Greeschlyn Can’t Fail

words and photography (c) 2013 by Benjamin J Spencer

When will you move?

A new town is called for.

You have your neat grass,
Your dew drops (you reason).

Then again you also have your stinging flies

And your defeated people
who look into empty, empty

shop windows,

Rubbing their hands together.

this is why You must move to Greeschlyn.
Greeschlyn cannot fail.


Greeschlyn has the most artfully glass-strewn of warehouses.

Greeschlyn’s water is pure lysergic acid.

Greeschlyn is glazed with two centuries of baker’s flour and petroleum

Greeschlyn’s young are clinically insane
(And They find this instructive)

In Greeschlyn, you can fish for starlight in cold, salty puddles
And eat moonlight cake with shy pledge-drive orphan kids


You see

Possesses those things that can strum your nerves like a lyre

And peel the skirt right off your pelvis

Momentous things
Glinting things.




06.05.2011 – Stumptown Coffee Making Inroads in New York

Stumptown Coffee Making Inroads in New York

by Benjamin J Spencer

The Stumptown Brew Bar in Red Hook.       Photo:

Red Hook, Brooklyn –  In a sparsely-populated industrial corner of Red Hook, Brooklyn, within sight of sprawling docks and looming ocean-bound freighters, sits a small, unassuming brownstone building. From its looks, it probably used to be an auto shop. Now, from inside wafts not the stench of axle grease, but the thick, dark tang of roasting coffee.

Some might deem the Brooklyn working waterfront an unlikely place for a coffee roaster. But actually it makes perfect sense, since these Stumptown beans, green and oily when delivered, hail from around the world – from small family and co-op coffee estates where owners and workers are paid a premium for their product that is unmatched in the industry.

Steve Goodwine is a barista behind the counter at the Brew Bar, which takes up a small storefront adjacent to the roasting garage here in Red Hook.

“There are two guys in our company who spend about nine months out of the year travelling to different coffee farms around the world,” he says.

At these small farms, batches of coffee are rigorously tested for quality. The conditions of the farm (organic methods, plenty of shade) and workers (well-taken care of) are checked, and new business relationships are forged with small growers. Stumptown set up this year-old Brew Bar specifically to educate the public on the uniqueness of that model in the coffee importing world – and of course, sell some more coffee.

The beans are also roasted with a care and consistency rare in the world of coffee, and at an exceedingly small scale compared to the mega-conglomerates that feed Manhattan’s endless train of Dunkin’ Donuts.  It seems improbable that from this modest and laid-back feeling roasting facility, every wholesale and café- bound order of Stumptown Coffee in New York City is delivered.

“The roasters are just really efficient,” says Brian Philippi, another barista here. “They work really hard.”

So do the brewers, if today’s demonstration is any indication. As he talks, Philippi, bewhiskered and lanky, stands behind a wooden counter currently decked out like some kind of mad doctor’s lab. The Brew Bar coffee is all ground and brewed to order right in front of sometimes bemused customers, but you won’t see any familiar drip machines here.

Overhead racks of fat glass beakers, plastic plunger tubes and presses of all sizes, and other technical paraphernalia attest to Stumptown’s painstakingly scientific approach to creating the perfect cup. Visitors can test four different labor-intensive methods of brewing up to 16 varieties of single-source, direct-trade gourmet beans.

One simple method involves slowly pouring near-boiling water over a pile of dark, coarse-ground joe, while another, called the Aeropress, resembles a large syringe with a stopper that squeezes hot water through wetted grounds with a column of pressurized air.

As the afternoon wears on, bicyclers enjoying the mild weather chain up and file inside in chattering groups. A sense of community takes hold in the little bar. One man tells the three brewers behind the counter that despite his best efforts at home, he can’t quite get his own Aeropress to make a cup as perfect as theirs.

“The difference between here and home is that here, everything’s precise,” he says. “Maybe because there aren’t three kids shooting soccer balls at me.”

