Once home to an insane asylum, prisons, and a smallpox hospital, Roosevelt Island was originally called Hog Island and later Welfare Island before being renamed for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1971 (a decision that… More
When I started this blog almost three years ago, the second post I wrote (after the initial one describing my basic writing concept) was about Yorkville. This sub-neighborhood of the Upper East Side (you could describe it as the upper-upper-east-east side) is undervalued, in my opinion, as it is lovely, quiet, and convenient. The biggest complaint about Yorkville has been the long walk to the Lexington Avenue subway, but with the recent opening of the Q (Second Avenue subway, see my blog post about it here) that criticism is diminishing. In fact, between the opening of the Q and all the fantastic new development apartment buildings coming up in the area (Citizen 360 and The Kent, to name just two I have visited in the past month), I believe the days of Yorkville as a value play may be coming to an ending over the next few years.
Today it snowed. Schools and many business closed, and I went out in the afternoon for a walk around my beloved Yorkville. It has never looked lovelier!
The street blocks tend toward older tenement buildings, while the avenue blocks hold the larger apartments, particularly in the area between Third and York.
The absolute crown jewel of the Yorkville neighborhood is Carl Schurz Park, with two dog runs, a large children’s playground, the East River Promenade, and plenty of meandering paths.
Gracie Mansion, one of the oldest homes in NYC and the official residence of the mayor, is at East End Avenue and 88th Street, within the park.
I have often thought that the Henderson Houses, a series of landmarked townhomes opposite Carl Schurz Park, create some of the prettiest blocks in the city.
There’s something about this Gothic row of homes gazing out to the park that makes them seem like they are an illustration from a fairy tale.
It’s very quiet in the area of Yorkville near the park. The only other part of Manhattan that feels this peaceful and removed to me is the Beekman area, also along the East River, but in the 50’s.
On this afternoon, the park (like Central Park a few blocks away) was filled with sledders. Yorkville is a neighborhood filled with, and friendly to, children, and dogs, but also with older people and young singles looking for a rental bargain. I suspect that within a few years, Yorkville will be seen not as a place to search simply for value, but a neighborhood sought after and desired for its own unique characteristics.
The rivalry between the great US city on the East Coast (New York) and the one on the West Coast (Los Angeles) is, in my opinion, partially true but largely fabricated. You can find great restaurants, nightlife, and art in either. New York has snow; Los Angeles has smog. Los Angeles clearly wins for beaches and weather; New York is the victor in the live theater domain and has Central Park. While in general the cost of renting or purchasing a home in Los Angeles is less than in NYC, there is a variety of housing choices at price ranges from moderate to extravagant in both cities (you will nearly always get more space in Los Angeles, though, since NYC is severely physically restricted in how it can expand, especially Manhattan island). However, there is one giant difference that completely shapes the experience of living or visiting each city: NYC is the quintessential walking city (and the experience of walking in it was my motivation to begin this blog), while LA has the ultimate car culture. On my numerous visits to LA, I have often commented that the one thing that would prevent me from ever living there is that I hate having to drive everywhere. On a recent trip, however, I decided to take a few walks and see if a quality walking experience could be found in the city of angels.
I was staying downtown at 7th and Grand, and decided to walk to Wi Spa, on Wilshire and S. Rampart. According to Google maps, this is a walk of just under 2 miles, and I routinely walk 5 miles or more per day in NYC. This route was a fairly direct one since Wilshire was just a block parallel to 7th, but almost immediately I noticed the difference between walking in NYC vs. LA. This route had me walking next to and in close proximity to heavy traffic most of the time.
In addition, unlike virtually anywhere I walk in NYC, I was alone on the sidewalk for most of the time despite being surrounded by people in cars. I recalled Ray Bradbury’s story, “The Pedestrian,” set in the future where a lone walker in the evening was so unusual that the protagonist of the story ended up being carted off by the police for a psychiatric evaluation. Although born in Illinois, Bradbury was an Angeleno for most of his life, and I wonder if a similar solitary experience walking in the city inspired him to think of this story.
