Archive for November, 2012

Private Equity and Investment in Retail in New York Boost M&As

According to PwC’s Q3 2012 report, retail and consumer M&A in New York were buoyed by spin-off businesses, private equity, cross-border activity, investment in retail and e-commerce growth during the third quarter.

During the period, 32 deals were made in the retail and consumer sectors. These were worth more than $50 million. Meanwhile, six “mega” deals also took place during the third quarter with a collective value of more than $13.9 billion. Last year, the same period had 60% less growth in the retail sector, with only four $4.3 billion mega deals.

PwC’s Leanna Sardiga said:

“Third quarter M&A activity advanced at a brisk pace with significant increases in total deal volume and value from a year ago. With improving consumer sentiment, retail and consumer companies continue to use acquisitions as a vehicle for growth and for adapting to new consumer trends. A strong interest among private equity investors for retail combined with international and e-commerce related acquisitions for R&C corporate buyers are expected to drive the positive outlook for the retail and consumer sector.”

She added, “Deal activity in the consumer space was partially driven by large CPG companies selling non-core operations and brands, and we expect the trend to continue over the next 12 months as CPG companies look to sell underperforming assets and reinvest in higher margin or growth products and markets. Private equity will continue to focus on the restaurant industry and be active in the subsector as they see opportunities to improve operating efficiencies during the economic downturn and position for growth.’’

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Lower East Side’s Henry Street Settlement Helping People After Sandy

Henry Street Settlement Helping Elderly After Sandy

The Henry Street Settlement, one of the largest social service providers on the Lower East Side, was passing out hamburgers and hot dogs to residents of the Vladeck public housing complex on Wednesday as New Yorkers began to assess the damage and recover from the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy.

The food was left over from a recent community day held right before the storm devastated the region on Sunday and Monday with its relentless winds, rain and flooding.

David Garza, the executive director of Henry Street said that 83 families had to be evacuated from the Urban Family center, a shelter close to the FDR Drive. Others were removed from Helen’s House, another facility for single mothers and children below age 8, which is located on Henry Street.

There were 14 trucks on the street on Sunday and Monday operated by the Henry Street “Meals on Wheels” program together with University Settlement and the Chinese Planning Council.  According to Garza the organizations intend to continue serving the more than one-thousand elderly all over the Lower East Side. On Wednesday the staff at Henry Street delivered food to senior residents that live on high floors of the Vladeck Houses.

Garza added that Hurricane Sandy caused extensive damage to Henry Street buildings. Sandy caused hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage in the basement of the Urban Family Center which had bad flooding.

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Lower East Side and East Village Receive Historic Landmark Status

East Village Gets Historic Status

About 330 buildings on the Lower East Side and the East Village have been approved for historic landmark status by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The designation goes into effect immediately, despite some complaints from a few of the religious institutions in the area.

The landmark status will create an historic district that will stretch up Second Avenue between East Second and East Seventh streets. Also included are a few blocks around First Avenue, with a total of about 15 blocks of buildings slated as historic landmarks.

Executive Director Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation explained that the designation is necessary if the neighborhood is to maintain its historic flavor.

"The East Village is one of New York's oldest and most historic neighborhoods," Berman said. "It's a place that has had an outsized effect on the city's and the nation's history, and it's very much in danger of losing that character due to out of context new development."

Not everyone in the neighborhood is happy with the new status, however. The designation will require permission from the LPC before any major renovations or demolitions can be done on the buildings to assure that the changes "do not detract from the special character of the city's landmarks and historic districts," according to the commission. Heads of non-profit and religious organizations with buildings in the historic areas are afraid meeting the requirements of the commission could be costly, burdening these organizations further.

Richard Wright of the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection, located on East Second Street between First and Second Avenues is one such neighbor with worries.

"We have spent nearly $1 million in the last decade alone conserving our building and for the city to come in and tell us that they can do it better is, quite frankly, an insult," Wright complained.  He is also afraid that the designation could lead to gentrification.

Berman says that this should not be a concern and that provisions to help non-profits maintain their buildings within the historic status with financial support are built into the law. Grants and financial aid will be made available.

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Charter Schools Gain Momentum in NYC and Beyond

According to a recent report, charter schools are growing more and more popular. Over the last two years, the number of students in these schools increased by nearly 13%. This data comes from the nonprofit advocacy group National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Charter schools are educational institutes that are publicly financed but privately operated. According to the NAPCS, many cities’ charter schools have begun enrolling a large percentage of public school students.

