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A Walk Around My Big Fat Ass

A Walk Around My Big Fat Ass published on 12 Comments on A Walk Around My Big Fat Ass

A Walk Around the Blog” Reclaimed Home segment with architect Mark Helder
has been aired. I told myself I wouldn’t post the video if it’s too embarrassing, but I just had to share.First of all, when they say TV puts 10 pounds on you, they ain’t kidding! I’m not that fat! My ass takes up the whole screen!Ok, and what’s with my goofy smile? Can ya tell I felt alittle self conscious in front of the camera?

And do I really sound like that? I think I was trying so hard not to sound “Brooklyn” that I sound…I dunno….like, Valley Girl? How about that voice over where I’m obviously reading from a script in the studio after the taping?

Ok, enjoy the laugh. Hope you don’t have nightmares about my Godzilla thighs.

And then let’s forget this whole thing ever happened.

McTreeHouse Development

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A tree house development in Costa Rica. I don’t know about this one. It’s eco friendly construction, but come on, how can it not interfere with the indigenous people and species?

Finca Bellavista, a 72-lot “sustainable rainforest community” is the brainchild of co-founders Matt and Erica Hogan, a sports marketing consultant and a former newspaper editor. The couple fell in love with the area while vacationing there a few years ago and decided they “just had to” build a vacation home there.

The couple tells the National Post that they wanted to share their passion with others and “…bring something totally different and adventurous into peoples’ lives.” And you were thinking it was just a scheme to make money!

The 310 acre property is located at the base of a 6,000-foot mountain on the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The region boasts the highest percentage of land devoted to National Parks and Forest Reserves in the country. The world’s first tree house subdivision will be accessible only by foot or the Sky Trail network, an interconnected system of ziplines and platforms that allow users to access different portions of the community.

Roderick Romero, a designer known for his eco-friendly creations, participated in the project. He has worked with Sting in Tuscany, Val Kilmer in Texas, Julianne Moore in NYC, creating treetop hideaways for their kids.

Rainwater will be funneled into each home from a catchment system on the roof. It will then be distributed to sinks and bathrooms via pipes. A hydro-electric power grid was created for the community. The system uses the water flowing through the mountain-fed Rio Bellavista to power a turbine attached to an electric generator.

Finca Bellavista’s Phase 1 lots, priced at $40,000, are almost sold out. Phase 2 lots are available with prices ranging from $50,000 to $65,000 (higher for riverfront and ocean-views). Phase 3 details have not yet been announced.

Yeah, I do the eco travel thing sometimes. I stayed at a lodge in the Peruvian jungle and I swam with dolphins. Would I like to vacation in one of these homes? Hell yeah! It looks awesome! But a subdivision? That’s going too far. Just seems like some wealthy people looking for a guilt free way to rape the land in a more gentle manner.

Eco my ass.

439 Metropolitan -LEED Platinum Pt II

439 Metropolitan -LEED Platinum Pt II published on 8 Comments on 439 Metropolitan -LEED Platinum Pt II


Last December we reported that NYC’s first LEED Platinum mixed use building project was underway in Williamsburg. I recently visited the site to interview architect Mark Helder for BCAT Brooklyn Review’s A Walk Around the Blog.


The building is slated for completion by July 2008. That seems a long shot at the moment (see photos), but Mark assures us that the most difficult part is behind him now. Because they saved the existing walls, underpinning the foundation was an arduous task.


The building will house Mark’s design studio on the ground floor and cellar and will have two residential duplex units above that. The first unit will be about 820 sf and the penthouse, about 1050 sf. Each apartment will have a private balcony and in addition, the penthouse will have exclusive use of the roof garden.

Because of the space constraints, the building was designed with as thin walls as possible while not sacrificing thermal or noise benefits.

I thought it was interesting that the greenest building in Brooklyn sits right near the BQE. But then again, that’s the ONLY kind of building that should be situated there. 100% of the ventilated air will be filtered to near HEPA standards. The building will have one of the best indoor air qualities in the city, far exceeding the American Lung Association’s standards for their Health House certification.

