Google Earth rendering from CityRealty showing some of the supertalls around the south end of Central Park
“The builders are charging up to $100 million for apartments that offer helicopter views of lush foliage, jagged skylines, soothing rivers and angelic clouds. They lure the superrich, many with suspect foreign assets, to sky-high mansions. They enrich themselves by exploiting weak zoning rules to pour hideous implants into Manhattan cavities.” All of this, says Max Frankel, who was the executive editor of The Times from 1986 to 1994 and lives half a block from Central Park, may need some consequences. And he wonders if this should come in the form of a “user fee,” where residents of these Billionaires’ Row towers would have to pay a monthly “window tax” based on how high in a given tower their unit is located. And according to his “back-of-the-envelope calculations,” this could bring in roughly $1 million a year per building for the city to use on public projects like street work, parks, education, and affordable housing.
Frankel’s proposed system may go something like this:
…residents would be charged $10 to $15 a month per middle-level window with a clear view of parkland or water, less at lower levels, but maybe $25 above 1,000 feet, with $5 extra for doors that open to terrace landings. Windows that offer what realty agents euphemize as “city views” could be charged half-price.
He points out that, though groups across the city are fighting for height limits and stricter zoning laws, the damage along Central Park South is already done. So why not create something like a neighborhood improvement district called the Central Park Vista District, where the government can regulate imposed fees. To be fair, Frankel thinks the tax should be extended to residents along the park who live in older towers like the San Remo
Not everyone agrees with his grand plans, however. Real estate data expert Jonathan Miller discussed the “user fee” idea with Bloomberg, saying that these residents are essentially already paying the fee through higher property taxes. He feels the whole thing is “ridiculous” and that “no views are guaranteed unless you are located on Central Park.” Do you agree?
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