Friday, January 29, 2010

On East 86th: Petco A Go At Former Barnes And Noble Site

Left: New spot on Lex. Right: Shelves are stocked.

The old Petco, corner of 86th and Lex.

Opening tomorrow at 9am, a brand new Petco on Lexington Avenue between 86th Street and 87th site of the former Barnes and Noble. The game of retailer musical chairs continues as Petco leaves its current digs across the street at 147 East 86th Street (corner of Lex). Barnes and Noble has consolidated the store on Lex and the store that was on 86th between 2nd and 3rd into its new mega-store on 86th between 3rd and Lex in the fortress otherwise known as The Lucida. But, what of the newly vacant Petco on 86th and Lex? Despite a rumor of a "clothing store" going into the space, the 12,000 square foot store (plus 3,000 sf of basement storage) is on the market with Ripco Real Estate for lease until the end of 2012. The term of that lease is awfully peculiar. After all, who would take a lease less than 3 years and renovate the space (which really does smell like a zoo) only to move out shortly thereafter? Smells like a prime development spot to me! A check of the zoning reveals that the Petco site is using less than 30% of it's available FAR and could be built to 42,000sf as-of-right.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Featured Apartment: No Fee Prewar Gem In West Village

Looking for the perfect pad in the thick of the West Village?
This offering just off Bleecker near Christopher offers you prewar elegance, great light (south and west exposures), sensational renovations and space all in the comfort of your 24 hour doorman building. Currently offered with no broker fee for $4300.. Just call 646-237-4170 and ask for Andrew or any of his qualified agents.

2 Cooper Getting Glassed

The sign from more than a year ago read, "Coming Fall 2009", well not quite, but the finished product looks fairly compelling. At the corner of East Fourth Street and Bowery rises a 15 story 144 unit rental building. The building is a refreshing red brick effort (no offense to Mayne's Cooper Union or Dubai On The Bowery), with hunter green window panes and looks like a pretty good fit in the neighborhood (okay flame away). The base of the building is 6 stories with 24,000sf of retail with an additional 9 floors set back off street level give the lower portion a scale that works with neighboring buildings. Atlantic Development is building the market rate rental building that promises a "country club-like atmosphere" that will include rooftop pool, fitness center, etc... Apartments will be studios, 1 bedrooms, and 2 bedrooms with sizes ranging from 500sf-1050sf.
There are two reasons why I like the building and think it will be a success. First, I like red brick. There should be more of it in new developments. Second, the location is a no-brainer! The Cooper Square, Bowery, and Lafayette area is one of my favorites in the city. Not only do you have a built in market with NYU kids, you also have a central location and wide, less used streets, and a stimulating mix of both modern and prewar architecture. My only knock on the building would be that they didn't include larger layouts. A few 1500 sf 3 bedrooms would have drawn a nice premium and would be gobbled up quickly. That said, given the location, expect this building to fill up much quicker than your average.
2 Cooper Square Gets Foundation, Looks Forward To "Better Days" (AFB 3/13/09)

Advertecture: Is This Billboard On East 79th Legit?

Just asking. This billboard is found on the southeast corner of 79th and Lexington Avenue. Given that the building is only 2 stories (in the tradition of a Lexington Avenue "taxpayer"), you'd have to guess that at least in terms of height, it would be as-of-right, but can you really just throw a 20' high billboard on top of a building like that in a residential area? If anyone knows, please chime in. To me, it looks out of place.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mini Condo O' Rama: Lower Frederick Douglass Edition

Left: Newly opened Livmor Condo (115th+116th) Right: Park Central Condo (118th+119th)

That's my name! Left: The Douglass Condo (114th), Right: The Douglas rental (117th)

Gentrify me! Left: Frizzante and The Winery (117th) and Starbucks at SoHa 118 (118th)

Left: Vacant lot at 117th, Is that beam a 421-a marker? Right, FD Mosaic in Cathedral Pkwy station

Have I beat the Frederick Douglass horse to death yet? Maybe, but I've got the shots so I am going to go with them.
While most NYC development has ground to a halt, I was impressed by how much is continuing to happen on FDB south of 119th. It really has gentrified. Starbucks, Rite Aid, a wine bar? As much as it has cleaned up, if you look at the wrong block you would struggle to realize that you are in New York. For that, I am a bit sad, but, I guess it beats vacant lots.
Lower Frederick Douglass: Gateway 2 Rises From The Ashes (AFB)
Frederick Douglass Circle Is Open! Well, Sort Of...(AFB)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

LoFreDo: Gateway Phase 2 Rises From The Development Ashes!

