July 24, 2018

Urbanist Abroad in New York

I’m off again — another trip (ah, the retired life). This time to New York.

I’ve been visiting the city since the mid-1970s (quite a different scene back then), and watched the city change.

Conclusion: NYC has become an ‘historic’ city, reflecting in its architecture the power and wealth of the 20th century, just as Florence did in the 16th century, as Amsterdam did in the 17th, London in the 18th, Paris in the 19th.

But there’s always something new. On top of the must-visit list is Hudson Yards — and in particular the public-art centrepiece, The Vessel, pictured above. (It’s not open yet, but should be near completion).

What else should be on my list of must-sees? Knowledgeable PT readers no doubt have suggestions, including the offbeat and out-of-the-way — beyond Manhattan. Food recommendations always appreciated too.

Add them in the Comments. You can also follow me on my new, personal Instagram account @GordonPriceYVR, with summaries provided on this blog periodically.

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    1. …Vancouver … real estate market is tanking … foreign buyers … hitting a wall…

      Oh, is that so?

      While true that overall SALES have dipped 28.7% over the 10-year June average, and 37.7% below June 2017 (especially in West Side detached homes), PRICES have most definitely not followed in lockstep.

      Apartments (current median price + price movement over a year, June stats)

      East Van: $573,800, up 13.0%
      Van West Side: $842,600, up 9.0%
      Burnaby (three quadrants listed): $656,100 – $737,000, up 16.1% – 20.4%
      Maple Ridge: $327,200, up 40%

      Detached homes:

      East Van: $1.541 million, up 0.5%
      Van West Side: $3.33 million, down 6.5%
      Burnaby: $1.34 M – $1.72 M, down 2.2% – up 6.48%
      Maple Ridge: $880,700, up 13.5%


      Several economists and the Real Estate Board of Vancouver peg the dip in detached house sales in the most expensive locations on finally arriving at a market ceiling well above affordable levels, and especially on the recent tightening of mortgage rules on average buyers where the core demand resides. Foreign buyers barely get mentioned because their influence is not as hysterically negative as some pundits pretend through conjecture, usually with no real solid evidence. They’re there and have an influence, and they are being taxed, regulated and having their funds crimped on both sides of the ocean. But they have also been a convenient scapegoat that excuses local demand and speculation, doesn’t understand what constrained land looks like, and that ignores the historic decade of ultra-low credit that is apparently now coming to a slow close. Complicating it all is the oncoming Trump Recession caused by presidential incompetence.

      1. Nice try at minimization, but it is certainly not just a problem found in expensive SFH neighbourhoods, as StatsCan showed:

        “…But there is one exception: condos built in and around Vancouver in the last two years.
        More than one in five condos built since 2016 in Richmond and Coquitlam are owned by non-residents, with 19.1 per cent in the City of Vancouver.
        “The main point when you look at the data is to distinguish the stock and the flow,” said Gordon.
        “That means a huge share of the market, in terms of who is buying in recent years, is non-resident owners. And that will have a major impact in your market.”…


        1. So, the ~20% foreign owned (which still leaves ~80% locally owned) translates into just what proportion of prices? 5%? 33%? 50%? 90%?

          Josh Gordon and others have not dared to offer a number because of the lack of quality data, though their inferences are heavily leaning toward a blame game. But a trend line is emerging from actual data that foreign ownership is not the sole cause of the affordability crisis that too many claim even after targeted taxes and the concentrated efforts of both senior levels of government on foreign family trusts and so forth. China’s policy of limiting the leakage of cash from their borders to $50,000 tends to constrain the foreign buyer’s influence too.

          My assumption has not been swayed one iota so far: the affordability crisis has multiple causes of which foreign money is only one.

