Looking Back: 7 Things I Would Tell My Younger Self

Listen to your gut.

This post was originally featured on Entrepreneur.com

When I was first starting out in real estate, I had a lot of passion, and I thought I knew what I was doing. But let’s face it, I was bound to make some mistakes along the way. But the great thing about mistakes is that when you learn from them, you gain some measure of wisdom. Now, some 20 years later, I still have that passion and drive, but there’s a thing or two I’d definitely tell my younger self. If only he’d listen.

1. Being good can be good for the bottom line.

Solar energy is the future. Fossil fuel has a definite expiration date, and it’s going to come sooner than later. Pollution caused by fossil fuel is getting increasingly worse, and solar energy can go a long way to offset that. Not only is it a highly efficient renewable resource, it is also good business. These days, there are so many tax credits, rebates and incentives that help encourage sustainability and going green. It’s an investment in the future in more ways than one.

2. Listen to your gut, not other people.

It’s not that I don’t value other people’s opinions, but I’ve learned that it can be even more important to listen to your own gut. If you look at most successful people, you’ll see that often, they did the things that others wouldn’t. If they had let other people dissuade them, they would have never created these incredible businesses or followed through on those seemingly crazy inventions and ideas that turned out to be brilliant.

When I was first starting out, I trusted the wrong people, and I trusted the advice and information that they were sharing with me. But that voice in your head exists for a reason. You should listen to it. Over time, you may find that it gets louder.

3. Take more risks.

There’s a Warren Buffett quote I love — “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” When I was younger, I played things a bit safer, but as I learned more and learned to trust my own gut and gather my own intel, I began to take more risks. As everyone knows, more risk can mean greater rewards. You have to buy when others are afraid to. You have to seek out opportunities before others discover them. At the racetrack, you’re not going to win much money if you bet on the horse that always wins. Now, I’m not suggesting betting on the horse that always comes last. But if there’s a new horse that you’ve studied and looks like he’s the next undiscovered champion, you should probably bet on it. You just have to do your homework. Then your gut can make good choices and go all in.

4. Be consistent.

One thing that I’ve learned is that people want to do business with people they trust. The quickest way to earn their trust? Consistency. No one wants to work with someone who’s erratic and who can change their mind on a whim. They want to work with people who are reliable, stable and who they know will always keep their word. Wouldn’t you?

5. Learn to love numbers.

When I was just starting out, I didn’t realize just how much I would grow to love numbers. Often, passion starts with an idea, but numbers are just as important. As a businessman and investor, I crunch a lot of them. Before an idea can be turned into reality, the numbers have to add up. Without that, an idea alone won’t flourish. So loving and caring about numbers isn’t something you should look at as greedy. Rather, it’s something that’s essential for making sure that a business idea is sustainable.

6. Don’t be afraid to be different.

As you’ve probably realized by now, I am all for implementing environmentally friendly approaches to real estate — whether that means solar panels, like the ones in the Atelier condo building in New York, or other green technology. In a landscape that’s often referred to as a concrete jungle, making people feel truly at home means giving them something that connects with them in a unique way. So any project I take on, I try to give it a special twist. The Atelier, of course, has stunning views of the city and the Hudson River, but it also has the highest skating rink in New York, a huge health club, a basketball court and a movie theatre. Being involved with the Atelier really taught me how being different, taking risks and putting new ideas into what could have just been another typical luxury project can lead to others responding passionately to it too.

7. Don’t just try to predict the future. Learn from the past.

Keeping up with the trends and ahead of the curve is essential if you want to make good decisions. When I was starting out, I was especially excited about figuring out what would catch on in the future. But as I’ve grown, I’ve realized that it’s just as important to know what happened in the past. History keeps repeating, right? Besides, it’s much cheaper to learn from mistakes other people made in the past than make your own.

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5 Troubling Statistics About Homelessness That You Should Know

If you live in a major city, homelessness is getting worse.

This post was originally featured on HuffingtonPost.com

In general, our country is seeing a decline in homelessness, but it’s still way too early to begin patting ourselves on the back for a job well done. From 2015 to 2016, the homeless population decreased by 3%, although that statistic is complicated by the fact that there was only a decrease among individuals living in sheltered locations (such as emergency shelters and transitional housing) while there was actually an increase in those living in unsheltered locations.

