It’s a little-known fact that the City of New York is legally obliged to provide housing for those without it, but with the explosion in the city’s homeless population, you’d be forgiven for not knowing that.
The number of people staying in shelters in New York City has grown by over 10,000 since Mayor de Blasio took office to more than 60,000, with no relief in sight. There is no official estimate for those who are not in shelters, but needless to say the total number of homeless in the city is a great deal higher. After committing to a record $1.6 billion in spending to fight the problem, the city has seen no reduction in the number of people forced onto our streets. Needless to say, there is no shortage of disturbing facts about this issue, but a look at our city streets is all one needs to realize it’s getting worse. What’s absolutely clear by now is that it’s not simply a matter of money. How could the problem be getting worse when our Mayor has made such a public stance against it?
One reason for the growth in the homeless population is also a fundamental source of consternation for most New Yorkers over the past decade or so. It’s no secret that, nationwide, housing affordability is a major issue, and New York City is home to some of the most egregious examples of this. As neighborhoods transform, housing costs go up and many working-class residents end up being priced out to make room for new arrivals. As you go down the earnings line, those at the bottom too often end up homeless after losing their jobs, sometimes even while they are still working. As much as affordable housing is a political bargaining chip, there is still not nearly enough of it to satisfy the needs of lower-income New Yorkers.
The programs that do exist are often woefully inadequate. The overcrowded shelter system, the main infrastructural source of help for the homeless, has long been an insufficient source of support for people in need, especially families. Many users of the system have described it as a claustrophobic, prison-like environment where violence is an entirely too common sight. New York Daily News research found that in 2015, there were over 1,500 “critical incidents” of violence and ill behavior in city shelters, more than five per day. It’s no wonder that many choose to take their chances on the street rather than be locked in with a potentially dangerous population. Staying on the street is often a rational choice to be made over taking on the deteriorating conditions in the shelters.
Another inadequate option is what’s called “cluster housing,” where the city rents apartments in low-income neighborhoods for homeless families. Instead of having access to a support system, these families are instead placed at the mercy of landlords who are, in general, not attuned to the needs of their new tenants and are simply collecting checks from the city. The danger of these sites was thrown into the spotlight last December with the tragic story of two sisters under the age of 3 killed by a faulty radiator in a cluster apartment in the Bronx. Hotel placement has been similarly dispiriting, with conditions that are not much better. To his credit, Mayor de Blasio has vowed to shut down these cluster sites, but progress is slow.
A particularly unfortunate aspect of this crisis has been the lack of empathy not just from political leaders, but the population at large. Anger over housing for the homeless has erupted in several neighborhood protests of proposed housing for the homeless, with demonstrations in Maspeth, Queens shutting down a shelter that would have housed up to 220 people. These demonstrators frequently argue that new shelters are merely a bandaid for the problem, but a main opposition seems to be a simple desire for their neighborhood to stay the way it is.
All of us share in the responsibility to help those who need it. It’s clear that a serious problem exists, with no clear solution. What we can all do is maintain awareness and make a commitment to advocate and provide assistance for the unfortunate who live in our city’s streets. Not everyone needs to spend a few cold nights on the street in order for the city to possess some empathy for the less fortunate. We’re all New Yorkers, and we all deserve the dignity and compassion that’s been lacking for so many.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Protecting occupant health and comfort
Helping the environment helps you and will improve your overall quality of life
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:
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.”
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.
Subsidized housing–Provide the homeless a pathway to sheltering themselves
Job training — Training, whether in a trade or resume-building, to provide a pathway for them to support themselves
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.
Dan Neiditch is the president of River 2 River Realty, Inc., a real estate business that offers diverse real estate services for customers in New York and beyond. Neiditch learned the industry through his real estate family business and has gone on to procure, develop, and revitalize real estate developments on a much larger scale than his family ever thought possible.
Under Dan Neiditch’s stewardship, his family’s business has grown into a multibillion dollar real estate empire — acquiring $1 billion in real estate holdings to date. Today, River 2 River Realty is part of multiple prestigious organizations on both local and national levels. The Real Estate Board of New York, REBNY Listing Service, National Association of Realtors have all welcomed River 2 River Realty as a member. Dan uses these exciting memberships to help customers get access to the latest and greatest properties available in New York. The business’ ties with national organizations also helps sellers expand their outreach across the country.
