House of the Day: A Dream New York Penthouse

The Wall Street JournalNovember 23, 2012
New York, NY
Price: $5,950,000

Owning a New York penthouse was a dream-come-true for producer Don Blanton. Now, the place that gave him views of a city that has seen him through good times and bad is on the market for $5.95 million.

Ultimate Kitchens for the Holidays

ForbesNovember 21, 2012
Kitchens are the heart of the home. It’s where we cook, eat, and congregate – especially during the holidays. In honor of the season, we’ve spotlighted dream kitchens sure to set a merry mood not just for those holiday house guests — but for the host too.

“A modern kitchen is very important to people – whether you cook or don’t cook – because so much time is spent in there,” says Jarrod Randolph, a luxury broker with CORE Real Estate. “When you walk into a home or apartment –even if it’s older — and the kitchen is newly done and done well, it makes it ten times easier sell.”

With the help of, Sotheby’s International Realty, Coldwell Banker Previews International and, Forbes has cherry-picked a variety of for sale homes offering tantalizing cook spaces, outrageous amenities and delectable layouts sure to set spirits bright.

Homebuyers and owners fork over top dollar for kitchens, which can run into the hundreds of thousands for top-of-the-line materials and appliances. Alongside bathrooms, kitchens are the most common remodeling projects taken up by homeowners, according to the National Association of Home Builders. And they’re on the rise: kitchen projects are up 17% this year compared to 2010.

Open layouts that blend with the surrounding living areas prevail when it comes to homeowners’ floor plan aspirations, according to the American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey. Breakfast bars with counter stools and large islands that serve as workspaces and entertaining/dining spaces, all of which bolster an open layout, are among the most popular kitchen details, adds Liza Hausman, a vice president at Houzz, an online platform for home remodeling and design concepts.

In some homes, multiple islands have been implemented to allow the space adaptability to operate as a catering kitchen as well. A $30 million Bel Air compound in Los Angeles, Calif. boasts among its many party-centric amenities a commercial-grade kitchen with two islands, each equipped with twin sets of appliances.

A gourmet kitchen tucked inside an $18.9 million Fort Lauderdale, Fla. mansion has double islands, including one with a griddle and warming drawers, a breakfast banquet and a granite eat-in bar with beverage fridge that extends out into a 2,000-square foot great room. A professional chef works within the lavish space daily, yet, hiding behind a swinging door at the back of the room is a butler’s pantry fully finished with a double fridge, electric stove, and commercial-grade dishwasher. The pantry also has two additional doors that swing out to a formal dining room and an outdoor dining verandah.

“This kitchen essentially has another kitchen behind it so that if you are having parties, you have plenty of room,” says Eileen Kedersha, the ONE Sotheby’s International broker that represents the South Florida home.

High-end appliances are a must, with owners installing Sub-Zero refrigerators, six-burner ranges by Viking and Dynasty (to name a few), and double dishwashers from Miele. “What we’re seeing more of are complete integration of appliances – not just paneled dishwashers and refrigerators, but ovens and microwaves that look like part of the cabinetry,” explains Hausman.

The most decadent of kitchens even incorporate restaurant-ready gadgets like rotisseries, built-in espresso machines, and pasta drawers. One $12.9 million Dutch Colonial in Fairfield, Conn. boasts a wood-burning pizza oven (a foodie feature typically found outside, if at all).

The American Institute of Architects has found that renovation projects are increasingly spanning nontraditional features like computer stations or recharging areas for electronic devices, built-in recycling centers and wine storage areas as well.

Perhaps the most unexpected amenity creeping into kitchens is the fireplace. In Beverly Hills, Calif., a recently finished massive $58 million mansion dubbed the Crescent Palace boasts a massive 5,000-square foot “kitchen” filled with seating for 16, a commercial-sized freezer, a glass walk-in pantry, multiple flat screen TVs – and a lounge area donning a gas fireplace. In Water Mill, N.Y., a $39.5 million Hamptons estate’s state-of-the-art kitchen has its own fireplace bedecked living room as well, so guests can get cozy while looking out on the water of Mecox Bay.

In New York City, where space is notoriously cramped, developers of new multi-family projects haven’t fixated on fireplaces just yet but they are experimenting with ergonomics to make the kitchen feel more like the living room. “We’ve rotated the kitchen so that the cooking surface faces the guests so that you can socialize while cooking,” says Michael Namer, founder and principal of Alfa Development/Management, the New York developer of up-and-coming green condo building Chelsea Green.

All of the kitchens in Chelsea Green are designed by celebrity chef Eric Rippert for Poggenpohl. Facing out toward the rest of the apartment, the space includes a Miele induction cooktop with a Smeg oven, a garbage/recycling pull-out cabinet on the right side and a pots-and-pans cabinet on the left, ensuring no need to turn your back on guests. And its drawing buyers: despite a 2013 completion date, all but three of the project’s 51 units have been bought.

