Exile on Main Street: They Fled NYC for Suburbia, But Missed Taxi Cabs and Takeout

New York ObserverJanuary 29, 2015

Lynn Shanahan loved Westport, Conn. It was restful, beautiful and close to New York—an ideal escape from the city on sticky summer days. And then she moved there.


“I was standing on the train platform in the dark at 6:15 a.m. when I realized I had made a mistake,” she recalled.


“We had this vision of the perfect life,” said Ms. Shanahan, the CEO of apparel conglomerate Kellwood Company, describing the tranquil suburban existence she’d imagined: The long morning walks, the serene return in the evenings. Even the move was a breeze—she and her husband already owned a house in Westport, which served as a beloved, quasi-bucolic summer escape for the couple and their three children.


The reality was far less idyllic. The house and yard required constant tending, weekly grocery shopping trips proved a chore compared to casually picking things up throughout the week and dinner options after 9:30 p.m. dwindled to pizza or Chinese takeout. Fine every now and again, but “when you’re 50 years old, you’re kind of over that.” Worst of all was the commute, which quickly solidified into a dreary pattern: “Get back, go to sleep and get back on the train again.”


The Shanahans couldn’t return to New York fast enough. Once their oldest daughter finished out her last two years of high school in Westport, they fled back to their apartment in Carnegie Hill, which they’d rented to a family that was itself enacting a suburban exit.


For many a New Yorker, moving to the suburbs is more a compromise than a cause for joy, a decision that’s made all the more difficult by its grim finality—you’d often think moving trucks were crossing the River Styx rather than the Hudson—done with the understanding that a return to the city, if there ever is one, is at least 15 to 20 years in the future. But a small percentage of newly-minted suburbanites double back in a matter of months, desperate to return even if it means taking a loss on a house or squeezing back into a tiny rental again.


For some, even a brief exposure to the realities of suburban life—shoveling snow and having to get into a car to pick up the dry cleaning or takeout—is sufficiently traumatic to cure longings for expansive lawns, swimming pools and vast storage spaces.


“Whenever I hear a client is moving to the suburbs, I wish them well and figure I probably won’t ever see them again,” Corcoran broker Deborah Rieders told the Observer. “But more often than you’d think, I get a call—‘It’s not working’—a few months or a year later.


“Maybe they’ve lived in Brooklyn for 10 or 12 years, they hear about a lot of people moving to Maplewood and they think it will be just like Brooklyn,” she continued. “Then they move and they don’t like the community or lack of community, they don’t like the fact that they can’t walk, they miss their friends. They don’t realize how alienating it will be until they get there.”


But whatever compels city-dwellers to beat a hasty retreat from the comforts of suburbia, they share a common trait—they not only want out, but immediately.


“Usually they move straight into a rental while they’re looking,” said Ms. Rieders. “Once they’ve made the decision, they don’t want to wait.”


Like many penitent suburbanites, Scott A. and his wife Leah were lured out of the city by a friend, in their case one with a spacious apartment in Jersey City. Their building on East 76th had been bought by Sloan Kettering and they were looking for a new place when the friend told them about a two-bedroom available on the top floor of her building. At $2,456, it was both a little bit cheaper, and a little bit larger, than their current place. Plus, the development had its own dog park, a big plus for two people with a large husky mix. Of course, Jersey City isn’t exactly a suburb, but it may as well have been for the long-time Upper East Side denizens.


“It seemed a bit like living in Greenpoint, it was like, ‘What’s the difference?’ ” said Scott, the CTO of a software company who was, at the time, doing most of his work from home. “Then I discovered what the difference is. You’re in Jersey.”


Small dissatisfactions quickly added up. “Little things that you don’t even think about at first, like no 24-hour diner within walking distance,” he said. They were the only people who used the dog park in their development. The novelty of eating at places like Joe’s Crab Shack soon wore off. And then they found out that none of the hospitals in Jersey City accepted their health insurance.


When the building raised their rent to $2,700, they called their broker, Cyla Klein at Citi Habitats, who herself had spent decades as a Long Island exile raising four sports-obsessed boys—“You do things you’d never think you’d do when you have kids.” Ms. Klein found them half-a-dozen places on the Upper East Side for comparable rents. When we spoke, the couple had moved into a $3,010 two-bedroom in Gracie Square less than a week before. “It’s like we never left, like I woke up from a dream or something,” Scott said.


Did he like anything better in Jersey City?


Such is the mistake made by people who drive up to the suburbs on weekends to house hunt, particularly in spring months like April or May, according to William Raveis managing director Kathy Braddock. Few actually practice the commute before moving—she recommends going to a hotel in the town on a Sunday night and commuting to work on Monday to truly get a sense of what it will be like. A commute that looks like 40 minutes on paper may actually end up averaging double that.


Even then, there can be unpleasant surprises. Many families move out after the kids finish school in June, when the days are long and they can enjoy a drink on the patio as the sun sets. Then the winter comes.


It’s also common for people to think that they’ll save vast quantities of money, only to discover that the cost-of-living difference is marginal. Taxes are often very high in New York suburbs and for commuters, the cost of monthly MTA passes must be added to monthly train and car expenses. And whereas rent is a fixed expense, much like common and maintenance charges, owning a house means lots of unplanned costs—from small plumbing hiccups to major roof jobs, not to mention the expense of yard work, alarm systems and pool maintenance.


“It’s a big transition, and it’s not necessarily a less expensive transition,” noted Ms. Braddock. “Are you used to really taking care of a home? People in New York are usually not.”


Saving money is not the only fantasy. New Yorkers accustomed to schlepping groceries on foot, hauling strollers up and down the subway steps and waiting in long lines often imagine a suburban life of preternatural ease only to discover that in the suburbs, they’re taking the car to the train to the subway just to wait in those same lines.


“The challenge for most people is logistics,” said Douglas Elliman broker Gabriele Sewtz. “There are very few people who don’t like some aspects of living in the suburbs, but the city is so convenient. You just walk two steps and get what you need.”


Sellers who used to live in doorman elevator buildings have a particularly hard time adjusting, she said. “It’s not only difficult to live in a different neighborhood, but it’s difficult to take out your garbage. And no one is there to take out your mail; you actually have to get in line at the post office. It’s not that you can’t do it, but like commuting, all things eat into quality time.”


It’s a more complicated life, observed Halstead broker Deborah DeMaria, who rented out Ms. Shanahan’s apartment and herself spent several years living in Charleston, S.C. Which isn’t a suburb of course, but it felt like it to Ms. DeMaria. She suddenly had a townhouse, a yard, two cars, school carpools to be scheduled, trash cans to be taken out and house sitters to be arranged when they went out of town. Strangest of all, she said, was that despite having a whole house to occupy, everyone hung out in the same few rooms.


“We had three floors, with a playroom on the third, but the kids never wanted to go upstairs by themselves,” said Ms. DeMaria. “A lot of time, people move because of space, but you’re only in one room at a time.”


She and her family moved to a three-bedroom Financial District a few years ago and her kids couldn’t be happier—their building has a pool and a billiard room. Indeed, as kids get older, a small Manhattan apartment with good amenities and nearby parks can actually be a lot less claustrophobic than a three-bedroom house on a cul-de-sac.


“People get so nutty about their children, they think, ‘Oh I have to do this for my kids,’ ” but they totally adjust,” said Ms. DeMaria. “If you’re fine in a two-bedroom apartment, the kids will be fine in a two-bedroom apartment. If you move to the suburbs, you have to do it for you.”


“The first time we put my son down on the grass, he cried,” said Tracy Beckerman. “We had to play recordings of city sounds to get him to sleep.” Ms. Beckerman lobbied her husband to move back from Summit, N.J., until they had a second child, at which point she accepted the inevitable. She subsequently vented her frustrations by writing a book—Lost in Suburbia: a Momoir, a blog, and newspaper columns.


A former TV producer-turned-stay-at-home mom, Ms. Beckerman said that one of the most difficult things for recent transplants is the one-two punch of losing their friends and in a lot of ways, their identity.


“When you live in a city as vibrant as New York, you don’t realize how much the city is your identity,” she said. She and her husband both had “cool jobs,” she said, they went out to restaurants every night, even with baby in tow—one of his first foods was sushi—and running together in Central Park. She loved her impractical Upper West Side duplex so much that when she was too pregnant to get up the spiral staircase, she told her husband she’d rather hook up a pulley system than move. Leaving behind all the things which she thought defined her, she wasn’t sure what did.


