Manhattan Real Estate Feels a Russian Chill

(The New York TimesWho doesn’t enjoy a good yarn about Russian oligarchs who throw their fortunes at New York real estate? Take the Russian fertilizer king Dmitry Rybolovlev, who is linked to a record-breaking $88 million sale at 15 Central Park West, or the composer Igor Krutoy, who bought three apartments at the Plaza Hotel. Yet these tales of excess could soon fade into memory.

Moscow may be 4,500 miles from Manhattan, but with tensions intensifying over the annexation of Crimea, an Arctic Russian blast could chill the high-flying luxury real estate market here.

Wealthy Russians have been sinking fortunes into some of the priciest condominiums in Manhattan, including the Plaza Hotel, far left, 15 Central Park West, center, and the Marquand, at 11 East 68th Street. CreditMarilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

And some personal thoughts on the story....

This column got quite a bit of attention. Megan McArdle wrote a blog post on Bloomberg View riffing of this idea. She points out that too many foreign buyers in a market can result in a repeat of those Chinese ghost towns we have all heard about, noting, "outside of construction jobs, the ultrarich don’t add much to the city -- their apartments sit vacant for most of the year, which means they don’t generate demand for much except one-time construction jobs. String enough of those together and you’ll kill the streetscape."

I was also asked to go on Yahoo! Finance to talk about the topic. Other than looking a bit hunchback in the segment (note to self: do not lean over the anchor desk while wearing a blazer), I hopefully get the salient points across. 

Terrace for Sale, Includes Condo

(The New York Times) After a seemingly endless winter, the first hints of spring have teased us with a day or two of temperatures over 60 degrees. That fleeting glimpse of warmth sent many New Yorkers flying out of doors to enjoy the sunshine. For my part, I sipped my morning coffee at home last week and stared wistfully out the window at a neighbor’s balcony.

In our concrete jungle, there is a hefty dollar value attached to having your own garden oasis — even the smallest of shrubberies carries a price tag. And with so many residents suffering from a vitamin D deficiency these days, brokers are promoting listings that can claim specks of green, even if they’re barely large enough to hold a bonsai.

The developers of 215 Sullivan Street in the Village promote its “lushly landscaped backyard.”Credit Watson & Company

And some personal thoughts on the story.....

On a directive from my editor, I've written this column using the "I" format, something that makes most of us journalists super uncomfortable. But I'm starting to embrace the concept of having a viewpoint, or "voice." It's fun to have an opinion!

Manhattan Loft Guy took down my column here. He's a bit of a rambler, not sure I totally get it. But I welcome any thoughts on the matter! He also takes down perennial NYT commentator and super Jets fan Jonathan Miller

Higher Prices Migrate to Far Upper East Side

(The New York Times) Third Avenue has long been a dividing line on the Upper East Side. “West of Third” serves as shorthand for the stylish neighborhood in the TV show “Gossip Girl,” where private-school girls live in stately Park Avenue co-ops and shop in boutiques along Madison Avenue. “East of Third” refers to the delis and bagel shops that make up many of the storefronts around York Avenue, and the tenement style walk-ups filled with recent college graduates who flock to the cheap rent.

These boundaries, however, seem to be shifting. The penthouse at the Charles, a glass-and-limestone condominium rising on a nondescript block on First Avenue, well beyond the Third Avenue demarcation line, recently went into contract for $37.94 million. The price is more than double the previous sales record in the area, the $17 million paid for a condominium at 170 East End Avenue in 2009, according to data from

A penthouse in the Charles, a glass-and-limestone condo rising from a nondescript block on First Avenue, recently went into contract for $37.94 million. The buyer is creating a quadruplex with 1,300 square feet of private terrace space on two levels. Credit Williams New York

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

When Age Belies Buying Power: How New York’s Young Millionaires Live

(The New York Times) In the universe of ultraluxury real estate, much attention has been lavished on foreign investors who pay record prices for glassy Midtown condominiums, and the wave of previously staunch uptown residents suddenly spending big to embrace unlikely neighborhoods in LowerManhattan.

Now get ready for a new group of well-to-do buyers who are quickly gaining momentum: under-40 multimillionaires.

New York Property Managers Devise Survival Plans for the Next Disaste

(The New York Times) In the hectic days that followed Hurricane Sandy, the only place that John Ambrosini could find cell service was on a hill near his home on the North Shore of Long Island.

There he would sit, his phone plugged into the car lighter — the only available source of electricity — and run operations overseeing some 60 Manhattan office buildings, many of which were without power and inundated by corroding floodwaters.

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.

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

The Stars Inside the Building

(The New York Times) The real estate industry in New York City continues to produce pricey new condominiums, seemingly at the rate of tennis balls spit out of a ball launcher. This market revival has pushed the role of the boldface architect back into the spotlight, although that position may have to be shared this time around with interior designers.

With nearly every project under construction intended for the ultraluxury market, it is essentially impossible to develop a building without attaching the brand of a star architect, better known by the eye-rolling portmanteau “starchitect.” Tapping such a person to help sell a building started more than a decade ago, in 2000, when the architect Richard Meier designed the gleaming white towers on the West Side Highway in the West Village that drew buyers like Calvin Klein and Martha Stewart. That trend persisted until the financial crisis, when building projects stalled and many architects looked outside New York for work.

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


(The New York Times) A run-down parking garage is for sale on the corner of Perry and Greenwich Streets in the West Village, and at least one of the bidders wants to tear it down to its bones and replace it with a 40,000-square-foot mansion — creating what would be the largest single-family home in New York City.

Just down the road, at 145 Perry Street, the hedge-fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen paid nearly $39 million for a small commercial building that he is reportedly converting into a single-family home. And in the same neighborhood, the Texas oil heiress and novelist Hyatt Bass and her husband, Josh Klausner, a screenwriter, are transforming a former film studio where Martin Scorsese and Sandra Bullock once shot scenes. The new home will have nearly 12,000 square feet and is being designed by the architect Annabelle Selldorf.

Welcome to the new Gilded Age.


A building at 802 Greenwich Street is being transformed into a 12,000- square-foot home for the Bass family. Marilynn K. Yee/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

Seizing Iran's Slice of Fifth Avenue

(The New York Times) For years, tenants have worked uneasily inside the Manhattan skyscraper formerly known as the Piaget Building, as federal prosecutors tried to wrest the prime real estate from Iranian-related partners.

The office tower at 650 Fifth Avenue, built in the late 1970s by the Shah of Iran, has been the subject of seizure proceedings by federal prosecutors who contended that the ownership groups engaged in money laundering for their government and also violated economic sanctions imposed against Iran.

The owners of 650 Fifth Avenue were found to have broken sanctions imposed against Iran. Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency

The Story Of Madison Square Park's Half-Finished Skyscraper

(The New York Times) It’s been a long, strange ride for the pencil-thin building that towers over the south side of Madison Square Park.       

The bronze and glass skyscraper, known as One Madison, rises 60 stories above the foot of Madison Avenue and runs block-through from East 23rd Street to East 22nd Street. Conceived during the peak of the last real estate bubble by two developers who had never before built in New York City, the project eventually flamed out in a spectacular crash, piled under mountains of debt and multiple lawsuits.