Big Deal: In San Francisco, Life With Out “Starchitects”

The New York TimesNovember 16, 2012
Whether it’s Frank Gehry at New York by Gehry, Christian de Portzamparc at One57 or Robert A. M. Stern at 15 Central Park West, showcasing a “starchitect” is part of the arms race that is luxury condo development in Manhattan these days.

The developers of Walker Tower, a luxury condo conversion in Chelsea, have taken it a step further, trumpeting the original designer of the former commercial building, Ralph Walker, whom The New York Times in 1957 called the “architect of the century.” They have even erected a small museum about Mr. Walker, who died in 1973, in the tower’s sales center.

But across the country, San Francisco offers an intriguing counterpoint: distinctive architecture is conspicuously lacking in the high-rise building boom.
Forty years after it was completed, the 850-foot Transamerica Pyramid remains the most recognizable high-rise tower built in the City by the Bay. Designed by the architect William Pereira, it took a lot of flak from locals during its planning and construction, with detractors sometimes referring to it as a phallic symbol, though their actual wording was more blunt.

Nevetheless, it became a fixture of the city’s skyline. Today it stands mostly alone in a city more interested in conserving its old Victorian-style homes than in making a statement with new development. It is a puzzling phenomenon in a part of the country often seen as an engine of American innovation.

“People work hard to preserve old things without taking the risk to build something new,” Mr. Gehry said about San Francisco in a recent phone conversation.

He was critical of the high-rise building boom under way in San Francisco’s South of Market area, where the newly built towers are boxy and utilitarian. “It’s business without heart,” he said.

In the past decade, 13 high-rise condo towers of 20 stories or more have been built in San Francisco. Another four such projects have been approved by the city, according to the Mark Company, a real estate marketing and sales firm.

There is nary a brand-name architecture firm to be found among the towers that have already been built, though Handel Architects did design the sleek Millennium Tower. A new luxury high-rise being designed by Richard Meier is still struggling to get approved by the city after almost five years of development.

The new buildings South of Market are meant to attract singles and young couples, many of whom are working in the tech industry and don’t yet want the hassles of a single-family home. And while higher-end offerings like the Millennium have attracted a few prominent locals — like the former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana — foreigners, especially from China, make up a large chunk of the buyers.

At the Madrone, another high-rise in the newly developed neighborhood of Mission Bay, a young techie apartment owner I spoke with said that the architecture of the building had never really been a consideration.

That doesn’t surprise Mr. Stern, who doesn’t see young tech buyers as having the sophistication to care about buildings (though, it must be said, they may have refined tastes in the subtle design touches of the latest smartphones). “I think it takes them awhile to get over the initial high-dose blast of wealth to realize that wealth can be used more creatively than just buying big shoebox spaces and sticking in foosball games and other things like that,” Mr. Stern said.

The young software engineers may not care too much about the quality of architecture where they live, but down in Silicon Valley some big tech firms have tapped world-renowned architects to design their new headquarters.

Facebook hired Mr. Gehry, 83, for the expansion of its campus in Menlo Park. Mr. Gehry designed a 433,555-square-foot building with a rooftop garden that will be built on stilts. “It should look like a floating forest where the building peeks from beneath a series of trees,” said Slater Tow, a Facebook spokesman. “We are not out to make an architectural statement, we are out to make the most functional building for engineers.”

It was Steve Jobs himself who commissioned Sir Norman Foster to design Apple’s new 2.8-million-square-foot headquarters in Cupertino, which Mr. Jobs described as a “spaceship.”

Both the Apple and Facebook projects are expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

But just a commute away in San Francisco, there is little buzz about big-name designers. “San Francisco is not a place where people shout architects’ names on a building,” said Mary Comerio, a professor in the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. “You get more controversy when that happens.”

Indeed, developers in San Francisco are loath to take architectural risks because the city’s approval process for new development is long and rigorous, perhaps the most onerous in the country, architects say.

It’s hard to fault their caution when you consider how small San Francisco really is — 47 square miles (Manhattan alone is 23 square miles) — with much of the area consumed by neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes. More than the pedigree of the architect, the city worries about things like shadows and wind and, of course, earthquakes.

The earthquake issue is not as tough to navigate as you might think, but it is still a costly concern. The Bay Area remains highly susceptible to earthquakes, and “seismic readiness” can add as much as 15 percent to the cost of a new structure, said Mark Sarkisian, director of seismic and structural engineering in the San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which built the John Hancock Center and Sears (now Willis) Tower in Chicago.

Not surprisingly, the science of engineering tall buildings has come a long way in the last 20 years. The structures have special joints to dissipate energy without fracturing during a quake. They can bend, almost like a fishing pole.

In the South of Market area, the sandy soil creates a bigger risk if a big one hits. So developers need to dig foundations 100 to 125 feet deep, Mr. Sarkisian said.

All the engineering advances have made newer high-rises less susceptible to collapse than lower-rise brick structures being held together by gravity, experts say.

