A Building With a Pool

New York MagazineJuly 21, 2013
One Museum Mile, 1280 Fifth Avenue, Upper East Side

Pool Profile:
Nearly a dozen lounge chairs and a barbecue area surround the pool, which is three feet eight inches deep and 18 by 35 feet long, in this Robert A.M. Stern–designed condo.

Apartment 7H, a 1,372-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath, facing the park.

$1.595 million; Tom Postilio, CORE.

LXTV Open House: 15 West 20th Street, PH

LXTVJuly 21, 2013
This episode of Open House was hosted from 15 West 20th St., New York, NY. For more information on this property, please contact Adrian Noriega of CORE at 646-279-6104.

Maggie Kent | CORE Group: 420 East 51st Street, 12F

Modern New YorkJuly 19, 2013
Experience elegant Beekman Place, full-service living in this five-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom home, with its own private, 600-square- foot terrace and open city views. The well-appointed living room, state-of-the art kitchen and separate dining room lead to the outdoor terrace, adding to an expansive custom-designed layout that is perfect for entertaining. Wide plank hardwood floors, gorgeous wood cabinetry, custom sound and lighting features, wet bar and foyer lounge area add to the ambiance of this cleverly-designed, modern living space. There are two distinct wings of this spacious apartment, currently configured with a south-facing master bedroom, en suite master bath and an office/den with custom built-ins and en suite bath. The north wing has two large bedrooms, two full bathrooms and an exercise room. This pet-friendly building features a 24-hour doorman, lobby-accessible garage and a planted roof deck. Monthly maintenance is $8,843, with a $4000/month seller rebate for two years following closing.

New York’s NoMad on the Map for High-End Home Buyers

The Financial TimesJuly 19, 2013
New York City’s newest neighbourhood is attracting tech companies, foodies and upmarket real estate developers.

From SoHo to NoHo, NoLIta to TriBeCa, Manhattan is an island of acronyms. One of New York’s newest is NoMad, a fashionable neighbourhood, North of Madison Square Park, which is increasingly attracting tech companies, foodies and home buyers. Not to be confused with Madison Square Garden 10 blocks to the north, Madison Square Park is a 6.2-acre emerald oasis wedged between the gallery-filled Chelsea to the west and the architecturally-important Flatiron District to the east. NoMad’s borders are not exact, though most agree that the area begins at the park’s upper edge along 26th Street and runs northward for about six blocks, dissected by Fifth Avenue, Manhattan’s most enviable address.

NoMad, a former industrial zone, is relatively new to upmarket real estate. In the late 19th century, the area was one of Manhattan’s most exclusive – a gathering spot for Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain and Theodore Roosevelt. Songwriters such as Cole Porter and Irving Berlin, along with music publishing houses, congregated along NoMad’s upper limits, earning it the nickname Tin Pan Alley.

But the 20th century was less kind to NoMad. Madison Square Park succumbed to crime and homelessness amid New York’s economic crises in the 1970s and 1980s. “The area lost its identity and became a no-man’s land,” says Debbie Landau, president of the Madison Square Park Conservancy and a revitalisation advocate.

Yet a recent Conservancy-led, 15-year, $35m restoration scheme has helped Madison Square Park and surrounding quarters such as NoMad to thrive again. Boosted by the newly-beautified park, which now offers contemporary art shows and twice-weekly children’s musical performances, private sector players began to realise NoMad’s untapped potential.

Restaurateur Danny Meyer, for example, helped establish the area’s culinary reputation with Tabla, 11 Madison Park and the haute burger venue Shake Shack, which has just opened a branch in London. Meyer was followed by chef-entrepreneurs Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. Hotels also arrived in NoMad, such as the affordable Ace and the eponymous, higher-end NoMad, followed by tech companies such as Buzzfeed and Tumblr. Now upmarket real estate developers are set to open half a dozen high-end projects in and around NoMad within the next 18 months.

“We have huge confidence in the NoMad area,” says Steven Witkoff, chairman of the Witkoff Group, which is co-developing half of the huge International Toy Center into 125 one- to five-bedroom condominiums to be called 10 Madison Square West. “They’ve done a great job restoring the park – especially for families – while the area offers great connectivity to the rest of Manhattan.” Priced between $1.5m and about $25m, 10 Madison Square West is indicative of NoMad’s thriving real estate market – which now commands more than $2,000 per sq ft, up from roughly $1,500 per sq ft in 2010.

The price increase reflects prevailing market conditions in Manhattan – notably, the scarce housing supply. According to a report by Douglas Elliman, a real estate company, the number of available apartments in Manhattan fell more than 31 per cent in the second quarter of this year – a 12-year low. Meanwhile, prices of new-build Manhattan real estate rose nearly 31 per cent during the same period to more than $1,400 per sq ft.

With its central location and prime park access, NoMad-area agents, such as Doron Zwickel of the Core Group, suggest neighbourhood pricing could reach more than $2,500 per sq ft by the end of the year.

Zwickel is representing 241 Fifth Avenue, a 20-storey, new-build glass tower with one- to three-bedroom residences, including two penthouses priced between $7m and $8m. About 75 per cent of buyers are American, says Zwickel, with the rest from Canada, the UK, Asia and Latin America.

US buyers, including Chelsea Clinton, have also flocked to The Whitman, a former textile showroom converted into four floor-through homes starting at 5,000 sq ft and priced from $10m. Three have sold, while the 6,540 sq ft penthouse is still on offer for $25m. “The project has proven particularly attractive to affluent young families looking for a long-term base to raise their kids,” says Dina Lewis of Douglas Elliman.

Dutch developers and Dutch designers Piet Boon and Piet Oudolf are behind Huy – “house” in Dutch – a project set in a converted office tower with 58 one- to four-bedroom condominiums priced between $1m and $11m. Landscape designer Oudolf is well-regarded for his work on the nearby Highline, a mile-long elevated park built on what was once a freight railway track. Nearly 70 per cent of Huy’s homes have already been sold, many of them to European buyers.

