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An example of the real estate interests that are behind eliminating artists

from parks so as to enhance real estate values. The amount of money

to be made is staggering. Anything they can do to reduce our rights and
reduce our numbers is the real goal behind the park rules for artists. If
you add in similar articles I've previously sent you about the real estate
interests running the Union Sq Park, Battery Park and High Line areas,
the picture becomes complete.
The total link the Mayor and Park Commissioner have made between
real estate development and NYC Parks is the hidden story behind
park privatization.-RL

Published on The New York Observer (

The Last Citadel: Central Park's Gated Community Nearly Complete

By Laura Kusisto
January 11, 2011

On an August morning in 2008, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Central Park,

crowds lined up for hours to take a ride in a hot-air balloon 30 stories above the park's
southern end. Soaring above the trees, with a clear shot of the reservoir shimmering to the
north and the midtown skyline to the south, for 10 minutes they glimpsed the elusive
perfect view.

As the crowds gathered, a doorman at a faded rental complex nearby watched from an
elderly resident's spacious 20th-floor apartment. "People were paying $25 just to see that
view for 15 minutes," the doorman at 220 Central Park South recalled. "And I'm just
sitting there, just looking out. To think, it's the best view in the city and he's got it for
free, every day!"

Those days are numbered. Last month, tenants in 26 rent-stabilized units at 220 CPS
ended their five-year battle to hold on to their perfect view, selling out to developers for a
total of $40 million, according to public records reviewed by The Observer.

By this spring, all of the tenants at 220 CPS will have left the building, vacating one of
the last remaining slices of affordable real estate lining the park and all but completing
Central Park's transformation from a desirable address to one that's out of reach for
everyone but the über-rich.

SLIDESHOW: The Sentinels of Central Park. >>

Already, real estate brokers, architects and anxious (even envious) neighbors are turning
their eyes to the sky, where a partnership of Steve Roth's Vornado Realty and Veronica
Hackett's Clarett Group plans to erect an ultra-luxurious 41-story condo tower. It's
expected to cost as much to build per square foot as the park's reigning luxury king, 15
Central Park West--and to emulate its grandeur.
In all likelihood, 220 CPS will be the last big development on the edge of Central Park
for a generation, and a microcosm of the economic divide that is--literally--splitting the

A couple of weeks after Christmas, only a brilliant red poinsettia in the lobby of 220
Central Park South looked fresh. The toothpaste-green sofas were stained, the Berber
carpet worn and the amber lacquer on the plywood paneling was starting to chip.

Sitting between Seventh and Eighth avenues, it is an unremarkable building for the area,
decorated with pigeon spikes and rusty balconies. Wedged between a sleek black '60s
condo to the east and the diminutive Gainsborough Studios to the west, it looks
increasingly anachronistic in a Manhattan inundated last decade with sleek new condos,
intermingling with the dowager co-ops that were already the domain of the wealthy and

"Oh my God, you could not accuse it of being beautiful," said Paula Del Nunzio, a top
broker with Brown Harris Stevens who's handled high-profile listings in the Columbus
Circle area. "But it has a beautiful location."

Over the past decade and a half, Columbus Circle has been transformed from the site of
car shows and bargain stores into one of the city's most coveted residential spots. It
started in 1997 with Donald Trump's golden Trump International, a hotel-condo
development rising 52 stories at One Central Park West, and really got going in 2004,
when Steve Ross' Related Companies erected the angled, two-tiered Time Warner Center
for $1.7 billion. Trump International put up an enormous sign, advertising, "We have the
views you want," recalls Doug Russell, one of the current brokers in the building. Thus
began the battle for the choicest view of Central Park.

The latest and best building in the area is 15 Central Park West, a 201-unit limestone
tower that Robert A.M. Stern modeled after the Candela co-ops up the street. The
developers started out offering units at roughly $2,500 a square foot--already a top price--
but they kept asking more throughout the construction, in 2005 and 2006, until tags
topped nearly $4,000. The resales have been more incredible: Recently, one of 15 CPW's
developers, William Lie Zeckendorf, sold his penthouse for a city record $9,940 a square

But with an 18-mile shot straight up the park and the somewhat startling reality that it
will likely be the last of its kind for a long while, 220 CPS could render such sales figures
quaint. Seasoned brokers note that it presents a singular opportunity to build a
contemporary condo among predominantly older developments. In fact, because the
border of the park along Fifth Avenue and Central Park West (except for some of the less
desirable northern portion) is landmarked, this is a rare chance to build on the fringes of
the park, period.