Heavy laminated glass windows will mitigate noise pollution. Concrete floors with an acoustically insulated radiant floor slab will further help with noisy neighbors.

See the blue on the front of the building? Solar panels.


Mark Helder moved to the states from Amsterdam when his wife Nikki felt it was time to reconnect after being away for a decade. Whenever he would visit NYC, he always looked around in astonishment at the abundant building opportunities. Lots of empty and smaller spaces and in general, an aging building stock with opportunities for improvement.

He also noticed that building technology followed the money and was of low standards as compared to what he used to in the Netherlands. Even though there were budgetary constraints back home, it seemed to him that the quality was higher even in the very low budget segments of the market. He feels it’s just what people are used to / demanding to get for their money.

Mark goes on: “In that sense it’s easier building green in the Netherlands, first, because it is a national consensus and people are aware of the long term maintenance effects when building a building which lasts for at least 50 years. Second, building standards and codes are kept up-to-date to the current (energy) developments. The minimum energy efficiency requirements are set to a relative high level in relation to the regularly available building technology and is updated every few years or so. In the US the minimum energy standards are relatively low and building a better performing building is basically voluntary. The gap between the minimum requirements and the regularly available building technology is large.”


Brooklyn Review airs Monday, March 10th on Time Warner channel 56 or Cablevision 69. Check listings for encore presentations. I’ll post the video here if it’s not completely embarrassing.


To Buy Or Not To Buy

To Buy Or Not To Buy published on 4 Comments on To Buy Or Not To Buy


That is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the rental until prices further drop
Or risk losing an outrageous fortune,
To take a chance on buying a sea of troubles
Or by opposing, bring prices down?
To buy; To wait…..

A friend of mine is looking for a house and he’s getting cold feet. All of his buddies are telling him to hold off. There’s a recession a comin’. Prices will drop. He asked for my opinion.

After I told him that I’m not a friggen mind reader (although I sometimes claim to be), I advised him to look at the big picture. Too many people only think about the price of the house. Well, my friends, mortgage rates and taxes are every bit as important. Think of it this way: You pay for the house once. You will be stuck with those interest rates for 30 years. Same with the taxes. And they keep going up.

You have to do the math. If you wait, you may save an extra $50k on a home, but it’s not worth anything if the interest rates are at 8%. Right now they are below 6% and may drop even more at the end of the month.

The market has already softened. It could go down even more and it certainly won’t be going up any time soon.

My opinion? I’d hold off and see if the feds announce some good news at the end of the month and then cautiously hit the pavement.

PS: I should give a shout out to the ever so fabulous mortgage broker who alerted me to the fact that it might be refinance time for me if rates drop any more. Give a big hand to Jonathan Meadors of Preferred Empire Mortgage! He kicks ass! jmeadorsATpemconlineDOTcom

Habitat’s Eco Homes In The Stuy

Habitat’s Eco Homes In The Stuy published on 6 Comments on Habitat’s Eco Homes In The Stuy

Caroling. Ribbon cutting. Blessings.




Nine new affordable condos in Bed Stuy are complete now, thanks to Habitat for Humanity.

Each owner contributed 300 hours of labor with help from 4,000 skilled volunteers. Habitat hired a professional contractor for the exterior, core and shell of the buildings. The owners learned skills while basically building their own homes.

The condos are constructed of highly energy efficient “insulated concrete forms” meant to save homeowners up to 50% in energy bills. Eco friendly materials such as recycled glass countertops and cabinets consisting of sunflower seeds were used in the building process.

New homeowners received symbolic keys to the homes, located on Halsey Street, but cannot move in until early 2008.

Via Green Brooklyn

Via NY1

Some Events To Consider

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Design Blogfest Holiday Party

Tonight (Don’t blame me for the short notice. It was just posted yesterday!) 6-9pm at Henrybuilt, 79 Grand Street, NYC.
Hosted by: Treehugger, MocoLoco, Brownstoner, Curbed, Apartment Therapy and Cool Hunting.

Real Estate Connect 2008

January 9-11 at the Marriott Marquis, Times Square

Register in advance.

