For more than a year now, ever since the very first rental units at the monolithic, magnificent Mercedes House came on the market, Two Trees Management has been debating what to do with the rest of its zig-zagging luxury building on the Far West Side of Manhattan. The massive block-long project was a gamble for the Brooklyn firm, about as big and brash and far away from its home turf in Dumbo as one could get (without going to Godforbid, N.J.).
Mercedes House was built in two phases, a swooping base and a connected tower. There would be two sets of rentals, and, the cherry on top, a contingent of condos crowning the 1.3-million-square-foot building, with better finishes and excellent views, on floors 22 through 32. “Everything was high end,” Two Trees managing director Asher Abehsera told The Observer late last week.
He had called in part to set the record straight about the sale of those condos units in a block to Invesco, the Atlanta-based investment management group, that was widely reported last week.
In an unassuming corner of the city, perhaps the last one left, an under-appreciated brick building is about to undergo a transformation into yet the latest luxury development to hit a city that always seems to have room for another. The tan- and yellow-brick pile sits in the middle of West 50th Street between 9th and 10th avenues, on the border between Hells Kitchen and the neighborhood that suddenly seems to be blossoming along the river as the Dursts, Walentas and others assemble shiny new apartment towers just to the northwest.
Yet 435 50th Street is anything but flashy and new. A throwback in the grandest sense, in that it is a far bit better than the original, the project is the second coming out for Ralph Walker, the long-forgotten AIA president and Art Deco master who dotted the city with at once industrious and luxurious old towers for the New York Telelphone Company. It is noveau prewar of the first order.
Many a New York basement and unventilated bathroom is thick with the stuff; the city’s courts may be next.
A few weeks ago, Manhattan’s appellate court overturned an earlier decision blocking damage claims for health problems resulting from living in moldy buildings, The Journal reports—a decision that could result in a wave of personal injury lawsuits.
Prison Yard Workouts
The Pershing Square Signature Theater opened today, with the mayor, Ed Norten, Steve Ross and Frank Gehry in tow. The theater was literally finished yesterday, as they installed the box office glass during lunch, among other finishing touches, so there was no official photography yet.
Fortunately, The Observer knows one of the best photographers in the city, William Alatriste, the staff shooter at the City Council. He has a killer eye for drama and scenery, so naturally this was the perfect environment for him. Until you get your hands on some of those $25 tickets, enjoy this photo debut of the Signature Theater.
A few months after I became a member of a cheap gym in Hell’s Kitchen, it dawned on me I had visited the place only once—when I signed up. I needed professional help.
The trainer occupies an odd position in our lives: despite often being someone you would have never met outside of the gym, he’s privy to your tenderest intimacies and physical vulnerabilities. Like a parent or spouse, he criticizes your smoking, drinking and eating habits, and you actually feel guilty. You’re his boss, sort of, but he’s also yours.
I’d long thought of trainers as an indulgence of the well-to-do. Paying someone to perfect my body seemed a sexy soupçon of vanity and sloth, as decadent as having a private chef. Then again, I told myself, maybe my suffering would lend the endeavor just enough wholesomeness to preserve my radicalism. Plus, the first session was free.
“Do you work out?” my taskmaster, Bashar, asked me, 15 minutes into our introductory session, as I struggled to bench-press the bar. Since I had not done anything more strenuous, for years, than bounce along on the elliptical for the duration of a medium-length Terry Gross interview and two Rihanna singles, I lied.
And here we thought the Yotel was just popular because of the robot bag boys.
Hellsea is now officially “Midtown West.” Or it will be as soon as Gotham Organization’s massive new development is completed. Representatives from Gotham joined Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and Housing Commissioner Matthew Wambua to break ground at the site earlier today.
Harold Ross was known as one of the best, if most obsessive, editors in the world. He founded The New Yorker, (“the book,” as he called it) and ran a tight ship as general editor of the publication from its inception until he died in 1951. When he got home, however, Mr. Ross liked to live loose.
The Hells Kitchen townhouse at 412 West 47th Street, which was for decades home to the storied editor, has just hit the market, and it has been attracting a slew of literary enthusiasts. “I’ve been impressed at just how some people are just riveted by the history,” Massey Knakal broker Chris Brodhead told The Observer.
“They don’t always have a lot of money,” he added.
While on our way to lunch yesterday, The Observer passed by a most unusual tree on West 44th Street, a block from the mothership. And no, it was not strange simply because trees are such a rarity in Midtown. Even in the sweltering heat, it had on a sweater. After our sweat-clogged mind cleared, The Observer realized it is, in fact, unusual for a tree to be wearing a sweater, even in November. No, this tree had been yarnbombed.
An unanswered door at a Hell’s Kitchen open house set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
Nobody showed up this past Sunday afternoon for three open houses in two Hell’s Kitchen buildings—at least as far as we could tell. Despite a posh lobby and modest prices in the first building, it was slim pickings for the brokers.
“This apartment has been on the market about two months,” said Bryan Tomczuk, a broker for one of the co-ops, adding that at previous open houses he’s seen between three to five prospective buyers.
The studio apartment, located at 430 West 34th Street, was asking only $275,000 and although it was not exactly spacious—the kitchen probably could not fit more than one person at a time—it seemed like a steal considering its surroundings.