Behind The Curtain: Take An Aftertoon Field Trip To An Architecture Exhibit

Kate SpadeApril 09, 2012
we're planning to pack a lunch one day this week and pop over to this cool retrospective on architect ralph walker, whose magnificent art deco masterpieces are all over new york city. you may not know his name, but you'll definitely recognize his iconic buildings in nyc's skyline (think the barclay vesey telephone building and the irving trust building at one wall street).

check it out at 212 west 18th street. admission is free and by appointment only, so call first: 212 335 1800

Who Is The Architect Of The Century?

City AtlasApril 08, 2012
“Architect of the Century” was the headline reporting the awarding of the American Institute of Architects’ Centennial Medal to Ralph Walker in 1957. Though no such claim could ever be incontestable, Walker’s many contributions to the architectural profession, and skyscraper design in particular, are widely recognized.

An exhibit at 212 West 18th street (formerly belonging to the New York Telephone Company, but in light of recent remodeling and marketing as a multipurpose high rise, now known as the Walker Building) highlights select works from his career. Though few outside
the industry are familiar with his name, undoubtedly millions of New Yorkers have seen his buildings at one time or another.

The one-room exhibit covers the period of Walker’s life from 1917 to 1959 and four major works within that period: the Barclay-Vesey Building, the Irving Trust Building, his designs for the 1933 worlds fair in Chicago, and of course, Walker Tower.

If you can look past the shameless self-promotion of an exhibit whose featured architect designed the very building housing the exhibit and whose luxury apartments (coincidentally) go on sale this spring, you’ll enjoy a quaint and highly informative experience that includes period photographs, movies and sound clips, some actual art deco fittings from his buildings, and in the case of Walker Tower, an amazing interactive physical model where touch screen controls operate the lights in specific apartments up for sale this spring. The experience is greatly augmented by one of the better tour guides I’ve had the pleasure of listening to, being both highly informative and extremely receptive to visitors’ questions.

So who was Ralph Walker and why should you care? Well, he is one of the architects whose body of work is highly representative of a bygone era. He’s one of the icons of early skycraper design, representing a gilded age in which vast sums were spent on the opulence of both the facade and especially the interiors of skyscapers. (The stock market crash of 1929 curbed such displays of wealth). Early in the emergence of this new building typology skyscrapers were called cathedrals of commerce. A more apt nomenclature based on their entryways might be monuments to mammon.

It’s a shame that many of these buildings now have restricted access in the wake of 9/11 since many of their lobbies are truly exquisite works of art that deserve to be admired and not just glanced at in passing between the street and the elevator banks.

Walker’s Barclay-Vesey Building was actually damaged by the attacks, but has since been repaired. However, in addition to this distinction it is also considered the first art deco skyscraper ever built, and it is one of the first buildings to really take advantage of the 1916 New York zoning ordinance, which placed limits on a building’s height in relation to its distance from the street in an attempt to make the city more habitable by allowing more sunlight to hit pedestrians.

Many of Walker’s buildings (not mentioned in the exhibit, but easily spotted in their natural habitat by walking the streets of New York) are notable for their massive bulk and huge footprint, often occupying an entire city block and looking more like a small mountain than a construct of man. Construction on this scale is almost unheard of in New York today, partly because it’s rare for any developer to be able to seize an entire city block, but also because Walker did a lot of work for the New York Telephone Company whose buildings had special requirements for the tons of mechanical equipment and legions of switchboard operators that needed to be housed within their bulk.

Skyscrapers are an American innovation and no city in America is more famous for its skyscrapers than New York. From the Flatiron to the Freedom Tower our history is preserved in our buildings. Exhibits like this one remind us not just of how our buildings have evolved, but also of the socioeconomic conditions driving that evolution. They are a window into our past and from habitability issues to economic downturns, they remind us that while the architecture has changed it has all been in service to the same issues that concern us today.

Admission is free, but by appointment

Interest in Pinterest: Social media craze takes industry by storm

The Real DealApril 05, 2012
“Getting pinned” has taken on a new meaning for the 11.7 million monthly visitors to the hottest new social media website: Pinterest.
Not surprisingly, New York City real estate professionals have also gotten in on the action. And they’re finding that the photo-focused site is ideally suited to property sales, perhaps even more so than Twitter or Facebook.

“Pinterest is more helpful than those [other sites] because real estate is a visual medium,” said Matthew Leone, director of web marketing and social media for Terra Holdings, the parent company of Brown Harris Stevens and Halstead Property. “A lot of people buy real estate by connecting and looking at the visuals. Pinterest is built for that.”

Launched in 2009, Pinterest has recently exploded in popularity. It allows each user to create virtual bulletin boards. Then, as they surf the web, they can “pin” different items — usually photos — to their boards. Other users can comment on or “re-pin” these items to their own boards.

Prudential Douglas Elliman CEO Dottie Herman, for example, recently launched a personal Pinterest site, with boards titled “Favorite Places & Spaces,” “Dream Home” and, of course, one board dedicated to all things Elliman.
Pinterest’s image-centric concept makes it ideal for showcasing real estate listings, said Audrey Binkowski, director of marketing at the Manhattan brokerage RealDirect.

The site is “a great visual way to share information with people,” she said.

RealDirect “pins” photos of all its listings on Pinterest, Binkowski said, and so far, that seems to be helping them reach a wider audience. Other brokerages now using Pinterest include Halstead Property, the Corcoran Group and Core.