But it hasn’t been fear of earthquakes that has held up the approval of a residential tower being designed by Mr. Meier’s firm for the corner of Market Street and Van Ness Avenue. City planners were concerned about how an early design for the building, currently scheduled to have 37 floors, would affect wind conditions for pedestrians, said Bernhard Karpf, an associate partner at Richard Meier & Partners, who is in charge of the project.

“They describe that area as having ‘hazardous wind conditions,’ where people would literally get blown off the street,” Mr. Karpf said.

The developer David Choo asked Mr. Meier in 2009 to do something that was “not your traditional San Francisco architecture,” Mr. Karpf said. Meier & Partners initially designed a “free-standing sculptural object” on the small site. With approval threatened, the firm hired a Canadian company to test a scale model in a wind tunnel, delaying the design process by another year.

“We had never heard of these kinds of wind regulations,” Mr. Karpf said. “It became almost obsessive on the planning board’s side to make sure wind is mitigated.”

Their frustration mounting, the Meier architects asked the Canadian company to give them three or four shapes that would meet the wind requirements. “We have to move forward,” Mr. Karpf said he told them. “We have to find a solution that works. It may look horrible, but let’s see if we can reverse the process and turn it into a building.”

In the end, the slender shape of the building “was strongly influenced” by studies in the wind tunnel laboratory, which showed that it would “actually improve wind conditions in this part of town,” he said.

When Mr. Karpf asked Mr. Choo how he could stand to buy a property and still have nothing to show for it some five years later, he shrugged and told the architect, “That’s the way it works in San Francisco.”

Walker Tower in Chelsea Teases Us With Three More Penthouses

ZimbioNovember 16, 2012
Walker Tower, located at 212 W. 18th Street, consists of 50 luxury condominiums. Eighteen units from the first round of available apartments at the restored Ralph Walker-designed building are in contract. The tower, erected before neighborhood height limits, boasts protected 360-degree views of Manhattan, which partially explains the sky-high pricing.

Penthouse 8, a three-bedroom, four-bathroom duplex, is asking $12.495 million, or $4,068 per square foot. Penthouse 3 has a price tag of $20.99 million, or $6,035 per square foot, while Penthouse 4 is asking $12.895 million, or $5,005 per square foot.

Model unit photographs and floor plans below, courtesy of CORE:

It’s Officially Penthouse Time at Chelsea’s Walker Tower

CurbedNovember 16, 2012
The penthouses at Walker Tower have already received a fair amount of hype for the sky-high planned asking prices of $10,000/foot. The penthouses with the highest asks haven't come to market yet, but a few penthouses in the Art Deco Chelsea building did hit the market today, and their prices still induce some sticker shock. Penthouse 8, a duplex, is seeking $12.495 million, or $4,068/square foot. Penthouse 4 is seeking $12.895 million, or $5,005/square foot, and penthouse 3 is asking $20.99 million, or a whopping $6,035/square foot. The listings include the same model unit photos as earlier inventory (17 units from the first batch of listings are in contract, hence the new offerings), but there are floor plans for each penthouse.

Read the Book, Buy the Condo

The New York TimesNovember 16, 2012
ABOUT 60 women gathered inside a condominium on Liberty Street in the financial district on a Sunday evening not long ago to hear Dana Adam Shapiro read from his newly released book, “You Can Be Right (or You Can Be Married): Looking for Love in the Age of Divorce,” a journalistic investigation into why so many marriages fail. The women were also there to buy lingerie, get a psychic reading — and inspect the $2.68 million triplex condo for sale.

The topic had relevance to Heather Knapp, a 29-year-old marketing executive, who is dating a divorced man. “My boyfriend’s an open book, he tells me a lot,” she said, “but I was interested to hear someone else’s take on the experience.” In addition to the apartment, Ms. Knapp, who lives on the Upper East Side, was curious about the increasingly residential financial district.

This event, mixing an author and a condo, is just one of many such gatherings that have taken place at buildings across Manhattan in recent months. Many have been organized by Divalysscious Moms, a company that puts on events for New York-area mothers. Founded by Lyss Stern five years ago, it has 465,000 members. Ms. Stern hosts a book club, exclusive shopping events, makeovers, and other occasions for moms with and without their kids.

In the last year she has brought E. L. James, Kathie Lee Gifford, Laurie David, Soleil Moon Frye and other authors together with the mothers in her network for readings in multimillion-dollar apartments for the purpose of selling books and real estate. “Authors are selling books and the books give such value to the events,” Ms. Stern said. “There is no better way to get buyers into these beautiful apartments.”

Indeed, others are following suit. The designer Jonathan Adler is scheduled to present his new book at 225 Rector Place this winter, and 400 Fifth Avenue is hosting an event for the photographer Evan Joseph’s new book.

Randy Rastello-McManus, a 42-year-old jewelry and graphic designer, said she had been attracted to the Liberty Street reading by both the apartment and the subject. She lives in the Country Club section of the Bronx but is often in Manhattan for work. As she looked at the oversize chandelier hanging from the double-height ceiling, she said the triplex could work well for her family.

