THE MOST IMPORTANT POST YOU WILL READ

I have written about real estate, contemporary art, celebrity apartments…I have sent themed New Yorker cartoons and information about mortgages, financing, etc….but, this is the most important post you will ever read.

Nurse Discusses Five Regrets People Tell Her Before They Die
image

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality.

I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Manydeveloped illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way,you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Guidelines Help Heirs Assume and Modify Loans

image

New guidelines from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are aimed at preventing mortgage servicers from unnecessarily foreclosing on homes after a borrower dies.

The guidelines, issued last month, come in response to complaints that servicers are failing to work with survivors who want to assume the loan for a property to which they have claim.

There were concerns about servicers refusing to talk to family members, or demanding documents that basically didn’t exist.

Diane Thompson, a lawyer at the National Consumer Law Center, says the matter is “one of the thorniest and most intransigent problems I hear about from attorneys across the country.”

Servicers are making “judgment calls” about the legal requirements without any real knowledge, she said. And lost documents are the norm. Grieving family members are frequently asked to provide the borrower’s death certificate multiple times, for example, before the servicer recognizes the death.

Surviving spouses who want to stay in their home can run into difficulties if they need a loan modification to afford the payments, Ms. Thompson said. Lenders are often unwilling to allow spouses to assume the mortgage unless they are current on their payments, but making these payments may be impossible for a survivor dealing with large medical and funeral bills.

Earlier this year, Fannie Mae issued a directive requiring servicers to allow spouses and other heirs to pursue a loan assumption and a modification at the same time, if necessary.

Come January, servicers are supposed to have policies in place for dealing with these situations. The consumer bureau’s guidelines outline what these policies should achieve: for instance, ensuring that employees “promptly” respond to successors, inform them of required documentation, and determine their eligibility for a loan modification.

They’re not precise enough and don’t set out penalties for not complying. When there are clear rules, you know what you have to do to comply. Nobody knows what ‘promptly’ means.

The language was intended to leave lenders some flexibility in dealing with the issue while “giving them a sense of what we’re looking at in the supervisory process.”

The survivors of a borrower in New Mexico recently won $3.1 million in damages after a state district judge ruled that Wells Fargo had wrongfully foreclosed on the borrower’s home after his death. According to the judge’s decision, issued in August, the bank pursued foreclosure on the property even after being notified that the family had filed a claim for a mortgage payoff under the borrower’s accidental-death insurance policy — which had been bought through Wells Fargo.

Calling Wells Fargo’s actions “staggering,” the judge noted that the lender “charged the estate for lawn care of the property (i.e., cutting the grass), even though no grass was actually cut.”

It’s advisable for widows and other heirs to a mortgaged property to hire a lawyer if they aren’t named on the loan.

They need to do an independent analysis of whether they want to keep paying on the mortgage. If so, they need to communicate clearly to the servicer that they want to keep paying and are willing to assume the obligations under the note. And they need to do it as soon as they can.

New York, New York by Frank Sinatra

New Yory: Frank Sinatra Taxi Broadway, Yonkers Central Park, New York City, Maunhattan, Queens, Brooklyn Bridge, Baseball, New York Rangers, 5th Avenue, Metropolitan Museum, Columbus Circle$, Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center at Christmas. It’s the city that never sleeps!

Hell’s Kitchen: Sizzling

imageGotham West, a new rental complex between West 44th and West 45th Streets, shares a block with a Hell’s Kitchen old-timer, a gas station. This is a view from 10th Avenue, looking west.

In the race to develop the West Side of Manhattan, Hell’s Kitchen can seem the tortoise to the Hudson Yards hare. Yet if Hudson Yards suddenly seems to be going up all at once, its neighbor to the north has been moving ahead in slow, deliberate steps, year after year.
image
About a dozen residential projects are in the pipeline for the neighborhood — some finished, some underway and some in the planning stages. They include Gotham West, a rental complex with more than 1,200 apartments that recently opened on West 45th Street; 540West, a 114-unit condo under construction on West 49th Street; and, on West 50th, Stella Tower, a 51-unit sister building to the Walker Tower in Chelsea. The Chelsea version was named for its architect, Ralph Walker, and the one in Hell’s Kitchen for his wife.

These projects are being built in the area running from West 42nd to West 57th Street, and from Ninth Avenue to the Hudson River. When the name “Hell’s Kitchen” gained currency in the 1800s, the neighborhood ran from 59th Street down into the 30s, west of Eighth Avenue, and was known for its gang violence and squalor. Various parts of the loosely defined area have since been called Clinton, Midtown West and Chelsea North. But despite the neighborhood’s 21st-century respectability, Hell’s Kitchen appears to have sticking power as a name. And for the most part, longtime residents have met the changes with tolerance.

“We’re really that melting pot they talk about in New York, lots of different ethnic groups, different incomes,” said Elke Fears, who has lived in a stoop-fronted brownstone since 1983. “It makes it interesting, and it makes it fun.”

Although Midtown next door is growing ever taller, Hell’s Kitchen has preserved much of its low-slung look. Special zoning put in place in the 1970s prevents most buildings from rising more than seven stories on side streets, and more than 15 on the avenues, including Ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th. So to put up lucrative skyscrapers, developers generally went elsewhere. As a result, many Hell’s Kitchen blocks have a 19th-century vibe. Trees shade intact four-story rowhouses, with corbels bracketing their roofs, and facades the color of chocolate frosting.