This one is a long story. Gateway Phase 2 on Frederick Douglass Blvd. between 113th and 114th was a new condo development that started selling in early 2005. Nothing had been built, but money was changing hands. The ambitious project was to be comprised of five existing five story buildings, a new five story building and the equivalent of 4-5 new six story buildings set back, but built right on top of the 6 buildings underneath. Well, come 2007, nothing happened. Buyers were obviously pissed, and there is little doubt that they eventually got their money back. End of story? Not quite. Fast forward to today and suddenly this concept is rising from the ashes, seemingly in the same form that was originally planned. There has been plenty of permitting activity over the past few months and the DOB website still show an 11 story structure with 88 units in progress. Calls to the owner have yet to be returned and there is virtually nil on the net since 2007- that is until now! Feel free to fill in the blanks in the comments section.
Oh, and LoFreDo? My newest neighborhood nickname suggestion for Lower Frederick Douglass.

Frederick Douglass Circle Is Open! Well, Sort of...

This morning I took a trip up to check up on the never-ending development of Frederick Douglass Circle on the northwest corner of Central Park. And the good news is that it is open, that is, the gate was open and I didn't see any signs about trespassing, so in I went. The circle looks great. There are numerous granite slabs to sit on engraved with quotes and facts about the famed Abolitionist, orator, author, and women's suffragist and statesman. While the 8' tall statue of Frederick is once again under wraps (he's been in and out a bit lately), I managed to get many shots showing the majority of features. What is holding up a "1 year project" that started in 2004? The latest work seems to be on the 60' wall that should serve as a fountain as well. At least one worker (who didn't see me) appeared to be inside the water wall installing pipe insulation. Everything else seems ready to go. Hopefully the circle opens to non-trespassers soon!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Union Square: 15 USW Looking Fly!

The scaffolding is finally off at 15 Union Square West and the product looks finished on the outside and nearly finished on the inside. The former Tiffany Building with it's preserved arches covered in floor to ceiling glass look great! However, there is some ambiguity over how many are sold, in contract, etc.. It seems that sales have been put on hold for whatever reason. StreetEasy still shows 6 apartments available (and a couple units closed), but click over to BHS Select website and you get a big nada! I am sure to be back with an update on this shortly. In the meantime, enjoy the view!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

West 37th Street: Garments No More

Tower 37 and Emerald Green, two rentals on West 37th bet. 8th and 9th

Clinton, Midtown West, Hell's Kitchen, The Garment District, whatever you want to call it, has undergone incredible transformation over the years. There has been plenty of development for the past 10 years on the water and more recently around the rail yards, but perhaps more intriguing is the sudden building smack in the middle of what is the Garment District. West 37th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues is just one example. It is there that, seemingly out of place, 2 tall luxury rental towers rise out of nowhere. Those towers, Emerald Green (Glenwood's highly acclaimed new Green effort) and Tower 37 (an 80/20 building), are totally out of character with the old Garment District, but at once in character with recent development in the area (I know that isn't saying much). Tower 37 had no shortage of controversy during construction with the blow up union rat making several appearances and rallies against the non-union labor that was building it. In time that will all be forgotten or never noticed by many; the real question is, will people warm up to living here? It is Manhattan and Midtown, so eventually things will happen.

Easy Aid: Text Your Donation To Red Cross

By now everyone has likely heard news of the devastating 7.0 quake in Haiti. The extent of this human tragedy is just coming to light. The Prime Minister was quoted moments ago as saying that he feared that "hundreds of thousands" were dead. While we hope he is wrong, there is little doubt that this amount to the greatest disaster in the Caribbean Basin in our lifetime.
You can help, and it is real easy! All you have to do is grab your cell phone and text "HAITI" to 90999. You will have instantly donated $10 to Red Cross disaster relief efforts in the area.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Union Square: McSam Still McFrozen!

