The Week in Real Estate: 8.28.09

July has come and (really) gone, and the Parks Department has yet to choose a bidder to run the legendarily profitable Tavern on the Green restaurant in Central Park.

This spring, when the department was giving potential bidders tours of the premises, Parks officials made vague statements about issuing a decision in July. It being Aug. 21, at least one bidder is getting a tad antsy.

"It’s a very uncomfortable position, as you can imagine," said Shelley Clark, spokeswoman for current Tavern on the Green leaseholder Jennifer Oz LeRoy, comely daughter of the late Warner LeRoy, the former operator of the romantic tourist trap. "We’ve submitted our proposals. We’ve answered follow-up questions. ... We are aware that they have made phone calls checking on various things. But we have not had any communication in quite some time." More here.

DavidMartinD200 via flickr.

The Sapir Organization has finally let go of 100 Church Street, the beleagured 21-story commercial tower it bought in 1997. SL Green, one of Sapir's creditors, took over leasing and management of the building about a week ago, after the Sapirs withdrew a suit filed earlier this month against them and another debt-holder, Gramercy Capital, said SL Green executive vice president Steve Durels. “We’ve got about 650,000 square feet to lease up,” he said, though SL Green has not started marketing just yet. “Right now, we’re getting our arms around the details of the building... and interviewing respective agents in the brokerage community.”

The building’s current broker, CB Richard Ellis, is on the top of the list of candidates, Mr. Durels said. More here.

PropertyShark.

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.

Newish investment bank Moelis & Co., founded in the prelapsarian days of July 2007, when Big Real Estate blithely believed that the city would somehow escape the ravages looming darkly west of the Hudson, is expanding, signing a robust 10-year lease for about 96,000 square feet at 399 Park Avenue, according to industry sources.

An investment bank, you say?

That’s a promising morsel of news for the city’s commercial real estate industry, which has watched with muted horror as its main tenant—the financial services industry—has torn itself asunder in the credit crisis. More here.

PropertyShark.

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Park Slope.

This Sunday, for the first time, I set off into the world of New York real estate as a participant rather than an observer.

I have spent this summer, my first after graduation, writing about real estate and house-sitting on the Upper East Side—essentially, I have been on a safari through various ways of being wealthy, none of which I expect to experience again. Fourteen rooms of books, houseplants, and beautiful prewar wallpaper: a friend characterized “my” apartment as “like The Real World house, but for old people.” It’s been unreal, and it’s ending. The lady of the house returns just before Labor Day. I need a new place to live.

My standards are necessarily low. I just want to find an apartment that I can imagine living in: plausible neighborhood, plausible living space, plausible transportation. My mail-order bride of a roommate arrives from Harvard next month, and in her absence, I’m doing the Craigslist and the visits. Brooklyn is my default setting—the only peers I know in Manhattan are either bankers or parentally underwritten. After some good word of mouth on Crown Heights (So cozy! So cheap! A real neighborhood!) and some pleasant weekends in Park Slope, Prospect Heights seemed as good a place as any to start. More here.

Your biography on Elliman’s Web site begins with: 'How do you spell LEGEND? Well, if you’re in real estate, it’s spelled J.A.C.K.Y.' Why so much self-promotion?

When I started in real estate, nobody wanted to hire me. The company I presently work for didn’t even return my phone calls. The reason was, ‘Who do you know? Who are you? You are a nameless person; you didn’t go to college here; you don’t have any sphere of influence. Who are you going to sell apartments to?’ So it was very clear to me from the start that I had to work on two things—one was my skills, my professional skills, and one was to get my name out there. Because in New York, your name, your brand, works, you know? Trump works. Corcoran, Barbara Corcoran, works. That’s how we work in New York. New York is about labels. I buy Ralph Lauren. That’s what New Yorkers are about. More here.

Shravan Vidyarthi.

Well, so much for all that.

Matt Puleo, an accountant looking for an apartment in the East Village or Gramercy, said that only 5 percent of the places he’s looked at recently have offered concessions. “In many instances, I have not noticed an appreciable decrease in rents,” Mr. Puleo said. “I think a lot of landlords figure, ‘We’ll hold out.’”

