Jody Kriss Blog: Why 1/3+ of Manhattan’s Buildings Couldn’t Be Built Today

Jody Kriss, developer with East River Partners, works primarily on restoring historic structures across Brooklyn and Manhattan. As most New Yorkers know, a lot of these buildings do not comply with today’s building code requirements, and they need quite a bit of work before they’re ready for a modern family to move into. A team of writers from the New York Times recently reported data that reveals how much codes have changed, and they realized the differences are extensive. By today’s standards, around 40-percent of the buildings that currently exist in Manhattan would never come to fruition if the developers tried to get permits to construct them today. Here’s a brief overview of some of the buildings that would be nixed, and why.

Many Buildings are Too Tall

The Financial District’s Equitable Building, which sits at 120 Broadway, is truly a marvel. However, it’s also a massive 538 feet tall. It’s said it cast a seven-acre shadow when it was constructed in 1915. Many of the buildings in its vicinity were much shorter at the time, and received no sunshine at all as a result. Over worry that structures like the Equitable Building would become the norm, the city decided to enact its first building codes. These codes addressed height, as well as “setbacks,” which mandated that later buildings would have to have a tapered shape, or steps, as they rose in height. Manhattan is packed with buildings that don’t fit today’s standards, especially on the Upper East and Upper West sides.

Other Buildings are Too Dense

The housing shortage in New York City has caused some serious headaches over the years, which Jody Kriss and East River Partners have corrected on many of their projects- offering the spacious floorplans that that are necessary for comfortable living. However, many of the city’s older buildings still bear the markings of their age, and are overloaded with apartments in a feeble attempt to make space for everyone. These cramped living conditions led to numerous hazards, including fire dangers and general health concerns. Some of the most notable examples of this are referred to as “dumbbell tenements.” When the city mandated that builders incorporate a clean air source into every inhabitable room, they opted to keep the structures close together, while allowing just enough space for an air shaft between them. This enabled early builders to cram even more apartments in the tiniest footprint possible. The worst offenders for overcrowding are the West Village and Chelsea.

While these buildings add to the overall charm of New York City and give us a sense of nostalgia, the building codes have been put in place to help make the city more livable. This is, in part, why the work that Jody Kriss and East River Partners does is so important. By preserving the historic structures, NYC retains its unique vibe, but it also gains the high-quality living spaces that are in such short supply these days.

Jody Kriss Blog: 4 Historic NYC Destinations to Add to Your Bucket List

Jody Kriss of East River Partners is passionate about preserving historic buildings across New York City. His latest projects include renovations on some wonderful structures in the Big Apple, including the Adas Yisroel Anshe Mezritch Synagogue at 415 East 6th Street. Although the Jody Kriss Blog typically covers New York City real estate news, projects East River Partners is completing, as well as happenings around the city, this blog pays homage to some of the area’s most cherished historic buildings that are still in service. If you haven’t already visited these four destinations, they deserve a spot on your bucket list.

1. Fraunces Tavern

Situated at 54 Pearl Street in Manhattan, the Fraunces Tavern is the oldest restaurant in the city. The building, itself dates back to 1719, and was originally intended to be a private residence for a wealthy merchant by the name of Stephen Delancey. Samuel Fraunces, an innkeeper, purchased the home in 1762 and converted it into a tavern, which he named Queen’s Head. Sons of Liberty and George Washington are said to have been regulars back in the day. The place is rich with history, and not only serves meals befitting of the colonial era, but it also hosts a museum.

2. The Lyceum Theater

There are actually two theaters that were completed in 1903 and are still in operation, but the New Amsterdam Theatre came in slightly after the Lyceum Theatre.  Producer David Frohman had an apartment built atop 149 W. 45th Street in Manhattan, which allowed him to watch his wife, actress Margaret Illington, on stage with ease. Judy Holiday was also catapulted to fame at the Lyceum while playing Billie Dawn in “Born Yesterday,” the theater’s longest-running show.

3. The New York Historical Society Museum

The New York Historical Society is the oldest museum in all of New York, founded in 1804. However its early days were difficult. The museum moved around a lot and even had to mortgage some of its books to make ends meet in the early 1800s. In 1902, construction on its eighth home at 170 Central Park West in Manhattan began and it opened on that site in 1908. Today, it hosts over 1.6 million pieces and has one of the greatest collections around.

4. Old Quaker Meeting House

The synagogue that Jody Kriss and East River Partners restored  was built in 1910, and certainly qualifies for historic status, but it’s nowhere near the oldest place of worship in the region. That title belongs to the Old Quaker Meeting House at 137-16 Northern Boulevard in Flushing, Queens. It was opened in 1694 and has been in use for its intended purpose ever since, except for a brief period of time during the Revolutionary War when the British occupied the structure.

New York City is packed with amazing architecture that showcases just how far the entire country has come. Visiting these places is like stepping into a doorway to the past- an experience everyone should have at least once.

From the Jody Kriss Blog: Stabilized Rent to Freeze Again?

