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16 Feb 2018
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New York’s Newest Developments Are Finding Their Home in the Outer Boroughs

Manhattan may be the top destination for new development in New York City, but the outer boroughs are starting to catch up, and fast. In data just released for the year 2017, the vast majority of the top developments by square footage that were newly submitted for regulatory approval were from the outer boroughs. In fact, of the top ten, only one was located in Manhattan, with two each located in the Bronx and Queens, and a whopping five located in Brooklyn.[1]

Beyond just the number of projects, the square footage totals are also completely lopsided towards the outer boroughs. Manhattan’s single project works out to 167,701 square feet whereas Brooklyn’s top project alone totals 411,320 square feet.[2] Moreover, the bulk of these projects are for residential and mixed use development. This will serve to increase the already large population disparity that currently favors the outer boroughs, especially Brooklyn and Queens, over the already hyper-dense Manhattan. As the population of these boroughs continues to increase the local economy in these areas will also increase, further drawing ever more investment and thus further pushing even more development into the outer boroughs.

We can already see this virtuous cycle starting to take hold. In Downtown Brooklyn, Alloy Development’s proposed project for 80 Flatbush, which was facing daunting regulatory hurdles because of neighborhood opposition, has been revised ahead of its public review by the city to ensure a more positive reception. The new version of the proposal, whose first iteration was unveiled last spring, will bring “900 apartments, two schools, office space, retail, and more.”[3] With this revision, the project becomes much more likely to attain approval and become a new economic draw for Brooklyn.

Further East, the Willets Point redevelopment plan, a project that had originally been put on hold because of a court ruling against the proposed development’s shopping mall, is now back on track. The de Blasio administration, the Related Companies, and the New York Mets have come to an agreement on the central points of the megaproject, agreeing on the creation of 1,100 affordable apartments for low and moderate-income residents and the elimination of the mall from the proposal.[4] Given that the inclusion of a shopping mall on land zoned for a park was the project’s main impediment, and that the de Blasio administration has a stated goal of increasing affordable housing, this development, like 80 Flatbush, is also likely to become an economic draw, this time for Queens.

[1] Small, Eddie. (Feb. 9, 2018) “The top 10 biggest real estate projects coming to NYC.” The Real Deal New York. Available at: https://therealdeal.com/2018/02/09/the-top-10-biggest-real-estate-projects-coming-to-nyc-9. Accessed on: Feb. 13, 2018.

[2] Id.

[3] Plitt, Amy. (Feb. 13, 2018) “New looks, details for massive Downtown Brooklyn development ahead of ULURP.” Curbed New York. Available at: https://ny.curbed.com/2018/2/13/17004820/downtown-brooklyn-alloy-development-80-flatbush-avenue-changes. Accessed on: Feb. 13, 2018.

[4] Warerkar, Tanay. (Feb. 5, 2018) “Willets Point megaproject in Queens is back on, with a focus on affordable housing.” Curbed New York. Available at: https://ny.curbed.com/2018/2/5/16974964/willets-point-queens-citi-field-restart. Accessed on: Feb. 13, 2018.

09 Feb 2018
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New York’s Hudson Yards Development Gains Were Snatched from the Jaws of Olympic Defeat

This week marks the official start of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The Olympics give their host city the chance to achieve substantial economic advancement and notoriety. New York has never been the host to an Olympic games, but in 2004 the administration of Mayor Bloomberg attempted and failed in a bid to host the 2012 summer Olympics. Strangely and unexpectedly, this planning for the Olympics without the actual costs of holding the games has led New York to achieve the development goals set out in the Olympic proposal, remaking multiple parts of the city, some still in progress. The largest development New York gained through the process is the Hudson Yards.[1]

It was the bid for the summer Olympics that finally gave the city government the impetus to push through the needed reforms that would eventually create the Hudson Yards as the hub of economic activity that it is today. As part of its Olympic bid, the city proposed a massive rezoning of the far west side, opening up the area to new investment in commercial development projects. Though the bid was lost, the rezoning idea remained. In 2005 the proposal—with the exception of an Olympic/football stadium–was passed into law. Now, thirteen years later, we can see the result. Commercial development has flourished in the area.[2]

Other benefits to the City flowing from the Olympic bid is that we now have  the exceedingly popular Hudson Yards extension of the 7 train, allowing, for the first time, subway access west of 8th avenue in Midtown Manhattan.[3] Further, part of the Olympic proposal was a doubling of the size of the Javits Center to serve as a hub for indoor sports. The project was revived by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2016 and three firms have already been selected to bid on a $1 billion expansion plan for the complex, and start of construction is imminent.[4] Without the push of an Olympic bid, the Hudson Yards, a multi-billion driver of development and economic growth, simply might not have come into existence.

