2020-07-06 — nytimes.com
... [Long Island City,] as in Manhattan, a number of factors, including changing tax incentives and the retreat of foreign buyers, have slowed sales just as many new projects have been coming online. In Long Island City, out of 1,945 condo units completed since 2018, nearly 60 percent remain unsold, he said.
"If you're a shoemaker, and 60 percent of your shoes haven't sold, you've either made the wrong shoes, or you've made too many," he said.
The problem is not necessarily too much building -- there is huge demand for affordable housing in the city. It's a matter of what was built, agents said.
"There is simply no demand for two-bedroom apartments that are 950 square feet and go for $1.5 million," said Patrick W. Smith, an agent with Corcoran who specializes in Long Island City, referring to the recent trend toward apartments with less square footage but higher-end finishes. The average size of a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan is 1,344 square feet, according to Jonathan J. Miller, the president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants.
Mr. Smith considers himself lucky that his upcoming projects are still in the planning stages, which means the developers still have time to change their layouts to react to the coronavirus. At one upcoming project, the ubiquitous open floor plan has been modified to create an old-fashioned foyer -- a decontamination area of sorts before entering the living room. At another, some kitchens will shrink to make way for offices, now that so many people are working from home.
The lasting impact of Covid-19 is not lost on buyers. Gary Hirshfield, a 58-year-old ophthalmologist who works in Queens, moved with his wife, Stacey Kruger, also an ophthalmologist, into a three-bedroom penthouse at Galerie, a nearby condo project, at the end of 2019. Now he is having second thoughts.
"Today, if I could get my money out, I'd consider it," Mr. Hirshfield said. For the cost of his 1,690-square-foot apartment, he said he could have bought a 5,000-square-foot house with some land in the suburbs. But Long Island City appealed to him because of the restaurant scene, its proximity to Manhattan, and the high-end fitness center in the building (now closed to residents). He still believes in the value of the project, but doesn't know when he'll feel safe enough to use the gym again.
Some buildings are already sweetening the pot to entice new buyers. At the Neighborly, where prices range from $585,000 for a roughly 440-square-foot studio to $2 million for a three-bedroom penthouse, the developer, New Empire Corp., is offering to pay residents' taxes and common charges for the first full year, almost $10,000 for a one-bedroom. Another project, Corte, offered a number of "rent-to-own" plans, in which a renter would pay toward ownership -- a tactic more commonly seen during the last recession.
It's unclear how well the units will be received in this new climate, but early data suggests hurdles ahead. Nearly a quarter of New York City rentals were discounted in May, up from 15 percent in the same period last year. And the discounting was most pronounced in buildings with more than 50 units, where the median discount was 9.3 percent below the original asking price, according to Nancy Wu, an economist with the real estate listings site StreetEasy. She calls that discount the "social distancing premium," because the data suggests renter wariness with more crowded buildings.
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