The ‘Real Housewives of New York City’ Don’t Exist in a VacuumAs you all know, Gossip Girl is returning to the airwaves soon, therefore saving us from having to unleash all of our obsessive glee on another unwitting subject. But if we were to do so, the victim of our endless critiques would probably have been The Real Housewives of New York City. Come on, you know you’re going to love hating yourself for loving to hate it. We got hold of the first two episodes, and they did not disappoint. The show serves to show us a whole new class of people that we haven’t really seen before. The Orange County edition was just as campy and trashy as one would expect; after all, money is what shows status out there. Here, class still matters. Real Housewives trains a telescope on the little-examined but arguably powerful firmament of wealthy adults in Manhattan, those who aggressively crowd around established society stars, hoping that some of the glitter may fall on them. They’re the people in the background of Bill Cunningham’s pictures in the “Styles” section, the donor names you don’t recognize, the bodies filling in the chairs at Da Silvano. It’s kind of uncomfortable to watch, because at the end of the day most of the women are sort of sweet, happy, and slightly flawed. You feel like you’re watching a show about your mom’s kooky friends. What saves the show, though, is the reactions of the supporting cast family members, friends, and staff around the five ladies. They make the women redeemable and real. For every nutty social climber, apparently there is a nanny, a tennis pro, one to three children who have a 50-50 chance of surviving boarding school, and a devoted husband or boyfriend. This week in New York, we profiled our five favorites. Check it out, and if anybody’s slept with the tennis pro, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We don’t want to publish anything; we just have some questions.
Behind Every Housewife [NYM]
Manhattan Rents Rolling DownhillCould Manhattan rents have finally peaked? Anyone who owns property in the city will argue that prices here defy all laws of nature, but a new report by the Real Estate Group New York shows that rents may be starting to finally slip. “We’re trending down since the peak, which is what I would call maybe July,” says REGNY COO Daniel Baum. Since the beginning of the year, prices are still up slightly. Non-doorman studios went from $1,969 in January to $2,095 this month, a rise of 6.3 percent. But prices in many areas are down from the middle of the year. Doorman two-bedrooms climbed from $5,346 in January to a peak of $5,753 in July, then fell back to $5,520 in December. Some variation is to be expected as seasons change, but Baum insists we’re seeing a trend. “This is the first time we’re starting to see a slowdown on the rent side in the last three years or so,” Baum says. The hardest hit area may be the financial district, which has seen some layoffs (and perhaps, therefore, a small exodus). Since last month the average asking price for a doorman studio in the financial district has come down $503, to $2,559. The peak was in September at $3,103. It should be noted that Manhattan sales continue to be strong and unperturbed by the subprime and general housing meltdown. There are two schools of thought on whether the eventual decline of sale prices will mean lower rents. Some think foreclosure refuges and hesitant buyers will push up the number of renters — and thus the rents everyone pays. Others think the general economic downturn will lead to a further lowering of rents. —Carol Vinzant
It’s Hard Out Here for a MascotBrooklyn Heights: Yet another Montague Street restaurant mascot has been vandalized … and it sure looks creepy lying on the ground. [Brooklyn Heights Blog]
Chelsea: Um: Cool air was being force-fed into the Episcopal seminary here during shooting of a new TV show about an immortal detective yesterday. Huh? [Blog Chelsea]
Clinton Hill: A former dry cleaner on Lafayette is accepting “proposal’s” [sic] for the space. [Clinton Hill Blog]
Flatbush: Doesn’t this post-rainstorm pic remind you of how Tara looked when Scarlett finally got there from Atlanta? [Living in Victorian Flatbush]