But the real estate industry’s involvement in Pinterest is so new that it’s not yet clear how brokers and firms can best utilize the platform.
Corcoran, for example, said its Pinterest strategy has evolved since it started using the site in December. Corcoran originally had popular “boards” about burgers at neighborhood restaurants and New York fashion, feeling that “the best way to increase our presence there is simply to share amazing things,” explained Matthew Shadbolt, Corcoran’s director of interactive products and marketing.

Then and now, the firm was skeptical that the site would lead directly to home sales, and saw it more as a way to grow the Corcoran brand.

“Selling homes specifically on Pinterest isn’t something we feel is going to happen,” Shadbolt said. “It’s not a lead generation platform for us, it’s simply a place where we can experiment, listen and extend our brand.”

But as more competitors started using Pinterest, Corcoran yanked these food- and fashion-related boards, and replaced them with ones that resemble those of other real estate firms, which focus more directly on showcasing homes. And the firm is working on other new ideas.

“Right now we’re experimenting with the idea of ‘The Best of,’ organized by rooms, but we also have several other ideas we’re working on,” said Shadbolt. “Basically, we have no fixed strategy here; we’re just experimenting with lots of different approaches and seeing what feels best for the user.”

Core, which has Pinterest boards on architecture, home decor and interior design, also views the site primarily as a way to raise brand awareness.

“We know that people aren’t necessarily buying New York City real estate off a social network site,” said Kristina Helb, director of communications for Core.

Core’s Pinterest philosophy involves posting “striking images from newly listed properties that link to our blog and our website, helping to build traffic and visibility,” Helb said. “That’s the ultimate goal — to put our properties in front of as many people as possible, which benefits our sellers.”

Core tries to focus narrowly on the realm of real estate, however.

“People don’t want fashion tips from us, or our burger recommendations,” she said.

As of right now, most Pinterest visitors are in the Midwest, while Northeast users are still a small percentage, according to Internet marketing research firm comScore. But that could soon change:

The number of daily visitors to Pinterest has reportedly grown some 145 percent to nearly 12 million since the start of the year.
David Rosen, business development director for the Rubin Group at Prudential Douglas Elliman, said the group hasn’t yet joined Pinterest because he feels that serious property buyers tend to search specialized sites. “They are going to go to StreetEasy or Trulia to find real estate,” he said.

Still, he recognizes the growing influence of Pinterest. “You have to try new ground,” he said. “So I think there is potential.”

On the Market: 365 West 20th Street, #11C

The New York TimesApril 01, 2012

Exhibit Takes Soaring Look at Skyscraper Master’s Work

NY 1April 01, 2012
A new exhibit in Chelsea explores the work of a man who changed the city's skyline with his iconic, art deco-styled buildings. NY1's Jill Urban field the following report.

He helped shape New York's skyline with his iconic art deco styled buildings. While many know his work, some say Ralph Walker is the most famous architect no one has ever heard of. Well now a new exhibit is showcasing his life and legacy.

"Ralph Walker was a master of skyscraper design," said Exhibition Specialist Marci Clark. "New Yorkers know and love his buildings from the Barclay Vesey Building, to 1 Wall Street to the 14th Street Salvation Army building. But they don’t know who Walker is. And so this exhibit is to introduce him to the public again."

Located inside the lobby of the Walker Tower located at 212 West 18th Street, which is currently being repurposed as residences, the exhibit highlights the impact Walker had on architecture starting in the roaring 20s. He was one of the first to embrace the new zoning ordinance of 1916 that required buildings set back away from the street to allow more light and air. His first building, which received much acclaim, was the Barclay-Vesey Telephone Building in Lower Manhattan, also known by many to be the first art deco skyscraper in New York.

"Barclay-Vesey building really launched his career. It was widely acclaimed and celebrated as one of the first major modern skyscrapers in New York City," Clark said.

It’s asymmetrical set back design led the way for a generation of skyscrapers built throughout New York. From there he and his firm built over a dozens of buildings in the New York area.

Aside from his vision for a skyscraper at a time when New York was being defined by its skyline, what made Walker so remarkable was his incredible attention to detail and his ability to create buildings that people could really enjoy.

"The ornament of his buildings was meant to engage individuals in a very unique way," Clark said. "So this seemingly severe silhouette when viewing the buildings from afar seemed less so with elephant heads and crystalline forms and a wonderful curtain-like ornament."
Examples of Walker's work can be seen through the exhibit's archival photos, models and original sketches.

The exhibition runs through May 1 and is free and open to the public daily from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. by appointment only.
For more information, visit

How to make your own starchitect: Walker Tower draws buzz with book

The Real DealApril 01, 2012
In Manhattan real estate, there are no rules,” says Alec Baldwin’s character on the NBC sitcom “30 Rock.”

Perhaps that’s what developers Michael Stern and Elliott Joseph were thinking when they formulated an unconventional marketing strategy for Walker Tower, a newly renovated condo conversion at 212 West 18th Street.

Stern and Joseph bought the building from Verizon for $25 million in 2009. That’s when they started learning more about the building’s long-forgotten architect, Ralph Walker. Walker built a number of notable commercial buildings in the 1920s, including the Art Deco skyscraper 1 Wall Street, and Frank Lloyd Wright was reportedly a fan. But a falling-out with the American Institute of Architects made Walker a pariah, and he died in obscurity.

“We started delving into what we thought was this great untold story,” Stern said.