"It's about what's real and who really will have the view that's forever," said Mr. Russell,
conjuring the perfect sales pitch: "The forever park view."
The Vornado-Clarett partnership, known as Madave Properties, bought the 1950s rental
complex for $131.5 million in August 2005, just as 15 CPW was topping out.

The 220 CPS complex contains a 20-story building fronting the park and a 13-story one
facing 58th Street, which the developers also plan to tear down to build a luxury tower.
Among the 130 units were 47 rent-stabilized ones, some of which have coveted park-
facing balconies. In order to evict the residents and demolish the buildings, Madave
needed approval from the state's Division of Housing and Community Renewal, which
stalled on making a final decision while tenants fought the DHCR and Madave in court.

The developers originally offered tenants $300,000 each. But given that a market-rate
apartment in the neighborhood commanded upward of $8,000 a month, that was small
compensation. The tenants held out. Over the course of the next five years, the
developers kept offering increasing sums of money. Last month, the remaining 26
holdout tenants accepted payouts of around $1.5 million each, according to public

Considering the precedent and the scope of a redeveloped 220 CPS, only a little is known
about Vornado and Clarett's plans. In 2005, they tapped New Haven-based architects
Pelli Clarke Pelli and SLCE Architects to draw up initial designs, which are available in
the court files.

According to five-year-old plans, at least one tower could rise 41 stories, but the
developers have bought up air rights that could allow it to go even higher. There would
be 75 units, some more than 5,800 square feet, featuring formal layouts with libraries,
terraces and multiple entertaining rooms.

Just like 15 CPW, the tower could combine the best of new and old design, Ms. Del
Nunzio, the broker, said. At 15 CPW, architect Robert A.M. Stern used traditional prewar
floor plans, adding modern touches like giant windows, master bathrooms and larger
kitchens than a typical top-end co-op.

Madave estimated the project would cost as much as $500 million, or $1,800 a square
foot, including the cost of the land. Similarly, when the Zeckendorf brothers tore down
the old Mayflower Hotel and built 15 CPW, it cost an estimated $1,820 (in 2005 terms)
per buildable square foot.

A person familiar with more recent ideas for 220 CPS said it would likely emulate 15
CPW's structure, with a shorter building facing the park and a taller tower behind it to
maximize the views. There are, the source said, a small number of architects in the world
who can achieve the desired cachet.

But others say the development should do more than imitate its predecessors--from 834
Fifth Avenue to 15 CPW. "I'm a believer that we live in the 21st century," said Andrew
Dolkart, the director of the Historic Preservation Program at Columbia University, "and it
should be a 21st-century design."

Meanwhile, Gary Barnett's Extell Development is already at work on a 90-story condo-

hotel at 157 West 57th Street, between Sixth and Seventh avenues, that will be the city's
tallest residential building. Two-twenty CPS will strive to meet it--if not in scale, at least
in prestige. "It will affect what comes out of the ground at 220 Central Park South," Mr.
Wallgren said. "It will set benchmarks in terms of price, amenities."

The developers have not specified a completion date, but a project of this size inevitably
promises years of disruption to the area around it.

The Gainsborough Studios, a 105-year-old landmark co-op building with only 34

apartments, is pressed against 220 CPS's exterior wall, raising concerns that the
construction will unleash the usual rats and noise. Moreover, 220 CPS will rise in front of
developments at 219 West 57th Street and Extell's at 225 West 57th Street, blocking
some views.

"The reality is likely to be better than the perception," said Mr. Russell, the broker. "For a
while, people see something's going to happen and it's going to be bad, but in the end
they can still see to the right, still see to the left."

Finally, finding early buyers willing to gamble on a new luxury condo in a depressed
market will prove challenging. "With 15 Central Park West, the market was extremely
ebullient and people wanted to come in as soon as possible," Mr. Wallgren said. "The
challenge with new developments now is that there's a 'show me' attitude. The buying
public wants to come in at a later point."

Should it work, though, 220 CPS could easily be the 15 CPW of its decade and the final
citadel guarding the best park views from the masses. "Real estate is a sport here in New
York," Mr. Wallgren said. "People want to get back in the game."

SLIDESHOW: The Sentinels of Central Park. >>

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