Plus, she had a terrible time making friends at first.


She recalled going to a neighbor’s barbecue where a group of women was animatedly discussing someone in the hospital for a miscarriage, who found out her husband was cheating on her and that she had an incurable form of cancer. “All these terrible things,” Ms. Beckerman said. “I finally said to one woman, ‘That’s awful. This is one of your friends?’ And she said, ‘No, it’s Victoria on Days of Our Lives.’ ”


After writing the book, she received hundreds of letters from other women who feel similarly displaced and her blog is a hotbed of discontent. Though the suburban mom-rage is such that Ms. Beckerman must often clean up the expletive-laden comments section. “It’s run on some family-family newspaper sites, so it can’t be all ‘What the fuck,’ and ‘Fuck that,’ ” she said.


Social isolation is, perhaps, the most common complaint of suburban refugees.


“I think what people miss most is the ability to go out, the opportunity and the options,” said Ms. Sewtz. “Even if people have a newborn and won’t be going out all that much, it bothers them that they are an hour away if they want to go to a show.”


One woman said that whenever she had dinner with friends, she was constantly checking her watch to make sure that she didn’t miss her train. Eventually, she started making all her dinner plans by Grand Central.


“When you have to look at a schedule, it changes your whole outlook,” said Ms. Klein. “All of a sudden you’re not willing to do things on the spur of the moment.”


Still, for all those who regret relocating, only a small number reverse the decision.


“I think two out of three have instant regrets, but no one likes to admit a mistake,” said Ms. Sewtz.


“Who could afford it?” shot back one friend when we asked him if he knew of anyone who did it.


“It’s hard to find rentals outside the city, so most people buy a house, and it’s not always easy to sell the house,” said Ms. Braddock. “Then there’s the question of whether the kids can get back into their schools. It’s hard to recreate your life in the city when you move out. It takes a lot of money.”


It’s not only re-selling the house, but also many of the furnishings, the yard maintenance apparatuses, one or both of the cars. Combined with the fact that real estate prices in the suburbs don’t appreciate as fast as prices in the city, many couples realize that they can’t even afford to reclaim the one-bedroom apartment they were so desperate to leave.


“I think people underestimate that it might be financially impossible to reverse the decision,” said Ms. Sewtz. “A few years ago I had a couple with a one-bedroom condo in Park Slope. They moved to Westchester, had a baby, typical story, then they called me up and said, ‘We want to come back.’ ” But the couple couldn’t afford to buy the two-bedroom they may have been able to get if they’d stayed in the city, so now they’re stuck renting one, trying to save enough to buy. If and when they do, she said, it certainly won’t be in Park Slope.


Shortly after Amy and Matt Kitt started renting in Rye, they contacted the broker, Steve Snider of CORE, to see if he could find a good-sized two-bedroom for less than $800,000.


But disappointed with the options—many of them were only a hair bigger than their old apartment—and expecting a baby, they felt but they had no choice but to stay. So they bought a house whose primary selling point, they say, is that it’s only a mile from the train station.


Even though they moved in June, they still spend three or four days a week hanging out in the city—dinners, Rangers games, visiting Amy’s parents in Brooklyn. “I can’t imagine not being part of the city,” said Mr. Kitt. “Even if we can’t come back until we retire.”


New York may be even further out of reach by then. “If you have the money to live in a $3 million apartment in New York, you have the means to come back, but if you’re a regular person who doesn’t want to leave the city, but can’t physically live in the city, I don’t think there’s any chance,” said Mr. Snider.


While it can be near-impossible for a couple like the Kitts to return to New York, those who do manage the feat say that it’s an easy transition: They hardly mind downsizing, learning to sleep amid the blare of sirens again or sharing their favorite greenscape with hundreds of other people.


“The noise at night was hard at first, but the adjustment happened really fast,” said Lynn Shanahan. “It’s such a joy to be home from work in 15 minutes. And I can’t believe I can just call a friend to meet for a drink.”


Best of all, living back on the Upper East Side, she can finally enjoy being in Westport again. “I’m back to being able to love the suburbs.”


*Correction: a previous version of this article stated that Deborah DeMaria lived in Battery Park City. In fact, she lives in the Financial District. The Observer regrets the error.

Swing-Equipped Triplex in 'Brooklyn's Tribeca' Asks $4.4M

CurbedJanuary 23, 2015

Gowanus is like Tribeca in a few ways—actually, no, Gowanus is not like Tribeca, expect for maybe in that both neighborhoods were once industrial, but that's like saying America is like Antarctica because they were both once home to dinosaurs. Anyway, it didn't stop the broker of this triplex at 459 Carroll Street, located a block from the Gowanus Canal, from saying that Gowanus is becoming "Brooklyn's Tribeca or Soho." Dubious neighborhood comparisons and stinky canals aside, the place looks really cool. It's located in an old factory that was completely gutted to create an open, loft-like interior with 13-foot ceilings and six skylights. There's a swing hanging from the ceiling in the dining room, and the place has a private 900-square-foot terrace. The 1,200-square-foot cellar is currently used as a studio, but the brokerbabble says its "a perfect fit for home gym, media room, wine cellar or all three." Just be sure to have solid flood protection because no one wants the feces-filled canal seeping in. The home is currently asking $4.395 million, which might be a tad too high since it's been on the market since September.

One Madison’s Last Sponsor Units—a Townhouse-Style Duplex and Triplex—Hit the Market

New York ObserverJanuary 21, 2015

While most people consider sweeping city views to number among One Madison’s most alluring features, surely not everyone who is drawn to glassy new construction wants to live among the birds.  For the less aerially-inclined, the development’s two new townhouse-style residences, which look out over tree-lined 22nd Street, ought do quite nicely.


The units—a 4,000-square-foot duplex and a 4,500-square-foot triplex—have just hit the market at $9.5 million and $11.5 million respectively, and are the last units at One Madison, a.k.a. 23 E. 22nd Street, to be released by Related, which bought the distressed asset from its rookie developers Ira Shaprio and Marc Jacobs (the commodities trader, not the clothing designer) in 2012. The duplex and the triplex are the only units to be have been built ground-up by Related, which tapped BKSK Architects and Yabu Pushelberg to design the annex that would house both units and the lobby, or as the website would have it, the “discreet arrival experience.”


“These are brand-new, which is especially appealing,” Leslie Wilson, the senior vice president of sales at Related, who is in charge of sales at One Madison, told the Observer, conceding that the rest of the tower, which started going up in 2006, was not so ancient. (The units are listed with CORE, which Related formed a partnership with this fall to handle its resales, but Ms. Wilson retains her post at Related.) Ms. Wilson said that the building—which is 93 percent sold—has just two other sponsor units remaining: a floor-through, three-bedroom on the 43rd floor, which is listed for $12.5 million, and a duplex on the 55th and 56th floors for $37.5 million.


(Though a handful of residents were living in the tower when Related took possession, its own sales did not launch until fall 2013.)


The townhouses are above the lobby, with the duplex located on the second and third floors and the triplex on floors 4 through 6. They both have 10 to 12-foot ceilings, great rooms with gas fireplaces and capacious terraces. Best of all, for those who enjoy building amenities like a pool, spa, billiard room and a lounge with a dining room, but not sharing an elevator with their neighbors (we’re sure that Gisele and Tom would be a joy to gaze upon, but we’re not so confident that a run-in with Rupert would be entirely pleasant), the units have their own private elevator.


Ms. Wilson cautioned that the “townhouse vs. tower” buyers are usually very different in new development—”it’s a very different mindset”—but for the new-construction buyer yearning for a more grounded experience, these are the only such townhouses in the immediate area, which has, like One Madison, undergone a rather impressive transformation these last few years.


“The whole neighborhood is blooming and blossoming. It’s like overnight it just sprung out of the desert and got to be like Gramercy Park,” effused Ms. Wilson. “It’s almost like we launched into a fully-formed universe.”


But, she argued, as great as the rest of Madison Square is, “One Madison is the star of the show. It really is.”

Regal Co-op Carved From Jackie O's Father's Home Asks $1.5M

CurbedJanuary 21, 2015

The parlor-floor apartment in a building that was once the private home of Jackie Kennedy's father, John Bouvier III, is up for grabs for $1.5 million. The 1800's landmarked brownstone on 36th Street between Park and Lexington avenues has long been divided into seven co-ops, but the apartment for sale still retains some of its original details like hardwood flooring and molding. The current owner of No. 115's parlor floor sure does have panache compared to Jackie O's legendary elegance; the two-bedroom home's interiors are adorned in full-wall mirrors and more than one heavily-wallpapered ceiling.