Still, the area’s most eagerly-anticipated opening remains One Madison – a slender, 600ft tower directly on Madison Square Park which has languished unfinished and nearly unoccupied for three years. The 60-storey project went into insolvency just as construction finished but now a new ownership consortium, led by Related Companies, is completing and upgrading One Madison, which will re-enter the market this autumn. Responding to the high-end sector’s demand for larger units, the residence count has been reduced from 90 to 65 and prices will reportedly start at $10.5m for three-bedroom units.
Michael Iannacone, vice-president of Related, anticipates a heavy concentration of international buyers. “We expect buyers to move in by early 2014,” he says, “a year before many of our neighbouring new developments.”

As projects, such as One Madison, push the area’s entry point at some buildings past the $10m mark, will NoMad ultimately prove to be a sound investment? Veteran buyers such as Mexican-born banker Jaime Rodriguez believe so. Rodriguez bought a two-bedroom home on Fifth Avenue just above Madison Square Park in 2009. “I love the area’s restaurants, its central location and what I consider to be the most beautiful park in New York,” he says. What has surprised him, however, is his apartment’s appreciation in value. “People regularly offer me more than 40 per cent over the purchase price for the place,” he says. “It’s a nice increase and a tempting offer but there’s so little available in New York right now.”

Done Deals: 234 West 21st Street, #55

Brokers WeeklyJuly 17, 2013
234 W21st St. #55

South and west-facing one-bedroom co-op in Beaux-Arts elevator building. Newly renovated with open chef’s kitchen with Sub Zero and Miele appliances, granite counters, designer tiled backsplash; spa-style, windowed bathroom with heated floors. Exposed brick, decorative fireplace, recessed lighting and Brazilian cherry wood floors. Asking price: $829,000. Time on market: 1 week. Brokers: Lindsee Silverstein (pictured) and Elizabeth Kee, CORE; Flora Resnick, Corcoran.

Done Deals: 11-25 45th Avenue, #2B

Brokers WeeklyJuly 17, 2013
Long Island City
11-25 45th Avenue, #2B

Two-bedroom, 2-bath home with 1, 277 s/f terrace. One Murray Park is LIC’s newest condominium, nestled on the renovated Murray Playground. Steps away from the MoMAs PS1 and the E, M and 7 subway lines, features include a doorman, indoor parking, gym, common roof deck, residents library and a bike room. Asking price: $925,000. Time on market: 8 months. Brokers: Doron Zwickel, CORE; Diane Rathjen, Corcoran.

Stuy High

New York PostJuly 17, 2013
Open houses have been the real estate equivalent of lions swatting each other over prey.

At 618 Dean St., in Prospect Heights, broker Rodolfo Lucchese of the Corcoran Group held exactly one open house for a two-bedroom.
“We could have put [the listing] on in the low $900,000s, but we decided on $895,000, because the owners wanted to sell it quickly,” says Lucchese. “At one open house, we got 14 offers. Within a day and a half we went to highest and best.”

The apartment now has an accepted offer above the asking price and 13 backups.

“We had 200 people at our first open house,” says broker Avi Voda of Douglas Elliman, who is selling Clinton Lofts. “We sold nine apartments in our first week.”

Townhouses are more or less the same story as condos in these neighborhoods. “I just went into contract [two weeks ago] on 402 Monroe St.,” says Doug Bowen of Core. “It was a three-family in Bed-Stuy. There were five bidders in the best and final, and the house is in contract for well over the asking price of $950,000.”

“Every house we were going to see, there were all-cash offers, bidding wars,” says Ben Fleming, who finally closed on a house in Bed-Stuy in June with his wife, Sarah Ogden. “Every offer was above whatever the asking price was.”

In May, a townhouse at 7 Arlington Place in Bed-Stuy was listed for $1.3 million and, after a bidding war, closed at $1.7 million. Last week a townhouse at 739 Macon St. in nearby Stuyvesant Heights, which was on the market for $999,000, went into contract — yes, it may have had some work done on it, but it sold last December for just $325,000 before being “polished to perfection” and re-listed.

According to data from the Corcoran Group, two-to-four-family townhouses went up an average of 36 percent in Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, Bushwick and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens from last year.

And the price jumps are happening fast. “When we closed, [the seller’s] Realtor came up to us and said, ‘You guys got a really good deal,’ ” says Fleming, who paid $760,000 for his two-family home. “Another one around the corner just sold for $950,000.”

The most obvious explanation for the Brooklyn frenzy? Not much has been built in the last few years, and buyers have been willing to broaden their search.

“This is definitely out of the way,” says Laura Juszczak, an Upper West Sider who showed up at Clinton Lofts, looking for something with outdoor space closer to her work (she’s an assistant professor at Brooklyn College). “But I’ve not been finding anything.”
“A surprisingly large [number of buyers] are from Manhattan,” says broker Rachel Medalie of Douglas Elliman who is selling Clinton Lofts with Voda.

Toni Martin, a broker for the Corcoran Group whose listing at 739 Macon St. is in contract, says that Brooklyn has its own draw. “I have buyers wanting to move from within other boroughs and outside of NYC wanting to come to Brooklyn,” says Martin. “Brooklyn is a top-tier destination, not a second choice.”

Another part of it has to do with the fact that these neighborhoods have experienced retail booms, just like in the rest of Brooklyn.
“Franklin Avenue exploded,” says Suzanne Mattiello-De Groot, who owns a townhouse in Crown Heights (and was thinking of trading it for one in Bed-Stuy but has mostly been scared off by the prices). Franklin Avenue has gotten every important marker of gentrification, from juice bars to cocktail bars to fancy donut purveyors to restaurants like Mayfield and Taste Buds.

A final reason why buyers might be jumping into the fray right now has to do with interest rates, which have risen from 3.52 percent on May 1, to 4.48 percent on a 30-year fixed rate yesterday, according to “Buyers start to feel more pressure as interest rates fluctuate,” Barrocas says.

Along with interest rates, prices have gone up, too. Even in the space of a year, buyers have seen prices shoot up dramatically.

“Everything is more expensive,” says Marisa Rahaman, who showed up at Clinton Lofts with her husband, Brad, and their 2-month-old son, Julian. Rahaman first started looking for something to buy a year ago. “I remember thinking it sounded expensive when we saw a 1 1/2- bedroom loft in Greenpoint for $579,000. I thought it was insane. Now it doesn’t sound so bad.”

