Weekend Open Discussion

This is the time and place to post observations about your local areas, comments on news stories or the New Jersey housing market, open house reports, etc. If you have any questions you wanted to ask earlier in the week but never posted them up, let’s have them. Also a good place to post suggestions, requests for information, criticism, and praise.

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For new readers that have only read the messages displayed on the main page, take a look through the archives, a substantial amount of information has been put online in the past year. The archives can be accessed by using the links found in the menus on the right hand side of the page.

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42 Responses to Weekend Open Discussion

  1. grim says:

    From the NYT:

    Reaching Out to Condo Buyers

    CONDOMINIUM buyers in the New York area often paid little mind to Federal Housing Administration mortgages, either because these government-backed loans had relatively low dollar limits or because federal rules put them beyond the reach of most condo associations.

    But last year, the federal government raised the maximum F.H.A. loan amount to $729,750 from $362,790 for high-cost areas like Manhattan and northern New Jersey. It recently extended that ceiling through 2010.

    Then, earlier this month, the agency said that through next January it would relax some rules under which condo owners can qualify for the loans. (The F.H.A. still does not make loans on co-ops, and mortgage executives say they don’t expect that policy to change anytime soon.)

    Industry executives say the F.H.A.’s new rules will open an important lending option to condo buyers, especially those with weak credit.

    “This will absolutely be a big help for condo buyers,” said Melissa Cohn, the president of the Manhattan Mortgage Company. “The loans are still more costly for people, but it will at least allow them to gain entry into condos, and they can always refinance into more traditional, better-priced loans.”

    F.H.A. loans have grown in popularity since the collapse of the mortgage market in 2007, because borrowers need not maintain stellar credit scores or save up for large down payments to qualify. Borrowers with credit scores as low as 600 can often qualify, and they can secure a mortgage with a down payment of less than 5 percent.

    The downside, though, is that borrowers must pay an F.H.A. insurance premium, similar to private mortgage insurance. On a $300,000 mortgage, that could add nearly $150 to the monthly payment.

  2. db says:

    better health care coming soon to your neighborhood doctor …beware what you ask for !

  3. Upsidedown says:

    So if I go condo, some of my new neighbors might be on FHA loans because they don’t have the $$ for a real loan? Great. I can see it now, “I can’t afford my monthly fees…” as they get into their new Lexus (leased of course).

    I look at the various MLS web sites and I see the monthly payment section advertising IO 5 & 10 yr ARM. If I have a solid down payment and stable work and am buying a home within my means, why the hell am I going into an IO mtg? Who in their mind would underwrite these things in today’s world?

  4. Frank says:

    Am I nuts or people with weak credit should not own a condo or a co-op???

    “Industry executives say the F.H.A.’s new rules will open an important lending option to condo buyers, especially those with weak credit.”

  5. Frank says:

    Inventory down big time in NJ this week.
    Buy now, before prices go up like in 2005.

  6. Frank says:

    “Who in their mind would underwrite these things in today’s world?”

    FNMA and Freddie is going it with your money.

  7. Cory Booker says:


    1180 in Newark is in Foreclosure!

    Eleven80, symbol of Newark’s renaissance, is caught up in courtroom filings
    By Philip Read/The Star-Ledger
    November 22, 2009, 7:16AM

    In 2006, when the 35-story art deco landmark dubbed Eleven80 opened its luxury apartments in downtown Newark, a city trying desperately to recreate itself, there was a buzz as Manhattanites quickly moved in.

    Now the buzz is in a courtroom as a symbol of Newark’s renaissance is in foreclosure proceedings, joining a wave of financial meltdowns with roots in an era of easy credit.

    eleven-80-newark.jpg.JPGJerry McCrea/The Star LedgerEleven 80, Newark’s first upscale rental development since 1961

    “During the unprecedented credit bubble, there was widespread risk amnesia, market discipline was lost, and easy money flowed out the door,” said James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.

    “Projects that had been impossible under rational credit standards quickly became possible. The bursting of this bubble has made many projects impossible again, and has exposed the excesses of those that got built.”

    In all, some 16 law firms are swirling around Eleven80, which was collateral for a $65 million loan that the lender says fell into default in the face of $6.7 million in construction liens.