Armed with this compelling narrative, the developers decided on an unusual marketing strategy. Instead of “the typical, canned campaign,” Stern said, they approached architectural historian Kathryn Holliday and asked her to write a book about Walker. Building buzz about the architect, they felt, would help sell the building’s 51 condos. The book, titled “Ralph Walker: Architect of the Century,” will be published by Rizzoli in September, and last month, the developers installed a temporary exhibit honoring the architect on the ground floor of the under-construction Walker Tower.

This build-your-own-starchitect strategy is “very bold,” acknowledged Shaun Osher, head of Core, which is handling sales at the project. But at any project, he noted, “marketing and selling is about educating the consumer.”

As for Holliday, a professor at the University of Texas, Arlington, she recalls being “very surprised” when she was asked to pen the tome, and “curious about why real estate developers were interested in the history of the building.”

It may seem like a lot of trouble to go through to sell condos, even though the penthouses will have asking prices nearing $10,000 per square foot, Core said. But Stern said: “Our attitude is, if we build the right product” — starchitect and all — “the sales will take care of themselves.”

Five Brooklyn Townhouses Asking Under $1 Million

CurbedMarch 30, 2012

Address: 141 Clermont Avenue in Fort Greene Vitals: 1,324 square feet Price: $849,000 The Skinny: This house might be a borderline first-time buyer pick, since the listing hints at the work it might need: "The quaint interior has the original wide plank floors. Currently 1,324 square feet, this property has significant room for expansion." Still, the pre-Civil War construction date wins the buyer bragging rights, and there are front and back gardens. There's only one photo on the listing, but here's the floorplan:

The Ultimate Bachelor Pad Comes with a Slide

VedereMarch 30, 2012
Recently, professional Poker player Phil Galfond put his lavish downtown Manhattan apartment on the market. What was originally purchased as two apartments, has become a penthouse duplex that's the epitome of the ultimate bachelor pad. Designed by Turett Collaborative Architects, combined the two apartments with a helical slide that begins at the top floor and lands into the living room.

“This penthouse duplex [also has a] keyed elevator onto both floors, offering the perfect layout for entertaining both large groups and in more intimate settings, such as dinner parties,” says real estate agents Lindsee Silverstein and Elizabeth Kee of CORE Group Marketing, representing the property.

The main level of the penthouse duplex reveals an open kitchen with breakfast bar, a spacious sitting room and formal dining room with a large terrace for cocktails or dining al fresco. Additionally, there is a large formal living room with two full baths and a second, south facing terrace with spectacular city and bridge views. Take the elevator to the top level to find a recreation room with a pool table and wet bar.

“This property is, by far the most unique property I have represented, says Kee. “I have yet to see another apartment in New York City that offers a sculptural slide as an art installation with the dual function of an artistic expression and an alternate way to descend to the main level.”

If you think that this might be the only extravagant property that the agents have ever represented, think again. “[Another] recent properties I represented [was located at] The Stanwick, (132 West 22nd Street) in Manhattan, which was a 3000sqft+ 2 bedrooms/2 Bath loft with soaring ceilings and famed composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's grand concert piano.

But when it comes to selling this property, Silverstein believes that the downtown penthouse duplex will definitely be one of her most memorable sales. “As soon as any buyer walks into the space it seems they connect with the property immediately,” she says. “The buyer's eyes light up--their reaction is [always] priceless,” she adds. For Silverstein, it's the sculptural slide that has become the incredible conversation piece that welcomes playfulness. “No matter who walks off the elevator, everyone lets loose and has fun exploring all of the features this East Village pad,” she states.

According to the agents, potential purchasers mentioned wanting to landscape the 1000+sqft private roof deck in order to create a private BBQ and outdoor dining & wet bar area, while others have described building a private Jacuzzi or Japanese soaking tub as a means to better enjoy the panoramic views of the skyline and sunsets.

Serafina restaurateur’s UES pad hits rental market

The Real DealMarch 29, 2012
Serafina restaurant owner Vittorio Assaf and his wife have listed their Upper East Side apartment for $35,000 per month, the New York Post reported. Reba Miller, senior managing director of sales at Core, has the listing for the unit in the Leonori building, at 26 East 63rd Street between Madison and Park avenues. According to both the Post and, the apartment has four bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms. The unit will be ready for move-in June 1.

Assaf, along with business partner Fabio Granato, own the Serafina Restaurant chain, which has eateries in New York City, White Plains, East Hampton, Philadelphia and Brazil. The building itself dates back to 1901 and is Beaux-Arts in its design. According to the Post, the apartment has views of Central Park, as well as a 40-foot-long living room with fireplace, Venetian-plastered walls and a domed entry. The apartment has 2,700 square feet of space, indicates. According to the Post, Italian architect Misa Poggi.

Gimme Shelter: What's up, doc

New York PostMarch 29, 2012
Serafina Group restaurateur Vittorio Assaf and his wife, Charlotte, have listed their posh four-bedroom, 5 1/2 -bathroom apartment at the Leonori building on East 63rd Street for $35,000 a month.

The home was designed by Italian architect Misa Poggi, who also designs for Loro Piana Interiors.

The apartment is above Madison Avenue and has Central Park views, a 40-foot-long living room with a fireplace, a chef’s kitchen and 12-foot ceilings. There are also Venetian-plastered walls, a large domed entry and lots of storage space. The rental is available starting June 1.

The Leonori building is a Beaux-Arts structure that dates back to 1901.

The Assafs live in a penthouse that they own a few blocks away.

Listing broker Reba Miller of Core declined to comment.

