14 Gorgeous New York City Homes That Went On the Market in 2015

CurbedDecember 31, 2015

In between the mansions and luxury condos and teeny-tiny apartments that hit the market in New York City in 2015, there were plenty of places that stood out simply because we thought they were stunning. Check out 14 of our favorites below—they run the gamut from a detached Victorian in Ditmas Park to an Upper East Side megamansion to a huge penthouse in a domed Nolita building.


Celebrity interior designer Nate Berkus listed his three-bedroom Greenwich Village duplex for $10.5 million, which is noteworthy because it's a whopping $4.5 million more than he paid for it in 2013. Some of its stellar features include windowed walk-in closets, three wood-burning fireplaces, and a double-doored terrace. It's still up for grabs.

5 Reasons Why 2016 Will Be Gotham’s Biggest Year in Luxe Living

New York PostDecember 30, 2015

This year may have been a record for New York City property sales, but 2016 promises to bring even bigger, grander and far luxer real estate designs and developments.


Sure, naysayers now warn that the market could be cooling. But that doesn’t mean sales will cease — or even necessarily slow down.


For buyers looking to score, new trends ranging from the rise of condo hotels to new Brooklyn condo towers await eager buyers.


Here are the five top trends to look for next year.


$100M+ apartments


Last December, a penthouse at Midtown goliath One57 sold for $100.5 million, shattering the record for the most expensive apartment ever sold in NYC. But given the pace at which new condos are appearing — and the sums they are asking — that record might not last long.


Just consider this list of mega properties with price tags to match: The penthouse at the Woolworth Tower Residences (dubbed The Pinnacle) is slated to ask $110 million; there will be a $130 million triplex atop an under-construction classic limestone tower at 520 Park Ave., and there’s a $150 million apartment said to be in the works for the topmost floors of the Philip Johnson-designed Sony Tower.


Topping them all are rumors that there’s a deep-pocketed buyer cobbling together three floors at 220 Central Park South — to the tune of $200 million.


The king of this caliber of apartment? It’s indubitably Robert A.M. Stern of 520 Park, the Sony Tower conversion and 200 Central Park South, former dean of Yale’s architecture school and current designer du jour of the city’s fanciest residences.


Hotel condos


It often goes unacknowledged by its everyday denizens, but almost every major NYC hotel has affiliated apartments: from grand dames like the Waldorf to newer buildings like the Trump SoHo. Hand in hand with the area’s overall construction boom comes the latest wave of these two-faceted buildings.


On the Lower East Side, at 215 Chrystie St., Ian Schrager is putting up a 370-room Public Hotel with 11 edgy condos on top, where a penthouse asks $18.75 million. On a more affordable level, the AKA brand announced apartment sales at three of its New York extended-stay hotels in the last year, one of which is in the Midtown East neighborhood Sutton Place, where prices now start at $1.2 million. British architect David Chipperfield’s first New York project is The Bryant, just southeast of Bryant Park; it will contain 230 hotel rooms and 57 condos. Here, a one-bedroom asks $2.25 million.


Next up: the Crown Building, an architectural gem on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, which developer Michael Shvo bought a chunk of earlier this year. Though official plans haven’t yet been announced, Shvo is known for developing expensive apartments. And part of Shvo’s investment team here is Russian billionaire Vladislav Doronin of luxury hotel label Amanresorts, so keep your eyes peeled.


Teen rooms


Sure, a bunch of new residential developments have playrooms for kids, and — for the adult crowd — bar-equipped lounges. But what about recreational space for those too old for building blocks and too young for cocktails? Previously overlooked, developers are increasingly adding teen rooms to their amenity plans.


“Mom and Dad are buying the apartment, but [the whole family] is living there; it’s important we did something for every member at every age,” says Winston Fisher, partner at Fisher Brothers, of 111 Murray St. This 157-unit tower, which Fisher is developing with Witkoff and New Valley, will come with a 1,692-square-foot Teen Lounge, featuring an arcade, plus a separate nook with a television and couches. Prices here now start at $2.02 million.


There’s also fun to be had at the 43-unit 20 East End Ave. (a penthouse currently asks $35 million here), where a 500-square-foot “Junior Lounge” will deliver televisions, old-school arcade staples like Ms. Pac-Man and more. But it’s not just games — the 12-unit Brooklyn Trust Company Building features a teen room with study space and room for lounging (units from $3.24 million).


“Developers are starting to think differently,” says CORE broker John Harrison, who was on the sales team at the 2012-constructed One Museum Mile, which boasts a teen room with games, like Wii and air hockey. “‘How can we get everybody to be really happy?’”


Brooklyn on high


Low-slung Brooklyn has a skyscraping future in store.


Earlier this month, Extell filed preliminary plans for a 57-story residential structure at City Point in Downtown Brooklyn, reports say. Just before that, new plans emerged for Chetrit Group and JDS Development’s 90-story 340 Flatbush Ave. Extension — a mixed-use structure with 550 units that will be Brooklyn’s tallest tower.


Recent zoning changes now allow developers to reach heavenly heights in certain enclaves, but the flurry also owes itself to residents’ demands for Manhattan-style living.


“The market is very receptive to apartments on higher floors with views and will generally pay a premium for them,” says Martin Piazzola of AvalonBay, which developed the new 57-story, 826-unit AVA DoBro rental project at 100 Willoughby St. Pre-leasing here began this past summer; prices begin at $2,605.


The Stahl Organization’s 53-story 388 Bridge — a project with 144 condos and 238 rentals — is another example.


But it’s not just views that are great (they’re panoramic here); towering heights also give developers greater space for amenities.


This project has a media room, roof terrace and lounge.


These tall towers pack in nice perks for residents, and they also help builders stand out.


“[It] gives developers more creativity with what to build and doesn’t make it as monotonous as it otherwise might be,” notes Doug Steiner, of Steiner NYC, which is crafting The HUB — a recently topped-out 56-story rental in Boerum Hill that’s gunning for a fall 2016 occupancy.


New meets old


The Fitzroy, a 14-unit condominium in West Chelsea, will bear a prominent design that sets it apart from its ultra-glassy, modern-looking neighbors: a classic green-tone terra cotta facade with copper windows. It’s reminiscent of Art Deco-style grandeur, but most of all, this Roman and Williams-designed structure, where prices begin at $5.35 million, is the latest ground-up project to shy away from glass in favor of older, more classic construction materials. And there are more buildings like it to come.


At the Morris Adjmi-designed 55 W. 17th St. condo, which stands near the Ladies’ Mile Historic District, a facade of handmade brick will help this building fit into its historical surroundings.


“We wanted to respect the period architecture of this great neighborhood by designing a masonry building,” said David Von Spreckelsen, of Toll Brothers City Living, which is developing this under-construction, 54-unit project, where a penthouse listed for $15.24 million is now in contract.


Meanwhile, the 16-unit BKSK-designed 1 Great Jones Alley in NoHo, which launches sales in January, boasts terra cotta fins juxtaposed with Corten steel and glass — a nod to the area’s older-world aesthetic. And Robert A.M. Stern adorned the facade of mega-luxe 30 Park Place’s residential entry with limestone and custom-designed bronze sconces — the classic New York look.