What's the news on the new McSam Hotel going up on 13th Street and Fourth Avenue? Absolutely nothing! For a minute there I thought I had a real headliner. I called McSam HQ out on Long Island to inquire about the status of the project and the receptionist answered by saying "we no longer own the property". Now that would have been news! Just before I was about to break the story the next day, I called again to confirm, and they suddenly asserted that they did indeed still own the property. Who knows, perhaps McSam is trying to de-leverage and has a deal going to contract? Time will tell.
Speaking of time, the property has been at a complete standstill since last June when a stop work order was slapped on the project. I reported previously about how people with lot line windows must be pissed, and later on how numerous people had complained to stall the project (although surely some of the complaints could have been legit). Now, you would have to imagine that it is possible that the caller that prompted the stop work order, may have had an arguable claim that the building was being built above what it is zoned for. Either that, or the city's slow DOB is costing Mr. Chang a boatload of money.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Couple Angles On One Jackson Square

This is one building that turned out far more impressive than I imagined. With all those angled panes of glass the building is always shining and brilliant.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Update: Pile Of Garbage Draws Media Frenzy!

Reporter Allison Hans (WPIX) reports from the heap.

Sometimes you just have to laugh! I always gain satisfaction when exceptional websites like and pick up my blog posts, like they did about my pile of garbage post today. Usually that's it, but not in this case.

I was walking home tonight allong East 84th Street and noticed a news van, reporter, and cameraman shooting in front of the pile of garbage. I asked the doorman nearby if it was for the pile of trash, and sure enough, it was. Soon after, I received a call from WNBC, asking if they could interview me in front of the pile of garbage. I said why the hell not? Well, I blew the interview. Apparently, I was supposed to be outraged like some people are. I told the reporter that it reminded me of the grimy days of New York that I romanticize and that it doesn't bother me at all. Well, he was stunned, which only made the whole media snowball more amusing. Needless to say, unless they make me out like some nutball at the end of the story, I don't think I will make the 11 o'clock news (nor will A. Fine Blog get any credit as the genesis for the story, but who really cares- it's a pile of garbage people). However, there is one 6' pile of garbage that will have it's 15 minutes of fame- news at 11 (on Ch 4) and news at 10 for that matter (on Ch 11).


P.S. With pick-up scheduled Friday, forecasts calls for up to 3 inches of snow, so who knows, maybe the pile will have another week to grow even larger! Something tells me sanitation will find this heap ahead of schedule given it's new found notoriety.

New In Union Square: Great Green Tacos From Dos Toros

I happened upon Dos Toros, a California-inspired Taqueria on 4th Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets just this past week and I am already planning my third trip! Having spent 4 years living in Los Angeles, I have been constantly frustrated by the lack of authentic Mexican food available here. I will venture on occasion to El Paso Taqueria up on 103rd and Lex for some excellent and tasty fare, but I haven't found the right place here around Union Square, that is,until now! I was delighted with my first Carne Asada taco simply prepared with soft taco, beef, and some green sauce. The soft taco itself has that indescribable fresh taste that you only find in the most legit of establishments. The beef was tender and appropriately seasoned with the cilantro that is missing at so many places. I am actually starting to drool at this point. I haven't tried the burrito yet, but I look forward to it- they seem like a very popular item. I went back yesterday for a quesidilla and guacamole. The guac was tasty and just-made fresh. It might use just a hint more garlic, but that is the only, very minor fault I have found.
The furnishings are sparse yet sleek with thick wood block tables, rawhide strapped stools and a recycled tin ceilings. The menu is equally sparse, as the owners, 2 brothers transplanted from San Fran, want to focus on simplicity and the freshest ingredients. As an added bonus all containers and utensils are fully compostable and the just about everywhere you turn the focus is on local, organic, renewable, biodegradable, and sustainable. So, you can feel good about this place in so many ways. My favorite way remains in my tummy!
Dos Toros Website
4 Stars On
More Details From NYT Article Today (NY Times)

Garbage Piles Up In Manhattan, Reminiscent Of The Good Old Days

(L) 1981 on Park Avenue (courtesy, and (R) East 84 St today

Alright, it's not the 17 day garbage strike of 1981, or of 1975, or 1968, but the mountains of garbage on the Upper East Side today may give you flashbacks! Many areas on the Upper East have not seen a recycling pick up in nearly 3 weeks, and according to many supers around the neighborhood, law still requires them to put the garbage out. Let's be clear, there is no strike. It is actually a confluence of events- snow removal, and pick up days being suspended for Christmas and New Year that built these mounds of trash. There was however, a "special pick up day" last Saturday, but at least on my street they never came.
My doorman has a theory- Sanitation spent so much on snow removal that they are secretly cutting back. He also joked that it was there because his union contract was nearly up. He wasn't the only one keeping it light, a tenant leaving for the day told him "have fun guarding the mountain!" In my immediate area the mounds should be gone by Friday, although, with a snowy Alberta Clipper forecast for Thursday night, the mounds may still yet grow.

