Jamie Rizzo was exiting his apartment building at 83rd Street and York Avenue when a passerby, staring at the 28-story frame of the new construction across the street, remarked, “Big money moving into the neighborhood.” Rizzo knew what the man was talking about; in fact, he’d checked out the building himself. With fancy German-made kitchen cabinets, Terrazzo floors, and the like, the Cielo is more luxurious than anything Yorkville—essentially the northeast corner of the Upper East Side, where it’s markedly less expensive than the rest of the area—has ever seen. With 512-square-foot studios starting at $700,000 and four-bedrooms as high as $5.3 million, it’s also more expensive. (And another similar building, called the Arcadia, will open in the neighborhood shortly.)
“It’s clearly a new pricing level,” says Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of the real-estate-appraisal firm Miller Samuel. (In 2004, co-op studios in the neighborhood averaged $212,838 apiece; condos fetched an extra 20 to 30 percent.) All the same, 40 percent of the Cielo’s 128 units have sold in five months. “You wouldn’t think you could stick a fancy condo in the middle of Yorkville five years ago,” marvels Susan Angel of Brown Harris Stevens, who lives nearby. Rizzo agrees. “I could see that in Soho or the West Village, but not in Yorkville,” he says. “You come here because it’s quiet and affordable.”
Why here, why now? Because, as apartment-shoppers know, inventory is super-scarce, and the last faintly affordable pieces of Manhattan—Kips Bay, the West Thirties, Washington Heights—are catching up with the rest of the market. As a result, prices are rising fast here too, says Jules Demchick, president of JD Carlisle, the developer of the Cielo and the downtown celebrity magnet Morton Square: “The tides are coming in.” That worries Walter Greene IV, a music marketing executive who lives in Yorkville with his wife, Karen. “The market’s crazy, and it’s not like Yorkville’s immune,” he says.
Not that it’s such a stretch to think Yorkville would get pricey. Though it boasts a low-key, almost suburban vibe, it’s home to Gracie Mansion and private schools like Brearley; East End Avenue is a main corridor. “I welcome them,” says Kristin Mannoni, a local mom who hopes the upscale buildings will bring better retail choices to Yorkville, especially to the blocks hugging the East River. “It’s either dry cleaners or nail salons now.”
Costas, Doing Business
Costas Kondylis is not a man known for subtlety. The Greek-American architect is the aesthetic force behind most of Donald Trump’s New York buildings, the successful Morton Square condominium development, and pretty much any hulking apartment tower in Manhattan that has a lot of gold trim attached to it. But when it comes to his own Hamptons property, his taste is considerably more restrained—and it’s paying off. Kondylis has just put his nineteenth-century Southampton house on the market for $2.4 million. He’d renovated the house, on North Main Street, after buying it eighteen years ago, and the result is quite tasteful, reflecting the austerely weathered beauty of the area’s Shingle Style farmhouses. (It’s also surrounded by several acres of farmland, preserving its uninterrupted views.) Kondylis isn’t going to be moving far, however—he and his interior-designer daughter, Alexia Kondylis, and her colleague Brian Callahan are refurbishing a twenties potato barn down the street into another summer home for the family.
Same Space, Different Place
The High Price of Flexibility
Once you get over the numbers—more than $1.5 million for a one-bedroom—you’ll notice that these condos have near-identical specs (square footage, ceiling height, paired balconies). Both are in a new tower in the area brokers are branding “Bloomingland,” for its proximity to the department store. Yet their asking prices are $98,500 apart. That’s the premium that buyers will incur if they want a dining room that might become a second bedroom, plus an extra bathtub—never mind that the apartments are the same size. “It’s the way the space is carved,” explains director of sales Elizabeth Unger. “At the end of the day, the other one is a straight one-bedroom.” A very expensive one.
205 East 59th Street, Apartment 12A
The Facts: One-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath, 1,122-square-foot condo.
Asking Price: $1,534,500.
Charges and Taxes: $1,316 per month (including tax abatement).
Broker: Elizabeth Unger, the Sunshine Group.
205 East 59th Street, Apartment 12B
The Facts: One-bedroom, two-bath, 1,113-square-foot condo.
Asking Price: $1,633,000.
Charges and Taxes: $1,341 per month.
Broker: Elizabeth Unger, the Sunshine Group.