Ralph Walker: Architect Of The Century

Design PorteurMarch 29, 2012
The first ever exhibition to explore the life and work of the architect, Ralph Walter is housed at the Walker Tower building designed by him. The building was recently renamed Walker Tower in honor of the architect. The exhibit includes archival plans and drawings, large models of Walkerʼs masterpieces, and interactive digital displays that provide visitors with a guided tour through his career. The exhibition is being held on the ground floor of the building at 212 West 18th Street.

The famous Beaux-Arts Ball of 1931, a “Fête Moderne” held at the Hotel Astor, where architects dressed as the buildings they had designed. From left to right: A. Stewart Walker as the Fuller Building, Leonard Schultze as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Ely Jacques Kahn as the Squibb Building, William Van Alen as the Chrysler Building, Ralph Walker as the Irving Trust, D. E. Ward as the Metropolitan Tower, and Joseph Freedlander as the Museum of the City of New York.

Ralph Walker (1889-1973), the influential architect who shaped New Yorkʼs skyline during the Roaring Twenties through iconic Art Deco skyscrapers including the Barclay-Vesey Telephone Building at 140 West Street and the Irving Trust Building at One Wall Street in the heart of the cityʼs Financial District. Walker was called “the only other honest architect in America” by Frank Lloyd Wright, and hailed in the New York Times as the “architect of the century”.

The West 18th Street Telephone Building just after its completion in 1931. The building is now Walker Tower, where the exhibition is being held.

Walker was a master of modern ornament, using his skills as a designer to “humanize” the skyscraper and the city itself. Across the 50 years of his practice, Walker invented a new language for telephone buildings across the country, shaped the Chicago and New York Worldʼs Fairs of the 1930s, and became an outspoken advocate for his vision of a modern American city. The exhibit is curated by Kathryn Holliday, an architectural historian and professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, and features materials from her upcoming book, Ralph Walker: Architect of the Century, to be published in the fall by Rizzoli. The exhibit is free.

'Ralph Walker: Architect of the Century' Opens to Visitors

CurbedMarch 28, 2012
The Event: Ralph Walker: Architect of the Century opening party; building sneak peak inside 212 West 18th Street.

In The House: Shaun Osher and his CORE constituency, architects and architecture fans, Former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe.

Dress Code: Dark suits and power ties on the men, lots of black dresses on the women; until Stipe shows up in a 1,000 yards of knit yarn.

Menu: Tasty! Skewered shrimp with shaved coconut, little beef tenderloins with a tiny dollop of guacamole on a cracker, Thai tuna ceviché in a wonton cone, shitake mushroom wraps.

Music: a violin and flute duet played briefly before seemingly getting the hook for being too somber for the occasion.

With plans to charge $10K a square foot for penthouse space, it's never a bad idea to dust off and polish the starchitect reputation of a building's designer well before the condo reincarnation is ready for occupancy. So for the next three months there will be a public
exhibition in the ground floor public areas of the Walker Tower at 212 West 18th Street showing off the work of Art Deco architect Ralph Walker, who also built the tower at 1 Wall Street and the Barclay-Vesey Building. The crowd last night included architects, brokers,
history buffs (Walker's biographer and architectural historian Kathryn E. Holliday was on hand to sign her book), and PR folk. The ground floor is still very much raw construction space, and the party's bars were placed in the building's elevators in part to deter curious guests
from trying to get upstairs. The Ralph Walker exhibit is free, but by appointment only. The building should be completed within 12-16 months.

First Look: A Legacy Deconstructed - Walker Tower

New York MagazineMarch 28, 2012
Had “starchitect” been part of the popular lexicon in Ralph Walker’s day, he would have definitely fit the description. The American master builder (1889–1973), who designed skyscrapers and elaborate Deco interiors that changed the skylines of Manhattan and Chicago, is
being celebrated with a new book, Ralph Walker: Architect of the Century, published by Rizzoli this fall, and an exhibit of his work, curated by the book’s author, Kathryn Holliday, opens March 28 in one of Walker’s iconic buildings (212 W. 18th St.; 212-335-1800 or; free admission; by appointment only). Here, the “Red Room” of the Irving Trust Building at One Wall Street, one of the many magnificent Art Deco interiors he designed.

A sublime portrait of Walker and his architect peers wearing the buildings they designed as costumes for the famous Beaux-Arts Ball of 1931. It was called a “Fete Moderne” held at the Hotel Astor. From left to right: A. Stewart Walker as the Fuller Building, Leonard Schultze
as the Waldorf-Astoria, Ely Jacques Kahn as the Squibb Building, William Van Alen as the Chrysler Building, Ralph Walker as the Irving Trust, D.?E. Ward as the Metropolitan Tower, and Joseph Freedlander as the Museum of the City of New York.

A photo of Walker’s West 18th Telephone Building in 1931 just after it was completed and where the show is being held today. This photograph illustrates the huge transition from the city being composed of neighborhoods of small brownstones and tenements to the new massive proportions of modernity.

As contemporary as this looks, it is Walker’s proposal for his Tower of Water and Light for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. His intention was for the 600-foot tower to be built of aluminum and glass with water flowing down to the ground creating a dreamlike mist. It was never built, but there is a model of it in the show.

On the book’s cover, the elegant Barclay Vesey Building Walker designed on West Street in 1926. Frank Lloyd Wright called Walker “the only other honest architect in America”.

