Brooklyn Mom Needs Bone Marrow Transplant

The family and friends of Jennifer Jones Austin are reaching out to the African-American community to find a donor that can save the life of the Brooklyn mother of two who has devoted her professional life to helping disadvantaged children and families in New York City.

Ms. Jones Austin, 41, has been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and told that her chances of surviving the disease are slim unless she receives within the next few months a bone marrow transplant, which today is as simple as a giving blood. The most common process, the peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation, is a non-surgical out-patient procedure where the donor gives blood from an arm; a machine separates the blood-forming cells and returns the blood to the donor through the other arm.

“Jennifer is African-American and the chance of finding a match from African-American donors is 1 in 20,000, while the chance of finding a match from outside of her race is 1 in 1,000,000,” said Jamie D. Mitchell-Bowen, a friend whose children attend the same school as Ms. Jones Austin’s children.

“The “Be The Match Registry” is in great need of registered donors of African-American descent because while the Caucasian population has a 92+ percent chance of finding a match in the Registry, Jen and other members of minority groups have significantly less than half of that chance of finding a match in the current pool of donors,” Ms. Mitchell-Bowen said. “Recent statistical research indicates that there are more than 5 million Caucasian registrants and only about 500,000 registrants of African descent.”

Ms Mitchell-Bowen said today’s medical technology allows for testing of potential donors as well as actual transplants with little disruption to the life of the donor(s). Testing, for example, is a simple swab of the inside of the cheek. Ms. Jones Austin’s supporters have organized testing in Donor Identification Drives in homes, churches, and other locations throughout New York City, New Jersey, Ohio, and Maryland during December and January, and are seeking additional sites.

The scheduled testing locations are located on the Save Jennifer website at http://www.savejenaustin.com/events.php.

In New York City, a Donor Identification Drive is scheduled for  Sunday, December 20, 2009 – 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Bethany Baptist Church, 460 Marcus Garvey Boulevard, Brooklyn, NY.

Additional donor drives are listed at http://www.icla.org , click on events and then marrow drives. These drives are being conducted by the registry and will also help Ms. Jones Austin find a donor.

On-line registration is another way for people to get tested. People may register online by going to http://join.marrow.org/JJA1068. Note that the “promo code is JJA1068. They will receive an at-home testing kit without charge, and have the option of making a monetary donation. The kit contains everything one needs to retrieve a testing sample at home. It is quick, painless and easy to do. Once the sample test is completed, it should be returned to the registry to be tested in an enclosed stamped envelope.

Ms. Jones Austin was born and raised in Brooklyn and currently resides in the borough. She is the youngest daughter of the late Rev. William Augustus Jones II, who was pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn for 43 years. In addition to the devotion and commitment she shows to her own family, Ms. Jones Austin has dedicated her life to helping improve the lives of lower income and disadvantaged children and their families. Her efforts have benefited thousands of people across New York State and beyond, improving their chances for better health, education, and a safe living environment.

Professionally, Ms. Jones Austin is Senior Vice President of Community Investment for the United Way of New York City. Prior to joining the United Way, she served as New York City’s first Family Services Coordinator, a position to which she was appointed by Mayor Bloomberg after four years as a Deputy Commissioner in the City’s Administration for Children’s Services. As Family Services Coordinator, she was responsible for leading multiple interagency initiatives for children and families. She also played a lead coordination role in supporting the work of the Mayor’s Commission for Economic Opportunity. She has also served as Civil Rights Deputy Bureau Chief for Policy, Legislation and Public Outreach for then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, and as the Vice President of Development for LearnNow/Edison Schools Inc.

She is an alumna of Rutgers University, where she earned a BA degree; Fordham, where she earned a JD degree; and New York University, where she earned an MS in Management and Policy.

Citywide Business Coalition Unites Against Paid Sick Time Bill

Irene LoRe, executive director of the 5th Avenue BID, and Carl Hum, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce after the City Hall press conference.