It required a little imagination to make that assessment, because the apartment was unfurnished except for the rows of folding chairs that had been set up for the reading. A resale whose owner provided guests with wine from his collection, the unit has been on the market for about four months. Deborah Lupard, the Warburg Realty agent handling the listing, described the event as a good opportunity to get potential buyers and brokers through the door. Bringing people in, she said, is important because it allows her to explain that even though monthly maintenance is $11,600, the apartment is priced low on a per-square-foot basis, something potential buyers might miss just looking at the listing online. (Also, she can emphasize that the owner will contribute to the maintenance for three years, reducing the buyer’s monthly cost to $7,995.)

Ms. Lupard says author events can work for most apartment listings. Because the Liberty Street event was taking place in a large triplex, she arranged for the psychic, the lingerie and the wine tasting in addition to the reading. A smaller apartment might book just one attraction, to reduce overcrowding. “Anything, an art show or poetry reading, anything that entices as many people to view the property is a good thing,” she said.

The Azure on the Upper East Side, which has three-, four- and five-bedroom units, has hosted three events with Divalysscious Moms. But they were just part of the larger marketing strategy for the building, said Douglas MacLaury, a senior vice president of the Mattone Group, a sponsor of the Azure along with the Dematteis Organizations. The building has also hosted wine-and-cheese gatherings, as well as events on how to find the best doctors and how to get into private preschools.

“We try to choose an author who appeals to the people that we are trying to attract to the building,” Mr. MacLaury said. “If you are trying to appeal to higher-end clientele who can afford these apartments, something to do with fashion, high-end food, those seem to be the topics that bring people to the table.” Kathie Lee Gifford read her children’s book “Party Animals” in the building playroom. Other events have taken place in the lounge and in the four-bedroom model apartment. The building, which has been on the market since mid-2010, is over 60 percent sold, according to Mr. MacLaury.

Authors also benefit from the arrangement, said Jennifer Gilbert, who wrote “I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag: A Memoir of a Life Through Events — the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don’t,” about her recovery from a violent attack. Her first reading was at One Museum Mile, on Fifth Avenue and 110th Street. Many of the women attending the event had already started the book and were interested in Ms. Gilbert’s story of recovery. The event was held on the roof deck, which has views of Central Park. “We had a nice group of moms,” Ms. Gilbert recalled. “We had tea and talked about the book.”

Author events can be an easy way to draw potential buyers to a building in an unfamiliar neighborhood, said Natalie Rakowski, a managing director of the CORE Group, the brokerage handling One Museum Mile. “We had three or four moms who came from TriBeCa and were pleasantly surprised,” she said.

Though Mr. MacLaury was unaware of anyone who attended an event who ultimately bought an apartment, he said the events helped generate interest among friends and associates of those who do attend. One recent buyer, he said, is a friend of a reading participant.

Dana Haddad, a 40-year-old educational consultant and a voracious reader, came to Ms. Gilbert’s event just to see her. “I was really just interested in being around like-minded people who enjoy reading,” she said. “I also happened to be looking for an apartment, and it had not even occurred to me to look at the building.”

Ms. Haddad, whose fiancé has three teenage children, has been back several times since, to look at apartments.

More Small Dogs and Big Home Prices

The New York TimesNovember 16, 2012
IN his 1995 memoir “Dreams From My Father,” Barack Obama described the Yorkville walk-up on 94th Street near First Avenue where he had lived in the 1980s as “part of the shifting border between East Harlem and the rest of Manhattan.” Over the last several years, as the latest wave of gentrification has washed north of East 96th Street, breaching a traditional dividing line sometimes called the Wall by East Harlem residents, that boundary has blurred even further.

In particular, Lexington Avenue between 96th and 104th Streets has been transformed by the arrival of luxury housing and spiffy lounges. At the East Harlem Cafe, laptop-pecking patrons can dine on a goat cheese and tomato salad called El Barrio, the name by which parts of the neighborhood have been known for decades by its many Hispanic residents.

Brian Armstead of the Corcoran Group, who grew up on East 110th Street, said that one of his condominium sales on 104th and First fell apart last year when the buyer, an investor from New Jersey, learned that the apartment she had chosen was in East Harlem.

“Some Web sites call that area the Upper East Side,” he said, “and then she heard somewhere else it was called East Harlem, so she backed out because it confused her.”

The gentrification has by no means been wholesale; much of the area is still dominated by rows of crumbling tenements and mountain ranges of public housing. In many cases, residents say, multiple immigrant families crowd together in a single one-bedroom unit. But for students of Manhattan’s tendency to remake itself block by block, the signs of evolution are evident.

James Garcia, a manager at a nonprofit group, needs only to gaze from his condo’s south-facing terrace to see the change. In 2005, Mr. Garcia and his partner moved from Battery Park City, paying $595,000 for a two-bedroom condo with two baths and two terraces on 112th Street near Thomas Jefferson Park. Next door was an auto body shop, and beyond that a tire repair place.

“Looking out from our back terrace, there was nothing but public housing back then,” Mr. Garcia recalled, “and now I see eight new residential buildings. And the empty lot next to mine is going to be converted into an eight-story condo.”