Dreaming of a Basement Playroom or Gym

The New York TimesJanuary 17, 2015

The Value of a Gym or a Playroom

I am a shareholder in a prewar co-op with a large basement space that is owned by the sponsor and kept locked. The sponsor is in private negotiations to sell it to one shareholder. Some of us think the co-op should try to buy the space for common use like a playroom or gym. What value does this kind of amenity add over all to a co-op building? Is it advisable for the co-op to negotiate buying this space from the sponsor?


Upper West Side, Manhattan


You are not the first New Yorker to wish for amenities in your building. Many of us would relish the chance to hop on a treadmill or unleash the kids in a playroom without stepping outside on a wintry day. Why else would new condominiums come packed with perks for everyone down to the family dog? In fact, many older buildings have been feverishly revamping common areas so they can compete with new condos.


Your co-op board should review its offering plan to make sure it does not already own the space. It might have been deeded to the corporation back when the corporation was created. If the deed does not exclude the basement, the corporation might have rights to it, which would mean the sponsor does not have the right to sell it.


“The first step is for the board to make sure that the sponsor actually owns, and therefore has the right to sell, the basement space,” said Leni Morrison Cummins, a Manhattan lawyer who represents co-op and condo boards.


But if the deed explicitly excludes the basement space and the offering plan spells out that the sponsor owns it, the board could try to buy it. The corporation’s governing documents must give the board the authority to buy commercial space. Look to the co-op bylaws, which frequently restrict how much money a board can borrow or spend. The bylaws might also require a vote, which frequently means that two-thirds of the shareholders would have to support the idea for the measure to pass.


Once the board determines whether it can buy the space, it needs to figure out how much the space is worth. “Talk to an expert in valuation and get an appraisal,” said Paul Purcell, a managing director at William Raveis New York City. Once the finer details are worked out, the board should brace for another pressing decision: treadmill or elliptical? Or both?


After a Domestic Partner Dies


Until his recent death, my uncle lived in a rent-controlled apartment for more than 40 years. His life partner had lived with him there for most of those years, but the lease was only in my uncle’s name. My uncle’s life partner would like to stay put, but I am not sure whether he has any right to stay in the apartment under the same rent-controlled status.


Upper West Side, Manhattan


Your uncle’s partner should be able to remain in the apartment, since he was living there for more than two years before your uncle passed away, assuming he can support his claim. In New York State, both rent-stabilized and rent-controlled apartments provide tenants with succession rights for family members.


Since the couple were not married, the surviving partner would have to prove emotional and financial commitment and interdependence with your uncle, if the landlord challenged his claim. He could provide joint bank statements; photographs of the couple through the years; shared assets; wills and health care proxies.


If his evidence is indisputable, he could write a letter to the landlord demanding that his name be added to the lease. He could file a petition with Homes and Community Renewal, the state agency that oversees these apartments, to compel the landlord to give him a lease renewal.


“The couple may have filed at City Hall for a domestic partnership,” said Dov Treiman, a Manhattan lawyer specializing in landlord-tenant law. “If they did that, it’s game over for the landlord.”


If his evidence is weaker — if, for instance, the couple had some separate bank accounts — Mr. Treiman said he could wait until the lease expires to see if the landlord offers him a new one before raising the issue.


Fee for Buying an Apartment


I own a unit in a condominium building. Recently, the condo board instituted a policy requiring buyers to make a $1,500 capital contribution to the condominium when they buy a unit. The bylaws do not give the board authority to require a capital contribution in this situation. In my view, it is essentially a flip tax. While $1,500 may seem small in the context of a real estate transaction, I believe it sets a bad precedent. Future boards may raise the amount. If I sell my unit, can the new buyers simply refuse to pay the capital contribution charge? Is there any other way I can challenge this?


Williamsburg, Brooklyn


A condo board cannot collect a capital contribution unless the bylaws give it explicit permission to do so. If your bylaws do not permit such actions, then the board has certainly overstepped its boundaries.


The action “is tantamount to an amendment of the bylaws, which can be done only by a vote of the unit owners,” said Richard Siegler, a Manhattan real estate lawyer who represents condo and co-op boards. New York State law requires two-thirds of the unit owners to vote in favor of the measure for it to pass. Unfortunately, the board could probably enforce the rule without a vote. If a buyer refuses to pay the $1,500 fee, for example, the board might not waive its right of first refusal, which would block the sale. In that scenario, would a seller realistically take the board to court over $1,500?


“You’re not going to start a lawsuit over this,” Mr. Siegler said. Your best bet is to reason with the board that it should follow the bylaws of the condo, noting that failing to do so would create a bad precedent for the building. But in the grand scheme of New York City real estate transactions, $1,500 is not a huge sum. Think of the upside: It provides the condo with a revenue stream that does not burden existing residents with higher common charges.


“Flip tax is not a bad word,” said Douglas L. Heddings, a real estate broker for CORE. “In my 22 years in the Manhattan real estate industry, there is rarely a buyer who is dissuaded from a purchase due to a flip tax.”

Top residential agents of the week

The Real DealJanuary 16, 2015

Price: $14,510,062
Listing broker: Hilary Landis and Deborah Kern of the Corcoran Group
Address: 737 Park Avenue


Price: $10,750,000
Listing broker: Kyle W. Blackmon of Brown Harris Stevens (now at Urban Compass)
Address: 115 Central Park West


Price: $6,150,000
Listing broker: Shaun Osher and Emily Beare of CORE
Address: 45 Walker Street


Price: $4,600,000
Listing broker: Leonard Steinberg and Herve Senequier of Urban Compass
Address: 62 Cooper Square


Price: $4,073,000
Listing broker: Vickey Barron and Michael Graves of Douglas Elliman
Address: 425 West 50th Street

Big Reveal: $250,000 For a Teeny Lofted Murray Hill Studio

CurbedJanuary 15, 2015

 Every single person who guessed the asking price on this tres petite studio went too high. Folks thought it was in the $300K range, even as much as $522,000. But the actual ask is a more reasonable $250,000. Located on 35th Street between Second and Third avenues, the "fourth-floor loft-like apartment" just hit the market this week, boasting views of the Chrysler Building, hardwood floors, and "ample closet space."


When Curbed posted Pricespotter on our Facebook page, about 10 people weighed in, with one guessing precisely $250K.

Adrian Grenier could be a Chelsea boy

New York PostJanuary 14, 2015

Adrian Grenier — apparently part of the overpriced Brooklyn backlash — left the confines of the tragically hip borough to check out apartments in Manhattan. But the 38-year-old “Entourage” star didn’t bring his on-camera crew. Instead, he brought his mom, Brown Harris Stevens broker Karesse Grenier, and a stunning mystery gal pal.


The eco-activist attended an open house at 340 W. 19th St. — a $949,000 three-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op — in a sixth-floor walk-up. Grenier stayed silent and left the talking to his mom, who didn’t appear impressed. However, the unit is fully renovated and comes with a chef’s kitchen and lots of natural light.


CORE listing brokers Stephen Gallagher and Natalie Rakowski declined to comment.

$750M Elliman team jumps to CORE

January 14, 2015

CORE announced that Douglas Elliman’s McDonough Hershkowitz Team has joined the firm.


In 2014, the team closed on over 80 transactions, selling over $110 million – up 55 percent over the previous year. Additionally, another $50 million in sales were put into contract, securing an average of 101 percent of the asking price for their sellers.Heather McDonough and Henry Hershkowitz are responsible for over $750 million in residential real estate sales in New York City. Their experience includes a specialty in new residential development in addition to a resale business.


“We are really excited about the future and the opportunity to work with CORE. Shaun’s professionalism, the team he has put together and the caliber of CORE’s new development work make this a perfect fit for us,” said McDonough.“The partnership with Related Companies was the icing on the cake for us to make the move.” 


“With CORE we are really given the opportunity to do what we do best, and take our business to the next level. Heather, our team and I are looking forward to kicking off the year with CORE,” said Hershkowitz.

