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How do I pass a co-op board? Any tips?

So happy you asked. I’m quoted in this week’s New York magazine article on that very subject.

For those of you who don’t want to click through, the gist is: *Dress conservatively and without bling. Don’t flash your money. *Don’t sell yourself. It’s not a job interview. *Be friendly, but say as little as possible, because you never know when you’re going to offend people. I am quoted as saying, “don’t name drop.”

Posted 12 years, 7 months ago at 9:41 am.

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I don’t want to spend a lot on furniture, where do I start?

Time Out New York’s Helen Yun was intrepid enough to tackle this question in the magazine’s recent design issue.

Her picks:

For beds — Room and Board, 105 Wooster between Prince and Spring Sts, Manhattan (212-334-4343); and West Elm, 112 W. 18th St, between Sixth and Seventh avenues, Manhattan (212-929-4464)
For bookcases — Two Jakes, 320 Wythe Ave between Grand and South 1st Streets, Brooklyn (718-782-7780) and West Elm

For chairs — Room and Board; Urban Outfitters, various city locations, go to www.urbn.com; Two Jakes, Baxter & Liebchen (vintage), 33 Jay at Plymouth, Brooklyn (718-797-0630)
For curtains — Ikea, 1000 Ikea Dr., Elizabeth, NJ (908-289-4488)
For desks — Gothic Cabinet Craft, which has various locations in Manhattan and two clearance centers in Queens, www.gothiccabinetcraft.com

For dressers — ABC Carpet Outlet; CB2; Gothic Cabinet Craft; Muji, 455 Broadway between Grand and Howard

For entertainment centers — Gothic Cabinet; Z Gallerie

For Japanese clean-lined furniture — Muji

For rugs — Ikea; ABC Carpet Warehouse (and I have gotten rugs at both these places, and I agree)
For shades — Just Shades, 21 Spring St at Elizabeth St, Manhattan (212-924-3244)

For sofas — DWR annex, 55 Hartz Way, Seacaucus, NJ (201-325-8411); West Elm; CB2, 451 Broadway between Grand and Howard

For tables — Room & Board; Urban Outfitters

For general trendiness — Z Gallerie, 443 Broadway at Grand St, Manhattan (212-343-1045)

For knock-offs –White Furniture, throughout the city, go to whiteonwhite.com

Posted 12 years, 8 months ago at 2:02 pm.

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Does a townhouse have common fees?

Well, it depends.

A “townhouse” is the phrase used to describe a house that is attached to other homes on one or both sides — i.e., a row house. They’re laid out vertically, with stairs — or for the really fancy ones, an elevator — providing the transportation from floor to floor.

So “townhouse” describes what the house looks like physically, but it isn’t a form of ownership.

Such a house could be a single one-family home — like the one that you saw Carrie Bradshaw come bouncing down the steps of on Sex in the City. In that case, the owner is responsible for paying city taxes — probably a five-figure bill — and would pay for maintenance costs like keeping the roof in good working order.

But such a house could also be part of a homeowner’s association, and be marketed as a condo, or more rarely, a co-op. In that case, there would be monthly common charges (in the case of a condo) or maintenance charges (in the case of a co-op) that would cover maintenance of common lawns and hallways, the salary for the super, etc.

So the bottom line is, when you see that cute townhouse and you want to know what its monthly bills will be, you have to ask.

Posted 12 years, 9 months ago at 8:36 am.

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I just moved into The Link on 52nd Street, but I’m from L.A. Where do I shop in the neighborhood?

Mattresses: Every store sells the same mattresses under different names, making it impossible to comparison shop. We have had fine luck with both Sleepy’s in Herald Square, and 1-800-Mattress, a phone service, is also quite reputable. If you want to be fussed over a little more, Bloomingdale’s on 59th and Lexington has a nice mattress department.

Housewares: Anyone new to NY should know about Gracious Home, which survives due to its wonderful range of up-market products and despite its horrendous customer service. The East Side branch is slightly better about waiting on you, but the West Side branch on Broadway and 68th is closer if you want fancy sheets and towels, garbage cans, bridge tables, a vacuum cleaner. The cheaper alternative, where they’re actually nice to you, is Bed, Bath and Beyond, a stone’s throw away on Broadway around 65th Street. Dishes can come from Crate & Barrel, on the East side at Madison and 60th, or you can make a grand trip from the Port Authority on 8th Ave. and 42nd St to Ikea in Elizabeth, N.J. — on Saturday mornings there’s a bus.

