Monday Bulletin: Columbia Commander, Brokers’ Fees, A Renter’s Decision, and Rock & Roll History

It’s Mammoth Monday! Photo by @bittyfitz at the Museum of Natural History.

February 10, 2020 Weather: Rainy, with a high of 46 degrees.

This week’s concerts, readings and other local events are on our calendar!

We now know the “offer” Deputy Inspector Timothy Malin “couldn’t refuse.” Malin, the popular commander of the 20th precinct, who announced his retirement last month, will become “the director of public safety for Columbia University’s Morningside campus on February 24th,” according to the NY Post. “Malin will lead a security staff of more than 300 and report to the university’s vice-president of public safety…” As for the offer? “The university refused to provide his new salary.”

Malin is leaving amid reports of an increase in crime in the city and the neighborhood. At the 20th Precinct’s January community council meeting he announced that robberies — most committed by youths against youths — were up 40% in the precinct last year. Malin presented the NYPD’s position on bail reform, which the department ties to the increased number of crimes, the NY Times reported. Said Malin: “The NYPD official stance is that we like bail reform, however, we would like to see a provision that allows a judge to look at somebody who’s accused and say, ‘This person is a demonstrable threat to public safety. I have to hold them in until their trial.’ New York is the only state in the union that does not have such a provision,” he contended. Changes to the bail reform act must come from Albany.

What has come from Albany is a new rule regarding brokers’ fees on rental apartments. It used to be that if you found a place on your own, you still had to pay a fee — often one month’s rent — to the listing broker, who represented the landlord. Under the new rule, the landlord must now absorb, i.e. pay the fee. If, however, you engage a broker to take you around and show you apartments, you — the renter — must still pay the fee. This is a hit to both landlords and brokers, who have begun a lawsuit, wrote the Times. According to Gothamist, some brokers are ignoring the rule. (Update: “A New York judge granted a temporary restraining order Monday afternoon, halting a Department of State (DOS) guidance barring tenant-paid rental commissions from going into effect,” The Real Deal reported. “In a statement, REBNY (Real Estate Board of NY) and NYSAR (NY State Association of Realtors) said they look forward to resolving the issue in court ‘in the weeks ahead.’ In the meantime, agents will be able to ‘do business in the same way they did prior to last week’s DOS memo without fear of discipline by the DOS.’”)

Despite crime and cost, one woman decided to “come home” to the UWS after two decades in Seattle and needed to rent an apartment. She found the neighborhood very different today than it was in the late 90s when she left. She narrowed it down to three apartments, one in the West 80s, one in the 90s, and one in the 100s, all with strengths and weaknesses. Which would you chose? Which did she? Find out in the Times interactive story.

Finally, you never know what’s behind closed doors. In the late 1960s, some important moments in rock and roll history went down at 1855 Broadway at 61st Street. It turns out that the building, owned by the New York Institue of Technology and in contract to be sold to developer Extell for luxury condos, was the home of Elektra Records and studios, reported Record Collector News. Among the great bands that made history there were The Doors, Judy Collins and Tim Buckley. The story describes what went on there back in the day — including the time Elektra passed on Joni Mitchell.

Have a great week! Remember to send tips and photos to westsiderag at gmail.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 16 comments | permalink
    1. UWSDrew says:

      The issue with the renters fee is it will just be added to the monthly rent. If you plan to stay in your apartment for at least 2 years paying the fee is almost always going to be cheaper than paying the higher monthly rent.

      This is good for people who can’t afford the upfront total of fee + deposit + 1st month (I guess). I mean is it good to allow people to be ripped off even more over the long run? Especially people who didn’t have enough to cover the fee in the first place?

    2. Tag Gross says:

      Right around the corner from Elektra at 36 West 62nd was the legendary club, Hurrah. Real rock history was made there. The first show of the reformed Joy Division as New Order was there, Bowie sht his Fashion video there, The CUre, The Specials, Gang Of Four, Ultravox, The B-52’s, …. the list was endless. It was downtown cool before downtown was cool.

      A shame what the UWS has become

      • UWSHebrew says:

        you want clubs go to the village. the uws is beautiful and family friendly (sans crime of course), party-goers have other options. sounds like you’re yearning for your 70’s youth more than anything.

      • Scott says:

        I think what Tag is saying is that dis town is coming like a ghost town, that all the clubs have closed down.

    3. Pedestrian says:

      The bail reform act was a cynical political act. Politicians took a serious issue and used rhetoric to pass an ill conceived and badly researched fix. The result is that victims, witnesses and the public at large suffer. It will put criminal justice reform back years.

      Politicians need to do their work. Simply rushing out because of the pressure does no one any good.

    4. Chris says:

      Great another super tall on 61st street

      • uwsideforlife says:

        Extell is singlehandedly destroying the UWS with dirty laundered overseas money while our politicians sleep.