Development has been spurred in part by East River Plaza, a long-awaited mall at 116th Street and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive that offers the likes of Target and Old Navy. The increased foot traffic has brought restaurants to the avenues nearby as well as to 116th, which has come to be called Little Mexico. On 119th and Third, Hunter College’s graduate school of social work now resides in a shiny new eight-story brick-and-glass building. Along with condos and a graduate center apartment house, the school has drawn a diverse crowd and helped rejuvenate a down-at-heel area of dollar stores.

“There’s a young professional population of every ethnic group,” Mr. Garcia said, “and a noticeable, huge increase in the gay population.”

But perhaps the greatest leading indicator of cultural transformation can be found at the dog run. “You can always tell a neighborhood is changing by its dogs,” Mr. Garcia said. “When we moved here, they were mostly pit bulls, but now there’s every breed, every terrier you can imagine.”


Broadly speaking, East Harlem is made up of the one and a half square miles of Manhattan Island covered by Community Board 11: The area between 96th and 142nd Streets, from Fifth Avenue to the East and Harlem Rivers. These borders can be a subject of disagreement. Some place the northern boundary at 125th Street, the southern edge north of 96th.

Nearly half the area’s 101,448 residents are Hispanic or Latino, but from 2000 to 2010 their proportion shrank to 47 percent from 52, according to census data provided by Andrew A. Beveridge, the chairman of the Queens College sociology department. The black population dipped slightly, to 38 percent, while the percentage of non-Hispanic whites rose to 13 from 7 and the share of Asians doubled, to 6 percent. Median household income was $30,833, less than half that of Manhattan households overall.

English and Spanish are both widely spoken, but the background of those speaking the Spanish has changed. The proportion of Puerto Ricans, the area’s dominant group by the 1950s, was just a quarter of the 2010 population, while an influx of Mexicans and Dominicans brought the reported share of each of those groups to 8 percent.

Most East Harlemites live in some form of rent-regulated housing, and the neighborhood has one of the largest concentrations of public housing in New York. But development pressure is mounting. In 2010 and ‘11, more new certificates of occupancy were issued in East Harlem than in any other city neighborhood, according to a report by the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University.

George Sarkissian, the district manager of Community Board 11, said that rising rents had priced some longtime residents out of their own neighborhood. “We have private equity firms that have bought up large portfolios of low- and middle-income housing at the tail end of their rent-regulatory period,” he said, and in some cases the buildings have opted out of government rent-regulation programs, bringing some apartments to market rate. “So there’s a bit of tension between people who have been in East Harlem for generations and those who are moving here, although there’s no outright conflict.”

The community board has made a priority of preserving affordable housing, Mr. Sarkissian added, and it has held discussions with new building owners to try to persuade them to remain for 25 years in the federal Section 8 program, which provides rental payment assistance to low-income New Yorkers.

Below-market-rate and mixed-income housing has also been built by private developers making use of government incentives. One of the newest mixed-income co-ops is the eight-story Lancaster Madison, the fourth in a corridor of pleasant brick-and-masonry buildings between 117th and 120th Streets on Madison Avenue.

“All the brand-new buildings make you feel that people are already investing up here,” said Enrique Vela, an architect, while taking a break from painting a room for the baby whom he and his wife, Gimar Diaz, are expecting. Last month the couple paid $395,000 for a two-bedroom unit in the Lancaster Madison. “The neighborhood’s not there yet,” he said, “but it’s getting there, and when it does I think we’ll be sitting pretty.”


Fifth Avenue from 96th to 110th Street has several new developments and renovated prewar buildings that sell or rent at heights unheard of elsewhere in East Harlem. Three-bedrooms in 1214 Fifth, a new 53-story glass tower on 102nd, rent for $9,000 a month and up, said Daria Salusbury, a senior vice president of the Related Companies, the building’s leasing agent. Condos at One Museum Mile, the tower atop the as-yet-unopened Museum for African Art on 110th, command more than $1,000 a square foot.

Outside of this rarefied corridor, two-bedrooms in luxury condos typically bring around $615,000, said Mr. Armstead of Corcoran, and the pace of sales has picked up markedly since September. A search on found 71 residential properties for sale.

Two-bedrooms in tenements rent for around $2,300, said Dianne Howard, also of Corcoran. Luxury rentals can be had for $2,500 to $3,000 a month, Mr. Armstead said.


The area boasts some of the best Mexican food in town, at restaurants like El Paso Taqueria. Diverse local favorites include Ricardo Ocean Grill; Harley’s Smokeshack; Creole; and Piatto D’Oro, one of whose owners is a former Roman paparazzo.


Among the public elementary schools is the Bilingual Bicultural School on 109th, for kindergarten through fifth grade, which earned an A on its most recent city progress report. Middle schools include the Isaac Newton Middle School for Math and Science on Pleasant Avenue, which scored a C. At the Central Park East High School on Madison, SAT averages last year were 405 in reading, 421 in math and 395 in writing, versus 434, 461, and 430 citywide. The private St. Bernard’s School on 98th runs through Grade 9.


