Original Real Estate Stories from Observer.com: 7.24.09

Seems like the Bloomberg administration has yet to win over unions and housing advocacy group ACORN on its Coney Island plan.

I was forwarded a letter on Friday night addressed to members of the City Council from a number of important unions and ACORN that urges the members to withhold support of the plan—a multibillion-dollar redevelopment of the historic entertainment hub—without changes to labor and housing issues. More here.


Former Councilman Domenic Recchia (Getty Images).

The Bloomberg administration is nearing the finish line in its attempt to push a planned revitalization of Coney Island through the City Council, as a key subcommittee and local Councilman Domenic Recchia (pictured) voted in favor of the plan Tuesday.

Still, there are a few loose ends that could threaten its passage before the full Council next Wednesday, including deals with major landowner Joe Sitt and building employees’ union 32BJ, which wants wage guarantees.

Tuesday afternoon, the Council’s Land Use Committee voted 13-2 in favor of the rezoning plan, which would turn vacant lots now zoned for amusements into residential; and would allow some hotels, retail and indoor amusements in the central amusement area of the historic, if grungy, entertainment hub. More here.

The Penn Club is on the road to become a New York City landmark.

Wednesday, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission was expected to add the University of Pennsylvania’s club at 30 West 44th Street to the agency’s calendar, an act that starts the landmark process and typically results in designation. More here.

Ever since Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch in the woeful days of September 2008, the New York real estate world has remained riveted by speculation: Would it entirely abandon the Merrill space at Brookfield’s World Financial Center, consolidating all of its offices at the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park, thus leaving a gaping vacuum at the center of downtown’s office market?

The real estate folks at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch are finally making some decisions (though not the decision we’ve all been waiting for).

Bank of America has renewed its lease for 114,000 square feet at 717 Fifth Avenue. More here.



Steak lovers, rejoice! (Cow lovers, mourn.) Bobby Van's Steakhouse which New York describes as “not as good as Peter Luger, but better than most of the rest,” largely thanks to its awesome service and low-key atmosphere, has extended for five years its 4,000-square-foot lease at 230 Park Avenue, where it has been serving the lunching midtown set since 1996. It renewed its 1,000-square-feet of office space on the mezzanine level for 15 years. The steakery was repped by Dana Moyles of Dana Moyles Real Estate, and landlord Monday Properties’ by its own Craig Panzirer. More here.

601 West 26th via PropertyShark.

Studley, the real estate brokerage that has represented tenants in two of the biggest deals (if not the biggest deals) this year—Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz’s 240,930-square-foot renewal at Black Rock, and Polo’s 200,000-square-foot renewal at 650 Madison—has a new client: itself!

The brokerage, whose sublease expires this year from Colgate at Tishman Speyer’s 300 Park Avenue, is looking to expand to between 50,000 and 60,000 square feet in midtown, according to a source familiar with the firm’s real estate needs. More here.


On Monday, the rare-maps dealer W. Graham Arader III was in the passenger seat of his black Mercedes SUV, thinking about all the wealthy people who have not bought his 12,000-square-foot, 22-room, 10-bedroom townhouse at 1016 Madison Avenue. “People have been clubbed to death by recent events,” he said. “The seals in Alaska had it better under the fur traders that came up and clubbed them to death. They’ve been clubbed to death.”

His mansion’s tag was cut in February from a city-leading $75 million to $65 million. Last month, records show, it quietly left the market.

“I think the era of mega-sales is definitely over; we all know that by now,” Brown Harris Stevens managing director Sami Hassoumi explained this week.

Three years ago, he sold the city’s most expensive townhouse, the $53 million Harkness Mansion, which he’s reportedly now marketing for millions less than it cost. Kirk Henckels, the bow-tied director of Stribling Private Brokerage, calls it the end of the trophy: Prices are plummeting for New York’s most hilariously expensive listings, like his Astor duplex at 778 Park Avenue, and the wildly rich, even the billionaires, are buying prudently, if at all.

But along with top brokers’ stoic acceptance that the good days are over is a grinning confidence that they’ll be back. The almost needlessly titanic trophy sale will return, they say, but it will take years. More here.

778 Park via PropertyShark.


After months of speculation, Nordstrom Rack, in its eminently corporate way, has officially announced over the wire that it will open its first Manhattan store at One Union Square South, in the building owned by Stephen Ross' Related Companies.

Meanwhile, Best Buy will take the old Circuit City space in the same building. More here.


The present state of Jane Jacobs Way probably would have surprised the late urban activist. The White Horse Tavern, Jacobs’ haunt, lives on, although its sidewalk café crowd has turned pretty Polo shirty. The surrounding blocks are populated by purveyors of the over-hyped and tiny: Little Marc Jacobs and Magnolia Bakery.

The West Village was Jacobs’ muse: She wrote of the “sidewalk ballet” of daily life outside her 555 Hudson Street (currently on the market for $3.5 million), inadvertently etching the Rosetta Stone for arguments, into the present, over gentrification, what she aptly termed “oversucces.”

Last week, the city named a Hudson block in her honor. Next week, Random House will publish Anthony Flint’s Wrestling With Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City. This week, we consider buying real estate in Jacobs’ former neighborhood. More here.

