aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, June 16, 2007
NYC apartment building fued
I’ll be in NYC in a week or so. I love the city and used to thoroughly enjoy digging in to zoning and real estate issues like those presented by the proposed bulbous triplex penthouse apartment suspended over the house next door on 15th Street between 6th and 7th. I actually kind of like the design as pictured; I’m not so sure my friends in the neighborhood will.
The argument that it makes everyone’s property more valuable doesn’t fly with them (like Manhattan real estate prices would otherwise fall???) and I agree with critics who point out that the city allowing the curb cut and interpreting the Sliver Law to allow exceptions for penthouses is a travesty not in the neighborhood interest but is, rather, a sop to rich real estate developers at the expense of the quality of life of the existing residents.
The couple building this project would balk if we applied that characterization to them. But the story in the Times Real Estate section Sunday, headlined Not in My Front Yard, suggests they’re hardly strapped:
Long before they began the current project, the couple spent five years creating the apartment next door - a place like no other in the city. It contains a two-story-high waterfall that flows into an 18-inch-deep river set into the living room floor.
The river, which is home to 10 large koi, follows the outline of the Yangtze, a feat the Raths accomplished by building a Styrofoam model (following a National Geographic map that they enlarged), setting the model onto the building’s foundation, and then pouring the concrete floor around the model. (The final step was using gasoline to dissolve the Styrofoam, Mr. Rath said.)
Now Plexiglas sheets cover the river, to keep out the Raths’ daughters and cats, Sunrise and Rosie.
The Raths did much of the construction work on their apartment themselves, even carving out the basement using five-gallon buckets. All the while, they lived on a sailboat in the Hudson River or under plastic sheets in the building, where for six months there were no plumbing fixtures, only a hose.
Interestingly, the whole process is being chronicled by documentary filmmakers. I would love to see that film!
Chronic widespread student loan abuses
This deserves more attention than I’ve given it. From The Chronicle (subscription):
Questionable practices that have come to light in investigations of the U.S. student-loan industry were routine and widespread, involving payments of illegal or improper inducements at dozens of colleges and lenders, both large and small, according to the first Congressional report on the matter.
The report, released on Thursday by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the Senate education committee, may not change the fundamental understanding of a situation in which college administrators were accepting personal benefits—from pens and notepads to vacation trips and stock options—from lenders in return for access to their students.
It does, however, make public a depth of detail on the case that makes it harder for colleges and the lending industry to suggest that students were not shortchanged, or that potential violations of the federal ban on paying inducements to secure loan applications were rare or isolated events.
The 50-page report by Mr. Kennedy’s staff, titled “Report on Marketing Practices in the Federal Family Education Loan Program,” is backed up by a 530-page compilation of e-mail messages and other documents that contain ever more embarrassments for colleges and loan companies already held up to public shame by disclosures over the past several months.
While I certainly agree with Kevin Bruns, executive director of the industry group America’s Student Loan Providers, that “the vast majority of the men and women in the financial-aid and student-loan communities are honorable people trying to do the right thing,” it seems to me they must see the light and come to understand that some longstanding practices accepted as all well and good must change.