4th Quarter Reports: Prices Flat, Sales Up, Inventory Down

Confirming exactly what I was seeing on the ground during the 4th Quarter, inventory dwindled on a strong increase in sales, while prices were flat from the 3rd Quarter and down around 10% from the same time the prior year. While as a whole the reports were encouraging, a rebound in sales activity was largely limited to the sub- $1Million range. Whether due to sheer economics or steep and hard to secure jumbo mortgages, I have yet to see any significant increase in volume for properties priced $2 Million and up. But, you have to start somewhere! Perhaps with renewed profits and bonuses on Wall Street and a possibly stabilizing job market, the high end will see a pick-up over the next couple of quarters.
Reports: Macklowe In Deal To Regain Control Of Drake Hotel Site. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Macklowe Properties has teamed with new partner CIM Group to repurchase $400 Million in defaulted debt in order to retake control of the property. The debt will be repurchased anywhere from zero cents on the dollar to ninety cents depending on the tranche. Such a deal will salvage Macklowe's $220 Million personal stake in the property, for now at least. While some of Macklowe's debt may be forgiven, it will take a lot (bad pun) to forgive him for knocking down a beautiful 1926 Bing and Bing classic!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

201 East 57th Meets The Black Shroud Of Death

(L) A couple of months ago with wrap ad, to (R) the black shroud of death.

In an area bereft of character, it has been an ugly and slow death for the classic double wide brownstone on the north east corner of 57th Street and 3rd Avenue. Built in 1874 by John Davidson, the building was multi-purpose, housing a bank that he help found, the Manufacturers And Builders Bank, as well as apartment houses. Back then, Third Avenue was quickly becoming the center of the East Side with a surface horse car line and location just off the old post road. The past few years have seen neglect, a slow emptying of the stores, a few months with hideous Western Union wrap advertising, and finally now, the black shroud of death. Demolition has been approved, and a 4 story glass box is rumored to be planned for the site. While I fully recognize that progress happens and preservation is sometimes overrated, it is senseless to remove a valuable and esthetically pleasing link to the past with a simple glass box of the same size. We are quickly trading our identity as a great city with an incredible past for soulless structures that can be found anywhere. In this case, history should be honored, not simply erased.
A special thanks to the Wired forum that inspired the follow up.
Previously, Wall Of Shame: 95 Foot Ad Smothers Building At 57th And Third (A. Fine Blog 4/2009)
Streetscapes: A Startling Survivor In Area Of Change (NY Times, 2005)
Wired Forum: 201 East 57th Street (Wired NY)

Monday, January 4, 2010

3 Angles On 123 Third Condo

Clockwise from Top Left: east and north face, north face, skinny west face.

"Opening late 2009", or so they said. While the opening of sales may have been delayed, the completion date of 2010 looks accurate. The 19 story condo on the south east corner of Third Avenue and 14th Street will contain 48 units and be handled by Corcoran Sunshine Group. The Perkins Eastman designed condo was but a hole in the ground when we last visited in April 09', and now appears topped, so it is clear that it has eluded any financing issues to date. A New York Times article from September 09' states that the original offering plan had units priced at $1200/per foot, but a subsequent revised plan brought prices down to $1000/ft. Perhaps with the market finding it's bearings the delay is being caused by a revised, revised plan bringing prices back up. If units were to hit the market right now at $1000/ft., mark my words, this would be a run away sellout. Why? Just look across the street at 110 Third. The Toll Brothers effort, in better times, was a quick seller, but still commands asking prices of $1392 per foot according to StreetEasy. Translation: in this market, apartments at 110 Third are probably worth at least $1250/ft.. With a gym, outdoor movie theater/garden, and lounge, and assuming that the finishes and layouts are not botched, 123 Third should end up pricing comparably.