    Prudential weighed in, saying it had a $5 million mortgage on the tower, and Newark filed legal papers to protect $7.9 million in tax-exempt bonds it issued for the once empty office tower’s makeover.

    In line, too, are the long line of contractors holding millions in unpaid bills for everything from fire-proof doors to the woodwork to the retrofit for the 8,000-square-foot health club.

    “It’s a mess,” said Audra Schwartz, one of the many attorneys representing companies with liens on Eleven80.

    Foreclosing on Eleven80 is expected to be invisible to those who call the building home, but Camille Claudio, a 23-year-old Seton Hall Law student who has rented an apartment in Eleven80 for about 18 months, had some trepidation.

    “I’m a little nervous,” she said of the uncertainty.

    Just months ago, Eleven80 — taking its name from its address at 1180 Raymond Boulevard — was being hailed for its views of Manhattan, 24-hour concierge, bowling alley and gourmet kitchens with granite counter tops. Rents for the 317 upscale apartments ranged from $1,650 for a one-bedroom to $2,420 for a two-bedroom and pulled in Manhattanites to what was Newark’s first luxury development in 4 decades.

    Stefan Pryor, Newark’s deputy mayor for economic development, said Eleven80, with some 80 percent occupancy, is proof that high-quality apartments can attract people to the state’s largest city. What’s more, he said, state and federal stimulus dollars as well as residential tax credits are now in play. “They will put such projects on a strong financial footing,” he said.

    The fallout from the recession, however, has taken its toll, with plans for a 350-room hotel on Mulberry Street falling by the wayside, city officials said.

    “That deal for that particular hotel is no longer advancing,” Pryor said. “It was a victim of the economy.”

    The developer, though, hasn’t abandoned the idea.

    “Edison Properties is continuing to pursue the development of a hotel within the downtown core,” the company said in a statement. “We expect that the hospitality sector will return to economic feasibility as the nation emerges from the recent economic downturn.”

    So does Pryor. “There are two to three additional hotel deals that are in formulation. They’re in different stages of development. At least one of them, we predict, will emerge as a valid and viable plan,” said Pryor, declining to name the developers. “The hospitality professionals tell us that Newark is under-hoteled.”

    Just two blocks from the Prudential Center, a conversion of a 1912 jewelry factory into 66 residential units, 80 percent of which are market rate, is nearing completion, he said.

    A highly publicized deal to convert the city’s former Science High School on Rector Street into a residential high-rise, with 150 units, has just received historic review, Pryor said.

    As for Eleven80, the showdown came when the lender, citing the construction liens as a violation of the mortgage agreement, issued warnings and then called the loan, demanding full payment. By April 7, the foreclosure action — U.S. Bank National Association v. 1180 Astro Renewal Investors LCC et al — was filed.

    The foreclosure filing hasn’t rattled Carl Dranoff, a Philadelphian who next year intends to move forward with his own 300-unit luxury high-rise across from NJPAC.

    “This is what I would call a blip on the radar screen,” said Dranoff.

    “The trend is the flight back to the city,” he said. “People who are empty nesters, boomers and echo-boomers — the sons and daughters of boomers — they want to live in urban areas, and we are urban developers.”

    Stern, a pioneer developer in New Jersey’s largest city, has pumped $250 million into its rebirth — most of it in Eleven80. He also retains 744 Broad St., the city’s tallest high-rise, but his taste for Newark soured when another downtown Newark building, Two Center Street, won all the accolades in Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s State of the City address back in January. His vision for residential housing across from historic Military Park wasn’t even mentioned.

    “I’ve given 10 years of my life to the city,” Stern said. “Then, they’re off to the next guy.”

  8. njescapee says:

    Don’t kid yourself, New Yorkers are different from us — they need to be!
    By CHRIS BELLAND Citizen Columnist

    I just returned from a business trip to New York City. It has been a long time since I have been to New York and this past week I was reminded why.

    In New York, one must compete for everything. Even walking on a sidewalk is a constant jockeying for position when making your way from Point A to Point B. The slow walkers, the jostlers, the standing in the middle of the sidewalkers, the walkers in the wrong directioners, all make for a “ya better be watchin’ where you go” situation (not to mention the occasional spittle globs or dog poop).

