Friday, September 28, 2012

Foundation Set, Alchemy's 31 West 15th Above Ground

Crane at 31 West 15th (A Fine)
Crane at 31 West 15th (A Fine)
A crane rises above the future 31 West 15th Street, the foundation is complete, and the Alchemy Properties part-condo/part-school is above ground. The 25 story project will feature 18 stories of condos (57 of them), above 6 stories of school facilities for Xavier. The project did have some controversy along the way. There was the nimby-style lawsuit by the adjacent Chelsea Lane which eventually clipped 7 stories off the building. There was a small sinkhole at one point. And, there was a website dedicated to, gasp, the horrors of construction next door. All of that seems to be in the rear view mirror at this point, and even the nimby website seems to have given up last October (or perhaps that person sold their apartment, who knows).

Construction was at a standstill today in light of the heavy rainfall, but all indications are that the project is going full steam ahead. The foundation has be laid, and steel beams are now jutting twenty or thirty feet above ground, and there are plenty of construction workers on site. Xavier will soon have 32,000 square feet of additional space, and good-guy developer Ken Horn will have his condo. Yeah, yeah, I said it, "good guy developer." I stand by that. Ken puts out a quality product at a competitive price. He is also personable, approachable, honest and sharp. Yes, a few neighbors are bent out of shape, but, such is life in a growing city.

Curbed Files, 31 West 15th (Curbed)
The Real Deal Files, 31 West 15th (TRD)

Dirt Flies at de Portzamparc's Future 400 Park Glassterpiece!

Getting dirty at 400 PAS (A. Fine)
The site, 400 PAS (A Fine)
The design (NYCDOB)
The rendering (grifted from Curbed)
Is anyone noticing a trend here? Toll Brothers is clearly changing. The builder, once (and to many still currently) known as a McMansion builder extraordinaire, who happened to be building some fairly pedestrian condos in NYC, has clearly had a change in tact. This change, given Toll's increased activity in the city over the past number of years, is great for the city. Examples? Anyone see The Touraine on 65th and Lex? The pre-war reproduction is a stunning, tasteful and very high end compliment to its surroundings. But, what really warms my heart is that this year Toll, with cooperation from Equity Residential, decided to move forward with what architect Christian de Portzamparc calls one of his favorite designs. Yes, some may complain that it is another one of those all glass numbers, but to me it is a sharp, stunning, and compelling design. It is far from ordinary.

Now, finally, cement trucks are lining up one after another, and the foundation is being built. The final result will be 416,000 square feet of residential space rising to 40 stories or 427 feet. The bottom 20 floors will be 265 apartments owned by Equity Residential, and the top 20 floors will be 100 condos owned by Toll. In an area that has come a long way in a short period, this Glassterpiece will be a welcome addition!

Curbed Files on 400 PAS (Curbed)
Toll, Equity To Stick With de Portzamparc's 400 PAS Design (The Real Deal, 2/2012)
Schedule A (NYCDOB)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hyatt Union Square (aka 132 Fourth Ave) Eyes November 15th Opening

132 Fourth on the right, 1924 (NYC Municipal Archive)
looking north up Fourth Ave (A. Fine)
Relief work (A. Fine)
nearly finished product, 9/2012 (A. Fine)

What a long, strange trip it has been for 132 Fourth Avenue. A Fine Blog picked up on this McSam later Hersha Hospitality/Hyatt hotel effort years ago. In 2009, we highlighted the project as a "lot line folly" as it became obvious that numerous neighbors at 77 East 12th were going to say goodbye forever to a wall of windows facing north. Those folks were none too amused, and the project was delayed on and off for a couple of years thanks to constant anonymous complaints to the DOB. Well, the time has nearly come, and according to multiple sources the Hyatt Union Square is targeting November 15th as opening day! While the Gene Kaufman architecture is much maligned, I'll try not to look above the well restored classic base. It is still a mystery to me what the base was (pictured, at top, 1924), though I have figured out that it was once a bowling alley from at least the 1940's-1960's. (I know, pretty fancy looking bowling alley). Anyway, details on the Hyatt Union Square:

-178 Rooms
- Ground Floor "American Brasserie" with "barn decor".
- Ground Floor "European espresso bar".
- Cellar restaurant with "South American theme".
- Lounge and rooftop restaurant.
- Rates expected between $300-$500/night.
- Thumping music a good possibility.

Two of the restaurateurs have been named- Jo-Ann Makovitzky and Marco Moreira, both of 15 East and Tocqueville fame. Now let's see if we can finally put this project in the books! They are hiring, by the way, as evidenced by this Craigslist ad.

