It’s Manhattan’s Last Affordable Neighborhood. But for How Long?

Inwood has the lowest average rents in the borough. Now developers and their high-rise buildings are coming.

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CreditCreditMichelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Matthew Haag

For decades, Inwood has been one of New York City’s untouched gems. Nestled among rivers and rolling forest at the northernmost tip of Manhattan, the 500-acre neighborhood has again and again batted away the forces of gentrification — until now.

As the city confronts an affordable housing crisis, it has finally opened up Inwood to developers, generating fear among longtime residents and business owners who take pride in a place unlike any other in Manhattan.

Leafy and hilly, and with no building over 17 stories, Inwood is the most affordable neighborhood in the city’s most expensive borough.

Last August, Inwood became the fifth neighborhood to be rezoned under Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat whose signature housing plan calls for major development in up to 15 areas citywide — a strategy that aims to preserve and create hundreds of thousands of below-market units.

Building restrictions have been eased in parts of Inwood to allow for much taller residential buildings, some that could stretch nearly twice the height of the current skyline.

So far, the largest and most noticeable changes, such as two towering developments near the Harlem River, exist only on paper.

Behind the scenes, though, the rezoning has already brought significant changes. After the rezoning plan was announced in 2013, years before it was enacted, real estate investors swooped into Inwood and bought more than $610 million in properties, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

They have taken over thousands of residential units, most of which are rent-stabilized and owned by families or smaller real estate groups. The influx has fueled suspicion among tenants that the new landlords will seek to displace residents, deplete the stock of regulated units and raise rents.

“Ninety percent of the people who come into my office are coming for a housing issue,” said Assemblywoman Carmen N. De La Rosa, a Democrat who represents Inwood and supported the rezoning plan when she was chief of staff for the area’s Council Member. “They are being asked to appear before court because the landlords say they owe money or they are fighting them for some other reason. Landlords are fishing for reasons to get people out.”

Even before the rezoning of Inwood was approved, the city had already considered tenants there so susceptible to harassment and displacement that officials extended help, including free legal services, to those with housing issues. Since 2015, more than 11,000 tenants in Inwood have taken up the city’s offer.

The city has pledged millions of dollars to build a performing arts center in Inwood and to upgrade parks and a library branch, and it has committed to conserving and constructing at least 4,100 affordable apartments.

Skyrocketing housing costs and the disappearance of reasonably priced homes have emerged as a singular threat to the long-term economy and the quality of life in major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, San Francisco and New York. Despite widespread prosperity, they have increasingly become cost prohibitive for lower- and middle-income families.

In New York City, the de Blasio administration’s efforts have picked up where former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg left off. Mr. Bloomberg rezoned about 40 percent of the city’s land, transforming neighborhoods, such as Williamsburg in Brooklyn, where luxury towers now soar.

The administration has targeted other neighborhoods, like East New York in Brooklyn, requiring that developers seeking to profit from new real estate markets also build lower-cost housing.

Vicki Been, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development, said the city’s approach was necessary “to strengthen communities and create much-needed affordable housing.”

“We are investing additional resources to keep people in their homes and support existing businesses,” Ms. Been added.

That effort, however, has been met with resistance in the very neighborhoods it is intended to benefit, and the fight in Inwood is emblematic of a broader battle.

Opponents have gone to court to try to overturn the neighborhood’s rezoning and to force improvements in a building bought by a large landlord company.

The dual lawsuits have opened a thorny debate over whether the rezoning will ultimately push out residents, invite gentrification and create housing meant to be affordable that no one there can actually afford.

“Little did they expect the fight back, which has been incredibly vocal and active in all of the neighborhood,” said Tom Angotti, a professor emeritus of urban planning at Hunter College who wrote the 2016 book “Zoned Out! Race, Displacement, and City Planning in New York City.”

“In Inwood, it’s specifically the Dominican population that is going to be the most vulnerable,” Mr. Angotti said.

But Ingrid Gould Ellen, a faculty director at the Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy at New York University, said the argument that new construction would attract newcomers who drive up costs for everyone else was not necessarily true, citing a recent study by the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, an independent organization in Michigan.

That study, which examined more than 800 newly built multifamily buildings in a dozen major American cities, including New York, found that an influx of market-rate units improved affordability. It does so through what is known as the migration chain: Some nearby residents in low-cost units who can afford to move into the new buildings, which opens up their former, more affordable apartments to new tenants, according to the research.

“This new research should help to reassure residents who worry that new housing developments will increase their rents,” Dr. Ellen said.

But in Inwood, which has about 44,000 residents, opponents argue that the neighborhood already has plenty of housing within reach of many who live there.

The median monthly rent for an Inwood apartment in July was $2,069, about 50 percent less than the Manhattan average, according to StreetEasy. About 80 percent of the apartments there are under some form of rent regulation.

The neighborhood’s median household income is roughly $51,000, compared with nearly $80,000 for all of Manhattan, according to 2017 census figures, and just under half of the residents are foreign born.

Residents are skeptical that any plan inviting development can insulate the neighborhood from the rampant gentrification that has swept across New York.

“We have proof in our experiences of what people are out to get from all these things and what rezoning means,” said Emmanuel Antigua, 34, one of the tenants who recently sued over the conditions in their building. “I don’t see any benefit or improvement with the new management, but what I did see was harassment for the first time.”

Their new landlord, Barberry Rose Management, bought the low-rise tenement with 20 units, all of which are rent-regulated, for $3.5 million in 2016, part of a spending spree by the company in Inwood.

But after the sale, Mr. Antigua said, residents started to notice odd inconveniences. Without warning, their lobby mailboxes were removed and not replaced for weeks, preventing mail from being delivered. A keyless front door system was installed but soon stopped working. Maintenance people regularly failed to show up for repairs.

Then last August, Barberry Rose told the tenants that their monthly rent would increase by 6 percent. And in January, the company told them that it would rise by another 6 percent.

While annual rent increases for such regulated units are typically determined by the city’s Rent Guidelines Board, the company unilaterally raised rents by taking advantage of an obscure provision, known as major capital improvements, after installing a new boiler and roof. The provision allows landlords to offset the cost of such building-wide upgrades. (In June, changes to the state’s rent law capped that increase at 2 percent, down from 6 percent.)

“Since they changed the boiler, we have not had consistent heat,” said Sarah McDaniel Dyer, 34, who has lived in the building for 12 years and is the president of its new tenants’ association.

Lewis M. Barbanel, the president of Barberry Rose Management, insisted that the company had a history of maintaining affordable housing and improving building conditions.

“We look forward to addressing false and inaccurate statements about our record,” Mr. Barbanel said in an email. “We are long-term investors in the communities which we serve, and our investment decisions were not related to the Inwood rezoning.”