Although anyone can order Portland-based Stumptown’s whole bean, direct-trade coffee  via the Internet, New York and Seattle are the only other localities where the company has a physical presence –  and New York’s inclusion was based more on serendipity than any business plan, according to Matt Lounsbury, Stumptown’s director of operations in its Portland headquarters.

Lounsbury explains that the success of Seattle-based boutique luxury Ace Hotels inspired the chain to start another hotel in Portland in 2007, and they asked Stumptown to run a coffee bar in their lobby. The hotel, and the bar, was a great success, and when Ace set up on 29th Street near Madison Square in mid-town Manhattan two years ago, they asked Stumptown to work the old magic again.

“At first we were like, what? New York City?” says Lounsbury. “We’re just this little coffee company from Portland. For a while we couldn’t quite put our minds around it.”

When they did decide to take the plunge, immediate problems arose. The biggest problem: finding space for their roaster.  Normally, Lounsbury says, if Stumptown can’t build a roaster in a location, they won’t even consider moving any operations there, and for space and financial reasons, Manhattan was simply out of the question. “It’s a freshness thing,” he says.

So they scoured Brooklyn instead, and found the perfect location in Red Hook.

Though the recently opened Brew Bar and the Ace Hotel lobby are so far the only company retail locations in the city, Stumptown does an increasingly brisk wholesale business to area restaurants. In the two years since Stumptown’s introduction to New York City, the business has grown to include wholesaling to dozens of cafes and restaurants in the five boroughs. Several locations in the East 20’s near Baruch College serve at least a Stumptown house brew, including Star Café and the the Mexican chain Dos Caminos on 27th Street and East Third Avenue. In fact, it has become rather a badge of honor to serve Stumptown.

Craig Cochran, the owner of Terri, a successful new vegetarian, vegan and organic sandwich café on West 23rd St. and 6th Avenue, says in an email that since he and his business partner had named their café after their moms (both named Terri), “we only wanted the highest quality products to be associated with us.”

Cochran says that as he relied on his “coffee connoisseur” friends for advice, Stumptown came up again and again.  He had crafted Terri’s menu carefully to appeal to vegetarians and non-vegetarians, with sandwiches that come off like healthy comfort food while being something he could feel proud to serve. So he knew they had to get the coffee right – and preferably socially responsible.

“When I found out that Stumptown also has the highest standards associated with every aspect of their coffee production,” says Cochran, “I knew that this was the right brand to serve at Terri.”

Lounsbury says Stumptown simply got to New York at the right time. Even if their research shows that the term “direct trade” hasn’t quite penetrated into the coffee lingo around here yet, nevertheless, in the past few years, more direct-trade coffee has made it into independent cafes city-wide.

Competitors include North Carolina’s CounterCulture Coffee (served at midtown’s Café Lucid, among other venues) and Chicago-based Intelligentsia Coffee, – along with Stumptown, one of the pioneers of the direct-trade model – with vendors like 9th Street Coffee in Manhattan’s East Village and their own small coffee bar in the Chelsea Market.

“We are definitely responding to a lot of energy around local food in New York, especially in the last year,” said Lounsbury. “We’re starting to see a lot more traction. All across the country there’s a lot of interest in specialty coffees and brewing methods. It bodes well for us as roasters, but also it bodes well for coffee lovers and for independent farmers.”

Not to mention the coffee-lovers on this sleepy stretch of Van Brunt Street in Red Hook. The customers, who might pay up to four dollars for their mug of fresh-ground, exactingly-brewed Stumptown Coffee (depending on the brewing method), don’t seem to mind the extra cost at all.

As one bearded and square-spectacled gent explains to me,  “You pay for precision.”

05.27.2011 – Crowds to Storm NYC for Summer’s Start – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

Crowds to storm NYC for summer’s start

Grab your sunglasses, sunscreen and MetroCard—this Memorial Day weekend promises to be city’s busiest ever.

By Benjamin J. Spencer
May 27, 2011 3:22 p.m.
tour bus

Buck EnniS
Tourism is expected to thrive this Memorial Day weekend.