Douglas Elliman.

More than three months into an impasse over the financing for the World Trade Center, officials and executives involved with the project are increasingly contemplating a new scenario: a long-term stalemate in which private developer Larry Silverstein does not build his office towers.

The fight has led the Port Authority, which owns the site, to craft a plan to essentially build around the private developer should two of his 85-foot-deep sites stay fallow.

The plan, which the Port Authority has been working on since late spring, would be a drastic step, and would change the design of major Port Authority-built components to allow the site to function without Mr. Silverstein’s towers. More here.

auburnxc via flickr.


When 26 West 76th Street came on the market with Corcoran late last year, The Times sniffed that its $25 million tag was 60 percent more expensive than the priciest townhouse ever sold on the Upper West Side. But how could anyone complain when the townhouse’s floor plan has so much gargantuan, Dickensian grandeur?

There isn’t just a chef’s kitchen (with an adjoining family room facing the south garden); there’s a scullery (“a room for cleaning and storing dishes and cooking utensils and for doing messy kitchen work,” says Webster’s), plus a fifth-floor kitchen and a “serving kitchen” on the parlor floor, too. More here.

After selling her Web site mediabistro.com for $23 million, Laurel Touby told The Times that she had somewhere between $9 million to $11 million in her bank account after taxes. "I had all kinds of illusions about how far the money would go and what I would enjoy, but they’re not true," she said. "I thought, 'O.K., a car and driver and a new apartment and a whole new life.' In fact, I can only afford two out of three."

So Ms. Touby either has a car and a driver but not a whole new life, or a whole new life but no car and driver: According to city records, she just closed on a $3,905,000 penthouse loft at 43 East 19th Street. According to a listing, the 4,100-square-foot full-floor loft, in a 101-year-old limestone building, has four-sided views, three "grand Egg & Dart columns," three bedrooms, and "sole recreational use of the roof." More here.


When Jeff Koons closed on his six-story uptown townhouse this March, it had taken the kitschy genius two whole years to finish the deal. Richard Prince is quicker: According to a deed filed in city records Thursday, he just spent $11.5 million on a nearby townhouse only a month and a half after signing his contract.

Smart contemporary artists like smart old Upper East Side mansions: According to its listing, Mr. Prince's new place at 57 East 78th Street was built in 1869, and has a marble kitchen; six bedrooms (or five, depending on the layout); a landscaped garden with trees; wine storage in the finished basement; and an 11-foot-tall living/dining room with "a large window of beveled glass, a fireplace and French doors leading to a terrace." (There's also a humidification system and a back-up generator, for some reason.) More here.


In a particular vision of a perfect New York City, all Wall Street types who once worked with supremely murky financial instruments would have to sell their prewar uptown co-ops, and at steep discounts, to longtime environmentalists.

That’s what happened this month, city records show, when Alex Reyfman, former head of credit derivatives research for Bear Stearns, sold his co-op at 245 West 107th Street to William H. Ulfelder, who became the Nature Conservancy in New York’s director earlier this year. The price was $1,555,000. More here.


Thank God for bankruptcy! By declaring Chapter 11, General Motors has been allowed to officially reject its 120,000-square-foot lease at the sublimely modernist 601 Lexington Avenue (better, if formerly, known as the Citigroup Center).

Mort Zuckerman's Boston Properties, which owns the stunning rascacielos, revealed the news in its second quarter earnings report. More here.

Scurzuzu via flickr.

One of the first things you learn on the Craigslist roommate listings is that no one wants a dude roommate. When a gender is specified, it’s almost always female. One imagines several types of people making these posts: There are the girls who are a little skived out by the prospect of living with a boy, and the boys who really don’t care who they live with because they just need some extra rent dollars.

Then there are the boys who think “roommate” means “prostitute.” Consider this post seeking a female roommate for a 2.5-bedroom Upper West Side apartment: “Doorman, high floor, city and sunset views, sunny.”

Tell me more! More here.


Sigh. What would we do without all of these market reports to brighten our day?

The latest is a dreary one indeed and comes by way of the Capital Markets Group at Cushman & Wakefield, headed by Scott Latham, Jon Caplan, Yoron Cohen and Richard Baxter. Much of the report dealt with the same issues addressed in Cushman's second-quarter breakfast last week.

But there were some new stats (or maybe just ones we didn't notice the first time around). Here's our favorite, and we use that word wryly: In 2008, the average price for one square foot of space in a top-notch Class A Manhattan office building was a bubblicious $941. This year ... drum roll ... $392! More here.

Cushman & Wakefield investment-sales team members (l-r) Scott Latham, Ron Cohen and Jon Caplan.

“This was a real estate office, but it’s turned into my junk collection,” explained Leonard Heyward, a Harlem native and licensed broker. Heyward Real Estate (“Your Bridge to Elegance,” says the front window) occupies the walk-in-closet-sized storefront of 115 Edgecombe Avenue.

Next door, at 117, the Hamilton Lofts development was hosting a tour of full-floor boutique condominiums through marketer Halstead. At 115, Mr. Heyward was having a quiet Wednesday afternoon with his junk. More here.