    This intensifies when you need to cross the street, for now you are not only trying to weave your way across but you are also constantly on the alert for cars that have either jumped the gun or are adhering to the New York code of traffic signals: “Green means go, yellow means hurry up and red means room for one more.”

    If you are not competing for space on the sidewalk, you are trying not to look as crazed as the guy next to you in hopes of being able to hail a taxicab whose driver’s skills are more likely honed in such Mondo Cane places as Somalia, Pakistan or the Ukraine. Of course, when someone finally stops for you and you get in, you are so grateful that no matter how dirty the inside of the cab is, what the driver smells like or what happens to be blaring over the radio, which you suspect has something to do with killing Americans, you graciously accept it.

    By the way, they have even infiltrated the insides of the cabs with audio visual advertising. On the backs of the seats they have television sets that bombard you with alternative locations to spend your money assuming, of course, you can get a reservation or you have anything left after the cab fare.

    When you finally make it to your destination, if it is an office building as it was for me, you will jostle on to an elevator unless, of course, it fills up before you make the threshold, in which case you smile politely and wait for the next one. At least for a New York second you are first in line!

    All this is worth it, of course, because there are so many great places to eat and things to do as long as your mother and father had the foresight to make a reservation for you on the day of your birth and you don’t mind the price of a hamburger, which is generally in line with the price of an entire steer in Wyoming, or a show with tickets equating to the writer’s annual salary.

    I once shared a cab in Boston with a young Harvard Law grad on his way to join a firm in New York that had recruited him. Sharing an Ivy League background (and, of course, the secret handshake) we chatted for a bit about his new career. I was astonished when he told me his first year salary was $115,000! Remember, although this was 1990, he was only 24 years old and making more than I was at the time. When I expressed my amazement at his good fortune, he nonchalantly told me it was “beggars’ wages.”

    For the staggering sum of his compensation he would, after buying the requisite attire, either rent a studio rabbit’s warren close in or spend half his life commuting from some one-bedroom apartment far, far away, all to work at a 14-hour, six-day-a-week schedule — and if they “ask,” seven.

    “No,” he said, “it sounds like a lot, but they own you, and if you don’t make partner by dint of personality, skill or marriage in a short few years, you can expect to live out your days in a central, windowless cubicle.”

    I wished him well and paid the fare, but was sad for him after all. To be so bright and young and dedicated and going to a place where if you didn’t make the other guy roll over and wet himself, you were doomed to doing it yourself for all eternity.

    Whether you are trying to get some fresh air, a moment of solitude or walking or riding to a destination, you are literally competing for everything you have to do. It is no wonder New Yorkers seem to carry around with them an ample amount of “‘tude.” If you don’t, it is like being the runt of the litter or the last guy in the boarding house to be served. You either don’t get where you are going, get lousy seats or don’t eat. It is no wonder it is the “city that never sleeps.” Nobody has time! They are too busy fighting for their lives.

    New York is truly a “wonderful town” (hats off to Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munchin). I have good friends there and actually do like an occasional visit. You literally can do, see, be and have it all if — well, I think I made my point.

    Anyway, I am glad to be back in Key West.

  9. BC Bob says:

    “Played FC Thistle in Harrison today.”


    Where was my invite? I could have brought the hooligans along. Fish and chips with a few Kbob Creeks for the ride home. Priceless.

  10. BC Bob says:

    NJE [8],

    I’m thinking of going to Key West, X-Mas week. Never been there. Any recommendations; looking to stay close to beach/town.


  11. njescapee says:

    The island is 2 miles by 4 miles. Most hotels and guest houses are in Old Town. Ocean Key Resort at 0 Duval St is a really nice non chain hotel. Plenty of excellent restaurants. we even have our own Sarabeths.
    Best beach is at Zachary Taylor state park easy walk or bicycle ride from anywhere in Old Town. Has some nice shade trees. One of the discount airlines will start flights from Orlando to Key West in mid December.

  12. njescapee says:

    and for the folks at NJRE. we have a Grim’s Grill and Sports Bar

  13. BC Bob says:


    Thanks. If we go, I’ll let you know.