While many of the other statistics in The 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress depict an overall improvement, there are no shortage of numbers from this and other surveys that when compiled, paint an ugly picture of homelessness in America.

1. If you live in a major city, homelessness is getting worse.

Results from the January 2016 point-in-time count from The Department of Housing and Urban.

Development (HUD) indicated that out of the total 549,928 people experiencing homelessness, 49% (268,322 people) were located in a major city. That may be up less than 1% from 2015, but it’s still a change in the wrong direction. One in five homeless people were living in either New York or Los Angeles with the majority of those in N.Y.C. living in sheltered locations while the majority in LA were living in unsheltered locations.

2. The Big Apple isn’t making it easy.

To add insult to injury: according to the Coalition for the Homeless: State of the Homeless 2017 report, changes to the application process for families to enter shelters have resulted in a decrease of homeless families receiving approval — from October 2016 to December 2016, the percentage of approved families dropped from 50% to 42%. What’s more, “ The percentage of homeless families forced to apply for shelter two or more times before being found eligible increased from 37 percent in July to 45 percent in December 2016,” and due to the complicated and time consuming process of completing new applications, homeless families are forced to resort to living in “emergency rooms, subway stations, or 24-hour businesses, and to miss school or work.”

And as I’ve written about before, the majority of New Yorkers have no savings, and that many are just about one paycheck away from becoming homeless. Considering the cost of rent in the city, this should come as no surprise.

3. Our ‘unaccompanied youth’ are between 18–24.

Unaccompanied youth, or individuals under 25 who are not with a parent, guardian, or their own children are most likely to be between the ages of 18–24. On a single night in January 2016, 89% of homeless unaccompanied youth were in that age range while 11% were under 18. In total, there were about 35,686 unaccompanied youth, making up about 7% of the entire homeless population. In Nevada, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Montana, the majority of unaccompanied homeless youth are unsheltered while the opposite is true for Nebraska, Rhode Island, Iowa, New York, and Maine.

4. There are homeless college students.

Not all of us were lucky enough to enjoy dorm life and all its offerings. In the recent update to the 2015 report from Wisconsin HOPE Lab titled Hungry and Homeless in College: Results from a National Study of Basic Needs Insecurity in Higher Education, it says that 14% of community college students were homeless during their period of enrollment and among the former foster youth surveyed, 29% were homeless. They also found that out of all Black and multi-racial students, there were more who were homeless than there were who were home secure.

College is hard enough as it is without having to worry about where you’re going to sleep at night and how you’re going to finish your assignments and get to work on time. Perhaps what’s more troubling than the first statistics alone is that 51% of those who were homeless were balancing employment along with their schooling and more than half of them worked 20–40 hours each week with the majority making less than $15/hour.

5. There are ways to help.

It may be tempting to write homelessness off as a problem best left for the big guys to solve, but even people like me and you can make a dent in this issue. Visit the National Alliance to End Homelessness Take Action page for more information on volunteering on national and local levels. We can’t stand by and watch.

A New Yorker’s Guide to Using Solar In Your Business

The energy source no longer is the wave of the future — it’s good for commerce today.

This post was originally featured on Entrepreneur.com

With a constant increase in demand for electric power and surging oil prices, it surprises me that more business owners aren’t excited about solar energy.

Solar power offers reduced operating costs and a higher return on investment than many other energy sources. Plus, it’s largely maintenance-free, super-reliable and good for the environment. What’s not to love? If you’re planning to integrate solar energy in your business this year, make sure you’re prepared to make the switch.

Financing options.

Putting up a solar project is a long-term investment — a truth I learned during my Atelier experience. I also honestly can say it’s been 100 percent worth it. The initial expense can be relatively high, which is why leasing would have been more favorable in the past. Setup costs have gone down significantly in the past few years, however, making solar far more affordable to the average homeowner or small-business owner.

Single-family homes account for most of New York City’s solar projects. It costs $20,000 to $50,000 to install a residential system, but a combination of city and state public programs can pick up as much as half the bill. Then there’s this: Solar-powered homes reportedly have cut monthly bills by up to 85 percent, compared to previous monthly bills. If that’s not reason enough to front the startup costs, estimates reveal solar energy’s ROI beats the stock market in more 25 states, including New York.