The Week In Luxury: A Map of NYC’s Priciest Apartment Sales

The Real DealDecember 28, 2015

Keren Ringler's closing at 71 Laight, 5B was ranked #4 as week's priciest sales. The deal was finalized at $9,950,000.

In 2015, Shattering Records in New York City Real Estate

The New York TimesDecember 24, 2015

In the realm of New York City real estate, what goes up just keeps going up, and up.


This past year prices again punctured records, with the official closing of a $100.47 million penthouse at the pinnacle of Extell Development’s One57, the vitreous Midtown skyscraper and popular abode for billionaires worldwide seeking to park their cash.


Other sales in the Central Park-facing condominium, at 157 West 57th Street, flirted with the nine-digit mark. And across Manhattan, records were set for co-ops and extravagant prices paid for other condos and townhouses. Brooklyn, which is becoming ever more desirable (and dear) as a home address, also posted a record for the most expensive sale for a single residence, in Cobble Hill.


“We shattered just about every record that pre-existed,” said Shaun Osher, the chief executive of the brokerage firm Core. “It was the year of the big sale.”


But the record books are almost certain to be rewritten in the months ahead as new “billionaire bunkers” are added to the city’s ever-evolving skyline, like 220 Central Park South, 432 and 520 Park, and 56 Leonard, to name just a few.


The current record price will be surpassed — make that doubled — when another megadeal is filed with the city in the next couple of years. The hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin, whose net worth totals $7 billion by Forbes’s estimate, entered into a contract in late summer to buy a triplex at 220 Central Park South for around $200 million, according to sources familiar with the sale who, like others in this article, requested anonymity so as not to jeopardize a current or future deal. This purchase would not only be the city’s largest sale of a single residence, but also the country’s, usurping the $147 million sale of an 18-acre East Hampton, N.Y., estate in 2014, according to Jonathan J. Miller, who runs the Miller Samuel appraisal firm. He wonders, though, how long this upward trajectory will endure: “Developers and those observing the market are asking how many $10 million-and-up buyers are really out there.”


So far, roughly half the 118 or so apartments are under contract at 220 Central Park South, the 65-story limestone-clad building designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects and at the ninth floor of construction, according to Steven Roth, the chief executive of Vornado Realty Trust, the developer. Fourteen of those units went for $50 million or more, he said in a recent earnings conference call.


Real estate brokers and market observers say that at least for the next few years, more of these astronomical sale prices will surface as signed contracts in the city’s nascent developments finally close. (Most of the units at 56 Leonard, for instance, are spoken for, said Kelly Kennedy Mack, the president of the Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, adding that full-floor units are listed for above $20 million, and the most expensive penthouse is around $50 million.) There are unsold units, too, at completed developments like One57 and those nearing completion, like the Greenwich Lane in Greenwich Village. And then there are the resales.


 “With the inventory out there, the extraordinary amount of wealth, and the continued demand for New York real estate, we will continue to see robust sales in the superluxury market,” said Pamela Liebman, the chief executive of the Corcoran Group. Corcoran Sunshine Marketing is handling sales for 220 Central Park South.


Daniel Levy, the chief executive of CityRealty, which tracks condo and co-op sales, shares this opinion: “There seems to be plenty of demand for all these buildings,” he said. “Next year the story will be 432 Park and 56 Leonard; the following years will be 220 Central Park South and 520 Park.”


For 2015, the story, of course, was the Christian de Portzamparc-designed One57, where eight of the 20 biggest big-ticket sales took place — that is, those that were signed, sealed and officially recorded with the city.


All the year’s top 20 sales were for more than $30 million, and the top 10 for above $45 million. They included three co-ops, two townhouses, one condop and several other luxury condos, among them, two units at 15 Central Park West, which was designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects and where another apartment had held the record until this year for the city’s most expensive residence, at $88 million. That was the full-floor penthouse the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev bought in 2012, through a trust benefiting his daughter, from Sanford I. Weill, the former Citigroup chairman.




The city’s record $100.47 million sale (and the seventh priciest in the nation, according to Mr. Miller) was for the 89th and 90th floors of the brash blue tower, a.k.a. unit No. 90, a 10,923-square-foot aerie with a reception gallery and grand salon. Extell initially marketed the duplex for $98.5 million, then raised the price to $115 million, according to the state attorney general’s office. Only a handful of people know the identity of its new owner, who, like most others buying these ultraluxury digs, hid under the mantle of a limited liability company. The buyer actually made the purchase in late December 2014, but it didn’t pop up in city records until mid-January.


While that deal was covert, the buyer of the city’s second most expensive residence (and No. 12 nationally), at $91.54 million, was more forthcoming. The hedge fund mogul William A. Ackman revealed his purchase of a six-bedroom on the 75th and 76th floors months before it officially closed in April. The apartment, known as the Winter Garden, is distinctive for, among other things, its 2,500-square-foot curved-glass atrium that opens to the sky.


In February, Guoqing Chen, a founder along with his brother, Chen Feng, of Hainan Airlines, part of the HNA Group, one of China’s largest private airline companies, paid $47.37 million for an apartment taking up the entire 86th floor. Two months later, at nearly the identical price, another full-floor apartment, on the 88th floor, was bought through a limited liability company associated with HNA’s New York subsidiary. Could this one be for Chen Feng?


Many of the buyers in the building are foreigners, particularly from China. “They are really looking to park money here because of the uncertainties of their governments,” Dorothy Herman, the chief executive of Douglas Elliman Real Estate said of this building and others like it.


Among the other big closed sales at One57: Unit No. 85 for $55.56 million and No. 77, $47.78 million.


Other Condos


Most of the top sales this year happened in condominiums, and several involved recognizable names.


The Related Companies’ Time Warner Center, one of the priciest buildingsof the early 2000s and a favorite of Russian buyers, registered a record of its own. In late July, the Russian financier Andrey Vavilov sold his penthouse on the full 78th floor of the south tower, at 25 Columbus Circle, for $50.92 million. Mr. Vavilov served as deputy finance minister during the presidency of Boris N. Yeltsin and made a fortune when his oil company was taken over by a state-controlled enterprise in 2003. According to Mr. Levy of CityRealty, the sale of his six-bedroom apartment surpassed the building’s previous highest price, $37.5 million in 2009 — for the same unit.


Nearby, at Zeckendorf Development’s 202-unit 15 Central Park West, apartments sold for $45 million and $35 million, both around the same time in the fall. Then there was the $33 million sale in January of a penthouse at 1 Central Park West, a.k.a. the Trump International Hotel and Tower.


Speaking of Trump, the real estate developer and presidential hopeful Donald J. Trump sold one of his two investment penthouses at Trump ParkAvenue, at 502 Park Avenue, last summer for $21.38 million to a founder of the supermarket chain Fresh Market, Ray D. Berry.


In other celebrity sales, the palatial triplex where the comic Joan Rivers lived for more than a quarter of a century until her death last year at age 81, was sold by her estate in July for $28 million. The buyer of the apartment, at 1 East 62nd Street, was said to be Middle Eastern royalty.
Also, Jon Bon Jovi, the rock star, sold his penthouse at the New Museum Building, at 158 Mercer Street, a.k.a. 583 Broadway, for $34 million.
And Stephen Griggs, whose family business had owned the British footwear company behind the Dr. Martens brand of boots, paid $17.26 million for an apartment at 35XV, Alchemy Properties’ glass-and-stone high-rise at 35 West 15th Street.


