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June 1, 2016

NYC-NJ rail tunnels were impressive in 1909

No commuters today would describe the experience of traveling underneath the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York as exceptional. But that's exactly how newspaper writers of the day described a then-miraculous train trip in 1909.

This system of iron-clad tunnels connecting New York and New Jersey, a progressive transit project finished during the first decade of the 20th century and overseen by builders, engineers, and statesman such as William Gibbs McAdoo, was "one of the greatest railroad achievements in the history of the world," transforming an often frigid 10-minute journey across the water on ferries into a three-minute, climate-controlled run.

Passengers arrived at the original Pennsylvania Station, a Beaux-Arts masterpiece that was greeted with "exclamations of wonder" when it opened in 1910, and observers from London were awed by the superior transport system. The Holland Tunnel, devised by master tunneler Ole Singstad, was opened in 1927 by President Coolidge in an elaborate ceremony using the same ornate golden key that played a role in the opening of the Panama Canal.

Summing up all of the infrastructure built during that period to connect the island of Manhattan to the burgeoning populations of Brooklyn and New Jersey, the New York Times asked the rhetorical question, "How much better off are the young men of this hour than their fathers?"

January 11, 2014

Chris Christie traffic scandal, the you've forgotten


It's proper now to recall an action Christie took in 2010 that he owned up to quite proudly. This was his unilateral torpedoing of a $9-billion federal-state project to build a commuter train tunnel under the Hudson. The project would have doubled capacity on the route -- a crucial improvement given forecasts of sharply rising ridership and the decrepitude of the existing tunnel. It was the largest public transit project at the time, and had already begun. Christie's refusal to approve his state's share killed it.

The cancellation made Christie a darling of the conservative budget-cutting movement, instantly raising his profile as a GOP up-and-comer. Two years later, he was still crowing about his courageous act before conservative audiences.

His depiction of the project was typically blustering and deceitful: "They want to build a tunnel to the basement of Macy's, and stick the New Jersey taxpayers with a bill," he said. You'd think that was pretty funny, unless you were a New Jersey commuter who knew that the "basement of Macy's" in midtown Manhattan is actually Pennsylvania Station, where the commuter trains go.

By then, Christie's rationale for killing the tunnel had been exposed as a passel of lies. He had claimed that it would cost more than $14 billion, and that New Jersey would be on a "never-ending hook" for 70% of the cost. In fact, as the Government Accountability Office reported, $14 billion was the maximum estimate, and $10 billion the most likely final bill. And New Jersey's share was 14.4%, not 70%.

But the cancellation allowed Christie to divert the state's share of the tunnel budget to a state highway fund, which in turn allowed him to avoid raising the state gasoline tax -- already among the lowest in the nation -- by a few cents.

So here's the toll: Christie sacrificed the long-term welfare of his own citizens for short-term personal, political gain. He did so with bluster and deceit. Even after his own figures were exposed as bogus, he didn't hold a two-hour press conference to apologize and promise it wouldn't happen again.


Michael Hiltzik.

September 21, 2011

Montclair, NJ


In Montclair, NJ, where there is a concerted emphasis on thinking of the town as one diverse whole -- children are bused to "magnet" schools, and the moniker "Upper" is discouraged as divisive -- several agents resisted comparisons of trends on the two sides of town.

"Sometimes people come in saying they only want to buy in the one ZIP code, 07043," said Linda Grotenstein, an agent at Coldwell Banker. "I usually find they have a misunderstanding of what the ZIP codes imply."

The housing stock is more homogeneous in the northern half: mostly well-groomed Victorians with three to six bedrooms. The south end has far greater range: everything from run-down, run-of-the-mill triplexes on narrow lots to peerless mansions on manicured grounds, in the "estate section."

In fact, by Mr. Baris's reckoning, the estate section in the southern part of Montclair has kept overall average sales value afloat. It had 42 listings this year, and 18 houses sold, at a median price of $1.218 million, 31 percent more than last year.

"If you took out the estate section," Mr. Baris said, "Montclair would have depreciated as a town."

In Millburn/Short Hills, Ms. Bigos ascribes the huge price disparity to the teardown craze that swept Short Hills starting in the late 1990s.

"That is when the spread started to widen," said Ms. Bigos, a lifelong resident of Short Hills. "All the new houses going up doubled and tripled in value."

Both Millburn and Montclair have Midtown Direct New Jersey Transit train service to Manhattan, which various reports have shown can increase property value by as much as 20 percent. Millburn has had it for 15 years, while the service arrived in Montclair seven years ago.

Continue reading "Montclair, NJ" »

July 9, 2011

Typical of the state of _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.


Correction: June 26, 2011

Which state could this be ?

The In the Region article in some copies last Sunday, about the new preference among developers of low-income housing in - - - - - - ., for building rental units rather than condominiums, misidentified the location of the Stafford Park development. It is in Stafford Township, not Barnegat. The article also misstated the land's previous use. It was a landfill, not the site of a former strip club. Because of an editing error, the article misstated the type of housing units in the development's luxury component. They are rentals, not condos.