House of the Day: 105 Cambridge Place

BrownstonerJuly 16, 2013
This Italianate brownstone at 105 Cambridge Place in Clinton Hill was built in 1873 by Thomas Lambert. Currently configured as an owner’s triplex with a top-floor rental, it has plenty of historic details, such as mantels, pocket doors, etched glass and decorative plaster. The listing says the house is structurally solid with well-maintained mechanicals but needs updating. There are no photos of kitchens or baths. It will be delivered vacant. What do you think of it for $2,275,000?

Seen & Heard: 93 Worth’s Topper Revealed

Tribeca CitizenJuly 13, 2013
••• 93 Worth’s rooftop addition has been unveiled. I only had my phone with me, so the photo isn’t so hot.
••• Not even one guess for this week’s Where in Tribeca…? I bet many of you have walked by it hundreds of times.
••• From the LMCCC: “This week, the city put the final touches on the new Water Street corridor streetscape. The roadway redesign stretches one half-mile, from Fulton to Broad Streets, and boosts pedestrian safety, revises traffic-lane markings, and forms new, greener public plazas. In addition to the colorful new pavement graphics, two of the most notable improvements include opening of Gouverneur Lane and Coenties Slip as the newest public spaces downtown. [...] The DOT also plans to install 27 additional, distinctive Lower Manhattan street lamps along the corridor in coming months.”
••• From the reader who goes by Hudson River: “Reliable Source sez Morton’s steakhouse is open at 90 West. Also Bill’s Bar & Burger in the Marriott is close. I saw a staff meeting in there yesterday, and the tables are set. Reliable Source sez he saw a sign that said opening Monday, but then it was gone when he walked by again.” (Eater confirms it’s Monday.)

Homeownership, the Key to Happiness?

The New York TimesJuly 12, 2013
If trying to buy an apartment in New York City has been making you miserable, consider this: actually getting that home may not make you happy.

A growing body of research suggests that spending money on real estate doesn’t necessarily mean investing in contentment. Indeed, the conventional advice to cut back on vacations, restaurant meals and other extras in order to save money for a home may actually be detrimental to felicity. Experts in happiness — an increasingly popular field focused on the scientific understanding of emotional well-being — say that people are happier when they spend money on experiences instead of material goods, whether it be a new car or a bigger apartment.

“People are making so many trade-offs in order to have that home,” said Elizabeth Dunn, an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who studies consumerism and happiness. She recently explored the impact of housing on people’s happiness while compiling studies for a new book, “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending,” which she wrote with Michael Norton, who teaches at the Harvard Business School.

The recession forced many people to curb their spending habits and re-evaluate their overall lifestyles. But after saving money for years, buyers encouraged by low mortgage rates are re-entering the housing market. They find the pickings slim. In Manhattan, the number of apartments for sale for the second quarter was at a 13-year low, stoking competition and driving up prices.

Now there is research like Dr. Dunn’s, emphasizing that when it comes to your overall happiness, “there are a lot of better things you could be putting your money toward” than real estate.

This isn’t necessarily bad news in a place like New York City, where nearly 70 percent of the housing stock is rentals. And it may offer some solace to frustrated buyers facing bidding wars and all-cash offers they simply can’t top.

“People still view housing as a central component of happiness and a critical aspect of the American dream,” Dr. Dunn said. “But there is little research to support that.”

A 2011 study of about 600 women in Ohio found that homeowners weren’t any happier than renters. The study was conducted by Grace Wong Bucchianeri, then an assistant professor of real estate at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Indeed, homeowners spent less time on leisure activities with friends and reported that they derived some pain from homeownership. What exactly caused that pain wasn’t indicated in the study, but financial experts say that people who make the leap from renting to buying can be caught off guard by the nuts and bolts.

“The reality of maintenance and repairs, and being ‘house rich but cash poor,’ can negate much of the perceived happiness people may have had about homeownership,” said Greg McBride, the senior financial analyst for Even if a low mortgage rate means you spend less each month than you did when renting, upkeep can drain a bank account faster than a leaking water heater.

What about the pleasure of living in a beautiful house in a coveted neighborhood? In a delightful screed posted in May on, an online publishing site, Lindsey M. Green, a publicist for start-up and technology companies, writes about how even a lovely town house in a sought-after neighborhood can be a letdown.

Ms. Green moved to New York City in 2003 and sublet what she described as a “cramped, cheap, Far West Village studio.” She moved eight times within Manhattan over the course of nearly 10 years, even as her friends decamped for Brooklyn and sang its praises. “I was happy as could be as the last dinosaur in Manhattan,” she wrote.

In 2011 she moved to a two-bedroom two-bath in South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan with her then-boyfriend, now fiancé, Lockhart Steele, the founder of But in October 2012, flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy forced them to evacuate. So with all of the hype that Brooklyn was getting, they jumped at a six-month sublet in a newly renovated Cobble Hill town house.

“I could feel all the magazine headlines becoming my reality,” she wrote. “All of the ‘Best of New York’ picks in Brooklyn would suddenly make so much sense. I could become one of those people talking about how much better her life was, now that I finally made the move to Brooklyn.”

She hated it. “Moving to Brooklyn, even into a four-story town house on a beautiful block, in a neighborhood everyone loves,” she wrote, “didn’t make our lives better; it made our quality of life worse.” It didn’t matter that she was living in a lovely home — she missed the bustle of Manhattan and the sense of belonging she had felt there. As she put it: “Manhattan — its absurd inconveniences, annoyances, high rents, crowded bars and tourist-packed streets — is my yoga.”

Not everyone is crazy about Brooklyn. And at least one study suggests that the emphasis on location and physical characteristics (prewar charm, oak floors, a fabulous view) doesn’t have much bearing on our overall happiness.