Harlem: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition hunk Ty Pennington will build a playground at P.S. 72 to help fight ADHD. Or something like that; we stopped paying attention. [HealthNewsDigest via Uptown Flavor]
Midtown East: Developer Sheldon Solow faces off against locals as he launches the approval process for a massive riverside residential-commercial project between 35th and 41st Streets. [NYS]
Williamsburg: When new buildings go up, taggers hit them fast to make sure they fit in with the graffitiscape. [Gowanus Lounge]
All the World’s a Duane ReadeBedford-Stuyvesant: With the real library closed (endlessly…) for renovations, a host for the “Free Children’s Library of Bed-Stuy” is sought. [BedStuyBlog]
Coney Island: While Coney’s amusement-park future remains up in the air, live animals are thrown through the air at the nearby, sketchy Sea Rise housing projects. [Brooklyn Eagle via McBrooklyn]
Dumbo: Four West Coast street artists are putting up a pretty cool graffiti on Water Street at Pearl. [DumboNYC]
Flushing: There are big puddles all over Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which are leading to swarms of mosquitoes, which are terrorizing people. [Queens Tribune via Queens Crap]
Greenpoint: There’s no better way to undermine your attempt to build a period-looking brownstone than by sticking balconies on it. Real classy, Bridge Realty. [Newyorkshitty]
Midtown West: God help us, it’s finally happened: two Duane Reades, right across the street from each other. [East Village Idiot]
Park Slope: Anyone know if Shaya Boymelgreen has cleaned up the scaffolding around his Novo condo on Fourth Avenue that collapsed into the street Saturday? [Brownstoner]
Hunting for Yuppies in GreenpointCorona: Is this the hot new Queens nabe? Is there a truly hot Queens nabe? [OuterB]
East Village: So the new marketers of Stuy Town are spinning the open lawns there as “a park.” But say some they’re not, technically. Ouch. [Atlantic Yards Report]
Gowanus: Swank new condos are slated for the canal. How Venice — stench included. [BrooklynPaper]
Greenpoint: The hood’s old-timers (or maybe it’s just kooky blogger Miss Heather) want to fuck up smack-talking yuppie insurgents. [Newyorkshitty]
Kensington: Around these parts, they sneak pics of taggers, then pedal away like hell when the taggers spot ’em. Brave. [KensingtonBlog]
Soho: Just because that proposed sanitation garage on Spring and Washington might be colorful doesn’t mean locals are any happier about it. [The Villager]
in other news
Living in This Town Is Freaking Expensive, Part 497Last week was the news that Manhattan apartment rents, despite all logic, continue to climb: The average studio is now closing in on $2,000 a month. Now comes word that the sales market, also defying common wisdom, is following suit. Co-op and condo prices jumped 8 percent during the second quarter of 2007; the average New York City apartment — that’s all five boroughs — now costs, drumroll, $831,000. Of course, if you’re not entirely in thrall to the 212 area code, where the average apartment goes for $1.2 million, things aren’t quite so dire. The average Brooklyn flat clocks in at a third that price, a much more reasonable $484,000, and in Queens prices are actually down 4.3 percent. In another milestone, Manhattan’s per-square-foot average has crossed the thousand-dollar barrier: It’s now $1,083. All this madness stands in such stark contrast to the rest of the country; one could get the impression New York is the only place in the United States anyone actually wants to live. To which we can only say: Duh.
NYC Co-Op, Condo Sales Prices Rose 8% [Crain’s NY]
Harsh Realty In Queens [NYP]
in other news
Manhattan Rents Continue to Rise, Amaze, Defy Logic and RationalityIf you hear fireworks overhead tonight, it’s probably the city’s many, many real-estate agents celebrating: There’s news today that the average monthly rent on a Manhattan studio — a studio! — is closing in on $2,000. According to the latest data from Citi Habitats, in the last year the average studio apartment went for $1,995 a month, compared to $1,659 four years prior. This data flies in the face of the theory that, while the condo market is still incomparably hot, the rental field was supposed to have plateaued.
in other news
You Wanna Buy a Rail Yard?
