An Anti-Car Conspiracy in Chelsea?

Don’t Even Think Of …
The city’s a thicket of construction cranes, and new buildings are crowding out the delicate parking-lot ecosystem. Where do the cars go now?

Almost twenty years after the city banned new parking lots, New York’s beleaguered auto population is rapidly losing its asphalt nesting grounds to new construction.

Development has eaten up 60 percent of SoHo’s parking lots, but no place has been hit harder than Chelsea. Up until two years ago, the neighborhood was one of the car-friendliest in Manhattan, with so many lots and gas stations that people would commute across town as if it were the suburbs. In 1999, a massive rezoning raised height allowances along Sixth and Seventh Avenues and allowed apartments to go up on most blocks between West 14th and 27th Streets. The result? Nineteen new buildings.

“All the gas stations in the area are evaporating,” complains Steve Dennis, managing principal of engineering firm Thornton-Tomasetti Group, on Sixth Avenue near 19th Street. Like many of his commuting co-workers, he’s been forced out of his old lot by development. “Since there are so few lots and garages to park in, prices have gone up 50 percent.” (Now he pays $240 a month.)

This anti-car conspiracy goes back a ways. Broker Anne DeMarzo sold the former Barneys parking lot on 17th Street in 1998, in anticipation of the changes. “It was bound to happen,” says James Nelson, director of sales at Massey Knakal Realty. “There’s a severe need for apartment housing there.”

Meanwhile, “lots aren’t taking new monthly parkers, because it’s more profitable to give dailies,” Dennis says. The Mobil gas-station-parking-lot combo on Seventh Avenue and 19th Street is becoming 253 rentals. A parking lot two blocks south is becoming a 40-unit condo; another, on 26th, is becoming 356 rentals. All told, more than 3,500 apartments are coming to the area, and ten lots have disappeared – so far.

Guess Who’s Selling His Co-op?
Porgy and Fifth

No more Uptown Saturday Nights for Sidney Poitier. Real-estate sources say the 77-year-old newly appointed NAACP Hall of Famer just agreed to sell his park-view duplex, at 1158 Fifth Avenue (which isn’t so uptown – it’s on 97th Street). Poitier purchased the thirteen-room, six-bedroom place (with two working fireplaces!) in 1994 to be close to his daughters, who were attending NYU. But after they graduated, the whole family moved back to Los Angeles (where his daughter, Sydney, is an actor, too). Last year, he put the duplex on the market for $8.9 million, before dropping it to $5.9 million. But he apparently couldn’t find the right buyer and has decided now to sell it to some square-footage-hungry people already in the building for what one source familiar with 1158 said was $5 million.

Big Deals

Gramercy Park
112 East 19th Street
3-bed, 2-bath, 2,000-square-foot co-op. Ask: $1.499 million. Sell: $1.3 million. Maintenance: $1,415. Twelve weeks on market.

When controversial psychotherapist Geoffrey G. Lindenauer established his Institute for Emotional Education at this loft building in 1967, he advertised the clinic as a “therapeutic substitute family.” Patients were permitted to have sex with each other and their therapists in pursuit of “a healthy love.” It lasted until 1973, when the building became home to a different kind of therapeutic substitute family – a co-op. This loft went to a professional couple with a baby on the way. Douglas Elliman’s Richard Ferrari and Drew Glick, who brokered the sale, were unaware of the building’s free-love past, but noted that it was “a very prestigious, family-oriented building.”

Battery Park City
200 Rector Street
2-bed, 2-bath, 1,200-square-foot condo. Ask: $755,000. Sell: $725,000. Charges: $556. One day on market.

“I literally showed him 40 apartments, no exaggeration,” says Citi-Habitats’s Rose Capurro of her client, a finicky financial planner who was moving in from Connecticut. “We looked at places in the Upper East Side, Chelsea, SoHo, the Village.” He finally settled for this building’s river views. “He’s a young man, he loves Manhattan – that whole city-pace, young-single-guy thing.” He gets Battery Park City’s master-planned version of that.

An Anti-Car Conspiracy in Chelsea?