Installation timeline.

Ideally, the entire process shouldn’t take more than eight weeks from start to finish. However, many factors at play could delay the timeline.

A few years ago, the permit-approval process alone could take up to two years. Today, there’s better coordination among government, installers, owners and utilities. New York City’s Department of Buildings now can issue permits in a matter of a few days. It’s a welcome change from the weeks (at best) that earlier applicants waited for a decision.

Signing the paperwork officially gives your installation team the go-ahead. It’s an easy step that should take 24 hours at most — if you have the capital in hand. If you need to secure an improvement loan from a bank or other lender, you’ll wait longer.

Next, your team’s engineers gather site-specific data and create a design for your system upgrade. By now, you’re firmly into week three. Simple designs might take just a week, but owners would be wise to budget roughly three weeks for complex or large solar arrays.

Once you approve the design, you’ll need to submit a permit and wait for the Department of Buildings to greenlight your application. Things move quickly after you get the thumbs-up: You’re now clear to schedule the installation and then await inspection from the utilities department — typically a week or two after installation. The utility company changes the meter, and you’re good to go.

NYC’s permitting process.

Before you install solar panels, you’ll have to go through the City of New York’s permitting process, which begins when you file a permit. You can file this request under a New Building or Alteration permit. You also have the option to file separately as an Alteration Type-2 at borough offices or The HUB itself. The Department of Buildings will inspect the premises and use that information to help make a determination about your application’s future.

Local and state incentives.

Through NY-Sun, the State of New York offers a range of incentives to build a more affordable and sustainable solar industry in New York City. The program offers loan financing for residential, small-commercial and commercial projects. The terms vary depending on the type of borrower. Residential and small-commercial customers can finance up to $25,000 with a repayment period as long as 15 years. Commercial borrowers may finance up to 100 percent of any-sized solar projects and secure an interest rate in the range of 4 percent to 6.5 percent. As an added motivation to participate, NY-Sun also extends reduced installation costs to borrowers across all three categories.

Net-energy metering.

Net energy is the difference between the energy produced and the energy consumed. Many households use less than solar panels produce. Excess energy is pushed back into the grid. The net-metering structure credits the owner for this power returned to the overall system. As an owner, you can use the offset to cover future bills, though you’ll still need to pay the monthly connection charge for the service of using the utility’s grid.

There’s no denying the decision to switch to a solar system can be tough. Even with government support, the one-time setup fee might be too steep for some. But solar undoubtedly is taking over. New York City experienced a surge in installations during 2016. That’s on top of the substantial increase over the preceding years, when residential and commercial installationsdoubled between 2014 and 2016.

The earlier you get on board with solar, the greater benefits you’ll enjoy over the long term.

 

How Bad is Homelessness in America, Really?

The GDP of America is an astronomical $18 trillion. To put it in perspective, if California seceded from the United States, it would have the eighth largest GDP of all the countries in the world (just beating out Italy).

When you start to consider just how much money exists in America, it makes the fact that we even have homelessness seems all the more absurd.

Depending on where you live across the country, you may have different ideas about how prolific the homeless situation is in this country. That’s why stats can help make the realities a bit more clear.

 So the question is: how bad is homelessness in America, really?

How bad can it be?

Let’s start with the definition: an individual may be considered homeless when they lack permanent housing and have to stay in shelters, abandoned buildings or vehicles, on the streets, or in other forms of unstable situations. They may also be considered homeless if they have to “double up” with friends or extended family members because they are unable to maintain their own housing situation.

We’ve seen this issue arise in some form since the 1870s and it’s continued to pervade our society into the present day. On a single night in January 2015, for example, 564,708 people were considered homelessness in America, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. That’s over half a million people without a roof over their heads.

In a single night in California in 2016, 21.48% of the population experienced homelessness. In New York, 15.7%. That’s over 100,000 people in California and 80,000 people in New York.

Homelessness is an issue that pervades many societies around the world but it seems to be an exceptional struggle for the United States. Among the top homeless cities in the world, New York City ranks the second highest on the list, with Los Angeles following at a close third. Other American cities featured include Boston, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Phoenix.