Eventually I went by MacArthur Park (yes, the inspiration for what has been called “the worst song ever written,” although I have a fondness for it since I recall enjoying the number in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” on Broadway). Although it had some lovely areas, the only people I saw also enjoying it were living in a sort of tent city there.
Shortly after MacArthur Park, I was at Wi Spa. If you are in Los Angeles and would enjoy an authentic Korean spa experience, this one can’t be beat (I have never been so clean as after a scrub there).
The view of downtown Los Angeles walking back was pleasant, but it did occur to me that just as Los Angeles has widely varied neighborhoods, the experience of walking would also vary from place to place. For my next dérive, I went to Santa Monica. I drove there, but the Metro Expo line can also take you there as of this past spring.
It occurred to me while in Santa Monica that perhaps no one was walking on Wilshire because there wasn’t much to see! There were plenty of people walking in Santa Monica.
The Third Street promenade is just east of the Santa Monica pier, and has shopping, dining, and street entertainers (my favorite to date were the skateboarding bulldogs I stayed to watch one time – very talented).
Walking back from a stroll along the Promenade and back, I turned along Ocean Avenue.
Again, plenty of walkers, plenty of places to eat and shop. The ocean just across the street, and the sun warm. Not bad!
Heading over one block west, I found the Hotel California . . . somehow smaller than I had imagined for a place filled with people who can “check out, but can never leave.”
The ocean front walk, even on a week day, was busy with walkers, bicyclists, and skateboarders.
Walking back, I took the sandy stretch at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, heading back toward the pier. A very different experience than the walks I routinely enjoy in NYC, but there was something magical about the sounds and textures of this walk (I would never dream of talking off my shoes to walk in the city, not even in my beloved Central Park). Los Angeles is vast, and sprawling, so while it is not practical to walk to get from place to place as it can be in New York City, there are wonderful places to walk – you just have to drive to get there.
For most of the past decade, I lived east of Second Avenue on the Upper East Side, meaning that virtually every day I had to run the gauntlet of construction barricades and debris to get elsewhere in the city. Discussion of creating a second subway line of the Upper East Side to equal the two that run along the Upper West Side had begun shortly after the elevated line had been torn down along Second Avenue in 1919, and any of us who rode the most crowded lines in NYC (the 4-5-6) could see the need. Preliminary work began in 1972, but was suspended due to budgetary constraints until 2007. Ten years later, service began on January 1, 2017, and I couldn’t wait to ride on the first day the Q train ran.
More than a week prior to the trains running, the neighborhood was invited to visit the 96th Street subway stop to see the station. It was surprisingly thrilling to walk into the new station. All the new stations are expansive, clean, and filled with art. I appreciate the entrances as well.
A few more photos from the community preview:
“Excelsior” is the New York State motto, and means “still higher” or “ever upward” (a little ironic as you descend lower into the ground, but I know, it’s about the meaning rather than to be taken literally).
And of course, the United States motto “E pluribus unum,” meaning “Out of many, one” – fitting for New Yorkers who despite their many differences are united as citizens of the city.
I love how the tenement buildings on Second Avenue can be glimpsed through the glass entrance when leaving the station.
On January 1, about 2PM, I entered the station at Lexington and 63rd (but actually on Third and 63rd!) to ride the Q from 63rd to 96th on its first day of operation.
It was actually thrilling to see the train come into the station.
At 63rd Street, the art is by Jean Shin.
Pulling into the 72nd Street Station.
At 72nd Street, the art is by Vik Muniz.
Pulling into 86th Street.
At 86th Street, the art is by Chuck Close, using tiled mosaics to create his familiar portraits.
“Our next and last stop – 96th Street.”
The artist represented at 96th Street is Sarah Sze.
