Wake up and smell the meat carcasses! That’s what some New Yorkers could be saying if developer Stephen Touhey, who has proposed a 32-story luxury building steps from the meatpackers at the Gansevoort Meat Market and the biker bar Hogs & Heifers, wins a variance to build in this commercial district at a meeting that was scheduled for Dec. 11.
After a year of wrangling with the ragtag locals-meatpackers, barhoppers and club owners-Mr. Touhey was looking for the Board of Standards and Appeals to approve an exception to zoning regulations that would allow a residential development, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, to go up in the meatpacking district.
But the locals worry about a slippery slope-and they don’t mean the loading docks on Washington Street. They say that introducing residential space into a commercially zoned district will bring a new cast of characters-the grouches of gentrification-who will be in a position to order them out of the neighborhood.
“The fear is that this will become another Flatiron district or another Soho,” said David Rabin, co-owner of the boldface nightclub Lotus.
To Mr. Touhey, that’s just what makes it prime real estate: People will move there just to be near the energy of the neighborhood, so they won’t be constantly asking their neighbors to turn it down, he reasons.
“There is a certain nightlife industry there and commercial industry, which is a main reason people want to live there,” he said. “It’s cool to see the beef unloaded from the trucks.”
“Show me a guy who’s not going to complain when, the moment he gets up, he starts hearing motorcycles, and people getting into cabs at 3 in the morning, and meatpackers pulling carcasses out of a truck,” said Mr. Rabin.
Mr. Rabin and other business owners have formed a coalition to protest the possible variance and preserve the character of the neighborhood. “This is what basically has happened around New York,” said Mr. Rabin. “[Residences] move here, and they say, ‘We’ve got meat trucks, clubbers …. ‘”
As it stands, the meatpackers, nightclubs and retail shops function in what Florent Morellet, the owner of Restaurant Florent, a diner in the district, calls “one of the most perfectly functioning ecosystems in the country.” The clubs are open from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.; the meatpackers work from 3 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the retail stores are open during the day.
“The moment you’ve got a residential element, it will offset that balance and open the door to more of them,” said Mr. Rabin. “Eventually, there will be no place in Manhattan to go out.”
Of course, Mr. Morellet has reason to make sure the nightclubs stay. His business thrives on late-night diners hungry after a night of dancing, and on meatpackers who have just finished a day’s work. Open almost 24 hours a day every day of the week, his business would not cater to the upscale crowd that would be living in Mr. Touhey’s building on Washington Street, he said, but more to customers like Mr. Rabin’s.
Another nightclub owner, Nicolas Matar, who plans on opening Cielo at 18 Little West 12th Street in January, said that he’s taking advance notice of “noise complaints that will cause a lot of problems.
“We’ve spent a lot of money sound-proofing our space,” he added.
For his part, so has Mr. Touhey: He has recently redesigned the building so that the entrance is on West Street, on the other side of Hogs & Heifers.
Commercial businesses, and nightclubs in particular, have been attracted to the neighborhood-among other reasons, because it’s the last neighborhood that still allows coveted cabaret licenses for new establishments. In other areas, club owners must take over a space that already has a cabaret license.
If that zoning changes-and adding a lot of residents could force the whole area to be rezoned-the results for local businesses would not be good, the coalition members say.
Joe Rose, the city planner under the Giuliani administration, as well as Amanda Burden, the current city planner, and Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, have all come out against it.
If the variance goes through, the coalition can still sue the city to reverse the ruling. Some business owners are more optimistic than others, though.
But Michelle Dell, the owner of Hogs & Heifers, disagreed.
“This is the last frontier,” she said. “They’d shut us down. This neighborhood reeks …. There are bikers lined up outside my bar. They’d be worried about their children.”
245 East 54th Street
One-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op.
Asking: $380,000. Selling: $370,000.
Maintenance: $1,196; 60 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: one week.
AMERICANS IN PARIS Faced with the prospect of relocating to France for two years, the previous owners of this apartment decided to rent their place out until they came back to America. So they set a price in the mid-$2,000 range and hired Insignia Douglas Elliman senior vice president Eileen Mintz to find a tenant. “I thought it was a mistake,” said Ms. Mintz, who was skeptical about the rental market. “For a month, not one single person came.” In the meantime, the sellers were getting antsy about the possibility of two years of maintenance charges and mortgage payments on an empty apartment. At that point, Ms. Mintz finally convinced them to change their tack and put the apartment up for sale. “I said their best bet is to sell it and worry about buying a new place in two years,” she said. Sure enough, the apartment got snapped up in a week, and for just $10,000 under the asking.
20 East 17th Street
One-bedroom, two-bathroom condo
Asking: $1.925 million. Selling: $1.925 million.
