Reviews for Other People's Money : Inside the Housing Crisis and the Demise of the Greatest Real Estate Deal Ever Made

Choice Reviews 2013 November
This history of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village apartment complex in Manhattan intertwines the themes of the US real estate boom and bust and the decline of affordable housing for the middle class. Much of the story is based on interviews Bagli, a New York Times reporter, conducted. His account is a saga of good intentions gone awry as well as the dysfunctions of the financial and real estate worlds. The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village redevelopment project for middle-income housing after WW II later evolved into a profit-maximizing enterprise that pushed out old tenants to make room for higher-paying residents. The author creates suspense with the "greatest real estate deal ever made"--the sale of this apartment complex in 2006 at the peak of the bubble. Readers wonder who will win the bid and at what price. Soon after the sale came the crash of the real estate market, with colossal losses, leaving tenants wondering what would happen to them. Much of the saga is a consequence of rent control, taxes, and subsidies that skew outcomes. The book provides excellent insight into the boom and bust from the perspective of this particular, quite significant development. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Professionals/Practitioners. F. E. Foldvary San Jose State University Copyright 2013 American Library Association.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 March #1
A detailed recounting of a gigantic affordable-housing failure in New York City amid the international economic collapse beginning in 2008. New York Times reporter Bagli documents what happened to Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, from its post–World War II birth to its spectacularly expensive sale to a new owner in 2006 to its descent into bankruptcy four years later. The complex, meant to provide affordable rental apartments to thousands of residents, had been built and managed primarily by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Although the MetLife reign had been filled with controversy, a large percentage of tenants continued to remain fiercely loyal to the owner. When MetLife decided to sell, the deal became the priciest real estate transaction in New York City history. The effective cost to the winning bidder, Tishman Speyer Properties, topped $6 billion. The institutional investors roped in to contribute to the purchase price meant Tishman Speyer made the purchase using other people's money. The author focuses on Rob Speyer, the second-generation scion of the real estate firm. The account of the failure is bracing from a variety of perspectives, including those of the tenants, the politicians, the investors and various levels of government. Bagli is less successful when he tries to place the disastrous investment within the context of the worldwide financial crisis. His attempt to describe the crisis in a relatively small number of pages fails to resonate in the same way that full-length books about the financial mess have resonated. Despite some flaws, Bagli's sourcing is impressive, and readers will welcome his ability to make arcane investment dealings comprehensible. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2012 November #1

In 2006, real estate behemoth Tishman Speyer and its partner, BlackRock, bought Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town, a middle-class housing complex on Manhattan's East Side in New York, for $5.4 billion. Four years later, Tishman Speyer defaulted, and, just like that, investors from the Church of England to the California Teachers' pension fund lost everything. Meanwhile, MetLife made $3 billion, and eight residents of the complex had the gumption to sue--and won their case in court. Bagli, the New York Times reporter who broke this story, gives us a full chronicle. Not just local news; this, perhaps the biggest failure in real estate history, says a lot about the housing crisis that's landed us where we are now.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 May #2

New York Times journalist Bagli's first book serves as a cautionary tale for the nation's real-estate recovery. As part of the 2006 sale from MetLife to Tishman Speyer Properties/BlackRock Realty of Manhattan's iconic Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village--the apartment houses built in the1940s to shelter returning World War II veterans and their families--MetLife agreed to maintain below-market rents for 25 years, enabling working-class families to live in Manhattan. In great detail, Bagli documents how MetLife's goodwill ended and the company began renovating empty units and renting them at market value, and how the more than $5 billion sale funded almost entirely by "other people's money" collapsed in ruin. After expecting fast profits that never materialized, the buyers ended up defaulting on their loan. Only $225 million, or 3.6 percent, of the loan was fronted by Tishman Speyer and BlackRock. Most came from various external entities--such as retirement systems and the Church of England--that suffered the losses. While the material is dense at times, the author makes clear how Tishman and BlackRock emerged scot-free while the financial backers and tenants did not. VERDICT For those interested in the finer details of this well-known historical real estate transaction, or of New York City real estate history in general. [See PrePub Alert, 10/8/12.]--Leigh Mihlrad, National Insts. of Health, MD

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 February #3

In recounting the collapse of "the biggest real estate deal in history," New York Times reporter Bagli provides an intriguing display of boom psychology perpetuating itself. His absorbing account of the transformation of Manhattan's mammoth Stuyvestant Town-Peter Cooper Village apartment complex from a haven for moderate-income families to a developer's dream captures the spirit of the frenzied real-estate market of the first few years of the 21st century. Bagli expands the controversial clash between developers seeking to deregulate rents and tenants concerned with marginalization of the middle class into a larger metaphor for wealth contending with basic needs. His focus, though market-based, is not exclusively economic; he also reviews, in the history of this apartment complex, the change of consciousness relating to civil rights and provides glimpses of a time when corporate paternalism seemed welcome and tenants reflexively accepted regimented conditions and rules. Current New Yorkers may derive wry amusement from the anger of tenants in 1952, when the complex owner sought to raise the monthly rent on four-room apartments to an astonishing . The reader interested in New York real estate history, its moneyed elites, or even the self-contradictory aspects of social investment should find ample material for reflection and enjoyment in Bagli's account. Agent: David Vigliano, Vigliano Associates. (Apr.)

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