The 2, 3, 4 and 5 express trains stop at 125th Street. The 6 makes five stops on Lexington from 96th to 125th. The trip from 116th to Grand Central Terminal takes about 20 minutes. From 125th on the 4 or 5, the ride to Wall Street is about 25 minutes. There is a Metro-North Railroad station at 125th and Park.


In 1930, 80,000 Italians lived in East Harlem; by 2010 that population had dwindled below 1,900. “My father grew up here in the 1930s,” said Robert Martinez, the maintenance superintendent at the local Boys’ Club of New York, who is of Puerto Rican descent, “and if you weren’t Italian or Irish you couldn’t pass Second Avenue toward the East River between 106th and 116th. My dad was very light-skinned, so he was able to filter in with the Italians; our name is Martinez so he called himself Martini.”

Priciest, Cheapest Units to Hit the Market

The Real DealNovember 16, 2012
Nikki Field and Patricia Wheatley at Sotheby’s International Realty have Manhattan’s most expensive listing this week, according to Located at 14 East 82nd Street between Fifth and Madison avenues on the Upper East Side, the home is a landmarked limestone mansion with an asking price of $25 million. The home has 16 rooms, 13-plus-foot ceilings, an elevator, a garden and two terraces, according to the listing.

The week’s next priciest listing is a two-floor condominium unit at 11 East 70th Street that has an asking price of $24.85 million. The property occupies the lower two floors of two limestone mansions and is adjacent to the Frick Museum, according to the listing, which Nicholas Judson of Judson Realty, LLC has. There are five bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms, 7,000 square feet of living space.

A condominium penthouse at the Walker Tower, located at 212 West 18th Street in Chelsea is the week’s third most expensive unit.
CORE’s Walker Tower sales office has the listing with an asking price of $20.99 million. The home measures 3,478 square feet and has four bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms. The home also has radiant floor heating, two terraces that total 168 square feet of exterior space, a fireplace in the master bedroom suite and French herringbone oak flooring.

Head uptown to West Harlem, to 501 West 138th Street for the week’s least expensive listing. Lorna Leibowitz and Roberta Campos at Prudential Douglas Elliman have the listing for the two-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom co-op, which has space for an extra bedroom and another half bathroom and an asking price of $210,000. Income restrictions apply.

Further uptown in Fort George is where the next least expensive listing is located, at 180 Cabrini Boulevard. Jennifer Pasbjerg at Halstead Property has the listing for the studio co-op with an asking price of $239,000. The home comes newly renovated, according to the listing.

The third cheapest listing is also located in Fort George, at 263 Bennett Avenue. With an asking price of $249,000, the one-bedroom, one-bathroom, 550-square-foot co-op home comes renovated. Fumiyo Hayashi at the Corcoran Group has the listing.

Walker Tower in Chelsea Teases Us with Three More Penthouses

BuzzBuzzHomeNovember 16, 2012
Three more penthouses at Art Deco-tastic Walker Tower in Chelsea have hit the market, asking up to $6,035 a square foot.

Walker Tower, located at 212 W. 18th Street, consists of 50 luxury condominiums. Eighteen units from the first round of available apartments at the restored Ralph Walker-designed building are in contract. The tower, erected before neighborhood height limits, boasts protected 360-degree views of Manhattan, which partially explains the sky-high pricing.

Penthouse 8, a three-bedroom, four-bathroom duplex, is asking $12.495 million, or $4,068 per square foot. Penthouse 3 has a price tag of $20.99 million, or $6,035 per square foot, while Penthouse 4 is asking $12.895 million, or $5,005 per square foot.

Model unit photographs and floor plans below, courtesy of CORE.

Done Deals

Brokers WeeklyNovember 14, 2012
Greenwich Village
822 Greenwich St. #2B

Modern one bedroom has entry foyer leading to loft-like living room with 10 ft. ceilings, wood-burning fireplace, floor-to-ceiling, built-in bookcase. Gourmet kitchen with breakfast bar. Living area is separated from the bedroom by exposed brick wall and custom, opaque glass sliding doors. Bedroom has walk-in closet. Elevator co-op has full-time superintendent, laundry room and low carrying charges. Asking price: $915,000. Time on market: 67 days. Brokers: Tony Sargent, CORE and Sandra Balan, Corcoran.

Walker Tower Turns Into Luxury Condominium Residences

World Architecture NewsNovember 13, 2012
Ralph Thomas Walker - the “architect of the century,” designed Walker Tower in NY.

This conversion of a 1920’s Bell Telephone switching building into the Walker Tower residences offered an opportunity to reimagine the architecture of the building, while respecting the original structure. The result is a 286,000 SF, new, lighter Art Deco architecture expressive of both interior organization and structure that is more reminiscent of cast iron or Gothic in its significantly higher ratio of openings to solid surfaces.