Summer 2009 was supposed to be one of definitive change for Manhattan tenants. It began promising enough, with the Great Recession an albatross around the necks of skittish landlords, who, in turn, offered incentives and chopped rents to lure tenants, lest their apartments gape empty. Finally, the borough that saw record rent jumps during the boom was becoming more affordable.

At least, that was the conventional wisdom. The reality, one week before Labor Day, seems to be a Manhattan where apartment rents have stabilized—and landlords have shuttered the window on bold incentives. A month’s free rent? Maybe. Two months? Never mind any more. More here.

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Number-crunching firm Stein, de Visser & Mintz PC has signed a seven-year lease for 6,500 square feet on the 14th floor of 29 West 38th Street, where the asking rent is $42 a square foot. CB Richard EllisClyde Reetz repped the accountants in talks with landlord Murray Hill Properties. More here.

Even zippy, adorable, deified pop artists can’t save Manhattan’s luxury real estate these days. A $13.25 million listing for the 8,300-square-foot triplex at 260 West Broadway, famous for its in-house Keith Haring mural—discovered on a concrete wall behind a coat closet—has come off the market. Now, sadly, the apartment is only available for rent. At $35,000 a month.

“Should a buyer surface, the owners, of course, remain interested, and we are at the ready to take them through,” Halstead broker Jane Greenberg told The Observer. “At the owners’ request”—the place reportedly belongs to developer Richard Saunders and a group of investors—“we are simply focusing on the rental possibility for the time being.”

On the plus side, that makes this the only New York rental whose floor plan shows a 47-foot-long balcony (or “belvedere”), a 42-foot-long grand salon, a 22-foot-long patio, a home gym, a wine cellar, a sprawl separated into a “game room” and a “media room” and, of course, a foyer whose cement west wall features a nice big Haring doodle. More here.

Halstead.

Proper Upper East Side brokers are a calm crowd. With nice posture and even tones, they’ll tell you that luxury New York real estate is doing just fine, even if there’s fiery chaos outside. But this autumn there may be reason to actually share in their confidence.

If a few elephantine, long-simmering, high-profile properties can manage to sell at half-reasonable prices this fall, when activity tends to pick up, they’ll have an outsize effect on the city’s roughed-up ego.

To be sure, the only thing that will really rekindle those bubbly realty glory days is hordes of absurdly wealthy people spending absurd sums of money again. If that actually happens, it won’t be for a while. “Time is the new four-letter word,” the appraiser Jonathan Miller said Monday.

But it wasn’t long ago that the luxury real estate market looked a lot worse. “There was no market,” Stribling Private Brokerage director Kirk Henckels said about this winter. Phones started to ring again in the spring, but “it was a totally socially unacceptable time to purchase, given the amount of damage that was being done. And people don’t bid in a market when they don’t know what the market is.” More here.

Astor interior at 778 Park.

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Plenty of Spec. Craigslist is not a place where you go if you want to feel good about literacy. But at least “ceiling,” while an ongoing problem, yields no disastrous malapropisms when you mess it up. Not so for certain other wily words.

We will pass on the "rot iron railing," we believe, as well as the "specious balcony" in Bushwick. Although is a specious balcony more or less worrying than a specious bathroom? Perhaps neither is as great, for pure irony, as a “Fantastic specious TRUE 3BR” on the Upper East Side.


The Mother and Child Reunion. A Staten Island sales listing (“Why Rent when you can Own?”) is posted amid the rentals. This is an obvious enough problem, but more interesting is an enigmatic detail dropped in the middle of the ad: “possible mother/daughter situation in basement.” What could this mean? We are intrigued, to say the least. More here.

The year’s most wildly frothed-over piece of plump New York real estate isn’t officially on the market. It’s not even one of those quiet listings, like the philanthropist Courtney Sale Ross’ duplex at 740 Park Avenue, which was mutedly made available late last year for more than $60 million.This co-op is six floors below hers. And it’s even nicer.

Apartment 6/7B at 740 Park belongs to the disgraced financier J. Ezra Merkin, whose clients lost around $2.4 billion in the Madoff Ponzi scheme. Brokers are talking; enquiring; circling. “I keep hearing, ‘It’s going to come on, it’s going to come on, it’s going to come on,’” one Brown Harris Stevens managing director said this week, “but nothing concrete, nothing solid.”

“I keep looking for Merkin,” another Brown Harris director offered. “And I keep after it.” More here.

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