Although the national rate of homelessness has gone down from 21.5 per 10,000 people in 2007 to 17.7 per 10,000 in 2015, there is still a lot of work to be done––the rate of homelessness amongst individual states continues to be high and the amount of affordable housing remains painfully low.

So what can we do?

As a volunteer EMT, I’ve seen my share of what can happen on the streets. Many homeless die when it’s too hot, too cold, or too wet. These are real people who need real resources, like shelter, food, and clothes. We have to do more as a nation to stop treating the homeless as invisible, and start treating them as human beings. We must do more, as fellow neighbors, developers, lawmakers, citizens, to solve this problem and get people off the streets, because everyone, everyone, deserves a home.

But have we already built a system against homeless by design?

Anti-Homeless Design

Have you ever wondered why some public benches have that third armrest in the middle? Or why some are just not that comfortable? I never used to give it a second thought. I reasoned it was just the cheapest design available. 

As it turns out, they were specifically designed in this way to dissuade people from sitting too long. Or to deter people from sleeping there.

This kind of design practice is subtle but everywhere in our cities and even has an actual term: hostile or defensive urban architecture. It’s used to discreetly target loitering and reduce the visibility of those deemed “unappealing” to the aesthetics of the city: the “reckless” teenagers, the poor, the homeless.

Other measures include camping restrictions and even banning private food donations to the homeless. In 2012, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg outlawed food donations because “the city couldn’t assess salt, fat, and fiber content” of the food. Apparently, it was more important to monitor the healthiness of what his people were eating, even if they were eating nothing at all.

A solution for $46 a year

For a more explicit solution, I think we should look towards Housing First, “a proven approach in which people experiencing homelessness are offered permanent housing with few to no treatment preconditions, behavioral contingencies, or barriers.” The project believes that the issues that cause a person to be homeless–unemployment, poverty, mental health, etc.–can be better addressed once they actually have a home.

And the best part is, the program’s proving to be working. Using this approach, homelessness could be eliminated at an annual additional cost of $1.7 billion. If this sounds like a lot––it’s not. It’s about $46 a year per person. Or put even more in scale: 88 cents per week.

Considering it can cost over $100,000 annually to support a chronically homeless person vs. the $35,000 per year to provide permanent housing, this may be a mutually beneficial approach.

Either way, we must continue to take steps towards eradicating homelessness in our country and ensuring that everyone has the basic necessity of shelter. I’d be willing to pay 88 cents more per week for that. Wouldn’t you?

This article was originally published on DanNeiditch.org

Why Go Green?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and deconstruction.” The design of green buildings is created to reduce the overall impact on the natural environment and on human health. Just in the United States alone buildings account for 40 percent of total energy use, 12 percent of the total water consumption, 68 percent of total electricity consumption, and 38 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions (epa.gov). We have the potential of reducing energy consumption by up to 60 percent if we use energy efficient technologies. Even implementing a small change can make a difference.

The Atelier is currently home to the tallest residential solar installation in the country. In a desire to reduce operating costs and benefit the environment, hundreds of solar panels have been installed on the roof and side of the Atelier. According to Daniel Neiditch, President of the Atelier, just a year and a half after the panels were installed, they made their initial investment back. As of early 2015, the Atelier has seen about $120,000 in savings per year and has reduced energy consumption by about 15 percent. People think that the cost of installing the panels is too high but through energy savings you make your money back fast. Moreover, you are eligible for a tax rebate and will have positive environmental impacts. The Atelier is also going green through a newly implemented sustainability initiative. In addition to the solar panels, “other energy improvements include delamping, lighting upgrades, occupancy sensors, supply procurement and demand response” (mcenergyinc.com). Daniel Neiditch hopes that once people learn about the impact that the solar panels are having on the Atelier and how beneficial the panels and going green is for the health of the environment and humans that more people will install them and have their buildings go green. Below are some of the many perks of going green.