The most significant changes in Inwood are expected in an industrial area east of 10th Avenue, a sparsely populated section filled with one-story warehouses, auto-repair shops and a cluster of Con Edison facilities.

Two real estate companies, Taconic Investment Partners and Maddd Equities, have positioned themselves to be among the biggest beneficiaries of the rezoning. On properties the firms bought separately in 2015, they each have plans to place large mixed-use buildings that will tower over Inwood. (The companies also collectively spent several hundred thousand dollars lobbying city officials about the Inwood rezoning.)

Taconic Investment Partners plans to start construction next year on more than 700 residential units in a tower that will include some apartments that are below market value. Taconic’s chief executives did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Nearby, Maddd Equities plans to open a 30-story residential building with about 615 units.

Half of those units will be available to households that earn up to 60 percent of the area median income. In New York City, the median income for a family of four is $106,700. The other half will be available to households that earn up to 135 percent of the area median income. The developers will receive tax exemptions for creating the units.

But there is no guarantee that current Inwood residents will fill up the 30-story tower. The units will be made available through a lottery system open to residents citywide.

Matthew Haag covers the intersection of real estate and politics in the New York region. He previously was a general assignment and breaking news reporter at The Times and worked as an education reporter at The Dallas Morning News. @matthewhaag

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PH offers humanitarian aid as Japan recovers from Typhoon Hagibis – UNTV News | UNTV News – UNTV News PSP Hacks

PH offers humanitarian aid as Japan recovers from Typhoon Hagibis

Marje Pelayo   •   October 14, 2019   •   167

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is ready to provide humanitarian assistance to the government of Japan following the massive destruction brought about by the ‘violent’ Typhoon Hagibis that struck the east Asian country over the weekend.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo cited President Rodrigo Duterte’s expression of sympathy to the Japanese people for the victims of the disaster.

“The Philippine embassy in Tokyo is closely monitoring the situation and is now in coordination with the members of the Filipino community in typhoon-affected areas in Japan,” Panelo said.

“As we offer our prayers, the Office of the President has likewise asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to get in touch with its Japanese counterpart for possible humanitarian assistance we can provide,” he added.

Public broadcaster NHK reported more than 30 people were killed, almost 20 people went missing and over 160 people were injured after ‘Hagibis’ brought record-breaking volume of rainfall and flooded huge swaths of residential districts on Saturday (October 12) and Sunday (October 13) in Tokyo and other areas in central, eastern and northeastern region,

‘Hagibis,’ which means ‘speed’ in Filipino language, inundated cities and towns across Japan including those in Nagano, Niigata, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures.

Rescue efforts were ramped up for survivors as many trapped in their homes after major rivers overflowed their banks on the onset of what Japan considered as the ‘heaviest’ typhoon to hit the country in decades.

Many people were forced to abandon submerged homes.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a ministerial meeting on the typhoon held on Sunday (October 13) extended his condolences for all those who lost their lives and offered sympathy to all those impacted by Typhoon Hagibis.

Fukushima residents after Typhoon Hagibis: ‘We’ve never seen damage like this’

Robie de Guzman   •   October 15, 2019

Rescue works are underway in flooded areas in Kawagoe, Saitama prefecture, Japan, 13 October 2019. According to latest media reports, at least 26 people have died and more than 20 are missing after powerful typhoon Hagibis hit Japan provoking landslides and rivers overflowing across the country. EPA-EFE/JIJI PRESS

Fukushima residents on Tuesday (October 15) took stock of the damage left in the wake of Hagibis as the death toll of the worst typhoon to hit Japan for decades climbed to 66.

The highest death toll was in Fukushima prefecture north of Tokyo, where levees burst in at least 14 places along the Abukuma River, which meanders through a number of cities in the largely agricultural prefecture.

At least 25 people died in Fukushima, including a mother and child who were caught in floodwaters, NHK said. Another child of the woman remains missing.

Part of Masaharu Ishizawa’s family’s back garden had been washed away, breaking water pipes and electricity lines.

The family was using water carried from a local community center to clean up.

Two doors down, an old house had collapsed after the flood washed its foundations away.

About 133,000 households were without water while 22,000 lacked electricity, well down on the hundreds of thousands initially left without power but a cause for concern in northern areas where temperatures are falling.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliament committee on Tuesday (October 15) that the government is planning to classify the aftermath of Typhoon Hagibis as a “catastrophic disaster.” (Reuters)

(Production: Kwiyeon Ha, Hideto Sakai, Akiko Okamoto)

Japan’s capital braces for what could be heaviest rain in 60 years

Robie de Guzman   •   October 11, 2019

A handout photo made available by NASA shows a visible image acquired from the MODIS instrument aboard NASA’s Terra Satellite of Typhoon Hagibis approaching the southeast coast of Japan, 09 October 2019 (issued 10 October 2019).  EPA-EFE/NASA GODDARD MODIS RAPID RESPONSE

A powerful storm approached Japan on Friday (October 11), threatening to batter its capital with the heaviest rain in 60 years, disrupting a Formula One Grand Prix and rugby’s World Cup and raising fears of transport chaos.

Typhoon Hagibis, which means “speed” in the Philippine language Tagalog, is due to make landfall on the main island of Honshu on Saturday (October 12), a month after one of the strongest typhoons to hit Japan in recent years destroyed or damaged 30,000 houses and caused extensive power cuts.

The storm could be the strongest to hit Tokyo since 1958 and people should also prepare for high waves and storm surges, Yasushi Kajihara, forecast division director at the Japan Meteorological Agency, told media during a Friday briefing.

Rugby World Cup organisers on Thursday (October 10) cancelled Saturday’s game between England and France as well as New Zealand’s match against Italy due to the risk from the typhoon. Japanese Formula One Grand Prix organisers also cancelled all practice and qualifying sessions scheduled for Saturday.

Typhoon Hagibis is expected to pass over or get close to Tokyo and neighbouring areas including Chiba prefecture, which is still recovering from a devastating typhoon Faxai that struck a month ago. (Reuters)

(Production: Yasuteru Ueda, Kwiyeon Ha)

DFA calls on Filipinos in Japan to keep safe ahead of Super Typhoon Hagibis

Marje Pelayo   •   October 11, 2019

MANILA Philippines – The trough of Typhoon Hagibis is now affecting the eastern section of Mindanao, the state weather service PAGASA said Friday (October 11).

It will bring cloudy skies with isolated rain showers and thunderstorms in CARAGA, Davao region, and Northern Mindanao.

Meanwhile, Metro Manila and the rest of the country will have partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rain showers due to the effects of localized thunderstorms.

