A Roof of One’s Own

(Courtesy of Eberhart Brothers, Inc.)

There’s something romantic, even a bit peculiar, about living in a private house on a rooftop. Architects like to call them penthouses, but these little structures speckled across Manhattan are more than just top-floor apartments with views. They’re almost suburban, with a quasi-backyard, a private front door, even a front porch. They’re the perfect compromise: central yet isolated, in the thick of things yet exclusive, urban yet verdant (depending on the landscaping).

And it turns out building these idiosyncratic residences is good business. For Eberhart Brothers, a real-estate and development firm with more than 60 buildings, rooftop houses are a way to squeeze every last inch of rentable space out of an old building. The 78-year-old company has turned 26 tar roofs into well-appointed multilevel penthouses, with fireplaces, washer-dryers, and large patios. “We started researching, about twelve years ago, what we could do with the excess air rights that didn’t require knocking down the buildings and starting over,” says Jason Enters, Eberhart’s director of design and construction. The houses are marketed to groups of young professionals as “Supershares.”

At 1705 First Avenue, where Eberhart completed four duplex penthouses in March, rents start at $3,600 for a two-bedroom and go up to $6,500 for a four-bedroom. (It takes eight months to add one to a building, at a cost of about $900,000.) Five more are in the works, on East 96th Street near Third Avenue. “They’re very well priced for what they offer,” says Arlene Sommer, an agent at Citi Habitats who rents one of Eberhart’s penthouses. “The one thing is that they’re on the fifth floor of a walk-up.” According to Eberhart, the apartments have been popular among two groups: professionals in their twenties and thirties—the sort who install Foosball tables—and Europeans, who are used to the climb.

“It was the first and only place that we looked at,” says John Ryan, a 36-year-old bond trader who moved with his girlfriend into a three-bedroom multilevel penthouse on East 81st Street (pictured) in February. They grill on the terraces, and this summer Ryan is planning to put out a large blow-up pool for his 3-year-old daughter’s weekend visits. “Before, I was in a sterile high-rise. This looks and feels like a home.”

Def in Brooklyn
Every neighborhood deserves a celebrity booster—look what Robert De Niro has done for Tribeca!—and now Dumbo has one, too. A little over a year after opening his production office, Big & Small, at 45 Main Street, actor-rapper Mos Def has bought a condo in the cozy Brooklyn neighborhood. Sources say the entertainer, who reportedly has been renting a loft at developer David Walentas’s nearby Clock Tower building, will soon pay a bit over $1.5 million for an ultrasleek space in a building just off Water Street. Representatives from Two Trees, the developer behind the building, refused to comment on the sale; Mos Def’s representative says there’s “no truth” to the rumor.

Irving Plaza founder Andrew Rasiej, who’s looking to dethrone Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum in the next election, has sold his four-story townhouse at 13 Leroy Street. Keith G. Rubenstein, director of equity investments at Somerset Partners, paid the full asking price—$8.95 million—for the property, which, according to sources, was rented by Will Smith while he was in New York shooting Hitch.
—S. Jhoanna Robledo

70 Washington Street, Apartment 10D
The Facts: 1,700-square-foot two-bedroom, three-bath plus home office.
Price: $1.5 million.
Charges and Taxes: $807 per month.
Broker: Toby Klein, Two Trees.

70 Washington Street, Apartment 10O
The Facts: 1,656-square-foot two-bedroom, three-bath plus home office.
Price: $1.81 million.
Charges and Taxes: $980 per month.
Broker: Toby Klein, Two Trees.

Same Space, Different Place
Killer Views Cost Killer Bucks
How to explain the $310,000 price difference—that’s more than 20 percent—between these two condos at 70 Washington Street in Dumbo? The latest offering from the prescient developer David Walentas (who bought the building in 1981), these apartments located in opposite corners of the same floor are similarly configured and have sweeping views, says Toby Klein, the executive sales director—except that one has a picture-perfect panorama of the Statue of Liberty, the Hudson River, and lower Manhattan, and the other faces … uh, east. But cheer up, all you Brooklyn boosters: If you really believe in your borough, consider this a bargain opportunity.

A Roof of One’s Own