With fair weather forecast, the start of Fleet Week, and new attractions this year on the waterfront and Governors Island, the city is gearing up for an unusually crowded Memorial Day weekend.

Hotels are at around 88% capacity, according to Chris Heywood, a spokesman for NYC & Co., the city’s marketing and tourism organization.

“Last year was a record” for Memorial Day weekend lodging, he said, “and so far, we’re on track for another record year. Demand is very strong.”

Travelocity, a leading online travel agency, has seen bookings for Memorial Day weekend flights to the city soar in the past few years.

“New York City is the No. 4 destination for Memorial Day weekend, coming in behind Las Vegas, Orlando and South Florida,” said Genevieve Shaw Brown, senior editor at Travelocity. “It also happens to be the most expensive of those, in terms of hotel stays.”

New York was also the No. 4 destination for Memorial Day weekend in 2010 and 2009, Ms. Brown said.

The city is promoting revamped waterfront attractions at Coney Island, with its new Scream Zone, and expanded activities on Governors Island, where officials are hoping two new public sculpture exhibitions and free outdoor concerts will draw crowds.

A new smoking ban took effect this week, for the first time covering city beaches and parks. City Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe said the city introduced the smoking ban partly as a result of public pressure, and partly because cigarette butts, which he said represent up to 70% of the pieces of garbage picked up on beaches, are “a particularly long-lasting and pernicious form of litter.”

Although 19 million visitors crowded New York’s shoreline parks last Memorial Day weekend—three times as many as in 2009—for the first time in years there are enough lifeguards, more than 1,300, to cover all of the city’s beaches and pools, according to Mr. Benepe. The lifeguard jobs pay $13.50 per hour with 48-hour work weeks through the season.

Tourist attractions, businesses and cultural institutions are also launching into high gear.

A spokeswoman for New York Water Taxi and the downtown Circle Line said the company had expanded its popular hop-on, hop-off tours from weekends only to seven days all season amid growing demand, and have also seen especially high interest from resident New Yorkers in the company’s newest tour, “Bike the Brooklyn Bridge/Water Taxi Back.”

And a costume exhibition of Alexander McQueen designs has drawn lines since 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, according to museum spokeswoman Elyse Topalian.

05.23.2011 – NY’s Top Public Companies Are Roaring Back – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

NY’s top public companies are roaring back

Crain’s list shows a collective 75% spike in income last year for the region’s 250 largest public businesses. The group’s $2.44 trillion-with-a-T market cap is now so big that it rivals the GDP of France.

By Benjamin J. Spencer
May 23, 2011 12:15 p.m.
New York Stock Exchange

Buck Ennis
The finance sector was the biggest winner, with companies in the financial field accounting for 47% of all the revenue reported by the Top 250 companies.

Big business in New York is bouncing back from the Great Recession—big time, according to the latest Crain’s ranking of the region’s top publicly held companies.

The total stock-market value of the 250 biggest public companies in the New York metro area, for instance, climbed 11% last year, to $2.44 trillion, compared with a total market capitalization of $2.19 trillion for the top 250 in 2009.

To put that $2.44 trillion figure into perspective: The total market cap for New York’s 250 biggest public companies exceeds the gross domestic of the United Kingdom (around $2.25 trillion last year, according to International Monetary Fund estimates) and comes in just under the GDP of France ($2.58 trillion).

Total revenue for the Crain’s 250 also rose 11% last year, to $1.75 trillion (that would be around the GDP figure for Canada), while overall profits soared 75% to $158.9 billion (somewhere between Peru and Romania).

Revenue winners last year included health care and consumer goods companies, such as Pfizer and PepsiCo, with gains of 35% and 33.8%, respectively.

But the finance sector was the biggest winner, with companies in the financial field accounting for 47% of all the revenue reported by the Top 250 companies, mostly due to stronger markets and more acquisitions than in recent years.

Bank of New York Mellon, mainly a custodian of corporate assets, saw revenues shoot up more than 75%, to around $14.5 billion after its 2010 acquisitions of PNC Financial Services Group and BHF Assets. And at BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, revenues soared 83.2%, to more than $8.6 billion, in a year that saw BlackRock’s merger with Barclay’s Global Investors finalized.