Some of the trains have special decorations:
In the few days since the Second Avenue subway has opened, I have ridden it multiple times, and have been impressed by the convenience and efficiency of the line. I have been telling customers for years that real estate on the Upper East Side east of Third has been a value play and that prices will likely go up with the completion of the subway, and I think that will prove itself true over the next few years. The flip side of this, of course, is that Yorkville may find itself less of a bargain for renters or first time buyers, but this is inevitably the cost of improvements in any neighborhood – they benefit those who bought at lower prices and are ready to sell, but may force some renters out or lead some to be priced out of the area.
In the far distant future, they may extend the line through East Harlem up to 125th Street, and that, along with recently announced redevelopment plans along Second, Lexington, and Madison Avenues in East Harlem, could completely transform that area as well. New York City is constantly changing, and the successful completion of the Second Avenue subway shows that even developments that seemed like a mirage shimmering in the distance can become real – and, eventually, even routine.
Just as the first chilly gusts of wind arrive to remind us that harsh winter days are ahead, New York City puts on its December finery, showing off with light and color to distract us from the season of dark and cold ahead. While the traditional pleasures of the department store windows, Rockefeller Center decorations, and Radio City or NYCB Nutcracker shows always delight, one of my favorite things about this month is walking down residential streets and seeing the lights we have put up in our own homes – to warm ourselves but also send warmth out to others passing by. The following photos are from the 2016 holiday season (see my post in 2015 here and my post from 2014 in Dyker Heights here):
The Rockefeller tree by day (wonderful) and night (spectacular).
Skating at Rock Center.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular finale and living nativity (love those camels!).
Inside the Art Deco masterpiece, Radio City Music Hall.
Saks Fifth Avenue, seen from Rock Center.
Heralding angels leading up to the Rock Center tree.
A private townhouse in the East 60’s.
It’s hard to capture the lights of the city at night with an iPhone, but I do feel that nighttime is when the city is at its best – and this is particularly true for December, where we push back the darkness as best we can with arrays of light. I absolutely love the poem that Travel and Leisure Magazine commissioned from New York poet Rowan Ricardo Phillips, A Tale of Two Cities:
City above the city and city
Below the city. The diners, theaters,
Dance spots and dives all late-light strobed life
Sumptuous as solitude that knows it’s not
Loneliness like the blue blue-green peacock
Who gales open, waits, doubts and does not doubt.
There is a city above the city
That thinks of you as you think of it: sky,
That you are the sky to it, and these buildings,
Iridescent in thick night like flora
And fauna, are its clouds. We all are part
Of some other distant constellation,
A chanced-on font you see on a marquee
When you look out and then up,
When you think the thought that gets caught in air
And rises from your head like steam in the thaw—
That is the city above the city
Calling out to you through the blued spectrum,
That veiled feeling you keep to yourself of
The time you stood on a street and could swear
Some part, some magnificent part of you
Had just turned into a fish and opened
Up upwards into the darkness, the light,
The darkness, the light, the darkness, the light.
Most of us lucky enough to live in New York City love the aspects of the city that make it unique – the tall buildings, the pace, the endless array of entertainment. However, we may also seek out a chance of pace every now and then, travelling to the Caribbean, the Berkshires, or the New England coast. What I recently discovered is that it is possible to take a mini-vacation to what seems to be a small New England fishing village – but without leaving the five boroughs. As I remarked in my posts about Coney Island and Governors Island you can feel as though you have left the city for the price of a swipe on your Metrocard – and that is true for a trip to City Island in the Bronx.
Driving to City Island is easy, but to get there via public transportation (as I did), take the 6 Pelham Bay subway train to the last stop, Pelham Bay Parkway and catch the Bx29 bus for a quick ride to City Island Avenue.
Originally settled by the Lenape and later by Europeans in 1654, it was connected to the mainland by ferry until the building of a bridge in 1873. From about 1860 to 1980, City Island was a center for boat building and yachting, and three yacht clubs remain on the island to this day.
City Island Avenue cuts down the middle of the island, lined with quaint shops, art galleries, and restaurants. At every cross street, you can look in either direction and generally see a block of houses or low-rise apartments leading to the water.
