The Real Deal has already revealed its picks for the Best of New York City Real Estate 2010 and a list of our top 10 hottest real estate topics of the year is on the way, but first, here’s what you thought. Below is a list of the 10 most popular Web stories from TheRealDeal.com in 2010, ranked by number of page views between Jan. 1 and Dec. 26. Also be sure to check out our December issue for the year’s most popular stories from the print magazine.
In January, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced that he would sue Vantage Properties, one of the largest landlords of rent-regulated housing in New York City, for allegedly harassing tenants. The two sides announced a $1 million settlement the following month, under which Vantage also agreed to adhere to a three-year oversight program. Tenants who could prove they were harassed were slated to receive at least $1,000 each for “emotional hardship.”
The defense in the federal trial of two former Duane Reade executives this spring painted a murky picture of two of the city’s leading retail brokers. Cory Zelnik, former president of Winick Realty, and Jeff Winick, CEO of the firm, were not charged in the case but acted on a few deals with Duane Reade as both landlord and broker. Both of the Duane Reade executives were convicted of conspiracy and securities fraud in June.
A state bill, signed into law by Gov. David Paterson in July, made it explicitly illegal to rent residential apartments for stays of less than 30 days and beefed up city enforcement of the issue. Internet travel sites have enabled an explosion of illegal hotels in the city, which activists say diminishes the city’s supply of affordable housing and erodes the quality of life for neighboring residents. The law takes effect in May 2011, which is bad news for the operators of an estimated 300 such buildings in the city.
Mortgage guarantor Ginnie Mae and the Federal Housing Administration bumped a Long Island-based lender from a government-insured mortgage program that had allowed it to grant FHA-backed mortgages, while simultaneously denying the company the right to sell mortgage-backed securities. The lender, TopDot Mortgage, reportedly violated federal lending rules on numerous occasions, according to the Center for Public Integrity, and had accrued a portfolio of $181.2 million in Ginnie Mae securities before the federal agency took action.
The party’s over at the A Building, an East Village condominium built by Ben Shaoul and his partner, Rob Kaliner. Beneath the two-year-old building’s reputation for hosting raucous rooftop pool parties, The Real Deal discovered a reality worse than the most killer hangover — flooding, crumbling balconies, alleged mismanagement of the condo board’s funds and two unresponsive developers who left owners banging their heads against mold-ridden walls, according to several residents’ claims.
6. One Madison Park told to offer buyers refunds
State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office, which regulates the sale of condos in New York, told the developers of the financially-troubled One Madison Park in March to offer refunds to any buyers that had not closed on their apartments. Cuomo’s office forced the rescission offers after senior lender iStar Financial filed to foreclose on developers Ira Shapiro and Marc Jacobs for allegedly defaulting on five months of interest payments, pledging apartments without the bank’s permission and allowing the building loan to fall out of balance by $63.6 million. Now, the lender is wrestling for control of the still-unfinished condo in Bankruptcy Court with developer Ian Bruce Eichner, who is sponsoring a reorganization plan that would put him in control of its completion.
7. Century 21 NY Metro said to be on brink of closure, firm seeks new capital
In November, The Real Deal broke the news that the management of brokerage Century 21 NY Metro was looking for new investors in a bid to save the company. The residential and commercial real estate company had been having cash flow problems and had recently failed to make payroll, according to several agents who said they were owed commissions. With rumors flying that the company was on the verge of shutting its doors, a large number of agents left the firm. Indeed, Century 21 has since closed, and boutique brokerage A.C. Lawrence has taken over the firm’s 45th Street office space, hiring several of its top managers, including former Century 21 CEO Marc Lewis as chairman. Other former Century 21 agents were “free to decide” whether they wanted to join A.C. Lawrence, which said it would launch “an aggressive recruitment campaign.”
The city’s top investment sales firm by sales volume, Massey Knakal Realty Services, told The Real Deal in August that it was in negotiations to relocate its Downtown Brooklyn office at 205 Montague Street to a different space about half the size and sublease out its entire current space. The firm, which said it was looking to consolidate, signed on at 205 Montague Street in 2006 with predictions that it would need space for as many as 100 people. But as the economy soured, the firm said in the fall of 2008 that it had cut its broker pool citywide by about 25 percent.
In March, Citi Habitats’ managing director of new development marketing, Clifford Finn, gave The Real Deal the scoop on several new development rentals the company would be marketing over the next few months. Among them: the Ashley, a 209-unit building developed by Extell Development; the Addison, a 270-unit Project On Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn; Forest City Ratner’s 354-unit 80 Dekalb Avenue; and Lalezarian Properties’ 350 West 37th Street at Ninth Avenue, which has 165 market-rate units.
10. Warehouse 11 races against clock
The developers of Warehouse 11, the Karl Fischer-designed condo in Williamsburg, slashed prices and raced against the clock last winter to raise cash by a lender-imposed deadline, and the strategy seemed to work. In January, The Real Deal reported that nearly 60 contracts were signed in two weeks at less than $600 per square foot, and in March, one of the developers exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, cutting down his debt load in the process. As of mid-November, 79 units had closed in 2010, making the building New York City’s third-best-selling of the year, according to PropertyShark.com.