Publisher’s note

It’s easy to see why many people view the real estate market as depressing right now: The disheartening news seems to be coming in at lightning speed. Last month, for example, we saw new market reports showing that residential transactions in Manhattan dropped by about half from last year. We saw the second biggest mall operator in the country, General Growth Properties, which owns the South Street Seaport, file for Chapter 11. And, sadly, we saw some of New York’s smaller, emerging brokerages like JC DeNiro & Associates, City Dwellers and Homestead New York fold.

But despite some very unpalatable realities, I like to think of this more as an evolving market, where opportunity is actually lurking and waiting for the right taker.

The buyers willing to take the slight risk of purchasing a new home in this market, for example, could end up getting the deal of a lifetime (as long as they get past still-obstinate sellers). Indeed, from everything we’ve heard, there are definitely more buyers out there tire kicking now than there were three months ago, even if they’re not actually signing deals yet.

Some of the properties on the market are clearly for those willing to take on fixer-uppers. That is definitely true of the dilapidated bungalows in Far Rockaway, Queens, which we showed you last month in a slide show on our Web site. While it’s not that surprising to us that the boom Far Rockaway saw when the market was hot has subsided, the level of disrepair is not pretty. But there may be some clever developer around looking to capitalize on the market there and prepare for the next upswing — whenever that might be.

With that vision of opportunity, this month we bring you one of our most popular features: the annual biggest brokerages spread. Our sixth annual survey comes during a year when brokerages are battling to get a bigger piece of a smaller pie. And some of the results were surprising.

Prudential Douglas Elliman ranked as the largest firm again this year, and in a reversal, it also managed to beat out the Corcoran Group with the greatest number of exclusive sales listings. It also added agents while Corcoran shrank.

But don’t count Corcoran out. Corcoran edged out Elliman in the median price of its listings and had the most listings per agent. And, in a surprise upset, Corcoran’s Carrie Chiang outranked Elliman power broker Dolly Lenz in total dollar volume of listings. Check out page 39 to find out who made it onto our list of top 25 Manhattan agents and see the other charts in the spread.

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In this issue, we also look at areas of real estate that are actually performing well in these trying times. We talked to the head of the real estate division at the white shoe law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges, which works with General Growth Properties and is also tasked with the disposition of Lehman Brothers’ $43 billion real estate portfolio. The firm is not the only one that’s seen business booming amid the doom and gloom. See page 52 to find out who else falls into that category.

The hotel industry, unfortunately, did not fall into that category. In fact, reading about the postponed and scuttled projects is a little bit like reading the obit section of the newspaper.

This month we take a look at how bad things really are. We found at least 43 hotels in the city’s pipeline that have either been delayed or axed. You’ll find the list of those hotels on the chart on page 57.

And finally, like timeshares on steroids, condo-hotels appeared to offer the perfect pairing when the market was strong. But with both the condo and hotel markets now faltering in New York, these hybrid units are starting to look less desirable.

While some of those we talked to said they were “a financing gimmick,’ those who are building them now are promising high-quality results. With several projects only 50 percent sold, the verdict is still out.

With so much going on in the market, we have made it an even higher priority to give our readers a place to converse daily — whether it’s about a project succumbing to the harsh economy or emerging despite it. Our Web site sees 20,000 daily visitors, who are all as obsessed with New York City real estate as we are and are responding in great numbers to some of the new features on our site, like a forum where we ask you, our readers, to participate.

With that in mind, we are proud to announce that we’re also in the process of revamping our Web site to make it even better than it already is. It’ll be updated by the minute and our new partners StreetEasy, PropertyShark and Reuters will also be contributing vital resources, making the one-stop source for New York City real estate information.