So, once again: Any takers for the West Side rail yards? You know, the 26 acres of relative wasteland along Eleventh Avenue, from 30th to 33rd Street? The state and the yards’ current owner, the MTA, formally announced today that it will be accepting bids for the whole shebang. The part of the offering that City Hall will like: twelve acres of greenery and a “cultural center.” The part the developers will like: residential “skyscrapers up to 70 stories tall.” The usual suspects are expected to come a-courting: Tishman Speyer, Brookfield, the Durst Organization, and Vornado (the last two working in concert). And the part that we find immensely curious: The buyers will be required to submit separate bids “with” and “without” the High Line, a stretch of which grazes the yards. Which means, in essence, that nobody — least of all the sellers — has any idea whatsoever how that one will play out.
Bids to Be Sought for West Side Railyards [NYT]
On a Clear Day
We don’t know what prompted Agence France-Presse to charter a helicopter Sunday and send one of their photogs to take a bunch of aerial shots of the city, and we don’t know what prompted Getty Images to distribute those shots in the middle of the week, but we’re glad they both did. It’s a pretty town on a pretty day, eh? More gratuitous urban-beauty shots after the jump.
Mind Your Bike Manners in WilliamsburgAstoria: They’re taking bets on which store will close next on the area’s Broadway strip. Will it be Broadway Bakery or Radio Shack? [Forest Hills 72]
Bedford-Stuyvesant: Obamaphiles will be gathering at two funky spots to cheer on their man during Thursday night’s Dem-hopeful debates. [Bed-Stuy Blog]
Chelsea: Chelsea Hotel devotees are already devising ways they can drive the new corporate management crazy — and, they hope, away. Sidewalk “greed kills” notes, anyone? [Living with Legends]
Clinton Hill: This creepy thing spotted on Hall Street last week couldn’t be a pile of dirty snow. So what is it? Also: Ew. [Clinton Hill Blog]
East Harlem: There will be a community meeting tonight to discuss the brutal murder in Mount Morris Park last weekend. [Uptown Flavor]
Maspeth: Did you know that Native Americans founded this Queens neighborhood in 1621? Oh, wait, that’s not true, according to a critic of a new guide to the hood. [Queens Crap]
Williamsburg: The many cyclists of Bedford Avenue found a little scolding from the NYPD attached to their bikes recently. [Streetsblog]
Yesterday was Manhattanhenge, and we didn’t even realize it till too late. Manhattanhenge, named after — what else? — Stonehenge, is one of the two days a year on which the setting sun aligns with Manhattan’s street grid, allowing sunset photos like this one, shot last night across 57th Street. Mark your calendars: The next one, we think, is July 11.
Report: Manhattanites Buy Expensive Apartments, Hate PetsCiti Habitats just released its latest Black & White Report (named so because, well, we don’t know) about Manhattan’s residential real-estate market, and — newsflash! — it seems apartments are expensive. That’s not news, of course, but there are some great nuggets in the report that get at The Way We Live Now. One revealing statistic: Only 7 percent of Manhattan renters have pets, compared to a national average of about 40 percent for dogs and 30 percent for cats. Another: The average renter is 30, which at first we found unsurprising until we thought of all those hanging on in sprawling rent-stabilized places uptown.
in other news
Bubble Island The housing bubble has become a geographical concept — and we’re literally living in it. According to the first-quarter figures for 2007, as the national real-estate market chokes on unsold inventory, Manhattan prices continue to climb. An average apartment on the island fetched 6 percent more this year than in the last quarter of 2006, say Brown Harris Stevens and Halstead Property (the ultra-upbeat Corcoran reports a 12 percent jump).
But wait, there’s more. Not only the prices, but also the number of sales rose. It appears that Manhattanites, or newcomers determined to live in Manhattan, tend to treat sky-high property prices as a kind of dare: the higher they go, the more we buy. Why such ostentatious, and growing, disconnect from the rest of the country? We’ve got Wall Street, that’s why. The upward trend is especially evident in the upper reaches of the market, where bonus-happy financiers are seen shelling out more than ever (and 20 percent more than last year) for four-plus-bedrooms.