Archi-Spring has Sprung: A.N. Takes in Three Events Across New York

Architect's NewspaperMarch 28, 2012
It was a busy archi-spring night last night. The Municipal Arts Society held their debate on NYUʼs 2031 expansion plan, the AIDS
Memorial exhibit opened at the Center for Architecture, and Ralph Walker: Architect of the Century opened at the newly re-dubbed Walker Tower on West 18th Street. Read on for highlights of the MAS debate and to view few photos from the Center and Walker Tower…

The MAS debate was the most sober event of the evening with a panel packed with academic all stars. The NYU opponents applauding statements they found to their liking lent the debate the air of a souped-up community board meeting. Nevertheless, it was refreshing to hear ideas cleanly teased out by moderator John Alschuler, of HR&A, the real estate/economic advisory firm. The community had an informed voice on stage in CB2 Chair Brad Hoylman. His point of view was largely backed up by Prattʼs Ron Shiffman, while NYUʼs Hilary Ballon and Pennʼs Gary Hack tipped the balance back in favor of NYU.

Alschuler got the ball rolling by stating “nobody loves the Coles Gymnasium,” the bland brick bunker on the corner of Houston and Mercer, and that “some level of change is going to come there,” partly in the form of a hotel in the so called Zipper Building. This immediately spurred Schifman to respond that there is little need for a hotel on the campus as NYC has plenty already. “People can
get on the subway, why are we protecting them,” he said of the NYU visitors. “Thatʼs a formula for disaster.” Hack argued that at Penn they began their expansion with a hotel, because thatʼs what visiting academics need most—a place to stay on campus. While Ballon, who is based at NYU Abu Dhabi, said the universityʼs international franchises mean they need a hotel more than ever.

In the end, the southern super block with its two towers was the source of less tension, as opposed to the proposed Boomerang
Buildings on the northern superblock. Schiffman went so far as to say that he likes the Kimmelman plan, which would keep the
below grade space but nix the above grade structures. But Hack said the new proposal, including the buildings, would open the
superblock up and provide better circulation. He added that the additional space would give students a place to gather instead of
meeting at “third place haunts” like Starbucks. Hoylman said the north block proposal would more likely become a student
thoroughfare, not a neighborhood square. “This is about NYU solving an identity crisis; they get their quad,” he said.

Ralph Walker Renaissance

DwellMarch 27, 2012
To Frank Lloyd Wright, Ralph Walker was “the only other honest architect in America,” and to The New York Times, he was the “architect of the century.”* Throughout his lifetime, his art deco style redefined the notion of a skyscraper thanks to his innovative detailing and ornamentation that finessed the buildingʼs rigid structure. The 1920s and 30s witnessed Walkerʼs heyday—as a principal at Voorhees, Gmelin & Walker, he contributed to Manhattanʼs skyline with the Barclay-Vesey Telephone Building (1926) and the Irving Trust Building at 1 Wall Street (1931). Walker was a true advocate for a new modernist architectural vision in New York and America; and starting today, an exhibition celebrating his oeuvre opens at one of the architectʼs overlooked buildings at 212 West 18th Street.

Walkerʼs architectural legacy extended beyond New York and its skyscrapers with his work for the Chicago Worldʼs Fair (1933) and another fair on his home turf in 1939. By the late 1940s, he was elected as head of the AIA New York, and in 1957 he received the national organizationʼs highest honor, the Centennial Medal of Honor.

The Walker Tower, nestled off Seventh Avenue between West 17th and 18th Streets, was once known as the Verizon Telephone Building and housed the companyʼs corporate headquarters for decades. (Verizon will maintain its toehold on floors one through seven; the new condos will occupy all the space from the 8th floor on up.) Designed in 1929, the buildingʼs exterior displays the essence of Ralph Walker with its folded, curtain like brick façade and detailed ornamentation. Today the developers Michael Stern of JDS
Development and Elliott Joseph of Property Markets Group, with the help of local architecture firm Cetra/Ruddy, are carefully restoring the façade. The hat trick here is to retain Walkerʼs early 20th-century aesthetic while gutting the interior space and refiguring the layouts of the upper floors to accommodate Manhattanʼs luxury-condo-hunting population. (One thing that wonʼt be edited: the towerʼs interior ceiling heights of 14 feet and more.)

Ralph Walker: Architect of the Century opens free to the public this week (by appointment only) and displays original drawings, renderings, and plans done by Walkerʼs hand, in addition to archival photos and details on the buildingʼs present incarnation as luxury condominiums.

Sarah Jessica Parker & Matthew Broderick To Call The Heights Home

Brooklyn Heights BlogMarch 26, 2012
Paul Giamati, meet your new neighbors. Sarah Jessica Parker and husband Matthew Broderick are purchasing a pair of townhouses in south Brooklyn Heights on State Street near Sidney Place. The New York Daily News‘ real estate guru Jason Sheftell reported late Friday that the family is closing in on a contract, after purchasing a Manhattan townhouse on East 10th St. townhouse two years ago that they never moved into.

In 2011, Parker filmed I Don’t Know How She Does It in Brooklyn Heights. Check out our coverage here.

The couple currently resides in a townhome in the West Village on Charles Street, near West Fourth Street, with their son James Wilkie, 9, and twin daughters Marion and Tabitha, almost 3. A source told the Daily News, “They loved the West Village but wanted something more private, laid-back and discreet."

When construction is completed, the two adjoining State Street townhouses the actors purchased will create “an urban mansion of 7,000-plus square feet with a suburban-size backyard,” the News reports. Both were an “off-market” transaction, meaning the houses weren’t officially for sale, according to Sheftell. City records show both are owned by Mark and Diane Baker.

Parker and Broderick paid $18.995 million for the East 10th Street townhouse two years ago, and fully remodeled the home, which the News says is now on the market.

