If you think you’re in like Flynn because you’ve got the dough, you’re still far from done if you’re buying a co-op. Since co-ops account for some 75 percent of New York’s housing stock when it comes to buying, you’d better hold onto your hat. That’s because you still haven’t sat in the personal interview-hot seat with the building’s gatekeepers to not just assess your finances, but to evaluate your worth as an individual. Whether you’re a billionaire, a celebrity, of just a regular Jane with designs on one of these spaces, just keep in mind that there are a set of commandments that are never to be broken. Because when they are, there will be hell to pay.
We’ve gathered up some of the best co-op board horror stories around, with anecdotes that involve everyone from Jerry Seinfeld to Steven Spielberg to a feisty little dachshund caught up in a bait-and-switch.
some unbelievable co-op board stories here
Photo: Joe Buglewicz
As the transformation of Queens reaches a bit deeper into the borough, it’s really no surprise that Jackson Heights is quickly becoming a focal point for savvy buyers and renters. The area, roughly bounded by Northern Boulevard, Junction Boulevard, Roosevelt Avenue and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, is fully loaded with stunning pre-war co-ops practically everywhere and shiny new redevelopments for under $800,000. Combine this with its diverse cultural offerings and a myriad of subways that can always get you smack dab in the middle of Manhattan in less than 30 minutes (that’s better than a lot of the up-and-coming areas of Brooklyn, mind you), it has all the makings for the next hipster-setting housing boom.
Why Jackson Heights is one to consider
There’s nothing like owning thousands of square feet of living space inside a penthouse, particularly in a town where power is measured by the size of one’s apartment. Ever wonder when the very first penthouse was built in Manhattan? It was in 1925, when George Fuller Construction Company decided to develop a 14-story apartment house at 1107 Fifth Avenue between 91st and 92nd Streets.
The rest of the story this way
Recent reports show that NoMad has taken over the top spot for priciest neighborhood in the city in which to rent, with a one-bedroom unit going for an average of $4,270/month. For most real estate aficionados this isn’t shocking, as the neighborhood has been growing into one of the city’s hottest spots for the past several years, but few know of the area’s fascinating past.
Named for our fourth president, James Madison, the 6.2-acre Madison Square Park was first used as a potter’s field, then an army arsenal, then a military parade ground and finally as the New York House of Refuge children’s shelter, until it was destroyed by a fire in 1839. After the fire, the land between 23rd and 26th Streets from Fifth to Madison Avenues was established as a public park enclosed by a cast-iron fence in 1847. The redesign included pedestrian walkways, lush shrubbery, open lawns, fountains, benches and monuments and is actually similar to the park that exists today.
Find out how our beloved madison square park came to be
Of Brooklyn’s gentrifying neighborhoods, few have seen such rapid change as Bushwick. The neighborhood, which sits in the northern portion of the borough, running from Flushing Avenue to Broadway to Conway Street and the Cemetery of the Evergreens, has grown as a natural extension of Williamsburg—a haven for creatives and young folks looking for lower rents. But well before its trendy vibe put it on the map, Bushwick was a forested enclave originally settled by the Dutch—its name is derived from a Dutch word “Boswijck,”defined as “little town in the woods”—and later, German immigrants who began building breweries and factories.
Unfortunately, as the breweries along Brewer’s Row and factories closed and farms disappeared, derelict buildings and crime took hold—with the looting, arson and rioting after the city’s blackout during the summer of 1977 playing a starring role. According to the New York Times, “In a five-year period in the late 1960s and early 70s, the Bushwick neighborhood was transformed from a neatly maintained community of wood houses into what often approached a no man’s land of abandoned buildings, empty lots, drugs and arson.”
More on Bushwick’s past… and present
Riverbank State Park. Image via Dattner Architects
In a city that moves so fast that the Sunday edition of the New York Times comes out on Saturday, it is not surprising that New Yorkers might overlook some interesting factoids. For instance, New York City is home seven state parks! So, instead of enjoying a day inside other state parks filled with the ubiquitous lush greenery and a plethora of activities that might surely mean a couple of hours of driving—cityside state parks are but a subway ride away or possibly a short walk to the likes of the East River State Park on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, the Clay Pit Ponds State Park in Staten Island and the Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx.
One of the most popular, with its grassy stretches of pastoral idyll against a spectacular backdrop, is the 28-acre Riverbank State Park near 143rd Street (seen in the two images above). A multi-level facility set 69 feet above the Hudson River on Riverside Drive, it opened in 1993. What’s more, this park is the only one of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Inspired by Japan’s urban rooftop designs, it was created on top of a now-odorless sewage treatment facility on the Hudson.
