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For developments including new services, practices, and professionals to better serve our clients as well as our contributions to the legal and business communities, check out our News & Events section.

31 May 2017
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Williamsburg Woes: Where Will You Be when the L Line Shuts Down?

“R160 L Train @ Broadway Junction” by MoskFPS at English Wikipedia licensed by GNU Free Documentation License 1.2.

If you live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, you have probably heard that your main link to Manhattan is about to shut down for fifteen months.  Starting in April 2019, the L train will shut down in order to allow for extensive tunnel repairs due to damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.  Some residents are already planning alternate routes to work.  Others are simply picking up and moving.  If you are in the latter group, rest assured that developers in other parts of the City are prepared to welcome you with open arms.

So where should you move?  One spot that is seeing a surge in development is South Williamsburg – particularly areas near the J, M and Z lines.  These trains provide a viable alternative for commuting, if you can look past the neighborhood’s less-developed cultural scene and grungier thoroughfares.  Midwood Investment & Development recently completed the Williams, an eighty-two-unit luxury rental at 282 South Fifth Street.  Many new Williams residents are taking out two-year leases to protect against impending price increases when the L train closes.  Just down the road, the Dime, a combined effort from Tavros Development Partners, 1 Oak Development, and Charney Construction & Development, will be opening in 2019.

Greenpoint, Brooklyn is also being targeted by developers due to its location on the G line.  The G line may not be your best option for commuting, considering it does not go all the way to Manhattan, but developers are betting on the rising popularity of Citi Bikes and Uber.  Development company Mortar recently purchased two lots in Greenpoint close to the G line.  Saddle Rock Equities Sales and Eisner Design are confident enough in this location to start selling their newest project, the Gibraltar, at fifty-percent above market rate.

If you liked Williamsburg before it was “cool,” check out Sunnyside, Queens.  It may not be the hippest location yet, but it has a small-town feel without the gentrification that pushed former residents out of Williamsburg.  Prewar buildings still reign supreme here, and prices are generally much lower.  However, AB Capstone is currently constructing a new retail and residential building at Greenpoint Avenue and 48th Street – likely an early indicator of development to come.

One final suggestion for those looking to vacate Williamsburg: the tried-and-true Lower East Side.  This neighborhood was Williamsburg – back before Williamsburg was Williamsburg.  Appropriately, like a fine wine, it has aged itself into opulence, pushing out many of the hipsters who established its culture (to, among other places, Williamsburg).  But if a few thousand extra dollars each month is not a big concern for you, you might find a home in Central Construction Management’s new building, 265 East Houston, or BFC Partners’ Essex Crossing.

The closing of the L line is going to be a major inconvenience for Williamsburg residents.  Of course you could stick it out, as will many locals.  Indeed, it is worth mentioning that development companies are skeptical about the long-term effects of this transit closure.  Appraisal firm Miller Samuel argued that any uptick in development in places like Greenpoint and Sunnyside was destined to happen anyway.  However, if you live in Williamsburg, or were thinking of moving to Williamsburg soon, perhaps a change of location is in your best interest.  Developers across New York City are working hard to accommodate you.

26 May 2017
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FINRA’s Success Limiting Trading Manipulation

Today’s economy is seeing a drop in trading manipulation due to new initiatives set in place by FINRA. FINRA, or, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, is a “not-for-profit organization authorized by Congress to protect America’s investors by making sure the broker-dealer industry operates fairly and honestly.” This year at FINRA’s annual conference, Robert W. Cook, the President and CEO, reported the organization’s success in limiting layering, a type of trading manipulation, this creating a fairer industry.

Layering is an illegal method used by securities traders in high-frequency trading to manipulate stock prices by creating the appearance of either buying or selling securities.  They do this by placing multiple layers of orders that they ultimately do not execute. This will artificially alter the stock price to create more advantageous trading opportunities for the trader.  Unfortunately, this practice is difficult to monitor or prevent.