On the first Friday of every month, there is a free trolley to pick up visitors from the subway stop and take them to City Island Avenue. They give out a discount card valid for that evening, and often shops and galleries will have free treats to hand out along the avenue.
City Island Avenue is just over a mile long, so an easy and pleasant walk. At the very end, when it dead ends at the water, there are two competing seafood restaurants with ocean views.
City Island has a resident population of just over 4000 people, many associated with nearby Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The brilliant neurologist and author Oliver Sacks lived on City Island until his recent death, and some of the film based on his book Awakenings was shot on the island. City Island is a real estate bargain (due in no small part to its remoteness) – houses selling for under $300/sq ft, on average, and a three bedroom house can be rented for about $3000/month.
Alice Payne wrote about the history of City Island in her book Tales of the Clamdiggers. Clamdiggers are people born on City Island (Musselsuckers are those living on the island born elsewhere!). The rest of us are, I suppose, simply visitors, ready to take a break from the everyday and experience one of the most unique corners of the great city of New York.
I wrote recently about Coney Island, and how easy it is to feel you are taking a mini-break from New York City without leaving the city itself. I recently spent a day on Governors Island, in some ways more disorienting (in a good way!) since you are simultaneously surrounded by nature and yet experiencing spectacular views of lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty.
Governors Island sits a mere 800 yards away from Manhattan and is even closer to Brooklyn (400 yards). Originally reserved for the Governors of the New York Colony during British rule, the American Continental Army used it to their advantage and fired on the British from the island during the Revolutionary War. After American Independence, forts were built on the island for coastal protection, and Castle Williams (which is still standing) was later used to hold Confederate prisoners of war during the Civil War. When material dug out from Manhattan to create the first subway line was used to enlarge Governors Island, it became first an Army base and later one for the Coast Guard. By 1996, however, the Coast Guard had ceased to use the island, and it began to be redeveloped as a public park. Fort Jay and Castle Williams, as well as 22 acres of the island, have been declared a National Monument – the remaining 100 acres belong to the city and are in the middle of a ten year plan to revitalize Governors Island for use by the residents of New York.
Getting to Governors Island is somehow both easy and difficult. The ferry leaves from lower Manhattan (just north of the Staten Island Ferry terminal) on the hour starting at 10 AM, and leaves the island to return to Manhattan on the half hour. The cost is $2 roundtrip, but is free if you are a resident and have an idNYC card (if you are a resident and don’t have one, what are you waiting for? there are so many great discounts and benefits, check out the card here). The actual ferry ride is only seven minutes long, but if you miss one (as I did, slower than expected subway traffic on the 4 getting me there just a few minutes after the 10 AM ferry left) it’s a long wait.
One entertaining thing to do in the area if you miss a ferry is to watch helicopters take off and land just north of the Battery Maritime Building.
Once the ferry is ready to load, it only takes a few minutes before you are looking back at the Battery Maritime building as the ferry leaves lower Manhattan.
Within a few minutes you arrive on Governors Island at Soissons Landing.
The constant odd juxtaposition of quaint old buildings, green lawn, and spectacular views of the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan is disorienting, but in an exciting way.
One view of Castle Williams.
If you pass the old historic buildings and follow the signs for the newest part of Governors Island Park, The Hills, you can find the longest slide in NYC, three stories tall and 57 feet long. My advice on a sunny day is to be sure you are wearing long pants – that metal slide gets HOT!
The Hills was constructed using so much landfill it would require 1806 subway cars to transport it. Much of it came from the demolition of some buildings and parking lots elsewhere on Governors Island. Some of the actual hills were created using pumice, because any heavier material would push the existing landfill into the harbor.
A plaque marking the National Park Service site, Castle Williams, with fantastic views of lower Manhattan, which is just a few hundred yards away.
Wonderful views of the Statue of Liberty can also be seen from the western edge of Governors Island.