Their new development experience includes a number of additional notable projects including Shigeru Ban’s Metal Shutter Houses, Gwathmey Seigel’s Soho Mews, Polskek Partnership’s Chelsea Enclave, KPF’s One Jackson Square, Asymptote’s 166 Perry, Gwathmey Siegel’s SoHo Mews and 123 Third Avenue.Most recently in 2014, the team repositioned and re-launched 15 William, quickly  it to 50 percent sold with a sellout of $285 million, ranking the project one of the most popular developments in 2014.


“I have known Heather and Henry for years. They are great brokers and two of the best in the business, but more importantly, they are hard-working, good people. They are agents who understand the ethos of this business which is to work toward their clients’ success rather than their own. I’m really glad they made the move to CORE,” said Shaun Osher.


Joining them at CORE will be Cartwright Lee, Katja Knupfer and Cindy Tong.


With this hire, CORE has over 115 agents in Manhattan. Other recent new agents to join CORE include Sarah Lipman and Barbara Lombardo from The Corcoran Group and Vered George, Frank Mohr and Eric Purcell from Douglas Elliman.

Who's News: Tim Crowley

Brokers WeeklyJanuary 14, 2015

Print piece announcing Tim Crowley’s hire at CORE in this week’s Real Estate Weekly

Open House Agenda: 3 Apartments to See This Weekend

DNA InfoJanuary 09, 2015

A new year usually brings resolutions. For some, that means selling their home; for others, it’s finding a new one.


In that spirit, we’ve selected three newly listed apartments — all renovated two-bedroom apartments for less than $1 million — with their first open houses set for Sunday.


100 Hamilton Place, Apt. 6F, Hamilton Heights/Washington Heights
2 Bedrooms/1 Bath
Approximately 830 square feet
Maintenance: $750 per month
Open House: Sunday, Jan. 11, noon to 1:30 p.m.


Lowdown: The sellers renovated this airy space with 9-foot ceilings when they purchased it about 10 years ago, updating the kitchen and bath, adding French doors between the living room and main bedroom, and refinishing the floors, said Edgar Marquez of Corcoran.


"The oversized windows are amazing, and it gets great light throughout the day,” Marquez said.


A room designated as an office/den on the floor plan — which could potentially be used as a third bedroom — was used by the sellers as a large walk-in closet since there's limited storage in the unit, Marquez explained.


There's a catch to the apartment's low price tag: It's an income-restricted unit. A single buyer cannot earn more than $95,906 a year, two people can't earn more than $123,338, and the cap is $136,950 for up to four.


When selling in the future, there's a 20 percent "flip tax" on the profit from the original purchase price.


The apartment is part of a pet-friendly, three-building HDFC co-op, which received a new elevator in December, Marquez said.


Location: Alexander Hamilton first developed the area; the playground at the corner is named for him. Nearby Convent Avenue has a rich architectural and jazz history. City College is a couple blocks south, with Columbia developing a new campus nearby.


It’s four blocks to the 1 train at either 137th or 145th streets and Broadway; the A, B, C and D are at 145th and Saint Nicholas Avenue.


Why put it on your open house calendar? “It’s a wonderful apartment and perfect for a new family, couple or a [first-time] buyer as it’s a great long-term investment,” Marquez said.


106 Suffolk St., Apt. 5B, Lower East Side
2 Bedroom/1 Bath
Approximately 800 square feet
Maintenance: $420 per month
Open House: Sunday, Jan. 11, noon to 1:30 p.m.


Lowdown: What makes this fifth-floor walk-up stand out from other top-floor pre-war units is the 8-by-6-foot skylight the sellers installed during a gut renovation of the apartment after they purchased it in 2007, said Julia Hoagland of Urban Compass.


“It completely transformed the apartment,” noted Hoagland, who was the broker for it seven years ago as well. “And they loved the incredible eastern light. There’s the wall of windows, and this building is a little higher than the buildings to the east.”


They were able to break through the roof because the common roof deck for the building is not over their apartment.


In addition, the sellers added a translucent panel between the living room and bedroom to bring light into the latter; pickled the floors, “which is like a bleach”; and added energy-efficient A/C units. A separate hot water boiler for the unit is in a closet just outside the entrance, “so you pay only for what you use and you won’t ever run out of hot water in your shower.” 


The co-op does not have an underlying mortgage, which keeps the maintenance “ridiculously low.”


Location: The new $1.1 billion Essex Crossing development is going up down the block at Delancey and Essex. It will be home to the Essex Market and include a park as well as a 14-screen Regal Cinemas multiplex. The F, J, M and Z Essex Street-Delancey station is at the corner.


Why put it on your open house calendar? “It’s a really good opportunity to get a functional two-bedroom for under $1 million in one of the hottest neighborhoods in New York City,” Hoagland said.


395 South Second St., Apt. 6, Williamsburg
2 Bedrooms/2 Baths
Approximately 950 square feet
Common Charges: $422 per month
Real Estate Taxes: $25 per month (abated until 2031)
Open House: Sunday, Jan. 11, noon to 1:30 p.m.


Lowdown: This two-bedroom penthouse duplex gets tons of light through its double-height windows and has three private outdoor spaces — a small balcony off the living area, a terrace accessed through the lower-level bedroom and a roof deck.


"The living area is so dramatic you almost don’t need a TV, which a lot of New Yorkers are shying away from in the living room," Todd Lewin, of CORE, said.


With two bedrooms on separate floors, he said, "it’s like two separate living areas." The terrace off the bedroom is large enough for entertaining, he added.


“All the other floors have two units, but this apartment is the entire sixth floor," said co-broker Blu Kokin, noting that the current owners, who purchased the unit in 2011, painted and "did some very minimal cosmetic upgrades."


Location: The building sits "right between the north and south sides and East Williamsburg, so it’s very central but in an area still unfamiliar," said Lewin, who lives in the neighborhood and has seen the area's "dynamic changes."


A “dramatic” new glass building housing a hotel is rising nearby on Metropolitan Avenue, which will “change the character” of the area, Lewin added.


Several subway stations are about four blocks away: Hewes Street for the J, M and Z; Broadway or Metropolitan for the G; and Lorimer for the L.


Why put it on your open house calendar? “It’s an aesthetically really pleasing two-bedroom two-bath condo in Williamsburg for under $1 million,” Lewin said.

Tim Crowley to head new development at CORE

The Real DealJanuary 08, 2015

CORE has appointed Tim Crowley as its director of new development.


Crowley, who previously worked at Flank where he oversaw marketing and brokerage services for multiple projects, will be working together with CORE founder and chief executive officer Shaun Osher.


Related Companies bought a 50 percent stake in the boutique brokerage roughly three months ago. In 2013, Related announced a partnership with Corcoran Sunshine to market roughly $5 billion worth of the developer’s projects, and has maintained that their acquisition of CORE will not affect the deal with Corcoran Sunshine.


Crowley will oversee roughly $10 billion in new development as well as new business development opportunities, according to the firm’s announcement.


“In this large new development industry it is rare to find someone with Tim’s hands-on experience, extensive knowledge and creativity,” Osher said in a statement. “His resume of projects is very closely aligned with both our vision and brand.”


At Flank, Crowley worked on multiple projects, including the Abingdon, 224 Mulberry Street and other luxury conversions.

Year of the Condo in New York City

The New York TimesJanuary 02, 2015

At least twice as many new condominium units are scheduled to hit the Manhattan market this year as in 2014, the most since 2007. That means more choice for buyers and some welcome competition among developers.


The influx comes after a five-year shortage, when new condo buildings practically had the market to themselves, allowing developers to push prices ever higher. The oncoming wave of new development in 2015, some real estate watchers predict, will temper that price growth and slow the pace of sales, providing some relief to Manhattan buyers.


“Whenever you have a strong market in a competitive environment, the ultimate winner is the consumer,” said Shaun Osher, the chief executive of the brokerage firm CORE in Manhattan, which is working on nine new projects for 2015, a total of 608 units. “I think the buyer will be the beneficiary from a robust development market. To compete, people will have to build better product.”


Over all, at least 6,500 new condo units are expected to open for sales below 96th Street across more than 100 buildings in 2015, as opposed to about 2,500 units in 59 buildings last year, according to the Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, which tracks new development. Inventory will be the highest it has been since 2007, when 8,052 new units were listed.


“From one-of-a-kind boutique buildings to soaring luxury towers, an incredible variety of new development will enter the marketplace,” said Kelly Kennedy Mack, the president of Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group. All across the city, she said, “we are seeing more new residences than we have in years.


