Real Estate For Rats

Rats to Construction
Rodents gentrify as developers move new-building cheese to industrial parts of the West Side.

The transformation of formerly industrial areas of the West Side into brand-new condolands is displacing hordes of decidedly pre-gentrification city dwellers who’ve lived there for years. “They came every night like clockwork,” says a 55-year-old executive assistant about her formerly unseen neighbors. “By 10 p.m., my stomach would start to turn. I’d hear them scratching at the Sheetrock.”

The garbage-filled dumpster belonging to the construction site across the street from the assistant’s 390-square-foot studio on Eighth Avenue probably brought out the late-night visitors (she killed twelve of ‘em).

“Where you really have a problem is when you have a one or two story industrial building you knock down,” says Donald Trump. Think West Chelsea: “Once you get close to water, you’re dealing with dilapidated properties and the meat market,” says Bellmarc Realty principal Neil Binder. “That’s inviting infestation.”

With nearly 70,000 construction permits issued last year – 4,800 for new buildings – rats are being crowded out by people more and more. Biologist Bruce Colvin, a municipal rat consultant who attended Columbia University’s recent Rat Summit, told the Times, “Anecdotally, it makes sense to say that the rat population grows as urban America becomes more congested.” So Mayor Giuliani appointed Deputy Mayor Joseph J. Lhota rat czar in July, and a bill before the City Council would require developers to bait their construction sites.

Tell that to West Siders near the former rail yards where the $3 billion Trump Place development is being built. “Everyone was aware and concerned about the infestation that would occur as a result of doing construction,” says Binder. “When you’re in an undeveloped area that’s been underutilized for an extended period of time, and there’s been evidence of rats for decades, that’s going to create some challenges.” But Trump, who builds his towers in concrete basins to keep the critters out, scoffs at the idea that the “flat, vacant piece of land” had a rat problem.

On the Move

After Shoshanna Lonstein ended her barely legal relationship with Jerry Seinfeld in 1997, she returned home to New York to “see what she can do, live a little,” as a “friend” told People magazine. Her ex-boyfriend followed her back the next year and has since married a woman closer to his own age and had a kid. While Shoshanna was living with her parents, he bought a Central Park West apartment and a $32 million East Hampton estate. Meanwhile, Lonstein went into fashion and has recently been spotted making out with Ben Affleck in Moomba’s once-chic VIP room. Shortly before the holidays, she bought her own place in the Hamptons: a 2,250-square-foot three-bedroom with a 40-foot vinyl pool on seven-tenths of an acre in Watermill North, near Southampton. It cost her $540,000. Seinfeld spent twice that on his West 83rd Street garage.

Big Deals
22 West 15th Street
2-bed, 2-bath, 1,339-square-foot condo. Ask: $1,475,000. Sell: $1,475,000. Charges and taxes: $720. Seven weeks on market.

Lenny Kravitz, who mopes around a sterile downtown loft pining after a waitress in the video for “Again,” might have been in a better mood if he’d been able to rent this condo, with a big north-facing terrace, in the postwar Grosvenor House. He tried, but “we decided it was better to sell,” says Douglas Elliman’s Louise Phillips, who brokered the deal. It went instead to an Atlanta man who had sold his successful outdoor-furniture business and wanted to “start chapter two of his life in New York,” says Phillips. He liked this place so much, he doubled his budget to get it.

54 Hamilton Terrace
6-bed, 4 and 1/2-bath, 3,700-square-foot brownstone. Ask: $1.2 million. Sell: $850,000. One year on market.

“Hah!” scoffs Harlem broker Willie Kathryn Suggs at the recent New York Times front-page story that declared the uptown brownstone boom a “mirage.” As evidence, she offers this handsome house in the Hamilton Heights historic district. It fetched a monster price for the neighborhood – a similar place nearby sold for $660,000 at the beginning of last year – but this one has been both restored (mahogany pocket doors back in order) and updated (Whirlpool). Claire Wood, of Rafalsky and Wood, represented the buyer.

Real Estate For Rats