Image via the Historic Districts Council
What once seemed unheard-of in terms of where to rent or buy in tertiary neighborhoods is now a thing of the past—be it Harlem, Williamsburg, Hell’s Kitchen, Long Island City, or the Lower East Side. But one of the best examples of rapid transformation is Brooklyn. Certainly there are many coveted communities such as Brooklyn Heights, Prospect Heights, and Park Slope, but there is another neighborhood making what looks like a very successful run at gentrification: Crown Heights.
More on the Crown Heights renaissance here
Certain neighborhoods are becoming increasingly sought after by observant Jews—but in keeping with what is written in the Torah, apartment hunting can be a formidable undertaking. Observant Jews not only have to deal with New York City’s low vacancy rate but they need to find a home that, most importantly, is within walking distance to shul (synagogue) from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday and some Jewish holidays—owing to the fact that Sabbath obligations, of which there are a lot, do not allow one to drive a car. It goes against what’s written in the Torah to start or extinguish fires during the Sabbath, and, well, cars burn fuel. And by the way, this also means cooking only one, single, solitary item.
Find out more here
Brokers spend their days showing soon-to-be buyers a place of residence that checks off every box on their sizable wish list, whether they require enough servants’ quarters to handle about half of a Downton Abbey-sized staff or a master suite with a dressing room as big as a living room. Brokers hope, obviously, that once inside, the client will somehow send out telepathic signals that at last, they’ve found “the one.”
But what about the brokers’ own hopes and dreams? After all, everyone has a bucket list when it comes to living quarters.
Not so surprisingly, Manhattan has a slew of cemeteries, graveyards and built-over potter’s fields (for unclaimed bodies). Madison Square Park was originally used as a potter’s field, as was Bryant Park. And though these swaths of land served many purposes over the years, it took an eternity before they were lovely public parks. From the late 1600s, burial grounds were generally confined to what would now be just south of City Hall, but more began popping up further uptown during the 1800s as the city’s population grew in leaps and bounds.
With Halloween upon us, tis’ the season for checking out if living near one might give a buyer a bit of a ghostly scare or whether it takes an eternity to sell when the living room window overlooks tombstones marking coffins buried six feet under.
Hear what experts say, and then learn about the city’s most notable graveyards.
Do homes near cemeteries sell at a discount in NYC?
In our new feature Before They Were Brokers we catch up with New York’s top real estate pros who, in a previous life, did things you would have never guessed. Read on for their fun and quirky stories.
Some follow in their successful family’s footsteps, be it the Trumps, the Zeckendorfs or perhaps, the Rudins or Dursts — but others grow up with thoughts of following a career path that lands them in the field of medicine, education, and quite often — show business. Of course there are the “naturally destined” individuals who spent a good part of their childhood prodigiously playing Monopoly and considered flipping their backyard playhouse at a profit.
Take Robin Lyon-Gardiner, who at the age of 16, saw her first musical and immediately decided to prepare herself for stardom on Broadway. Armed with a B.F.A. in Musical Theater from Syracuse University that included a semester in London to enhance her musical endeavors, it wasn’t long before Robin began snagging roles in some The Great White Way’s most famous musicals on the planet, including the Tony Award-winning “A Chorus Line”.
More on Robin’s fascinating past here
According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), Manhattan boasts about 20 bridges that connect the Big Apple to neighboring areas—many of which have various degrees of landmark status, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, the High Bridge, the University Heights Bridge and the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. We often use these marvels without giving them much thought beyond the grandiose size and maybe their engineering, so to give you a little trivia to impress your friends with the next time you cross one these storied bridges, we’re offering up a handy primer on seven of the city’s most famous.
A quick primer on the city’s top bridges
, Tue, September 30, 2014
Car-owing New Yorkers can probably recite year-round alternative-side parking laws on cue, but most will also tell you how they loathe circling their block for 20 minutes, tracking which days to stay put, the inconvenience of babysitting a spot before the switch, figuring out a cluster of parking signs or, worse yet, arguing with a paid-for parking squatter. It often drives one batty.
Yet, there is an option and that’s paying for a monthly but costly sliver of asphalt—hopefully an elevator ride away or at the very least, a quick walk a few doors down. However, the key word here is “paying” and if you live in New York, that slice of space could put you back a pretty penny, especially if you’re shoveling out dollars for one in a new development.