Hyatt Union Square Website (Hyatt)

Monday, September 24, 2012

135 East 79th Soaring To New Heights

As you can see from the pictures above, Brodsky Organization is wasting little time in erecting it's new 19 story mega-lux highrise on 79th between Park and Lex. The building is modeled on, and a tribute to the old school prewar buildings that line the nearby neighborhood.
Details have been coming in fast and furious today and are frankly too numerous to mention in one short post. Some highlights include:
- East and West elevator banks that will leave each apartment with its own private landing.
- European-inspired court yard replete with urns.
- Hand-laid limestone exterior.
Okay, that is just a few, but here is more breaking news on 135 East 79th, the building is expected to be completed by next fall, and everyone should be in by the holiday next year at the latest. Better yet, I have some initial pricing. The smallest apartment will be a 2750sf 3 bedroom/3bath with dining room for $6,850,000. The initial median pricing in the building is $3300/psf, while the 3700sf Mansionettes will only set you back $2400/ft.. I am told by a very reliable source that the finishes here will top The Touraine, The Brompton, and The Lucida by a significant margin. The initial pricing on the bottom nine floors is comparable to the current asking at the Lucida, however, as you go up, you can assume the prices do as well. One thing is clear, not only is 135 East 79th going for the gold standard in finishes, it is going for it in pricing as well. But, if the action that we saw at The Touraine is any indication, it would seem that these sky high expectations are well within reach.
I will be updating as more details, renderings, etc. come available.
Brodsky's 135 East 79th To Go Old School Classic (AFB 9/2/2012)
Brodsky's 127 (Now 135) East 79th Development Hits Paydirt (AFB 4/24/2012)
Curbed Files, 135 East 79th Street (Curbed)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

NYC Run: 6 Mile Loop Around Central Park

This is a special feature for runners in NYC, runners coming to NYC, or runners interested in running in NYC. For all others, this could be boring, although you might like the pictures, who knows?

Central Park holds a special place to me. I run it a few times a week, 12 months a year. It's not only a place that I use as my personal track, it is also a place where I find piece of mind, meditation, and where I am alone to sort out my thoughts. Rain or snow, searing heat or blistering cold, I am there and I enjoy every season. I've thought about writing this little guide to the Central Park loop, and suddenly, something possessed me to actually do it today. So here it is:

"NYC Run: 6 Mile Loop Around Central Park":

The Starting Line- 84th + Park Drive East (A. Fine)
Mile 1- The East Side Flat
Start- 84th and East Park Drive
When I run the Central Park 6 mile loop, for me, the starting point is at East 84th Street, right where the northwest corner of the Met meets Park Drive East. It is a counter-clockwise loop heading north.

The first mile is deceptively easy, almost entirely flat for the first half mile and then downhill for 3/10ths of a mile, before going just slightly uphill for the last 2/10ths. Like every mile in Central Park, there is no shortage of foliage and sights. One highlight, for the runner at least is the statue of Fred Lebow staring at his watch. Fred is the late founder of the NYC Marathon and NYRR club. His statue is always keeping an eye on your time at the entrance to the Reservoir at 90th Street (the 3/10th mark of your run). As you wind down your first mile, active ball fields are on the left, and a water fountain can be found adjacent about 5 yards to the left of the road. I find myself holding back on the first mile since the next two pose a much greater challenge.

Dicey Rock Outcropping, Harlem Hill (A. Fine)
Mile 2- The Harlem Hill
Start- Approximately 102nd St and East Park Drive

At the beginning of mile 2 you face a mighty big choice. At the 1.1 mile mark you will see a road splitting off to the left. This is the 104th St transverse. If you are not up to the Harlem Hill challenge, or simply want to cut a mile off your loop, you would hook the left and run for about a 1/4 mile to hook another left to go South on Park Drive West. But everyone loves a challenge, right? So you forge ahead and you think, wow, this is easy! That's because you have found yourself on the longest stretch of downhill on the loop. You snake down a long S turn passing Lasker Rink (pool during the summer) and at the 1.5 mile marker a bucolic view of the Harlem Meer emerges. Ahh, so nice, what a beautiful run! But, if you have done it before, you know, here comes the tough part! Once you follow the road west you begin a modest incline that gradually gets greater and greater. You are on what I call the Harlem Hill. It is otherwise know as "The Great Hill". There are some precarious rock outcroppings that hang over the road which make for a somewhat disconcerting distraction.If you have saved up your energy, taking it a a modest pace, the 4/10th of a mile climb isn't that bad. If you are in poor shape, or try to take it too fast, you chance taxing your legs something fierce. Just remember, it's 4/10ths so pace yourself. At just about the 2 mile mark you have topped the Harlem Hill, Congrats! But, don't get too excited just yet because the next mile can be tough...

