Category Archives: business

Bush Says G20 Made Progress, Warns of Slow Recovery

nbcbyline

Check out this piece I wrote for nbcnewyork.com.

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A whole new world on the other Fifth Avenue

The nail salon where elderly Chinese women performed manicures and pedicures now sells pre-prepared organic meals – a side order of macaroni and cheese that serves four costs $14. A boutique clothing store marketing hand made wallets for $35 fills the space where a father and son team ran their plumbing business for fifteen years. The local pharmacy that once supplied neighborhood residents with antibiotics now brews fair-trade espresso.

As rents rose along Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue, the faces of storefronts changed, and in the past five years a new breed of stores have moved in and planted the seeds for future growth and stability by organizing a business improvement district, which taxes participating businesses and then uses that money for overall improvements for the avenue.

“It is a totally new kind of shop coming into Fifth Avenue,” said Carl Hum, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

This newest wave of gentrification in the south Brooklyn neighborhood, an idea Sharon Zukin, author of The Culture of Cities, says people refer to as super-gentrification, refers to the rich replacing the slightly less rich, which is a stark contrast to the normal perception of gentrification – the displacement of the poor by the wealthy.

Park Slope looks a lot different than it did in the 1980s, when Gentrification 1.0 hit. During that time drug dealers found new corners from which to peddle and the last embers of trash can fires burnt as abandoned storefronts filled and buildings rose in vacant lots. After 9/11, during Gentrification 2.0, wealthy, young Manhattanites fled to Brooklyn, buying up the neighborhood’s brownstones, people some Brooklynites jokingly dubbed “trustafarians,” in reference to the disposable income that came with them. Their presence in the neighborhood courted upscale restaurants and bars. Today, in Gentrification 3.0, a range of savvy business people opening upscale boutiques and salons have set up shop in the area—and they’re banning together to mitigate any risk of being the next business pushed out in Gentrification 4.0.

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Bagel stores in Brooklyn battle rising prices

Check out the multimedia package my classmate Kate and I put together.

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Quote of the day

From Thomas L. Friedman’s New York Times’ piece “It’s a Flat World, After All:”

“If Wal-Mart were a country, it would be China’s eighth largest trading partner.”

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O’Neal’s deal irks the masses

CEO Pay Where Are They NowE. Stanley O’Neal, the former chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch, jumped from the storied brokerage house in October 2007 with a parachute made of gold.

As Merrill Lynch wrote down the largest quarterly loss in the investment bank’s 93-year history, and watched its stock value plummet, O’Neal walked away with $161 million in pocket.

The profit-laden departure spurred a collective grunt from the public.

“I sure wish I could find a company to work for where I could do a terrible job, lose my employer over two (2) billion dollars and then have the company hand me a check for $160 million dollars as I was being kicked out of my office,” wrote disgruntled blogger Mark Hutcherson.

At a time where home foreclosures are rampant and jobs are being shed by the thousands, the multi-million dollar packages paid to CEOs who torpedoed their companies into the subprime mortgages that started this whole mess prove even more egregious.

In 2005, O’Neal told the Times, “We’ve got the right people in place as well as good risk management and controls.” Two years later, Merrill was writing down billions of dollars from the firm’s failed investment in risky securities.

The $160 million severance pay – though part of O’Neal’s contract way before Merrill started posting huge quarterly losses – highlights the massive discrepancy between performance and pay in the finance sector.

Arguably, O’Neal did not mean to drive Merrill Lynch into the state in which Bank of America acquired it. However, his risky investments while at Merrill’s helm, and the firm’s consequential demise, should take a toll on O’Neal’s compensation.

“If my carpenter did a lousy job that I only discovered after the fact, I’d demand my money back. The same rules should apply to corporate incentive compensation,” wrote Steven M. Davidoff on the New York Times DealBook blog.

Adam, a commenter on a Blogging Stocks post, expressed a similar sentiment; “Mr. O’Neal had a fiduciary responsibility to his board of directors and most importantly to the Merrill shareholders. He certainly is entitled to an “F” grade for such performance.”

And that’s what it comes down to – responsibility. O’Neal enjoyed the perks on the way up, and he should suffer the losses on the way down.

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