The Carlton House condop at 21 East 61st Street, meanwhile, had a $52 million penthouse sale.


Two of the year’s top five sales were co-op apartments, including one that shattered the city’s record for co-ops: the $77.5 million purchase of a duplex on the 11th and 12th floors of 834 Fifth Avenue, designed by Rosario Candela.

The unit was sold in early spring by Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets, to the Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard Blavatnik. The previous co-op record was set in 2014, when the hedge fund manager Israel Englander paid $71.28 million for a duplex at another Candela building, 740 Park Avenue.

The same week the new record-holder surfaced in late March so, too, did the official closing of the year’s second most expensive co-op at $67.5 million: a full-floor apartment on the 18th floor of the Sherry-Netherland, at 781 Fifth Avenue. The seller was Gilbert Haroche, a founder of Liberty Travel. And in early May, a triplex at 775 Park Avenue sold for $35.14 million; the buyers were Elizabeth Right, the daughter of Stephen A. Schwarzman, a founder of the Blackstone Group, and her husband, Andrew Right.

There were other boldface deals in co-ops. This past spring, Paul McCartney and his wife, Nancy Shevell, bought a duplex at 1045 Fifth Avenue for $15.5 million.

Just down the street and a few months later, Jeff T. Blau, the chief executive of the Related Companies, sold his apartment at 1040 Fifth Avenue, yet another Candela building, for $30 million. And across the park, the architect Cesar Pelli, known for the design of some of the world’s tallest buildings, bought a lower-floor apartment at the San Remo, at 145 Central Park West, for $17.5 million.


Two other big sales took place on Central Park West. T-Mobile’s chief executive, John J. Legere, paid $18 million in October for a duplex penthouse once occupied by William Randolph Hearst, at 91 Central Park West. And the estate of Lauren Bacall sold for $21 million the apartment at the Dakota, at 1 West 72nd Street, that the legendary actress called home for more than half a century until her death last year at age 89. Ronald N. Beck, a hedge fund manager, and his wife, Cynthia Lewis Beck, were the buyers.




The year’s most expensive townhouse, at 125-127 East 70th Street, sold for $37 million. (The record is still the 2006 sale of the Harkness Mansion at 4 East 75th Street, for $53 million.)


But most of the buzz seemed to center over the $18.25 million sale of a townhouse owned by Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. The famous couple took a loss on the 25-foot-wide Greek Revival-style townhouse, at 20 East 10th Street in Greenwich Village, for which they paid nearly $19 million in 2011, and likely spent more on upgrades. A nearby house that they were once reportedly in contract to buy, at 16 East 10th Street, sold for a tidy profit, at $32 million. The developer David Amirian, and his business partner, Warren Hammerschlag, an orthopedic surgeon, had paid $11.2 million in 2012 for the house, which had been owned by Pen and Brush, a nonprofit group for female artists and writers.


Mr. Levy noted that some buyers see townhouses as relative bargains. “Generally speaking, we’re seeing price per foot substantially less than in new buildings, so certain people see them as a value proposition given the size,” he said.


In another notable sale, a Facebook founder (no, not that one) was the likely buyer of a $22.3 million four-story Greenwich Village townhouse with a separate rear studio, at 157 West 12th Street. Chris Hughes, one of the five founders and a roommate at Harvard of Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive, bought the property, according to a source familiar with the private transaction who requested anonymity. The seller was Michael P. Stewart, a money manager.




The borough broke a record for its most expensive residence with the $15.5 million sale of a nearly 27-foot-wide, three-story brick townhouse in a historic district of Cobble Hill. The photographer Jay Maisel bought the house, at 177 Pacific Street, after selling his previous home and studio — the gritty six-story former Germania Bank building at 190 Bowery in Manhattan — to Aby J. Rosen’s RFR Holding for $55 million.


Mr. Osher of Core predicted more record closing sales in Brooklyn’s townhouse market in 2016. “We’ll see a $20 million-plus sale,” he said. “Once the townhouse buyer realizes they can’t get what they want in Manhattan, they’ll be looking in Brooklyn.”

New Listings, 38 Prince Street

Real Estate WeeklyDecember 20, 2015

Patrick Llilly's downtown townhouse located in 38 Prince Street is featured in the New Listing section of Real Estate Weekly. 

The 20 Most Expensive NYC Homes of 2015, Mapped

CurbedDecember 17, 2015

It's time to make up a bunch of awards and hand them out to the most deserving people, places and things in the real estate, architecture and neighborhood universes of New York City! Yep, it's time for the 12th Annual Curbed Awards! Up now: the most expensive homes sold in New York City this year.


The most expensive apartment sold in New York City last year went for $71.3 million—but this isn't last year, and 2015's most expensive home is officially a whopping $91.5 million. (And it doesn't even have an occupant! Madness!) With the help of our friends at PropertyShark, we're taking a look at the 20 biggest home sales (including apartments and townhouses) in New York City this year. They include seven (yes, seven) apartments at One57, a townhouse that doesn't even exist, and a fancy co-op that's since returned to the market. Welcome to New York real estate in 2015.


$30M – 1040 FIFTH AVENUE


Related Companies CEO Jeff Blau bought unit 14A for $21.4 million in 2008, put it on the market for $43 million in 2014, and dropped the asking price to $34.5 million in 2015. What he got on July 10 was a clean $30 million for the four-bedroom pad with 26 windows and a view of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.

The 10 Priciest American Homes Sold in 2015

House BeautifulDecember 17, 2015

This year's schmanciest listings appeared in just three states.


To commemorate the end of 2015, our friends at Zillow have compiled a list of the most expensive properties that were on the market this year — and while only a choice few could ever afford them, taking a look back is great excuse to fantasize about beautiful homes. Even if we can only dream about 'em, it's still fun to see the amazing architecture, features, and locations that earned them one of these prized spots.


#9 $20 million in New York, New York


Nestled in the heart of Greenwich Village, this New York property dates back to 1900 — and its original interior has been restored to remain (almost exactly) the same. Its wet bar and private terrace are the stuff of dreams — but we also adore the Bohemian history behind it. Unfortunately for us, the town home was sold in October by Shaun Osher and Emily Beare of CORE.

The Inman Top 101

InmanDecember 16, 2015

Patrick V. Lilly from CORE was nominated for the 2015 Inman Top 101 award. Patrick is the associate broker and team leader at Core Group Marketing. Lilly has built a new “young blood” network of top-performing agents called REV, real estate visionaries, who are mapping out the future role of the agent.


First job: Taking orders at Jack in the Box

They’re the Top: The Biggest Residential Real Estate Deals of 2015

Observer Real EstateDecember 16, 2015

There has been a whole lot of fuss over the innumerable downtown developments this year, with each new condo decked out even more than the last, and each declared to be signaling the true arrival of the neighborhood into the real estate community. The real money, however, has remained right where it has always been: uptown.


In fact, only two of the 20 most expensive deals of 2015 were located south of 57th Street: Jon Bon Jovi’s beleaguered 158 Mercer Street penthouse, and a Greenwich Village townhouse at 16 East 10th Street—and neither made the top 10.