But in 2016, FINRA initiated a cross-market surveillance report card which detects trading fraud and manipulation, even when individuals are concealing their investments across multiple platforms. Firms usually conduct their own surveillance to detect unscrupulous trading activities, but FINRA has even greater reach and can review all trades that go through the U.S. stock market. During the conference, Cook explained that manipulative trading activity “can be very hard for any individual firm to detect, so we are now alerting members when our sophisticated surveillance programs flag a suspicious trading pattern.” However, not all suspicious trading is actually illegal activity. The purpose of FINRA’s technology is to alert firms of trades that should be reviewed and prompt them to take any necessary action. This reduces formal FINRA investigations as it allows firms to attack the issue at first appearance. Because of this new process, there has been a 68% drop in “layering exceptions.”

Critics have argued that although layering has been reduced, it has not necessarily stopped. Instead, traders could have found ways around FINRA’s detection technology, or broker-dealer firms could have simply dismissed clients with suspicious trades. Nevertheless, being able to detect this information early on has proven helpful to firms. Cook, in his speech, explained that this open flow of information between FINRA, member firms, investors and market participants, is the key to FINRA’s success in regulating manipulative trading practices.

FINRA is effectively finding ways to surveil fraudulent behavior, help firms meet compliance standards with FINRA and the SEC, and prevent cybersecurity risks. Due to FINRA’s achievements, it will be expanding this cross-market program within the year. It will also be producing new reports for firms before year’s end to give a rounded summary of their findings. Cook wants his organization to evolve with technology and policy “in order to be a nimble, more responsive regulator that adapts quickly and creatively to change.”

26 May 2017
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Subletting Your Co-op

New Yorkers frequently question whether they are allowed to sublet their apartment, for reasons ranging from financial hardship to overseas assignments. The answer depends on whether you are a co-op shareholder or condo unit owner. Condo residents have more freedom to sublet, since they own their property outright. However, complications arise for co-ops due to their complex nature. Co-op residents are shareholders, and shareholders do not own their unit – they own shares, which grant them the right to occupy the unit. Co-op boards put each potential resident through an invasive vetting process, so you can imagine they are likely more conservative with their subletting policies.  However, co-op boards need to be willing to permit their shareholders to sublet their unit when necessary.

Ultimately, it is the co-op board’s decision whether to approve subletting, and the parameter of the terms. The board can restrict how long a shareholder can sublet, who can be a subtenant, impose fees and surcharges, and even deny subletting completely. However, these policies (especially terms relating to time constraints and surcharges) must be clearly stated in the proprietary lease. The board is barred from imposing additional subletting rules that are not already listed in the lease (see DeSoignies v. Cornasesk House Tenants’ Corp.) and from creating unreasonable restrictions, such as charging excessive fees (see Bailey v. 800 Grand Concourse). However, most of the co-op board’s decisions can be justified using the business judgment rule, which has the power to protect all reasonable decisions in regard to subletting. Therefore, boards have a wide range of flexibility when determining how stringent the terms should be. For instance, every co-op board can calculate surcharges using a formula of their choosing, which is usually a percentage of the maintenance fee. If the board wants to amend the terms of the lease to impose greater limitations on subletting units, the board must hold a shareholder meeting and obtain a supermajority – two-thirds vote – in favor of the change.

Co-op boards look for potential shareholders who will have a long-term interest in the building and are able to pay bills and maintenance fees; hence their reluctance to approve subletting. So what should you expect when subletting your co-op? Your board will probably have a set of policies that need to be strictly adhered to in order to avoid breaching the proprietary lease. A breach could lead to termination of the lease and forfeiture of all shares. Co-op boards sometimes permit shareholders to sublet their space after they have lived in the building for a certain number of years, but every co-op is different and so are the proprietary leases. Your board can also limit how many years each subtenant can lease the apartment. Your board will also likely require your potential tenant to go through an interview process similar to the one you went through. This normally requires a co-op board package, including a history of the individual’s financial history, business and personal references, tax returns etc. These requirements are effective ways for the board to maintain control, but also meet the needs of shareholders.