        • Peter says:

          Yeah, a shiny new building of rich people spending around the neighborhood is destroying the UWS. “Singlehandedly.”

          Not the crummy subway, the dog feces on the sidewalks, the homeless encampments, the unenforced traffic noise fines, or the “bail-reformed” pushers/muggers/killers roaming the streets.

    5. stu says:

      The tenant having to absorb the broker’s fee – almost exclusive to the NYC area – has long outlived its purpose. Tenants do not need brokers (certainly in today’s Internet day and age). Their benefit runs almost exclusively to landlords who need a service to show apartments and run credit/background checks on applicants. Landlords will simply amortize the fee into the rent; tenants lose regardless.

    6. Christine E says:

      I’m not sure why the brokers see this as a bad deal. They still get paid, now by the landlord vs the renter — a structure similar to a property sale. And, a broker also can get paid by a renter, if the broker performs the service of finding an apartment for the renter. So it seems to me that the broker now can make more money not less. They potentially could be paid by both the landlord and the renter, for a single property!

      If anything, it should be the renters objecting to increased rents that incorporate the broker fee. I would rather have seen a cap on broker fees, similar to the cap on application fees. Because as far as I understand, in the age of open information and listings, we still are dealing with a ridiculously high 15% broker fee that is never ever earned IMO.

      • B.B. says:

        Between 60%-70% of rental housing in NYC is rent regulated (RS or RC), vouchers (Section 8, etc…), subsidized or otherwise under some sort of government program. Most if not all those units have rents fixed by government, not landlords, thus brokers fees cannot be built into rent.

        Free market apartments (which make up very small remainder of NYC apartment housing) will be another matter.

        However run the sums: for a $1500 brokers fee and LL tries to build it into rent, that means paying at least an extra $100 over one and half years for LL to get his money back. If tenant moves after one year then balance would be a loss.

    7. Bruce Bernstein says:

      congratulations to DI Malin! he won’t have to move and he’ll still be working on public safety on the UWS. Obviously they identified talent at Columbia.

      I agree with the stated NYPD position on bail reform. It’s obvious that the former cash bail system was a gross economic injustice, and resulted in 1,000s of people who have never been convicted of anything — in other words, people who are innocent, as we all are til proven guilty — being stuck in jail because they couldn’t make bail.

      On the other hand, it’s equally obvious that some people present a public safety risk and should be held. In many cases these people have serious mental health issue. There should be a mechanism to hold people who are risks to public safety, but it should be independent of wealth.

      The new SF DA, Chesa Boudin, is no longer asking for cash bail, ever. But they have a rigorous evaluation system to identify public safety risks and to hold them pending trial.

      This is all common sense, people. it does not have to become a political football.

    8. FOMO YOLO says:

      Problem with the broker fee situation is that the landlord can amortize the fees in the rent – in free market apartments.

      However, this is much more difficult in Rent Stabilized apartments whose costs are tightly controlled and becoming more so. So larger buildings that can afford a rental office will have the income and exposure to get new tenants. But smaller rent stabilized brownstones owned by someone who has one or two buildings will have a more difficult time of it.

      So, this is just another shot at someone who owns rent stabilized brownstones, encouraging them to convert to single family homes and to sell out, potentially eliminating more affordable apartments on the UWS.

    9. B.B. says:

      NYS judge issued an injunction this afternoon, so it looks as if brokers fees are back, for now at least.

      One does worry where this whole “stick it to landlords” war will end.

      If history repeats itself (1960’s through 1970’s and into 1980’s), developers will simply stop building rental housing.

      While new RS laws make condo or co-op conversions of rental buildings more difficult, it still is a viable option.

      Finally people should take great care about making enemies; there may come a time when something is wanted and people have long memories.

      If any of court cases prevail striking down these new rent laws, and changes in Albany mean senate no longer is dominated by democrats, then many had better watch out.

      Outside of NYC and downstate (largely city), rent regulation means absolutely nothing. There has been no love for it upstate which is why after original state wide laws were repealed RS only took affect mostly downstate.

      These new rent laws were “permanent”, so if removed there is nothing in place aside from legislature coming up with a replacement. Absent that action rent regulation will simply vanish by attrition.

    10. Roger Bilco says:

      Tenant: Just paid my broker $3,400 to submit paperwork I filled out online, collect my check I waited in line for at the bank and to spend 20 minutes opening a door while I showed myself the apartment.

      Landlord: Couldn’t be bothered to spend 4 hours showing people my apartment that I listed on Streeteasy for $49.

      Not sure where the value for the renter comes from, the entire market for real estate in New York is built for landlords with costs passed on to the renter with no perceivable benefit to the renter. I doubt we’ll see the same fees as increased rents, likely lower rates across the board since the LL will either pay or opt to do it themselves. Less demand, too much supply = lower cost.