Likewise, the northeasterly surface windflow remains prevailing over Luzon.

When it reaches Japan this weekend, the weather system is expected to develop into a super typhoon.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has categorized ‘Hagibis’ as a violent typhoon which is the highest category in Japan’s typhoon scale.

Thus, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) through the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo advised Filipinos in Japan “to stay alert and regularly monitor news and announcements” from the Japanese Government and the JMA.

“The Embassy has asked Filipinos in Japan to be careful as heavy rains, strong winds, high waves, and storm surges are likely to occur, and to avoid travelling to potentially affected areas until the typhoon has dissipated,” the DFA said in a statement.

The DFA also reminded Filipinos especially in the Greater Tokyo Area that train operations could be suspended especially if the super typhoon does not change its forecast path.

Thus, it is necessary for travelers to always check the latest information from airlines, train companies, and other public transportation companies to be able to prepare and act ahead of the possible disaster.

Filipinos needing assistance may contact the Embassy’s hotline numbers +81 80 4928 7979 and +81 80 7000 7979.

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Lowe’s workers say morale is reaching an all-time low as the home-improvement giant rolls out changes to stores (LOW)

  • Lowe’s employees say morale has crashed within the home-improvement giant’s stores in recent years.
  • Business Insider spoke with six current and former Lowe’s workers about what’s happening within the stores. These workers cited a number of moves that they say have driven out longtime workers and eroded employees’ support systems.
  • Lowe’s employees say the company has recently eliminated a number of specific roles, including store HR managers, assembly associates, and maintenance staff. Store workers characterized the restructuring as a milder form of layoffs.
  • In its statement to Business Insider, a Lowe’s spokesperson did not confirm these specific role eliminations or comment on how many employees had been affected.
  • The spokesperson said the changes have been a result of the company increasing its “customer-facing employee hours as part of our strategy to better serve customers and operate our stores more efficiently.”
  • “When we make changes to specific roles, we make every effort to retain associates, including providing the option to apply to open positions in the company, or in many cases, offering the opportunity to transition to other roles in our stores,” Lowe’s said.
  • Next year, Lowe’s employees say, the company will also do away with its allowance, a change that affects a small group of long-term employees who earned spiffs, or an immediate sales bonus, and commission on sales before 2012. Lowe’s did not confirm that it was doing away with these allowances, though Business Insider reviewed a leaked document announcing the cut.
  • Employees also mentioned issues with scheduling, an emphasis on part-time positions, and turnover.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

“The Hundred Days of Hell” is what Lowe’s workers call the springtime rush, when do-it-yourself customers and pros alike flood the home-improvement retailer, intent on pulling out the weeds, tiling the basement, and finally building that kitchen nook.

The company hires seasonal workers to pitch in. At the end of the season, some stay on.

One such former worker, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, said they embarked on a seasonal gig with Lowe’s in 2011. The Florida-based worker didn’t have a retail background; their spouse’s near-fatal illness had required them to seek out the job. Like many temporary workers, this former Lowe’s employee accepted a full-time job offer at the end of the season.

They told Business Insider that, while they had initially taken the job out of necessity, they came to love working in their particular department, rising up to the role of department manager.

“I created my own family,” the former employee said. “I felt like I had support at the store.”

Read more: Lowe’s is laying off store workers across the US as it pivots to third-party vendors

Now, eight years later, this former employee says that Lowe’s has changed for the worse. They cited the eliminations of positions like loss prevention, maintenance, and assembly associates, the watering down of the role of human resources employees within the store, and a chaotic new scheduling system as factors in their decision to resign in March.

“It’s the way corporate America works and we expect it, but no one likes it when it happens to them,” the former employee said. Lowe’s, for its part, describes the changes as part of an ongoing strategy to boost customer service.

“Over the past year, we have increased our customer-facing employee hours as part of our strategy to better serve customers and operate our stores more efficiently, and we continue to actively hire for a wide range of positions across our stores,” a Lowe’s spokesperson said.

Business Insider spoke with six Lowe’s employees from different parts of the US about morale within stores. All but one requested anonymity for fear of retaliation. They all spoke to dwindling morale within the stores, citing the same or similar factors as those mentioned by the worker who left in March. Others spoke of a swell of part-time positions filling in gaps left by the departure of full-time workers.

Taken together, the stories these employees shared build up a picture of stores where workers feel expendable and overextended, and where the workforce is holding its collective breath awaiting the next “role elimination” announcement.

‘Get rid of all of those people’

Former Lowe’s employee Patricia Wilkerson started at an hourly wage of $13 when she was first hired by the company in October 2003. Within two months, the Dayton, Texas, resident was a department manager at her store in the greater Houston area. But 14 years in, Wilkerson said, that all changed.

In January 2017, Wilkerson and the rest of her store’s department managers — over a dozen — were called behind “closed doors” and informed that Lowe’s was restructuring.

Anyone who wasn’t appointed to the new role of service manager would be relegated to the role of a level-five customer-service associate, a brand-new position created especially for the restructuring. A former department manager from Pennsylvania who worked for Lowe’s for 15 years told Business Insider that, in their store, the newly minted CSA5s wouldn’t see an immediate pay reduction. They were allowed to keep their department manager-level wages for a year while losing key-holding privileges and access to store computers.

Wilkerson said that the managers were told they’d be given the first crack at the service-manager openings. They had a choice: Opt in or opt out. She decided to leave the company in 2017.

“I opted out because they couldn’t tell us how much we were going to be making in that position and they didn’t tell us what the job responsibilities were,” Wilkerson said.

But living on unemployment, dealing with flooding from Hurricane Harvey, and helping to care for her grandson who has cystic fibrosis, prompted Wilkerson to later return to Lowe’s. She took on a part-time seasonal role, from which she was laid off this August. Today, she works with United for Respect, a worker-advocacy group.

In January 2018, Lowe’s employees say, the company introduced the role of department supervisor, which they say is mostly identical to that of a department manager.

The former department manager from Pennsylvania who left in 2017 over the restructuring said Lowe’s would essentially “rename” positions that serve the same functions.

“In my opinion, they did that just to get rid of all of those people who were making above $20 an hour,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson added that, over the years, she increasingly saw the company replace what were formerly full-time positions with two to three part-time roles.

“If you have two part timers who are working normally 20 or 30 hours each a week and sales are bad, you can cut them down to 10 and nobody can say anything,” Wilkerson said. “If you have two full-timers, you can’t do that.”

The other Lowe’s employees who spoke with Business Insider said they felt that part-time roles were becoming more central at their stores as well. And they say that this strategy doesn’t reflect the Lowe’s they used to know.

“In the beginning, you could go to work at Lowe’s, work your way up, and have a good life with a high-school diploma,” Wilkerson said.