As an undergraduate at Harvard in the late 1990s, Dr. Dunn, the happiness expert, experienced the annual ritual, akin to the Hogwarts Sorting Hat in the Harry Potter series, whereby first-year students are randomly assigned to spend the rest of their college years in one of 12 dormitories or houses. In a longitudinal study published in 2003 with Timothy D. Wilson of the University of Virginia, and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard, both of whom are known for their research on the link between decision-making and well-being, she found that freshmen expected to be much happier living in one of the more desirable — handsome, centrally located — of the 12. But those who landed in plum surroundings ended up no happier than students in less desirable houses.

It is difficult to make a connection between the happiness of Harvard undergrads and real estate contentment elsewhere. But the study indicated that by placing so much weight on the physical characteristics of the houses, including location, room size and architectural appeal, the students overlooked what ended up contributing most to their happiness — the quality of their social life.

Between 1991 and 2007, researchers tracked 3,658 people in Germany who moved to a new home because there was something they didn’t like about the old one. Although the participants reported a significant boost in satisfaction with their home for the first five years, they didn’t feel any better about their lives overall after they moved, according to the study, which was published in 2010.

“What matters for our happiness,” Dr. Dunn said, “is what we do in the minutes and hours of our day.” When shopping for a home, she recommends asking yourself, “How will this purchase change the way I spend my time next Tuesday?”

Whether you have a maple or a walnut floor won’t have a big impact on what you’re doing on an average day, she said. On the other hand, if the house has no dishwasher, you may be committing yourself to spending half an hour a day washing dishes. “That aspect of your house will change what you do with your time,” she said.

About three years ago, Dr. Dunn bought a two-bedroom with a view of the mountains on Vancouver’s West Side for roughly 550,000 Canadian dollars, or about $520,000. Moving farther inland would have meant a larger place for less money, but a much longer commute. “I can spend my time biking rather than driving to work,” she said. “That changes the way I use my time.”

Many people understand homeownership as serial trading up with a goal of arriving at some sort of real estate perfection. But that dream house may be more elusive than it seems.

“Like any possession, its impact on happiness diminishes over time,” said Ravi Dhar, a psychology professor and the director of the Center for Customer Insight at Yale School of Management. Citing a theory widely held by happiness researchers called hedonic adaptation, he said, “things give us more joy when they are first acquired than over time, as we adapt to them.”

Based on this principle, to remain happy with your home you need to move periodically. The technique seems to be working for Luis Moreno, 43, a film editor in New York. When he arrived in Manhattan in 1992 after graduating from college, he shared a two-bedroom with five roommates. “I got the dining room and had a sheet for the door,” he said, “but I felt like I made it, because it was my first place in New York.”

Like many young professionals, he went through a series of rentals, more crash pads than true homes.

In 2001 he paid $245,000 for a sunny corner one-bedroom at the top of a sixth-floor walk-up in the West Village. “I loved that apartment,” said Mr. Moreno, who moved to Texas in high school from Venezuela. And seeing his name in the New York phone book for the first time was a thrill. But whenever friends or family visited, it meant hauling suitcases up five flights of stairs. So in 2003, he upgraded to a two-bedroom one-bath in an elevator building. Then he found sharing a bathroom with guests wasn’t ideal.

That took him to Philip Johnson’s Urban Glass House on SoHo’s western fringe, where in 2007 he bought a two-bedroom two-and-half-bath apartment for $2.35 million. Not only did the place have that extra bathroom and a clean modern aesthetic bathed in tons of light, but it also represented the success he had always dreamed of achieving.

“That made me happy,” he said. “It cemented me feeling like I belong in the city, and I was able to make it happen here for myself.” He felt as he had when he had found his name in the phone book all those years ago. “It was that kind of thing again,” he said.

Yet, as his business grew, and his work continued late into the evening, he realized he needed a larger place with a dedicated home office. In March, he listed his two-bedroom place for $2.7 million with Ryan Serhant, a broker with Nest Seekers International who appears on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York.” It quickly went into contract for $2.65 million, and he put a down payment on a three-bedroom duplex with a terrace at 93 Worth, a luxury condo conversion under construction downtown. “It’s like a house,” he said. “I will hopefully never have to leave, and that feels great.”

Moving is a headache, it’s true. But maybe Mr. Moreno will succumb to hedonic adaptation or the midlife urge to downsize.

Buying a home is still considered an important step on the ladder to personal fulfillment. But Dr. Dunn isn’t convinced ownership is all it’s cracked up to be. “A very robust finding in psychology is people are highly motivated to justify their own choices,” she said. “It’s very hard to get people to admit they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in a way not optimal for their happiness.”

Return of the Sight-Unseen Market

The Wall Street JournalJuly 11, 2013
Spurred by tight inventory, developers in cities like New York and Miami are demanding, and getting, millions for homes that have yet to be built

One real estate developer hired a drone; another displayed life-size sculptures of polar bears. A third charged potential buyers $100,000 just to take a peek at the floor plans. The common goal: selling something that doesn't exist.

Spurred by tight inventory and plenty of interest from foreign buyers, real-estate developers in cities such as New York and Miami are reviving the boom-era practice of pitching new buildings months—and even years—ahead of completion. Miami's Faena House, a planned 18-story tower, is still pouring concrete at the condo's basement level. Yet the project, part of a newly developed strip that will include a five-star hotel and an arts center by Rem Koolhaas's OMA design firm, already has 50% of its 47 units under contract, according to Alicia Goldstein of Faena Group. Buyers are required to put down a 50% cash deposit on the apartments, which range from $2.5 million for a one-bedroom to $50 million for the full-floor duplex penthouse.

At 56 Leonard in downtown Manhattan, which is being designed by Pritzker Prize-winning firm Herzog & de Meuron, 80% of the 145 units were under contract since presales launched in March. According to co-developer Izak Senbahar, a penthouse has gone to contract for $47 million, a record for downtown Manhattan if the deal closes. One57, one of the most expensive projects in Manhattan, won't be completed until 2014, but 70% of its 92 units are already taken, and total sales are expected to exceed $2 billion.

"Today we see presales as early as two to three years away from completion," says Kelly Kennedy Mack, president of New York-based Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, which runs marketing and sales for projects similar to 56 Leonard.