A roster of highly anticipated towers in and around the West 57th Street corridor, known as Billionaire’s Row, are in the beginning stages of construction, with plans to open sales in the coming year.


“All eyes are going to be on this prime Midtown market,” Ms. Kennedy Mack said.


Among them is 111 West 57th Street, at approximately 1,400 feet tall, a condo tower and conversion of the landmark Steinway building by JDS Development Group and Property Markets Group, the same team that developed Walker Tower, which broke a downtown record last year with the sale of a $50.9 million penthouse.


Also commanding attention: the Jean Nouvel-designed 53W53, a tower near the Museum of Modern Art measuring roughly 1,050 feet tall, undertaken by Hines, Goldman Sachs and the Pontiac Land Group of Singapore; and Vornado Realty Trust’s 950-foot building at 220 Central Park South, designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects with interiors by the Office of Thierry W. Despont. On the Upper East Side, 520 Park Avenue, a 54-story limestone-clad condominium, developed by Zeckendorf Development with Park Sixty and Global Holdings, has already grabbed headlines for its 31 residences, ranging in price from $16.2 million for the least expensive full-floor apartment to $130 million for the triplex penthouse.


A rendering of 520 Park Avenue, where apartments will range from $16.2 million for the least expensive full-floor apartment to $130 million for the triplex penthouse.


With so many fancy new condo towers coming to market in the same year, there are concerns of an impending glut. Real estate watchers are mindful of the slowdown in sales at One57, the Midtown tower by Extell Development that sparked the superluxury condo boom.


“At what point does the market start to say, ‘that’s enough,’ ” said Stuart Siegel, president of Engel & Völkers NYC. “I think we need to be asking that question.”


Still, most brokers and new-development marketers say demand for trophy apartments isn’t waning. “We are of the mind-set that the market will continue to be very strong and deep for these high-end properties, as it is being fueled not just by domestic but by an international market as well,” said Susan M. de França, the president of Douglas Elliman Development Marketing. “New York City is still rivaling London as the top city” in which high-net-worth individuals are seeking to invest their capital.


What’s happening, they say, is that some high-end clients are holding off on buying in anticipation of the oncoming spate of opulent pads.


“Most projects are taking a bit longer to sign on the dotted line,” said Steven Rutter, the director of Stribling Marketing, which is handling at least 14 new developments with plans to open sales in 2015. “Buyers don’t feel the same sense of urgency. They want to see what else is out there. They want to make sure they’ve done their homework.” In 2015, he added, “things are going to sell, they will just take longer.”


Ms. Kennedy Mack of Corcoran Sunshine says that apartments at the very top make up less than 10 percent of new development in 2015, with about 500 “ultraluxury” units priced at $5,000 a square foot or more expected to come to market.


“There is a misperception that the market is swinging drastically toward the high end,” she said. “We’re seeing a relatively steady pricing mix from year to year, which is really supported by robust buyer demand at all levels.”


Half of the new units will be in the so-called middle luxury segment, with prices between $1,700 and $2,300 a square foot. Two-bedrooms in that price range were selling for about $2.5 million in the third quarter of 2014, based on contracts signed. Half of new condos, or about 3,300 units, will be priced between $1,700 and $2,300 a square foot, up from 1,100 last year, according to Corcoran Sunshine, as developers home in on a sweet spot in the market that had been underserved.


The number of units coming to market at the so-called “entry level,” defined by prices at less than $1,700 a square foot, is also expected to rise. More than 800 units in this category are expected to enter the market in 2015, up from 306 in 2014. One-bedrooms in this segment were selling for an average of $1.19 million in the third quarter of 2014, based on contracts signed. The overall market share in this category is forecast to remain steady, with entry-level units making up just 13 percent of the new-development pie.


Soaring land costs have made it difficult for developers to turn a profit at these prices, said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel. So, unless they are working from a lower cost basis to begin with, as might be the case with land purchased several years ago, most developers are not building for the entry-level buyer.


As a result, Mr. Miller said, “we are continuing to build a lot of product that is higher than what is desperately needed, because the math doesn’t work out otherwise.”


Ground-up construction will continue to dominate the landscape in 2015, making up 59 percent of new development. But conversions could produce some interesting reinventions. The original home of the New York Life Insurance Company, a full-block Renaissance-style 1899 building designed by McKim, Mead & White, is to be turned into 140 high-end apartments called 108 Leonard Street. Sales are planned to begin late this year.


The 31-story Verizon building at 140 West Street, across from One World Trade Center, is getting a residential overhaul by Magnum Real Estate Group and the CIM Group, with condos scheduled to enter the market in the first quarter of this year. Prices will range from $1.4 million for one-bedrooms to $15 million for five-bedrooms. The 1927 building will use the address 100 Barclay Street and maintain its lavish exterior, decorated with carvings of vines, flowers and birds, as well as receive a reimagined lobby by the architect Alexandra Champalimaud.


To stand out, developers are focusing on architecture, interior design and craftsmanship. “Everybody is designing to a very high level,” said Stephen G. Kliegerman, the president of Terra Development Marketing, “which I think is much different than what we saw pre-2008, where developers were kind of building to what they believed their marketplace was, instead of building to attract new buyers to their marketplace.” Terra Development Marketing advises Halstead Property and Brown Harris Stevens.


Architects making a New York debut this year include Tadao Ando, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect behind 152 Elizabeth Street, a boutique condominium developed by the New York firm Sumaida and Khurana. The building will incorporate Mr. Ando’s signature poured concrete, galvanized steel and voluminous glass, and house just seven two- to five-bedroom apartments with half-floor residences starting at $5.9 million and full-floor apartments beginning at $15 million.


Along the High Line in West Chelsea, Zaha Hadid has drawn attention for her sinuous 37-unit condominium at 520 West 28th Street. The developer is the Related Companies. The first New York building by the Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld is going up at 527 West 27th. The block-through development by Centaur Properties and Greyscale Development Group will be made up of two buildings with 36 one- to four-bedroom apartments.


And 515 Highline, a 12-unit condo with a wavy facade facing the park at 515 West 29th Street, is the second project in New York by Soo K. Chan, an architect and developer from Singapore. The condo, developed by the Bauhouse Group, will open sales this month with prices from $5 million to $25 million. The project comes on the heels of Mr. Chan’s other New York project, Soori High Line, a 31-unit condo with more than a dozen private pools, across the street at 522 West 29th. The developer was Siras Oriel Development.


“There will definitely be an increased level of construction quality,” said Roy Kim, who heads new development at Urban Compass. Buyers, he said, will not just have more choices, “but really well-designed quality projects to choose from. The ante has been upped.”

Manhattan’s new condo inventory to hit 7-year high in 2015

The Real DealJanuary 02, 2015

More than 6,500 new condominium units below 96th Street in Manhattan are slated to hit the market this year – more than double the amount of new inventory last year, according to Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group data.


Inventory for new apartments – in about 100 buildings — is on pace to rise to a seven-year high, the New York Times reported. In 2007, 8,052 new units were listed for sale. Many of the new units will be concentrated along Billionaire’s Row, near or on West 57th Street. About 2,500 units in 59 buildings hit the market in 2014.


High-profile projects include JDS and Property Markets Group’s 111 West 57th Street; Hines, the Pontiac Land Group of Singapore and Goldman Sachs’ 53W53; and Zeckendorf Development’s 520 Park. CORE is handling sales for nine new projects for 2015.


“Whenever you have a strong market in a competitive environment, the ultimate winner is the consumer,” CORE’s Shaun Osher told the New York Times. “I think the buyer will be the beneficiary from a robust development market. To compete, people will have to build better product.” 

What they're reading now

The Real DealJanuary 02, 2015

Where do you look for insight and inspiration? To find out, The Real Deal asks leaders in the industry what they’re reading.


Diane Ramirez 
CEO, Halstead Property


What are you reading right now or what did you finish most recently?


Over the summer, I read “Leadership Isn’t for Cowards,” by Mike Staver.


What spurred you to read that book?


The book is very relevant for day-to-day management, which is absolutely crucial for anyone in business.


Has anything you read in it stuck with you? Would you recommend it to others?


The book was informative and full of sound, practical advice. It was engaging and interesting, and throughout reading it, I would make notes as to what would help me or one of my directors handle specific situations at work.


Gary Malin 
President, Citi Habitats


What are you reading right now, or what did you finish most recently?