Hardware: Hardware 54 between 7th and 8th aves is very helpful, but closed on weekends. There’s a Ninth Avenue store around 47th street, somewhere on the West side, that used to be called Lopez and is now called something else, that is open on the weekends, and they’re very nice. Janovic is the big paint store, on Ninth ave. and 51st/52nd, but you’ll have to sell your grandmother to afford window treatments. Also, not terribly friendly to D-I-Yers, so don’t forget to buy gloves, painter’s tape, and Scott cotton rags, because they won’t remind you.

Locksmith: Simon Key on 55th and 8th Ave, closed weekends.

Dry Cleaners: I trust Kim’s on 52nd Street and Ninth Avenue. I’m pretty fussy, and they cleaned my wedding dress.

Post office: You might think you’ve lucked out, living next to Radio City Station at 322 West 52nd, but it gets pretty crowded in the afternoons so go in the morning. Most newspaper vendors will sell you a stamp or two for a slight upcharge if that’s all you need. The 24-hour post office is Farley, at 31st and 8th Avenue, so if you absolutely have to mail something at 3 a.m., go there. Avoid the 1st of the month, when people from all over are sending in their rent.

Food: Stiles farmers’ market has produce that is cheap, often good, sometimes slightly bruised — 352 West 52nd Street; Whole Foods at Time Warner Center is offers expensive gourmet foods, but often-reasonable frozen convenience foods and a wide organic selection; Westerly Natural Market on 911 Eighth (corner 54th) offers an organic alternative; and the “regular” grocery stores in the are include Gristede’s on Eighth and 54th which is open late but has long lines; Food Emporium on Eighth and 49th, which has good produce but also long lines, and Associated on Ninth and 59th, which is generally the best of them. Please note that the D’Agostinos on 57th off Ninth is permanently closed.

If you want a good steak, either pay up at Whole Foods or schlep to Western Beef on West End (11th Avenue) and 63rd. For fish, De Martino’s Sea Food (Ninth between 54th and 55th) beats Whole Foods, though you have to shop early in the day, because they’ll be closed by the time you get home from work.

Coffee: Empire Coffee and Tea, on Eighth Avenue between 41st street and 42nd street. Hands down. They sell Tate’s chocolate-chip cookies, too, and cider in the winter.

Wine: No particularly good neighborhood wine store (prove me wrong, please!) Worth schlepping downtown to Bottlerocket or Crossroads or Astor Wine and Spirits or Landmark on 23rd between 6th and 7th in Chelsea.

Posted 12 years, 10 months ago at 8:01 am.

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I’m new to NYC, where and how do I lock up my bike?

Many buildings have “bike rooms” for just this purpose, and if you’re selling it’s a good feature to push.

However, if you do end up having to lock your bike up from time to time, check out these five tips, courtesy of Wired New York member Chi2NYC?

1) Make your bike look lousy, if you can stand to. Scratch brand names off your bike and its components, especially if they are nice. Put scratches in the frame and do a random and bad tape job.

2) Use one of Kryptonite’s “New York” series U-locks, with a non-tubular key. Use this to lock the rear wheel through the rear triangle portion of the frame. The smaller the U-lock you can use, the better, because it affords less leverage for cutting.

3) Vary where you lock your bike, so if thieves can’t get it one day, they can’t come back with better tools the next.

4) Get quick-release pedals. It’s hard for thief to ride off if you take your pedals with you.

Detachable pedals.JPG

5) replace all quick-release skewers (both wheels and for seat tube) with a hex-key bolt skewer that is rounded (can’t use wrench to unscrew it).

Posted 12 years, 11 months ago at 3:51 pm.

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I’m thinking of moving to Queens — what are some elementary schools worth looking at?

Let’s try to throw a wide net here  –

There’s a lot of praise for 122 in Long Island City, which has a gifted program; 18 in Queens Village, which has a gifted program; 144 in Forest Hills and 101 in Forest Hills Gardens; 26, a school that pushes diversity in Fresh Meadows; PS 214 in Flushing; PS 130 (which only goes through 3rd Grade) in Bayside.