In New York City, more than 48,000 public school students attended charter schools in 2012. This is an increase of 24% since last year. Victory Schools, a consulting company that provides management and support for charter schools, aims to greatly improve the level of education and performance at schools in the area.

Meanwhile, the biggest increase in charter school enrollments was in New Orleans. Many of the city’s schools were destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. As a result, more than 70% of students in the area attend charter schools.

Additional cities with more than 30% of public school students in charter schools include Detroit, Washington D.C., St. Louis and many others.

National Alliance chief executive Nina Rees said: “To the extent families are in need of other options, growth does indicate there is something missing in the public school system.”

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New York’s Tap Water: Top Quality?

New York City has long had the reputation of having close to the best quality tap water throughout the nation. But now, the issue of the purity of its water, is being questioned and used for a potential business opportunity.  A store in the East Village is now selling New York City tap water.  But Molecule is insisting that this is “not just any tap water,” since it streams through a filtering machine using UV rays, ozone treatments and reverse osmosis.  Indeed, the processing treatment encompasses seven stages, in order to create the end result – “pure H20.”

And it’s not a cheap process either – the machine costs $25,000 – but Molecule co-owner Adam Ruhf insists that it’s worth it as he never has to be concerned about spoiled products or storage costs.  As well, for those with a sensitive palate, they can really tell the difference in taste of the water.

Much Ado About Nothing?

At the end of the day though, is this just all a scam?  Doesn’t the city of New York already boast really great quality water?  And if that is the case, why on earth would someone want to pay $2.50 for a 16 ounce glass of something they can get from their taps at home?  Especially since a spokesman for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection pointed out that the general consensus among public health experts is that the water in the city is “among the safest, highest quality in the world.”  They know this through the 500,000+ tests that are conducted on an annual basis.

Still, Ruhf isn’t convinced.  He believes that the water still contains chemicals and chlorine and thus there is a niche for Molecule. He says that the water is tastier, fluffy and finishes smoothly.  As well, it is imbued with herbs, roots and even pH infusions.

NYC Tap Water: The Facts

If New York City had anything to hide about the quality of its water, then it probably wouldn’t be showcasing it through its Water-On-the-Go program. Organized by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the program is keeping New Yorkers hydrated through its portable fountains that are being installed at special events throughout the five boroughs.

Furthermore, it claims that the water supplies in NYC are practically lead-free. While there is a chance that lead can leach into water via old plumbing, sampling suggests that most of NYC taps produce water containing insignificant (if any) quantities of lead.  For those who are overly-concerned however, they can call 311 for a free testing kit.  Giardia and Cryptosporidium have been detected in some water samples, BUT there has not been any evidence that these have caused any kind of illness among New Yorkers.  Further, all drinking water in the NYC area is chlorine-treated (killing harmful bacteria and viruses), fluoride and orthophosphate (ensuring the prevention of lead from being released into the plumbing).  There has been an argument that the exposure to chlorine and its byproducts can be linked to an increased risk for certain types of cancer, but the risk is so small vis-à-vis those linked to non-chlorinated water.


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The New York Organ Donor Network Helping Save Lives

New York Organ Donor Network

Hurricane Sandy showed the world, and New Yorkers, that during times of need the citizens of the Big Apple are more than ready to join together and help each other.  Now with the immediate crisis behind us, it is time to once again focus one of the simplest, but most profound ways people can help each other, and that is through registering on a list as someone willing to donate their organs.

The New York Donor Network is working hard to facilitate donations in 10 transplant centers and over 90 hospitals in the New York metropolitan area which serves a diverse population of more than 13 million people. Bradley Tusk of Tusk Strategies has helped the New York Donor Network to get the word out and reach such a huge population with the understanding that the more people registered as willing organ donors, the more lives can be saved.

The New York Donor Network works in the following way to maximize the number of people who can be saved through organ donations:

  • By law all New York area hospitals must inform the New York Donor Network of all deaths or imminent deaths within their hospital.
  • Expert and well-trained staff at the Donor Network is maximally focused on helping families give their legally binding consent to allow their loved ones to become donors in the most sensitive and understanding way possible.
  •  In the case of someone who is not listed in the New York State Donate Life Registry, then the New York Donor Network will help family members or other authorized persons to give their consent to the donation.
  • The Donor Network provides follow-up care and referrals to families who agree to the donation or to those families and loved ones of the individual who had already legally consented to such a donation.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner it is a good time to focus on the ultimate gift which we are all thankful for, our lives. Those who decide to enroll in the New York State Donate Life Registry are saying that they are ready to give the gift of life even at the moment when that is taken away.  For more information on how to sign up go to the New York Organ Donor Registry web site.

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