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Prisoners of Hudson Street


The view from the (soon-to-be-rebuilt) penthouse.  

In the end, the penthouse will be dismantled to make way for an acceptable—that is, less visible—replacement. “It’s going to be magnificent,” says Turner, adding that the architect James Carpenter, known as one of the great glass guys in the business, is overseeing the redo. That’s cold comfort to brokers who’ve been waiting years to collect their commission and whose clients are stuck. (The commercial tenants weren’t affected and have been settled in for years.)

One woman was pregnant when she and her husband went into contract, and now the baby’s a toddler; the plans Van Der Knaap paid an interior designer to draw up may no longer work, as his family’s needs have changed. “To keep an entire building [waiting] . . . I’m not buying for the roof terrace. If I had to wait three years to use the roof terrace, I wouldn’t care,” he fumes. He’s even more steamed at the suggestion that he shouldn’t complain, given how much his property has appreciated. (It’s easily worth $5 million now, and some suspicious types involved in the deals even think the developer would be happy if they walked, since the units could be resold for far more money.) “Since values have gone up so much, there’s no way we can say no to this and turn around and buy something similar,” says Van Der Knaap. “We’d have to pay more for it. It’s like golden handcuffs.”

As of now, nobody will say when he can move in. Turner says “by May”; in January, buyers got their closing dates, which were then postponed; the same thing happened in February. “The last [we heard], they needed one or two more inspections. I have no clue what those are. It’s just words,” laments El-Yachar. So why wait? “I shouldn’t sing too much praise [but] . . . I love the space,” says Van Der Knaap. “Whenever we had doubts, we’d go over,” says Glenn Norrgard of Sotheby’s International Realty, “and as soon as the doors opened and we walked in, the sun would be flooding in through the windows and [my clients] would fall in love again.” (Norrgard has two buyers in the wings.) Steinberg tells a similar story. “When I take people there and we get into the elevator, I tell them, ‘Be prepared. It’s going to be an emotional experience.’ And they think, Broker. Then we get [in] and they gasp, ‘Oh. My. God.’ . . . I’m so angry about this deal, but when I go into the building, I forget everything. It’s that beautiful.”


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