Small business owners from across the five boroughs of New York City, chambers of commerce, non-profit organizations, trade associations and more gathered on the steps of City Hall to speak out against the New York City Council’s proposed Paid Sick Time bill (Intro No 1059). The group, representing an unprecedented and diverse coalition, says the bill will hurt the city’s economy and local businesses.

“While Intro No 1059 is well-intentioned, its impact, both short and long term, will be damaging to the business community to the tune of about two to three billion dollars in new costs. Our business and non-profit communities are trying to weather current economic challenges, maintain current levels and look toward future growth through job creation, yet they are being asked to shoulder this latest burden,” said Jack Freidman, Queens Chamber of Commerce. “How can the City’s business community compete when they are at such a disadvantage?” he added.

“Our printing company has 32 full-time employees. We currently offer six paid sick days and forcing us to offer nine paid sick days will cost our business another $30,000 per year and that will be a burden on our company which is challenged by this current economy. I will have to cut down on their vacation time to cover these costs,” states KY Chow, GM Printing in Long Island City. In addition, other businesses have indicated that they will scale back on other benefits as well as reconsider new hires and expansion plans. Continue reading

Hudson Development on Track for LEED-GOLD

DSC00393

Lori Rafael, director of Real Estate for the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Alison Novak and David Kramer of Hudson Companies, and Karen Auster, marketing consultant for the project and head of Auster Events.

David Kramer, of Hudson development, held an open house November 12 for members of the Brooklyn Chamber’s Real Estate Development Committee at the firm’s new green, luxury residential project in Brooklyn–third + bond.

Third + bond, which is expected to receive LEED-GOLD and Energy Star designations, will be completed in the Spring of 2010. Prices range from $311,500 for a studio to $1,381,000 for a three+ bedroom with three baths. The development is approved for FHA and SONYMA mortgages, and offers mortgages with as little as 3.5% down and interest rates as low as 4.75%. Corcoran is the exclusive sales and marketing agent. Continue reading

The Evolution of Economic Development in the Outer Boroughs

One day in the mid-1980s while I was walking down 42nd Street near 5th Avenue I saw that someone had painted “New York City is a Marxist, Leninist Hell” on a piece of plywood outside a construction site.

I laughed out loud. I had recently arrived here, one of the thousands of young professionals elbowing their way into New York City every year like waves of soldiers storming the Normandy beaches.

What I found in my adopted city was a healthy dose of free market love on the corporate level, but a peculiar bias against free markets among all social classes on the local level.

For example, a highly compensated executive I knew lived with his professional wife in a rent stabilized penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side around 72nd Street that featured two bedrooms, two baths, and a wraparound deck with breathtaking views of Manhattan; all for a whopping $800! With the money he saved on rent, he invested in a country house in Connecticut where he retreated on weekends and holidays.

After growing up in a state where land and private property are revered, and only people with low incomes qualify for subsidized housing, I found the City’s rent control laws mystifying and extremely unfair, particularly to newcomers and young people. 

With a salary of less than $30,000, my housing options were limited so I headed to the outer boroughs. For around $850, which included rent and electric heat, I landed a tiny apartment in the attic of a brownstone in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Continue reading

Commercial Real Estate Distress Far From Over, Survey Shows

With high unemployment pushing up vacancies, no credit capacity, and property values plummeting, commercial real estate markets remain extremely stressed with little prospect for significant near-term improvement, according to The Real Estate Roundtable’s latest quarterly survey of senior commercial real estate executives.

All three indices tracked by the “Sentiment Survey” have risen considerably since the near-collapse of financial markets last fall–a reflection of respondents’ collective sense of relief at having survived the worst of the turmoil, and the extreme uncertainty and paralysis of last year giving way to a greater sense of acceptance of market realities. However, the latest numbers–particularly the “Current Conditions” reading of 56–remain well below the ideal 100.  An overall index of 100 means all survey respondents have answered that conditions today are “much better” than they were a year ago, and will be “much better” 12 months from now.