Presented by Inman News. Lectures and workshops on all things real estate. Speakers include big wig brokers and magazine editors, but the most important speaker….my idol, Craig Newmark.

Green MLS

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Justin at is good. I believe he was the first one to catch the new Green MLS. At least that’s where I saw it. Listed Green is the MLS for green, sustainable, energy efficient homes and developments worldwide. They screen the listings before they are placed on the website to assure the dwellings are indeed green and not just fake green. You know what I mean. Currently, there are only 2 listings in New York.

Bargains In Brooklyn

Bargains In Brooklyn published on 3 Comments on Bargains In Brooklyn


No Sleep Till….

This Sunday’s NY Times reported that there are bargains in Brooklyn! This just after Crains reported that home prices in the borough were up. Ah, to be fair, although prices have risen, the article states that fewer homes have sold.

So what does this mean for you if you’re looking to buy? It means you may be able to grab that $1.1 million brownstone in Bed Stuy for $950k like Josh and Mary Dennis did. Or nab a new condo in Greenwood Heights for 5% below ask, which would be a million for a 1915 square foot duplex.

The areas you’ll find the most bargains are those that are hurting due to foreclosure, such as Bed Stuy, Bushwick and East New York. There are also condo bargains to be had in neighborhoods that have been overbuilt, such as Williamsburg and Greenwood Heights, which is on the fringe of the fringe of Park Slope South.

REBNY MLS: It’s here.

REBNY MLS: It’s here. published on No Comments on REBNY MLS: It’s here.


If NYC isn’t the center of your universe, you may not know this. There’s no MLS in NYC, any of the boroughs. Well, no real MLS, it’s kind of a joke. It makes it crazy difficult for a house buyer, shopping around with various agents, looking at The NY Times and Craigslist. It’s a full time job. And “buyer’s agent”? Ha! And don’t even get me started on how unfair this is for sellers.

Anyway, REBNY, the Real Estate Board of NY, is the the closest thing we have to MLS. Yesterday, they launched a web search portal called Residential NYC. It’s powered by Trulia, making it seems like….Trulia. Two of the largest real estate firms in NYC opted out: Corcoran and Elliman. So basically, MLS in NYC….not.

Related Curbed Article

Own An Island! $ 1.9 Mil

Own An Island! $ 1.9 Mil published on 3 Comments on Own An Island! $ 1.9 Mil


Found out about this one thanks to Lower Hudson via The Real Deal.

The Plaplers, a Manhattan couple, are selling their second home on Putnam Lake. And when we say on Putnam Lake, we mean ON Putnam Lake. They paid $72,500 for it back in the 70’s. Just about what Park Slope brownstones were selling for.

The stone home was built by Bernard McEntegart and his sons 75 years ago. They hauled the material across the water.

Wonder if Fresh Direct delivers?


Somewhat Affordable NYC: Coney Island

Somewhat Affordable NYC: Coney Island published on 2 Comments on Somewhat Affordable NYC: Coney Island
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I spent my teen years in Coney Island. Brightwater Towers, right across from the aquarium. The screams from the Cyclone and the sea lions would keep me awake at night. Had numerous beach parties. Attended the very first Mermaid Parade. Got married at Primorski under the El. Nothing but fond memories. Luvin’ the CI.


  • Stillwell Avenue is serviced by the D, Q, F and N trains. It takes a good hour to get into midtown, but so what? You live near the beach!
  • Did I mention the beach? It’s best in wintertime, when there are no crowds. You can swim with the Polar Bears.
  • Ethnic restaurants and lots of diversity (ok, lots of Russian diversity).
  • Free concerts in the summer. I saw the B-52’s last month…..for free!


  • Upcoming development is going to change the face of Coney Island. I know lots of folks out there are saying “Oh, clean it up. Nothing wrong with gentrification.” But I’d like to see at least some parts of NYC remain unique.

Coney Island vendors may get one more summer!

Coney Island
Save Coney Island
Coney Island Reporter
Kinetic Carnival
Making CI Green: Gotham Gazette


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