Unless you’ve been living under a real estate rock, there’s no doubt you’ve read about the $1 million dollar spaces at 42 Crosby Street’s garage in SoHo. Is this lofty price tag for parking a market first? Nope.
more on the price of parking here
, Fri, September 19, 2014
Image courtesy of MNCY
Long considered the capital of Jewish America, this overpoweringly cramped neighborhood was considered by many to be the greatest concentration of Jewish life in nearly 2,000 years.
Between 1880 and 1924, 2.5 million mostly-impoverished Ashkenazi Jews came to the US and nearly 75 percent took up residence on the Lower East Side. According to the Library of Congress, by 1900, more than 700 people per acre were settling in a neighborhood lined with tenements and factories. And as quickly as they descended on the streets, all sharing a common language (mostly Yiddish) and most certainly, similar backgrounds, they quickly established synagogues as early as 1865 (the landmarked Bialystoker Synagogue, whose congregants were mostly Polish immigrants from Bailystok), small shops, pushcarts teeming with goods, social clubs and even financial-aid societies.
By 1910, the Lower East Side’s population was well over the five million mark, but sadly, such congestion habitually caused havoc.
Learn more about the history of the LES here
, Fri, September 12, 2014
A view towards the Williamsburg Bridge. Image © Ray’s Tours
There has always been a somewhat “invisible” line dividing ritzier North Williamsburg and the once-grittier-but-now-gentrifying South Williamsburg neighborhood—and that southern portion’s border is generally considered to be from Grand Street to Division Avenue between Union Avenue and the East River. And though this south side of the neighborhood continues to be populated by a diverse group of residents, new amenity-filled developments are quickly attracting a younger population and pushing prices to match those in the northern part of the nabe. Here, we take a look at some of the most notable developments and a few cool listings bridging the gap ahead.
Find out more here
The newest apartment houses, be it now or some 150 years ago has always been of great interest to New York buyers and renters. And like today, their appeal make sell-outs as easy as pie. From Manhattan’s very first apartment building to those that followed a decade or so later, those initial projects continue to remain the city’s most coveted digs—not to mention the city’s most expensive. But what stands out among these famous buildings as the years passed was the introduction of not-yet-available services—ranging from running water and elevators to electricity and communal amenities. Whether we are talking about the Dakota or the luxurious the Osborne Flats, learn why these century-plus-old buildings continue to enchant the rich, the famous, and the rest of us.
Click here for Cliffs Notes on NYC’s most historic homes
The Rembrandt at 152 West 57th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues was built as Manhattan’s first co-op in 1881. Apartment ownership was already in fashion across the pond, particularly in France and Britain, but the concept of a resident-owned building was still an unknown to most of us. Developed by a syndicate led by Jared B. Flagg, a clergyman with an avid interest in real estate, and built by the notable architectural firm of Hubert & Pirsson, the group had come to the conclusion that potential buyers would be drawn to a building where they would have control over expenses. For instance, buying coal and ice in bulk in order to keep prices down, and hiring a full-time communal staff to take care of the owners’ laundry, cooking and the running the elevators.
Built as a brick and brownstone building with terra-cotta trim and jerkin-head gable windows at the top, the unit mix—a result of an interlocking system of staggered floor heights to allow for very tall art studio spaces—included a few duplex apartments with as many as 12 rooms. Original brochure prices reportedly ranged between $4,000 and $5,000, with monthly maintenance as low as $50. Confident in the ultimate success of co-operative living, Mr. Flagg with Hubert & Pirsson continued to develop another six co-op projects that very same year.
The history of co-ops and their rise, fall, and rise again into popularity
With a prime location overlooking Gramercy Park, accessible solely to those with keys, the 183-year-old Renaissance revival Gramercy Park Hotel was built on the site of infamous architect Stanford White’s home (which had replaced the house where novelist Edith Wharton was born) nearly 90 years ago. The neighborhood, the park, and the hotel date as far back as the 1830s, when more than 60 swampy lots were allocated to developers looking to lure downtown city folks to a new “uptown” community. In time, those lots were transformed into what is now 39 dwellings surrounding a leafy park reserved for a select few lucky enough to live in luxurious homes framing the two-acre park between 20th and 21st Streets at Irving Place. But it wasn’t until 1925 that the stately hotel opened its doors at 2 Lexington Avenue. By 1930, it was extended westward along the park frontage on 21st street, and today it is one of the city’s most coveted quarters.
More on the history of Gramercy Park Hotel here
Great neighborhood? Check. Great apartment? Check. Curb appeal?
