Leonard Grunstein’s Response to NYT’s “A Truly Affordable New York Apartment”

The New York Times recently examined one reason why the number of affordable apartments in New York may be shrinking: a growing number of families who will do anything to hand down their bargain-rate homes to the next generation. The phenomenon is yet more evidence that the City needs a solution to its affordable housing shortage.

Artificially preserving the rents of existing stock does not solve the fundamental problem. After all, as the article demonstrates, people can and do hold on to bargain-rate homes for years, even decades, depriving others of access to these rare prizes. Indeed, this kind of regulation may be a root cause of the problem.

Rather than holding down rents below market rates, we should build a new generation of housing for the middle class. We have land available – NYCHA alone has over 30 million square feet of unused development rights – and financial models such as public-private-partnerships that have been proven to work. Now we only need the political will to make it happen.

Leonard Grunstein has written several articles in regards to the housing and redevelopment challenges currently faced by New York City.  Recently in an article featured on Crain’s, Leonard Grunstein discusses his five strategies to help New York City create an organization dedicated to improving existing complexes as well as creating new ones.

Connect with Leonard Grunstein on LinkedIn to learn more about his professional profile.

Yeshiva University School of Jewish Education Names New Dean

Yeshiva University announced that Dr. David Schnall, current dean of the School of Jewish Education and Administration, will be retiring as Azrielli Dean after the 2013-14 academic year.

Dr. Rona Novick will succeed Dr. Schnall, effecitve July 1, 2014.  A PhD recepitant of Rutgers University, Dr. Novick is known for her expertise in behavior management and child behavior therapy.  With extensive research in parenting, and the behavior and development of young children, Dr. Novick has been invited to present at national and international conferences.  As dean, Dr. Novick will work with Provost-elect Dr. Selma Botman and bring focus to the future of Jewish education.

Dr. Rona Novak

Dr. Rona Novak

President of the University, Richard Joel welcomed Dr. Novick with enthusiasm:

“I am delighted that Dr. Rona Novick has accepted my invitation to serve as the dean of Azrieli”… “She has been an invaluable asset to our institution, serving as director of the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Doctoral Program prior to her new appointment. Concurrently, she will hold the Raine and Stanley Silverstein Chair in Professional Ethics and Values.”

Upon retirement, Dr. Schnall plans to spend more time with his family and focus on his writing and research.  Dr. Schnall has served as dean for 13 years, but will continue his involvement at the University after a brief sabbatical.  According to President Joel, Schnall will resume teaching and publishing at YU:

“In recognition of his extraordinary achievements and contributions to Yeshiva University, I have decided to name Dr. Schnall University Professor of Jewish Culture and Society.”

Leonard Grunstein was appointed to Board Member of the Revel Graduate School at Yeshiva University in 2013.

Leonard Grunstein Analysis Published in The Banking Law Journal

An extensive analysis conducted by Leonard Grunstein was published in The Banking Law Journal.  The highly reputable publication, featured Grunstein’s analysis of the contemporary application of Jewish laws regarding the taking of interest. Yeshiva University affirmed,

“The Banking Law Journal, publication, reflects Mr. Grunstein’s mastery of the intricacies of a complex area of halakhah, of the similar challenges raised by the strictures of Islamic law, and of the workings of Western economies.”

Grunstein presents his findings,

“The Article provides a timely analysis of the recent defaults, bankruptcies and attempts at restructuring of Sha’ariah compliant financial products, including. the spectacular bankruptcy by a Sha’ariah compliant institutional lender, which threatens to undermine the very basis for these products. It discusses the structural issues exposed by these events as well as the inherent incompatibility between existing Sha’ariah products and the requirements of the capital markets.”

Read Leonard Grunstein’s full report here.

Leonard Grunstein became a member of the Revel Board of Overseers in the summer of 2013.  Both Grunstein and his wife, Chana, are long-time supporters of Yeshiva University.

Harlem’s 125th Street Garage Complex

Over the past decade, an underutilized garage on West 125th Street in Harlem has gradually been transformed into a bustling office and retail space, with more plans for a cultural center and affordable housing on the horizon.

In 1999, Gov. George Pataki announced a plan to transform the largely dormant space into a new multipurpose complex.  Shortly after, developers broke ground on a 110,000-square-foot retail center.   Planned changes to the site did raise some initial concern. Harlem Assemblyman Keith Wright, chairman of the Harlem Community Development Corporation said:

“The number of economic development projects currently moving forward in Harlem have brought new life to our community, but they must find harmony with our current residents and businesses to be truly successful.”

Harlem’s 125th Street Garage Complex

121 West 125th Street Garage Complex

In early 2012, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed new additions to the site.  The City planned to build a $225 million cultural complex, the Urban League Empowerment Center, which plans to house the headquarters of the National Urban League – the nation’s largest civil-rights organization – as well as the City’s first civil rights museum.

Affordable housing will also be part of the project.  Adjacent to the complex will be a 114-unit residential tower split among a variety of incomes using a 50-30-20 model, in which 50 percent of units will be market rate, 30 percent will be affordable and 20 percent will be set aside for low-income residents.

The development is the latest in a long line of projects along the 125th Street corridor. The street was rezoned in 2008 to make way for more high-rise developments, and new proposals since then have included plans to transform the Taystee Bakery site into a new office and industrial complex and a proposal to redevelop the vacant Corn Exchange Building into a retail property.

Leonard Grunstein helped design the air rights structure for the office tower portion of the complex.

To read the latest on Leonard Grunstein, visit his Facebook page.

Leonard Grunstein’s Blueprint for New Housing

In a Crain’s article, Leonard Grunstein gives his blueprint guide to jump the redevelopment in New York City.  He points out that the NYC Housing Authority has numerous properties desperately in need of redevelopment.  Grunstein stresses that the issue is not being able to build new developments, but being able to focus on improving what already exists.

Grunstein’s five strategies to redevelopment:

  1. The city should use modern tools such as public-private partnerships to finance the redevelopment of properties.  Similar methods of accessing the capital market are more sustainable and avoid the need for massive public subsidies.
    Example: Battery Park City is made up of a partnership through private developers and the Battery Park City Authority, the state and the city of New York.  It was created as an integrated mixed-income and mixed-use community. The redevelopment plan engaged the financeable ground lease as a public-private partnership.

    Battery Park City

    Battery Park City

  2. The city should take advantage of federal grants to consider renewing aging complexes.  Cities such as Chicago and Boston have received sizable federal grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  3. Encourage existing developments to embrace a more diverse and functional development, with a wider range of incomes by incorporating the “80/20″ model, (allows developers to build taller structures if 20% of units are affordable) or a step further with a “50/30/20″ program that would set aside 50% for luxury units, 30% for middle-income units, and 20% for low-income units.
  4. Avoid limiting exisiting developments to one use. Variety of uses (housing, retail, etc.) helps fuel revitalization, and enhances the development as a whole.
    Example: Buildings in the the meatpacking district, host restaurants, “mom-and-pop” shops, and cultural institutions.
  5. Provide developers with more flexibility.  Regulations should be scaled back by city leaders, including phasing out zone and density restrictions that have become obsolete. The initiative should be modeled after the Battery Park City Example.

Read Leonard Grunstein’s full article on Crain’s.

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