One57 has reigned supreme, with six units in the Extell tower making the list. The legendary $100.47 million sale of a duplex penthouse at One57 actually closed in December 2014, hitting public record the following month, but it led the way for the multitude of other over-the-top, seemingly endless One57 sales in 2015.


Another One57 penthouse topped the list for 2015, at $91.54 million. Maybe we’ll see it again next year, since it’s allegedly going to be back on the market at some point in the near future—it purchased as a “fun” investment.


While only four of the most expensive deals this year were co-ops, the second and third place spots were both taken up by Fifth Avenue co-ops. Both sold, surprisingly, to foreign buyers, perhaps signaling something of an adjustment in the attitudes of co-op boards.


“Co-op apartments at that level, there are very few,” Brown Harris Stevens president Hall Willkie told the Observer, “and they rarely come on the market. Co-ops are still the majority of the market, and high-end co-ops are so desirable. When they are properly priced to sell, they sell well.”


The previously unchallenged 15 Central Park West suffered a bit of a setback. Its $88 million penthouse sale once seemed untouchable, but what a difference a year makes! Duplex 1819B sold at a shocking $3 million loss from the purchase price of $48 million in 2014—and it’s seen by some as a canary in the coal mine.


“The biggest problem in our market is overpricing,” Mr. Willkie said. “There’s a softening, but mostly in condos, because there’s a lot of inventory coming on. A lot of buildings are being built in that luxury category. When you increase supply, it can have a softening effect.”


So, what do we have to expect in coming months?


“We are coming into more of a buyer’s market than we have been in a long time,” Mr. Willkie said. “Buyers are extremely price-sensitive. It has nothing to do with budget; they are out there and willing to buy, and are signing contracts, but it’s only on properties where they feel the price is justified.”


On that note, here are the top 20 deals of the year, as compiled by appraiser Miller Samuel.


#19) 1040 Fifth Avenue, No. 14A

$30 million


After a three-year renovation by Shelton, Mindel and Associates, Related CEO Jeff Blau and his wife, Lisa, put their floor-through co-op on the market, attaching a hefty $43 million price tag to the listing held by mother-daughter CORE team Emily and Elizabeth Beare. A private elevator landing, library, 26 windows, a wood-burning fireplace, and the knowledge that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis once resided just a floor above still did not ensnare a buyer for such a cost. Removing $13 million did, though, or perhaps the planting terrace was what attracted a buyer known as Tulpe LLC—it’s German for tulip, in case you were wondering, since flowers are apparently so in this year.

Tim Crowley on What’s Next in 2016

InmanDecember 16, 2015

Inman is interviewing industry through leaders to find out what's next in 2016. Here's Tim Crowley, the director of new development at CORE


Are you optimistic about 2016? The economy? Why?


I am cautiously optimistic. I have concerns about the U.S. political environment’s negative impact on macro level investment — particularly investment in real estate. The U.S. has become a global destination for real estate investment. The rhetoric and isolationist tenor that has defined the election may be just wacky enough to pump the brakes on that inflow of global capital. If that is the case, it is likely a short term headwind, but annoying just the same.


The housing market? Why?


The housing market in urban centers, especially New York, is going to be defined by a nearly instantaneous shift from irrational exuberance to meritocratic markets where good real estate will perform exceedingly well and ill-advised/bull market concepts are going to back to the bank. I would be very concerned to be holding any measure of inventory in the 57th Street corridor, which had asking prices in excess of $5,000 per square foot. Fortunately, that type of real estate is aberrant enough to not overly affect the larger housing market. I would imagine that the market for sailboats in 1912 was not terribly affected by the sinking of the Titanic.


Your success? Why?


We have several very promising projects in the 2016 pipeline, in both Brooklyn and Manhattan, that we very excited about because they are thoughtful, well-considered and their success does not hinge on Gazprom or Petrobras having positive quarterly results.


What are you worried about?


The instability in the oil and gas markets.


How much do you fret about global events?


Probably not as much as I should. My concerns tend to focus on financial and commodity markets and the domestic political environment. I worry less about global stability, for two reasons — one, the Western world and developed Eastern world are inherently stable and two, because ignorance is bliss. I worry about the environment, but am hopeful that China especially has come to the conclusion that scrubbing China of pollution is probably its greatest economic and social opportunity. Far and away my biggest concern about global terror is our collective reaction to global terror. Violence is the worst. It hurts people and it makes politicians act like loons.


Will mortgage rates go up or down next year?


I don’t think that they will skyrocket, but I hope they start to get to a place that isn’t long-term detrimental to the health of U.S. currency.


Which market are you in?


New York City is where I live and work. E-trade is where I trade securities; Fairway is where I shop — but I am not currently in that market. I am at my office.


Will unit sales go or up or down in your market?


They will go up in the more consumable price points, $50 million apartments within wafting distance of Benihana will not sell particularly well. There is a finite number of billionaires, and only some fraction of those individuals want to own residential real estate in New York. A smaller fraction yet want to own non-waterfront, non-park front real estate in Midtown. 15 Central Park West and 220 Central Park South make total sense to me, but I am fairly bearish on the teriyaki towers.


Will home prices appreciate in your market next year?


Those not defined by the sweet smell of chicken teriyaki should do just fine.


Will agents be more productive next year? Why? Or why not?


Agents will start to leave the business next year because information exchange is almost at full saturation. Those who made a career by selling access and information are going to find new industries. Those who can analyze all the available information into cogent thoughts on valuation and market trajectory are going to dine very well over the next several years.


What will be the biggest source of real estate leads next year?


Leads will come predominantly from two places: good real estate brokers (regardless of firm size or level of Instagram fame), and very informed direct buyers.


Are you making plans to expand, contract or maintain your business this year?


Expand with the cogent types.


What is your biggest challenge in the coming year?


Maintaining New Year’s resolutions beyond January 7. I really think I got it this year. Candy, I will miss you the most, friend.

Survey: Renovated Kitchens and Washers/Dryers Wanted

StreetEasyDecember 16, 2015

Maybe NYC renters have had their fill of ragtag kitchens with tiny fridges, undulating counter tops, a stove that sometimes works and barely a ledge to eat. Likewise, buyers do not relish the idea of schlepping to the bowels of the building to use the washer and dryer for hours at a time. At least, that seems to be sentiment from the findings of a recent online survey StreetEasy conducted, asking buyers and renters a myriad of questions around their apartment shopping experience, including which amenities rose to the top of their wish lists. For renters, it was a renovated kitchen and for buyers, it was an in-unit washer-dryer.


