Out With the New, In With the Newer

W hen Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village went free-market in 2002, the move shook the culture of those developments hard. Built by Metropolitan Life in the forties, these well-kept, no-frills complexes east of Gramercy Park contained thousands of middle-class apartments (and an endless waiting list to get in). When MetLife decided to make some money and started charging full fare four years ago, the new residents were more transient and wealthier than most everyone else in the place, and the friction changed its cozy, insular nature. But now the old folks may have the last laugh—as the furiously rising rental market drives out those interlopers as promptly as they arrived, with (in some cases) a 25 percent rent hike this year alone.

Eric L. was one of those newcomers. He quit Chelsea last April in favor of Peter Cooper Village, where he found an apartment larger and cheaper—at $2,250—than his $2,600-a-month box. In exchange, he gave up the doorman and prime location. “It’s been fine,” says Eric. “I was willing to cut out the extras to save money. It was a cost-benefit analysis.”

He’ll have to run the numbers once again. Driven by all the bursting-bubble talk, buyers are waiting and renting, says Jay M. Heydt, managing director of Citi Habitats’ Union Square office. So “as of January 2006, there’s a less than one percent vacancy rate for rentals,” he says, adding that there’s no tighter market than downtown—putting Peter Cooper Village at the improbable center of a boom. If Eric L. wants to stay put, he’ll have to pay 25 percent more: $2,800 a month, non-negotiable. Nor is he alone. The tenants-association Website teems with postings from sticker-shocked renters. “At first [I] thought it must be a mistake!” writes one. “Bon voyage, PCV!” huffs another.

Sophia Cicilioni, director of leasing for Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town, appears unfazed. In a written statement, she responds, “We have been astounded by the consistent demand for our newly renovated apartments … When amenities, apartment size and finishes are considered, the rental rates are very reasonable.” Heydt, for his part, notes that a 25 percent rent hike is steeper than usual and that “landlords usually … raise rents only by a little bit” to keep good tenants. But right now, turnover means money, and Heydt cautions anyone who decides to leave to steel himself. “Can they find something else? Absolutely!” he declares. “But it’s a landlord’s market.”

Kicking Around Wall Street
Soccer star and former Olympian Claudio Reyna has joined the likes of Naomi Campbell and Margherita Missoni, signing up for the decadently upscale Cipriani lifestyle. Reyna is based in England—he plays the rest of the year for Manchester City, sort of the Mets to Manchester United’s Yankees—but he’s also logging time in the U.S., as the leader of the American World Cup team. So he and his equally sporty wife, Danielle (a former soccer pro herself), have bought a one-bedroom for an undisclosed amount at the ultraluxe downtown development. (Sources say one-bedrooms start at $1.4 million.) “They were looking for a pied-à-terre, and the building comes furnished with everything, from sheets to flat-screen TVs,” says their broker, Sabrina Kleier. “And since he’s busy, he doesn’t have to worry about setting up.” Reyna should expect some friendly ribbing from his landlord, Giuseppe Cipriani, in June, when he leads the U.S. team against Italy in a much-anticipated World Cup match.

Triple Assessment
120 Riverside Boulevard, Apartment 3N
935-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath condo.
Asking Price: $1.12 million.
Charges and Taxes: $1,029.
Broker: Eric Benaim and Michael Arcos, Nest Seekers International.
The owner of this never-occupied condo in the newest Trump tower is a flipper looking for a sweet return on his investment. He’s fairly firm on the price and even turned down an offer at $1.06 million, says Benaim. Should he have taken it?

Lynn Sullivan, Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy: Sullivan was impressed with the kitchen. “All the finishes are beautiful!” she exclaims. “And it’s bigger than the ones in the older buildings.” But the view’s problematic: “A buyer would really take issue if you say it’s a river view. It’s the highway.”
Her assessment: $1.05 million.

Fran Kaback, Bellmarc: “Prices have been going up with each new Trump building [in the area]. But the market has cooled down a bit,” points out Kaback. Still, “it’s got name recognition, and everything’s brand-new.”
Her assessment: $975,000.

Amelia S. Gewirtz, Halstead: “It’s definitely a more streamlined, Zen approach to design compared to the other Trump Place buildings, which have a hyper-Vegas feel,” says Gewirtz, adding, “Buyers whom I’ve sold to [in this complex] never want to leave. They love the service.”
Her assessment: $1.025 million (but, because of the view, it’ll probably sell for $975,000).

Out With the New, In With the Newer