Lowe's

Employees have complained of understaffing.
Joshua Lott/Reuters


A layoff by any other name

The Lowe’s employees who spoke with Business Insider universally characterized recent role eliminations as thinly disguised layoffs foisted upon store management. A current Indiana-based administrative associate, who was hired to assist store management with tasks like payroll and scheduling, told Business Insider about speaking to their manager before the decision to eliminate maintenance and assembly staff was announced.

“He was, like, ‘This week is going to be hell for me. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do what they’re going to make me do,'” the administrative worker said.

“When we make changes to specific roles, we make every effort to retain associates, including providing the option to apply to open positions in the company, or in many cases, offering the opportunity to transition to other roles in our stores,” a Lowe’s spokesperson told Business Insider.

But the administrative worker said that the maintenance and assembly workers who had their roles terminated were barred from reapplying for a new position for at least two weeks. Those unpaid two weeks would also result in a loss of accrued vacation and sick time.

Lowe’s didn’t specifically respond to Business Insider’s question about that two-week lag.

One employee from Kentucky whose salaried role was eliminated in 2019 told Business Insider that they opted to take a different job in the store, going from an annual salary of $50,000 to hourly wages of $15.

“It’s basically a way to cost people money and save the company money,” the administrative support worker said.

A Lowe’s employee from Illinois said that their store lost at least three employees thanks to the most recent maintenance and assembly reshuffle.

“It’s backfired,” the employee said. “We don’t have any assembler whatsoever covering the store. We don’t have anybody coming to the store and cleaning the aisles and taking care of the floors, and the toilets that are always backed up.”

The Florida-based former employee said that Lowe’s frequently repeated the explanation that some of its in-store restructuring — namely, cutting assembly roles — was done with the goal of getting more employees on the sales floor. They said that even when their store — which they said had an annual revenue of around $40 million — had two assemblers, “neither guy could keep up with what needed assembling.” As a result of the role elimination, the store ended up with no dedicated assembly staff.

“They’re saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to free them up to be on the sales floor,'” the employee said. “That won’t happen. That could never happen. I was continually always pulling people off of the floor to help build and assemble.”

One other role that got the ax in 2019 was that of loss prevention, which was rebranded as asset protection. One former loss-prevention employee in Kentucky said that loss-prevention associates were given only 28 days to look for other employment opportunities, while HR managers were given a year. They added that, when the new asset-protection roles “no interviews were conducted, they were all pre-selected,” leaving former loss-prevention employees with “no opportunities to apply or be considered” for specific roles.

“There’s just all these positions that are renamed the under different names,” the former department manager from Pennsylvania told Business Insider.

Lowe’s did not respond to Business Insider’s question about the differences between department managers and department supervisors.

lowe's employees

“It seems like they’re just bringing in people that are order-takers,” one employee told Business Insider.
Scott Olson/Getty Images


‘You fumble your way through it’

Lowe’s employees tell Business Insider that the issue isn’t simply that certain roles were eliminated. What these workers describe as increased turnover, a proliferation of part-time roles, and the loss of long-timers with a wealth of knowledge in their specific department has also resulted in interdepartmental chaos.

An employee from Illinois said that when they started in 2009, each department in the store had a team of three to four employees.

“Now, at times, there’s nobody in the department whatsoever,” the employee said. “So when you hear a call button go off, you’re supposed to drop whatever you’re doing and run over to another department to take care of a customer. It’s just a mess. I don’t see it getting any better.”

And the issue isn’t just staffing. The employee from Illinois added that workers previously could spend years accruing knowledge. The employee said that, by losing experienced employees, failing to offer proper training, and pushing workers to respond to calls in unfamiliar departments, the quality of customer experience had eroded in their store.

“It seems like they’re just bringing in people that are order-takers,” the employee said. “And then I’m going over to plumbing with no knowledge of the products, and trying to sell it. You fumble your way through it. We’re losing a lot of customers because of that.”

lowe's employee

“It’s killing the managers, too,” one employee told Business Insider.
Mohammad Khursheed/Reuters


Counting down

In the case of in-store human-resources managers, the role eliminations were heralded by a countdown clock on Lowe’s internal system. The “Countdown to the new HR!” clock ticked down the days, hours, and minutes left until the changes. It wasn’t popular online, with Reddit users calling it “in poor taste” and deserving of “bad PR.”

One former Lowe’s employee from Kentucky said that human-resources managers were first informed that their roles were being eliminated in 2018. They were “given one year to look for other positions,” within Lowe’s or outside the company.

The employee said that the HR managers were set to be replaced with a new role, and duties like hiring were pushed off to store management and a third-party hiring firm. Lowe’s went on to create new positions like talent-acquisition partners and area HR business partners. Four Lowe’s employees told Business Insider that former HR managers who stuck with the company typically flocked to those roles.

But, in some stores, the responsibilities held by those HR-adjacent workers aren’t so clearly defined. One administrative store employee told Business Insider that they signed on for a job with duties like scheduling workers and helping store management with staffing and training. Today, they said they are often called away to pitch in at the cash registers, work the customer-service desk, and even lend a hand on the sales floor.

“Some managers are taking advantage of the ASAs and having them doing things way out of scope of our job description,” the administrative employee said. “We are team players. We were hired to be team players, but this is being abused a little bit. They’re just completely disregarding the job description.”

The Florida-based employee characterized the new roles as intended to “serve store interests” rather than employees. They said that they felt they “things would’ve gone differently for me” had their “terrific” HR manager still been his role.

“He still goes to that store because he lives near the location,” the employee said. “There’s still a line of employees to see him. The system is so broken. People are coming to him for advice. It is crazy.”

Lowe's employee

Sales specialists will see a pay cut in February 2020.
Joshua Lott/Reuters


‘From a “me” to a “we” approach’

Under former CEO Rob Niblock, Lowe’s opted to eliminate its commissions and spiffs — an immediate sales bonus — that went to store sales specialists in departments like windows, doors, and millwork.

Business Insider received two copies of the 2012 announcement, in which the company announced it was scrapping spiffs in favor of what Lowe’s called “a more collaborative, team-based ‘we’ approach.'”

“Effective Saturday, February 11th, we are eliminating all SPIFFs and commissions from our compensation plans,” the February 8, 2012, notice reads. “We are replacing a portion of this income with an adjustment in affected employees’ pay equivalent to 50% of their 2011 earnings received from SPIFFs and commissions” for paychecks between January 28, 2011, and January 13, 2012.

Affected employees were entitled to that allowance in the years since 2012. That will come to an end on February 1, 2020, employees tell Business Insider.