“I am not surprised at all to find that the survey of buyers’ most desirable in-unit feature is the washer/dryer,” said Adie Kriegstein, real estate agent for CORE. “Buildings either permit them or not and for many people it’s a ‘must have’ non-negotiable feature of their search, so when conducting online searches they list this as a criteria.” In the survey, renters and buyers were asked to stack-rank the following amenities: Dishwasher, in-unit washer/dryer, central AC, recently renovated kitchen, recently renovated bathroom and enter other amenities, if not listed. Nearly 50 percent of the results from the renter’s survey chose “recently renovated kitchen” above all else. Here are the findings for renters, in order of importance:

  1. Recently renovated kitchen

  2. In-unit washer/dryer

  3. Recently renovated bathroom

  4. Other (Closets, outdoor space, pets, doorman, elevator)

  5. Central AC

  6. Dishwasher

Nearly 50 percent of the buyers surveyed chose in-unit washer/dryer as their most-wanted amenity, followed by recently renovated kitchen. “In Manhattan, if there isn’t a washer-dryer in the unit, the likelihood you can install your own is slim,” said Kriegstein.  “I have had buyers forgo larger homes priced at greater price points just so they can have a washer-dryer in their unit.  It’s a modern-day convenience and once you have had one in your home you can’t give it up.” Here are the findings for buyers, in order of importance:

  1. In-unit washer/dryer

  2. Recently renovated kitchen

  3. Dishwasher

  4. Recently renovated bathroom

  5. Central AC

  6. Other (Outdoor space, building amenities)

Apparently, central AC is far down everyone's list, but come the dog days of August, those surveyed might want to change their answers.

Map: 50 Biggest Celebrity Real Estate Moves of 2015 in NYC

CurbedDecember 15, 2015

It's time to make up a bunch of awards and hand them out to the most deserving people, places and things in the real estate, architecture and neighborhood universes of New York City! Yep, it's time for the 12th Annual Curbed Awards! Up now: the biggest celebrity real estate moves of the year.


With two weeks until the end of the year, we're looking back at some of the biggest real estate stories of 2015—and what could be bigger than celebrity real estate? Every year, bold-face names make some of the biggest property moves throughout the five (well, let's be honest, two—Manhattan and Brooklyn) boroughs. They trade apartments like currency: buy, sell, and rent—and Curbed obsessively tracks the real estate moves of the rich 'n' famous every step of the way. Here now, 50 different property moves made by the city's most bold-faced names, all laid out in a handy map. Which star made the biggest deal of the year? Check the map to find out. Happy ogling.




Is anyone surprised that Nate Berkus's home is impeccable? The celebrity interior designer listed his three-bedroom Greenwich Village duplex for $10.5 million, which is noteworthy because it's a whopping $4.5 million more than he paid for it in 2013. Berkus and his husband, interior designer Jeremiah Brent, purchased an adjacent one-bedroom apartment in the building (which was designed by famed architect Emery Roth), then renovated it and combined it with the penthouse to create the apartment as it is now.




John Legend and Chrissy Teigen are parting with their one-bedroom Nolita pad for an apartment fit for a family. Of course the apartment's as beautiful as the A-list celebrity couple; it underwent a Don Stewart and Winka Dubbeldam-led renovation before getting the Architectural Digest treatment in February. The renovation reconfigured the master bathroom and converted another bathroom into a dead-end hallway of closets and laundry facilities, all while bringing an "old-school industrial look" to the nearly 2,000-square-foot apartment.




Actor Zachary Quinto bought a two-bedroom loft in 43 Great Jones Street. The apartment, which had previously sold in 2007 for $2.5 million, was listed in March 2014 for $3.7 million but lingered on the market and endured a series of price cuts before Quinto and his longtime boyfriend Miles McMillan scooped it up for $3,162,500. It was recently renovated, and features a private elevator landing.




Noelle Beck, known for her roles on "Loving" and "As the World Turns," and her husband purchased the four-story Anglo-Italianate style townhouse at 243 East 17th Street in 1997, paying $1.6 million. Now, almost two decades later, they are cashing out, having put the house back on the market for $17 million. The house itself is really something, with arched windows, cast-iron balconies, five fireplaces, fancy chandeliers, and a skylight, along with a bevy of original details.

Luxe Buyers Signed 19 Contracts at $4M and Up: Olshan Report

The Real DealDecember 14, 2015

The priciest contract was a 4,078-square-foot condo unit at 224 Mulberry Street, which asked $12 million, down from $13.25 million when it first hit the market last year. The three-bedroom apartment features at 990-square-foot terrace, as well as an eat-in kitchen and two parking spots. Developer and architecture firm Flank developed the eight-story, 32,000-square-foot Nolita building, with sales opening in September 2014.


Eberhard Pencil Factory Conversion Hits the Market for Lease

Commercial ObserverDecember 11, 2015

A little over a year after purchasing one of the buildings at the former Eberhard Pencil Factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, the owner has put the property up for lease, Commercial Observer has learned.


Caerus Group is looking to lease the landmarked 74 Kent Street between Franklin and West Streets to a single user with a blended asking rent in the $60s per square foot, said Alex Cohen, a commercial real estate broker with Core who is marketing the property along with Stephen Ruiz of Cushman & Wakefield. The 33,372-square-foot property is adjacent to Kickstarter’s headquarters.


“There is no other commercial space in Greenpoint that competes with it,” Mr. Cohen said.


CO reported when Caerus went into contract to buy the building for $7.5 million in August 2014. Since the acquisition, Caerus has redeveloped and restored the landmark with open loft floors and exposed brick. Each floor has outdoor space and there will be elevator access to a 6,000-square-foot green roof.


Construction, which includes a large storefront, is almost complete and the tenant can move into the Hustvedt Cutler Architects-designed four-story building (three floors plus a lower level) at the beginning of the second quarter of 2016.


“Having realized last year the acute office shortage in Greenpoint, we saw 74 Kent Street as a diamond in the rough,” Leo Tsimmer, managing partner at Caerus, emailed CO. “We worked hard with [New York City] Landmarks Preservation Commission to make sure to keep the brilliant intact, while taking advantage of the fantastic architectural features, such as impressive ceiling heights, century-old brick walls, timber beams, an opportunity to create outdoor spaces on every floor and a roof deck with spectacular views.”

CORE Scoops Up Cobble Hill Space for Its First Brooklyn Real Estate Office

Commercial ObserverDecember 09, 2015

Residential real estate company CORE is moving into the Brooklyn market.


CORE has signed a lease for its first office in Kings County, at 180 Smith Street in Cobble Hill, the firm announced to Commercial Observer.


Leasing 1,800 square feet, CORE will occupy retail space on the first floor and have offices on the second floor of the five-story building owned by Donald Boyce. Twenty to 25 agents will work out of the new office when it opens in spring 2016.


Having a Brooklyn office could help draw new talent to the Manhattan-based firm.


“We have a number of current agents that will be moving to the new location,” a spokeswoman for CORE said. “Additionally, we have been in discussions with several teams interested in joining the firm now that we have a Brooklyn location.”


Shaun Osher, CORE’s founder, brokered the deal directly with the landlord. The spokeswoman declined to provide the lease terms.


CORE’s headquarters is at 104 Fifth Avenue. Its other offices are at 127 Seventh Avenue and 673 Madison Avenue. The firm has an upcoming office at 149 Fifth Avenue, on which CO previously reported.


The Cobble Hill office will have “a more relaxed ‘Brooklyn’ feel with more steel and wood when compared to our other offices,” the spokeswoman noted.

New Development Drives 24 Contracts at $4M and Up: Olshan Report

The Real DealDecember 07, 2015

Of the 24 luxury pads that went into contract last week, 17 were new condos, according to Olshan Realty’s latest luxury market report.


The No. 2 contract was the penthouse at 224 Mulberry Street. The pad, at Flank Development’s six-unit boutique condo, was asking $23.75 million, down from $28 million when it hit the market in April. Measuring 5,625 square feet, it has four bedrooms, four terraces, two fireplaces and two parking spaces.

