57th Heaven: How a Boring Boulevard Became the Billionaires Belt

A big reason for this boom is that there are few other places in the city with the right mix

A big reason for this boom is that there are few other places in the city with the right mix of regulations and existing development to allow for these kinds of towers. There are no height or landmark restrictions in Midtown, unlike areas like Tribeca or the Upper East Side, making going higher that much easier. Plus 57th Street has the added advantage of being an extra-wide street, which allows for even taller buildings. And being just two blocks south of the park, it really is the perfect location for an ostentatious tower, or a dozen.

But more important even than the physical geography of the place is its psychogeography, particularly for Chinese and Russian buyers, said Yuval Greenblatt, a vice president at Douglas Elliman who has run the firm’s Midtown office for more than a decade.

“It’s the center of the city. They’re near shopping and all the hotels, the St. Regis, the Pierre, the Plaza; they’ve got the theaters, and the businesses are there,” he said. “Plus it’s close to the hedge funds at the Solow Building and GM and Seagrams. It already had this international feel, and now more than ever.”

But is there really a market for so many multimillion-dollar homes all bunched up together like this? “I think so,” said Jonathan Miller, the master appraiser. “So long as the market isn’t flooded, which it’s really not, and we only get one or two of these projects a year, we should be fine.”

“Remember,” he added, “these buildings are big, but so are the apartments, so there really aren’t that many of them.” One57 has 135 units (plus a Hyatt hotel on the bottom half) and 432 Park has 128, while 107 West 57th Street has all of 27 units planned, each one taking up at least an entire floor and more than half will be duplexes.

Meanwhile, demand is skyrocketing like these towers. Just as these new buildings are in a different class, so are the buyers. “Before, this was a small investment, little more than a hotel room,” Mr. Greenblatt explained. “Now, these are real homes, big homes, with the nicest finishes. These are the type of buyers who own homes all over the world, so that’s what they want.”

Mr. Greenblatt actually believes that there has been pent-up demand for these kinds of apartments for years that is only being worked out now, and that it should last for years, as global wealth continues to concentrate in the hands of the few and find its way into New York and other world capitals. As of this year’s Forbes list, there are 1,226 billionaires. And counting. Economic uncertainty only spurs on this kind of investment, too, according to Mr. Miller.

“If you’re looking out from your apartment on the 70th or 60th, even the 50th floor, you’ve got a certain perspective on the city,” Mr. Greenblatt said. “You’re looking out over one of the most powerful cities in the world, and you’re on top.”

In 2006, when Mr. Gross left the Village after 17 years to take up residence in Alwyn Court, it was, he told The Observer at the time, “Precisely the kind of neighborhood that the Village used to be. Creative people, no entitlement, no rage, no stroller Nazis.”

And now? “I’m just happy I don’t have to leave the neighborhood to go to Sur La Table.”

57th Heaven: How a Boring Boulevard Became the Billionaires Belt