Market Strong for Apartments in Manhattan [NYT]
in other news
Make Way for White Kids God knows we got as much mileage out of the “Park Slope is a yuppie-kid Petri dish” meme as anyone. Part of its appeal, to be completely honest, is that it allows us to report on parental foibles while holding up the fraying illusion of Manhattan as a swingin’$2 21-and-over club. Well, time to face facts: New Times research shows that the number of kids under 5 on the island has grown by an astonishing 32 percent since 2000. Responsible for at least half of that are white families with a median household income of get ready $284,208 a year. Which, we suppose, makes sense, since who else can afford to procreate in Manhattan these days? What we didn’t know is that there are enough white-and-wealthy toddlers out there to outnumber, for the first time, the area’s African-American and Hispanic kids. (The study, sadly, does not provide stats on black kids “mistakenly” born into white families.)
In Surge in Manhattan Toddlers, Rich White Families Lead Way [NYT]
We stumbled past this shot, slugged “I snapped this photo while coming into LaGuardia this week,” on Flickr this morning. We’re reminded why we always like coming home from vacations — even on cold, gray, still-slushy winter days.
mgw_802’s photostream [Flickr]
Manhattan Too Inexpensive for ParkingAstoria: The 121-year-old waterfront Sohmer Piano factory has been landmarked (despite the unlikely opposition of the community board) and will soon house 70 apartments. [Times Ledger via Queens Crap]
Dumbo: Residents sickened by the area’s rampant condo-ization can now seek palliatives at a pharmacy coming to the first floor of the massive new J Condo. [DumboNYC]
Harlem: Call it luxury lockdown. Jail turned condo 10 Mount Morris Park West is near-ready for its inmates — uh, residents. [City Specific]
Manhattan: Blame the traffic congestion on free or cheap parking in the city. [Streetsblog]
Tribeca: Jewish alterna-singles to descend on the land of JFK Jr. and Bubby’s when Makor moves to Hudson and Canal this fall. [92Yblog via Curbed]
Upper West Side: The revolution will come with a schmear of cream cheese — when the area secedes from the city, that is. [Upper West Side Liberation Front via Curbed]
You Can Still Find Bargains in Upper ManhattanThe southwestern corner of Washington Heights once was part of John James Audubon’s estate, Minnie’s Land, hence the area’s name, Audubon Terrace. These days, the neighborhood — in the West 150s — is in transformation. The high-crime era of the late eighties and early nineties isolated it from many would-be homeowners, but in the recent housing boom, its turn-of-the-century buildings with high-ceilinged, prewar-ornamented apartments and evocative names like the Grinnell and the Riviera, have been rediscovered. Many apartments are still rentals, but some graceful buildings near Riverside Drive have gone co-op, inviting others to buy into its charms. (A small institutional complex, home to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Boricua College, anchors the area.) Like most places in the city, property values have soared, so Audubon Terrace isn’t quite the bargain it once was. But it still seems fairly — if barely — within reach. Stop by open houses this weekend — we list some after the jump — to see why prescient buyers started flocking here years ago. —S. Jhoanna Robledo
the morning line
• The Post stokes Giuliani’s presidential fire by reporting that the ex-mayor leads Hillary 48 to 43 percent nationwide and ties her in “blue states” (including New York). Don’t ever stop printing those, lest he change his mind! [NYP]
• Four gay couples have already not-quite-married in New Jersey, which on Monday became the third state in our fair country to offer civil unions. (Why just now and not Monday? There’s a 72-hour waiting period.) In Asbury Park, the mayor officiated. [WNBC]
• Here’s a nice little companion item to yesterday’s report that Manhattan workers take home twice the national average in wages: They also, according to a strangely balanced-sounding statistic, pay 47 percent more in taxes. [MetroNY]
• Having solved every problem that has ever plagued the State of New York, the Assembly turns its attention to the inadequate enforcement of the “pooper scooper” law within the city. Apparently, a $50 to $100 fine is not enough of a deterrent to the cash-rich Manhattanites (see previous item). Would a $250 one help? [amNY]
• Dr. Denton Sayer Cox, a onetime prominent physician who treated Andy Warhol, is hospitalized himself after a stranger beat and burned him with an unknown chemical in his Upper East Side triplex. Police allege, and the News relishes, a gay pickup gone awry. [NYDN]