Celeb Photographer David LaChapelle Makes a Sale on His Dreamy Chelsea Abode

6sqftDecember 04, 2015

After placing his West Chelsea home on the market just five months ago, it looks like famed photographer David LaChapelle (he’s shot everyone from Madonna to MJ to Leo and Lady Gaga) has made a sale.


LaChapelle’s bright beauty at 427 West 21st Street sold for its $2.46 asking price, providing a pretty tidy profit for the artist who paid just $1.74 million for the space in 2011. According to the Observer, LaChapelle decided to shed the apartment because he now spends most of his time in LA and Hawaii—the latter where he owns a remote 18-acre forest on the island of Maui. 


But while LaChapelle enjoys warmer West Coast and island climates, the new buyer of his Chelsea pad should find themselves just as comfortable in his former residence. The one-bedroom home is quite a unique space with plenty of historic details highlighted by lots of light.


The home is located along Chelsea’s Seminary Block, one of the neighborhood’s leafiest streets. The residence is bright and airy with 12-foot ceilings across its floor-through layout. As it is situated on the parlor floor, there are also lots incredible architectural details within, like hand-carved crown molding, French doors, etched glass door inlays, stained oak floors and medallion-wrapped light fixtures.


The spacious home also has a generous 8-by-14-foot terrace just outside the updated kitchen accessed by windowed bay door. The bedroom sits at the front of the home facing the street, and also keeps one of the three wood-burning fireplaces.

Photographer David LaChapelle's Chelsea Co-Op Nets $2.5M

CurbedDecember 04, 2015

When photographer David LaChapelle listed his Chelsea co-op back in July, we were surprised by the not at all over-the-top interiors of the one-bedroom apartment. Considering LaChapelle's work—surrealist, imbued with neon colors and absolutely bonkers themes—the fact that he owned such atraditional pad was unexpected, to say the least. But clearly a buyer was feeling the home's traditional vibe: According to the New York Observer, the apartment recently sold for its full asking price of $2.46 million. The parlor-level apartment has some rather lovely features, including three fireplaces, a marble kitchen, and a porch. And it netted LaChapelle a profit: He originally bought the place in 2011 for $1.47 million.

David LaChapelle’s Manhattan Apartment Sells for $2.4M

New York PostDecember 04, 2015

Photographer David LaChapelle’s Chelsea apartment has sold for its full $2.46 million asking price, according to city property records. The new owner is Chloe Frances Squires.


The colorful co-op apartment is inside a townhouse at 427 W. 21st Street. It first went on the market in July, as the Post exclusively reported at the time.


Although it is only a one bedroom and one bathroom on a parlor level, the apartment commanded a high price because of its location and details like hand-carved plaster moldings, wood trim, 12 foot ceilings, custom cabinets and three marble fireplaces.


The high tech unit comes with a chef’s kitchen and a private terrace that is ideal for entertaining. The listing brokers were Heather McDonough and Henry Hershkowitz, of CORE.

In Hamilton Heights, a Renaissance

The Wall Street JournalDecember 04, 2015

Alexander Hamilton may be the current toast of Broadway, but he is having a moment, too, in the uptown Manhattan enclave that bears his name.


Bookended by City College to the south and the Hispanic Society of America to the north, Hamilton Heights, so named for the founding father who made his home in the area, is enjoying a renaissance with a wave of historic home restorations, followed by new restaurants and cafes.


“The neighborhood has exploded in the last few years,” said James Endress, founder of Absolute Properties, a brokerage firm on Amsterdam Avenue. “You can still find needles in the haystack…if you’re up for a project, it’s good to look here.”


Mr. Endress, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2007, said prices and inventory are attracting people “who want townhouses but have been priced out of the Upper West Side.”


Sara Henderson, a retired investment banker, was one such buyer. She moved from a condominium on 94th Street and Central Park West to a four-story townhouse on West 141st Street.


“I always wanted to live in Harlem and always wanted a townhouse,” she said. “I had something specific in mind—I wanted detail and I was willing to restore.”


In her old neighborhood, she couldn’t find a property within her price range and taste. After six months of looking, Ms. Henderson closed on her townhouse in April 2014, paying $2.3 million. She restored parts of her home, and after finding it too large to manage on her own, recently put it on the market. Within a month, she had several bids and accepted a cash offer of $2.9 million.


One of Harlem’s most architecturally eclectic neighborhoods, with landmarked blocks of townhouses and churches, prewar apartment buildings and national monuments, Hamilton Heights seems lost in time.


“Architecturally, it’s one of the most beautiful areas of the city, [attracting] people who have an appreciation for prewar elegance and beauty,” said Sidney Whelan, an agent for CORE, a boutique residential brokerage, and himself a 12-year Hamilton Heights resident. He said the townhouse inventory that dominates the area near Convent Avenue doesn’t trade often, and new development around the historic interior is limited. The Langston, a 180-unit development built in 2005 at 68 Bradhurst Ave., is one block outside the Hamilton Heights neighborhood. Aside from a spurt of activity in 2006 that brought three boutique developments to market, other projects have been small in scale.


But buyers looking farther west will find more apartment conversions.


“Toward Riverside Drive there’s a diversity of floor plans, some with huge apartments and some with tiny layouts,” Mr. Whelan said. “It’s a kind of chaotic inventory on those kind of conversions…there’s neither rhyme nor reason to it.” But, he added, “You can find some gems there.”


Adding to the mix will be the conversion of the long-vacant P.S. 186 on West 145th Street, a private/public project that will create 79 units of housing, eight at market rates. It also will be the home of the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem.

Slated for completion in fall 2016, the project will “help transform 145th Street and bring in more upscale retail,” Mr. Endress said. Places like the craft-beer tavern Harlem Public, which opened in 2012 at 3612 Broadway, have jump-started the makeover, paving the way for other like-minded businesses.


Grange Bar & Eatery owners Roy and Rita Henley, who live on West 145th Street, said they were inspired to open their restaurant by both the Harlem Public’s success and a desire to provide a new offering.

“We were sick of the commute downtown and decided we missed this in the neighborhood,” Mr. Henley said. “At the time, Harlem Public was the only thing open—no one [else] was doing anything craft or pushing the envelope here…I knew the neighborhood was ready.”


The Henleys, in turn, may have helped spawn a micro-dining destination, which in the past year included the nearby Tsion Café, Hogshead Tavern and the newly revamped Sweet Chef bakery. At 1616 Amsterdam Ave., Filtered Coffee opened this spring in a storefront that will include OSO, a restaurant in which Matthew Trebek, son of the “Jeopardy!” game show host, is a partner.


Tsion Café owners and local residents Padmore John and Beejhy Barhany said they were encouraged to open a restaurant after seeing a revitalization of abandoned houses and storefronts. When they opened a year ago, Mr. John said, “A lot of people told us we’ve been waiting for something like this for ages.”


Other retail has yet to catch up. The main retail corridors along West 145th Street and Broadway are a jumble of bodegas, salons, small electronic and phone stores. The neighborhood lacks a diversity of grocery stores, forcing residents like Alisa Roost, an associate professor at Hostos Community College, to travel for items beyond staples.


