Good morning. It’s Friday. We’ll look at rent increases that are looming for more than two million New Yorkers. We’ll also preview the new look for the Times Square tower where the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.
The biggest rent increases in New York City in nearly a decade appear to be on the way. The panel responsible for regulating rents gave preliminary backing last night to increases of 2 to 4 percent on one-year leases and 4 to 6 percent on two-year leases for rent-stabilized units.
My colleague Mihir Zaveri, who covers housing, said the 5-to-4 vote by the powerful Rent Guidelines Board was the latest sign of the city’s struggles with housing affordability amid the lingering financial pressures of the pandemic.
The proposed numbers are likely to intensify lobbying by landlord groups, which had pushed for larger increases, and by tenant advocates, who had warned that any increases would create new problems for renters trying to find their economic footing again. Most rent-stabilized tenants earn far less than the citywide median household income of about $67,000.
[Panel Backs Rent Increases for More Than 2 Million New Yorkers]
The prospect of rent increases poses a financial challenge for tenants and a political challenge for Mayor Eric Adams, who effectively controls the rent board and who has been friendlier to the real estate industry than his predecessor, Bill de Blasio, who had a frosty relationship with landlords. Under de Blasio, the board permitted rents to rise no more than 1.5 percent on one-year leases and 2.75 percent on two-year leases. It voted to freeze some leases entirely in four of the eight years de Blasio was in office.
After the vote, Adams issued a statement saying it was good that the board “moved lower” than the increases of up to 9 percent on two-year leases that were originally suggested. The increases must be formally approved next month.
Advocates for tenants expressed outrage at the vote. Sheila Garcia, a tenant representative on the rent board, participated remotely from the Bronx with a group of renters holding signs calling for rollbacks. “The 2 percent at a minimum would be devastating to the folks in this room,” she said.
But landlords say they need increases to deal with inflation as reflected in higher prices for fuel and materials for maintenance, as well as higher property taxes.
“Housing has costs,” Robert Ehrlich, a landlord representative on the rent board, said at the meeting. “We need to make sure that buildings have the money to pay for those costs. If we don’t get this right, a large number could slip into dilapidation.”
Prepare for showers and rain during the day, with temps in low 60s. At night, the rain continues, with wind gusts and temps in the low 50s.
In effect until May 26 (Solemnity of the Ascension).
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Where the ball drops, a new look and new tech
“Times Square has had a series of lives,” the real estate executive Michael Phillips said, talking about ushering in what he called “4.0 Times Square.”
He was describing a $500 million plan to be announced on Friday for One Times Square, the trapezoidal building that serves as the stage in the sky for the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. Phillips’s company, the real estate investment and management firm Jamestown, is planning a top-to-bottom reinvention of the 118-year-old building.
“Augmented reality and virtual reality allow us to occupy the building in ways that weren’t as easy in years past,” he said, meaning people can visit virtually from anywhere. One Times Square — built when telephone numbers had only two or three digits — is “unique in its ability to launch itself in the metaverse,” he said. “It’s also the only building in the world with an iconic physical experience tied to New Year’s Eve, with the ball dropping.”
For visitors who arrive in person, he plans a viewing deck on the 19th floor, looking out over the constantly changing show that is Times Square. Inside, Jamestown, which was behind the redevelopment of the Chelsea Market in Manhattan, plans “brand experiences” for companies looking for immersive, technology-driven displays.
But some things won’t change. The north-facing signs will operate during the 27 months the building is being renovated, and the ball will drop on New Year’s Eve this year and next.
Prancing free in Brooklyn
Jane’s Carousel is ready for Jane’s Carousel Day. Todd Goings, who checked the bolts and bearings and cables, says so.
Jane’s Carousel is a 100-year-old merry-go-round in Brooklyn Bridge Park that Jane Walentas, an artist, spent more than 20 years restoring. Jane’s Carousel Day, on Saturday, will celebrate her work and commemorate her with free rides. She died last July at 76.
She and her husband, the developer David Walentas, who spent years working to revitalize the industrial neighborhood that became Dumbo, bought the carousel for $385,000 in 1984 and had it shipped to New York. It managed to be garish and graceful at the same time, with the exuberant look of a circus and the studied order of a horse show. It has 48 horses, wooden ones, and two chariots — all restored in Jane Walentas’s studio and installed in a modernistic pavilion designed by the architect Jean Nouvel. But the horses on Jane’s Carousel prance the way they always have.
“We’re asking it to do the same thing it did in 1922,” Goings said. “It hauled 52 people around in a circle every 10 minutes, and by golly, that’s what we’re doing 100 years later. If you put a million dollars into an antique car, it sits in a museum and everyone looks at it. This is different. It’s an interactive piece of art.”
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I was in the city for my high school reunion, and I was looking for a shoe repair shop. A doorman on West 57th Street directed me to one “down the subway.”
Going down a flight of stairs into the station, I saw a tiny coffee shop.
“Do you know where the shoe repair guy is?” I asked the man behind the counter.
“It’s me!” he said.
I held up my shoes, broken strap dangling.
He looked around and made a gesture that indicated he was alone in the store.
“Oh, come on,” I said. “I’ll work behind the counter for you if you’ll fix my shoes.”
I was only kidding, but he nodded, took off his apron, held it out to me and waved me behind the counter.
I put the apron on as he explained the operation: Here’s the register. Coffee and bagel is $1.75. Here’s the milk and coffee cups.
Then he walked out the door and disappeared.
I was so surprised I just stood there looking around. There was a grill, a sign advertising a scrambled egg breakfast special, a candy display, soft drinks.
A customer came in.
“Please don’t let her want the special,” I pleaded silently.
“I have a terrible craving for a Peppermint Patty,” she said. “Do you have those?”