Brokers are busily rebranding neighborhoods to make them sell. But is anyone buying?
Remember when people would only live in certain areas in the city? You knew what you were getting into if you moved to Yorkville. But as people moved to places they wouldn't have lived before, they wanted them to sound nicer. So brokers invented the microclimate: those weird new 'hoods that seem to exist mainly in real-estate ads.
"It's happened mostly in the last five years," says Corcoran's Leonard Steinberg. "It took a hell of a lot of work for people to believe they're real. NoLIta was a real tough one. And NoHo? It's like, can you not spell SoHo?"
Mostly, though, brokers say the marketing ploy has worked. "It helps to identify a location when a buyer's zoning in," says William B. May's Roberta Benzilio. "It creates a sense of mystique." Once known for animal carcasses and transvestite hookers, the meatpacking district is now called MePa and redolent with fabulous cafés. Or take Madison Green, near Madison Square Park. "It's not anything like Murray Hill," says Halstead's Robin Horowitz. "It got that name over four years ago," she says, when some broker started identifying listings that way. It works like so: "We just see them on the computer," and then the Times starts using the name.
Benzilio claims she's christened the area above the Battery Tunnel -- an "eclectic area for artists" -- NoBatt. Meanwhile, southern Harlem became "SoHa" and the photo district in Flatiron developed into "Phoho." Then there's "NoChel," north Chelsea; "UpWeChee," a.k.a. southern Hell's Kitchen; "Carroll Gardens West," really Red Hook; "Harnegie Hill," where Carnegie Hill meets Harlem; "LoHo," the Lower East Side; and -- ready? -- "NoFlatEeChee," north of Flatiron and east of Chelsea. "They're dividing neighborhoods into little squares as they become more and more developed," says Horowitz.
It doesn't always work: "NoMad" (north of Madison Square Park), has fallen out of use. "The connotation was bad," says Steinberg, "like you're in no-man's-land."
Derek Jeter's Home Run
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is going to steal home. Well, it's not exactly a steal: He's dropping $10 million on a five-bedroom space with twelve-foot ceilings high up in the Trump World Tower. The Donald himself helped sign Jeter, after his mom (adorned with one of Jeter's four championship rings around her neck) went house-hunting for her son all over Manhattan. They even checked out Barbra Streisand's apartment at 320 Central Park West. But when her son heard ex-girlfriend Mariah Carey had been rejected by the board, he walked. Then the Donald offered him a direct deal (no broker fee!) on the almost 5,000-square-foot palace with 80 feet of windows that overlook the fields of Queens. "It worked out perfectly for him, because he really wanted a loft, and the ceilings make the apartment feel like one," says one broker. And $10 million's not so much for a guy whose contract is worth $189 million. It's probably better than A-Rod's place, too.
Upper East Side
500 Park Avenue
2-bed, 2-bath, 1,708-square-foot condo. Ask: $1.495 million. Sell: $1.375 million. Charges and taxes: $2,965. Eight weeks on market.
Did you ever think of waiting out the bull market and then hoping for a deal? That seemed to be this buyer's plan. He started shopping in 1997, the same year the seller of this condo moved in. Finally, Peter Ashe owner Asher Alcobi found him this place (the seller was represented by Brown Harris Stevens), though after the last five years of price increases he sure didn't save any money. But he got a Park Avenue address without the prewar hassles, since this building went up in 1984. It has 40 floors and only 50 apartments, including this big two-corner layout with three open exposures.
65 West 13th Street
2-bed, 21/2-bath, 4,415-square-foot condo. Ask: $2.33 million. Sell: $2.33 million. Charges and taxes: $3,303. One week on market.
At least one Bear Stearns guy is still bullish. Among the first in to see this loft-conversion-in-progress, a thirtysomething financier snapped up side-by-side units, "figuring if he wants the extra space, it'll be there," says his broker, Stacey Gero of William B. May. The plan is for him and his new bride to live in the larger one and rent out the other until their needs inevitably expand -- with any luck, along with the Dow.