[1] Plitt, Amy. (Feb. 1, 2018) “New York’s unrealized Olympic dreams, mapped.” Curbed New York. Available at: https://ny.curbed.com/maps/winter-olympics-2018-nyc2012-bid-hudson-yards. Accessed on: Feb. 7, 2018.

[2] Williams, Keith. (Dec. 13, 2016) “The evolution of Hudson Yards: from “Death Avenue” to NYC’s most advanced neighborhood.” Curbed New York. Available at: https://ny.curbed.com/2016/12/13/13933084/hudson-yards-new-york-history-manhattan . Accessed on: Feb. 7, 2018.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

02 Feb 2018
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With Legal Questions Swirling, New York May Be the Best Environment for Cryptocurrency

The rise of cryptocurrency as a mainstream investment has brought with it one persistent question: what are the rules? Although regulators have disagreed on how to categorize cryptocurrencies, the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) stated that cryptocurrencies are commodities, which are therefore subject to the Commodity Exchange Act. However, beyond these rather wide guardrails to the speeding highway we call cryptocurrency, there has been a lack of effective rules of the road.

The lack of harmonized regulations leaves retail investors in vulnerable positions. A primary concern for regulators is that cryptocurrencies are subject to artificial inflation. Specifically, the widely used cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex, which is thought to have the highest trading volume of any cryptocurrency exchange in the world, has been subpoenaed by the CFTC for pumping up the price of cryptocurrencies whenever there was an overall market drop.[1] Although Bitfinex issues its own virtual currency called Tether, which has a value equivalent to the US dollar creating a sense of financial security,[2] the company’s practices are suspected to be market manipulation. The “Tether were used on the Bitfinex exchange to make big purchases of Bitcoin and other tokens, helping push their prices back up… It could mean that a lot of the rally over December and January might not have been real.”[3]

A strong federal regulatory structure for cryptocurrencies would require congressional action or wide-reaching coordination amongst multiple antagonistic agencies. The CFTC and the Securities and Exchange Commission are in the process of creating and implementing such regulations to protect the market and investors, but more work needs to be done on the state level. How has New York State set out to regulate cryptocurrencies? In 2015 New York pioneered cryptocurrency regulation by introducing the BitLicense, a permit needed to operate a cryptocurrency-based business in the state. BitLicenses require their holders to share in-depth information about their own operation with the New York State Department of Financial Services, thereby serving as a guard against the internal malfeasance rumored to have occurred at Bitfinex. In fact, Bitfinex actually left New York when the BitLicense was introduced. [4] Moreover, the license also requires ongoing Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements which are designed to prevent money laundering, a widespread problem with current cryptocurrency ventures. [5] Beyond this foundation, multiple new bills have been introduced in the state legislature that would further address cryptocurrency regulation. One bill would, for the first time, codify the terms “blockchain technology” and “smart contract”, a necessary step for effective future regulations. Another would create a “digital currency taskforce” to ameliorate the impact of cryptocurrencies on New York’s legacy financial markets.[6]


[1] Popper, Nathaniel. (Jan. 31, 2018) “Worries Grow That the Price of Bitcoin Is Being Propped Up.” The New York Times. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/31/technology/bitfinex-bitcoin-price.html?dlbk=&emc=edit_dk_20180201&nl=dealbook&nlid=63294261&te=1. Accessed on: Feb. 2, 2018.

[2] Ib.

[3] Ib.

[4] Del Castillo, Michael. (Aug. 12, 2015) “The ‘Great Bitcoin Exodus’ has totally changed New York’s bitcoin ecosystem.” New York Business Journal. Available at: https://www.bizjournals.com/newyork/news/2015/08/12/the-great-bitcoin-exodus-has-totally-changed-new.html. Accessed on Feb. 2, 2018.

