Real Estate

Before the Trumps, There Were the Wendels

(The New York Times) The most well-known developer in New York today may be a man with national aspirations and a propensity to talk off the top of his extravagantly coifed head, but a century ago, the headlines were commanded by a real estate family with an aversion to publicity and the trappings of wealth.

In the early 20th century, the Wendels were perhaps the most powerful landlords in New York City, a dynasty with more than 150 properties in Manhattan worth over $1 billion in today’s dollars. The Wendels were the delight of the local papers, for, rich as they were, the family — six sisters and a brother, all unmarried — lived together in a shuttered mansion without electricity on the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 39th Street, and dressed in grim Victorian garb that had gone out of style half a century earlier. Tour buses regularly pulled up in front of “the House of Mystery.”

In their day, they were known as “the Weird Wendels.” John G. Wendel II, the brother, was alternately referred to as “the hermit” and “the recluse” of Fifth Avenue.

“Of all the families floated to affluence by rising waves of Manhattan real estate values, the Wendels were the quietest and the queerest,” wrote Arthur Pound in his 1935 book, “The Golden Earth: The Story of Manhattan’s Landed Wealth.” “They lived simply on the most expensive residential site in New York City,” he continued, and “drew less fun from their fortune than a bricklayer gets out of his weekly wage.”

Tax Break as a Not-So-Secret Weapon

(The New York Times) The tax break wars are heating up again, as New Jersey aggressively pushes a revamped program to encourage businesses to stay or move within its borders.

The retooled tax credit is called Grow New Jersey, a consolidation and expansion of several previous programs. Some companies, even those already in the state, might be eligible for as much as $300 million in tax credits per project.

The Legislature approved the Grow New Jersey program in September, and in December it announced its first round of recipients, including Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which is leaving its current home for another. Credit: Aaron Houston for The New York Times

Luxury Apartments for a Little Less

(The New York Times) For some developers, moderation seems to be the latest byword, and that is helping Manhattan become ever so slightly more affordable.

Bucking the trend of superluxurious condos with vertigo-inducing prices, a handful of developers are offering more moderately priced apartments in full-service, amenity-laden buildings. Of course, in Manhattan, where the going rate for new construction is about $2,500 a square foot, moderate price is a relative term. And these builders are not being altruistic as they undercut their competitors and offer apartments at less than $2,000 a square foot.

Buildings with units designed to sell for $2,000 or less a square foot include the amenity-laden 140 West Street (top row), where 22 floors are to be converted to apartments; and the Printing House at 421 Hudson Street (bottom row). Saul Metnick for The New York Times

Nonprofits With Sought-After Buildings Take Advantage of a Hot Market

(The New York TimesAfter 40 years, United Cerebral Palsy of New York City plans to move from its headquarters in the Gramercy Park neighborhood of Manhattan.

It is selling the building to Toll Brothers, a development company, for $135 million, more than twice what it was offered for the four-story property back in 2007, the organization said. Like a few other nonprofits, it decided to take advantage of a lucrative real estate market for some Manhattan sites.

United Cerebral Palsy of New York City’s headquarters at 122 East 23rd Street sold for $135 million. Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

Stair Masters: Walk-Ups Are in Demand, and Come With Bragging Rights

(The New York TimesRobert Peruzzi was so determined to rent the fifth-floor walk-up he had seen on Irving Place that he was willing to outbid another potential tenant and pay $150 more than the original asking rent.

Mr. Peruzzi, 35, now shells out $3,450 a month for the one-bedroom, which has exposed brick, a fireplace and a vaulted ceiling. It is far pricier than one-bedrooms in several full-service elevator buildings in the same neighborhood.

Prospecting for Dollars: Developers Market Foreign Real Estate to New Yorkers

(The New York TimesInternational buyers are known for spending big money in New York, be it the woman from China who spent more than $6 million on a home for her toddler at the skyscraper One57, or the daughter of Dmitry Rybolovlev, the Russian potash magnate, who used a trust to pay $88 million for an apartment at 15 Central Park West.

But what of wealthy New York buyers who might set their sights elsewhere? As luxury real estate surges globally, developers with projects in cities around the world are increasingly turning their marketing dollars toward New York.

Staten Island Property Puts a Nascar Failure Behind It

(New York Times) A windswept corner of the industrial northwest coast of Staten Island is infamous as a dumping ground for toxic waste, a home to Mafia-related crime and perhaps even more notoriously, the location for an ill-fated attempt to build New York City’s first Nascar racetrack.

