Print Edition Real Estate Stories: 8.19.09

Remember that plot on 34th Street where Apple was all set to build one of its marvelous stores—that is, until CEO Steve Jobs famously (and outrageously) visited the site in person and declared the block between Fifth and Sixth avenues unworthy of his corporate presence?

Well, now Esprit is in talks with Apple to take over its lease at 21-25 West 34th Street, according to a source familiar with the ongoing negotiations. More here.

The Apthorp, one of the Upper West Side’s most iconic and colossal buildings, is three weeks and six days from the biggest moment of its 103-year-old life. If 25 apartments haven’t been sold by Sept. 15, the building’s long, zigzagging, tortured condo conversion will have to end and start anew, according to state rules.

On the one hand, the Apthorp’s chances are looking tantalizingly good. According to a source at co-owner Africa Israel, a building notice will go up on Wednesday, Aug. 19, announcing that either 22 or 23 units are in contract. That figure is astonishing, considering that the most recent public tally had been 11. “We’re very close,” the source said.

On the other, the state of affairs there is typically melodramatic, fraught and tangled: Weird subplots of the Apthorp soap opera continue to unfurl, and the feud between rival owners rages on. More here.

The year legendary attorney Peter James Johnson first opened his law office at 120 Wall Street, Hugh Hefner published the first issue of Playboy, with Marilyn Monroe in the centerfold; the government executed Ethel and Julius Rosenberg for espionage; and Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, was released.

It was 1953.

This July 2009, litigation firm Leahy & Johnson P.C. renewed its 9,520-square-foot lease at the 40-story tower, owned by Silverstein Properties, for another 10 years. Which means that, come the lease’s expiration in 2019, the firm will have been at the same location for 66 years. More here.


It was Friday night on the revolving 48th floor of the Marriott Marquis, and an elevator had just vomited a handful of tourists onto the solid core of the restaurant there—a minor miracle given how difficult it is for even the directionally adept to navigate the hotel’s devious elevator system.

From the center, one could watch parents with litters of children on red leathery chairs chomping on buffet food as the floor beneath them slowly drifted clockwise, a revolving ring of tackiness carried along a river whose view was surprisingly beautiful. To the southeast, the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park rose in gradual, almost feminine curves to its 945-foot pinnacle. As the floor revolved west, the riotously colorful Westin came into view. The New York Times’ fortresslike scraper rose in the distance. So too did the near-complete 11 Times Square. The Intrepid. The cloud-wreathed sun setting over the Hudson River. The copper dome of Worldwide Plaza. And, finally, the GE Building’s Top of the Rock, site of New York’s last truly glamorous skyscraper-top restaurant, the Rainbow Room, which was closed by the Cipriani family on July 31.

Its landlord, Tishman Speyer, is currently looking for a new tenant. “The Rainbow Room is a great restaurant in which Rockefeller Center takes great pride,” said a spokeswoman for the company, in a statement. “We have not yet named a new operator.”

We wish them well. For if the real estate giant fails, New York’s selection of glass-enclosed, skyscraper-top restaurants will essentially have been reduced to Marriott’s one revolving circle of hell.

There was a time, before the recession, before Windows on the World came crashing down, before open-air restaurants on mid-rise buildings became all the rage, before this became a town of wealthy foodies, when New Yorkers still loved to regard their skyline from cloistered, glass-walled nests far, far above. More here.

Cybill Shepherd and Ryan O’Neal at the Rainbow Room via Getty.


Punching-bag Goldman Sachs has chalked up yet another reason to be evil-eyed: It is America’s (and New York City’s) No. 1 source of office sublease space.

That means that should the average, small-time businesswoman with nary a bailout to her name, yet all the same confronted with declining revenue and enough vacant office space to host a U2 concert, decide to put that space on the market, she’s bound to face some very stiff competition for subtenants from the bank that hatched Tim Geithner, Hank Paulson and Robert Rubin (and Matt Taibbi’s enraged takedown in the most recent Rolling Stone).

Goldman Sachs has 597,000 square feet available at 77 Water Street, according to a recent report by brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle detailing sublease space added to the market since the credit crisis hit in 2007. To be fair, the bank’s reasons seem pretty non-nefarious: Goldman Sachs is busy preparing to consolidate its operations by the end of this year to its glorious new 2.1 million–square–foot, 43-story, $2.4 billion headquarters at 200 West Street, designed by Henry Cobb. More here.

Wade Zimmerman.

Facebook has traded its digs at 551 Fifth for a larger space at 340 Madison Avenue. The new office is 11,119 square feet, can hold about 60 employees and is on the sixth floor of a very glassy building owned by Broadway Partners. Newmark Knight Frank’s Daniel Katcher, who along with the Ippolito brothers (Paul and Mike) represented the sublandlord Sungard in negotiations for the three-year lease, described the space as “a nice mix between corporate, tech and loft offices.” The Facebook sales team will inhabit the offices, and were repped by Grubb & EllisLarry Zuckerman. More here.


It’s almost like those long-gone, beautifully bubbly days of ’07, back when lush apartments traded from one blue blood to another—or between TV stars, or Russians, or slightly crooked financiers—like baseball cards.

Barely five blocks away from the $1.5 million apartment that Mad Men director Alan Taylor just sold to Saturday Night Live’s Kristin Wiig, one heiress has sold another her oak-beamed, American walnut–floored loft on Lafayette Street.

According to a deed filed this week, Jets owner and pharmaceuticals heir Woody Johnson IV’s daughter, Jaime, paid $2,654,391.67 for an apartment owned by Lucy Waletzky. She’s the late conservationist Laurence Rockefeller’s daughter, which makes her Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller’s great-granddaughter. More here.

Laurence Rockefeller via Getty.


In April 2007, during those blindered days of economic bluster, The Observer published an article naming New York’s 10 most expensive towers, according to prominent real estate professionals. They agreed on the most valuable single building: the GM Building. That rocket of marble and black glass, considered then and now the most coveted skyscraper in Manhattan, if not the country, was, said one, “worth $4 billion–plus.” 

Sure! Why not? The building sits at that delicious juncture of midtown and the Upper East Side, at the southeast corner of Central Park, above the Apple Store, and across from the Plaza and Peter Schjeldahl’s favorite piece of New York public art: Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ statue of William Tecumseh Sherman astride a horse.

At the time, the shimmering mirage of wealth was owned by one Harry Macklowe, a developer who was being lauded as a genius for once again rising to the acme of New York’s real estate firmament.

Reality could use some manners. More here.


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