While the solid mass of the original building remains at the base and continues to be occupied by the telephone company from floors one through seven, window openings were enlarged starting at the first residential level. Within the existing bulk of the building, sills were lowered at individual sidewall windows while non-structural masonry piers were removed to insert multi-story tripartite window bays with floor to ceiling glass at streetwalls. Newly added volumes rise along the tower where neutral brick solids are replaced by a vibrant metal rainscreen that consists of profiled vertical metal pilasters and mullions and three dimensionally formed metal spandrels, Sympathetic to the original building’s use of ornamental statuary bronze and nickel silver, the rainscreen is rendered in a bronze colored stainless steel and metallically-painted formed aluminum plate. The micro-linen texture of the bronze stainless steel and the metallic flake in the aluminum surface creates the appearance of two metals that change according to sunlight and sky patterns. Taking a cue from early renderings showing an unbuilt crown atop the original building, four tapering metal spires were added to extend the tower skyward.

Converting this through-block commercial building to residential use required a unique planning strategy to ensure ample light and air for habitable rooms. Organizing kitchen, bathroom, closet and utility spaces adjacent to building corridors in an interior zone pushes the habitable rooms toward the building exterior. This establishes a sensible circulation network within the residences.

Consonance in apartment interiors is achieved through the use of materials, fixtures and detailing that – while not directly derivative of – is appropriate to the Art Deco pedigree of the building. The interior environment is balanced by a resident programmable home automation system that controls the humidified ducted air conditioning, radiant floor heating, supplemental mechanical ventilation and exhaust system.

The adaptive re-use of Walker Tower combines a true understanding of the original structure with intelligent space planning, sensitivity to materials and state-of-the-art technology to reinterpret a rich architectural past in a way that can be valued in the present.

House of the Day - One Museum Mile: Great Views Near High Culture

AOL Real EstateNovember 13, 2012
If it seems like we can't get enough of these new, sleek New York City apartments with killer views, you might be on to something: We can't! This combination apartment in Manhattan's Upper East Side offers sweeping vistas of world famous Central Park and the Big Apple skyline.

With 3,600 square feet of floor space, the interior of this sprawling (at least, according to New York City standards) apartment can be molded to fit a variety of lifestyles. According to the listing, the current setup features six bedrooms, six bathrooms and five half-baths. The building comes equipped with a 24-hour doorman, a gym/spa and a roof-deck swimming pool.

The building's nickname, One Museum Mile, hints at its proximity to some of New York City's most famous museums. Within a mile of the front door, you'll find the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum for African Art (slated to open later this year), among others.

Oliver Brown Joins CORE

November 07, 2012

New York, N.Y. (November 7, 2012) – Manhattan real estate industry leader and top producer, Oliver Brown, joins CORE as Vice President and Associate Broker. Oliver comes to CORE as one of the most respected agents at Sotheby’s where he was consistently one of the highest ranked brokers. Priding himself on the unique ability to hone in on clients’ needs and match them to properties or position them primly to list, Oliver has built up a proven track record of success in both the uptown co-op and downtown new construction markets.

Oliver has established himself in the industry through over 20 years of work at Sotheby’s. He has become an expert in the Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue townhouse market as well as the West Village’s new-to-market landscape.

“Oliver is one of the top brokers in Manhattan and has a wide range of talent in all aspects of real estate,” says CORE’s Senior Managing Director of Sales, Reba Miller. “He is a walking real estate encyclopedia and his depth of experience and great integrity aligns with CORE's vision.”

About CORE
CORE is a real estate sales and marketing firm delivering the best in brokerage, communications and advisory services for the luxury residential segment. In addition, CORE’s elite group of highly experienced and successful professionals service developers who value efficient, no-nonsense results. CORE was founded by Shaun Osher as a full-service boutique firm with a strict adherence to the principles of integrity, efficiency and results. For more information visit

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Life’s Broad Sea: International Aid; New York Real Estate; Professional Women

DUKE MagazineNovember 01, 2012
Alumni in the Spotlight

Got $5 million to spend on an Irving Place co-op? New York real-estate broker Mickey Conlon ’98 is your man. Conlon, senior vice president of CORE, represents upper-echelon buyers and sellers. He has passed the $1 billion mark for residential sales and currently is featured on the hit HGTV show Selling New York. December’s Season Six premiere follows Conlon and his partner, Tom Postilio, as they prepare to put legendary actress Joan Collins’ East 57th Street pied-à-terre on the market.

A native New Yorker, Conlon used to tag along with his real-estate agent mother as she worked with buyers and sellers. Even though he earned his real estate license while a freshman at Duke, he didn’t pursue it as a full-time career until 2008. “I was working on Broadway as a producer, and when the economic downturn came, people were disinterested in putting money into Broadway shows. It might seem counterintuitive to go into real estate at the start of the worst market in decades, but I knew that slices of Manhattan were an investment that people could embrace knowing that it would retain value over time. Try using that same pitch with a potential Broadway investor!”

Postwar, Prewar and Everything Before

The New York TimesNovember 01, 2012
IT is a sliver of a word, and a nonspecific one at that, but in New York City real estate, “prewar” speaks volumes.