“The problems now are more clearly defined and there’s a grim sense of reality setting in, but that’s a long way from saying markets are stabilizing or that conditions are on the mend,” said Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer. “With job losses mounting, consumer confidence in the doldrums, and a relapse of the recession still possible, additional policy action is needed to restore credit availability–the lubricant of the economy and job creation–and to address the equity shortage resulting from falling commercial property values,” DeBoer continued.

An overwhelming majority of the 100+ respondents in the Q4 survey said property values are down today vs. a year ago, although the percentage declined to 77 percent from 93 percent in the previous quarter. But respondents were far from optimistic about future valuations, with 71 percent saying they expect values to remain “about the same” or to erode even further in the next 12 months.

“So-called “zombie buildings” and empty storefronts on Main Street will only mean bigger budget shortfalls for local governments, more layoffs for construction, hotel and retail workers, and further devaluation of investment portfolios held by individual and institutional investors,” DeBoer added. Continue reading

We Can Dream Again

There was something so poignant about watching the Yankees win the World Series this year. After more than a year of economic gloom, the Yankees reminded us, as they always do, that if you work hard, stay focused, believe in yourself, keep showing up, maintain your grace, dignity, and faith, someday you’ll be back on top.

I’ve watched Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada play for so long that seeing them together in another World Series felt like having all the kids home for the holidays. Where did the time go? Wasn’t it just yesterday that they were all in their 20s?

jack

Jack, 6, after attending a Yankees game.

When the core four joined the Yankees, my son, Jack, was just starting his Little League career and New York City was pulling itself out of a recession. Real estate prices had fallen so far that they didn’t return to their 1988 levels until 1998. Later we survived the Dot-com bust and then there was the tragedy of 9-11. 

 The night the Yankees lost the 2001 World Series Jack, who was 11 at the time, broke down and cried. After all the City had gone through in the weeks following September 11, he felt we deserved that victory, that we needed to win more than any other city because we had suffered the most.  He was heartbroken when it didn’t happen.

I’ve often thought that Jack had bottled up the horror of 9-11 until that night and with the Yankees defeat it all came pouring out–the classmate’s dad who died; the 12 missing firefighters who worked out of the firehouse he walked by to and from school every day; the eerie buzz of dozens of airliners streaming over his touch football game in Prospect Park the day the airports reopened; endless memorial services; the smell of death that hung over the City for months.

That heartbroken little boy from 2001 grew up and is away at college. Now we’re in the middle of a different kind of national crisis, the Great Recession. But the Yankees victory this week gave us hope for better days when we won’t be dwelling on office vacancy rates, falling condo prices, distressed properties, or the credit crunch.

Andy, Derek, Mariano, and Jorge, we’ve been through a lot together over the years.  Thanks for reminding us that we can dream again.

A Little Bit Bullish

arew“I can’t believe I’m here being a little bit bullish,” said Barry M. Gosin, CEO of Newmark Knight and Frank at the November 3 Association of Real Estate Women luncheon.

Gosin said he is seeing positive absorption in the Midtown market and that his firm was having a good fourth quarter. He admitted, however, that the first quarter of 2009 set the bar so low that anything would look better.

“I was so bearish for so long, for probably four years, that everyone got tired of hearing me cry wolf,” Gosin said.

David R. Greenbaum, president of Vornado Office, said the market is extraordinarily healthy when you look back 12 months when the industry was facing disaster. No business wanted to make leasing decisions a year ago because they weren’t sure that they were going to survive.

Greenbaum said, “As tenant brokers, we’ve said to tenants, ‘if you’re confident that your business will survive, this is the time to look into a long-term lease.’”

Rents have dropped and velocity is down. For example, a building that rented office space at $90 a square foot at the height of the market, will rent that same space today at $65 a square foot.

With an office vacancy rate of about 14 percent, Gosin said tenants will move to financially stable buildings with good owners and managers and stay away from signing leases in “zombie buildings” that are financially troubled. Continue reading