05.17.2011 – Long Way From El Dorado: A Profile of Journalist Elisabeth Butler Cordova

Long Way from El Dorado: A Profile of Journalist Elisabeth Butler Cordova

by Benjamin J Spencer

Crain’s New York Business senior Web news producer Elisabeth Cordova seems to regret few things about leaving El Dorado.


She would, however, have liked to take advantage of the “El Dorado Promise” – a college scholarship fund for residents set up by Murphy Oil, the major employer of the small city in the far southeast of Arkansas, where she grew up in a trailer park. Her father was a beat cop and the DARE officer of the town, her mother worked long hours at the hospital admitting room, and she had a half-brother and two younger sisters to boot, so she could have used a little financial help. But the program didn’t start until 1997, a year after she had graduated from tiny Parker’s Chapel High School (graduating class: 46 students).

Cordova got to college anyway, five hours away in Fayetteville. “I went as far north in the state as I could without leaving,” she says.

At first, she says, she had no clue what she wanted to do. Luckily, the University of Arkansas’s Fayetteville campus happened to have a great journalism program, and by the time senior year rolled around Cordova, who had done mostly creative writing up until college, knew that it was for her. She immediately sent in her first internship application to the offices of Southern Living in Birmingham, Alabama.

“I just assumed I’d be working in magazines, right? Because that’s what you do,” she laughs.

Southern Living rejected her application. Cordova hadn’t known that the internship was for another trade publication owned by the magazine’s publisher, and it specialized in a topic that at the time, she knew little about: cooking.

Bummed, she relied on the advice of her advisor Patsy Watkins – the first in a series of important figures who would help shape her future – and took a job with Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, a small publication with a newsroom stuffed full of former sports writers. This turned out to be fortuitous.

“Sports reporters make good business writers,” says Cordova, “because they can turn boring statistics into a human story.”

The clubhouse atmosphere must have made an impression as well, because she stayed until the editors gave her a small business column of her own. After two years she’d made Associate Editor. But then, a long-term relationship crumbled and she knew the time had come to say goodbye to the Gem State.

“I got my heart broken in Arkansas,” she says ruefully.  “I had to leave. I just could not stand to see my old life driving around in my old truck.”

Rootless for the first time in her life and not caring much where she settled, Cordova consulted the AABP list and picked 10 different cities throughout the U.S. with well-regarded independent business journals. Then she blasted a volley of applications to all four corners of the country – “even Hawaii,” she says. She got a response from City Business in New Orleans and moved immediately.

But covering business in New Orleans proved slightly more challenging than in northern Arkansas.

“I was in way over my head in New Orleans,” Cordova recalls. “I almost left and went back to Fayetteville.”

Her old job still awaited. All she’d need to do was say the word and she’d be hailed as a returning hero (partly, she says, because she had done the work of three people at the NABJ, commandeering graphics, editing and reporting).

But that didn’t happen. Instead, the second of her big helpers came through – her City Business managing editor, Keith Brannon, who convinced her to stay and tough it out. “He helped me become a better business writer,” she says of Brannon.

So Cordova rallied. She went on to a two-year stint at City Business, eventually helping the journal establish its first Web department. And again, fate intervened.  She had a falling-out with a “terrible” editor, “the worst boss I have ever worked for”, she says.

This time she had a plan.

Cordova had friends who had moved to New York, including a former colleague, Keith Pandolfi, and somehow they were making it. And she was well aware of the reputation of Crain’s New York Business: at the New Orleans and Fayetteville journals, she says, the journal “had always been held up as a standard” for clear, in-depth reporting and graphic presentation.

“I wrote  [then Crain’s editor] Greg David an absolutely glowing letter,” she says.

David contacted her shortly and told her to give him a call when she got into town. Elated, Cordova moved – and ended up selling soap in Herald Square for three months. The journal had no openings. She could have gone into public relations, as many struggling writers did. But then she thought better of it.