Known as Bloomfield, at its center is a vast, 440-acre former oil tank farm where frequent spills caused untold damage to the fragile freshwater wetlands that surround it. Fenced off from the public, the GATX petroleum storage facility has lain fallow for years, its abandoned dock and warehouses now rusted hulks from the brackish water that flooded the site after Hurricane Sandy.

Though it is still years from completion, a project in Staten Island will become a marine port and a logistics center, with warehouses to store goods. Credit: Mary DiBiase Blaich for The New York Times

Club Monaco Will Offer Books and Coffee Alongside Fashion

(The New York Times) Offer the coziness of a library, a cup of coffee or an Art Deco fireplace in a ladies’ lounge as a gateway to a shopping spree. That’s the new vision for Club Monaco, which is opening a sprawling flagship store on Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron district on Monday.

Michael Shvo Is Back, and as Brash as Ever

(The New York Times) At the height of the real estate boom, the broker Michael Shvo brashly coined the phrase “Let’s Shvo” to define his style of marketing. That meant 24-hour sales offices, parties featuring red carpets and leggy models, and aggressive selling tactics that some considered questionable. Then, when the market crashed, Mr. Shvo became as elusive as he had once been ubiquitous. Now, after having taken a few years off to work on his art collecting, he’s back.



Family Compounds, By Elevator

(The New York Times)  Some parents dream of owning a home where their adult children and grandchildren also can live. For those with the means, that translates into a family compound, with several generations living in their own houses within the same property line. But here in New York City, creating such expansive homes can be prohibitively expensive. Nevertheless, a lucky few are building multigenerational compounds in the sky.

At 10 Madison Square West, a 125-unit condominium at West 24th Street where asking prices top $4,000 a square foot, four separate families are hoping to create multigenerational homes. In each case, parents bought apartments for themselves and then a second, noncontiguous unit for their adult children.

Patrice Jacobs, right, calls the same building home as, from left: her daughters Stacy Westreich and Allison Schulman; their husbands (only Richard Westreich was home); and their children. Katherine Marks for The New York Times

What Happens When Your Rental Building Goes Condo

The conversion of 737 Park Avenue, from a rental building to condos, has sparked a number of lawsuits with rental tenants. Credit: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

(The New York Times) On first blush, it looks like Carol Cohen, a top residential broker in Manhattan who has counted the fashion designer Vera Wang and the publishing scion Lachlan Murdoch as clients, has a great setup. She lives with her husband in a sprawling two-bedroom apartment on a prime block on Park Avenue, for which she pays about $3,000 a month in rent, far less than the $9,500 a month a nearby two-bedroom on Park Avenue costs.       

But her building, 737 Park Avenue, is becoming luxury condominiums, with units priced as high as $27 million. And in a fairly transparent attempt to push Ms. Cohen out of her apartment, the developer is suing to have her investigated for tax fraud.         

Big Deal: High-Rises to Replace an East Side Eyesore

(The New York Times) Countless New Yorkers have driven by the construction rubble that lines the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive from East 35th Street to East 41st. The eyesore has lingered there for more than a dozen years, the target of virulent community opposition, fraught City Council hearings and a lengthy approval process.         

Now the first shovels have hit the ground, and the block-front on First Avenue between 35th and 36th Streets will soon be transformed into two curving, copper-clad residential towers, creating some 800 new high-end rental units.         

Big Deal: New York’s Beau Monde Finds Downtown

(The New York Times) For a select group of New Yorkers, having dinner at Harry Cipriani on 59th Street is considered “going downtown.”

But the dynamic between New Yorkers who live on the Upper East Side and those in Lower Manhattan is shifting, with many uptown adherents now embracing downtown neighborhoods that would once have been considered unthinkable.       

“Downtown is livelier — we feel as though we have been in Milan for the weekend,” said Brooke Garber Neidich, a chairwoman of the Whitney Museum, a founder and chairwoman of the Child Mind Institute and a trustee of Lincoln Center Theater.       

Places like Sant Ambroeus, in the West Village, are drawing uptown adherents. Credit: Lee Celano for The New York Times

Big Deal: Selling Park Avenue Condos at $250,000 a Minute

(The New York Times)  Harry B. Macklowe flew an Emmy-award-winning film crew to southern England, hired the famed tightrope walker Philippe Petit and bought the song rights to a Mama Cass classic, all for a four-minute movie to market his latest condominium development.

