Residential cover stories

Leonardo DiCaprio Builds an Eco-Resort

(The New York Times) In what may be his highest-impact leading role yet, the actor Leonardo DiCaprio, the Oscar-nominated “Wolf of Wall Street,” is planning to heal an island.

A well-known environmental activist, Mr. DiCaprio bought Blackadore Caye, 104 acres of wild, unpopulated land off the coast of Belize, with a partner soon after he set foot in the country a decade ago. “It was like heaven on earth,” he said, speaking by telephone from Los Angeles. “And almost immediately, I found this opportunity to purchase an island there.”

Now Mr. DiCaprio has joined with Paul Scialla, the chief executive of Delos, a New York City-based developer, to create an eco-conscious resort there. When it opens to guests in 2018, “Blackadore Caye, a Restorative Island” will feature the trappings of many luxury resorts, with sprawling villas, infinity pools and stunning sunset views.

Benedict Kim for The New York Times

The Lure of the Gold Coast: Wealthy Chinese Buyers Head to New York’s Suburbs

(The New York Times) For the past several years, wealthy buyers from China have been purchasing investment properties and pieds-à-terre in luxurious Manhattan high-rises. Lately, though, some have moved their portfolios east to the exclusive enclaves of Long Island, springing for the pricey houses of the North Shore’s Gold Coast.

Some Chinese buyers are parking money in what they see as a low-risk investment. Others are seeking a trophy home. Still others are intent on living in these places full time while their children attend the area’s high-performing schools.

The suburbs of Long Island are not the only places growing in desirability among the Chinese.

Luxury Condos: Dialing It Down

Adam Gordon has shifted his focus from developing luxury buildings to developing a luxury storage facility at 305 East 61st Street, an 11-story building. Credit Bryan Thomas for The New York Times

(The New York Times) The developer Adam Gordon, who converted the Bouwerie Lane Theater into luxury condominiums and created a boutique building rising in West Chelsea with an $18 million penthouse, is taking a break from constructing apartments. Instead, he is spending his time at a cattle ranch he bought for his family in Sonoma, Calif., and concentrating on his storage facilities business.

“Residential development has gotten too risky; it is just not a good bet,” Mr. Gordon said. “A lot of the guys who are staying in the game now are gamblers, and I’m just not one of them.”

A great deal of hubbub has surrounded the luxury real estate market in Manhattan in recent months. Seemingly every week prices reach new heights — the latest is a triplex penthouse on Park Avenue that is listed for $130 million — and bidding wars have become so common as to be unexceptional.

Living in the Mix: Affordable Housing in New York's Luxury Buildings

(The New York Times) Brandon Deese lives just a few blocks from where he grew up, but it might as well be another world.  

Mr. Deese, 23, spent his childhood at the Chelsea-Elliott Houses, a public-housing project in the West 20’s. But last year, thanks to a housing lottery, he beat out thousands of others for an affordable apartment at the Chelsea Park, a luxury rental at 260 West 26th Street.

“I used to go downstairs and see crack heads and drug dealers, and now when I go downstairs I see doormen,” said Mr. Deese, who himself works as a night doorman on the Upper West Side. He pays $540 a month for a studio, a discount of about 83 percent from the market-rate rent, which is around $3,200 a month, according to listings on StreetEasy.


A Translator of Blueprints

(The New York Times) When “60 Minutes,” the CBS News show, secured an exclusive interview with a member of the Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden, one of the first things it did was search for a model maker who could replicate the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

“I said, ‘We have to do a model,’ since to my mind, I couldn’t understand the story without it,” said Henry Schuster, a producer at “60 Minutes.” “A model is the original 3-D, it allows you to see everything at scale, and spatially, you can move from place to place and get a sense of progression that isn’t possible with fancy graphics.”

To find someone who could replicate Bin Laden’s home and its surroundings in miniature, the producers called various experts for recommendations, including Robert A. M. Stern, the architect and dean of the Yale School of Architecture. At the top of everyone’s list was Richard Tenguerian, 57, a model maker who has spent the past three decades working for some of the world’s most famous architects from his basement workshop on Lafayette Street near Astor Place.

Katherine Marks for The New York Times

The Bahamas on the Radar

(The New York Times) For several years, wealthy New Yorkers, even those relatively unscathed by the financial crisis, seemed to put their second-home dreams on hold. But as the real estate market in the city has strengthened, many of these high-end buyers have started shopping for beachfront retreats again.

The Albany, a luxury resort in the Bahamas with boldface names like Tiger Woods and Ernie Els for investors, hopes to capitalize on this latest trend. And for a direct link between New York and this development, Howard M. Lorber, the chairman of Douglas Elliman and the chief executive of the investment firm New Valley, is developing a midrise condominium there. This is the first time that Mr. Lorber, who is based in New York, is developing in the Bahamas and also the first time Douglas Elliman is marketing there.

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.

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

More Units Going Up in a Snap

(The New York Times) A vacant lot on Broadway between Academy and 204th Streets in Inwood is littered with rubble and concrete pilings. But in a matter of weeks, this 50-foot-wide sand pit will be transformed into a seven-story apartment building, with finished bathrooms, maple cabinetry and 10 terraces. It is not a magic trick, but rather the result of modular, or prefabricated, construction.

A technique in which a building is manufactured piecemeal on a factory assembly line, trucked to the construction site and erected much the way Legos are, modular construction is gaining popularity across New York City. It is not new, but it has never gained much of a foothold here, in part because of its association with low-cost housing like mobile homes. That perception is changing; the city does not track modular data, but at least anecdotally, more developers and architects are embracing its ethos.

The Generator is the Machine of the Moment

So, this story came together during Christmas and New Year's. Not an ideal time to report. It was slow going for a while, then the day I was to file the piece, a bunch of developers began calling me unprompted after hearing through the grape vine what I was working on. That rarely happens and it is a good day for a reporter when it does! I think developers saw this as an opportunity to reassure potential buyers that their buildings wouldn't be impacted if (or rather when) there is another Hurricane Sandy.

I actually got quite a bit of news into the story as well, including that Time Equities is rethinking its condominium project at 50 West Street and may replace its hotel with retail; and that the wealthy owners at Superior Ink in the West Village forked over $1 million last month to start renovations on its building rather than wait for the insurance money.

The other struggle with this piece was how to illustrate it. Generators aren't exactly sexy. I think the photographer did a good job, considering what he had to work with.

Here's the top of the story:

(The New York Times) In the days that followed Hurricane Sandy, the developer of the luxury condominium 150 Charles Street hunkered down with his team of architects and engineers to rethink the building’s design.

Just steps from the Hudson River, the construction site was partially flooded. “Their mandate was to figure out how the building would have stayed open in a storm like this,” said Steven Witkoff, the developer. “They came back with a list of five things, and we implemented every single one.”

HIGH AND DRY At 116 John Street, the backup generator is on the roof. Many buildings are considering moving mechanical systems out of basements to reduce the risk of flood damage. Credit: Evan Sung for the New York Times

Fertilizer Billionaire Buys Buildings His Way, in Cash

(The New York Times) It is rare when a buyer pays all cash for a real estate property, and even rarer when the dollar figure is in excess of $300 million. But that was the case last week when a fertilizer tycoon, Alex Rovt, acquired a majority stake in 14 Wall Street, the 1-million-square-foot office building across from the New York Stock Exchange in Lower Manhattan.


Alex Rovt, a native of Ukraine, bought 14 Wall Street for $303 million, without a broker. Credit: Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times