Tips of Today

Photo: James Leynse/Corbis for New York Magazine

Sidney Bueno’s eyes well up when he talks about what may be his best holiday tip ever. No, says the Upper West Side doorman, it wasn’t the pair of main-floor Knicks tickets he once got—he ended up stuck at work and had to send his family without him. It’s the free piano lessons for his son that came from a renowned musician in the building. “To give up an hour each week,” Bueno says, still touched by the gesture. “That means a lot.”

A surprising number of doormen and supers have similar stories, enough to make the rest of us examine our own approach to the semi-obligatory holiday gift to the building staff, a New York ritual that’s already fraught with insecurities. “We’re never certain how much to give,” admits Nina Sonenberg, an Upper West Side editor who plans to distribute a total of $500 among her building’s dozen employees. “I don’t know anyone who’s confident about what they give.” (For the record, tips in decent–but–not–Park Avenue–class buildings run between $20 and $300, and superintendents usually accumulate well into the five figures. Porters and doormen see anywhere between $2,000 and $10,000, depending on the size of the building.) Tipping’s not a must, says broker Barbara Fox, despite the urban myth that skipping the holiday baksheesh leads to eleven months of quiet retribution. Fox, who’s often asked to advise clients on the subject, is quick to add that it’s worth upping the ante “when anyone has gone out of his way to make life easier.”

An envelope of cash isn’t the only thank-you out there, however. One (almost certainly apocryphal) story has a super heading off to the Bahamas on a grateful millionaire’s jet. The more realistic examples are still pretty impressive: A busy resident in Xavier Trevino’s West Side building bakes a cake for each of the workers. Aljady Arroyo (pictured, with colleagues), a concierge at the Atlas on West 38th Street, got a home entertainment system two weeks ago; last year, he took home a restaurant-grade cappuccino maker. H.N., who works off West End Avenue and asked that his full name not be used, reports getting a $2,000 suit from a resident who works in the fashion industry. While working in the East Fifties, doorman Radames Pagan was tossed the keys to a Mercedes CL55 to use when its owner went on vacation. “That was more than a tip,” he remembers. “That was life-changing.”

Apparently her experience in the comedy flop Duplex (about a New York couple and their nightmarish brownstone-real-estate story) didn’t put Drew Barrymore off when it came to a real-life townhouse. Regular readers of this page may remember that she was sighted at an open house on the Upper West Side a couple months back, but ultimately the star has elected—like so many other young celebrities—to buy a place in the West Village. Sources say the actress has just closed on a duplex apartment in a townhouse off Bleecker Street for just under $2.5 million. Though it’s rather cozy at 1,400 square feet, the apartment does have four full exposures; it also has three bedrooms, two baths, a wood-burning fireplace, and a rooftop deck. Listing brokers Bonnie Wyper, Alan Sands, and Pablo Montes of the Corcoran Group would not comment on the sale. It’s not clear whether her on-again-off-again beau, Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti, will be moving in, but the place he owns is just a short walk away, on East 13th Street.

Triple Assessment
250 East 40th Street, Apartment 44A
1,631-square-foot, two-bedroom, three-bath condo with two balconies.
Asking Price: $1.7 million.
Charges and Taxes: $2,522.
Broker: Richard Silverman, Bellmarc.This apartment has views of both the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building, and the East River too. But is the vista enough to attract high-end buyers to an oldish, albeit full-service, building—swimming pool included!—in a rather drab section of midtown?

Photo courtesy of Bellmarc.

Avi Lasri, City Connections Realty: “The views are a big plus,” says Lasri. “The kitchen’s small, but they put in the best appliances, so in the end it’s still great.” His concern: “The built-ins add storage, but they make the rooms too claustrophobic.”
His assessment: $1.8 million.

Tamilyne Williams, Nest Seekers International: “It’s a convertible-three, but the bedrooms are small,” says Williams, adding that it has “a nice homey feeling.” She’d market it to empty-nesters who want a central location with strong amenities.
Her assessment: $1.7 million.

Harlan Goldberg, Prudential Douglas Elliman: The apartment’s been redone to a particular taste, and “some people may want to come in and tear it all down,” Goldberg says. Plus, the maintenance is high. “I’d expect $2,000-a-month at the most for a 1,600-square-foot apartment in this area.” He says he’d lowball the price to start a bidding war.
His assessment: $1.15 million.

Tips of Today