Ferries return on the half hour, with the last ferry back at 6 during the week and 7 on the weekend.
Returning back to Manhattan, you can feel as though you have taken a trip to another country, one where you gazed at the city as though it was a movie backdrop or a mirage. I highly recommend taking the journey. I found I appreciate the city so much more when I have seen it through a different angle – even one that technically lies within the city limits. Governors Island is open daily during the summer season, which lasts roughly the end of May through the end of September. For more information check out their website here.
It’s summertime, and the livin’ in New York City is . . . hot and muggy. If you can’t make it out of town for a visit to the Hamptons, or the Caribbean, or the south of France, at least for the cost of one swipe of a MetroCard each way you can still get to a beach and not even leave the five boroughs. I think calling Coney Island “the playground of the world” (as the sign near the Wonder Wheel proclaims) is an over-statement, but it can be a fun day trip. I will note that the sea breeze is a real thing on these sticky August days, refreshing you even if all you do is walk along the water as the waves lap your ankles.
Coney Island was in fact once a barrier island, but became attached to the Brooklyn mainland via landfill. The source of the name “Coney” is uncertain – it could be due to a large number of wild rabbits, or coneys, but also could derive from someone’s name. Native Americans called it Narrioch, meaning “always in light” because of the abundant sunshine on the beach. After the Civil War, it became a popular seaside destination, and large piers were built. However, it was with the addition of rides that Coney Island began to take on the familiar persona of an amusement park at the beach. The United States’ first roller coaster, Switchback Gravity Railway (apparently they had yet to figure out how to create memorable names), opened in 1884. While the early 20th Century led to Coney Island’s heyday with the creation of Steeplechase Park, Luna Park, and Dreamland, it also began to develop a reputation as a somewhat seedier place as well – “Sodom by the Sea.” This didn’t keep it from becoming the #1 tourist attraction in the country (in fact, it could have helped), with 100,000 visitors a day, on average (to compare, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom averages about 56,000 a day, the most of any current theme park). Following World War II and some demolition (unsurprisingly, sponsored by Robert Moses) Coney Island began a steady decline that reached a nadir in the 1970s and ’80s. A steady revitalization began in the early years of the 21st Century, and despite serious damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Coney Island is looking better these days than it has in a long time.
Recently I spent a day at Coney Island, taking the 4 subway from the Upper East Side and transferring to the N at Union Square. It was a solid 90 minute journey, so bring a good book – or a good companion – if you plan to make the trek. Getting out of the Stillwell Avenue subway station, you can’t miss Nathan’s, the home of the famous (or nauseatingly infamous) hot dog eating contests every July 4th. My personal preference is for pizza (you can’t go wrong with either Grimaldi or Totonno) but my friends and family who like hot dogs love Nathan’s (just please don’t try to eat 70 of them in 10 minutes).
Once you get to the boardwalk, there are many competing places to eat, but I’m personally more interested in the rides on one side of the boardwalk and the Atlantic ocean on the other.
The Wonder Wheel is my favorite ride, built in 1920. It’s 120 feet tall and many of the cars are not fixed to the rim but swing back and forth as the wheel goes around -it’s thrilling.
From the top of the Wonder Wheel, I noticed lower Manhattan shimmering off in the distance like a mirage.
Of course the most famous ride in Coney Island is the Cyclone, a wooden coaster built in 1927 that is both a New York City landmark and on the national Register for Historic Places. I’ve ridden it a few times, and it still delivers plenty of excitement and the very real possibility of whiplash.
Walking back along the beach rather than the boardwalk, it is fun to walk along the ocean’s edge and feel the cool breeze. The beach can be packed, particularly on summer weekends, but it is kept clean and the sand raked, and there are lifeguards. On the day I was there, lifeguards were keeping people out of the water because both sharks and sting rays had been sighted!