It is a contrast to the first years after the housing bust, when would-be buyers grew leery of presale offerings after some high-profile developments stalled during construction, leaving early buyers in the lurch. In Manhattan, the practice of selling out buildings on plans alone had all but disappeared three years ago, says Jonathan Miller, president of appraisal firm Miller Samuel.

But now that buyers are returning to the market, they are confronting historically low inventory levels, making presale offerings an increasingly attractive option. In the second quarter of this year, there were 4,795 units for sale in Manhattan, the lowest second quarter on record in at least 13 years, Mr. Miller says. Sales volume, on the other hand, has risen almost 19% compared with the same period last year. In a rising market, buyers are less fearful of a building going bust—and can look to presales as a way to "lock in" a lower price point.

At the same time, New York developers are contending with stricter criteria for securing loans. Lenders typically now require that a building sell at least 50% of its units or some comparable benchmark before a construction loan is completed, according to Frances Katzen, a managing director at Douglas Elliman. In South Florida, where few of the proposed towers have traditional lender financing because banks and big investors are still spooked from the bust, presales are even more critical. The large cash down-payments demanded of buyers are used to fund most of the development's construction.

That is where the marketing comes in. Michael Namer, the CEO of New York-based Alfa Development and the developer of Village Green West, takes a showman's approach. In March, his pop-up art gallery in Chelsea hosted artist Oscar Dotter's "Nordic Pop" exhibition, which included paintings and two life-size sculptures of polar bears. Mr. Namer says the goal was twofold: to raise awareness for the plight of the polar bear, and to showcase Chelsea Green, a 14-story, 51-unit green-energy building that he is developing. It is slated to open later this year, but was nearly sold out by the time of the exhibit. (Mr. Dotter, the artist, says he bought a two-bedroom unit in Chelsea Green for $2.1 million and says it would now list for $800,000 more than he paid for it.)

At 35XV, a condo to be built in New York's Flatiron district, the pitch includes a view from the top. While the 24-floor project is only built about halfway up, so a "little baby helicopter" was commissioned to snap photos of the city skyline from different levels of the planned tower, says Kenneth Horn of Alchemy Properties. The images are compiled into a video package played on loop at the off-site sales office, he says, where a model kitchen and bathroom also await prospective buyers.

The building is about 50% under contract, and Mr. Horn says it has already raised prices twice, with prices for one-bedrooms now starting at over $2.2 million, up from around $1.5 million. He says his firm expects the building to sell out before it opens in August 2014.

Marketers of the Porsche Design Tower in Miami, which is scheduled to open in early 2016, created an aura of secrecy. There was so much interest in the building's planned car elevator, which lifts tenants' cars directly to their units, that Dezer Development charged interested parties a $100,000 refundable deposit just to see the floor plans. (The ploy got them about 33 buyer commitments before the presale office even opened, says owner Gil Dezer.)

Once the off-site sales office opened, though, the company felt it needed a better way to help buyers visualize their apartments, which range from $4.8 million for a 4,800-square-foot unit to $32.5 million for a 17,000-square-foot penthouse. "When you start showing duplexes on floor plans, people get confused," Mr. Dezer says. So they made four replicas of different apartments and the lobby encased in four-by-six-foot glass boxes at a cost of $250,000. The décor and furniture was designed by Michael Wolk Design Associates and was crafted in miniature by MYP Maquetas, a Mexico-based model-making company. Currently 89 of the building's 132 units have been sold for a total of $535 million, Mr. Dezer says.

The Porsche Design Tower required a 30% down payment, which is lower than usual for Miami. This is because the developer plans to secure lender financing, taking some of the onus off buyers. While buyers can usually finance the balance of their purchase once their unit is completed, veterans say the vast majority of luxury presale buyers pay for their units in cash. The stiff cash requirements means buyers are betting, heavily, that their units will be completed to their liking—and that the development will be a success.

According to Jack McCabe, CEO of McCabe Research & Consulting, an independent real-estate analysis company in South Florida, buyers are only entitled to a fraction of their down payment if the project sours. Litigation can be onerous; many lawsuits from the last housing bust are still pending. The vast majority of new condo buildings after the bust saw individual or class action lawsuits from contract holders trying to recoup their losses, Mr. McCabe says.

Peter Zalewski, founder of the real-estate consultancy Condo Vultures, notes that foreign investors are more used to large cash deposits than U.S. buyers, so the large down-payment requirements are better tolerated. "Right now, it feels like 2003 in South Florida," he says, recalling the boom years.

Not all developers are on board with such an early presales strategy. "A lot of developers leave money on the table if they sell too soon," said Shaun Osher, CEO of CORE, a brokerage in New York. Mr. Osher says his company will only market a building a year out from completion, otherwise it risks underpricing the units. And should the still-fragile market take another drop, he warns that overly optimistic developers could end up with another bust-era dilemma. "Buyers would sooner lose their deposit than close on a devalued unit," he says.

On the 7th Day It Sold

Brokers WeeklyJuly 10, 2013
Tom Postilio and Mickey Conlon at CORE just sold a pre-war apartment near Central Park in seven days.

Unit 5C at 100 West 58th Street sits near the south entrance of Central Park.

The 1,104 s/f, two-bedroom home is in The Windsor Park, a newly converted condominium.

Brokers, Stars Turn Out for Domestic Violence Fundraiser

Real Estate WeeklyJuly 10, 2013
The crowd at the 18th Annual Artists Against Abuse Gala Fights Domestic Violence gala included a host of local real estate brokers, including sponsors from Douglas Elliman whose Eileen Ekstract (DE Bridgehampton Office) is the Art Chair for the gala. Held at The Ross Lower Campus in Bridgehampton, the night featured a silent and live auction to raise funds for The Retreat’s services for domestic violence victims. Oksana Grigorieva was the guest speaker as a victim of domestic violence and one who has worked with domestic violence agencies like The Retreat all over the country.

New Listings

Brokers WeeklyJuly 10, 2013
CORE's Reba Miller has this one-of-a-kind Upper East Side loft available for the first time to buy. Unit 10AB at The Leonori, a converted Beaux Arts building at 26 East 63rd Street, is a 3-bedroom, 3-bath home one block from Central Park.

