Co-op Killers

Co-op Killers
Can Manhattan’s storied co-ops keep the faith against crusaders trying to convert them to condos?

There are barbarians at the gates of Manhattan’s co-op class system, crusaders trying to convince co-ops to convert to condominium status. Jack Boyajian, the president of New Jersey-based ROA Hutton, prophesies, “It’s a trend that could ultimately spell the demise of the co-op.” Big talk, but co-ops in Washington and Jersey have already fallen.

We’re certainly an attractive target. New York is the biggest co-op market in the country, and less than 10 percent of Manhattan’s housing is currently condo. Two buildings, 401 East 89th Street and 30 West 90th Street, de-co-oped in the past two years – albeit only after running into financial problems. Condos usually sell for more, because they’re less encumbered by regulations. “One day, the real-estate cycle will change, and that’s where the real benefit of being a condo will come in,” says lawyer Ken Jacobs of Smith, Buss and Jacobs, who represented 30 West 90th.

The downsides are also significant: The process is complex and expensive, and many in real estate are afraid of messing with a system that works. “This is a unique market and cooperatives work uniquely well here,” asserts Kirk Henckels, director of Stribling Private Brokerage. “Why fix something that ain’t broke?” asks Corcoran’s Gary Brynes, who ran seminars on de-co-opization in 1998 but stopped last year when the market got too hot.

Boyajian thinks converting is still worth the hassle. “When you add in the increased values of your new condo unit, you still make a profit,” he says. “What’s the difference how big the pop is?” Boyajian says ROA is in discussions with co-ops in SoHo and one on lower Park Avenue. He thinks de-co-oping will become common in New Jersey and Queens within one decade, but expects it might take three to crack Fifth Avenue and Central Park West. Eventually, he thinks the empire will fall. “If it can happen in D.C., it’ll happen here. The epicenter will eventually crumble.”

On the Move
Apartment Surfing

TV people have to live someplace, too. Mariska Hargitay, Jayne Mansfield’s daughter, who stars as hard-ass sex detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, is moving her votive-candle collection out of her bordello-red Upper West Side rental and into a $1.4 million Park Avenue South condo she bought from married models Mark Vanderloo and Esther Cañadas. “She was originally interested in SoHo or TriBeCa,” says Halstead’s Robin Horowitz, who with sister-partner Nancy Horowitz found the actress this 1,800-square-foot prewar. But she “found that a loft wouldn’t meet her needs.” Meanwhile, on another network, Early Show newscaster Julie Chen just moved into an $800,000 TriBeCa loft she thought would meet her needs. But while Andy Rooney was lambasting her hosting Big Brother as “a further deterioration of news standards,” her move-in was delayed. “You know how the new buildings are,” says her broker, Corcoran’s Leonard Steinberg. “It’s a never-ending wait.”

Big Deals

Upper East Side
167 East 61st Street
2-bed, 21/2-bath, 1,400-square-foot co-op. Ask: $700,000. Sell: $710,000. Maintenance: $2,568. One week on market.

The action was hot at Trump Plaza – but we’re not talking about the same-named Atlantic City casino. (Will someone buy the Donald a thesaurus?) The buyers, a retired couple, outbid a couple of suburbanites by anteing up on their one-bedroom in the building for “more space and a better view,” says Charles H. Greenthal’s Amy Gordon, who sold it. (It has a wrap balcony and a small kitchen.) The seller, who moved in when the building was new sixteen years ago, didn’t want to fold: “It was traumatic for her to sell, but she couldn’t sublet anymore.”

129 West 20th Street
3-bed, 21/2-bath, 2,140-square-foot condo. Ask: $1.425 million. Sell: $1.35 million. Charges and taxes: $2,017. Three weeks on market.

A California family transplanted itself into this 2,140-square-foot condo in the Chelsea Quarter. Their new New York apartment is one of fifteen high-ceilinged loft residences in the building, which was home to Gay Men’s Health Crisis until 1997. At that time a developer bought the 1920s structure from GMHC and converted it to condos; Douglas Elliman’s Shaun Osher, who sold this unit, marketed them the first time around, too. Meanwhile, GMHC moved to a larger space on West 24th Street.

Co-op Killers