“I know a lot of good journalists who’ve gone into P.R.,” she says. “And you just can’t come back from it. Once someone has paid you to write what they want you to say, it’s hard to look credible as a journalist anymore.”

“They do pay better, though,” she laughs.

Finally, luck was on her side, and she landed a six-week freelance gig filling in for a health care reporter on a leave of absence. When the reporter unexpectedly returned a week early, she says, “it was a bit awkward.”

“All of my stuff was at her desk. I was kind of like, ‘Hi, I’ve been filling in for you!” she laughs. But she was determined not to leave just yet. “I just sort of moved everything to a different desk nearby,” she says, and waited to hear from David. And when the journal’s fashion reporter left unexpectedly, she was there to take over.

She stayed on the fashion desk for the next three and a half years. The beat culminated in one of the best scoops of her reporting career, when she anticipated in a story that fashion icon Liz Claiborne would be completely reorganizing her empire. And it was during this time, in 2005, that she met her husband, John Cordova, with whom she now has a one-year-old daughter, Olivia. The two are expecting their second child in October.

She and her husband never would never have met, she says, if her friend Keith Pandolfi had been a bit less hung-over. She, Pandolfi and two other New Orleans friends were scheduled to meet for a brunch at Prune in the Lower East Side. Pandolfi cancelled, and one spot at their table unexpectedly opened up.  “John was there by himself,” she says, and the place was packed.

“I just thought, ‘that guy’s never going to get to eat,” she remembers. So she invited him to dine with she and her friends.

Her altruism paid off. It turned out they were a perfect match. John was a line cook at Le Bernardin, the famous fish spot, and an aspiring chef. Cordova loved to try new restaurants and occasionally cooked for her friends.  A year and a half later, they were married and living in Brooklyn, where they are on their fourth apartment. The two recently returned to Prune for the fifth anniversary of their meeting.

Spending the last four years helping create and edit news, video and graphics for the Web – she was just promoted to senior news editor last January – Cordova has learned a few things about what makes good business news.

“I was really intimidated by business journalism at first. I knew nothing about business,” she says.

But she’ll always remember a lesson she learned as a rookie reporter covering small, local companies, years ago, in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

“The best business reporters,” she says, “get at the people behind the numbers.”

05.02.2011 – Joy, Caution Mix in Bin Laden’s Wake – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

Joy, caution mix in Bin Laden’s wake

Security tightened at key sites while jubilant mood breaks out all over town; down at Ground Zero work goes on. Bin Laden’s killing to be museum exhibit.

(my contribution is the on-the-ground reporting from Ground Zero – about the last third of article)
May 2, 2011 12:29 p.m.
Osama bin Laden is dead

Elisabeth Butler Cordova
A few revelers gathered early Monday morning in Times Square to mark the death of terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Updated: May 2, 2011 5:06 p.m.

While crowds gathered at Ground Zero and other places around town to celebrate news of the death of Osama Bin Laden, public officials and others quickly moved to tighten security at key locations around the city.

At an afternoon press conference at Ground Zero, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that while the city has not received any specific threats in response to the killing of Bin Laden, the police, along with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, have increased security throughout the city.

Additional national guard troops have been stationed at Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station. Similarly, police and K9 units have stepped up searches throughout the subway. There are also more helicopters flying patrols over the city and harbor police units are monitoring boat traffic.

“We cannot take any chances,” said Mr. Kelly. Bin Laden’s “disciples would like nothing better than to avenge his death.”

MTA Chairman Jay Walder said the heightened security measures would remain in effect “until further notice.” He encouraged New Yorkers to contact authorities if they see suspicious activity.

The Port Authority directed its police force to increase its presence at all Port facilities, including the World Trade Center site. Meanwhile, security was also stepped up at hotels and other facilities.

Security personnel at all Marriott properties in the city, for example, were told to be “extra alert because of the news announced last night,” said Kathleen Duffy, a spokeswoman for the nearly dozen properties in the city. She added, however, that at this point: “We don’t see a cause for concern based on what’s been communicated to us.”