  14. galgon says:

    BC (11)

    I was in key west a few years ago. There is one small beach there which is nice to sit down on but the swimming was terrible. There were things growing in the water and the bottom was very muddy. The Jersey shore is much nicer.

    We stayed at a B&B: The Eden house. The room was a little small but well kept. They have a pool and a happy hour each night. It is around .6 of a mile from the downtown area. It cost less than those closer to downtown and had plenty of parking. However, they do not have free breakfast like most B&Bs.

    My wife and I loved the time we spent there, it is a very relaxed environment. I would move there in a heartbeat if it wasn’t for the lack of jobs, higher cost of living and hurricane issues.

  15. BC Bob says:


    Thanks, I’ll check it out.

  16. kettle1 says:

    “We’ve been living with the illusion that manufacturing — making things — is so 20th century,” said Mr. Shaiken, “and that we could succeed by concentrating, for example, on complex financial instruments while abandoning the industrial base that sustained so many American families.”


  17. NJCoast says:


    After selling our house and business a few years back, we decided to go on an adventure. We drove straight through to Key West. After touring the town we came upon a funky retro art-deco motel. The place looked so cool, modestly priced, and waterfront so we paid for a week in advance to get the special rate.

    The next morning we woke up early to get to the pool as it was January and we craved sun. We were the first one’s there so we piled on the sunscreen and put our hats over our faces and fell asleep.

    We awoke to the sound of people splashing in the pool and gathering on lounge chairs. I pulled my hat off and sat up, only to find most people were sans bathing suits. Turns out Atlantic Shores was a clothing optional hotel. It was a great adventure.

    Key West was just a fun laid back town, although I think cruise ships are making stops there now and that can change a town. Atlantic Shores is gone replaced with a condo development.

  18. chicagofinance says:

    Must forward on quality……

    Reader Louis Barash wonders by e-mail, “Will they film I Am Legend II in the Garden during Knicks games?”

  19. chicagofinance says:

    Does your wife every say “galgon…take me away….”

    15.galgon says:
    November 22, 2009 at 11:44 am
    My wife and I loved the time we spent there, it is a very relaxed environment. I would move there in a heartbeat if it wasn’t for the lack of jobs, higher cost of living and hurricane issues.

  20. Sean says:

    re: #11 BC_Bob

    Stay at the Casa Marina Resort if you go to Key West, large private beach and pool, close enough to Duval to walk or take a pedi-cab and on the Caribbean side. Key West does not have allot of beachfront, and few Hotels have direct beach access. Don’t stay too close to the airport. The Reach Resort next door is a cheaper option as well.

    If you are a boater rent a small boat for a half-day and drive it out to the smaller Keys, makes for a great day outing, bring food and drink etc you can invade a small Key and plant your flag there for a day, or go out to the sandbars on the Caribbean side and pet the sea rays. :)

    The chartered boating tours are safer since you do need to be very experienced to navigate the channels and coral, since the water is less than a foot in many places, near the smaller keys. The boating tours are fun and some can be a whole day. I don’t recommend the whole day tours since you will be extra crispy when you get back.


  21. galgon says:

    Chi (20)

    No one has made the connection to calgon until clot said something a year or two back. Galgon is just a name i picked out of a phone book 15+ years ago to use online and i just kept using it.

  22. njescapee says:

    Gonna try my hand at fly fishing in the flats near Key West tomorrow. Been looking forward to this for a while.

  23. confused in NJ says:

    17.“We’ve been living with the illusion that manufacturing — making things — is so 20th century,” said Mr. Shaiken, “and that we could succeed by concentrating, for example, on complex financial instruments while abandoning the industrial base that sustained so many American families.”

    That in a nutshell is the crux of the problem. Pure Service economies are unsustainable.

  24. Seneca says:

    Its been a long time since SNL has been funny but last night’s opening sketch had a nice payoff.

    Next up on C-Span, Joint press conference between President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao.


  25. Seneca says:

    421 Quantuck
    DOM: 16
    Ask Price: $839k
    Sale Price: $875k

    buy now or be priced out forever blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda

  26. A.West says:

    Regarding your prior question about taxes as a % of GDP. I think it’s better to think of government spending as a % of GDP. Because taxes can be deferred through deficits or hidden through inflation. Thus taxes are just one of several ways to finance the expansion of government.

