Above It All

Fifth Avenue and Central Park West are called the Gold Coasts; Central Park South is ever so slightly less prestigious but plenty expensive. But Central Park North—a.k.a. 110th Street between Fifth and Eighth avenues, which above the park is called Frederick Douglass Boulevard—has for years been the underachiever of the family. As recently as a couple of years ago, you’d turn the corner from Fifth Avenue in the low 100s and see an abrupt change from doormen and wealth to a line of raddled old buildings. Landowners who didn’t want to sell and the proximity of crime-laden Morningside Park kept buyers from making that left turn.

Such an imbalance couldn’t last in this market, of course, and Central Park North is definitely edging toward chic. “We call it Upper Manhattan,” says developer Louis Dubin of the Athena Group. Dubin recently bought the shopping center at the corner of Central Park North and Lenox Avenue, and hopes—pending a construction-hardship variance—to build seventeen stories of condos there selling for $450,000 to $2 million. (The sales office should open early next summer.) The tower will have a garage, and maybe a gym and a sculpture garden out front—where there’s also a 2/3 subway stop. “It’s for New Yorkers priced out of other neighborhoods,” says Dubin, who also developed the far ritzier sites at 838 Fifth Avenue and 43 West 64th Street. Next door, the old Parkway Hospital—abandoned in the late sixties, and then owned by Hale House—is being turned into lofts. And several blocks north, developer Joe Tahl is converting the Normandy, a prewar building where prices will probably range from $750,000 to $1.2 million for a four-bedroom, 1,800-square-foot apartment.

It’s all part of the larger Harlem rebirth—it’s just more dramatic when park views figure into the picture. Longtime Harlem broker Willie Kathryn Suggs says the condos are filling a void now that the uptown brownstone market has skyrocketed. One of her clients wants to trade his Riverside Drive apartment for a townhouse, but he’s having no luck. “He’s probably going to end up paying $1 million and getting a bigger apartment, because the houses between 110th Street and 125th Street are over $1 million and they need a gut renovation,” says Suggs, who ticked off a list of boldface neighborhood names—Marcia Gay Harden, Maya Angelou, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—who are moving in. “The developers are bringing us back to what we had before the bad old days, when no one in his right mind wanted to live here. Back then, you couldn’t find takers for a $500 townhouse.”

Keitel Doesn’t Sell
When will Harvey Keitel settle down? The tough-guy actor recently slashed the price of his Tribeca penthouse at 55 Hudson Street—again. Last spring, Keitel put the three-apartment combination, which sprawls over 4,200 square feet and has a private 3,000-square-foot roof terrace, on the market for $7 million before he moved in. He’d planned a big renovation, but then his new wife, Daphna Kaster, became pregnant and, sources say, Keitel started looking around for a doorman building. Over the summer, he dropped the price to $6.5 million, then to $6.3 million a few weeks ago (with Corcoran broker Wilbur Gonzalez). Brokers say Keitel is still hunting in the neighborhood, and is renting a loft on North Moore Street.

Another temporary Tribeca renter, media heir Lachlan Murdoch, has settled into a double-height duplex at 79 Laight Street that’s said to rent for $12,000 a month. Murdoch and his wife, Wonderbra model Sarah O’Hare—who just had a baby boy—sold their loft at 285 Lafayette Street for $7.5 million last spring; still no details about what Rupert’s boy is up to at 11 Spring Street, the mysterious, graffiti-tagged building he bought last year for $5.25 million, though a crane went up and work began a few weeks ago.

Triple Assessment
150 Central Park South (Hampshire House)
Two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,200-square-foot co-op.
Asking price: $1.725 million.
Monthly maintenance: $4,327.18.
Broker: Roger Erickson, Sotheby’s International Realty.

A few months ago, this apartment had a buyer at $1.675 million rejected by the co-op board. Perhaps there were concerns about anyone who’d buy an apartment with Mylar wallpaper and gold-dragon bathroom fixtures. “It’s like raw space,” says broker Roger Erickson, putting on a brave face. Our brokers agreed that it’s hard to argue with two bedrooms on a high floor facing the park, plus a big terrace. But at that price? With that maintenance?

Barbara Fox, Fox Realty: “The layout is nice,” says Fox, who was briefly terrified by what she thought was a dead rat. (It was a dust bunny.) The large windows in the living room and dining room are offset by the dark bedroom. She suggests marketing it as a pricey pied-à-terre: “Central Park South is the best for out-of-towners.”
Her assessment: $1.5 million.

Michele Kleier, Gumley Haft Kleier: “The maintenance is high, especially since the building recently got rid of maid service,” she says. (It’s still available for a fee.) “But park views add 20 percent.” The décor certainly didn’t help: “It looks like a war zone!” she says. “It needs to be styled.”
Her assessment: $1.595 million.

A. Laurance Kaiser IV, Key-Ventures Realty: Kaiser had already shown this apartment, back when it was furnished. “This is frightening!” he says, surveying a shattered mirror wall, but quickly adds, “polishing the floors and washing the windows would make all the difference.” He’d drop the asking price to start a bidding war.
His assessment: $1.475 million.

Above It All