I just finished reading “Good to Great,” by Jim Collins. It’s a management classic. The book explains what differentiates great companies from the rest of the pack, and outlines how average companies can morph into great ones. I first read it many years ago, back when I was on a “business books” kick, but I just picked it up again.


What spurred you to read that book?

I always tell our agents that this is the time of year to take stock of their careers, take note of their successes and failures, and make a concrete plan for the coming year. So I decided to do the same, and this book helps bring me back to the fundamental principles that guide our business. Our company continues to go through changes to elevate it to the next level. For us, standing still is never an option and we are never complacent in our approach.


Has anything you read in it stuck with you? Would you recommend it to others?


One of the key ideas in the book is that it’s important to focus on the “who,” then the “what.” You have the get all the right people on the bus before you decide where you want to go. In addition, your employees have to understand — and believe in — your company’s mission. If everyone on board believes in the same concept, you will get to your goal a lot faster. I think Citi Habitats’ greatest asset is its people, and this book reinforced the notion to me that with the right people, anything is possible.


I would definitely recommend this book, as it has made a big impact on my management style. It’s helpful to leaders of companies that are in growth mode — or anyone who strives for greatness.


Tom Postilio 
Founding member, Core


What are you reading right now?


I’m currently enjoying “Stanford White’s New York,” by David Garrard Lowe. Unlike many of the books written about this Gilded Age luminary, Lowe’s account of White places more emphasis on the man and his immeasurable talent than on the scandalous details of his sensational murder on the rooftop of his iconic Madison Square Garden.


What spurred you to read that book?


My partner, Mickey Conlon, is a Stanford White scholar, and while I have always had a great admiration for White’s work here in the city, I thought it was time to dig a little deeper. Through an unusual series of coincidences, we have a long list of personal and professional connections to White and his work that stretches all the way from The Players on Gramercy Park, of which we’re members, out to the hamlet of Saint James on Long Island, where White’s country estate, Box Hill, still remains in the family. Mickey grew up in Saint James, and we’re now building a house down the street from Box Hill. It’s inevitable that Stanny’s hand will be evident in the design.


Has anything you read in it stuck with you?


White’s ability to dazzle the eye and sprit through design amazes me, as does the recklessness that allowed too many of his masterpieces to be destroyed in pursuit of mediocrity.

NYC's Premier Properties

Luxury Listings NYCJanuary 01, 2015

Emily Beare's 157 West 57th Street, 44B is featured in Luxury Listings' NYC's Premier Properties. 

Boutique condos are NYC’s sexiest way to live

New York PostDecember 31, 2014

With heads turned up to the sky, giant luxury developments — like One57 and 432 Park Ave. — continue to capture the eyes of onlookers as they reshape the city skyline.


But a look down closer to street level also shows plenty of activity afoot in the upscale arena: A proliferation of smaller residential condo buildings now cropping up around Manhattan, which offer buyers many of the ritzy touches as their sky-scraping counterparts — but in limited supply.


Examples include the nearly complete six-unit Seven East Village, located at 277 E. Seventh St., with prices from around $1.2 million to $2.15 million. Nest Seekers’ Ryan Serhant will also bring a dozen new upscale developments with less than 10 units each to market in the next 18 months, including the five-unit 227 E. 67th St. and 242 Fifth Ave., which will have four condos.


The Thomas Juul-Hansen-designed, 15-unit Sixty East Eighty Sixth is slated for completion at the end of 2015. There’s also the seven-unit 155 E. 79th St., where a five-bedroom duplex asks $15.6 million; construction should finish this summer.


Largely under 20 units, these luxe “boutique” projects offer buyers more intimate residences while developers benefit from less-risky investments.


It’s generally easier to secure financing for smaller buildings, brokers say, and builders can still score a profit by pricing units in the millions of dollars — necessary given the exorbitant prices for land these days.


As a consequence, the growing presence of these developments has created a new standard for luxury property: Condo buildings that are more personal and intimate than those of their monolithic counterparts.


“Developing boutique, luxury condominiums is akin to building custom, single-family homes,” says Beth Fisher, senior managing director at Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, which is handling sales at 60 E. 86th St. and 155 E. 79th St. “You can really address the tastes … and quality levels that buyers covet, but often cannot find.”


Appraiser Jonathan Miller says the rise of boutique developments fits into a larger construction trend. “We’re already seeing a lot of development on small lot sizes,” he says, citing immensely tall towers like One57 and 432 Park Ave. But he notes that it also applies to smaller projects happening in areas where zoning doesn’t permit such heights.


But smaller buildings can face a challenge in marketing, Miller notes. They’re generally lower-slung and don’t have high-rise views that help taller towers drive value.


Meanwhile, greater attention must be devoted to residential amenities in smaller structures to support the initial land cost. “You have to create this unique identifier because at some point a Sub-Zero is still a Sub-Zero,” Miller says.


Given the right amenities and the right marketing, the result is a standout property that trades on its exclusivity.


“What is luxury when it’s mass-produced?” posits Urban Compass president Leonard Steinberg. He and partner Hervé Senequier are marketing the eight-unit, 560 W. 24th St. condominium, which will deliver apartments this spring.


Units here, which range from $6.95 million to $18 million, boast custom details throughout made with craftsmanship that Steinberg says is hard to replicate on a larger scale. “It’s like a custom piece of jewelry, a car that’s a limited-edition … something that is of limited supply will always add value,” he adds.


Other under-construction condos also offer buyers high-end touches, including the 16-unit 27 Wooster St. (seven units are being held by the sponsor), with Juul-Hansen-designed interiors, and the nine-unit 17 E. 12th St., which will feature electronic kitchen cabinetry that opens by touch.


But what makes these two buildings truly stand out is their on-site parking: At 17 E. 12th St., there will be one space for each unit that will be included in the price of the apartment.


There are four parking spots available for purchase at 27 Wooster; their prices are not available.


Not all of these boutique projects are ground-up developments; even when converted from existing structures, the features at these condos still shine.


Minskoff Equities’ eight-story 37 E. 12th St. condo conversion, where prices currently reach $17.75 million, will give way to one duplex penthouse, one triplex and four apartments, whose touches include marble reclaimed from the original façade of the Museum of Modern Art.


The eight-unit Sorgente Group-developed Giglio on White, at 60 White St., where prices on the market currently range from $4.58 million to $9.26 million, has an emphasis on local materials and green friendliness.


Marble slabs come from Vermont and the building has “passive house” windows for energy efficiency.


The seven-unit conversion at 22 Central Park South, which was redeveloped by the Elad Group, boasts Central Park views along with extreme privacy. Here, the elevator goes directly from the lobby to a buyer’s residence; it will not stop to take other calls in-between. “You can go up and down without anyone seeing you other than the doorman,” says Samantha Sax, an executive vice president at Elad.


There will also be a quiet feel at 34 Prince St., a conversion being co-developed by Time Equities and Hamlin Ventures. The completion date and pricing for the seven units and two townhouses are not yet available, but buyers will have access to a private courtyard here. “It will really feel like your own and not shared with the world,” says Aaron Medeiros, director of acquisitions at Time Equities, of the green space.


Kevin Martins da Silva, co-owner and partner of boutique bank Three Ocean Partners, closed on a $3.25 million buy at the six-unit 230 E. 63rd St. as an investment property.


The heated floors, built-in speakers and cabinetry are all top-of-the-line, he adds, which make for great perks. “In a bigger building, when you have 200-plus units, you’re not going to have that much attention to detail,” Martins da Silva says.

The Real Deal‘s hottest stories of 2014

The Real DealDecember 30, 2014

As the year winds down to a close, The Real Deal looks back on the big deals, attention-grabbing broker moves and record numbers that made 2014 one for the books.


TRD‘s profile on real estate scion Jared Kushner was the most popular story on in 2014. The in-depth narrative chronicles the young CEO’s unexpected rise to the top of his family’s company and his appetite for megadeals, including the $375 million buy of the “Dumbo Heights” complex in Downtown Brooklyn.


Gary Barnett is no stranger to controversy — and he doesn’t shy away from it either. The Extell chief has been especially vocal about defending the city’s so-called “poor-door,” but he’s also battled — and sometimes bested — many of the city’s biggest developers. The developer’s 40 Riverside Boulevard project, for instance, will have two entrances: One for the condominium buyers, whose residences will face the Hudson River, and another for tenants, who will live in affordable rental units.