A common issue that arises is who is responsible for damages from a subtenant, the shareholder or the corporation? The burden of repairs should be stated in the proprietary lease and any other governing documents of the building. Typically, if the damage is to the structural integrity of the apartment or building (ceiling, wall, or floor), negatively impacts the habitability of the apartment, and/or is covered by the co-op’s insurance, it will be the co-op’s responsibility to make the repair. If the corporation makes the repair, but the damage is due to the shareholder’s negligence, the board can file a negligence claim to recoup any damages. If any fittings, fixtures, interiors are damaged, repair costs usually fall on the shareholder.

24 May 2017
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ICSC RECon 2017: Gloomy Markets in Sunny Las Vegas

Put away those action figures and take off that cape, an even better convention is here: ICSC RECon 2017!  The ICSC (or, the International Council of Shopping Centers, as the uninitiated call it) is finishing up its annual real estate convention, which began on May 21st in Las Vegas.  Some of New York’s largest commercial landlords were in attendance, including representatives from Winick Realty Group, Wharton Properties, Crown Acquisitions, Aurora Capital Associates, A&H Acquisitions, United American Land, Zar Property, and the Feil Organization.

ICSC was packed with just as many parties as conferences at swanky locations up and down the Strip.  Names such as JP Morgan Chase, JLL, and Newmark Grubb Knight Frank and CCRE held both formal and informal talks in various hotel ballrooms.  Winick Realty Group took these talks poolside at The Wynn.  Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson went further yet and held an event at XS Nightclub.  Hiten Samtani of the Real Deal began his review of the party thusly: “If the patron saints of testosterone and decadence sat down together and dreamed up the ideal venue for a New York real estate bash, that venue would be XS” (Samtani, 2017).

Notwithstanding the wilder aspects of this convention, real estate landlords and tenants, developers, and investors look to this yearly event as an opportunity to form meaningful connections.  Such connections are especially important now, since the general forecast for this year’s RECon was gloomy.  While the prevailing belief is that traditional retail is on the decline as technology improves and transactions go digital, longtime retail landlords believe that current market-defining tenants who are suffering (like Payless) will simply be replaced by new ones, and further, that e-commerce businesses like Warby Parker are going to increase their demand for physical locations.

Though some familiar faces were conspicuously absent on the convention floor this year, new faces appeared in almost equal number.  New additions to the scene include Shinola, a retailer and manufacturer based in Detroit, which was in attendance for only the second time.  Due to the abundance of retail spaces for rent in New York City, it hopes to make connections that will facilitate its expansion to, perhaps, Fifth Avenue. Another newcomer, Future Land, a residential and commercial development company based in Shanghai, started their RECon tenure with eleven representatives.  Japanese mall developer Forest Mall was also new this year, testing the waters for international expansion.  Perhaps it is the exchange of ideas and innovations that make this event so ideal for networking.  Perhaps it is the open bar.  Either way, regardless of the market forecast, spirits were certainly raised (in both senses of the term).

19 May 2017
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The Race to Trademark

Trademarks provide greater legal protection for your business or brand by giving you ownership and exclusive rights to your mark, which traditionally have been company names, symbols, designs, slogans and phrases. However, in recent years intellectual property lawyers have even applied for trademarks for shapes, sounds, colors, and scents, but these types of applications are not always successful. For instance, in a challenge made to England and Wales’ Supreme Court, Nestle, the owners of KitKat, were denied the right to receive a trademark for KitKat’s unique shape. This decision creates a higher standard as to what unconventional things can be trademarked in England and Wales, although Nestle has successfully received trademark approval in other countries for KitKat’s shape (Australia, Canada, Germany, France, and South Africa).