Business Insider also reviewed a letter sent to an allowance-eligible worker announcing the cancellation.

An employee who has worked for Lowe’s in Illinois for 10 years told Business Insider that they were looking for a new job, in part because of the financial strain that the loss of the allowance would bring about.

They said that the issue of the canceled allowances didn’t affect the vast majority of store workers, but it did hurt the employees who have been with the company for a long time.

“They told all the managers that they were to tell all the people that get the allowance, to give them time to find another job if they want to,” the Illinois-based employee told Business Insider. “If they need to move on.”

lowe's employee

“They don’t feel like Lowe’s is behind them anymore,” one employee said.
Fred Prouser/Reuters


‘Too busy to feel anything’

“We value our more than 300,000 associates for their hard work and commitment to serving customers,” a Lowe’s spokesperson said in a statement to Business Insider.

But the Lowe’s employees who Business Insider spoke with say that these changes have left them feeling like nonessential players in a company where they once thought they’d have room to grow professionally.

And within the stores, the day-to-day can be stressful.

“People are too busy to feel anything,” Wilkerson said, regarding morale.

And employees say that this atmosphere is eroding workforces at different stores.

“A lot of customers are doing do-it-yourself now, but they still have questions,” the Illinois-based employee said. “If I leave Lowe’s, they’re not going to come here, because they trust me.”

The Indiana-based administrative employee who spoke with Business Insider also said they were looking for a job elsewhere, and they are aware of many employees taking similar steps, including ones who have been with the store since it opened.

“These were people who looked forward to seeing each other every day,” the administrative employee said. “They don’t want to come to work anymore. They don’t feel like Lowe’s is behind them anymore.”

The Florida-based employee who left the store in 2019 said that they ran into a former HR manager, who had since been moved to another HR-adjacent role in the store.

“She said they put her at a little foldout table, outside the bigger room where we used to do meetings,” the former employee said. “She’s had a tough time.”

Read Lowe’s entire statement:

“Over the past year, we have increased our customer-facing employee hours as part of our strategy to better serve customers and operate our stores more efficiently, and we continue to actively hire for a wide range of positions across our stores. When we make changes to specific roles, we make every effort to retain associates, including providing the option to apply to open positions in the company, or in many cases, offering the opportunity to transition to other roles in our stores. We value our more than 300,000 associates for their hard work and commitment to serving customers.”

Are you a Lowe’s employee with a story to share? Send tips to acain@businessinsider.com. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

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The News App That’s Testing a Promising Way to Build In Privacy From the Ground Up PSP Hacks

These days privacy online feels like an unattainable dream. Everything you do becomes data for companies, which sell that data to affiliates, which then sell your data back to you in the form of targeted ads and personalized recommendations. That is just how things are. But what if it didn’t have to be?

Last week, I met with a team from Canopy, a tech startup that’s created a software developer kit that it hopes will enable companies to create personalized experiences without compromising your privacy. As a proof of concept, earlier this week, the company launched its first app, Tonic.

The idea behind Tonic isn’t exactly new. It’s one of those curated reading experiences—you get shown a bunch of articles, you pick the ones you like, and the next day you get new material to read based on your preferences. The main difference is you don’t have to sign up for an account or enter in your personal data, like age, gender, email, phone number, or location. Instead, it pulls data in a way that’s intended to not betray your privacy while still allowing the app to make intelligent predictions about stories you may want to read.

Theoretically speaking, if Canopy were to license its software to, say, Spotify, it would mean that you’d still get a pretty accurate Discover Weekly playlist, but neither Canopy nor Spotify would know exactly what you were listening to or when, according to the company. That could have some significant implications if you were to apply that kind of privacy-protecting tech to location data, for example.

The key is something called differential privacy, a framework that has its basis in mathematics. It’s a way to share information about a group and its behaviors while protecting the privacy of individuals within that group by obscuring data that exposes your identity.

“Differential privacy is a framework that allows you to make tradeoffs between privacy and accuracy,” Bennett Cypher, a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told me over the phone. More specifically, Cypher told me, the basic principle is you define an Epilson parameter (math!) that generates noise or confusion to obscure a data set. It’s like giving a ballpark estimate—you get a sense of something, but you don’t know the exact particulars. The higher the parameter, the less noise and more accurate your information. A lower parameter means more noise and greater privacy.

Before your eyes cross, a real-life example Cyphers gave me is the census. The government has a lot of aggregate data about its citizens—and it probably wants to share demographic information from that set without revealing anything about any one particular individual. Let’s say you live in a small census block with only one or two people. It wouldn’t take a genius to figure out personal information about you, given the right parameters. Differential privacy would be a way to summarize that data without putting any one individual at risk.

So, how does that translate to private yet personalized experiences online? Canopy’s head of product, Matthew Ogle, told Gizmodo the secret sauce is in your phone. Instead of creating a behavior model of each user on a server, as many apps do, Canopy does that locally on your phone. When the app does make a request of Canopy’s server for content, what it sends is an encrypted, differentially private version of your behavior. So instead of a model built on your individual preferences, you’re an indistinguishable part of an aggregate of users who like the same things you do.

For most of us, never needing to sign up for another service to reap the benefits of doing so sounds ideal. We do that now because the perks of a personally curated experience seem to outweigh the cost of giving up your privacy. It’s much easier to feel the benefits of an auto-generated playlist than vague privacy violations that you may not even know are happening. That said, it seems like a no-brainer to do this for everything. So why isn’t this more of a thing?

One reason is differential privacy hasn’t been around for that long. “It’s sort of new,” says Cyphers. “There’s not a lot of agreement on what a good parameter is—people are sort of making it up as they go. It’s important for companies to be upfront with what parameters they’re using.”

As for Canopy’s Tonic app, the stakes are low. Reading recommendations don’t carry the same risk as financial transactions or location data, though Canopy’s team did indicate that applying it to those type of data was a feasible long-term goal if things go well. Still, there are limitations as to how far differential privacy can go at the moment.

“One problem is in order to get that tradeoff between privacy and accuracy, for a lot of applications it doesn’t make sense,” Cyphers says. To get a lot of privacy, you have to add a lot of noise, so it becomes sort of useless. It only works in very specific applications.”

For starters, differential privacy isn’t like encryption, where you can just slap it onto varying technologies and call it a day. You can’t send a differentially private email. A differentially private photo would look like static. It works in Tonic’s case because the tech is being applied to the act of discovery.

“The privacy and accuracy tradeoff is real,” Canopy founder and CEO Brian Whitman said over email. He noted that while differential privacy isn’t well-suited to generalized machine learning tasks—think predicting something about a unique person’s behavior—because accuracy would take a significant hit. That said, when it comes to discovering likes and preferences, nothing about that has to be about the individual on the backend.