in other news
Manhattan Is in the Money; Brooklyn Isn’t So MuchIt should come as no surprise that Manhattan boasts the fastest-growing salaries in all of the United States; having the hub of the country’s financial operations situated here will do that. The average Manhattanite’s weekly wage is $1,453, virtually double the national average of $784, according to new federal stats. Sounds about right. What caught our eye, however, is that only one other borough rakes in the dough at the above-average rate — and it’s Queens. The typical weekly salary there is $792; the Post chalks it up to La Guardia and JFK, which is a bit puzzling because airports don’t strike us as high-wage hotbeds. Still, money-makin’ Queens easily beats the Bronx’s weekly $760, Staten Island’s $708, and Brooklyn’s paltry $691. That’s right: The oh-so-gentrified Borough of Kings comes dead last. We assume that’s because everyone there is a freelancer.
N.Y. Hits ‘Pay’Dirt [NYP]
the morning line
Scientific Proof: Manhattanites Are Superior to Queens Residents
• As home sales slump in other cities, New Yorkers, wallets fat with Wall Street’s big year-end bonuses, kick off 2007 with a surge in purchases of everything from tiny studios to whoppers like a $2.5 million home “in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn,” the Times overexplicitly reports. [NYT]
• Who’s slimmer, Manhattanites or folks from outer Queens? Likely the former, according to a new Columbia study finding that New Yorkers who live near lots of stores and subways have lower body-mass-index levels than do those from more suburban parts of the city. [Medical News Today]
• From Teaneck to Asbury Park, hundreds of gay couples show up at town halls in New Jersey today as the state becomes the third to offer civil unions. [NYP]
• Bill Clinton “stands in” for his wife at an Albany summit of state black and Latino lawmakers, many of whom stay mum on whom they’ll back for the Democratic presidential bid, HRC or her duskier rival, Illinois Senator Barack Obama. [NYDN]
• Mary’s Fish Camp, Artisanal, and, yep, good old Eisenberg’s are among the venues offering the twenty best sandwiches in New York City, from fancy-shmancy grilled-cheese redos to old-fashioned egg salad. [amNY]
What Lies Beneath: In Gowanus, You Don’t Want to KnowDumbo: Those three empty townhouses on Old Fulton Street between Water and Front Streets are finally on the block — for $7.5 million. [DumboNYC]
Gowanus: Sulfur and cyanide and SVOC s— oh, my! New plan catalogs the nasty goop that lies beneath the nabe. [Gowanus Lounge]
Greenpoint: Borscht meets bling at the Polish hip-hop festival Friday. [Newyorkshitty]
Midtown: The Bryant Park skating rink is closing — and just as it gets cold! — but there are still other places you can take your skates. [NewYorkology]
Park Slope: Writer Adarro Minton hits the identity-politics jackpot with story collection Gay, Black, Crippled, Fat. He reads from it tonight at the Old Stone House. [Brooklyn Record]
West Village: 2086: A Beer Odyssey. The Bedford Street building housing Chumley’s is up for sale, but the venerable pub’s lease lasts nearly another 80 years. [Curbed]
Williamsburg: It’s a shonda: Built-in-a-fortnight shul just stands there buck naked. [Brownstoner]
We Have Seen the Traffic, and It Is Us
If you’re like us, you’ve probably tried to reconcile your daily observations of forever-snarled Manhattan traffic with the fact that neither you, nor anyone you know, owns a car. Then, if you’re like us, you’ve assumed that it’s all suburban commuters’ fault. If so, the Times has some shocking revelations for you today. The data:
• Total number of daily car commuters in Manhattan: 263,000
• Number of those commuters who live within the five boroughs: 141,000
• Percentage of total commuters who live within the five boroughs: 53
• Number of those commuters who live in Queens: 51,300
• Percentage of total commuters who live in Queens: 19.5
• Number of those commuters who live in Manhattan: 23,900
• Percentage of total commuters who live in Manhattan: 9
• Percentage of total commuters who merely pass through Manhattan en route elsewhere: 20
• Percentage of government workers who drive to work: 35
• Amount those government workers pay for parking: $0
In Traffic’s Jam, Who’s Driving May Be Surprising [NYT]
‘New York Was His Town, and It Always Would Be’
The Film Forum’s three-week Woody Allen marathon is winding down this week, ending Thursday with a double feature of Crimes and Misdemeanors and Deconstructing Harry. But this weekend’s show was Manhattan, and, well, if you haven’t seen that opening sequence recently, take another look. It’s yet one more reason to love New York.