In addition to traditional corporate branding, American politicians have a standing history of applying for trademark protection for their slogans, especially in regards to their campaigns – whether it be President Reagan’s “stay the course” for the 1982 mid-term elections, President Clinton’s “don’t stop thinking about tomorrow” slogan, and President Obama’s “change we believe in” campaign.  This is true even on a local level, as Catherine Cloud, who coined the slogan “because this is America” for the New Hanover County Democratic Party in Wilmington, North Carolina, rushed to apply for a trademark.  Trademarking slogans has proven to be very effective when appealing to voters. Relatedly, politicians have also taken messages from organizations to turn into policy, such as President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, which was taken from the Children’s Defense Fund who coined the phrase “leave no child behind”.

Recently, trademarks for slogans and phrases have become increasingly popular. In 2016, there were just under 400,000 trademark applications filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Even celebrities race to trademark their sayings, such as Taylor Swift’s pending trademark on “nice to meet you” from her song Blank Space, and Paris Hilton’s notorious “that’s hot”. Why are people so eager to trademark their sayings? Mostly because it has the potential of generating revenue from bumper stickers to t-shirts, like “Keep Austin Weird”. Or as Catherine Cloud argues, it creates a meaningful message, as “’because this is America’ is a rallying cry that focuses on what we have in common, rather than what divides us.”

The trademark application process can be a lengthy one. It typically takes the USPTO 18 months to approve an application, but in some instances it takes much longer. The New Yorker cartoonist, Robert Mankoff, applied for a trademark for his cartoon of a businessman scheduling a meeting with the caption “How about never – is never good for you?” which the USPTO took 23 years to approve. When filing a trademark it is important to hire an attorney that is familiar with the process so that your application can go as smoothly as possible. As an applicant you will need to identify your mark format, what goods and services the mark applies to, whether anyone already holds the rights to the mark, and your basis for filing. Once the application is submitted it must be monitored until you receive approval or denial. In the event your application is opposed or denied, your attorney can appeal the decision.

19 May 2017
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Noisy Neighbors – How to Deal with Construction Disturbances

In past posts we have talked about how to deal with co-op and condo renovations, so that you or neighbor can enjoy those new bathroom fixtures, but with all construction comes the chaos, the noise and debris. When does the noise from construction become unreasonable?

Construction should not take place outside of weekday working hours (along the lines of 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.). Permissible hours for construction and any restrictions on contractors’ actions  should be explicitly stated in the house rules so that neighbors are not unduly burdened. Naturally, noise from construction is to be expected, but this does not mean that your neighbor’s contractor can be as loud as possible. If the noise is unbearable, communicate your concerns to your neighbor. They can instruct the workers to be more mindful of the noise. If your neighbor refuses to acknowledge your complaint, go to your co-op or condo board and show them any written correspondence between you and your neighbor addressing the issue. Prior to initiating litigation, your board should take the necessary steps formally notify and warn the shareholder or unit owner that the noise from their renovation has become a nuisance to neighbors.

This formal notification should be in the form of a written warning explaining that the shareholder’s or unit owner’s conduct is disturbing their neighbors. If something is occurring in violation of the house rules, such as construction work outside of the appropriate times, the board should include that the residents are breaching the building’s governing documents. It is very likely that an alteration agreement between the building and the shareholder/unit owner also addresses this issue, and if so, any breach of the alteration agreement should be noted in writing as well. If the shareholder or unit owner does not respond to these warnings, the board should compile a record of the house rules and provisions of the alteration agreement that have been breached and all written warnings to the resident.

What do you do if your neighbor contests your complaint that the noise is unbearable? You or your board (depending on who is bringing the complaint) could hire a consultant to measure the noise from the construction. If your board was reluctant to intervene in the first place, this evidence would strengthen your argument and most likely persuade the board to take action against the shareholder or unit owner whose unit is undergoing renovation.

To avoid conflicts between neighbors and the board, it is important that the board reviews all construction projects (big or small). The board should remind shareholders and unit owners of the limits of their construction projects, ensure that they do not make unreasonable noise or mess, and only work during the allotted times in the house rules. Secondly, the board should notify all residents in the building of the construction project and its estimated time frame, and work to enforce the restrictions in place. This will help to prevent animosity between neighbors. Litigation is costly and time consuming, and almost certainly not in you or your building’s best interest for a noise complaint.