Continue reading "Typical of the state of _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _." »

November 19, 2010

Flushing 0, Secaucus 1


The Flushing station is a grimy, crowded subway stop that has been around for about 70 years and handles an average of 57,753 trips through its turnstiles every weekday in an exercise that closely resembles a subterranean running of the bulls, but performed on stairways.

Secaucus Junction, which saw about 19,360 trips each weekday this spring, is a young station, less than 10 years old, that can best be characterized as civilized. It has a soaring central atrium that floods the sand-colored terminal with natural light. Its official name is the Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station at Secaucus Junction, named for the longtime Democratic senator who was the station's patron and whose name is emblazoned in enormous lettering inside and outside.

The station is a main transfer point for several New Jersey Transit lines, with trains from throughout the state feeding passengers into Manhattan.

Still, during the morning rush, there is plenty of room to spread out, trot for a coming train or even sit on one of the wooden benches that surround a giant, shimmering sculpture of a cattail made of steel and glass.

Even the bathrooms are clean.

Real estate interests like the plan.

Continue reading "Flushing 0, Secaucus 1" »

October 25, 2010

Rail line adds more to home values than it costs


WHAT is the real estate value of a one-seat train ride to Manhattan from a station close to one's home in New Jersey ? Leave it to statisticians to come up with a figure.

"It has to be a lot," said Perri K. Feldman of Keller Williams Realty, who has built a client base in towns along a section of the New Jersey Transit Midtown Direct line running from Morristown to South Orange. "It's the first question so many people ask about a house: 'How close is it to the train? Can I walk to the station?' "

Now, the extra value that comes with proximity to a station with direct service to Manhattan -- no transfer required -- has been quantified: $19,000, on average, for homes within two miles of a station; $29,000 for houses within half a mile.

Home values would increase by those amounts in neighborhoods surrounding 10 New Jersey Transit lines and 2 Metro-North Railroad lines if a third rail tunnel under the Hudson River was ever built, according to a study by the independent Regional Plan Association.

Statisticians worked backwards, analyzing the impact on real estate value when previous rail-improvement projects were done, to project the impact that a new tunnel would have on home values.

The cumulative increase in property value would be $18 billion, according to the study, which was published two months before Gov. Christopher J. Christie of New Jersey decided to suspend work on the tunnel as of Oct. 7. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, a tunnel supporter, has worked to publicize the findings.

Mr. Christie says the state should not proceed with the $8.7 billion project, because it cannot afford to pay for any cost overruns. He cited a recent study by his transit officials, which predicted that the project could end up $2 billion to $5 billion over budget.

The original cost of the tunnel was to be financed this way: $3 billion from the federal government, $3 billion from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and $2.7 billion from the State of New Jersey (mostly in the form of Turnpike receipts).

In the study of the tunnel's potential effects, researchers estimated that the $18 billion in increased property value would generate $375 million in increased tax revenues per year.

Some local and county politicians -- in addition to Mr. Lautenberg -- have argued that municipalities cannot stand to "lose" those potential tax revenues, which would presumably start flowing in 2017, after the project was completed. Others have called the tax receipt estimates "fictional," and contended that they were too far in the future to matter now, in the midst of a statewide budget crisis.

The calculations on the proposed trans-Hudson tunnel known as ARC (Access to the Region's Core) were based on what happened to real estate after these developments:

¶The 1996 addition of Midtown Direct service to the Morris and Essex Line;

¶The 2002 addition of the service along the Montclair-Boonton Line;

¶The 2003 opening of the Secaucus Junction, allowing transfers there instead of at Hoboken.

After those projects were completed, the value of homes within two miles of train stations increased by an average of $23,000, according to the planning group's study. The Regional Plan Association is a nonprofit that studies policy matters affecting Connecticut, Long Island and New Jersey.

Data from 45,000 area home sales that took place from 1993 through 2008 were analyzed. According to Juliette Michaelson, who performed that section of the research, the analytic process assumes that the price of a house is determined by the value of characteristics like number of bedrooms, quality of the school district and access to train service. By looking at thousands of sales involving houses with differing combinations of those characteristics, it becomes possible to estimate the amount that each individual characteristic adds to the price of the house, Ms. Michaelson explained in the notes accompanying the study.

She tallied the estimated time in minutes that train riders saved on travel, waiting and making transfers after the Midtown Direct and Secaucus Junction improvements. Each minute saved, she determined, adds an average of $1,959 to the value of the house.

For homes within walking distance (half a mile) of a station, each minute was worth $2,902.

If the ARC tunnel was built, the average New Jerseyan's train ride would be shortened by 10 minutes each way, the study indicated.