Posted 12 years, 11 months ago at 11:59 am.

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I have a rent-stabilized apartment, how much can my landlord raise my rent?

If you’re reading this, you probably already know that New York City is the most expensive rental market in the country, with a median rent of nearly 50% higher than the next ranking city (That’s $2,553 versus San Francisco’s $1,685 — to read more of this survey, click here.

However, there’s a little relief in the fact that 1 million apartments in the City (most of them, in the outer boroughs) are regulated by the Rent Guidelines Board.

Every year, the Board sets rent caps — the maximum percentage your landlord can raise your rent when he/she sends you a renewal lease.

This year’s caps were 3% for a one-year lease and 5.75% for a two-year lease.

To read more about the increase, check out my recent column in The New York Blade.

Posted 13 years ago at 8:10 am.

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We’re priced out, what trade-offs can we make?

If you’re like most people, it’s extremely unlikely that money is going to come falling out of the sky. I have developed a theory called “The Four Cs of Real Estate” that basically indicates that if Cost is too much for you, you have three tradeoffs:

* Condition. You can buy or rent an apartment that is less beautiful than you otherwise would have hoped. I am reminded about this because someone asked me about having a rent-stabilized apartment in Manhattan, which I did from 1990 to 1996, and my bathroom ceiling fell in. More than once.

Ideally, your condition tradeoffs are things you don’t find terribly serious (dumpy 70s bathroom) rather than things that make you truly crazy (complete lack of light).

Capacity. You can get an apartment or a house that is smaller than you’d ideally like. You can create more rooms by remodeling the attic (though that increases your heating bills), converting the dining room, refinishing the basement, or discovering the wonders of a Murphy bed.

Of course this will raise all sorts of clutter and storage issues (we have four storage units in three zip codes). Don’t let those apartment therapy people make you feel bad, they have a summer place in the Hamptons.

Convenience. I came up with this because “cneighborhood” is too hard to say — but living on the fringes of the neighborhood you want, or going for an up-and-coming school district, will save you money.

A lot of time and energy go into predicting whether a neighborhood will gentrify. One of my favorite indicators, as I mentioned in the April issue of Glamour: new coffeehouses and boutiques can be good signs of an upswing.

For more about the Four C’s, or to buy Diary of a Real Estate Rookie, click here.

Posted 13 years, 2 months ago at 11:30 am.

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I’m a floorplan novice. How do I figure out the square footage of an apartment?

There’s a lot on this site about floorplans — you can cruise around and find my quotes in the Times about this subject — but the main thing to realize is that you’re not buying a floorplan. You’re buying an apartment, and all a floorplan is meant to do is to be a tool for thinking about the apartment.

To that end, you’ll want to compare the sizes of different apartments, and you may be noticing that the published square footage isn’t always . . . reliable.

So the first thing to do is to check the footprint of the apartment. If the apartment is a box that’s roughly 20 feet by 50 feet, it’s okay to start with a square footage approximation of 1,000 square feet.

How do you figure out how long and wide and apartment is? Well, until you get me or an appraiser in there with a laser tape, you just add up the dimensions on the floorplan. It will help you to know:

* a standard bathtub length is five feet;

* the standard width for a galley kitchen with counters on both sides is eight feet;

* the distance from the outside edge of a hanger to the back wall of a closet is two feet.

Happy shopping!

Posted 13 years, 3 months ago at 2:23 pm.

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I’m thinking of moving downtown. What’s the deal with City Hall Park?

Tribeca and Financial District residents, who are rather short on green space, can celebrate the recent Community Board resolution to re-open a large part of the park.

The North section (i.e., the part around the Tweed Court House,) south of Chambers, running from Broadway to Centre Street) is set to re-open this July.

The area had been closed by then-mayor Giuliani in the name of security. It remains to be seen whether the re-opening will bring civic protests back near City Hall.

The public will have access from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m., although the charter school in the Tweed Courthouse will have the space during lunch.

If you want to know more, or to join Friends of City Hall park, e-mail activist Skip Blumberg at CityHallPark@earthlink.net.

Posted 13 years, 3 months ago at 3:01 pm.

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