Across 110th Street
The gold rush is on in Harlem, but Manhattan's big brokerages are finding that they need locals who know the lay of the land.
As Harlem real-estate values shot up 40 percent in the past year, brokers who seldom ventured north of 96th Street have been breaking into the market. The brands are all there -- Corcoran, Charles H. Greenthal, Douglas Elliman -- elbowing one another for a piece of the action. But Harlem's not that easy; Corcoran's much-ballyhooed uptown office never opened. "Every area is so peculiar," says Prudential MLBKaye's Lewis Kaye, who's been looking to set up shop uptown himself. "We'd like to work with someone who's been there, someone with a good reputation." For him, that someone is the Greater Harlem Real Estate Board, a 72-year-old organization of neighborhood brokers. Corcoran and Greenthal are prospective members, but the influx makes some locals nervous: "We're not going to have our board taken over by a bunch of people who just got here five minutes ago," declares prominent uptown broker Willie Kathryn Suggs. With brownstones in Hamilton Heights selling for $2 million a pop, things are getting competitive.
"Our focus is not to exclude anybody," says Orlando Rivera, GHREB's executive director. "But we wanted to be sure to promote and facilitate opportunity for local families who never abandoned the area."
Seeking goodwill and customers, Prudential and several other new arrivals are sponsoring GHREB's monthly seminars for prospective buyers, where lenders, brokers, and nonprofit housing groups host sessions on credit management and financing. Forty people who've gone through the year-old sessions have bought, including Kimberly Felder, a 30-year-old teacher. Felder paid $336,000 for a 3,200-square-foot townhouse that's under construction right now on 129th Street off Lenox Avenue (pictured) after attending one four months back. She'd been renting before, on 135th Street.
"I knew I wanted to buy a house, and I didn't want to leave Harlem," says Felder. "We're undergoing a historical change, and it's important for us to stay here."
200 East 57th Street.
2-bed, 2 and 1/2-bath co-op. Ask: $1.3 million. Sell: $1.1 million. Maintenance: $3,400. Four months on market.
Back in the swingin' sixties, the builder of this apartment house custom-built this groovy pad for himself, says Charles H. Greenthal's Bruce Rabbino, who recently sold it. With a dance floor in the living room, off-white marble floors in the foyer and living room, and an abnormally high bedroom ceiling -- Oh, behave! -- "it's large, but not a family apartment," says Rabbino. "Because of the way the rooms are laid out, it was definitely made for adults." The buyers are moving in from Long Island, where things aren't nearly as shagadelic.
209 East 31st Street
3-bed, 2 and 1/2-bath, 4,700-square-foot house. Ask: $2.1 million. Sell: $1.525 million. Four years on market.
The sellers gutted this former rooming house and lived there for 35 years over their religious-supplies store. But the patron saint of real estate wasn't looking out for them: It took four years, a reduced asking price, and a nearby new retail complex to find a buyer. The new owner, who plans to run a sports-marketing company in the store and live upstairs, was represented by Jeff Silverstein of Dwelling Quest. The sellers, represented by John Ciraulo of Massey Knakal, moved to a place with a doorman, not a shop, on the ground floor.
On the Move
Rock the Boathouse
Has Billy Joel finally found a cold spring harbor deep enough for his boat? Now that he's sold his East Hampton house to Jerry Seinfeld for $32 million, sources say, he's close to buying an $8.9 million place on Robertson Drive in North Haven, north of the Montauk Highway. "He's not looking for a trophy house," says one broker. "He's already had that." The Robertson Drive place is a 1955 house with two master bedrooms and a pool on five and a half acres, with a big deep-water dock that has a seven-foot draw. "He's looking for the best harbor he can buy," says the broker. But the owners shouldn't pack up yet: This fall, Joel changed his mind on the $14 million Marshlands estate in Southampton that features a dock directly underneath the house, and he doesn't seem to be commitment-minded. "Maybe he should buy Gardiners Island," joked a broker.