“We have more coffee shops than we need…I personally would love a reasonably priced grocery store,” she said. “We don’t have good grocery stores but we have a good brunch place. Sometimes it doesn’t work the way you’d think it works.”


Dining and drinking: On the eastern side of the neighborhood, the Grange Bar & Eatery specializes in farm-to-table dishes and craft cocktails. Tsion Café fuses Ethiopian, Caribbean and North African cuisines. Hogshead Tavern features craft beers and whiskeys, and small plates. A bar, coffee shop and noodle shop line the Broadway block between West 148th and West 149th streets.


Culture: The landmarked Audubon Terrace is home to a number of small museums including the Hispanic Society of America, whose collection includes works by El Greco and Velázquez. Hamilton historians can visit his home at the Hamilton Grange National Memorial at 414 W. 141st St. The Dance Theatre of Harlem, 466 W. 152nd St., offers classes and performances at its Everett Center for the Performing Arts. Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling opened in October at 898 St. Nicholas Ave.


Transportation: The neighborhood is served by the A, B, C, D and No. 1 subway lines to West 145th Street.


Schools: In District 6, schools that serve prekindergarten to fifth grades include P.S. 153 Adam Clayton Powell, P.S. 28 Wright Brothers School, P.S. 192 Jacob H. Schiff and P.S. 325. P.S. 368 Hamilton Heights School serves kindergarten to fifth grade. P.S./I.S. 210 21st Century Academy for Community Leadership includes prekindergarten through eighth grade; Middle schools include Hamilton Grange Middle School. The New Heights Academy Charter School serves grades five through 12. High schools include A. Philip Randolph Campus High School and the High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at City College.


Corrections & Amplifications: A bar, coffee shop and noodle shop line the Broadway block between West 148th and West 149th streets. Also, Roy Henley is a co-owner of Grange Bar & Eatery. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the businesses line the Broadway block between 139th and 148th streets and incorrectly gave the first name of Mr. Henley as Ron. (Dec. 4, 2015)

David LaChapelle’s ‘Magic’ Touch Helps Co-op Sell for $2.46M

New York ObserverDecember 03, 2015

One would expect a somewhat…avant-garde abode when picturing the home of a photographer often associated with surrealism.


The co-op that photographer David LaChapelle just sold, however, is rather picturesque. Mr. LaChapelle lived in the one-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op for the past four years, before listing it in July.


After establishing himself as a photographer, Mr. LaChapelle decided he was over the art scene in 2006 and moved to a “forest” in Hawaii, but he  went pretty much back to where he started and returning to the city and eventually making his way to this co-op.


Could it be that he’s going back to his Hawaii forest?


It could! “From my understanding, it wasn’t getting used enough,” CORE broker Heather McDonough, who shared the listing with Henry Hershkowitz, told the Observer. “He’s based more in LA and Hawaii now.”


Located on the first floor of a West Chelsea townhouse, the unit also has a private terrace, floor-to-ceiling bay windows, stained oak floors, and French doors.


The 12-foot ceilings, hand-carved molding, and three fireplaces must have really spoken quite literally to the new owner, Chloe Frances Squires, who purchased the parlor-level unit for exactly the $2.46 million it was asking.


“He really knows how to highlight the attributes of the home [and] that makes people really fall in love with it,” Ms. McDonough said.


“It was kind of his magic that touched the home,” Ms. McDonough continued. “He goes in, and he really knows how to make a place feel magical.”



Celebrity Photographer David LaChapelle Sells Chelsea Apartment For $2.5M

Luxury Listings NYCDecember 03, 2015

The so-called “Fellini of photography” David LaChapelle has sold his Chelsea apartment at 427 West 21st Street for $2.5 million, according to city documents.


LaChapelle listed the one-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op apartment in July for the same price. The townhouse features 12-foot ceilings, three fireplaces (two of which are marble) and a private terrace, according to the listing.


LaChapelle is best known for his fashion and commercial photography. He made his name when he was just 17 years old, after Andy Warhol hired him to shoot some work for Interview magazine. Since then, his photographs of celebrities like Missy Elliot have appeared in magazines such as Details, Paris Vogue, Rolling Stone and The New York Times Magazine.


In 2006, LaChapelle suffered a burn out and moved from New York to Hawaii. Since then, he has focused on art photography — though his photographs often make reference to celebrities like Michael Jackson.


Heather McDonough and Henry Hershkowitz of CORE had the listing.

Traditional Supermarkets Haven’t Thrown in the Towel in Manhattan

Commercial ObserverDecember 02, 2015

Just about every real estate and retail industry professional will tell you Whole Foods Market is clearly on the winning side of Manhattan’s grocery store wars.


While other chains have been shrinking (and in some cases disappearing altogether) Texas-based Whole Foods, which has only been in Manhattan since 2001, has been on a spree, with eight active locations around the borough and more on the way (one near Bryant Park and another in Harlem). In its fourth-quarter earnings report, Whole Foods announced that its year-over-year sales grew 6 percent to $3.4 billion. “When Whole Foods came to the city people thought they discovered not gold—platinum,” Faith Hope Consolo, the chairman of Douglas Elliman Real Estate Retail Group, told Commercial Observer. “It just gave a whole new dynamic to the way people shopped for food. They created a meeting place when they opened on [East] 14th Street. People were meeting there to date.”


But on the other side, the traditional supermarket has been in a tailspin. Soaring rents and traffic congestion, which delay deliveries and hinder parking, have made it difficult to compete in Manhattan. And given how easy it is now to fill an online cart with groceries and have it show up at your door the next morning, some are writing the industry’s obituary. Whole Foods also excels at pre-cooked meals, a trend that’s become popular with shoppers in Manhattan because of convenience.“High-quality prepared food is a big thing,” said Anna Castellani, the founder of organic grocery chain Foragers Market.


Many customers think, “I don’t cook anymore but I am not going to buy garbage,” Ms. Castellani said. “People are going to Whole Foods for [prepared food], too.”All this pressure caused the granddaddy of all grocers, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P)—which controls Waldbaum’s, Pathmark and Food Emporium—to file for bankruptcy in July, the second time in five years.


Another grocer, John Castimatidis, is currently in damage-control mode. His real estate and grocery company, Red Apple Group, is spending about $10 million to revitalize his Gristedes chains around Manhattan despite his once-powerful empire dwindling down to a third of what it once was. Mr. Catsimatidis, a former mayoral candidate with a net worth of $3.4 billion, according to Forbes, claims to have had “nearly 100” supermarkets in Manhattan between his Gristedes, Red Apple and Sloan’s Supermarkets in the early 1990s. Today, his company owns 31 Gristedes locations across Manhattan (and one new Red Apple location in Downtown Brooklyn).


Red Apple Group only grosses about $200 million in revenue annually from its grocery stores, and loses a “few million” a year after operating costs, Mr. Catsimatidis said in a recent interview with Commercial Observer. He admitted that if it weren’t for his other endeavors—his Red Apple Group also has vast energy and real estate holdings—that he would have had to close Gristedes.