Take a Tour of Colin Cowie's Perfectly Customized Penthouse Duplex

HGTV Front DoorJuly 08, 2013
If you're someone who appreciates homes with ingenious, space-saving features, we highly encourage you to check out Colin Cowie's Flatiron penthouse, which is on the market for $5,750,000. The wedding guru/event planner/interior designer, who currently hosts Lifetime's Get Married, purchased the top two floors of The Emory building in 2007, pre-construction. He then created a 3,000-square-foot duplex filled with thoughtful customizations, from an expandable kitchen countertop to lots of hidden storage to an informal dining room that converts into a formal dining room (for more on that, see our photo gallery). The unit comes with two bedrooms (one of which is currently used as an office), two-and-a-half baths, a key-locked elevator, plus 900 square feet of private rooftop terrace. The listing is held by Emily and Elizabeth Beare at CORE Group.

Three Brooklyn Townhouses for Under $3 Million

CurbedJuly 07, 2013
Welcome to the Brooklyn Townhouse Roundup, where we—you guessed it—take a look at the most notable Brooklyn townhouses to hit the market over the past week.

This week, we've got three townhouses in various states of repair and quality. The good news is, they're all asking under $3 million. Starting in Clinton Hill, this four-story townhouse was built in 1873 and has original details and a beautiful garden that has apparently been on the Clinton Hill Garden Tours. It's asking $2.275 million, though it definitely needs some work.

Sax Sells

New York PostJuly 03, 2013
Star saxophonist David Sanborn, known for his collaborations with David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton and other music giants, has put his stunning Upper West Side townhouse on the market for $12 million.

The 19-foot-wide brownstone at 135 W. 69th St. is fully renovated. It has five bedrooms, three full bathrooms, two half-bathrooms and a separate recording studio on the top floor. There’s also a chef’s kitchen, four wood burning fireplaces, a terrace and a private garden.
Brokers Shaun Osher, Tom Postilio and Mickey Conlon of Core declined to comment.

Sanborn, a six-time Grammy winner, has released 24 albums, with eight going gold and one platinum.

Beverly Hills on the Hudson

New York PostJuly 03, 2013
“Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Yolanda Foster has been scouring Manhattan for apartments with her eldest daughter, 18-year-old Gigi Hadid, who will be starting college and has, of course, already begun her modeling career.

Fellow Beverly Hills Housewife Brandi Glanville also came along for the apartment hunt—with top broker Emily Beare of CORE, who will be featured on an upcoming episode of the Bravo show.

Hadid and her mom were looking at downtown one-bedroom rentals in the $3,000 to $6,000 range. One place they toured, we hear, was the Beatrice in Chelsea, where they saw-units that are not on the market yet but will be shortly.

Silverstone to Bring 240 Rentals to Clinton Hill’s Myrtle Avenue

The Real DealJuly 03, 2013
Silverstone Property Group will bring two buildings with 240 rental apartments to Clinton Hill’s Myrtle Avenue, at the former site of the Associated Supermarket, the New York Times reported.

The apartment complex – where 20 percent of the units will be affordable – will also contain retail space. The supermarket will return to the complex when construction is completed.

Meanwhile, ground will be broken next year on a $6 million public plaza on Myrtle Avenue from Hall Street to Emerson Place, which will add 25,000 square feet for pedestrians and live performances.

Clinton Hill is enjoying a robust growth in activity, CORE Group’s Doug Bowen told the Times, with the majority of townhouse sales ranging from $1.9 million to $2.5 million, while condominium conversions such as 91 Grand Street sell for $725 to $750 per square foot.

Boldfaced Buys

Gotham MagazineJuly 02, 2013
From NoMad to Central Park North, Chelsea Clinton, Gisele, Ichiro, and Carmelo Anthony opt for lavish digs with leafy views.

Gotham’s luxury real estate market is still red hot and shows no sign of slowing down as buyers continue to snap up homes at sky-high prices.

Clinton Hill: All the Requisites, Plus Great Bones

The New York TimesJuly 02, 2013
Steve Mona and Elaine Page liked their rental loft in Dumbo just fine, but they wanted to live in a place that felt more like a neighborhood. Mr. Mona, a garrulous Brooklyn-born retired police lieutenant, wanted a stoop where he could chat up passers-by. Ms. Page, an English human-resources executive, wanted a “high street,” the very British term for a town’s main street, where you can get everything you need in a single stroll.

The pedestrian-friendly Brooklyn neighborhood of Clinton Hill, sandwiched between Fort Greene and Bedford-Stuyvesant, satisfied them both. Last month the couple, who will be married in September, moved into a brownstone duplex on Clinton Avenue, for which they pay $5,100 a month. Mr. Mona and his goldendoodle, Bisquit, like the deep front yard, while Ms. Page has found her high street just up the block on Myrtle Avenue.

Not so long ago, the notion of Myrtle as an attraction would have seemed preposterous. In the 1980s the street was nicknamed Murder Avenue, and as late as the mid-1990s one in four storefronts were shuttered. Now crime is much reduced and the section of Myrtle from Flatbush to Classon Avenue, which includes a stretch in Fort Greene, has a retail vacancy rate of only 5 percent, said Michael Blaise Backer, the executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership. Three quarters of the 160 businesses are owned by women or minorities, Mr. Backer said. Ninety-five percent are locally owned, and the strip has a social, mom-and-pop vibe.

“There’s a dry-cleaners right there, tons of takeout places and restaurants, and a few small groceries,” Mr. Mona said. “Elaine found a yoga studio and a nail salon, and she comes home every evening with her arms full of bags and a smile on her face.”

Myrtle owes much of its resurgence to Pratt Institute, whose campus occupies 25 acres in Clinton Hill, mainly south of Willoughby Avenue. In 2011, Pratt opened a $54 million academic and administrative building on Myrtle and Grand Avenues. The ground floor is occupied by Utrecht Art Supplies and Khim’s Millennium Market, whose arrival helped address a shortage of fresh food. Far from presenting a fortress wall to Myrtle, the red masonry facade has a three-story window through which student art can be seen.