El Dorado, Mile 3, Central Park (A. Fine)

Mile 3- The 4 Hills of the West Side-
Start- Approximately West 106th Street and Park Drive West

You've conquered the Harlem Hill, you are a third the way done, and you are heading downtown. Mile 3 starts with a reprieve- 2/10ths straight downhill. It is a great time to let your legs catch up and reenergize because despite having tackled the toughest hill in the park, you have a rolling 4 hill succession coming up over the rest of this mile. If you are in great shape, this is no problem, if 5 or 6 miles is a stretch for you, this is where you may be tempted to pull over. It's happened to me plenty, so don't feel bad. The first hill is more of an incline which starts just over a bridge where you may hear a waterfall and a few ducks. Such sounds are rare in the middle of NYC, so enjoy them! There is a pretty little pond with weeping willows on your right and ballfields come into view on the left. Quickly you come to another, longer gradual incline of about 2/10ths of a mile. At this point, a number of the Iconic highrises of Central Park West begin to come into view on your right- buildings like the San Remo, El Dorado, and Dakota will grace your view for the next mile. It's a good distraction. Hill #3 quickly approaches, another 2/10ths of a mile effort, and another decent incline. I call this Resevoir Hill because you've reached the NW tip of the Resevoir when you've reached the top. A view of the twin towers of the El Dorado greet you at the top. At this point of the run I'm always feeling good because I know that I have one more hill to tackle, another 2/10ther, and I get a long deserved downhill and flat stretch. By the time you reach the top of the 4th hill, you have now completed your Third Mile.

The Lake, Central Park (A. Fine)
Mile 4- The Easy One You've been waiting for!
Start- Approximately West 86th St and Park Drive West
Finally an easy mile! The first 3/10ths to a traffic light is virtually all down hill. If you need a rest stop, there are bathrooms in the building on your left about 20 yards from the light. You also have a side of the road water fountain on your left at the 3.4 mile mark. You continue downhill to the 3.5 mark where you come to a flat portion that covers the back half of the mile. This is a very pleasant stretch with beautiful lake views on your left as well as peaks at the Central Park South skyline. Assuming you have plenty of leg left, this stretch requires minimal exertion. At about the 3.9 mile mark you encounter a mild uphill and you cross over the 72nd Street transverse to continue going straight to the south. If you want to clip a mile off your run, a turn left here and another left at East Park drive will clip a mile off for you. If you are going for just 5, make this turn. But, what's another mile?

Southwest corner of the park, near Time Warner (A. Fine)
Mile 5- Skyline and Tourists-
Start- Approximately West 68th Street and Park West Drive
Mile 5 starts just towards the top of the incline a couple hundred yards past the transverse. Here you see the Great Lawn to your left and Midtown skyline straight ahead. You also experience a pretty nice stretch of downhill and very tame rolling hills for the entire mile. At the quarter mile mark you'll see the time and temperature readings atop a building on Columbus Circle and begin the turn east as you run along the south side of the park. Since this stretch is closest to Midtown, you encounter the greatest amount of potential road hazards here. You are passing by Christian de Portzamparc's new 1000 foot tower, the iconic Essex House and NY Athletic Club to name a few. But with these attractions you have plenty of tourists just hitting the park on bikes, horse drawn carriages, pedicabs, etc.. It is the most crowded strech of the loop, but usually not much of an issue if you are alert. There are water fountains on the right just before and after the road bends back to the North (mile 4.5 and 4.6) and you are on your home stretch. You pass the Central Park Carousel on your left at 4.7 and pass by Literary Walk and the Mall (where I was married), also on your left, and voila you have hit the final mile of your trek!