Hamilton Lofts interior.

MetSchools, the privately run operator of a clutch of prep schools in New York, has signed what is likely the largest downtown Manhattan lease of 2009 -- a 200,000-square-foot, 20-year deal (with another 10-year renewal option) at the neo-Renaissance Cunard Lines Building at 25 Broadway.

In a year that's been largely devoid of big lease transactions, particularly in the downtown arena, this is a big coup for Newmark Knight Frank's Howard Kesseler, who repped the school in negotiations with landlord ACTA Realty, which was represented by CB Richard Ellis' Bruce Surry, Gary Kamenetsky, Richard Levine and Stephen Siegel. More here.



With changes to the design and timetable, Bruce Ratner’s $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project is back in public review, complete with public meetings, public comment and a vote of the board of a public authority.

Theoretically, this month-long public comment period is meant to review the changed project. But one thing that’s absent in this re-review: renderings, or any other look at the project’s design (which one would assume has changed dramatically since the last approval in 2006, given that star architect Frank Gehry, with his distinctive style, was pulled from the project). More here.

The higher-end of Hamptons housing is suffering.

The median sales price of a home south of socio-economic demarcation Route 27 on the South Fork of Long Island was $900,000 in the second quarter of 2009, appropriately hefty but down 41.9 percent from the same period in 2008, according to a new report from Prudential Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel. (The median for the Hamptons generally was $770,000, down 20.6 percent annually.)

It’s a price tumble, indeed, for the tonier portions of the Hamptons, one mirrored in other parts (see below). The Douglas Elliman-Miller Samuel report reflects closed deals in April, May and June; and therefore reflects a post-Lehman economy. More here.

It's almost a trend: To sell a co-op in Carnegie Hill, chop!

Attorney James R. Triedman bought a nine-room co-op on 14 East 90th Street in Carnegie Hill for $3.65 million, according to a deed filed with the city on July 16, after the price was chopped from the original March asking of $4.25 million.

According to the listing, the co-op—sold by insurance company vice president Marc Feinberg through Douglas Elliman broker Suzanne Sealy on July 16—has three bedrooms, four bathrooms, “[s]tunning proportions, high ceilings, classic architectural details and oversized windows.” More here.


At long last, after one of the longer courtships in recent history, George Comfort & Sons has completed its purchase of Harry Macklowe's old Worldwide Plaza, at 825 Eighth Avenue.

Last month, after it was publicly revealed that George Comfort was in contract for the 47-story office complex, after George Comfort and its investment partners had made a very large (between $50 and $100 million) deposit, and after a closing date had been set for June 30, seller Deutsche Bank balked, to the astonishment of pretty much everyone involved. More here.

Jonathan Yormak has left Broadway Partners, the young, Ivy League-educated real estate firm that used short-term debt to devour New York real estate at obscene prices during the heyday of the boom.

"I left because I'm just looking to pursue some opportunities in a new platform, basically," Mr. Yormak said, adding, "There are no particular opportunities that I'm currently focused on."

Mr. Yormak (second from left above) added that he retains some "residual interests" in Broadway Partners, "but they obviously will be completely passive." More here.

From Ocala, Fla., and Unity, Maine, the fate of New York doormen may be decided. The two towns headquarter the remote command centers of the Virtual Doorman, a technology that, as the name suggests, acts as a building’s doorman in everything but a warm body. Plus, it’s cheaper: $9,000 to $17,000 for installation, maintenance extra, while a real, live doorman might run a building $80,000 annually.

EZPass analogy, anyone? More here.

m650 Flats Virtual Doorman via Rubenstein.


Steve Roth has been trying to cap the Port Authority Bus Terminal with a giant office tower since the start of Rudy Giuliani’s second term.

The pugnacious, golf-loving chairman of mega-landlord Vornado Realty Trust, Mr. Roth won the bid to build a tower from the Port Authority in 1999. But his initial plans fell apart in 2001, when a tenant backed out; a lawsuit followed, and over time he gradually revived the deal.

Now, once again, the idea of a tower atop the bus station is on track… to getting shelved. At least for the most part. More here.

Law firm Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe was expected Thursday to sign a lease for approximately 220,000 square feet at CBS' 38-story granite slab known as Black Rock, at 51 West 52nd Street, according to industry sources.

As part of the deal, Orrick is taking the space being vacated by UBS and Cushman & Wakefield, which will consolidate its midtown offices at 1290 Avenue of the Americas. Sources say that UBS paid more than $32 million to terminate its lease early, money which CBS applied to the Orrick deal to absorb the costs of Orrick's build-out of the noncontiguous space to the tune of $150 a square foot, and which will reduce the firm's rent in the building. More here.

A year and a half after Ashkenazy Acquisition and The Carlyle Group joined forces to purchase the incredibly well-placed skyscraper at 650 Madison Avenue -- a mere block from Central Park and the Plaza Hotel, and couched snugly inside New York's fanciest office district (dubbed, appropriately enough, the Plaza District) -- the developers have hired real estate advisory firm Eastdil Secured to search for a capital injection. More here.


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