Unlike other big-name developers, the Witkoff Group almost always teams up, not just with equity partners, but with other industry figures who bring specialized expertise to the table. “Savvy strategist” Steven Witkoff has worked with the likes of Horward Lorber, Fisher Brothers, the Macklowe Group, and Ian Schrager, to name a few.


Danish architect Bjarke Ingels is just beginning his New York City tear, with four projects underway in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The starchitect opened his NYC office in September 2010 with just two employees — a number he says has grown to about 100 in only four years.


Among Ingels’ projects in the Big Apple is the pyramid-shaped, 709-unit residential, rental and retail building at West 57th Street he designed for the Durst Organization. The building, which will be one of Manhattan’s largest rental properties, topped out at 43 stories in October.


Michael Shvo, who parted ways with Douglas Elliman to start the Shvo Group in 2004, burst back onto the development scene in May 2013 after a “semi-retirement” during the recession. Right now, Shvo’s developing condos at 100 Varick Street in Soho and 125 Greenwich Street in the Financial District.


It was a big year for some of New York City’s top brokers, too. Fredrik Eklund — who shot to stardom on “Million Dollar Listing New York” — and partner John Gomes took the No. 1 spot on The Real Deal‘s annual broker ranking.


The pair logged $535.5 million in listings in 2014 (compared to $92.2 million in 2013) and later claimed that they closed more deals this year than anyone in Douglas Elliman’s history.


A strong luxury market in 2014 buoyed Manhattan’s largest brokerages. Firms like Douglas Elliman, the Corcoran Group, Brown Harris Stevens and Sotheby’s International Realty saw the total dollar volume of their Manhattan listings jump year-over-year, according to TRD‘s annual brokerage ranking.


“The luxury market is an extremely important market to be fluent in for any broker, especially now, since there are more high-net-worth individuals living in New York than ever before,” said Wendy Maitland, president of sales at brokerage Town Residential. “It’s not something that happens because you can get a certification or a degree in it. It happens with experience.”


TRD also surveyed brokers across the Big Apple to identify the best amenities at brokerages both big and small. Firms use technology, high commission splits and marketing/advertising support to attract top-notch talent, the survey showed. Platinum Properties even treated its agents to a trip to Dubai.


For commercial brokers, office facilities, training/support and high commission splits are key … but skydiving expeditions (CPEX) and whitewater rafting trips (Eastern Consolidated) aren’t too shabby, either.


On the acquisitions front, the big news was Cushman & Wakefield’s move to buy Massey Knakal for a cool $100 million. Massey Knakal CEO Paul Massey will oversee sales brokerage operations for New York City. Robert Knakal will also fill a key role at Cushman, which aims to ramp up its portfolio of small and mid-sized buildings.


The residential brokerage world saw its fair share of drama in 2014, however. Town Residential top guns Joseph Sitt and Andrew Heiberger found themselves at the center of an ugly — and public — legal battle when Sitt refused to renew Heiberger’s CEO contract on the grounds that he had failed to meet any of the financial targets the two had agreed upon. They eventually reconciled, and Heiberger took back the reins of CEO on Oct. 1, 2014.


Neil Binder, co-founder of the Bellmarc Group, was sued by his business partners for allegedly using company funds as his “personal piggy bank.” Amid the shakeup, more than 25 agents flocked to firms like Halstead and City Connections Realty.


Binder ultimately reached a settlement with Larry Friedman and Anthony DeGrotta, who resigned and joined Keller Williams NYC. The accusations, Binder said, “will always haunt me as a personal blemish on my 35 years of pursuing the highest standards in the business.” Coldwell Banker later terminated its franchise agreement with the embattled firm.


The year also saw some attention-grabbing moves from some of the city’s top brokers. After a decade-plus tenure at Douglas Elliman, Leonard Steinberg announced he and partner Herve Senequier were joining startup brokerage Urban Compass.


“I knew that when I joined a company like this that the real estate world would take note,” Steinberg said. “I’ve had calls like, ‘Oh my God, Leonard! What the hell are you doing?’ And then they say: ‘You know what? I think it’s brilliant.’ That’s 90 percent of the calls; 10 percent of the people still think I’m completely insane.”


Kyle Blackmon, an elite luxury broker and the holder of the distinction of New York City’s priciest closed sale, also jumped to Urban Compass from Brown Harris Stevens in November.


His departure is Brown Harris Stevens’ highest-profile exit of the decade. An internal BHS memo that made the rounds said that the value of Blackmon’s equity “will be dependent on the success of Urban Compass’ founders implementing their vision of selling their company for substantially more than many industry experts believe is possible – especially considering their recent switch to a traditional brokerage model.”


Urban Compass upped its brokerage game with some major pickups in 2014. Besides Steinberg and Blackmon, the techy brokerage hired Jay Glazer, who was Warburg’s top broker in 2013, and Eugene Litvak, whose team was Citi Habitats’ team of the year for overall production and rentals for 2013.


Such high-profile acquisitions, paired with nearly $500 million in listings and a $360 million valuation, had the industry wondering: Is Urban Compass really the future?


What is clear is that 2014 was the year of the real estate tech startup. A report first published by TRD found that investors funneled $743.7M globally into commercial real estate startups between the second quarter of 2012 and the second quarter of 2014. Some of this cash is coming from the early backers of big-name startups like Uber, Instagram and Buzzfeed.


Joshua Kushner, whose Thrive Capital invested in Uber and Instagram, is an investor in at least four industry startups: Hightower, 42Floors, Honest Buildings and Urban Compass.


While some venture capital firms are pouring money into real estate’s tech firms, others have their eyes set on another cash-rich company: WeWork.


The shared office and coworking space provider raised $335 million in its latest funding round. WeWork’s $5 billion valuation puts it in the same league as one of Silicon Valley’s greatest successes, Pinterest, and values it at $1.5 billion more than Trulia.


The milestone capped off a year of benchmarks for New York City real estate.


New York City’s co-op record was broken three times in 2014. Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris bought Edgar Bronfman’s 960 Fifth Avenue penthouse for a record $70 million in June, which was soon upset by Israel Englander’s purchase of the official residence of the French ambassador to the United States for $71.3 million.


New York Jets owner Woody Johnson ultimately pulled the most money for his 834th Fifth Avenue co-op, which he sold to billionaire Leonard Blavatnik $80 million — $5 million over the asking price — in October. (Click here for The Real Deal‘s list of co-op records that have been set since 2005.)


In June, a trio of contiguous condos at the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park City assumed the title as New York City’s priciest listing. The combined 15,434-square-foot unit was listed with Nest Seekers agent and “Million Dollar Listing” star Ryan Serhant for $118.5 million.


That record won’t last long, however. A few months later, the Zeckendorfs announced they would ask $130 million for 520 Park’s penthouse triplex.


Some of the city’s top brokers weighed in on whether that price tag was a bridge too far. “It is an iconic old-world building and it’s not even built yet,” said CORE Group’s Emily Beare.


As some of the city’s listings reached new heights, so did some of its buildings. 432 Park Avenue officially became the Western Hemisphere’s tallest residential building when it topped out at 1,396 feet in October.


One World Trade Center officially went back to work in November. The first wave of Condé Nast employees moved into the $3.8 billion office tower, filling five of the building’s 104 floors.


So, what’s in store for 2015? You’ll have to check out TRD’s last issue from 2014 to find out.

Top residential agents of the week

The Real DealDecember 26, 2014

Price: $26,050,000
Listing brokers: Leighton Candler and Caroline Holl of the Corcoran Group
Address: 157 East 70th Street


Price: $8,865,000
Listing broker: Karen Adler of the Corcoran Group
Address: 300 Central Park West


Price: $6,150,000
Listing broker: Noble Black of the Corcoran Group
Address: 4 East 88th Street


Price: $6,150,000
Listing broker: Noble Black of the Corcoran Group
Address: 4 East 88th Street


Price: $5,900,000
Listing brokers: Noble Black and Erik Ternon of the Corcoran Group
Address: 340 West 57th Street


Price: $5,350,000
Listing brokers: Shaun Osher and Tony Sargent of CORE
Address: 30 Bond Street 

Open House Agenda: 3 Apartments to See This Weekend

DNAinfo: Open House InsiderDecember 19, 2014

While buyers can certainly get more for their money with apartments and houses in the outer boroughs — though that’s no longer the case in certain Brooklyn neighborhoods — there remain great deals to be had in Manhattan. Here are three that caught our eye this week with open houses on Sunday.