If the idea of a seaside apartment to live in or use over weekends appeals, real estate values are beginning to improve in Coney Island – but still there are many apartments readily available to buy, averaging about $417/sq ft. Neighboring Brighton Beach has been rapidly increasing in value, with apartments there now at $665/sq ft, on average, and it is possible that Coney Island will follow this trend as more money is poured into its revitalization.
There is much more to do on Coney Island (the NY Aquarium and the minor league baseball team the Brooklyn Cyclones, to name only two), but one of my favorite ways to end a day there is with a drink on the boardwalk. It’s hard to know which is more fun: people-watching on the boardwalk, or gazing past them to watch the ocean as the sun begins to set. A day at the beach combined with a day at the amusement park – and all without leaving New York City.
I have recently been working with several buyers who either require private outdoor space, or have been lucky enough to find it included in an apartment they love for other reasons. Spring and summer are definitely “terrace season,” as outdoor space takes on a special appeal on sunny, warm days. In fact, one buyer I was working with lost out in a bidding war on an apartment with a large terrace directly facing Central Park, after months of little interest while it was listing during the winter. The listing broker even told me that we would have definitely gotten the apartment if we had been bidding the same amount back in the cold and gloomy months of January and February, but in late March/early April, the same apartment had a much broader appeal.
Other buyers of mine, while not looking specifically for an apartment with outdoor space, found one with two large terraces, one with East River views, and fell in love. I have written before about the value of a view of nature from an apartment, as well as the value of a city view, and those intangible emotional benefits are heightened when the view is not contained behind glass, but rather experienced while also taking in the information obtained from other senses. To be on a terrace and seeing the East River, while also feeling a warm breeze, smelling the flowers you have placed in planters, and hearing the sounds of the city, is to be immersed in the experience.
There are multiple types of outdoor space, and some people have strong preferences for one type over the other, while others just want any opportunity to experience the outdoors from within their home. The least versatile is a Juliet balcony – enough to step outside and check the temperature or take in a few deep breaths of the summer air after a storm, but not enough to even place a chair. Larger than that are balconies, commonly boxy squares in postwar apartments, often with enough space for a few chairs and a table. The larger outdoor spaces tend to be true terraces (outdoor space with the building underneath it instead of something jutting from the building) or private gardens. Gardens tend to be most common in townhouses, or in the garden level apartments in converted townhomes or brownstones. Garden level apartments have the disadvantage of not being the sunniest apartments, with some exceptions, but for people who like the idea of children or pets playing in a ground-level garden, they can be highly valued. Large terraces are perhaps the most prized outdoor spaces, and relatively rare. A terrace with an iconic view – of Central Park, of a river, or a spectacular city view – can greatly increase the value of an apartment.
So how much does outdoor space affect the value of an apartment, if you have one – or how much more do you have to pay to get a place if outdoor space is a priority to you? As with everything else in NYC real estate, it depends upon so many variables – the location, the apartment itself, whether the building is a condo or a coop, walk-up or elevator, etc., etc. However, the value of outdoor space is often about 25-50% of the apartment’s price per square foot – higher if the terrace has a great view or is attached to a spectacular apartment, lower if it is on a lower floor or attached to a small apartment.
The most valuable outdoor space is the very one my buyer lost out on this spring – unobstructed views of Central Park (enough to increase the value of an apartment by 50% even from park-facing windows with no outdoor space) from a large terrace. Is outdoor space worth such an increase in price? As with so many other aspects of NYC real estate, that is up to you – for some, they may feel that they wouldn’t really use outdoor space and don’t want to spend the extra money, while for others, outdoor space is the most important aspect of their home search and they won’t consider a place without it. What I have learned this spring, though, is that timing is extremely important. If I am representing a seller who has an apartment with outdoor space, I would strongly recommend trying to list during the warm weather months if at all possible. Conversely, if looking to purchase an apartment with outdoor space, jumping on something during the winter can lead to a relative bargain compared to getting into a bidding war when the outdoor space is showing at its best. If you are interested in buying a home in NYC with outdoor space, or if you have one to sell, feel free to contact me (with no obligation) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was having lunch yesterday with customers with whom I have worked for over a year, and we are now happily in contract for an apartment that makes them feel good just spending time in it (even if the reason we are in it is to meet with contractors to plan a lengthy renovation!). While talking to them about our process (and about the course yet to come of selling their current apartment), they mentioned that they had been surprised at how many aspects of the journey I had been able to help them with, not just the obvious ones of sending them listings, making appointments to see apartments, negotiating the terms of their offer, etc. It occurred to me that I have never stated something that I feel strongly: I want to be your resource for real estate in NYC, and for so much more as well. There is never any obligation to ask me a question for yourself, or for a friend or family member, and I love doing it. Here are some examples of issues I have dealt with/ questions I have answered for people before, some of whom go on to become customers, and others who might become so in the future, but are not currently:
- Questions about the market: How’s the coop versus condo market? What are interest rates likely to do and how will that affect sales? What generally happens to the real estate market during an election year?
