Key to Success

Courtesy of 50 Gramercy Park

When word spread last year that hotelier Ian Schrager would be gutting the well-loved, well-worn Gramercy Park Hotel to build luxury apartments, the exclusive neighborhood’s residents got very nervous. Gramercy Park, after all, is famously insular and slow to change. Would the structure, like the other Schrager developments, be too mod for the neighborhood? And who’d get keys to the private park? “There was concern,” concedes Arlene Harrison, a park trustee and block-association president. “What would he do?”

But six weeks after sales began, 50 Gramercy Park is getting a warm reception from its reserved neighbors. “It’s going to be elegant,” says Harrison, sounding more than a little relieved. Schrager admits he took great pains not to ruffle any feathers. “I’m not coming in here like a bull in a china shop,” he says, conceding that he’s an outsider in the tight-knit neighborhood. “I want to fit into the fabric of the area.” And buyers have responded; already, 19 of 23 apartments have sold, perhaps because the redesign of the building, by minimalist architect John Pawson (see rendering), is distinctive at a time when much high-end construction is rather generic.

Not that there haven’t been snafus. Construction-related traffic has made headlines, and Gramercy’s famously cranky residents have griped about the construction noise and dust. (Schrager’s team has received a thumbs-up from neighborhood groups for responding quickly to grievances; his $100,000 donation to the park probably didn’t hurt, either.) But a fancy new building next door has its benefits. Schrager’s larger apartments are supposedly fetching $3,000 per square foot (that’s $6 million for a 2,000-square-foot apartment), a rumor he neither confirms nor denies. Warburg Realty’s Judith Thorn says the prices will no doubt “help the value of the buildings nearby.” (Nothing else comes close; a recent sale at 1 Lexington, the handsome prewar across the street, reached $2,158 per square foot.) “You’re paying a certain amount for the branding,” explains Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Rob Gross, and, of course, for that magic key to the park (every buyer will, in fact, get access to one). Also for what Schrager dubs “effortless living,” which means the staff will take care of everything—including walking your dog and shopping for your groceries. “If I want to order a club sandwich at 1 A.M., I can,” says art dealer Alberto Mugrabi, who bought a three-bedroom after touring nearly 100 apartments. “Whatever I paid”—he won’t say how much—“it’s worth every penny.”

We Like It Here Better Anyhow
Born-and-bred New Yorker Melanie Griffith and her Spanish heartthrob husband, Antonio Banderas, have finally ended their six-month-plus search for the perfect Manhattan apartment. The celebrity couple, rumored to have been rejected by the famously difficult co-op board at the Dakota in January, got a much warmer reception at another handsome high-profile prewar on Central Park West. Their new space, for which they paid $3.995 million, has tree-line views of the park and eleven-foot ceilings. It also gives them plenty of square footage for their large family, with four bedrooms, four baths, and a nanny’s room. Sloane Square’s Amy Tucker Meltzer and Susan Kane, who are said to have squired Griffith and Banderas during their prolonged hunt, would not comment on the transaction. No word on whether Griffith’s endlessly entertaining Website (; we highly recommend you start with the Story of Avalon Meditation Room) will post comments from the star about her move.

Same Space, Different Place
Headroom With a View
Granted, the more expensive of these two condos in the Oxford, an Upper East Side residential development built in the nineties, is slightly bigger and sits on a higher floor. Still, the $224,000 difference in asking price seems a tad outrageous given that they’re nearly identical in layout and finishes. But 23D has ten-foot-four ceilings in the living room and second bedroom, whereas 20C has the standard nine-footers in all the rooms. “Buyers love the higher ceilings and the feeling of grandeur,” says sales agent Mitch Askinas of Warburg Realty. “[They’re paying] the drama premium.”

422 East 72nd Street, Apartment 20C
The Facts: Two-bedroom, two-bath, 1,200-square-foot condo.
Asking Price: $1.425 million.
Charges and Taxes: $1,923 per month.
Agent: Mitch Askinas, Warburg Realty.

422 East 72nd Street, Apartment 23D
The Facts: Two-bedroom, two-bath, 1,265-square-foot condo.
Asking Price: $1.649 million.
Charges and Taxes: $2,068 per month.
Agent: Mitch Askinas, Warburg Realty.

Key to Success