Environmental impact

  • Reducing trash, pollution and degradation of the environment
    • Protect biodiversity and ecosystems
  • Conserve natural resources
    • Efficiently using water, energy and other resources
    • Improve air and water quality, which directly benefits your health as well
    • Reduce waste streams

Economic benefits  

  • Savings
    • It may cost you more to get started but over time the savings add up- it’s an investment
      • Save on energy costs
      • Reduce operating costs
  • Impact on the economy
    • Create market for green product and services

Your health

  • Protecting occupant health and comfort
  • Improving productivity
  • Helping the environment helps you and will improve your overall quality of life

This article was originally published on DanielNeiditchRealEstate.com

This One Habit Makes You a Most Productive Entrepreneur

This post was originally featured on Entrepreneur.com

What I love about the real estate business is that each new property presents unique challenges to learn and grow. This is especially true in New York, where every building has its own way to inspire.

Sometimes it’s just marveling at a beautiful piece of architecture. Other times, it’s digging up the history and understanding how the builders overcame the special challenges within the building. Often it’s pragmatic — figuring out how to creatively modernize a new condominium. No matter what the situation, there’s always an opportunity to learn.

Self-education is the one habit you need to cultivate, because it drives your productivity, pushes you to new heights and lights a fire underneath your feet as you carve your own path. That commitment to continuous learning leads you to everything else.

Here are five tangible ways self-education gives you the golden ticket to success as an entrepreneur:

1. It saves you time and money.

Twenty-four hours is never enough for an entrepreneur. A commitment to self-education could potentially save you weeks of time — and your bank account.

Case in point: Alibaba founder Jack Ma rode his bike 45 minutes everyday to an American hotel just to improve his fluency in English by talking to English-speaking foreigners. Ma did this for nine years starting at the ripe old age of 12. He ended up speaking English so well, he became an English teacher at his local school in China. His eagerness for self-education is no doubt the reason Ma is now worth approximately $35.7 billion.

For the entrepreneur building the next billion-dollar app, this means gaining a basic knowledge of coding and user interface design beforestarting a project. While it may take a little time and investment up front, it will ultimately save hours and thousands of dollars because you have a basic understanding of these worlds.

The smart entrepreneur understands that his or her investment in education will reward them with both short-term and long-term benefits.

2. It builds confidence.

Being an entrepreneur is one of the most challenging jobs, especially if you want to stand out in New York. There are constant hurdles, and you’re never short of opportunities to throw in the towel. On top of that, it’s easy to fall victim to your own doubts.

Learning a new skill and using it to push through a challenge can give entrepreneurs a massive boost in confidence. It’s been shown that there is a strong link between education and confidence. It gives you the motivation you need to push through the humps that come with being an entrepreneur.

3. It opens new opportunities.

One of the projects that challenged, but inspired, me the most was installing solar panels on the Atelier Condos. It forced me to learn everything I could about solar and renewable energy. On top of that, I got involved on the design side as we went through revisions trying to perfect and refine the use of the panels to add an efficient, yet modern element to the building.

By undertaking that project and learning about the future of solar, it opened so many new doors for me personally and professionally. And though the idea-to-implementation period was longer than I would’ve liked, it is by far one of the most rewarding projects I’ve tackled. In fact, I’m planning to install solar panels in other River 2 River properties.

I’m now able to talk fluently about solar technology and renewables, which has afforded me the opportunity to speak and write about sustainability and the non-profit space.

As an entrepreneur, you simply cannot predict what new business and personal opportunities you could unleash by learning something outside your comfort zone. Through it all, Atelier stands as a beautiful step forward for integrating alternative energy and modern aesthetics in New York City.

4. You’ll be sharper and happier.

I love real estate, particularly New York real estate, because it changes so fast. I have to stay abreast of current events, market shifts, etc., because the environment, neighborhoods and tastes of my clients evolve constantly. If I stop learning or if I stop reading, my business will suffer because there are people out there waiting to “eat my lunch.” I’m telling you, NYC real estate is not for the faint of heart.

Investing in your self-education keeps your skills, your brain and your outlook sharp so you have the ability to adapt. And the bonus is that constant learning also makes you a happier human being. Even amoebas get bored and unhappy when they keep getting hit with the same stimuli over and over again.

Not to mention, keeping your skills sharp will ward off things like Alzheimer’s. In other words, an active brain makes for a happier brain.

