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Buying, By the Numbers


165 Charles Street: Where the Culture Business Sleeps  


State Comptroller Alan Hevesi said in 2004, “Wall Street profits and bonuses are critical to New York City’s economic well-being.” Nothing much has changed since then. Lawyers and finance guys still rule, at least real-estate-wise. Now that the stock market’s back to breaking records—the Dow did it again last week—bonuses are bound to be big again. (Last year, they totaled a record $21.5 billion.) That money is heading into blue-chip apartment buildings, including 255 Hudson (where the finance industry accounts for 27 percent of new owners) and 310 East 53rd Street (23 percent), and often those bonuses are their down payments.

Why now? Real estate is a relatively good place to park new money. “It’s its own asset class,” says Hal Henenson of Prudential Douglas Elliman, and diversifying one’s portfolio means including a home or three. (He adds that lawyers, even more than finance folk, seem to be the ones doing it most.) Though many could easily pass a co-op’s financial scrutiny, Corcoran broker Garret Lepaw says he sees shoppers going condo: “Even when they can afford to buy traditional co-ops, they may not do so. They like the flexibility and freedom” to sell or sublet.


Not only are young families staying here to raise their kids, but their empty-nest parents who left a generation ago for the suburbs are moving back. “They want to be in a place where the entire world is outside their door,” explains Tom Postilio of CORE Group Marketing. At 45 Park Avenue, not far from the Midtown Tunnel and a quick hop from the theater district, 72 percent are coming from outside Manhattan, and half of those are from the near suburbs. At the Onyx Chelsea on West 28th Street, 10 percent of buyers so far are empty-nesters. A fifth of those who’ve purchased at 520 West 19th Street, all in their mid-forties to early sixties, plan to use their apartments as home base when they’re here; at the Jade, 16 percent are buying second homes. One businessman in Queens says he and his wife are trading in their house on the quiet streets of Forest Hills for the Avery on the Upper West Side. “It’s near Lincoln Center and has views of the water,” he says. Adds Postilio, “It’s nice for them to be able to go to the museum or Central Park when the mood strikes. They’ve done their time in the burbs, and they have freedom to explore.”


We may not be flooded with international buyers—as noted above, this is a homegrown boom—but in neighborhoods like Times Square and the Upper East Side, they’re certainly a factor. (Condos are often the overseas buyer’s only option, because many co-ops don’t allow pied-à-terres.) Twelve percent of purchasers at 310 East 53rd Street come from overseas; at 105 Norfolk Street and at Roebling Square in Williamsburg, virtually no one does. (An ad on the Amsterdam version of Craigslist gets points for trying, though: “Centrally located in Fort Greene, one of Brooklyn’s hippest downtown neighborhoods …”) They also gravitate toward elite properties attached to international personalities, like André Balazs’s 40 Mercer (where foreigners snapped up just over a fifth of the apartments) and the Richard Meier–designed 165 Charles.

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