752 W. 178th St., Apt. 5A, Washington Heights/Hudson Heights
4 Bedrooms/1 Bath
Approximately 1,400 square feet
Maintenance: $1,140 per month
Open House: Sunday, Dec. 21, 1:30-2:30 p.m.


Lowdown: Few buyers are looking for a four-bedroom apartment, but for those who are, this large Hudson Heights unit can seem like an incredible steal, especially with 1,400 square feet, 9-foot ceilings and a formal dining room with original wainscotting.


“Units like this are rare,” said Joe Tuttle of Cooper & Cooper Real Estate. “The comment most people make is ‘I had no idea that you could find an apartment this size in New York City.’”


The sellers have lived there about a decade, and they’ve retiled the bathroom and updated the appliances, adding a dishwasher and washer and dryer. “It could use a little TLC, which is why it’s priced the way it’s priced,” Tuttle said.


The unit sits on the top floor of a five-story walk-up and gets a “ton of light” with three exposures and views of the Hudson River, New Jersey Palisades and the George Washington Bridge (GWB). Tuttle had a few contractors view the space and buyers looking to renovate have multiple options for adding a second bathroom and combining rooms.


The co-op is no frills, which keeps the maintenance low. There’s a live-in super and an “easy board; the approval process for purchasers is much easier and more streamlined than most other co-ops,” Tuttle said. The temporary $292 assessment is to defray the costs of winter heating oil.


Location: The building sits at the corner of Fort Washington Avenue, with the ramp for the GWB and I-95 across the street. There’s also easy access to the Henry Hudson Parkway. Fort Washington Park, with the Little Red Lighthouse and several types of sports courts, is a couple blocks west. The Columbia Presbyterian campus is four blocks south. The nearby GWB Bus Terminal is undergoing a major renovation; it will include new retailers and restaurants when it reopens next summer.


There’s an entrance to the 175th Street A train station around the corner from the building at 177th Street. The 1 train is at 181st and Saint Nicholas Avenue.


Why put it on your open house calendar? It’s an enormous space, yet “it’s in the price range for a lot of first-time home buyers, and you have the opportunity to customize it and realize your vision,” Tuttle said. “It’s also rare to have such an easy co-op board.”


310 Riverside Dr., Apt. 1419-1420, Upper West Side
1 Bedroom/1.5 Baths
Approximately 659 square feet
Maintenance: $903 per month
Open House: Sunday, Dec. 21, noon to 1:30 p.m.


Lowdown: Two combined studios account for this one-bedroom having a bathroom and powder room, as well as two entrances from the hallway — the second of which goes through the large walk-in closet in the bedroom. “It’s a funny thing to see, but kind of neat,” said Paul Johansen of CORE.


The half bath and second entrance make the unit ideal for guest privacy as well as if an owner ever wanted to have a roommate. The seller, an actress from Ireland, has kept the unit well maintained, Johansen said, adding that “it’s quiet, gets good light, and the views from the living room and bedroom are gorgeous.”


It could also easily be renovated by enlarging the kitchen and expanding the living room into an el-shape, Johansen noted.


The Art Deco building, known as the Master Apartments, has an interesting history. It was completed in 1929 for a Russian philosopher who used it as his personal museum, and it’s the first apartment building in the city to have corner windows.


The co-op features a revolving art display in the lobby, Johansen noted. Currently on view are photos of 1970s graffiti art owned by a tenant. “Every month you have new artwork displayed. It’s a sign that the building is run well, that the tenants really care. It brings a sense of life and personality.”


Location: Riverside Park is steps away; Columbia University’s main campus is a few blocks north. The cross street is 103rd, so the 1 train is only two blocks east at Broadway; walk south to 96th Street for the 2 and 3 express trains. There’s the M96 crosstown bus, and the M104 along Broadway, which used to go along 42nd Street, and riders are petitioning to have that section of the route restored.


Why put it on your open house calendar? “This is an apartment for anyone who has a desire for the old world charm of the Upper West Side,” Johansen said. “And a well-proportioned one-bedroom with the amount of sunlight and those corner windows is a characteristic you don’t see very often.”


407 W. 40th St., PHA, Theater District/Hell's Kitchen
2 Bedrooms/2 Baths
Approximately 1,000 square feet
Maintenance: $840 per month
Open House: Sunday, Dec. 21, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Lowdown: The sellers, who have lived in this Midtown West duplex for about a decade, added a second bathroom upstairs, and updated the kitchen and downstairs bath, said Donald Kemper of Douglas Elliman. They also recently added decking to the private terrace and roof deck.


The unit also comes with a gas-burning fireplace and “at least 10-foot ceilings,” and gets “excellent sunlight” from south-facing windows.


“The key is the second bath, which really adds value to the property, plus the great amount of private outdoor space makes it unique,” Kemper said. “It’s tough to find.”


Another benefit is that the co-op paid off the underlying mortgage about 18 months ago and has since lowered the maintenance twice (it used to be $1,200), Kemper noted, adding “at the same time they’ve been able to build up cash reserves, put on a new roof and renovate the hallways.”


Location: The walk-up building is on a unique block between Ninth and 10th avenues where it’s adjacent to the ramp for the Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority overpass, Kemper said. There’s also a women’s shelter and a church that provides a soup kitchen and community services for those in need.


“There are some things that can be challenges to some people,” but the right buyer will be someone who connects with the community aspect and doesn’t mind the density of the location. “They will see the value,” he noted, adding that offers are made about every 10 days by buyers trying to leverage those location aspects, "but the price already takes them into account."


In addition to the nearby Port Authority, access to the A, C, E, 1, 2, 3 and Shuttle trains is at Eighth Avenue.


Why put it on your open house calendar? If you’re fine with the location, it’s an “unparalleled” amount of outdoor space for Manhattan at that price and with a low maintenance, Kemper said. “It also has warmth and charm with details such as the fireplace, high ceilings, exposed brick, and it’s bright and sunny. That’s tough to find.”

Top real estate M&A deals that will impact NYC next year

The Real DealDecember 18, 2014

Cushman & Wakefield’s acquisition of the local brokerage Massey Knakal Realty Services for a reported $100 million looks set to be the biggest shakeup in the local market this year. But it’s but by no means the only one.


The slew of mergers and acquisitions, including the sales of brokerage firms Studley and Cassidy Turley and listing sites Trulia and, flow from ready access to capital and the growth of the real estate market, insiders said.


The industry’s strength means firms have funds at the ready, and banks and private equity shops are willing to throw cash at buyers who want a piece of the action.


“Everyone is doing better,” said Joel Herskowitz, COO of the brokerage Lee & Associates NYC. “The buyers have more dollars to access, and there are more investors willing to put up money. And from the sellers’ perspective, what better time to sell anything than in a strong market?”


Why do these deals happen? Sometimes it’s because an owner wants to cash out, and other times it wants to expand its reach. Others have a goal of creating a bigger firm that can be monetized.


“Occasionally a firm will make a purchase to create a larger entity just for the sake of ultimately turning it around to sell the entity that was the buyer,” either through a public offering or an outright sale, Herskowitz said.


Cushman’s purchase of Massey Knakal, the Midtown-based firm with revenues of about $80 million and 200 employees led by Paul Massey and Robert Knakal, will have the largest impact on the local market. It will significantly expand the number of Cushman brokers in the city and reconfigure its business operations here.


The sale of Studley to the London-based Savills for $260 million will have less of an impact on New York, because Savills did not have as prominent a stake in the local market as Studley, led by Mitchell Steir.


In addition, TPG Capital, a private equity firm, acquired the brokerage DTZ for $1.1 billion, and has plans to purchase Cassidy Turley later this year. Both those firms have only a mid-sized presence in Manhattan, although the local Cassidy Turley office, led by Peter Hennessy, has roots stretching back several decades.


Another big national deal likely to have a small local impact was BGC Partners, the parent firm of Midtown-based Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, buying the investment brokerage network Apartment Realty Advisors for $110 million.


On the residential front, the most significant transaction was developer the Related Companies buying a 50 percent stake in the residential brokerage CORE, led by Shaun Osher.


The landscape of listings sites also saw major changes this year. Zillow purchased Trulia for $3.5 billion, and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation purchased Move Inc., which owns and, for $950 million. Earlier this year the commercial-focused listing database CoStar Group bought the listing site in April for $585 million. 

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