“The point is we’re not trying to pinpoint a single thing about a single person,” White said. “That is still hard with differential privacy and federated learning. We are understanding larger populations and doing a great job of it. We never should have built recommenders that understood people individually anyway.”

Basically, something like Tonic is a baby step in the right direction. Differential privacy has been used elsewhere—Apple, for instance, said it uses it in improving features like QuickType and Emoji suggestions, as well as some Safari features, and disclosed the Epsilon parameters used. (That said, there’s some disagreement as to how well Apple implemented the tech, leading back to the need for companies to be transparent about their parameters.) Still, even with differential privacy’s limitations, given the looming possibility of federal privacy legislation and discerning users, it wouldn’t be surprising if it starts popping up more frequently in the apps and services we all use—and that’s probably a good thing.

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After Fox News Poll, Late Night Wonders Where Trump Can Turn for Support PSP Hacks

Television|After Fox News Poll, Late Night Wonders Where Trump Can Turn for Support

Best of Late Night

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Welcome to Best of Late Night, a rundown of the previous night’s highlights that lets you sleep — and lets us get paid to watch comedy. If you’re interested in hearing from The Times regularly about great TV, sign up for our Watching newsletter and get recommendations straight to your inbox.

A new Fox News poll found that 51 percent of Americans surveyed believe President Trump should be impeached and removed from office.

Rudy Giuliani Associates Arrested as Support for Impeachment Rises: A Closer LookCreditCreditVideo by Late Night with Seth Meyers

“Damn, and that’s a Fox News poll. So you know they only called landlines, CB radios and V.F.W. halls.” — SETH MEYERS

“Fox News is what Trump watches to feel good about himself. That’s like if a kid turned on ‘Sesame Street’ and Big Bird was just smoking a cigarette going, ‘Face it, kid, you’re never going to learn how to spell.’” — SETH MEYERS

“If Trump can’t rely on Fox News to make himself feel better, what can he watch? His aides are going to have to replace his TV with a mirror and hope he doesn’t notice.” — SETH MEYERS

“Which is a big deal coming from Fox News. We can’t even get a majority of Americans to agree on who should play Batman.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“I would love to have been with him when he saw this. He’s sitting there, enjoying Lou Dobbs time, this pops on the screen. I bet he spit his McFlurry all over the room.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“According to prosecutors, two associates of Rudy Giuliani who were arrested last night had purchased one-way airline tickets out of the country. But of course, Giuliani’s most dangerous associate has his own plane.” — SETH MEYERS

“These guys also helped Giuliani collect dirt on the Bidens in Ukraine. They are literally dirtbags.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“The men have been advised to get themselves a good lawyer, which immediately rules out Rudy Giuliani.” — JAMES CORDEN

“But who could have ever guessed Rudy Giuliani would have two henchmen named Lev and Igor? Not only does Trump hire the worst people, he hires the worst people that go on to hire more of the worst people. It’s like a worst-people nesting doll he’s got.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“I can’t believe a guy who looks like a vampire had a henchman named Igor. Is this a Mary Shelley novel? What was Igor’s job? To open Rudy’s coffin? ‘Master, arise.’” — SETH MEYERS

“I love to watch Trump turn on these guys who would kill for him. We’re about three weeks away from him claiming he never met Rudy Giuliani.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“Jeopardy” featured Kimmel sidekick Guillermo Rodriguez in a clue this week, and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” celebrated by giving him his own segment with the cast of “Zombieland: Double Tap.”

“Closet accounts” (or feeds dedicated to how to procure clothing items worn by celebrities, influencers, and other public figures) are the latest craze on social media.

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The Morning After: Amazon’s first Kindle for kids


Engadget’s review is on the way.macOS Catalina is available to download

The reason we’re waiting to publish our review: A couple of key features weren’t available to try out until the finished OS shipped. That includes Catalyst apps that were designed for the iPad first and later ported over to the Mac, as well as Apple Arcade. If you’re thinking about diving right in, don’t forget to make a backup first — just in case.


And just in time…The Engadget Podcast is back

This week on the Engadget podcast, Reviews Editor Cherlynn Low and Senior Editor Devindra Hardawar dive into one big question: Is Microsoft making better PCs than Apple?


61 megapixels of pure camera power for $3,500.Sony A7R IV review

The 61-megapixel resolution is more than any rival model, by far, and image quality is detailed and color accurate. Sony’s AI-powered autofocus system is stunningly fast and accurate, and the Eye AF system is easily the best on the market. The menu system and rolling shutter in video are drawbacks, but this might be the best mirrorless camera ever made.


Going back inside.iFixit tears apart Samsung’s ‘improved’ Galaxy Fold

iFixit pulled its first Galaxy Fold teardown after Samsung scrapped the phone’s April launch to improve its durability. Now that the foldable has finally reached stores, though, it’s ready for take two. The bad news? This device still seems “alarmingly fragile,” but you can take a look at its updated metal plating and judge for yourself.


Welcome to kindlegarden.Amazon announces its first-ever Kindle for kids

Amazon has revealed the Kindle Kids Edition, its first-ever e-reader aimed at children. For an additional $20 over the cost of a normal Kindle, the Kids Edition comes with one of four colorful cases, a two-year worry-free guarantee and one-year of complimentary access to the company’s FreeTime Unlimited service, which is filled with kid-friendly books and apps. The Kindle Kids Edition is available to pre-order starting today, and it will ship on October 30th for $109.99.


You can also score its 3a XL counterpart for $429.Google’s Pixel 3a drops to $349 on Amazon

Google’s budget Pixel 3a series was already a bargain, but with the Pixel 4 right around the corner, several retailers, including Amazon, have discounted both phones for the first time, cutting $50 off the price to sell the 64GB Pixel 3a for $349 and its larger 3a XL sibling for $429. You’ll get the killer camera, but there’s no wireless charging, a less accomplished display and a weaker processor.

But wait, there’s more…


The Morning After is a new daily newsletter from Engadget designed to help you fight off FOMO. Who knows what you’ll miss if you don’t Subscribe.

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All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Donald Trump wants negative interest rates. Rates in Europe just went to a record low, and this is the effect.

Mario DraghiREUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

  • The European Central Bank on Thursday cut its interest rate 10 basis points to a record low of -0.5% and will in November kick off a fresh round of stimulus.
  • Trump tweeted his approval, following a series of attacks on the Fed to cut interest rates to zero or below.
  • Most economists agree that it is a highly unlikely scenario in the US, but Europe has had negative interest rates since 2016. 
  • For Europe, it’s helped stabilize the economy and the euro in a time of turmoil, but it’s squeezed banks’ profits.
  • The risk of negative rates to banks is that it will stop lending or pass the cost onto consumers. 
  • View Markets Insider’s homepage for more stories. 