CORE senior vice president Doug Bowen noted, “Brooklyn Heights is the city’s first official historic landmark district; that’s how beautiful it is and what it means to New York. The price difference between the West Village and Brooklyn Heights is sometimes two, three, four times the amount. That’s why even big names are deciding to live here. It’s an easier financial commitment.”

'Selling New York' Recap: CORE Sells 5th Avenue Penthouse for Over $6 million

GatherMarch 26, 2012
This week on Selling New York Vickey Barron of CORE meets with her client, Ivan Schneider, who is selling his penthouse apartment to retire in Florida's sunshine. He's already bought a place in Florida so he hopes to sell the apartment quickly and he's a little pushy about it.

Ivan's apartment is 2,400 sq. ft. The list price is $6.995 million. There's one small issue, the building does not allow open houses so Vickey needs to get creative with her marketing campaign. She decides to create a marketing competition between two of her sales teams. The winner will receive a $10,000 bonus when the penthouse is sold, a good incentive to sell the place.

The first marketing team presents a past, present and future scenario to prospective buyers and brokers. They hire an architect to create 3D images of how the penthouse could look with a modern renovation. They also provide a history recap focusing on the location of the apartment on 5th Avenue. The presentation goes extremely well.

The second team provides a multi-media marketing plan. The present a time-lapse view of the sunset from the outdoor space of the penthouse and give a glimpse of a renovation, which maximizes the enormous views from the apartment.

Vickey meets with the executive team and they decide that team one provided the best marketing campaign. They win!

Several potential buyers look at the penthouse as a result of the marketing competition. One potential buyer comes back for a second look and loves the renditions of the new modern look to the penthouse. They make an offer and it's accepted. Team one gets $10,000!!!

Next, Vickey is asked to sell the furniture for Ivan... it's a win-win for everyone involved! Bonus round in the money category...

The second scenario, Michele Kleier takes two new recruits, John and Isabel, to the Financial District to sell a great apartment with killer views of the New York Harbor. The apartment is listed for $1.495 million and has just over 1,200 sq. ft.

Michele is anxious to sell the apartment because the sellers want to purchase another place but are unwilling to buy until they sell their current home.

John and Isabel hold an open house on a Sunday morning. The turnout is low. Michele's advice is that Sunday mornings are not a great time to showcase an apartment. She lets the interns learn a valuable lesson in the real estate market without controlling the process, the sign of a great leader.

John and Isabel hold an open house on a Sunday morning. The turnout is low. Michele's advice is that Sunday mornings are not a great time to showcase an apartment. She lets the interns learn a valuable lesson in the real estate market without controlling the process, the sign of a great leader.

John and Isabel have a second open house. They think they need to lower the price to $1.3 million. The owners are hesitant to drop the price $200,000 but they agree. The recommendation works and they get two offers almost immediately. The apartment is sold and Michele is able to move forward.

Slide home: stairs optional at the East Village pad

NY Daily NewsMarch 23, 2012
When real estate brokers Lindsee Silverstein and Elizabeth Kee are trying to determine who is serious about buying their swanky new East Village listing, they check to see whether they are willing to have a bit of fun first.

Are they willing to go down the giant metal slide that connects the two floors of the penthouse at 425 E. 13th St.?

“This apartment brings out the fun in people,” said Kee of the unit, which is listed for $3.99 million. “A broker in her 70s went down the slide four or five times when she came to look at the apartment.”

The slide was the brainchild of professional poker player Phil Galfond, who bought and combined two apartments for $3.2 million in 2008, the same year he won the World Series of Poker. In April 2011, Galfond relocated to Vancouver following a crackdown by the Justice Department on many online poker companies. “He didn’t want to give up the apartment, but until the law changes, it doesn’t make [financial] sense for him to live here,” Kee said.

Silverstein said Galfond originally installed the slide to be a whimsical addition to the stark modern white apartment — but that he would often use it to go downstairs between breaks in hands while playing online.

The three-bedroom, four-bathroom apartment is accessed through a keyed elevator. There’s a media/game room with a wet bar and a $35,000 custom pool table, which could be negotiated into the sale of the apartment. The apartment has two terraces — one facing north toward 14th St.; the other south — as well as rooftop space. Galfond used it as a private putting green, but it’s being redone with pavers. A nook on the south side would be the perfect place for a Jacuzzi.

The apartment is housed in the A Building, a luxury development of 15 apartments. Because of the East Village location, a common rooftop with a sundeck, pool, cabanas and barbecue area, the building had a reputation of being a party hot spot when it opened in 2008. Now it’s a bit tamer, Kee and Silverstein said, as the building also houses a mix of singles and families.

The brokers say they are surprised by the variety of people who have checked out the apartment, ranging from guys who work in finance to families. One man in his 70s who lives in Miami sent his broker to look at the apartment, wondering if the slide hole was big enough to fit his large dogs down it. “It’s pure, unadulterated fun,” Kee said.

They’ve gotten only one inquiry about how much it would cost to remove the slide.

“It wouldn't cost much to build out the floor,” Kee said. “But it would be so sad.”

Goodbye Malaria, Hello Condos

The New York TimesMarch 23, 2012
IT can seem hard to believe, but there was a time when people didn’t value Central Park for its views.

In the late 1800s, after the park was created, most buildings were still no more than five stories high, residents often decorated with heavy curtains, and an infestation of malaria-carrying mosquitoes was a cause for alarm.

That was before skyscrapers began shooting up around the park, giving rise to the notion of “park views.”