For years now, developers seeking to sell their condominiums have produced videos, typically featuring interviews with architects and designers, and rarely costing more than $100,000. But to make the movie for 432 Park Avenue — the luxury condominium that will reign as the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere when completed in 2015 — Mr. Macklowe spent more than $1 million. The price tag, which comes to $250,000 a minute, or more than $4,000 a second, raises eyebrows even in a city where the average condo costs $2 million.      

Part of a film promoting 432 Park Avenue was shot at Silvercup Studios, including a scene the highwire artist Philippe Petit. Credit: Gustav Liliequist

Big Deal: Looking Down on the Empire State

(The New York Times) Not since builders stuck a dirigible mooring mast to the top of the Empire State Building, eclipsing the Chrysler Building as the world’s tallest tower, have developers been engaged in the type of skyscraper war that New York City is now witnessing.       

But unlike the rivalries of the early 20th century, when buildings pierced the clouds to house corporate headquarters, this one involves no fewer than three alpine condominiums with penthouses on the 90th floor and higher, which are being built to woo big-spending American hedge funders, Chinese magnates and Russian oligarchs. Two of them will rise above the 1,250-foot-high Empire State Building, by 300 feet and 146 feet, respectively (although the Empire State Building officially tops off at 1,454 feet when its lighting rod is included).         

A number of residential skyscrapers will join the Empire State Building on the Manhattan skyline, but only two of them will be taller. Credit: Todd Heisler/The New York Times


A Magnet for Shoppers Is Getting a Makeover

(The New York Times) Mitra Suleiman drives seven hours to Central Valley, N.Y., from her home in Ottawa, Canada, every year in search of a bargain. Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, an outdoor maze of shops an hour’s drive north of New York City, “has so much variety, there is nothing like it where we are from,” said Ms. Suleiman, 36. “Right now, I’m on the hunt for shoes for my son.” 

On a recent weekday afternoon, there was a jumble of visitors, many of whom had paid $42 for the CitySights NY bus from Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal. Those who had driven themselves spent as long as 30 minutes searching for a parking space among the acres of blacktop. Loudspeakers announced the day’s sales in various languages, including Mandarin and Spanish, as families pushed baby carriages and consulted maps to find their bearings.       

Now, for the first time in 15 years, the complex’s plazas and labyrinthine layout are preparing for a face-lift.       


Home on the High Line

(The New York Times) In the whitewashed art galleries of West Chelsea, parents pushing baby carriages are now as commonly seen as quirky art students, while the recently opened Avenues: the World School has brought streams of well-heeled school children flowing through 10th Avenue.       

With West Chelsea, home to the popular and still-developing High Line park, now firmly established as family-friendly, a growing number of developers are specifically catering to their needs.         

A Trophy by a Tower

(The New York Times) Seeking to tap into the trophy apartment craze that has gripped New York City’s luxury market, Joseph Moinian, the developer of the W New York Downtown Hotel and Residences, is bringing a $40 million duplex penthouse to the market.       

The apartment, which would be the highest-priced listing in the financial district, will combine 12 units on the 55th and 56th floors, offering unimpeded views of Lower Manhattan and the neighboring One World Trade Center. The 12,000-square-foot home, which does not have private outdoor space, will also come with a $2 million credit toward design and construction. 

‘Historic’ Doesn’t Rule Out ‘New’

(The New York Times) Since it was designated a historic district in 2001, the Madison Square North neighborhood, with its row houses and Art Deco-style towers, has undergone a striking transformation. Hotels and offices have replaced many of the warehouses and garment showrooms that once populated the 10 blocks around the northern end of Madison Square Park.      

But although the character of the tenants has shifted, the historic neighborhood, which some call NoMad (for North of Madison Square Park) and which is bounded by 25th and 29th Streets, between Madison Avenue and Avenue of the Americas, has seen very little new construction since the Great Depression.        


Equipped to Weather Big Storms, a Jersey City Tower Draws Tenants

(The New York Times) In the six months since Hurricane Sandy hit, office tenants have been flocking to a huge glass tower in Jersey City despite its being right along the waterfront. It may seem counterintuitive for companies to pointedly search for office space near the water, but the 500,000-square-foot building at 111 Town Square Place in Newport is a hybrid data center and office building that offers tenants backup generators, redundant power and an extensive fiber optic network.

On the rooftop of the Newport Financial Center building in Jersey City. Six generators that use diesel fuel are in the enclosure.

Credit: Brian Harkin for The New York Times