Meanwhile, hotels that tend to attract high-level dignitaries, such as the Waldorf-Astoria and the St. Regis are getting extra protection from the New York Police Department, according to Anthony Roman, chief executive of Roman & Associates, a security consulting and global investigation firm.

“The Waldorf Astoria has more undercover NYPD officers watching it today, and they may put a uniformed officer in front of its entrance to act as a deterrent,” Mr. Roman said. Other hotels may assign additional security to a particular shift.

These reactions to the heightened alert in the city will likely last several days or up to two weeks, Mr. Roman predicted.

Officials at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum said they would now begin work developing an exhibition on the killing of Bin Laden for the museum that is scheduled to open a year from September. It was, of course, too soon to know what shape the exhibit would take.

“It’s our responsibility to tell the full story of 9/11 as major events related to it unfold,” said Joe Daniels, president of the memorial and museum organization. “There’s no question this event requires a significant and important addition to the exhibitions.”

Mr. Daniels also said the fact that Bin Laden was killed before the important tenth anniversary of the attacks—on which the long-awaited memorial will open—was a huge relief to the victim’s family members. It also put the terrorist attacks back front and center into the public’s consciousness, just in time for the memorial opening.

“It shows you that 9/11 and its unfolding story is a part of our lives right now, and it’s great when people remember what happened that day,” Mr. Daniels said.

Down at Ground Zero, officials faced a potential disruption of another sort Monday morning as the news of Bin Laden’s death quickly touched off an avalanche of requests from media organizations clamoring for access to the site. In the end the Port Authority, which owns the site, had to bar all news organizations.

“No work would have been able to progress,” said a spokesman for the Port. “We didn’t want to pick and choose (among the media).”

Media were allowed on the site, however, for a 1 p.m. press conference held by Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the site where 4 World Trade Center is going up. He was accompanied by Mr. Ward, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Mr. Kelly, Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano and other public officials to address Bin Laden’s death.

At Ground Zero, each day about 2,000 construction workers enter the 16-acre site where work is progressing on the memorial, museum, One World Trade Center, 4 World Trade Center and the Calatrava transit hub.

The memorial is supposed to be ready by the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and the museum is scheduled to open a year later.

One World Trade now stands 64 stories tall and is expected to reach 104 stories by the end of the year. The 3.1 million-square-foot tower is expected to be completed by 2013 and publishing company Condé Nast has been negotiating to lease 1 million square feet in the property. That lease is expected to be signed this month.

At the same time, 4 World Trade, which is owned by Larry Silverstein, is up to 23 floors, and the 72-story tower is expected to be competed by the end of 2013.

One organization that was quick to praise the killing of Osama Bin Laden was Park51, the proposed Muslim community center downtown. A posting on its Facebook page Monday read: “Park51 welcomes the news that Osama bin Laden has been brought to justice. An international terrorist and mass murderer, his killing is a milestone in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.”

For Nelson Telfare, wearing a U.S. Army veteran’s baseball cap as he sold small American flags around St. Paul’s Chapel across the street from Ground Zero, Bin Laden’s death was a bit of a let down commercially anyway. Despite the unusually large number of people filling the sidewalks Mr. Telfare said he’d sold only about 40 of the small flags as of Monday morning for about a buck each–he says he bought them in Koreatown for 15 cents each.

“It’s not brisk sales,” he said, blaming the fact that many of the people were European tourists.

“A lot of them just smile at me,” he said. “I’m selling, but I would say 90% of the people here are foreigners. And they’re not really feeling that American pride, you know what I mean?”

Brandon Neumann of Melbourne, Australia, was visiting the city when news of Mr. Bin Laden’s death broke last night. He said he remembered vividly when the Twin Towers were attacked, and he felt the need to “join in the celebration.”

“America’s pretty much our closest ally,” he said. “What they feel we feel as well.”