The term, applied generally to apartment buildings built before World War II, conjures images of high ceilings, thick walls, plaster ornamentation and generous layouts. That much, most New Yorkers who have apartment-hunted probably know.

But what about pre-prewar and pre-pre-prewar? And when it comes to postwar, what of 1950s versus 1960s, and “white elephants,” and the hard-to-categorize buildings started before the war and finished afterward?

These historical categories matter for buyers and renters who have a particular style of apartment in mind, city real estate experts say, because in New York, nothing determines what an apartment looks like so much as when it was built. And the typical characteristics that go with either a prewar or a postwar apartment can also reveal a great deal about an apartment’s resident.

“In Manhattan more than anywhere in the world, people buy what reflects them,” said Darren Sukenik, a managing director of luxury sales at Prudential Douglas Elliman. Most critical for buyers are the apartment itself and the three blocks around it, he said, adding, “You really have to wear it like a loose garment, and it has to suit you.”

Style aside, Mr. Sukenik said, there are practical considerations. Most prewar apartments in Manhattan tend to be co-ops, requiring larger down payments and co-op board approval. If buyers set on prewars can’t qualify for a co-op, Mr. Sukenik might steer them toward exceptions like the row of condominium buildings on West 12th Street that was developed by Bing & Bing in the late 1920s.

Prewar buyers face better odds of finding the right apartment if they focus on specific neighborhoods, like the Upper West Side and the West Village, where the older buildings predominate.

“It’s like finding a zebra,” Mr. Sukenik said. “There are certain countries where there are zebras.”

Less expensive zebras can be found in other neighborhoods — including Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, areas that Mr. Sukenik calls “Manhattan Lite.” First-time buyers, he said, can find typical prewar touches like sunken living rooms and beamed ceilings there — or in a less sought-after Manhattan area like 55th Street and Seventh Avenue, for example — for a fraction of the cost of similar apartments in more expensive neighborhoods.

Buyers with even more specific tastes face still more decisions. Mickey Conlon, a senior vice president of the CORE Group, said some prewar apartments can be further categorized as pre-prewar or even pre-pre-prewar. The former, he said, refers to apartments from before World War I, typically with even higher ceilings of 10 to 12 feet, multiple fireplaces and more ornate detailing.

As for pre-pre-prewar, or before the Spanish-American War in 1898, Mr. Conlon said: “At that time, apartments were still a fairly new concept, so most of the layouts tended to be extremely large. A lot of 14-room, 20-room apartments.”

Sadly for fanciers of huge old apartments, he said, many have been chopped up into multiple dwellings over the years, although some devoted buyers have gone to great lengths to recombine units to recapture the original intent. But reassembling such an apartment, or even fixing one up, with potential repairs to plumbing, wiring, and fixtures, is not an easy task.

“A lot of these older apartments, unless they’ve been completely gut-renovated, do represent much more of a project than most people are ready or willing to take on,” Mr. Conlon said. “If you’re scraping and restoring moldings, whether it’s plaster or wood, and restoring wood floors, there’s tremendous cost.”

That is a major reason many people prefer newer buildings, said Tom Postilio, a managing director of CORE. “They want to have sleek modern glass and move in with nothing but their toothbrush,” he said, “and not have to think of tearing down walls, let alone redoing electrical panels.”

In that case, new construction obviously works best, brokers say, and such units also tend to be in buildings with lots of amenities. But as with prewars, the question with new apartments is whether the buyer can afford the premium prices they command, said William Bolls, a senior vice president of the Corcoran Group.

Better deals among postwar apartments, he said, can be found in tall buildings that went up from the 1970s to the 1990s, like CitySpire on West 56th Street, or the Worldwide Plaza complex on the West Side between 49th and 50th Streets. These towers, typically done in red brick, often have amenities like roof decks and large fitness rooms, but lack some current design touches that would cost more money. Open-minded buyers can find a good match, Mr. Bolls said, even when the aesthetics seem challenging.

For example, though many apartments of this earlier postwar era have Formica-heavy kitchens that can feel outmoded, he said, “sometimes there’s great value in there. Because you have the amenities and the doorman, but you just have to put in a new kitchen and bathroom.”

Among postwar buildings, the more distinctive are those from the 1950s and ’60s, including the many white-brick buildings on the Upper East Side. They tend to have lower ceilings than prewars, Mr. Bolls said, and their hardwood floors are often parquet rather than plank.

The buildings, known to detractors and some fans alike as “white elephants,” have their drawbacks; some have reportedly had leaks and crumbling of their distinctive brick. Still, Mr. Sukenik said, some buyers like their spare, Modernist style and generous floor plans.

They are also, he said, a good place to find the type of apartment known as a Junior 4 — a one-bedroom with a small dining area that can easily be converted to a small second bedroom. The units, roughly 750 to 850 square feet in size, add value because they remain practical to an owner longer. “People grow in their apartments,” Mr. Sukenik said. “Usually the life span in a one-bedroom is about three years. In a Junior 4 it can be five to seven years.”