The Doctor Is Out

For years, internist Wendy Ziecheck and her business partner, Christopher Barley, saw patients in an 800-square-foot space on Central Park South. As doctor’s offices go, it was elegant, with windows overlooking the park. But it was cramped, so in 2003 they decided to find a larger space, preferably on the Upper East Side near the hospitals, and ideally on the ground floor of a prewar. “It’s easy access for patients without bothering the residents, [and] it’s ideal because your name’s on the outside of the building and passersby see it,” Ziecheck explains. “The doorman greets the patients, and the lobby always looks nice.” She had heard those types of properties were growing scarce, but it couldn’t possibly be as onerous as the hunt for a new home. Or could it?

Patients are accustomed to waiting, but these days doctors are doing a lot of it, too, as their search for new spaces stretches out longer than they’d ever imagined. “At least with the residential market, customers have choices. There’s a much bigger pool,” says broker Paul Wexler (pictured) of Corcoran Wexler, who specializes in ground-floor apartments and physician’s offices. It took three years for eye surgeon Jacqueline Muller to find a suite on Park Avenue, partly because she was holding out for that address—“there’s a certain prestige,” she admits—and also because she was repeatedly outbid. Twice, she was beaten out by another doctor. Another buyer wanted to build a triplex apartment. (Prices, of course, are way up. Tenants pay $85 per square foot per year on prime East Side avenues, compared with $50 two to three years ago.)

Wexler says competition from apartment-hunters—because ground-floor spaces come cheaper than comparable units upstairs—is partly to blame, but doctors are being pushed out for other reasons. Residential developers aren’t allocating street-level space for medical offices anymore, preferring larger lobbies or amenities like fitness rooms or play spaces. Turnover also has slowed as more physicians share space, to cover the ever-increasing monthly expenses. So what’s the cure? Just like buyers and renters in the residential market, they have to take their time or settle for less. In Ziecheck’s case, it meant rubbing shoulders with lawyers and bankers in a midtown tower. “We have a whole floor!” she says excitedly—and, she jokes, a building full of prospects. Next: Billy Joel Looking to Buy in Brooklyn Heights?

Who Needs a House Out in Hackensack?

His piano’s ostensibly parked in the West Village townhouse he bought last fall for $5.9 million from artist and J&J heir Seward Johnson, and yet Billy Joel and his new wife, Katie Lee, are still providing grist for the real-estate rumor mill with his continued house-hunting. Sources say he’s been spotted from the Brooklyn Heights promenade, hanging out on the balcony of the Columbia Heights mansion whose owner tried to get a buyer for $20 million last year. (The owner’s new brokers, Corcoran’s Deanna Kory and Karen Kelley, have dropped the price tag to a more realistic, if still dizzying, $12.9 million.) It’s the same house that Liv Tyler was rumored to have checked out a few months back as well. A virtual tour of the place gives a hint of why it’s such a celebrity magnet: twelve rooms, 8,000 square feet of space on five floors, and views of both the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan. Kory could not be reached, and Kelley declined to discuss the listing. Next: What Prospective Buyers Thought of a Fort Greene Two-Bedroom

The Open-House Log

225 Lafayette Street, Apartment 10A
Two-bedroom, three-bath, 1,735-square-foot condo.
Asking Price:
$2.45 million.
Charges and taxes: $2,779 per month.
Brokers: Adam Banks and Wilbur Gonzalez, Corcoran.

Who: Josée Deroy, actuary.
What are you shopping for? A two-bedroom, two-bath. I’ve been away for three years working in Europe, and I came back and realized the whole real-estate scene has drastically changed. You have more choices now, but it’s all expensive.
What do you think? There’s a lot of space wasted on hallways. They should’ve put the washer and dryer elsewhere so the kitchen can be expanded. But I like the light, the views.

Who: Hong Joo, financial analyst.
What are you shopping for? I’m just looking, but not seriously. If I see something I really love, then there may be more involved. I live in Battery Park City—I grew up there.
What do you think? It’s really cute. The master bathroom stands out the most—it’s so different! It has separate stalls for everything, so you get lots of privacy.

Who: Andrew Rasiej, Internet entrepreneur and former candidate for public advocate (pictured).
What are you shopping for? I live in the same apartment a few floors up. I renovate apartments for a hobby, and I wanted to see it.
What do you think? It looks like the base apartment [from] when the building first opened. They [should] open up the kitchen and make it an open floor plan. For very little money, they could increase its value quickly. This building in particular is very well situated. It has all the advantages of Nolita and Soho, and then of course there’s Chinatown.

The Doctor Is Out