Next door at the Stage Door Deli, business boomed. At least a dozen employees milled behind the counter to help the throngs. Manager Vicky Tavlos said the scene was reminiscent of a 9/11 anniversary, with crowds gathering “straight through from midnight to 7 a.m. this morning.”

The Stage Door shut down for six months after the attacks, and for a year after reopening the place served mostly clean-up crew workers, Ms. Tavlos said. “In the years after, it became sad and slow,” she said.

Since rebuilding started in earnest during the past two years, however, Ms. Tavlos said she has seen signs of a renaissance: “The dynamic is changing, with the Downtown Alliance [promoting local development], even residential and commercial projects. Every little bit is helping.”

Dozens of World Trade Center construction workers, both for the buildings and the memorials, gathered Monday for a lunch break at Zucotti Park.

“Everybody’s got a little bit more bounce in their step today,” said W&W Glass project manager Bruce Hernsdorf, in charge of exterior glass and stainless steel façade work on the Memorial Pavilion.

When finished, the Memorial Pavilion will rise three stories over the entrance to an underground museum between the memorial fountains—“basically equivalent to that pyramid over the Louvre,” Mr. Hernsdorf explained.

Work didn’t slow down Monday, he said. Construction deadlines are short and security at the site already is very tight.

“We go through a retina scan, just like the movies,” Mr. Hernsdorf said. “You’ve got to go through a three-week background check to get a card just so they’ll let you on site.”

Miriam Kreinin Souccar, Jeremy Smerd and Benjamin J. Spencer contributed to this article.

04.28.2011 – Refinancings Plummeted in Minority Areas – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

Refinancings plummeted in minority areas

Approvals for refinanced mortgages fell by 14% in New York City neighborhoods with sizeable minority populations while soaring 110% in predominantly white areas at height of recession.

By Benjamin J. Spencer
April 28, 2011 1:57 p.m
The number of mortgage refinancings approved by lenders in New York City’s neighborhoods with sizeable minority populations “plummeted” from 2008 to 2009, the last year for which figures are available, according to report released Thursday by the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, a fair housing nonprofit. The drop occurred even as refinancings in predominately white neighborhoods soared.

The figures are drawn from a national report covering seven large urban areas, in which NEDAP partnered with six other urban justice organizations. The groups examined the most current federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, focusing on conventional mortgage refinancings.

Combining the New York City figures with demographic data, the group found that lenders decreased the number of loans made in neighborhoods “of color” by 14%, while loans approved to applicants in predominately white neighborhoods soared by 110%.

“In New York, we’re seeing a step in exactly the wrong direction,” said Sarah Ludwig, a co-director of NEDAP. She said the disparity points to the existence of a “dual credit market that corresponds to the racial composition of neighborhoods.”

In a separate statement, she added that “Fair access to credit is absolutely critical to New York City’s communities of color, which have decidedly borne the brunt of the foreclosure crisis—on top of decades of persistent lending discrimination.”

Caitlyn Brazill of New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy said that the rate of housing depreciation could be a factor in lower bank approvals. She pointed to an October 2010 report by the Furman Center focusing on individual borrowers rather than geographic data.

“We did look at home price depreciation across New York City,” Ms. Brazill said, “and there have been greater rates of depreciation in predominately minority areas.”

The NEDAP report also found that loan applications from particularly African-American and Hispanic communities fell even further—by 27%—than approvals from 2008 to 2009, the depths of the recession. During the same period, applications originating from majority white neighborhoods went the other direction, soaring 78%.

Ms. Ludwig said this suggested that banks had not reached out enough to those hardest hit by the subprime mortgage crisis. “There definitely doesn’t seem to be a lot of marketing to these communities,” she said.

The New York Bankers Association did not have an immediate reply.

CLARIFICATION: The report found that approvals for refinanced mortgages fell 14% in New York City neighborhoods with sizeable minority populations. NEDAP partnered with six other organizations nationwide to produce the report, of which New York City numbers were one part, and NEDAP Co-director Sarah Ludwig said banks are not doing enough marketing in minority neighborhoods. These facts were unclear in an earlier version of this article.