17 May 2017
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The Devil is in the Details

A newly-proposed tower on the Upper West Side is set to be that neighborhood’s tallest building.  Since the plan was introduced, it has faced strong opposition from residents, organizations, and politicians.

The old Lincoln Square Synagogue at 200 Amsterdam Avenue had been empty since its congregation moved to a new location down the block.  In 2015, the lot was bought by SJP Properties, which soon thereafter released plans to tear down the synagogue and build a 51-story tower in its place.  This new development will contain 112 apartments, as well as other luxurious amenities.  Hauntingly, this tower will rise to 666 feet.

Opposition to the new “200 Amsterdam” first came from the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, which filled a challenge to the proposal with the Department of Buildings (DOB).  Soon, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council member Helen Rosenthal joined in the outcry—literally.  Ms. Brewer and Ms. Rosenthal organized a rally in protest of the tower, which was held on March 16th.  Due to the recognition stirred up by such public opposition, many locals have now started voicing their disapproval on social media.  The critics present two main arguments: first, that the height of the building is grossly inappropriate for the surrounding area; second, that SJP has manipulated zoning regulations to justify the height of the building.

SJP points out that it is not violating any zoning laws, which is true.  Zoning regulations are largely based upon the amount of square-footage incorporated in a lot.  The larger the lot, the higher the building can be.  The proposed tower would sit on approximately 10,000 square feet of land, which would normally limit its height to roughly 7 stories, if it took up the entire space.  However, SJP has slowly been buying unused air space from neighboring buildings, accumulating around 100,000 square feet of adjacent land.  This means that the building, occupying only 10,000 square feet of ground-space, can actually afford to be up to 70 stories tall.

Despite the opposition from certain sources, developers find SJP’s ingenuity inspiring.  So much so, in fact, that it has led other companies, such as DDG, to start similar projects in other parts of Manhattan.  DDG is specifically mentioned here because its project also faced strong opposition, but it eventually won the support of the DOB.  It was, after all, the initial challenge to the DOB issued by the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development that brought SJP’s project into the spotlight.  Though the outcome is still unclear, and strong arguments exist for both sides, SJP has already begun demolition of the old Lincoln Square Synagogue, and is prepared to start construction in the near future.

12 May 2017
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Second Circuit Court of Appeals Reconsiders the Parameters of Insider Trading

“Insider Trading 3” by Insider Monkey, licensed by CC Attribution No Derivs 2.0 Generic

Insider trading, a type of market manipulation, has been an hotly-contested area in the United States since the implementation of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, which implicitly condones insider trading in order to promote a fair financial market. Insider trading is defined as “trading by anyone (inside or outside of the issuer) on any type of material non-public information about the issuer or about the market for the security.”[1] The issues in United States v. Martoma arise because although the 1934 Act may have the intention of promoting fairness, it lacks clarity, which leads to inconsistent treatment in the Courts.

There are two types of insider trading, the classic form and misappropriation form; the latter applies to the Martoma case. The misappropriation form applies when an individual misuses non-public information to make a securities transaction and breaches a duty of trust and confidence. The Second Circuit in United States v. Newman decided that when tippees receive insider information they must know the tipper receives a personal benefit. The SEC must illustrate there is “a meaningfully close personal relationship that generates an exchange that is objective, consequential, and represents at least a potential gain of a pecuniary or similarly valuable nature”. The tippee must also be aware the information is material non-public information. In Newman, because there was no close relationship between the tippees and tippers, they could not be found liable for insider trading.

This past December, however, the Supreme Court held a contentious decision in Salman v. United States that two brothers, who had an obviously close relationship, were found liable for insider trading. The Court held that a gift of non-public material information to a relative or friend satisfies the personal benefit test of Newman. Unfortunately, the Court did not address what constitutes a meaningfully close relationship (outside the scope of relatives and friends), which is the heart of the Martoma debate.

