a senior dog, email Erin and Brandon.

In Fashion: Put on That Black Jacket

Beyond Rebellion: Fashioning the Biker Jacket The Museum at FIT
 Beyond Rebellion: Fashioning the Biker Jacket The Museum at FIT
Photo courtesy of The Museum at FIT

Finally – a fashion show stylistas will be able to drag their boyfriends to with no arguments. Instead of the little black dress, the exhibit currently on display at The Museum at FIT in Manhattan is dedicated to none other than the black leather motorcycle jacket.


The show, titled “Beyond Rebellion,” traces the history of how this icon of American outfits journeyed form a utilitarian garment designed to protect riders from wind, rain and cold to a subversive statement of non-conformity and finally, a wardrobe staple.


Now nearly 90 years old, the bikers’ jacket, originally made of black leather horsehide with chrome snaps, exposed zippers, and a belt, debuted in 1928. Its adoption by outlaw motorcycle clubs – and then Marlon Brando in the 1953 film “The Wild One” – soon cemented the jacket’s image as undeniably cool. Yves Saint Laurent introduced the fashion statement to the runways back in the 1960s, and since then it’s left its mark on everyone from the Sex Pistols to Jean Paul Gaultier, somehow never going out of style.


The Beyond Rebellion: Fashioning the Biker Jacket exhibit runs through April 5 at the Museum at FIT in Chelsea.

Art Agenda: The Dragons of Divine

Phoenix: Xu Bing at the Cathedral
 Phoenix: Xu Bing at the Cathedral
Photo courtesy St. John the Devine


One of Manhattan’s most beautiful enclaves, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine on the Upper West Side, with majestic rows of stained glass windows, just got a whole lot more visually appealing.


The church is now temporarily home to Chinese artist Xu Bing’s massive phoenix sculptures, two colossal colorful birds crafted out of an array of discarded materials found at Chinese construction sites. Measuring over 90 feet long and weighing some 12 tons, the birds, which represent Asian folkloric figures Feng and Huang, dangle from the cathedral’s ceiling, appearing to fly through the house of worship’s giant main hall.


Xu, a MacArthur genius grant recipient, splits his time between Brooklyn and Beijing, although this is the first time the acclaimed artist has had an exhibit of this scale shown at such a landmark New York venue. The birds will be on display inside the cathedral throughout the entirety of 2014. The venue is open seven days a week, except Mondays at 1 p.m., when the cathedral’s legendary organists give a divinely-inspired 30-minute performance, is a great time to take in its splendor.

Bike All Five New York City Boroughs

TD Five Borough Bike Tour
TD Five Borough Bike Tour
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons / Jesper Rautell Balle

One of the city’s signature charity races – and by all accounts one of the most fun ones – is coming up on May 5. The TD Bank Five Boro Bike Tour is a 40-mile, traffic-free cycle through, well, all five boroughs. The path is akin to a reverse route of the NYC Marathon, with a good bit more added on. The race starts in Lower Manhattan and heads north, cutting through Central Park and Harlem before swinging into the Bronx, back down through East Harlem, across the East River into Queens and all the way through Brooklyn, before heading over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and into Staten Island.


Along the way riders can stop at scenic rest areas in places like Astoria Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park, or get competitive and cycle all the way through. Whatever kind of rider you are, this is the only chance you’re going to get to two-wheel through this many marquee NYC destinations with no cars in sight, so it’s no surprise some 32,000 bikers join every year. Will you be clipping in with us?