- Questions about value: What is my apartment worth? Can I get an apartment in another neighborhood with more space/light/quiet for the same price I am currently paying/for what my apartment is worth? Can I buy an apartment for approximately the same monthly costs as I am currently paying in rent?
- Questions about neighborhoods: What area of NYC is a possible value play these days? How is X neighborhood evolving?
- Questions about investing: What are the value neighborhoods where an apartment would be rented quickly and profitably? Does it makes sense for me to buy an apartment for my student or young adult to live in? What kind of appreciation might I get if I keep the apartment for X years?
- Questions about other professionals: Do you know a good real estate lawyer/accountant/insurance agent/mortgage broker/interior designer/contractor/stager/housekeeper/moving company/dog walker/pet groomer? (Answer:Yes!)
- Questions about new development: What’s going on in the super-luxury market? How do new development sales affect/relate to traditional coop sales? Are there any new developments in X neighborhood/for X price point?
- Questions about moving/relocation: Can I get a rental/buy a coop or condo if I don’t have a green card/visa? Can I use an out-of-town guarantor? How I can set up a bank account in the US before I move? Can I wire money to my lawyer and have her bring the funds for my condo at closing? How do I set up with Con Ed/Verizon/Time Warner?
- Questions about dealing with a landlord/coop or condo board: How can I go about getting an alteration agreement approved? Is my landlord required to get rid of the rats? (Note: this question came to me while on vacation from the panic-struck out-of-state friend of a customer, whose daughter was a new renter in the city!)
- Questions about timing: What is the best time to look for a rental? What is the best time to put my apartment on the market if I choose to do so? How does the outdoor space in my apartment affect when it might best sell?
- Questions about living in the city: How do you handle deliveries in a non-doorman building? Will Seamless/Fresh Direct/Ikea deliver to a fifth-floor walk-up? What are the recycling rules? How can I get tickets to Hamilton/discount tickets to other shows? How does Citibike work?
These are just samples of the many types of questions I have been able to answer in the past. Let me say again – none of these questions obligate you in any way! Of course, if you are looking to buy or sell, I would like you to give me a chance to explain what I can do for you, but I do genuinely love being a resource without any expectation in return. One more thing, when preparing a package of information to give potentials sellers last week (I do have the exclusive on their apartment now, and it will hit the market next month), I was struck again by the Corcoran mission statement (shown below) and how perfectly it dovetails with my own standard of behavior as a real estate agent. I have been told on more than one occasion that I “don’t seem like a real estate agent” to which I reply, “If I had to be the kind of real estate agent you are referring to, I wouldn’t be in this business.” Luckily for me, Corcoran supports my own desire to put the customer, not the payday, front and center of every decision, and to provide exceptional service.