“We wanted the building to be invitational to the neighborhood,” said Dr. Thomas F. Schutte, Pratt’s president, who is also the chairman of the nonprofit Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project. “And it was received with great pleasure that we called the building Myrtle Hall, because it showed we embraced the neighborhood.”

Further transformation is imminent. Just west of Myrtle Hall, demolition has begun on a two-block strip of buildings that housed a post office, a supermarket and shops. The Silverstone Property Group plans two buildings, seven and eight stories tall, with 240 rentals, 20 percent of them below market rate. The development will include retail space, occupied in part by an expanded supermarket.

Ground is also to be broken by next year on a $6 million public plaza on a strip of Myrtle from Hall Street to Emerson Place, with 25,000 added feet for people and performances.

What You’ll Find
Clinton Hill — 350 acres bounded by Flushing Avenue on the north and Atlantic on the south, between Vanderbilt and Classon Avenues — is known for ethnic and architectural diversity. A 2007-2011 census survey of that area plus a few adjoining blocks estimated that 26,969 people resided there. Thirty-nine percent were black, 36 percent white, 15 percent Hispanic and 6 percent Asian.

“It’s kind of a gentle mix of people,” said Doug Bowen, an executive vice president of CORE real estate, and a resident since 1999. “And there’s a lot of pride in the residents, both homeownership pride and neighborhood pride. Even renters show up to the neighborhood association meetings.”

Much of the area south of Willoughby lies within a historic district. In the 1870s, some of Brooklyn’s wealthiest citizens began building mansions on Washington and Clinton Avenues. The latter is flanked by such monumental structures as the Italianate villa of Charles Pratt, a partner of John D. Rockefeller, and the mansions of three of his sons. Two of these houses are occupied by St. Joseph’s College; a third is home to Dr. Schutte of Pratt. Another structure, a red-brick and limestone castle at No. 278, is listed by the Corcoran Group at $5.85 million. Described in a city landmarks report as “surely the most eccentric house in the historic district,” it has been subdivided into six units. Elsewhere in Clinton Hill are small frame houses, apartment buildings, shiny condos, and chocolaty rows of period brownstones, some well maintained, others weary and neglected. On Washington, just north of Underwood Park, the stately red-brick 1851 Brooklyn Society for the Relief of Respectable Aged Indigent Females is a condo conversion.

Although few indigent females or males, however respectable, can afford Clinton Hill these days, the neighborhood is still within reach of some buyers priced out of areas like Cobble Hill and Fort Greene. Among these newcomers are Tim Dockery, a lawyer, and his mother, Meliora, a semiretired corporate trainer, who bought town houses on opposite sides of Classon Avenue last year. Mr. Dockery’s girlfriend, Sabiola Turner, was expecting the couple’s second child, and Ms. Dockery wanted to be nearby to help out.

“There are so many different kinds of bars and restaurants,” said Ms. Dockery, who paid $1.8 million for her house. “The area is just exploding with life.”

What You’ll Pay

Tight inventory is elevating prices. Town house sales have ranged from $900,000 to $3 million in the last year, said Mr. Bowen of CORE, with “the large majority” from $1.9 million to $2.5 million. New condos or conversions like 91 Grand are selling for $725 to $750 a square foot, he added.
Brownstone condo conversions are common, with two-bedroom floor-through units selling for $750,000 to $800,000 and duplexes with outdoor space costing $1.2 million, said Pamela R. Young, a senior associate at Corcoran.

Prices for renovated one-bedrooms in the Clinton Hill Co-ops, 12 mostly high-rise buildings dating to the 1940s, have reached $420,000 or thereabouts, said Roberta Axelrod, the director of co-op sales for Time Equities.

A search on found 62 residential properties for sale and 114 for rent; most two-bedroom rentals ranged from $1,595 to $3,500 a month.

What to Do

The Free Marketplace, featuring local artisan goods, live music, and family activities, will hold events on July 28 on Waverly and Fulton, and on Aug. 11 at Putnam Triangle, a public plaza. Also at Putnam Triangle, instructors from Mark Morris Dance Center and Cumbe teach free dance classes at 6:30 p.m., Wednesdays in July.

Come September, busy working people will be able to pick up specialty prepared foods at Peck’s, a new shop on Myrtle run by their neighbor Theo Peck, whose family co-owned the legendary Lower East Side restaurant Ratner’s.

The Schools

Options include Public School 56, on Gates Avenue, which teaches through fifth grade and got a B in student performance in a recent city progress report. Middle School 113, on Adelphi Street in neighboring Fort Greene, earned a C.

SAT averages last year at the Benjamin Banneker Academy, a high school on Clinton Avenue, were 471 in reading, 472 in math and 448 in writing, versus 434, 461 and 430 citywide.

The Commute

The G train runs along Lafayette Avenue. The A and C stop at the Washington-Clinton station. Buses include the B38, along DeKalb, and the B54 along Myrtle.

The History

In his 1944 book “The City of Brooklyn 1861-1898: A Political History,” Harold Coffin Syrett noted that the area’s “position was not unlike that of the Heights; but its elegant residences were fewer in number and their owners slightly further removed from the traditions of genteel respectability.”

Native Italians Gone, but Little Italy Buzzes

The Wall Street JournalJune 29, 2013
The thousands of Italian immigrants who filled Little Italy's narrow streets and tenement buildings in Lower Manhattan a century ago are long gone.

Fewer immigrants from Italy arrived over the decades and those living in the neighborhood dwindled over time. Recent Census data didn't find any Italian-born residents in the main tract for Little Italy, down from 44 in 2000. The area has long been squeezed by Chinatown to the south and, more recently, the gentrified and pricey SoHo and Nolita to the north. In 2010, the National Park Service designated Chinatown and Little Italy a single historic district.

But as its hold on Italian-American culture has receded, some vestiges of its history remain: strips of long-standing Italian restaurants and shops along Grand and Mulberry streets draw plenty of tourists, and the annual, 11-day Feast of San Gennaro—now in its 87th year—brings an estimated one million people to its streets, according to festival organizers.