Because Dan grew up surrounded by a real estate-savvy family, he and his family have amassed a total of 70 years of experience — which Dan Neiditch brings to customers who are overwhelmed or uninformed about the many aspects of the market.
Now, best known as president of the Atelier Condos in Manhattan (which boasts solar panels, the tallest swimming pool and tennis courts, and celebrity tenants), Dan Neiditch is an experienced leader in New York’s dynamic real estate market. Atelier is one of Daniel’s greatest accomplishments as a leader in real estate.
With his vision in mind for the redevelopment of the property located on West 42nd Street in New York City, Neiditch offers Atelier tenants an unbeatable view of the city. It overlooks the Hudson River to the west, and residents can see the iconic Empire State Building and Times Square from their homes.
Though attributed with an impressive business acumen, Dan is also passionate about charity work. Dan uses his experience in River 2 River Realty, Inc. to help those in need. A hands-on philanthropist, Dan Neiditchnot only donates funds to various organizations, he travels to disadvantaged countries abroad, and volunteers as an on-call EMT locally in New York City.
Dan devotes a lot of his philanthropic efforts to funding the basic medical and personal care that every child deserves. He provides financial donations to children who need lifesaving organ transplant surgeries. One of Dan’s most fulfilling experiences was traveling to Africa with an organization that provided doctors for children who needed medical attention. He also contributes to organizations that provide important necessities for the homeless and has personally helped them find employment opportunities.
As a businessman and philanthropist, Dan Neiditch chooses his professional and personal projects with a careful, deliberate, and a thoughtful outlook — thus making him a recognizable figure in the real estate industry within New York and beyond. Neiditch’s articles on real estate, philanthropy, and business have appeared on the likes of Huffington Post .
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I have a lot of meetings in a day — high level and day-to-day level meetings. As someone who likes to be involved with every aspect of my business, I meet with agents, contractors, and building management to get updates on our properties. Do we need to work on our pricing? Are the contractors hitting deadlines? What other investments can we make, get rid of, expand, etc.
I have my head and my hands in everything, so I rarely take notes. I like to be present and listen and see what’s going on, so I try to keep track of everything in my head when I can.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have a group of people who are constantly bringing me ideas. But before I choose to turn an idea into a reality, I crunch numbers. As an investor, entrepreneur, or businessman, you have to learn to love numbers. Without being able to calculate what ideas make sense to build, you’re already starting out in the negative.
I never jump until I know that the cost structure is solid, the tax implications are attractive, etc. — then, I buy, build, or pass.
What trend excites you?
Solar energy excites and inspires me, which is why Atelier has solar panels installed. It’s the highest building in NYC with solar panels, and that’s something I’m really proud of. I’m always looking for new ways to introduce solar power into New York. I think we could do a lot better. As a city with 8 million people, we need to do better. We consume too much energy not to.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
It’s more a discipline that became a habit: consistency. I practice due diligence in everything I do but especially in my business. I wouldn’t be able to lead anything, much less a successful business, if I weren’t consistent.
More than anything, being consistent and even-keeled makes people trust you. No one trusts someone who’s always changing his mind. Nothing tears down trust and confidence from your staff and clients more than that.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Your first decision is usually the right one. Stick to your gut and don’t let other people dissuade you from what you want to do.
Tell us something that is true that no one agrees with you on.
I see a lot of investors who don’t take risks. Before I took over the family real estate business, my grandfather and father played things pretty safe. They bought real estate only in the Bronx where my grandfather grew up, and only complexes with a specific number of units. They were also really against leveraging debt or taking risks.
And they’re not alone. Even today, people are afraid to take risks, but I always have and do. When people are afraid to buy, I buy; a lot of people won’t do that.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Never stop studying or learning — about your market, your industry, whatever it is you do. You can’t make good decisions if you don’t study trends. To paraphrase Warren Buffett, what we’ve learned from history is that we never learn from history. In other words, don’t just study trends forward, study the trends in your industry that came before, and figure out what mistakes people made in the past.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
There are two related strategies that have helped me grow my business: being aggressive and being proactive. I’m always looking for new projects because I like being ahead of the curve; I have to be if I want to build and maintain a successful venture. Once I have my head fixed on something, I go for it. I go all in. I think aggressiveness is a lot like having a positive attitude in that you know for a fact you’re going to do something. When there is no doubt, there is only room to grow.
What is the one failure you had as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?