5. Your gray matter makes you better at business.

There is something to the old saying that “variety is the spice of life.” Entrepreneurship can be a grind. It’s easy to lose yourself in the constant responsibility and busywork. That’s when you start to get complacent. You develop blind spots and become vulnerable to your competition.

That’s why self-education is so important. Discovering new ideas that are unrelated to your business can release your creativity and give you perspective on your business that you would otherwise miss. Trust me, this can be the difference between life and death for your passion project.

The Cost of ‘Sheltering’ The Homeless May Be Too High

A question I hear a lot when I’m talking about homelessness in New York, is: “why don’t the homeless just stay in shelters?” It is more complex than many New Yorkers imagine–both the problems and the purported solutions. For me, the more important question is: ‘why shelters at all?’

As someone who has spent a lot of time with the homeless–as a volunteer EMT and as someone who lived on the streets for 3 nights–I know firsthand how we have failed our homeless population. Providing shelters, both private and public, may seem like a solution for those who aren’t homeless, but for those who are, there are systemic problems. I agree with them, and here’s why:

  1. Shelters are expensive
  2. Shelters are unsafe
  3. Shelters often provide unfit living conditions
  4. Shelters have not been proven to work long-term

According to a Mayor’s Management Report, housing one homeless person as of last summer was nearly $100 a day. But aside from the monetary cost to New York taxpayers, there also exists the very real life-threatening dangers that face shelter dwellers. Because of these reasons, many homeless families choose the streets over shelters.

In 2015, incidents officially labeled as “violent” included 153 assaults, 65 cases of child abuse, 174 domestic violence incidents, and 90 allegations of sexual assault involving residents.

It’s no better in “cluster” shelters (private apartments and hotels converted to house the homeless) either. Though cluster shelters may have fewer incidences of violence, they’re often rat-infested, poorly managed (if managed at all), and lacking in basic accommodations like clean water. Because these shelters are privately-owned and exempt from fines, the incentive to address safety and health violations are lost on the owners and the city. Cluster landlords are not contractually bound to follow DHS’ lead. So, the residents have no recourse.

The conditions are so bad that Mayor Bill de Blasio commissioned the Department of Investigation (DOI) to investigate. The DOI spent four months inspecting 25 homeless shelters across the city, interviewed occupants and landlords, and evaluated the sites based on cleanliness, management, and integrity.

In the five clusters investigated across multiple boroughs including Queens and Brooklyn, the DOI found a total of 223 violations from the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), Department of Buildings (DOB), and Department of Housing Preservation and Development since 2012. Hotel cluster shelter facilities didn’t fare any better with 168 violations.

According to the DOI findings, “At its worst, DHS is turning a blind eye to violations that threaten the lives of shelter residents.”

These findings are no doubt a reason for de Blasio’s recent commitment to phase out ‘cluster sites’ and add 90 new shelters in New York City. Sure, this move from expensive and unfit hotels and apartment shelters shows a willingness to solve the homeless housing issue, but I’m not convinced this is a move in the right direction.

In the mayor’s speech on the matter, he estimated that creating 90 more shelters in NYC would cost $300 million over the next five years, but critics have put the figure at closer to $500 million, and that doesn’t include operating and staffing costs.

According to de Blasio, alleviating the homeless problem is a marathon, not a sprint. Patience is the key, “We will make progress, but it will be incremental. It will be slow,” he said. “I’m not going to lie to the people of New York City that we have an end in sight.”

But is the end really in sight? Maybe not the way we’ve been doing it. I suspect that the path to housing the homeless is the one less traveled: get them off the street by giving them a means to support themselves.

  1. Subsidized housing–Provide the homeless a pathway to sheltering themselves
  2. Job training — Training, whether in a trade or resume-building, to provide a pathway for them to support themselves
  3. Food stamps

In my experience, people who are homeless aren’t living on the streets because they chose to do so. Usually, they hit some bad times and ended up there. In fact, New Yorkers are roughly one paycheck away from being homeless because of loss of a job or some sort of injury. They want to work, they want housing, and they want to support themselves in order to get it. We should give them the means to do that. With the money we’re about to pour into building more shelters — something that has been proven not to work — there is an opportunity to enact a system that may work. And 2017 is as good a year as any to start investing in our homeless fellows.

This article was originally published on DanNeiditch.org