Riders on the Raritan Valley line, which runs to Raritan Station out of Pennsylvania Station in Newark, would see the biggest drop in round-trip travel time in the state, since the new tunnel would directly serve that area. Trip time would decrease by an average of 32.6 minutes, with variations along the route.

Cranford residents' commute would be 23.6 minutes shorter, for instance; Roselle Park riders would get the biggest drop in travel time in the state, 37.6 minutes.

Using the rate-per-minute formula, the value of a home close to the rail line in Roselle Park could be expected to increase by more than $100,000.

But a third tunnel would also have statewide impact, as it would nearly double the current tunnel capacity, cutting down on trip time across the board and allowing for more frequent trains. (The estimates in the planning group's study are all based on schedules as they stood last spring.)

Continue reading "Rail line adds more to home values than it costs" »

July 4, 2010

Middle class includes $175k in Brooklyn or South Orange, NJ


While our analysis was by no means scientific, our goal was to recreate the type of decision a hypothetical family of four earning $175,000 a year might encounter. We chose an upper-middle-class income because that's generally what our family needs to earn, conservatively, to afford a median-price home in Park Slope, a section of Brooklyn that is family-friendly, has good schools and is generally more affordable than Manhattan.

The two-bedroom, one-bathroom co-operative apartment that we're using as a model in Park Slope is listed at $675,000, close to the median price for the neighborhood, as calculated by Zillow.com.

We stacked that against a four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom home in South Orange, N.J., just a 30-minute train ride from Manhattan, where the two parents work. The house is selling for $595,000.

Continue reading "Middle class includes $175k in Brooklyn or South Orange, NJ" »

October 6, 2009

Hovnanian on cheap design

Even among competitors, he gained a reputation as a builder of bare-bones homes who kept prices low. In the early 1980s, for example, the typical Hovnanian condominium residence was a two-bedroom, two-bathroom dwelling that cost about $30,000. In his developments, Mr. Hovnanian kept prices down by omitting the amenities, like swimming pools and community buildings, that other builders used to attract buyers.

"There are limited recreation facilities going in because people have little time for socialization," Mr. Hovnanian told The New York Times in 1983, explaining his philosophy.

By 1989, his company had sold more than 30,000 condominiums and other residences in states stretching from New Hampshire to Florida. The projects were so popular that they sometimes sold out over a weekend. Mr. Hovnanian also operated a finance company that made loans to buyers, who sometimes bought more than one residence, including some as investments.

Since then, the company has built more than 200,000 other homes. And in recent years, it has expanded its portfolio to include the construction of medium-price homes, luxury homes and retirement communities with recreational facilities.

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June 27, 2009

New rail lines, new urbanism, still growing

Urban-style development may be the brightest spot in a generally gloomy market. A recent survey of developers and investors by the Urban Land Institute for its annual Emerging Trends in Real Estate report found that urban redevelopment had the best prospects among all types of housing, while urban mixed-use properties and town centers scored high among niche property types. "These are the places that will be creating and holding value," Ms. Poticha said. She said proximity to public transit could raise property values significantly.

"It's moved from being an interesting idea to a core investment," said Jonathan F. P. Rose, the president of the Jonathan Rose Companies, a New York-based developer and investor.

The most successful projects do more than build housing near transit stations. They take pains to create livable neighborhoods, with parks, paths, retail stores and places for people to gather. "Place-making is key," Ms. Poticha said.

new_carrolltonTX_14sqftC_large.jpg

Continue reading "New rail lines, new urbanism, still growing" »

February 11, 2007

Alpine, NJ is in the winners' circle

Experts say the phenomenon of the newly rich gravitating
toward country-club enclaves like Alpine is well established
in American society.

The old adage is crowding into the winner’s circle
and so these superaffluent communities are very desirable
for the big winners in our society, and there’s always
the contrast between the old money and new money.

-- Jim Hughes,
Dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and
Public Policy at Rutgers University.

Especially in the case of hip-hop stars, many of whom insist
they’ll never lose touch with their street roots.
-- NYT, on Alpine NJ, 07620.

Continue reading "Alpine, NJ is in the winners' circle" »

September 6, 2006

Saddle River, NJ

SaddleRiver is a nice town in New Jersey.

August 29, 2006

New York channel

The Coruscation New York channel:
NY, Queens", CT, NJ, VT.

old NY Wiki 2003 January - 2005 October
old old NY Wiki 2003 January - 2004 January.

August 16, 2006

NY water Taxi

nywatertaxi connects lower Manhattan across the East River
* Queens Hunters' Point to Midtown
* Brooklyn Williamsburg, Fulton Ferry, Red Hook to Battery Park
and
across the Hudson to NJ.
* World Finacial Center to Jersey City, NJ.

March 17, 2006

Sopranos start a new season

Sopranos start a new season, and the boards of HBO, television
without pity, location-specific info, and E! online alight NJ, from
North Caldwell to Montville.

Another fine year with Tony Soprano.