Matthew Martoma was sentenced to 9 years in prison for his involvement in the biggest insider trading case of all time. Martoma, who worked for Steven A. Cohen, a hedge fund manager of SAC Capital Advisors, received material nonpublic information from Dr. Sidney Gilman regarding an Alzheimer’s drug, which led SAC to sell its $960 million stake in Elan Corporation and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, and avoid over $276 million in losses. Martoma asserts that Dr. Gilman, the tippee, did not provide material information in exchange for a personal benefit, and the information could not be considered as a gift due to the lack of a close relationship. Martoma did pay Dr. Gilman his regular consulting fee for his time, but not for material information.

Martoma wants to keep the decision from Newman where the government must prove there is a meaningfully close relationship, but the government wants to infer that the insider information was a gift and Dr. Gilman and Martoma’s relationship satisfied the Court’s test in Salman. On May 9, 2017, the Second Circuit was divided on whether the Martoma decision could stand under the tests of either Newman or Salman and whether Martoma was wrongly convicted. Judge Rosemary S. Pooler questioned the government’s fluctuating argument regarding the relationship between the tippee and tipperthroughout earlier arguments. There is a lack of consistency regarding how the courts determine what constitutes a close relationship. It is significant that the Second Circuit Court is reexamining its decision in Martoma in order to clearly define who is liable for insider trading and to promote what Congress intended — a fair financial market. However, Congress could have foreseen these interpretation issues and either at the time created a more succinct definition of insider trading or subsequently after the years of controversial case law provided clearer guidance for the courts. Christopher D. Jones explains how issues of liability regarding insider trading are contingent “less on [the] question of deception, honesty or fairness than … on geography.” A retrial in Martoma would give the Court an opportunity to mend this issue.

[1] Wang, W.K.S., Steinberg, M.I. (2010) Insider Trading (3d. edition) Oxford University Press: New York. pp.1. 

12 May 2017
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The Golden Visa

 

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) oversees the controversial and popular EB-5 Visa Program (the employment-based fifth preference visa). The Program was implemented in 1990 by the USCIS to encourage economic and job growth through foreign capital investments. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the program has been very popular amongst Chinese investors in particular. The incentive for any foreign investor? About 10,000 green card applications are fast tracked every year.

The EB-5 Program permits foreign investors and entrepreneurs (in addition to their spouses and dependent children under 21) to apply for a green card if they make a commercial enterprise investment in the U.S., and create a minimum of 10 permanent full-time jobs for U.S. citizens, residents, and other immigrants authorized to work in the U.S. (conditional resident, temporary resident, asylee, refugee etc.). This number of employees must be maintained for at least 2 years. The minimum capital investment requirement depends on where in the country the foreign investor intends to do business. In regions with high unemployment or rural areas (known as Targeted Employment Areas), the minimum investment is $500,000. In all other areas, the minimum investment is $1,000,000.

The Obama administration extended the EB-5 Visa Program until April 28, 2017. However, under the Trump administration, the minimum investment amount is likely to increase to about $1.3 million. On May 7, 2017, Trump signed H.R. 244, Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act 2017. Commentators assert that visa issues are buried in the bill, signifying that the regulations directly regarding the EB-5 program are soon to change. The investment increase is predicted to be detrimental to the program and the EB-5 Investment Coalition expects a significant drop in demand.

The fear of this increase is what has led to the Kushner “golden visa” fiasco. Although the EB-5 Visa is widely known amongst Chinese and other foreign national investors, it wasn’t until Kushner Companies reached headlines offering investors green cards for investing in their developments that it has become a popular topic. Nicole Meyer, Jared Kushner’s sister, travelled to China urging investors to take advantage of EB-5 to invest in Kushner real estate developments in New Jersey before the implementation of Trump’s new law. There is a clear conflict of interest as there is no real divide between the Trump administration and their family businesses. According to the New York Times the Kushner’s previously requested a tax abatement for the development of two towers comprising of 1,500 luxury apartments in New Jersey that received funding from EB-5 investors and further annoying New Jersey residents. The Trump administration assured the New York Times it would evaluate the program “to ensure that [it] is used as intended and that investment is being spread to all areas of the country.”