Manhattan Opening Sequence [YouTube]
Essentially Woody [Film Forum]
Reasons to Love New York Right Now [NYM]
Act Like a Third-Grader in Prospect Heights, on UESLong Island City: Use this photo map to see what the area looks like without actually having to ride the 7 Train. [LICNYC via Gothamist]
Manhattan: Appeal to your inner agoraphobic in 2007 and observe the city with these 50 Webcams. [NewYorkology]
Park Slope: We’re the fourth-best eco-neighborhood in the country. Take that, Chicago. [Natural Home magazine via Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn]
Prospect Heights: Brooklyn Heights can have bocce. After all, we have dioramas! [Brooklyn Record]
Upper East Side: Prospect Heights isn’t regressing far enough. We’ve upped the stakes with dodgeball. [Upper East Side Informer]
Williamsburg: Celebrate the new year by falling into a sinkhole on North 11th Street. [Gowanus Lounge]
Condos and Beer (Which Could Well Be New York’s New Motto)Bed-Stuy: A new wave of Bed-Stuy condos go where no condos have gone before. (East, of course). [Brownstoner]
Boerum Hill: Mmmm, beer: Cask Ale Festival kicks off at the Brazen Head on Atlantic Avenue. [Brooklyn Record]
Soho: Bedbugs chase Maya Rudolph and Paul Thomas Anderson from Greene Street. [NYP]
Financial District: A 24-hour diner will invade Gold Street in January. As if bankers don’t just order in, anyway. [MetroNY]
East Village: “Loanshark Bob” Marion returns to Avenue A after years of absence. Hooray. [Neither More Nor Less]
It’s Not Easy Being GreenLower East Side: Developers may mow over the “Children’s Magical Garden” at Norfolk and Stanton Streets. [The Villager]
Park Slope: You can now get ticketed for having a leafy street. [Daily Slope]
Ditmas Park: Lefty java joint Vox Pop to turn chain? [Brooklyn Papers]
Greenwich Village: Why are there so many empty storefronts on Thompson Street? Because the landlord is an ass, naturally. [Curbed]
Prospect Heights: Does a shiny new JCC mark the completion of gentrification? [Brooklynian]
Dyker Heights: By next year, city kids will be teeing off at the first junior golf center in the nation. [NY1]
in other news
Staten Island Is Marlboro Country; Manhattan Too Soused to NoticeThe city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has a new blockbuster report out, ratting on our fair city’s vices. As expected, smoking is on decline throughout NYC — treating it like Murder One can do that to a habit — with the citywide percentage of smokers at 18. The nationwide average is 21 percent.
The trend holds true for all boroughs except one. That proud, black-lunged holdout is Staten Island — the borough that probably shouldn’t smoke at all, given its proximity to highly flammable toxic waste. Almost one in three Staten Islanders lights up, compared to less than one in five in Manhattan. Fresh Kills, indeed.