Europe just cut interest rates, and Donald Trump wants the US to follow suit. 

Trump twitterTwitter

On Thursday Trump took another swipe at the Fed, after earlier saying the Fed should cut rates below zero. 

While most economists don’t think the US would even get close to that, Europe has had negative rates since 2016.

That’s because Mario Draghi, the outgoing ECB president said he would take a “whatever it takes” approach to stabilizing Europe. On Thursday, Draghi cut rates a further 10 basis points to a record low of -0.5%, and announced bond buying at a monthly pace of €20 billion from November 1.

“The Governing Council now expects the key ECB interest rates to remain at their present or lower levels until it has seen the inflation outlook robustly converge to a level sufficiently close to, but below, 2% within its projection horizon,” the ECB said in a statement on Thursday. 

Draghi did hit back at Trump during the conference: “We have a mandate. We pursue price stability and we don’t target exchange rates. Period.”

Since its first foray into negative rates, Europe’s economy, which relies heavily on the US and China, has slowed. 

Europe’s economy was dealt another blow earlier on Thursday — Europe’s industrial production in July fell 0.1%, signalling a poor start for the third quarter.

See more: Trump has ramped up calls for negative interest rates. Here’s what they are and why they matter. 

What have negative rates done to Europe and its banks? 

Prior to Draghi taking over the ECB, Europe’s economy was stumbling, hence a wave of cuts that eventually turned negative in 2016. Since then, they haven’t moved, and Europe’s economy has recovered a bit since.

The euro stabilized and inflation rates are moving towards the target of 2%.

However, despite the obvious positive effects of the lower rates, criticism has come from the likes of Deutsche Bank and UBS, as commercial banks are the ones who feel the heat when it comes to negative rates. 

Commercial banks in Europe are the main source of lending when it comes to households and small and medium-sized companies, and are therefore vital to the European economy.

Because “commercial banks hold their deposits within central banks, if rates are positive they gain from it, but negative rates actually act as a charge” for the likes of UBS and Deutsche, Jack Allen-Reynolds, senior Europe economist at Capital Economics, said in an interview with Business Insider before the ECB announcement.  

This charge is a “burden,” Volker Hofmann at the Association of German Banks said, according to the Financial Times, which cited Hofmann at a conference as saying that lenders pay €7.5 billion ($8.27 billion) a year in negative rates on the excess deposits they hold at the ECB. 

“It is a remarkable burden for banks who find it more or less impossible to convey this cost to retail savers,” the Financial Times cited Hofmann as saying. 

The risk is that if rates go too low, then it could hit the “reversal rate,” where lenders like UBS and Deutsche then pass the charge on to consumers.

So far this hasn’t happened and banks have shouldered the cost and lending rates have been very positive around 3% to 3.5% according to Allen-Reynolds. 

But Europe’s titans of banking are warning that this could change as it’s hurting profits. 

“Banks’ interest margins are under pressure in this environment and that’s not going to change,” Martin Zielke, head Commerzbank, said at conference according to The Financial Times. “I don’t think it is a particularly sustainable or responsible policy,” the newspaper cited him as saying. 

The other issue is once rates go below zero there’s nowhere to go from there. 

The other problem for the ECB and incoming president Christine Lagarde is that once rates go below zero “the ECB runs out of ammunition,” says Allen-Reynolds.

“When interest rates are so low, there is not much further central banks can go. At that point, you’re looking at fiscal policy to provide some stimulus and that’s up to individual governments,” said the economist.

For Jerome Powell, this isn’t really an issue as there a number of cuts before interest rates hit zero, but for Europe monetary policy actually has become quite a weak tool and its something that Lagarde will be focusing upon when she takes over.

Lagarde said: “While I do not believe that the ECB has hit the effective lower bound on policy rates, it is clear that low rates have implications for the banking sector and financial stability more generally,” according to the Financial Times. 

The FT cited Lagarde as saying that the ECB should “closely monitor whether adverse side effects may emerge in the future, the longer low interest rates are in place.”

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The Beginner’s Guide to Picking the Perfect Bicycle

I had always been a bike purist. Up until recently, I’ve been riding the same bike I got for my 10th birthday. Sure, it still got me where I needed to go, but it was definitely time for an upgrade. As a total beginner, I discovered picking the right bike isn’t as simple as I thought. From frame size to extra features, here’s how to find your perfect ride.

Choose the right bike type based on your needs

When I walked into my local bike shop and they asked what I was looking for, I had no idea what to say beyond, “a really cool bike.” I didn’t know where to start, so I told them I just wanted something for riding around the neighborhood. Even then, I discovered there were options.

The National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA) lists the general types of bikes you can find at most stores here. You probably know the difference between a mountain bike and a cruiser (pictured above), but there are a few types in between. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Mountain bikes: Rugged and meant for off-road use, but you can use them on pavement, too.
  • Road bikes: Meant for pavement use, like riding around in the city. Built for speed.
  • Hybrid bikes: A cross between mountain and road bikes. Not as fast as road bikes, and not as rugged as mountain bikes, but good for commuting.
  • Cruisers: Casual bike for, you know, cruising. The kind of bikes you see people ride around boardwalks near the beach.

This infographic also does an excellent job of breaking down the different bike types for beginners. Of course, there are all sorts of additional, specific types of bikes: tandem bikes, BMX bikes, fixed-gear bikes. But for us beginners, these four are a good place to start. I wanted a good transportation bike, but maybe even one I could take on nearby trails, so the salesman suggested a hybrid.

Calculate how much you want to spend

It goes without saying that bikes can be expensive. Those prices range quite a bit, though, from a hundred bucks to several thousand depending on what you buy. Ebicycles.com says beginners can expect to at least spend a few hundred bucks, and CostHelper breaks down the price points (emphasis ours🙂

  • The low range is $80 to $300. Usually these basic metal frames are just functional, though often still stylish. Target sells low-range models by numerous brands, including Huffy and Forge.

  • Mid-range bikes cost $300 to $1,000. These aluminum or lighter metal bikes are the best bet for everyday riders because their higher-quality wheels, chains and pedals increase their durability.

  • High-end bikes cost $1,000 and higher. These models are usually made of the lightest metals, including carbon and titanium, and are designed for more rigorous, everyday use or light competition. Riders can build their own model in a store or online by choosing from several different frame sizes, colors and wheel type.

You can also find decent, affordable bikes second-hand. For example, the store I visited, Around the Cycle, specializes in recycling people’s old bikes, so there were plenty of mid-range options between $200-$300. Bicycle Blue Book can help you figure out what kind of used bike you can get for your price point.

