When Jann and Jane Wenner split in 1995, the coupled stayed married, putting off the legal wrangling that would inevitably arise when they split their publishing empire. Mr. Wenner borrowed $7,500 from his own family and from the family of his wife to found Rolling Stone, and once it grew into an empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars and includes Men’s Journal and Us Weekly, it would be understandable if the vagaries of divorce just didn’t seem worth it.
Until, that is, 2011. Mr. Wenner had been living with his partner, Matt Nye, a former Calvin Klein model 19 years his junior with whom he’s raising three kids, and Ms. Wenner finally wanted out. (There was speculation that the divorce was finalized because Mr. Wenner and Mr. Nye wanted to formally marry each other, but despite the legalization of gay marriage in New York, that never came to pass.) There was a little acrimony in the divorce, including a lawsuit filed by Ms. Wenner’s Amagansett groundskeeper, but things seem to have gone as smoothly as a divorce can be expected to go and Jane Wenner got to keep the couple’s Upper West Side townhouse, at 37 West 70th Street.
Robert A.M. Stern’s 15 Central Park West may be the hottest building in New York, but the good fortune hasn’t crept up the western edge of the park, which still plays second fiddle to the Fifth and Park when it comes to closing prices. There are some standouts, though, and the townhouse at 247 Central Park West is most definitely among them. Whether it stands out tall enough to get its $37 million ask is another question entirely.
Built in 1887, it’s the first townhouse you encounter on Central Park West—a rare holdout to withstand two waves of rapacious early 20th century redevelopment. The first, around the turn of the century and the construction of the city’s first subway on Broadway, saw developers raze townhouses and tenements all around No. 247 and its two neighbors on the block to erect apartment houses of a dozen or so floors. During the second boom, around the time the IND Eighth Avenue Line was being built underneath Central Park West and right before the Great Depression, the pressure mounted and builders strove for even loftier heights, with buildings as tall as the 30-story El Dorado eating away at what remained of the low-slung real estate.
Greener Than Thou
The sidewalks of Manhattan are famous for surprises—outré fashions, bizarre dog breeds and outlandish happenings (where else would an underwear-clad cowboy have a hard time turning heads?)—but it’s not often that the sidewalks themselves cause double-takes.
Recently, though, an unusual sidewalk/curb/tree pit combo by the corner of Columbus Avenue and 76th Street has been catching the eyes of local passerby. At first glance, the elongated tree pit doesn’t appear all that different than its Upper West Side peers: a delicate sapling protected from the large population of neighborhood dogs by a shin-high iron railing. But on closer examination, the odd characteristics pop out: rather than a standard curb, a border of rocks rings the pit, broken up by two big notches cut out of the curb. Manhattan’s first bioswale, according to the Columbus Avenue BID which installed it.
the high cost of banking
In recent years, the Upper West Side has been besieged by bank branches, with countless TD Banks and Citibanks, Chase Banks and Banks of America gobbling up once-vibrant street corners, the dull gleam of their ATM screens casting an eerie glow on the empty sidewalks late at night.
There has been hand-wringing, there have been outcries, there is even a zoning ordinance that prohibits banks from having storefronts wider than 25 feet. And unlike the cancerous spread of Duane Reades across every corner of our fair city, which for all their colonial tendencies offer a certain languorous refuge for the stressed city dweller, no one can quite understand what is driving the bank branches’ spread. Aren’t we always told that people are doing more and more banking online? Other than withdrawing cash from the ATM, how often do most of us really visit the bank?
The El Dorado (our sincerest apologies to the Spanish language) was home to one of New York’s cattiest co-op dramas of 2012, when the co-op board took heiress Diane Wells to court over her formidable smoking habit and fumes they claimed were leaking into neighboring ninth-floor units through a gaping hole in her apartment. ”On multiple occasions,” the complaint read, “the cigarette smoke and odor [have] filled the entry halls on at least the ninth and 10th floors of [the] building, requiring shareholders to traverse a cloud of smoke between the elevator and their apartment entrances.”
Though the board ultimately succeeded in forcing Ms. Wells to allow repairs to her apartment, the board was not able to get her to stub out her cigs—something that apparently didn’t worry Gretchen Pusch and Richard Bayles, who just picked up a classic six on the tenth floor for $2.4 million (down from a $3.3 million ask two years ago—so maybe the cigarette issue persists?). The sale was brokered by Daniel Douglas and Eileen LaMorte at Corcoran.
THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD
The meeting started out, as these meetings tend to, with loud admonitions from the audience to speak loudly into the microphone. “We can’t understand you!” one man shouted. “You do need the mic!” was a common refrain as speakers tried to get by on projection alone. (There was eventually a backlash, with one woman hissing, “Don’t start shouting!” at a particularly vocal and ornery man. Thereafter he resigned himself to disgusted head shakes.)
The crowd was assembled at an Upper West Side community center to discuss a zoning variance that the Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School was seeking for a modest expansion of its campus, which is bounded by West 92nd and 94th Streets and Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. The school wants to make room for a separate middle school, adding a cafeteria (lunch currently starts at 10:20 because of a lack of space) and more classrooms.
As we ponder the arrival of micro-apartments, it’s worth noting that the woman who may well have been the city’s most famous small apartment advocate has moved into a much, much larger space. It is all of 500 square feet, Gothamist reports.
THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Big Nick’s might not be to everyone’s liking, but it has certainly made an effort to suit everyone’s tastes. In a city of increasingly “curated” dining experiences and foraged vegetable tasting menus, Big Nick’s offers not only hamburgers, pizza and assorted Italian favorites, a vast assortment of sandwiches, chicken barbecued, fried and broiled oreganate, but also Greek standbys, salad platters, a full breakfast menu and a surf-and-turf shack selection of seafood.
So it will come as sad news to many an Upper West Sider that Big Nick’s, which has been open for 24 hours a day for the last 50 years at 2175 Broadway Avenue may soon be no more, reports The West Side Rag. The reason is not a lack of fans—although the Upper West Side’s DNA has changed considerably since the greasy spoon opened—but, you guessed it, a rent hike.
Are the days of airing the Dakota’s dirty laundry finally nearing an end? Hedge fund manager Alphonse Fletcher Jr.’s lawsuit against the board of the fabled Upper West Side co-op still stands, but he and the lawsuit are standing all by themselves.
The two law firms representing Mr. Fletcher have been allowed to withdraw from the case, according to The Wall Street Journal, citing unpaid bills and irreconcilable differences—the culprits that seem to end every once-happy relationship.
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.)