    Here’s the first link I found tracking govt spending as a % of GDP.

    Now up from under 10% in 1910, 20% in the 30s, 30% in the 70s, and now heading for over 40% in this coming decade. It’s like boiling a frog, turning up the temperature every few decades, enacting the philosophy of altruism via ever-increasing government redistribution. But it’s “all for the children”.

  27. njescapee says:

    West, then add non-government health care related cost and you may be able to compare US tax burden to other industrialized countries

  28. Veto That says:

    27 – sorry, i dont agree there.
    as you say, govt spending (expenses) can significantly exceed tax income (revenues) thus spending as a % of GDP wouldnt tell you much about the public being over or under taxed – since govt spending is often out of whack with its revenues.
    Like we are seeing with the bailout, govt spending surged but it was all done through debt so tax income wont surge for a decade as we recover and get a chance for the political process to implement all those new taxes.
    Maybe GDP isnt the correct denominator but tax revenue would have to be expressed as some ratio that adjusts for the growth of govt and inflation throught the century.

  29. njescapee says:

    Veto, I think it can be expressed as pay me now or pay me later

  30. Veto That says:

    Westy, i like that chart.
    I see your point how govt spending keeps going up up up over the century and we can make the assumption that its the direct result of increasing taxes. OR, we can assume that taxes have been stable and govt funded their spending through more and more debt.
    I realize thats prob not the case but spending alone is prob C in the A+B=C. Debt being the A and tax revenue being the B. We all know what debt/gdp has done. I’d like to isolate tax revenue/gdp if possible and then seperate out the public vs corporate % portion.

  31. db says:

    On the eve of Saturday’s showdown in the Senate over health-care reform, Democratic leaders still hadn’t secured the support of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of the 60 votes needed to keep the legislation alive. The wavering lawmaker was offered a sweetener: at least $100 million in extra federal money for her home state.

    And so it came to pass that Landrieu walked onto the Senate floor midafternoon Saturday to announce her aye vote — and to trumpet the financial “fix” she had arranged for Louisiana. “I am not going to be defensive,” she declared. “And it’s not a $100 million fix. It’s a $300 million fix.”

  32. 3b says:

    #32 300 million dollars to shite hole.

  33. crossroads says:

    can anybody tell me when a house goes into lis pendens does the owner need to be current for the house to come off the public records?? or what makes the house come off the public records? can the owner block their name from going on public records?

    we know someone who supposedly hasn’t paid since 3/08 but the house is no longer listed with county. can’t ask them because as far as we know they’re real estate tycoons

  34. A.West says:

    My main point is that spending is the primary thing to watch, taxes are a consequence. Taxes are an impediment to trade, and a penalty on earners. But tariffs are bad too, and so is printing money to pay government bills. There are hundreds of ways to finance spending, and it’s difficult to find a number that sums them all up. But that chart of federal, local and state spending as a % of the economy pretty well sums up the big picture trend. Some of it’s paid today, some will be paid tomorrow. Some will be financed with income taxes, some sales taxes, some by a tax on savings via inflation and devaluation. But ultimately, everything that’s spent has to be paid for, even if recipients like to imagine it’s “free”.

  35. reinvestor101 says:

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  36. renter says:

    A job is being advertised by an employment agency. They state the company hiring is a very successful privately held company in Summit.

    Any guesses on which company this might be?

  37. confused in NJ says:

    More than 2,100 members of the armed forces have taken their own lives since 2001, nearly triple the number of troops who have died in Afghanistan and almost half of all U.S. fatalities in Iraq.

    Very disturbing trend on using troops for police action in gorilla circumstances.

  38. confused in NJ says:

    More than 2,100 members of the armed forces have taken their own lives since 2001, nearly triple the number of troops who have died in Afghanistan and almost half of all U.S. fatalities in Iraq

  39. jmacdaddio says:

    Driving around North Jersey (Bloomfield-Montclair-Little Falls) I noticed a lot of North Carolina tags on cars. Either we’re under Rebel attack, or a large number of NJ refugees trekked north for the holidays.

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