Jody Kriss of East River Partners focuses on rejuvenating neighborhoods and making some of New York City’s oldest treasures not only livable again, but with added luxurious touches, ideal for today’s modern professional. However, there is still much debate throughout the city on what must be done in regard to solutions for people who require simpler housing options. The New York City Rent Guidelines Board (NYCRGB) is about to make another momentous decision that could affect more than a million renters throughout the city, as well as landlords and owners of rent stabilized housing. The following Jody Kriss Blog gives a brief synopsis of the history, and perhaps future, of NYC’s rent freeze.

Rents Were Frozen on Subsidized Housing One Year Ago

As a globally-recognized business hub and a major entryway into the country, NYC has always struggled to provide enough homes for its citizens. In the past five years alone, the population has boomed 4.6%, according to the NYC Department of City Planning, adding 375,300 more residents. By their estimates, the city has not seen this kind of growth since the roaring 20s. At the same time, too few new homes are being added, and many of the existing structures are falling into various stages of disrepair. People genuinely struggle to find any kind of housing at all, which naturally increases the cost of housing. Arguments about the actual benefits of rent subsidized housing aside, more than one million people are taking advantage of the city’s programs, and have concerns that their rents will increase some to keep up with demand and the costs to keep the older buildings livable. Last year, the NYCRGB decided to freeze these rents, so people renewing their leases would not see an increase.

Rents May Be Frozen for One More Year

There will be a total of five public testimony hearings, the first of which will occur on June 9 in Jamaica, Queens. Others will be held in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan. The final vote of the NYCRGB will be held on June 27,  and proposals include another freeze on stabilized rent, or up to a 2% increase on one-year leases, while two-year leases could see a 0.5% to 3.5%  increase. On the one hand, landlord advocates had been hoping for relief, and a 4% to 6% hike, while many of the tenant groups are vying for a freeze, and some even requesting a reduction. The board that will make the final decision consists of a team of nine, chosen by Mayor Bill de Blasio, and includes former United States magistrate judge Kathleen Roberts as the Chair.

Jody Kriss and East River Partners will remain largely unaffected, regardless of the board’s decision. Instead, the developer plans to focus on creating more homes overall, to help minimize New York City’s shortage and give people more options that suit their lifestyles. “We have a lot of great projects in the works,” Jody Kriss said in a statement. “East River Partners will continue revitalizing communities and helping to bring back the integrity of the city’s historic buildings.”

Jody Kriss Featured on Real Estate Weekly

East River Partners Co-Founder Jody Kriss discusses the renovations of a historic East Village synagogue in an on-site interview with REW TV’s Dan Orlando.

March 17, 2016 NEW YORK CITY—Jody Kriss, Co-Founder of East River Partners, has been working tirelessly to restore one of NYC’s timeless treasures. Dan Orlando of Real Estate Weekly met with the project developer Jody Kriss, at the historic Synagogue site, and revealed some key features of the project, as well as when its expected completion date is. The interview is available to watch on Real Estate Weekly’s website.

The Adas Yisroel Anshe Mezritch Synagogue, originally built in 1910 by Polish settlers, was only one of hundreds that served the area in its heyday. By the time it was discovered by East River Partners, the synagogue was the last of its kind. The congregation had dwindled and the building was so dilapidated that it narrowly escaped demolition. As East River Partners began the process of acquiring it, the entire neighborhood became landmarked. They took great care to preserve its historical integrity, and their efforts are clear throughout the building.

“We painstakingly and meticulously restored all of the original stained glass,” Mr. Kriss explained in the interview. The exterior façade, as well as the copper doors which adorn the synagogue’s main entry, have also received extensive TLC, allowing the building to return to its initial state of grandeur.

The lower floor will remain a fully-functional community synagogue, while the upper floors have been renovated into exquisite condos.

415 East 6th Street is expected to be completed in just six weeks, according to Jody Kriss, and it’s already creating quite a stir. Mr. Kriss previously spoke with Jacquie Hart of Downtown Magazine, and the condos have been discussed on major sites like Street Easy and the New York Times. While the public was once concerned about what would come of the beloved synagogue, with its livelihood no longer in question, attention has turned to what treasures the interior may hold for homebuyers. Condo owners will be treated to a perfect pairing of modern conveniences and sophistication with old-world charm. The expansive spaces have oak flooring, as well as well-appointed bathrooms and kitchens designed for an avid chef. Lucky homeowners will also have a wide variety of shops and entertainment opportunities within walking distance.

About Jody Kriss and East River Partners

Jody Kriss is a developer in NYC who specializes in renovating some of the city’s oldest buildings and restoring them to their original charm. His projects are varied, though he, along with East River Partners, tend to focus their efforts on creating luxurious living spaces designed for the needs of today’s modern New Yorker, while preserving the historical integrity of each building. 415 East 6th Street is one of the group’s many successful projects, with more in the works. For more information on the condo conversions, visit the 415 East 6th Street website, or check out the East River Partners website for details on the company and its other projects.