Today, those two words are worth untold millions in the world of New York real estate. Apartments overlooking the park can command prices of as much as $88 million, for the full-floor penthouse at 15 Central Park West, and the developer Gary Barnett is betting he can sell the two-floor penthouse at 157 West 57th Street, the crown jewel of his One57 project, for $115 million.

But if park views at the south end bring such eye-watering premiums, what about residences at the north end?

To find out, I visited the Harlem side of the park. After getting off the subway at 110th Street, I walked just a few steps to 111 Central Park North.

There, from an 18th-floor apartment with a sizable terrace, you can look out on an idyllic view of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s landscaped wonder. Ducks glide through the Harlem Meer. Older residents walk slowly with canes next to groups of adolescent girls strolling through the garden during lunchtime. Just beyond the trees along Fifth Avenue is the Conservatory Garden, where brokers say they have seen brides being photographed. Absent were the horse-drawn carriages (and the accompanying trail of manure) and hordes of tourists that occupy the southern and southwestern side of the park.

The Harlem side is known as the “mountain” region of the park, for its more hilly terrain. On this day the southern sun was shining brightly, and the terrace at 111 Central Park North offered eastern and western exposures as well.

From here, you can see the opposite edge of the park, including the Plaza, and a construction crane hovering over One57 through the haze that offers a reminder of how that 90-story building will tower over most others in Midtown.

Harlem, it turns out, is one of the few remaining places in the city where you can get a park view for relatively low prices.

The price of this view? The three-bedroom three-bath condo, with 1,914 square feet, is listed at $2.39 million.

In 2008, as the financial crisis took hold, a buyer sold a penthouse in the building for $8 million, $500,000 less than he had paid, after trying to flip it for $12 million, said Jill Sloane of Halstead, a broker on the deal.

Walking east along Central Park North I passed low-slung residential buildings of no more than six stories, a correctional facility that houses the disgraced Tyco executive Dennis Kozlowski, and a church on the corner of Fifth Avenue. A small organic-food store is expected to open soon on the block, a sign, real estate brokers say, of the area’s gentrification.

On the east side of the intersection, an agent gave me a tour 1280 Fifth Avenue, which opened last year and was designed by Robert A.M. Stern, the architect of 15 Central Park West.

The Harlem building offers tranquil, unobstructed views of the northeast corner of the park. There are “intimate” views from one seventh-floor corner unit I visited, and “panoramic” views from the higher floors of the 20-story building.

“People realize they would be paying double and triple in Midtown and would not have this kind of vista,” said Tom Postilio, a broker at CORE. “People with a little more pioneering spirit are here investing.”

About half of the buyers in the building so far have been foreign, and have predominantly been all-cash buyers, according to Kathleen Corton, a principal of Brickman, the developer.

Parul Brahmbhatt, a sales associate at CORE, parsed the difference for me in pricing at 1280 Fifth to help me understand the premium placed on park views. Unit 7B, which faces the park, has 1,480 square feet and is listed for $1.87 million. A north-facing unit on the same floor with no park view is going for $1.265 million and is just 10 square feet smaller.

Regardless of which side of the park an apartment faces, brokers and appraisers say a Central Park view is worth 25 percent to 50 percent more than a nonpark view for a similar-sized residence. New York is one of the few cities in the United States that put a higher premium on a park view than a river view, said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of Miller Samuel real estate appraisers. Views of the Hudson command a 10 percent to 25 percent premium. “We are inward-looking,” Mr. Miller said.

It’s remarkable to think that in the 19th century “the park was simply a kind of protector, a presentable front yard,” said Christopher Gray, who writes the “Streetscapes” column for The New York Times. Early on, the park also was a health concern. An Oct. 13, 1877, edition of The Real Estate Record and Guide noted that malaria in the park was “becoming more palpably widespread and painful.” The “chills and fevers and other malarious disorders” were causing a “widespread prejudice” among residents “against choosing any locality in the proximity of the park for a place of residence,” The Record and Guide reported. Still, by the turn of the century, Fifth Avenue opposite the park was already the most desirable house site in the city, Mr. Gray said.

(Malaria was later controlled, obviously: The Times reported in 1888 that its incidence among park police officers had sharply decreased.)

Despite the health concerns, developers pushed to build taller buildings. By 1930, the 27-story San Remo towers and residential hotels like the Ritz, at 101 East 57th, were offering spectacularly different views. About a dozen buildings of that size were built before the Depression intervened, halting most construction. “The typical building in 1960 was no different in mass than the typical building in 1925 — they were all 15 to 18 stories,” Mr. Gray said.

The concept of fabulous views didn’t return until after 1961, when a zoning resolution awarded air rights for taller buildings in exchange for building plazas. The move spurred tall building construction.

The concept of marketing park views evolved as well. Nobody bothered with the idea of building penthouses until the early 1920s, preferring to leave tar-topped roofs. In the mid-1980s, Mr. Miller recalled, most new condominium buildings had little-used health clubs and pools on the roofs.

“Now the configurations tend to be weighted toward larger units at the top because of the premiums for larger square footage,” he said. “You get a double premium — for the size and for the view. Developers are marketing for the global citizen as opposed to the family that wants to move into the city.”