Charges: $300. Taxes: $800.
Time on the market: one month.
DEVELOPER’S DOG DAY The buyer of this East 17th Street loft develops fancy residential spaces for a living-so when he started his house hunt, the last thing he wanted was a fixer-upper. “He spends all day renovating and gutting places,” said his broker, Steven Cohen of the Corcoran Group. “And he just did major work to the place he sold, so he only wanted to see triple-mint places.” But his real-estate business acumen couldn’t protect him from the insanities of the Manhattan real-estate market. Three times he came within inches of the finish line, only to see his deals fall through at the 11th hour. “Each one was more ridiculous than the next,” said Mr. Cohen. The developer lost an out-of-control bidding war on one place; on another, the sellers lost heart and decided to keep their home days before they were supposed to sign the sale contract. Finally, the gods smiled on the building developer, and he found a motivated seller in a 2,220-square-foot loft in Gramercy. The place was in triple-mint condition when he walked in; no assembly was required. His new home has oversize windows, dark hardwood floors, a glass-enclosed shower, and wide-open views of the Empire State and MetLife buildings. The Corcoran Group’s Roseann Barber represented the seller in the deal.
466 Toppings Path
Five-bedroom, three-bathroom house.
Asking: $525,000. Selling: $470,000.
Time on the market: 11 days.
RANCH TO RICHES The sellers of this modest ranch house knew a diamond in the rough when they saw it. First of all, the small lot (it’s only two-thirds of an acre) feels like it’s worth a lot more because it borders on the Long Pond Green Belt, a 1,100-acre nature conservancy that stretches from Sagaponack to Sag Harbor. Add to that a mint-condition renovation, the creation of a guest suite out of the garage, and a four-star landscaping job, and you’ve got yourself something that will bring in a nice price. The broker, Simon Harrison, a vice president at Harbor Cove Realty, proclaimed: “The renovation belongs in Architectural Digest .” And that, after all, was the point for the sellers, who before this sale had owned three houses in the Hamptons: one for their residence in East Hampton, and two others-including this one-as investments. They know a thing or two about building, as well, since they’re the principals of Sandpebble Builders Inc., the contracting company responsible for the East Hampton Rec Center and Splish Splash Water Park in Riverhead, N.Y. But they’ve recently sold them all in hopes of trading up to a much larger home-“in Georgica, north of the highway,” according to Mr. Harrison. The new owners, a couple heading towards retirement, were looking for a single-level layout.
Shh! Deli-meat Family Packs Up For Florida; Brunckhorsts Sell $13 M. in N.Y. Property
Frank Brunckhorst, an executive at the Boar’s Head Provisions Co., has sold a Southampton beachfront house and his Upper East Side Manhattan penthouse condo, now that his company has relocated to Sarasota, Fla.
Mr. Brunckhorst, a descendant of the company’s founder, sold the Southampton spread at 380 Barons Lane to a biotech analyst for $11 million and unloaded his condo at 530 East 76th Street to a senior managing director at a large investment banking firm for $2.3 million.
“He was my neighbor, and he’s a great guy,” said Mr. Brunckhorst’s condo broker, Eric Ozada, senior vice president at the William B. May Company. “He was already in Florida when I sold the apartment. It was a quick deal; there were no games.”
After having spent the better part of the century in Brooklyn, Boar’s Head moved its headquarters to Southwest Florida in 2001. Despite the fact that Boar’s Head is perhaps the most recognized name in deli meats and cheeses, with annual sales estimated at $1 billion, and that the Brunckhorst family has been living handsomely off the sandwich trade for close to a century, the Brunckhorsts don’t tend to make headlines like the Hilton sisters or the Johnsons or the Gettys. Only a handful of stories have ever been written about the company. “The Brunckhorst family is private to the point where we don’t release anything having to do with their personal life,” said Boar’s Head spokeswoman RuthAnn LaMore. “That philosophy runs through the entire Brunckhorst family.”
In fact, real-estate records are one of the few places in which Mr. Brunckhorst’s name can be found at all. According to those records, Mr. Brunckhorst bought his Southampton house in 1996 for $5.35 million. The two-story contemporary-style house has four bedrooms and five bathrooms spread over 8,000 square feet. It sits on 3.7 acres on the Atlantic coast and was built in 1990. Records also show that the Boar’s Head executive bought his penthouse condo in 1995 for $1.7 million. The building is home to Tom Clancy, who bought a unit there last year. Mr. Brunckhorst’s 35th- and 36th-floor corner unit has three bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, and floor-to-ceiling windows with south and east exposures. The 2,441-square-foot duplex apartment has high ceilings, marble bathrooms, herringbone-patterned oak floors and two walk-in cedar closets.