Critics are skeptical of the program as it permits wealthy foreign investors and their families to essentially purchase green cards. However, this is a common practice in many countries where governments provide fast track visas or even citizenship for investments. This practice can be perceived as unfair, especially to individuals who are not financially endowed, as some have waited for U.S. green cards for over 20 years. Critics argue that despite the requirement of needing to be able to trace the money back to the investor to ensure legal compliance, there is still a chance of fraud. There have been cases of fraud, such as the recent raid in Los Angeles where federal agents uncovered a scheme involving foreign investors who not comply with the requirements of the program. However, the EB-5 Program does have the potential to continue boosting the economy and generating jobs for Americans. Since October 2012, the EB-5 Program has brought in $8.7 billion and 35,140 jobs into the U.S. economy. Perhaps instead of eradicating the program completely, the focus should be on enforcement of the rules and regulations that already exist.

10 May 2017
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The Big Four of the Fifth Borough

“SI Ferry Docking Manhattan” by Andy C, licensed under CC Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported. Modified by Guzov, LLC.

New development initiatives in Staten Island’s North Shore, dubbed the Big Four by Borough President James Oddo, are underway as local residents and committees seek to erase the moniker of the “fifth borough” or “forgotten borough.”  The Four – Staten Island Urby, Empire Outlets, the New York Wheel, and Lighthouse Point – are answers to Requests for Proposals issued by the City in an attempt to bring in tourists and relocators alike.

Staten Island Urby, developed by Ironstate, is a 900-unit apartment complex and the first step in a revitalization effort known as the “New Stapleton Waterfront.”  The Waterfront will eventually encompass more residential units, as well as commercial and social developments.  As of now, however, Staten Island Urby is the only member of the New Stapleton Waterfront, and of the Big Four, to be complete.

The New York Wheel is set to be the world’s tallest Ferris wheel when it opens in 2018, rising to 630 feet and holding approximately 1,440 people on each 38 minute ride.  Its main developer, Starneth BV, is working with experts previously employed in the construction of the London Eye.  Right now, little more than the foundation is in place due to delays in the approval process, financial difficulties, construction setbacks, and lawsuits between contributing contractors.

Just next door, Empire Outlets is being built by BFC Partners, the development company behind numerous luxury condos, as well as the forthcoming super-project, Essex Crossing.  The Outlets will include retail space for one hundred stores, a 190-room hotel, and of course ample parking for the Ferris wheel.  Also included will be a much-anticipated food hall, MRKTPL (pronounced “marketplace”), which seeks to compete with Anthony Bourdain’s projected Pier 57 while retaining a true New York feel.  Recent rumors delay the opening date of the Outlets to coincide with the opening of the New York Wheel.

Finally, Lighthouse Point is a redevelopment of the U.S. Lighthouse Service Depot, which has been vacant for about thirty years.  The site is set to hold 62,000 square feet of retail space, apartments, a hotel, and various amenities.  However, aside from these generic projections, the developers behind this project, Triangle Equities, have released relatively few details – possibly because the site is not due to open until 2020.

It is easy to think the development of Staten Island is simply the next step in the surge of rezoning and condo-converting hitting the City’s “mainland,” but experts in the New York City Economic Development Corporation argue that Staten Island’s upgrade is something unique, and predates even that of Manhattan.  In a similarly unique way, longtime residents are not as opposed to these developments as residents in Manhattan have been to nearby construction.  Growth – a fear for those in parts of New York that already have very little room – is seen by Staten Island residents as a revitalizing prospect not only for business and family, but for the arts and community.  Nonprofits like the Design Trust for Public Space and Staten Island Arts are working with companies like BFC and Ironstate to keep Staten Island true to its roots.  Soon, that may be the only way in which Staten Island is distinguished from its “unforgotten” cousins across the water.

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