The “capitalists” derided in The Real Estate Record and Guide in the 1800s who wanted to build tall ended up having vision akin to that of Steve Jobs, who instinctively knew we wanted iPads and iPhones before we ever thought to ask for one. Mr. Gray imagines that even a Vanderbilt might have a new appreciation today of park views. “Ms. Vanderbilt, in her 1882 mansion on 57th and Fifth, if offered an apartment in 15 Central Park West, would say, ‘Pretty cool, I could dig this.’ ” he said. “She would not say, ‘I want some heavy curtains in here.’ ”

Selling New York Recap: Tag Team Time

CurbedMarch 23, 2012
March 23, 2012
HGTV's Selling New York rides along with brokerages CORE, Gumley Haft Kleier and Warburg as they try to sell fabulous properties fabulously. Here's our recap of how the NYC real estate industry is portrayed to the world, penned by Molly Reisner. Episode air date: 3/22/2012.

A few key lessons were imparted on last night's episode of Selling New York:

#1: There's nothing like some good ol' Hunger Games-style competition to bring out a team's best efforts.

#2: Mama Bear is the real estate version of Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid

#3: Hit up Sunday morning open houses because it's like a free brunch!

In other words, an agent challenges her marketing group to come up with the best ideas to sell a Greenwich Village penthouse quickly. Will the winner get a pat on the back, cash, OR BOTH?!? Then, a matriarchal Manhattan maven guides two fresh-faced brokers as they try to sell their first apartment in the Financial District. Will her charges nail a sale? Find out all this and maybe more in this recapulous recap!

And remember, there's no I in team >>

CORE agent Vickey Barron is meeting with her client, seller Ivan "I've had it with New York" Schneider. Ivan's anxious to sell his penthouse at 11 Fifth Avenue and fly down to Flaw-ree-da forever.

The two chat n' chew in my favorite place to admire hanging salamis:
Katz's Delicatessen, of course!

Ivan's giving Vick a six month exclusive to unload his $6.995 million pad and wants it done quicker than it takes for me to eat a Katz's hot dog. Vick assures him that her marketing team doesn't "just sit and wait for the phone to ring."

They make stuff happen! Vick recruits four newer CORE agents to survey the apartment. Let's eavesdrop:

With a no open house policy, how will Vick drum up excitement? A competition, that's how! Vick breaks up the agents into two teams and asks them to each come up with a marketing plan for the apartment. There will be a presentation later to share their ideas, and the best one wins...$5,000 to $10,000 of Vick's commission cash* (*if she sells it). "May the odds ever be in your favor," Vick says in the Hunger Games version of this episode.

First, Vick meets with Team JenTon (comprised of agents Jennie Ma and Tony Sargent) and architect Luca Andrisani.

JenTon propose working with Luca to develop renderings of how the space can be renovated:

Vick's concerned that their plan to show a gut reno might turn off buyers, but JenTon isn't deterred one bit.

Next, Vick pow-wows with Team DavIv (David Beare and Ivana Tagliamonte) and architect Matthias Hollwich. Uh-oh! DavIv wants to do renderings too. Vick steers them away from that concept (JenTon's turf!), but warms up to their idea of focusing on the fantastic view.

DavIv created a flipbook featuring the view's sunset:

Oooh, aaaah! It's so cool...for about 3 seconds.

Finally, it's time for the teams to get in the ring and knock each other out with their hard-hitting marketing plans. Brokers, buyers and CORE peeps gather at NYC Loft Kitchen to cheer (watch politely) and boo (watch politely):

Ding, ding ding! And the winner is...

JenTon. They get to live! Their inclusion of the building's history really impressed Vick and her trusted CORE voters, while DavIv's focus on the view felt distracting from the actual apartment.

Later, Vick gives a round of showings and gets good feedback on the presentation: On the phone, Ivan's not falling for any of Vick's positive posturing and tells her to "get me an offer." A mere three weeks later, Vick does just that, and is also helping Ivan sell his furniture. Ivan ain't jivin' when it comes to getting the heck outta NYC!


Michele Mama Bear Kleier has deemed her youngest agents, Isabel Solmonson and John Liss, ready to graduate into their first exclusive listing. Mama lives by the credo "you don't learn by watching, you learn by doing" and wants her lil' cubs to take the reins at 88 Greenwich Street in the FiDi.

As part of her mentoring regime, Mama brings JoBel back to the apartment with a photographer. They learn how to compose a shot, which rooms to snap and Mama's three golden rules before the camera clicks:

#1) Put crap away

#2) Make sure you can't spell your name on the windows with grime

#3) Make sure the decor smiles—real smiles, not faksies!

JoBel may be young, but they've got that glimmer, that go-getter-ness, that GUMPTION:
Heyyy, it's time for JoBel to shine on their Sunday morn open house day. They've got beaucoup de bagels and fruit salad...but hardly any people:

I call cinnamon raisin! Apparently, Sunday morning is the exact not right time to host an open house in FiDi.

This, and basically just this, is discussed over lunch at Burger Heaven (where burgers go when they die, so comforting):

A peek into the $1.495 million 2 bedroom/2 bath property:

The sellers have their eye on a much bigger apartment, but want to wait to sell this first. Which = BIG TIME PRESSURE for Team JoBel!
Later, JoBel go to Mama's den to discuss progress AKA there is none. They decide a good option would be to lower the price and show the world the sellers are motivated:

At first JoBel suggest a $200k price cut to Mama, but then lower it to $100k before they call the seller. He agrees which is a coup for JoBel and their nascent negotiating skills. Did the dollar drop snag a deal? Well, the update explains two offers came in...but according to the listing, it's still up for grabs. JoBel, you gotta sell!

Episode Review: There was no teamwork tension to heighten the stakes, but a penthouse was sold and a commision was raked! Plus I got to name teams, celeb-hybrid style which leaves me elated with 4.0 out of 5.0 CLEARLY I NEED A MENTOR cackling Kleiers
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