Once you know what kind of bike you need and what quality level you’re looking for, it’s time to dig into the specifics.

Make sure your bicycle fits you

I’m not a tall lady, so my juvenile bike did the job, but it was still way too small. Not only did I look ridiculous, it was also uncomfortable. It was tough to find an adult bike, though, because most of them were really big and tough for me to maneuver. As Around the Cycle explained to me, the bike’s frame size has to be just right, otherwise, it can be uncomfortable and hard to control.

Your ideal frame size is based on the type of bike you choose, your height and your inseam (the measurement from your crotch to the ground). Here are some frame sizing charts that can help you pick the right bike frame based on all of these factors. Or, even better, use this calculator to determine your bicycle frame size.

And here’s a quick rule of thumb: the frame size should be about .65 times your inseam. If you have 25” inseam, you’d need a bike with a 16” frame.

Most bike stores will tell you what the frame size is, but maybe you’re buying one from Craigslist or at a garage sale, and the owner has no idea. You can at least get a rough estimate by standing over the bike frame and measuring roughly how many inches come between the bike and your crotch, as Bicycle-and-Bikes demonstrates in the above video. And eBicycles further explains:

If you have an inch or so between the frame of a racing, touring or hybrid bike and your crotch it should be about right. For a mountain bike the distance to the frame should be greater. For children the best way to ensure the frame is the correct size is to have the child sit on the seat and be able to place the balls of their feet on the ground and reach the handlebars comfortably. You should also ensure they have a 25-50mm clearance between the bar and their crotch if they are standing over the center bar.

Handlebars matter, too. You want to be able to reach them, after all, so make sure the reach between your seat and the handlebars is comfortable. According to REI, the farther the seat is below the handlebars, generally, the more comfortable the ride. But higher handlebars let you apply more power to the pedals. The shape and position of your handlebars also depend on the bike you get.

Here are some common handlebar shapes and what they’re used for:

  • Drop bar: Found on most road bikes. Lightweight and aerodynamic, so ideal for fast riding. You are in a lower, hunched over position, which can be uncomfortable for your back.
  • Flat bar: Common on hybrid bikes, sometimes on road or mountain bikes. They allow you to sit upright in a more comfortable position that reduces strain on your hands, wrists, and shoulders.
  • Riser bar: Common on mountain bikes. They extend slightly upward and back and allow you to sit farther back to see ahead and maintain steering control.
  • Mustache bar: Found on some road and hybrid bikes. Kind of like drop bars but the drop isn’t as deep. According to REI, “they give you a variety of hand positions while allowing you to sit more upright than with drop bars.”

Once you decide what type of bike you want and the fit you need, it’s time to decide what you want out of its features: gears, wheel size, suspension, and brakes.

Know Your Gears, Suspension, and Brake Type

When I was a kid, 10-speed bikes were the fanciest you could wish for. These days, bikes come with all sorts of gears, and there’s a lot that goes into it—enough to write an entirely separate post. As a beginner, though, here’s what you need to know, according to REI:

To keep it simple, the most important things to consider are your fitness level and the terrain you’ll be riding. If you’ll be riding lots of hills and you find climbing challenging, then you’ll want to opt for more gears. If you’re a strong cyclist or you only ride flat terrain, you won’t need as many low gears to power up a hill so you can get away with fewer gears, which will keep your bike light.

You may also want to consider your bike’s suspension. Suspension is meant to keep you well, suspended, if you’re riding in a rough, rugged area. If you’re looking for a mountain bike, you probably want one with full or at least front suspension. Full suspension helps you maintain control and increases traction. Front suspension absorbs impact and makes for a smooth ride, and it’s ideal for hybrids, too. If you’re getting a road bike, your bike may not include any suspension at all.

Finally, there are the brakes. There are a number of different types of brakes, and they all have pros and cons. Here are the most common:

  • Rim brakes: Pads that grip onto the rims of the wheel. They’re simple and easy to maintain, but they can wear out the wheel rim and they might be less effective if the rim is wet or muddy.
  • Disc brakes: These are brakes that are attached to and grip onto the wheel hub. They can be more complicated to inspect and replace than rim brakes, but they work better in different weather conditions.
  • Coaster brakes: These are the brakes that work when you pedal backward. There’s not much maintenance involved, and they’re good for kids, who may not have much hand strength. They may not be ideal when you’re biking downhill, though.
  • Drum brakes: Integrated into the wheel hub. They’re low maintenance and weather-resistant. If the drum wears out, though, the hub and wheel may need to be replaced, too.

Depending on the bike, you might not have much choice over the brakes, but it’s good to at least be familiar with what kind of brakes your bike comes with.

Adjust the fit and go for a test ride

When I picked out my bike and the salesman adjusted my seat, I was confused. My feet could barely touch the ground, and that didn’t seem right. He explained to me that they shouldn’t touch the ground, though. Ideally, my knees should only be slightly bent when pedaling and my leg is all the way down. Bicycle Universe explains why:

When you’re pedaling and your leg is all the way down (pedal is in 6:00 position), your knee should be slightly bent. If your leg is straight (knee locked), your seat is too high. If your knee is very bent… your seat is too low. Either problem can hurt your knees, and a seat height that’s too short robs you of power and makes it harder to ride…Also, in normal riding position with the pedals parallel to the ground, your front knee (from almost the front edge) should be directly over the pedal spindle (the middle of the pedal). This avoids knee pain.

They add that your seat angle also shouldn’t tilt down. Even though that might feel comfortable crotch-wise, it’ll cause you to lean forward and put stress on your hands, arms, and neck.

Take your bike for a test spin. When you do, there are a few important things to look out for, per eBicycles:

  • Comfort: Are you comfortable with the posture of the bike you picked? If it’s a hybrid, are you okay with sitting upright? If it’s a road bike that you’re going to use for a commute, will you be comfortable pedaling in the amount of time it takes you to get to work?

  • Ability to handle the terrain: Ideally, you should test ride your bike on different surfaces. See how it handles corners, hills, and descents.

  • Carrying capacity: If you plan on carrying stuff with you on your bike, you want to see how it handles when you’ve got a load on you. If it’s a lightweight bike, you might find it difficult to ride. As eBicycles suggests, you may need accessories, like a tow trailer, or you might just need a heavier hybrid or mountain bike.

You may also want to test ride multiple bikes to get a feel for different styles. There’s a lot to choose from out there, and the process can be complicated if you’re not a bike enthusiast. These are just the basics, but they should help you get started and pick a bike that’s perfect for your needs and your comfort.

This story was originally published on 6/23/16 and was updated on 10/3/19 to provide more thorough and current information.

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