Killer first impressions can be long lasting — and whether it’s a newly advertised flavor of Ben & Jerry’s, an ad for Tory Burch’s latest shoe collection —or finding new digs, “love at first sight” spot-on marketing moments play a sizeable role in how we make our decisions.
Industry experts note that a large percentage of a house hunter’s decision to explore a property further than the curb is based the project’s “wow” factor. Truth is, it sets the “perception” stage of what’s to come beyond a grand entrance or swanky lobby that was designed to provide a sense of arrival and belonging. Obviously, at the end of the day, a building’s outside will only persuade potential buyers to see more, and first impressions can vary from one individual to the next, but the “I was meant to live here” moment is fairly universal.
How a building’s design tugs at your desire to ‘be someone’
Plans for a Second Avenue subway have been on the drawing boards since flapper dresses were all the rage. But not until now has this pipeline dream started to take shape.
One of the hottest discussions among the locals is undoubtedly the new line, and according to the MTA, 65 percent of Phase I is now complete. When it debuts in December 2016, it is slated to carry 200,000 straphangers, which in turn will reduce overcrowding on the Lexington Avenue Line by as much as 13 percent (that’s 23,500 fewer passengers on an average weekday). Phase II will extend the line from 96th to 125th Street, and the MTA just announced that $1.5 billion (only a third of the total estimated cost) is now set aside with the hope that the federal government will chip in, too. But those who wonder when the 8.5-mile stretch of tracks (125th Street to Hanover Square), you’d better hold onto your hat—it’s 2029! Though this is still 15 years away, that hasn’t stopped the prices of properties flanking the SAS from riding high in anticipation.
Why buyers are looking at construction workers starry-eyed
In the 1970s, after obtaining landmark status in 1969, three 19th century houses were actually towed by truck from a no-longer-existing stretch of Washington Street to avoid demolition in the Washington Market Urban Renewal area (a 38-acre site planned by the city’s Housing and Development Administration during the 1960s and 1970s, 10 blocks north of what would become the World Trade Center). Their final destination? Next to three already existing townhouses on Harrison Street, a quiet site that was once the well-known farm of alleged skirt lifter, and one of NYC’s first settlers, Annetje Jans. In 1976, New York City put them up for sale (from $35,000 to $75,000) following a restoration by Oppenheimer, Brady & Vogelstein the year before. And more recently, nearly four decades after the sale, CORE brokers Tom Postilio and Mickey Conlon exclusively listed 37 Harrison Street with surprising results.
Fast forward to present day to find out what happened to The Wilson Hunt House
There’s been lots of chatter on the street and in the media on the subject of “poor doors” in new developments for those who have qualified for affordable housing. And though this subject has created quite a bit of controversy, it’s actually not quite what it seems. Rather than being outraged that our city allows real estate developers to “discriminate” against those who could never consider paying for the privilege of residing in their latest and greatest luxury building, naysayers should think about reading up on exactly what affordable housing is and isn’t—“rich” home seekers having an edge over the so-called “poor.”
We look at 80/20 and the ‘poor door’ controversy here
Okay, we know homes are more often than not sold through real estate agents, but did you know that more than a few are sold under the radar? That somehow, there are always a handful of residences “secretly” up for sale, and try as he/she may, your broker will never come across them on an MLS—a place where just about everybody on earth can search for a specific building or neighborhood any day of the week. Here’s the lowdown: These homes are known as “pocket listings” and though there is a signed and perfectly legal agreement between the agent and seller, the listing is never entered into an MLS for the world to see. There’s no big open house shindig; no advertising—and obviously no press splash.
So, why would a seller risk more unsold days on the market instead of opting for an open listing, you ask?
Find out more here
In the mid-2000s, when the real estate market was red hot with new developments, home seekers gave nary a thought to making what can be described as the biggest decision of their lives: Buying something sight unseen.
For them, traipsing through model apartments, checking out pretty renderings, gawking at miniature models, stroking teensy squares of countertop finishes, thumbing through shiny marketing materials filled with information on everything but the kitchen sink to make an actual purchase was par for the course. (Oh, wait! They did include the kitchen sink.) But then all that changed by late 2007 when the stock market took a nosedive. Not a single potential buyer would even consider a new place to hang their hats without actually standing inside a frameless glass shower stall, checking out the size of a Sub-Zero refrigerator or getting high from real-time views seen through floor-to-ceiling window—and developers took note.
But that was then and this is now, and with an improving economy and increasing demand, the tides seem to have turned once again.
Is buying off blueprint back in full force?