Mistakes happen, especially when you’re first starting out. My biggest mistake was that I trusted the wrong people in the beginning. I trusted that they were giving me the right numbers or the right advice.
But looking back, I’m glad for that experience, because now, all the final decisions are made by me. Who I choose to trust, even the way I think about trust, has changed. I never assume someone else is doing my homework for me, which is why I always go back and make sure everything is in order.
It’s not that I am constantly suspicious, because that’s no way to live, but I rely on my own intel before I assume someone else’s is better.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
As I mentioned earlier, solar power inspires me and maybe people don’t know that solar is more than just solar panels. The use of solar power in the U.S. is still lacking. There are a lot of applications that aren’t being implemented.
There’s one thing that Europe, specifically Denmark, is doing that hasn’t caught on in the United States yet, and that’s solar water pumping systems. Though it’s usually utilized on farms and other rural areas to water crops, it’d be a great coup for investors, especially ones in the real estate industry.
I recently read a Forbes article that says hotels use 50% more energy than multifamily buildings even though they have little over 50% occupancy most of the time. Imagine how much energy luxury hotels would be saving if they used solar power…
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently had an amazing glass of champagne at Daniel Boulud’s Daniel’srestaurant which I would personally rate as the best restaurant in New York.
When you pay for a service, regardless of its cost, you’re paying for nostalgia or memory. That champagne tasted amazing because I was in my favorite restaurant relaxing with people I wanted to be with. That’s worth way more than $100 in my book.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
River2River uses an internal database that has trackable properties in the market. It gives comps, props, and breaks down everything in simple numbers. It makes it easier for me to keep track of what’s happening in the markets and industry, and helps me make smarter decisions.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recently read “Made to Stick“ which breaks down why some ideas work and others fail. If I pick up a book, it’s non-fiction, and only because I think it will teach me something. I like the idea of perpetual learning, and I encourage others to think the same way. The minute you think you’ve done all the research or know everything you need to about your business, it’s over.
What is your favorite quote?
“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” — Warren Buffett
If you’ve done your homework, paid your dues, and stuck to your gut, you’re not taking a risk so much as a decision based on experience that you can back up. I can back up my decisions because where I am today is proof I’ve made good choices and taken the right risks.
New York City is famous the world over for its glitz and glamour, featured in all sorts of popular entertainment from movies to television shows. Yet not all that glitters is gold. Life in paradise is much harder than one may think. In fact, many New Yorkers are one paycheck away from homelessness, forced into a monthly catch-22–a cycle causing of perpetual anxiety.
A recently published study from the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD) found that more than half of New Yorkers are without savings of any kind. Another study by theCenter for Economic Opportunity (CEO), reveals that nearly 25% of Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics are living below the federal poverty level, homeless, or both. That same CEO report shows that while there has been a steady improvement over the years, these numbers don’t lie. There is a continual indication that many New Yorkers are wading just above the poverty line, and minorities living within the five boroughs are suffering the most. In those communities, there is a distinct lack of emergency savings, employment, and pursuit towards or opportunities for higher education, especially in the neighborhoods of Harlem in Manhattan and Bushwick in Brooklyn, among just two minority-rich communities.
According to the Shelter Census Report from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), the past five years have seen an explosive increase in shelter attendance. In 2011, there were just under 40,000 people. As of October 2016, there were 62,306 people in the shelter system, a marked increase of over 20,000, or just about fifty percent.
At the national level, the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) from 2015, compiled by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, found that California and Florida also have a homeless population greater than six percent of their population. Other states which have significantly high homeless populations per capita include Texas and Massachusetts.
As with many large cities, New York City and its residents are not immune to economic or health factors that can cause homelessness. While numerous reports say that there are many families who bounce back quickly from being homeless, there are just as many who likely do not recover due to exigent circumstances. Some of the major causes of homelessness are a death in the family, (followed by the loss of the sole income in the household), or an unexpected financial debt that becomes too difficult to repay. Other major triggers for homelessness include hazardous housing conditions, job loss, overcrowding, eviction, and domestic violence.
Even in the best of times, life in New York City can be tough. And despite economic growth and an increase in jobs, these are far from the best of times. According to the Coalition for the Homeless,homelessness in New York City has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression. How can New Yorkers solve these problems? That’s up in the air, but a good start is de-stigmatizing homelessness and lobbying for increased affordable housing.