[5] Ib.

[6] De, Nikhilesh. (Dec. 4, 2017) “4 Blockchain Bills Introduced in New York Legislature.” CoinDesk. Available at: https://www.coindesk.com/4-blockchain-bills-introduced-new-york-legislature. Accessed on: Feb. 2, 2018.

02 Feb 2018
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Cryptocurrency Wave Crashes into the World of Real Estate

There is an old adage often thrown around political circles: money in politics is like water on pavement, it finds every crack and crevice. Substitute the economy in place of politics and it seems like cryptocurrency is on its way to becoming a real world example of this maxim. Created to bypass cash and enable incorruptible financial transactions using blockchain, a distributed digital ledger, these virtual currencies have been winding there way into an ever growing number of areas of the global financial system. With a current market cap of over $450 billion[1], cryptocurrencies have even made the leap into the physical economy, expanding their reach into real estate.

Real estate is known to offer relative stability and steady growth. In contrast, the value of cryptocurrencies can be unpredictable. However, the market with the greatest potential for cryptocurrencies so far has been residential real estate. Most real estate transactions involving cryptocurrencies have unfolded the same way. “The parties agree on a fixed price in dollars and then decide on a fair exchange rate at closing. The [cryptocurrency is] then converted to cash by a third party… which [is] then given to the seller.”[2]

The main concern with these transactions is the massive day-to-day or even hour-to-hour changes in the value of cryptocurrencies. “What seems like a fair exchange rate at the time, can seem like a steal or ripoff months later. [For example,] Ivan “Paychecks” Pacheco paid 17.741 bitcoin to Frank Mainade Jr. for a two-bedroom condo in Miami’s Upper East Side… [which] was equivalent to $275,000 with an exchange rate of about $15,500 per bitcoin. As of publish time on Thursday, those 17.741 bitcoins were worth $159,577.”[3] As regulations are still in the early stages, individuals need to be aware of the risks before exchanging real property for cryptocurrency as opposed to fiat currencies.

However, using cryptocurrencies for real property transaction is becoming a more common occurrence. A new company called Deedcoin has just filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in preparation for its upcoming initial coin offering, a capital-raising event which disperses a set amount of cryptocurrency-based tokens to investors. Within Deedcoin’s system “buyers and sellers should be able to buy Deedcoin’s Ethereum-based tokens starting at $1.50 per token, and then use them to hire real estate agents nationwide. Agents who agree would then accept the tokens as payment in exchange for reducing their traditional commissions in U.S. dollars to as low as 1 percent, or an average of $225 per token used, the company claims.”[4] Though we have yet to learn what the true extent of the use of cryptocurrencies will end up being, it is clear that the real estate market is yet another area of the economy where cryptocurrencies are beginning to fill in the cracks.

Tips for Real Estate Buyers and Sellers Considering Cryptocurrencies[5]:

  • Do your research! Seek advice from an attorney or financial advisor.
  • Understand that cryptocurrencies are both an investment and real currencies that can be used to buy products or services, including real estate.
  • Don’t dive into the deep end without first testing the waters. Before purchasing real estate with cryptocurrencies, try buying and selling cryptocurrencies on apps such as Coinbase.

[1] CoinMarketCap. (Feb. 1, 2018) “Cryptocurrency Market Capitalizations.” Available at: https://coinmarketcap.com. Accessed on Feb. 1, 2018.

[2] Jacobs, Harrison. (Feb. 1, 2018) “Someone is selling their New Jersey house for $2.3 million in bitcoin – and it’s a growing trend.” Business Insider. Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/bitcoin-payment-for-real-estate-listings-2018-2. Accessed on Feb. 1, 2018.

[3] Ib.

[4] Hinchliffe, Emma. (Feb. 1, 2018) “Real estate cryptocurrency startup Deedcoin secures SEC registration.” Inman. Available at: https://www.inman.com/2018/02/01/real-estate-cryptocurrency-startup-deedcoin-secures-sec-registration. Accessed on: Feb. 1, 2018.

[5] Olick, Diana. (Jan. 11, 2018) “5 Tips before you buy or sell a home in cryptocurrency.” CNBC. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/11/5-tips-before-you-buy-or-sell-a-home-in-cryptocurrency.html. Accessed on: Feb. 1, 2018.

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