Just as the larger neighborhood known as the Upper East Side has many smaller neighborhoods within it, such as Yorkville, Carnegie Hill, Lenox Hill (yes, lots of hills on the UES!), the Upper West Side – on the opposite side of Central Park – also has subdivisions. Recently I have had two customers interested in looking for homes in the area of the UWS known as Lincoln Square, the southeast corner of the neighborhood – roughly bounded by Central Park West and Amsterdam Avenue to the east and west, and 59th to 66th Streets to the south and north. Interestingly enough, the area was characterized in 1940 as the “worst slum in New York City” by the New York Housing Authority, and the urban renewal efforts in the 1950’s and 1960’s led to the development of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. This anchored the residential redevelopment of the area into the vibrant neighborhood it is now.
As I have written before, my favorite way to experience a neighborhood is by taking an unplanned walk within the area (a dérive), so on an overcast but not terribly cold February day, I started at Columbus Circle and began my stroll.
At Columbus Circle, you stand at the intersection of the Upper West Side, Central Park, and Midtown West. The shops at Columbus Circle house a Whole Foods as well as specialty stores and Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Turning around to look at Central Park for a moment . . .
Just north of the statue of Columbus, a subway hub that can get you quickly to virtually any location in the city.
Walking north a few block on Central Park West, I can’t resist stopping to admire 15 Central Park West, a phenomenally successful building on so many different levels – a classic limestone two-towered building that looks as though it could have always been there, but simultaneously a new development from 2007 with prices per square foot averaging well over $5000 per square foot. I greatly enjoyed reading Michael Gross’s recent book about the development of the site, House of Outrageous Fortune.
Walking west on W. 61st Street, you can see a side entrance to 15 CPW. On the W. 62nd Street side, there is a lovely garden.
This part of the Upper West Side can be a little confusing, in that Broadway is the next Avenue you come to after Central Park West, while for much of the neighborhood the park block is between CPW and Columbus. Broadway, transecting the length of Manhattan on a diagonal, disrupts the orderly grid of most of Manhattan above 14th Street, creating “squares” – really triangles – as it cuts across the orderly boulevards. Union Square, Madison Square Park, Herald Square, and Times Square are all the result of Broadway’s slow progress from west to east as it heads south in Manhattan, and Lincoln Square is yet another. Walking up Broadway to W. 63rd, I headed west again to see Lincoln Square itself, namesake for this neighborhood.
Just south of Lincoln Square is the Empire Hotel, whose sign is a local landmark, and P.J. Clarke’s, a cozy yet upscale place to sit and have a nice meal.
Obviously a strong selling point for the neighborhood is the proximity to Lincoln Center, and the ease of attending performances of opera, music, ballet, theatre, and even the Big Apple Circus in the fall of each year.
The Julliard School, just north of Lincoln Center, also offers high quality student performances.
Looking east while standing in front of Julliard, I noticed the Mormon Visitor Center, best known to me as the place where Hannah and Harper volunteer in Tony Kushner’s epic play, “Angels in America.”
Just north of Julliard is Alice Tully Hall, home to more intimate concerts than those in much larger Avery Fisher Hall (newly renamed David Geffen Hall).
Turning east again on West 66th St., I walked past ABC studios on the way back to Central Park. Just a few blocks north of this intersection is the Loews Lincoln Square Cineplex. I really love this as an option for seeing popular movies, as each individual theatre has the name and style of an old-time movie palace, making the experience there have a little more personality than many multiplexes.
Ending up in Central Park at 66th, yet another advantage to this neighborhood is its proximity to Tavern on the Green, renovated a few years ago but with the twinkling outside fairy lights remaining.
So what does it cost to live in Lincoln Square? As with any neighborhood, it varies greatly depending on the building, but average prices are just under $3000/square foot, compared to just over $2000/square foot for all of the Upper West Side (averaging prices of the far northern sections of the UWS with those to the south, of course). Central Park South, just to the south and east of Lincoln Square averages $5000/square foot, in part because of the premium associated with apartments with views of the park. Lincoln Square tends to be newer buildings, mostly condos, compared to the largely prewar coop inventory of most of the UWS.
In my opinion, the location of Lincoln Square is unparalleled – at the intersection of the Upper West Side, Midtown West, and with Central Park as a virtual front yard.