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Magic and Loss

A skyline view was always an easy selling point. But buyers are suddenly looking out the windows in a new -- and uneasy -- way.

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EDITED BY CHRISTOPHER BONANOS

When she lived in Brooklyn, Robin Becker loved the Brooklyn Heights promenade's vista of Manhattan. And when she got tired of the commute and moved to SoHo in August, she was thrilled to discover her fire escape's spectacular view of the World Trade Center.

Now, she says, a "different air" prevails. The activity she loves on Spring Street is muted -- "people aren't walking about much" -- and the gap-toothed skyline is just "scary and sad."

A downtown view has always been the most spectacular of all selling points. But for many New Yorkers, a look at the skyline right now is more about heartache, even menace, than about urban dreams. (A recent Times story told of one Manhattanite who averts his gaze whenever he heads south.) Brokers who want people to pay a premium for the view are finding that conflicted buyers require some special handling.

"The absence of the towers is a great presence," says Ruth McCoy, who runs the downtown division of Brown Harris Stevens. She, like most brokers, recently rewrote all her ads that read wtc views. "If what we sold before was an emotional purchase, it's even more so now."

As they start to show apartments again, brokers are delicately noting that other aspects of city living have always been as important to buyers as the view. Even before the attack, people chose places like Battery Park City for myriad reasons, says Insignia Douglas Elliman's Julie Stevens: "proximity to the water, the good schools, the shopping." Frederick W. Peters, president of Ashforth Warburg Associates, adds that Brooklyn Heights views, for example, may appeal only to those for whom they're new. For others, "it will be painful."

Above all, the term million-dollar view may be obsolete. Housing prices had already been slipping before the attack, and the decline is sure to continue. "This will provide people with the opportunity to buy something they heretofore could not afford," says Peters. "New York is still New York, and I don't think anything will change that -- even a room without a view."


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