And current residents say it retains a vital, neighborhood feel, whatever the predominant ethnicity.
"It's the ambience—we all know each other. Not everybody's Italian, there are very few old-days Italians left, but it's a real community, we're closely knit," says Sante Scardillo of the Little Italy Neighbors Association, which supports reasonable rents and responsible development to preserve the neighborhood's character.

"We look out for the neighborhood," said Mr. Scardillo, who was born and raised in Little Italy. "There really is this sense that you're in a very human-sized place."

Special zoning regulations dating back to 1977 limit building demolitions and high-rise development in the neighborhood, and are aimed at preserving Little Italy's historic, pedestrian-friendly feel. The cafe-lined Mulberry Street is closed to traffic on summer weekends, allowing restaurants to spread tables onto the sidewalk.

Area condominiums and cooperatives include the Brewster Carriage House, at Broome and Mott streets, a century-old building where updated 2,000-square-foot condos sold last year for around $4 million, says. The Police Building at 240 Centre St., which served as police headquarters from 1909 to 1973, now contains cooperative apartments with a median listing price of $1,536 a square foot, according to StreetEasy.

Most of the residences within the neighborhood are rentals, says Glenn Schiller of Corcoran Group, and the existing condominiums, cooperatives and townhouses tend to offer lower prices compared with neighboring SoHo and Nolita. The median listing price for 19 listings in Little Italy last week was $3.25 million, says, compared with a median of $3.95 million in SoHo.

"It's convenient to transportation, a convenient walk to all downtown neighborhoods, with a little bit of a better price point because you're off the beaten path by a block or two," Mr. Schiller says.

The area has its share of new restaurants and boutiques, but a handful of the Italian establishments on Grand or Mulberry are more than 100 years old. Ralph Tramontana, president of the Little Italy Merchants Association and owner of Sambuca's Cafe on Mulberry, says that soaring rents are threatening some the remaining businesses.

"It may not have as many Italians as it had in its heyday, but the buildings and restaurants have a meaning to so many millions of Americans who started their life in New York," he says. "I see it on a daily basis—a grandfather walking with grandchildren telling them, this is where my grandpa lived when he came here. It's like a living history in my eyes."

Parks: Mulberry Street is a pedestrian mall on summer weekends. Columbus Park, at Baxter, Mulberry and Bayard streets, with basketball courts and playground, is a few blocks away, as is the 8-acre Sara D. Roosevelt Park, bordered by Canal, East Houston, Forsyth and Chrystie streets, with a turf soccer field, a senior center, ball courts, playgrounds and a roller-skating rink.

Schools: The neighborhood is part of District 2, and local schools include Public School 130, the Hernando de Soto School, an elementary school that has an enrollment of around 1,000 students and received an A rating from the city for the 2011-12 school year.

Dining: Restaurants on Mulberry Street include Grotta Azzurra, founded in 1908; Angelo's of Mulberry Street, which dates back to 1902; and Umberto's Clam House. Ferrara Bakery and Cafe is on Grand Street. Newer restaurants include Brinkley's Broome Street, a gastro pub on the corner of Broome and Centre streets.

Shopping: Di Palo's and Alleva Dairy are both cheese and food shops on Grand Street.

Entertainment: Bars and lounges include GoldBar, on Broome Street, and the Mulberry Project.

Real Estate: 122 West Street, PHK

Modern New YorkJune 28, 2013
Perched on the 6th floor, Penthouse K is a stunning duplex boasting three separate terraces. The 1,000 sf private rooftop terrace offers panoramic 360 degree views of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Outdoor entertaining is a breeze with a built in grill, counter and storage. The master suite enjoys sunny southern exposure and access to a terrace. The kitchen has been upgraded to include a Bertazzoni professional range and Liebherr fridge. Further upgrades include a Mitsubishi silent heating/AC system and luxurious dark stained oak floors. The lofty living/dining room boasts a Spark fire ribbon 42" gas fireplace and 10 foot ceilings. This gracious home is currently set up as a sprawling 1 bedroom but can easily be converted back to the original configuration of 2 bedroom home.

The Pencil Factory, originally built in 1872 for the Eberhard Faber pencil company, is seamlessly integrated into Brooklyn's Greenpoint waterfront. Linking the past with the present, residents are offered high design integrity and a host of modern amenities including common roof deck, fitness center, residents' lounge, onsite parking, bike and residential unit storage and a virtual doorman.

Bevy of NoMad Condo Projects Quickly Find Buyers

The Real DealJune 27, 2013
NoMad is awash with new residential and hotel construction, and buyers are signing contracts for new condominiums at a brisk pace, the New York Post reported.

At Huys, a new 58-unit condo that went on the market in March, units are now over 50 percent in contract. Similarly, 241 Fifth Avenue, a 45-unit building roughly a block north of Madison Square Park, marketed by Core’s Doron Zwickel, is already 70 percent sold, as The Real Deal reported. It will be move-in ready this summer, the Post said. And the four-unit Whitman, on the park’s northern edge, reportedly sold a unit to Chelsea Clinton and still has a $25 million, 6,540-square-foot penthouse available. Melanie Lazenby and Dina Lewis of Douglas Elliman are handling sales.

South of the park, the Related Companies and HFZ Capital Group are soon restarting sales at One Madison Park, and Bruce Eichner’s firm Continuum is gearing up to launch a project on East 22nd Street.

The neighborhood is also a heavyweight on the hotel front, with the 190-roomn SLS hotel slated to open at 444 Park Avenue South next year and Virgin Hotel on 29th Street and Broadway set to open in 2016.

NoMad residents will also get a boost on the home dining front this summer when a Fairway opens at the base of the 33-story Chelsea Landmark on Sixth Avenue and 25th Street, as The Real Deal reported. The 23,000-square-foot space will come complete with organic and specialty foods, the Post reported.

New Listings: 407 Park Avenue South, 9D

Brokers WeeklyJune 26, 2013
Kips Bay
407 Park Ave South, 9D

One bedroom residence with private balcony off the living room with eastern exposure. Separate dining/office area off the kitchen. The Ascot is a full-service building which has a 24-hour attended lobby, live-in super, newly-renovated fitness center, laundry room and roof deck for residents. Listing agent: Adrian Noriega, CORE.
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