The Cat, Cat Hill, Central Park (A. Fine)
Mile 6: Cat Hill and Mini-Met
Start- Approximately East 67th and Park Drive East
You've had it easy now for a couple of miles, and you are nearly there, but you have one more challenge- The Cat! The start of your mile is an easy uphill for a little more than a tenth where you come to a fork in the road- you stay left, not exiting the park at 72nd St and then stay right to continue north. Through the trees on the right you can see the "Sailboat Pond", and at the 5.3 mark you will be approaching the Loeb Boathouse on your left. You will also be at the base of the park's 2nd toughest hill- Cat Hill. Cat Hill is a fairly steep .3 mile hill whose degree of difficulty would depend on your level of fitness and how far you've already run prior. Cat Hill is named after a statue of a cougar ready to pounce perched atop a rock 2/3rds of the way up the hill. Regardless of your fitness level, the hill will burn the reserves much like Harlem Hill. For me, it is usually at the end of the run and adds to the challenge. The statue mockingly stares, and I usually make a point to gesture towards it. Depending on the day, it can go from flipping him the bird in frustration, to a simple, more gentlemanly salute. Once the Cat has been conquered there is little left. There is .4 to go which is split between gentle down hill and a mild incline at the 5.8 mark (I call this Mini-Met Hill since it is behind the Met). It's not much of an incline at all, unless you are toast at this point, in which case it is a mild insult. A few more strides and you are back where you started at East 84th Street and Park Drive East.
All in all, the 6 mile loop is fairly challenging. If you are running it for the first time, expect a slower than average time, and if you are training on it, it should benefit your flat speed. The best thing about the loop though is that you get to enjoy seeing the seasons change in one of the most remarkable and beautiful parks in the world!

Here is a great running map for Central Park (PDF)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lot Line Follies: New Condo at 241 Fifth Entombs Offices at 245 Fifth

(245 Fifth (L), 241 Fifth (C)- Pic by JPE)

There is a new condo in town, 241 Fifth Avenue, between 27th and 28th Streets. It is rising quickly, from the ground to its final height of 210 feet or 20 stories in the matter of a few months. For many next door at 245 Fifth the darkness of winter has come early, and it is permanent. A wall of south facing windows are now sealed and gone, just another glimmer of light, snuffed out by life, as-of-right, in New York City.

245 Fifth has had its share of troubles. The building was owned by Joeseph Moinian and Goldman Sach's Whitehall Fund, but Goldman sold out and Joe Sitt stepped in with a cash infusion in a transaction during the spring of 2011. Just a year later, coincidentally just as construction was about to start next door, it was reported that Moinian and Sitt were looking for additional cash, and may have allowed the $140 Million loan to go to special servicing because of risk of default. There is nothing on the net to indicate whether an arrangement could be worked out, but you can bet that reconfiguring the building around the wall of darkness hasn't made things any easier.

As for 241 Fifth, the details are sparse. I mentioned the height, and it appears topped. There will be 42 condo units expected to be priced starting at $2Mil.-$2.5Mil. (according to the Wall Street Journal), and will be built by Victor Homes. Victor, which has done a ton in Jersey and has Israeli roots, bought the property at the bank discounted price of $20 Mil.. It looks like a pretty good bet considering the rather dramatic upswing in the area over the past several years. My biggest question here is, are the lot line windows on the south side of the new building eventually going to see the same fate?

-Special thanks to JPE for sending in the pic.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Enjoy "Harvest In The Square" (w/ discount code)

There are only a few days left and a few tickets left for the Union Square Partnership's annual "Harvest In The Square", which this year takes place on September 20th. It is a wonderful evening, with mouth watering offerings from dozens of local restaurants and local wineries. The event benefits the Union Square Partnership which keeps the park clean, planted, and helps fund various improvements like the new children's playground, the throw back Bishops Crook street lamps, and everyone's favorite addition, the Japanese Pagoda trees! What's not to love?

To sweeten the deal, A Fine Blog readers can use the coupon code "HITS2012" to save $20 off general admission. Enjoy everybody!

Harvest In The Square, Info and Tickets

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Brodsky's 135 East 79th To Go Old School Classic


Picked this up from my friends over at Curbed this week. I admit it, I hate when they beat me to the punch, but I'll give credit where credit is due. Turns out that Brodsky Org's new condo on East 79th, West of Lex, will be a tribute of sorts to the old school prewar style of building that is prevalent in the immediate area. The building looks like an Emory Roth or Candela creation, at least what we can tell from the above rendering. While 19 stories, there will only be 36 units with prices likely starting at $6.8 Million and continuing through the stratosphere. The estimated starting price is $3,000 per square foot, but it wouldn't be a big surprise for those numbers to quickly get bid up when the units come to market. I am not necessarily enamoured by the grey color, but I admit that I am thrilled to see a re-imagined classic style. The foundation is in place and the project is about 20 out of the ground. With another "contemporary classic", 200 East 79th Street topped a block away, I think the owners in the area have to be thankful that the two new additions are both tasteful, and real nice for property values.
135 East 79th (Teaser)
Previously: Brodsky's 127 E 79th Hits Pay Dirt (AFB, April 2012)
Curbed Files: 135 E 79th (Curbed)