    2. Tanking? According to whom?
      Those in the business are screaming like stuck pigs who have to make payments on their fancy cars because use sales are down.
      Prices for anything good are not down.
      Property on traffic streets might not shift as fast, or at such crazy prices.
      The speculators are not making out as easily as before – like bandits: the renoflipping
      beavers; the scraper-flippers; the Van Spec Dreck builders; the lipstickers; the to-the-studs remuddlers.
      The good stuff, as always, is rare and coveted and sells at a premium. Anything with the potential of a land assembly is hot.
      Demand, as always, is intense. Getting the cash together is an issue.
      There are around 50 million in the Chinese diaspora that control 2 trillion in assets. That segment alone still has its sights set on Canada’s most desirable city.
      The Ottawa beauraucrats with their fat pensions – are they going to retire in the coldest capital in the world? They like Victoria and Vancouver.
      The Russians that got out with fortunes? They love Vancouver.
      Vietnamese, Filipinos – if they can swing it, they choose here.
      Those of Punjabi background? They’re building this city – they’re not moving anywhere – because there is no place better. Are they making babies?
      Larry Fink, CEO of Black Rock, the world’s biggest asset manager, rates Vancouver as a top investment.

  1. If I went to New York, I’d go to the places Anthony Bourdain frequented. A lot of people would have stories to tell – and tears to shed.
    Anthony Bourdain – the greatest urbanist of all time. R.I.P.

    1. I’d sure like to see a good doc on Bourdain. His shows were always about real people, not all celebrities, and full of life and new experiences.

      I have his book ‘Kitchen Confidential’ and three pieces of advice stuck:

      * Beware the meat sauce or stew special with low prices. Even the top NYC hotel restaurants have been known to scrape the leftover half-eaten steak off patron’s plates into the stew pot and sell the same cut twice, the second time around with someone’s bite marks on the edge.

      * Do not order “fresh” fish for dinner on a Monday. It likely has the weekend written all over it.

      * Always check the washrooms for cleanliness. They are easier to clean than kitchens, and you know a filthy washroom is a sure sign that the kitchen is even filthier. Give that establishment a wide berth in future.

      Apologies for being off-topic.

  2. The reference to Hudson Yards reminds me that it is supposedly the only development in North America larger than the redevelopment of Lougheed Mall.

    Makes you consider the scale of some of the development happening in the Greater Vancouver region – where they fly under the radar in their own small city, while a development of comparable size is a must see in one of the world’s great cities.

    Also interested in hearing more thoughts on the view of New York as a ‘historical’ city.

    As for Vancouver real estate, a drop in prices is always preceded by a drop in sales, but a drop in sales isn’t always followed by a drop in prices. Time (and interest rates) will tell, although prices are already dropping at the high end of the market.

  3. Enjoy your visit to my birth city.
    A ride on the free Staten Island Ferry is a great way to get a colossal view of the current version of downtown Manhattan as well as Lady Liberty.
    Walk into Central Park from Columbus Circle and get a view of Billionaire’s row from that perspective with the Manhattan schist in the foreground.
    Keith Haring’s outdoor mural of “King Neptune'” at the Carmine Street outdoor pool is eye catching (Carmine Street and Seventh Avenue South in the WV).
    Visit Old St. Patrick’s church in Nolita at Mulberry and Prince and view the back wall of the interior to see a most interesting commentary on NY in the mid 19th Century.
    Take a ferry ride out to the Rockaways and get great views of the Manhattan skyline from the Jamaica Bay side.
    Take a ferry to Govenor’s Island and explore.
    Lombardi’s Pizza, 32 Spring Street near Mott Street.
    Faicco’s Pork Store, 260 Bleecker Street at Cornelia Street in the WV. Got to the rear of the store to order a hero sandwich. My suggestion, fresh mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, lettuce, oil and vinegar. Be ready to share this as it is huge. Enjoy in an outdoor park down the street towards Sixth Avenue at Father Demos Square or Winston Churchill Square.
    For coffee (or real iced tea), Think coffee is inside the street entrance of The Center (LGBT center on West 13th Street between Seventh Ave and Greenwich). There is a nice shaded outside patio away from the street to relax.
    I’m homesick already.

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