“We’re able [to survive], but only because we want to,” Mr. Catsimatidis said. “If the supermarket business was the only business that we did, we would be out of business.” (Mr. Catsimatidis can be even more blunt—when CO asked him about the worst decision of his career in this year’s Owners Magazine he said: “Failing to get out of the supermarket business 10 years ago, given what I have learned now.”) Mr. Catsimatidis is quick to lay blame on the unions for how tough the grocery store economic climate has become. “Look at what happened to A&P. Bankrupt. Gone, because a lot of these old-time supermarkets are fully unionized,” Mr. Catsimatidis said. “If you figure what we are paying the unionized employees, it’s probably double the non-union employees, and it’s not necessarily in salary. A lot of it is in health care and pensions.” 


In bankruptcy filings, A&P also indicated that high demands from unionized employees took a toll on the company (although, it still paid $9.4 million in bonuses to top officers at the company, according to The Wall Street Journal). An A&P spokeswoman declined to comment, and referred CO to the company’s bankruptcy filings.


Whole Foods, meanwhile, doesn’t have unionized workers. A spokesman for Local 1500, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), didn’t address Mr. Catsimatidis’ criticisms directly, but noted that Whole Foods is notorious for not letting its workers unionize. Aly Waddy, director of organization at Local 1500, said the union received frequent calls from employees, but every time the topic arises at a location, the company’s corporate officers come in and use aggressive measures to persuade workers against having a vote to unionize. They cut hours, for example, she alleged. A Whole Foods representative did not return requests for comment.


 “What we’re finding is there is a trend in these organizations in bad labor practices,” said Ms. Waddy. “There is a lot of resistance from these companies to allow those workers to unionize.” Another factor that has hit traditional supermarkets is that drug stores, such as CVS Health Corporation and Duane Reade, have doubled as mini-marts as much as pharmacies, chipping away at a supermarket’s typical business. (See story on page 68.)


Despite these factors, plenty of real estate pros refuse to believe the old-school supermarket will disappear completely; it may just not be around in its current form. “There is no more demand for what traditional supermarkets offer,” Alex Cohen, a commercial real estate broker at Core, said. “They don’t offer farm-to-market fresh produce or the boutique offerings that a Wegmans or a Whole Foods does. They have to establish some identity to survive.”


“I don’t think it’s over, but I think they have a lot challenges that they have to overcome,” said Natalie Kotlyar, the head of accounting, consulting and auditing firm BDO USA’s northeast retail and consumer products practice. “Sales is an iterative process; if the traditional supermarkets don’t change with the times, they will go extinct.” For traditional supermarkets, surviving in Manhattan has been a game of adaptation.


Key Food Stores Co-operative, a brand of individually owned supermarkets with corporate offices in Staten Island, is known for selling inexpensive products. However, the company created high-end gourmet spinoffs 55 Fulton Market and Urban Market, which both sell organic products, as well. Urban Market has cropped up in the outer boroughs in Long Island City, Queens and Williamsburg, but the company recently signed a lease for a space in Manhattan at 70 Pine Street in the Financial District, as CO reported in November. (55 Fulton Market is located at 55 Fulton Street.) Representatives from Key Food did not respond to requests for comment.


Morton Williams, a family-owned supermarket chain that has 12 locations in Manhattan and two in the Bronx, is another traditional grocery store that also adjusted its style. “We have tried to stay up with the trends that are prevalent with modern America,” Morton Sloan, the chief executive officer of the company, said. “We know that today’s modern family doesn’t [want] to go home and start making a roast beef. So we have gone into the prepared food market in a big way, and into selling organic products.”


The company also began offering online shopping and delivery (within two hours) or in-store pickup. Mr. Sloan said that Morton Williams has experienced more “pressure” because of Whole Foods and drug stores, but its stores are still profitable. In a sign that its new strategies are enjoying some measure of success, both Key Food and Morton Williams bought some A&P stores at a bankruptcy auction.


But for traditional supermarkets, Whole Foods isn’t the only competition to watch out for. Another grocer that has been gunning for the dinosaurs is Trader Joe’s—but rather than a pricey, high-end alternative, Trader Joe’s moved in the opposite direction. Started in California, and now controlled by the owners of Germany-based discount supermarket Aldi, Trader Joe’s owes its success largely to off-the-charts marketing and lower-cost pricing, thanks to its own private labels on products. Trader Joe’s first came storming into Manhattan in 2006 and currently has three locations in the borough.


Even Whole Foods has taken note and is adjusting to its low-cost competitor. Whole Foods announced in June its smaller and less expensive 365 by Whole Foods Market model to help further its expansion plans, and is searching for new locations in Manhattan for the brand, as CO previously reported. Whole Foods has also promised to cut back prices on its products, and let go of 1,500 employees in preparation for that. “This is a very difficult decision, and we are committed to treating affected team members in a caring and respectful manner,” Walter Robb, the co-CEO of Whole Foods, said in a September press release regarding the job cuts. “We believe this is an important step to evolve Whole Foods Market in a rapidly changing marketplace.”


But if traditional grocery stores are suffering, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods would be wise to take note of the threat to their flank. The direct-to-consumer grocery store, such as Instacart and Amazon Fresh, has already cultivated a consumer base and will doubtless be a force to be reckoned with. These types of grocery services offer consumers delivery of fresh products after purchasing online. Both Instacart and Amazon Fresh promise same-day delivery.


Fresh Direct, which is currently based in Queens, is the progenitor of this grocery model. It sources about 100 farms in the state for fresh products and delivery as early as the next day. It has an enormous presence already in Manhattan, and reportedly makes about $500 million in revenue, according to Crain’s New York Business (although representatives wouldn’t confirm that number). “It’s a big market. People have dozens of habits for their immediate needs,” Jason Ackerman, the chief executive officer and co-founder of Fresh Direct, said. “We are never going to have 100 percent of the marketplace and neither is one store.”


And even nimbler online-to-consumer versions are cropping up, such as Max Delivery, which was started just over a decade ago in Tribeca by entrepreneur Chris Siragusa. Like Fresh Direct, Max Delivery focuses on bringing farm fresh and organic grocery products to customer’s doors. But the store runs on a fleet of about 55 bicyclists that deliver products to consumers (below both sides of 92nd Street) within one hour of their purchase. For heavier orders, multiple cyclists are put on the job.


Max Delivery moved in May from its roughly 5,000-square-foot space to a 10,000-square-foot location on the ground floor of 318 West 39th Street between Ninth and Eighth Avenues. The company employs about 150 people in total, and Mr. Siragusa is actively looking to open new locations in Brooklyn and other cities. Max Delivery functions solely online at the moment; however, because there is still a big market for people who need immediate service, Mr. Siragusa plans to add a walk-in component, where consumers can place orders at the location and the staff will retrieve the items from the store and bring it to them on site.


The grocery has seen five consecutive years of profits and is growing at about 30 percent in revenue each year, Mr. Siragusa said. One of the major contributors to that is that people aren’t just ordering in bulk anymore, he said, but really using the service for convenience. He believes more traditional stores will turn to his business model to survive, “As people become used to better, more convenient service from the supermarkets, I think companies will be pushed to do something towards what we have been doing,” Mr. Siragusa said. “What we are seeing is that [customers] are saying, ‘What do we need to eat tomorrow?’ As more and more [direct-to-consumer] models come up, more and more people are going to order for the next day or two, because that’s all you need.”

Designing Men

New York ObserverDecember 02, 2015

Emily Beare’s listing at 39 Fifth Avenue was featured in New York Observer’s “Transfers” section.

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