“I made my career on films that probably shouldn’t have been made, economically,” production designer Mark Friedberg once told Capital New York. Either things have recently changed for Mr. Friedberg or he was being awfully humble: his movies might not have made sense economically, but they made enough for him to make what appears to be a record-breaking townhouse buy.
Mr. Friedberg and his wife, Lydia Pilcher, just picked up a three-story brownstone at 32 South Portland Avenue for $3.75 million, blowing past the record 181 Washington Park, which sold last spring for $3.28 million.
Let's Not Make a Deal
Penthouse A/B at 129 West 20th Street appears to be a place where nearly anyone would want to live. Flicking through the multitude of listing photos from the many brokerages and brokers who have tried to sell the 4,500-square foot Chelsea loft, one sees an apartment that seems to embody the dream of downtown luxury living: five bedrooms, four mosaic-tiled baths and two expansive terraces pinwheeling off the home’s showy heart: a sun-flooded double-height living room/dining room with 22-foot-high ceilings, two wood-burning fireplaces and an open staircase of wood and steel. The only problem is that it’s a dream no one wants to buy.
The home, which made its market debut at $8 million in April 2006, in the midst of massive renovation intended to set buyers’ hearts aflutter, has lingered there ever since. A handful of renters have come and gone, but none have wanted to sign the deed. Not for $8.5 million (the highest ask), not for $6.45 million (the lowest and most recent ask) and not for anything in between. It’s now listed for rent at $25,000 a month.
When The Observer visited 129 West 20th Street on a recent afternoon, we found an apartment that was many of the things it has claimed to be over the years: “glamorous, dramatic and refined,” just as the first Corcoran listing had promised, as well as “cinematic in scale and scope” like the Prudential Douglas Elliman listing bragged a few years later. (It had, in fact, starred alongside Keira Knightly and Eva Mendes in Last Night and Mariah Carey in an AT&T commercial.)
Buildings along the southern lip of Manhattan are still pumping water from their basements almost two weeks after Governor Andrew Cuomo led a chorus of voices warning that violent storms and extreme weather patterns are the new normal. But the market for residential real estate seems, by and large, completely unphased. Hurricane Sandy may have flooded the city, but she has not dampened the desire to buy real estate in Lower Manhattan. At least not yet.
It is, of course, still early to judge what effect, if any, the hurricane will have on the Manhattan market, but real estate professionals say that cold—and wet—feet have not been an issue in showings and closings during the weeks since Sandy hit. (Banks, on the other hand, are feeling less confident, with a number insisting on inspections to rule out structural damage for loans on buildings in Zone A, even those that have long been in contract.)
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous
The paint had scarcely dried at 15 Central Park West before the building’s first residents set to knocking down the walls and stripping out the ultra-luxury condo’s ultra-luxurious finishes. Not that the finishes were lacking—like the layouts, they were widely considered to be exquisite—a stunning marriage of old-fashioned grandeur and modern sensibilities. In fact, ex-Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill thought that architect Robert A.M. Stern had done such a fine job designing the building that he hired him to do a massive renovation on his brand new, $43.7 million penthouse.
In the upper echelons of Manhattan real estate, the pursuit of perfection is as common as Sub-Zero refrigerators and private elevator landings. Haunted by dreams of what could be, owners are forever tearing magnificent properties apart in the hopes of transforming them into even more magnificent properties.
Such dreams often pay off handsomely. To wit, Mr. Weill’s freshly-renovated penthouse was so striking that it fetched $88 million shortly after completion. But of course, it would surprise no one, particularly not Nicholas S.G. Stern, son of A.M. and the owner of boutique construction concern Stern Projects LLC., if the Russian tycoon who bought the celebrated spread started his own renovation any day now.
Watching the Manhattan rental market is like watching Saw. It’s fascinating and terrible and nauseating all at the same time.
Well, get ready torture porn fans, because the second quarter market rental reports are here. Our protagonist has just stepped into a car with a stranger to find that the inside door handle has been removed from the passenger side. Let the carnage begin!
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous
Ever wonder what a Central Park view—that most coveted of coveted features, that most desirable of desirable details—actually translates to in terms of cold, hard cash?
Quite a lot, in fact. Apartments with Central Park views fetch more than twice as much as surrounding apartments, The Wall Street Journal reports. And if you just look at co-ops it’s three times as much!
Forget the waterfront. All New Yorkers care about is tree line, tree line, tree line.
While the Rybolovlev(a)s are fighting it out in court over the purchase of Sandy Weill’s $88 million penthouse at 15 Central Park West, Jonathan Miller, our favorite real estate appraiser, provides us a startling visualization of just how rarefied this sale was. He has plotted every sale between January 2003 and January 2012 in Manhattan. It looks like a funky piece of op-art, but it also amazes how far this sale is even beyond the other record setter’s like the $53 million sale of the Harkness Mansion. Mr. Miller calls this his “Tallest Chart in History of Manhattan Real Estate.”
As the city collectively recovers from the recession, greenbacks are once more flowing freely for the uber rich, particularly in the real estate market. While apartment prices have stabilized since 2008, “ultraluxury” pads, those costing northwards of $7 million, are selling for record prices.
While moderately priced homes are still working to recover pre-Lehman property values, those lucky few sitting on luxurious, or rather ultraluxurious properties, have found their nest egg suddenly re-secured as the demand for high-end hearths has skyrocketed, according to The Times.
the way things were
“This is an incredible thing. It’s new. No human society in all of history has organized life in this way,” enthused NYU sociology professor Eric Klinenberg. He had met The Observer at Jacques Torres in Hudson Square to discuss his new book, Going Solo, which investigates what Mr. Klinenberg sees as a desire of a large number of people to live alone. In the book he coins the term “singleton” for this supposed emerging group—take that, BoBos!—and he calls Manhattan “the capital of singletons.”
“The typical New Yorker gets married after 30 these days,” said Mr. Klinenberg, “and they have children even later. We had a huge number of years where we used to live with other people. Now we’re free to do what we want to do.” In his book, Mr. Klinenberg cites numerous statistics over the past 50 years that do show a gradual shift in this direction, from the standard (expected) nuclear family to the rise of what he calls “the cult of the individual.”
“Most people we interviewed said that after a few years of living with roommates they are ready for a place of their own.” Mr. Klinenberg said. He has a whole host of reasons why: “Roommates who don’t pay rent on time, roommates who don’t like the person you are dating …” etc., etc.
The idea of the New York loner is as old as the city itself. Look no further than the solemn, solitary Statue of Liberty. But recent trends actually point away from a city of “singletons,” not toward one.
This Old House
Shadow inventory. It was supposed to be the boogeyman of the real estate bust, thousands upon thousands of unsold properties scattered across the city. Bought or built for more than they were worth, people would hang onto these homes until the market improved, giving a better appearance to the housing supply than actually existed. It’s like the difference between the standard and broad rates of unemployment.
No matter. To real estate doyenne and new Brooklynite Elizabeth Stribling, there is no shadow inventory, or so she tells The Times in one of its patented 30-Minute Interviews.