Along other blocks, the skyline is at ground level: For decades, Hell’s Kitchen was known, for better or worse, for its parking lots, like the one on 10th Avenue, from 47th to 48th Street, that today is home to Hell’s Kitchen Park. Whatever the lots favored by Broadway-bound suburbanites in the past, chances are they have been taken over by new construction.

A sizable part of the neighborhood is made up of affordable housing, some resulting from the rehabilitation of abandoned rowhouses. Among the large public projects are Manhattan Plaza on 42nd Street and Ninth Avenue, largely inhabited by artists; and Clinton Manor, on 51st Street near 10th Avenue, which has 241 apartments for Section 8 tenants. Some developers included below-market units in exchange for being allowed to erect bigger buildings. Retailers have taken an interest, too. Shops are planned for the Windermere, a shuttered 1881 apartment building at 9th Avenue and 57th that may, after years of delays, become a 200-room boutique hotel, said Mark Tress, the New Jersey developer who has owned it since 2009.

These days, Ninth and 10th Avenues are a thicket of bars and restaurants, many of which cater to a gay clientele. On sidewalks where crack was once dealt openly, cafe tables are crammed in front of plate-glass windows or wide-open French doors. This month Gotham West Market, a supercharged food court at Gotham West, will open with eight mini-restaurants.

All those beer taps may turn the area into a party zone on some evenings, but neighbors seem to understand that a certain amount of carousing comes with the territory.

It’s edgy; yes, it’s gritty, but it’s on the cutting edge of the city, but as gentrification takes over the entire city, you have to look for neighborhoods on the cutting edge.”

But it’s not as if Hell’s Kitchen’s commercial legacy, which includes lumberyards, auto dealerships and recording studios, had disappeared. Verizon, an occupant of the Stella building, will retain several lower-level floors, just as it does at Walker Tower, also a former Verizon building.

Views from the 18-story Stella Tower will sweep across some of those protected low-slung blocks, and 40 percent of the apartments will have outdoor space. Wood-burning fireplaces will grace some residences, as will concrete kitchen counters and radiant-heat master-bath floors.

But although the Walker Tower recently set what could be a downtown record for a condo when its penthouse went into contract for around $50 million, Stella Tower’s pricing will be lower.

The offering plan for the $80 million project probably won’t be approved until the end of the year. But it looks as if its listing price will average $2,500 a square foot, as opposed to $3,400 at Walker Tower, which developers say is one of the benefits that a transitional area offers buyers.

Evidence of the gritty past is harder to find at other projects, like the 95-unit Griffin Court, which opened in 2010 at 10th Avenue and 54th Street as one of the first large from-scratch condominiums in the neighborhood, replacing Sony recording studios. Developed by Alchemy Properties and Jamestown Properties, it has only one unsold unit remaining, a $3.5 million three-bedroom penthouse.

Other major projects include Gotham West, which has 1,238 units across three-quarters of a city block; the rest of the block is taken up by a busy Hess gas station. Gotham West, which opened last summer, is 25 percent leased, said Melissa Pianko, an executive vice president of the Gotham Organization, its developer. Units there, which have stainless-steel appliances and wide-plank flooring, start at $2,750 a month for studios, she said. About 55 percent of the building is income-restricted.

Suggesting that no lot will be left unexcavated in Manhattan’s current land rush, developers have also been sniffing around way out west, even in areas adjoining the busy West Side Highway.

A pair of buildings near the highway, at 57th Street, will attempt to give the neighborhood an entrance rivaling one of the wonders of the ancient world. The building on the north side of 57th will be a soaring pyramid — but steel, not stone — housing 711 rental units. The project, from the Durst Organization, is to open in 2015. The Dursts were pioneers in Hell’s Kitchen; on the same block is their 2005 Helena, an eco-conscious rental.

Not to be outdone, TF Cornerstone is planning a 42-story, 1,000-unit rental across the street, with a shape that recalls a stack of children’s blocks, but glassier. As the site, which has a Toyota dealership, is zoned industrial, a zoning change will be required before ground can be broken.

Faced with height caps, other developers are thinking wide, not tall.

At 540 West 49th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues, the Fortis Property Group and Wonder Works Construction Corporation are putting up two adjacent seven-story buildings with a total of 114 condo units. Called 540West, the complex will be united on its block-through site by a 6,000-square-foot courtyard, which will feature an outdoor movie theater.

Sales began last month, with prices starting at $665,000, for studios, or about $1,500 a square foot. Offers have been accepted for 20 of the units, said Jonathan Landau, Fortis’s chief executive.

Living near Manhattan’s edges often means enduring a lack of public transit, and 540West is no exception. The closest subway, a gateway to the A, C and E lines, is on Eighth Avenue, more than two long blocks away.

So ingrained are car dealerships on Hell’s Kitchen’s western fringe that one development decided to embrace them.

Mercedes House, Two Trees Management Company’s 2011 rental building at West 54th Street and 11th Avenue, takes its name from the car showcased on the ground floor.

In 2013, Invesco Real Estate bought the top 11 floors of the zigzagging building, whose units were built as condos, and turned them into 162 rental units, two of which remain available, according to leasing agents. The one-bedroom is priced at $3,995 a month, with a free month as an incentive; on the West Side as a whole, one-bedrooms average $3,422 a month.

Crime has dropped significantly in the neighborhood, as it has in the rest of the city. In the Midtown North precinct, which stretches across Midtown from the Hudson all the way to Lexington Avenue, 4 murders occurred in 2012, down from 11 in 1993, according to police statistics. All other crime categories were down, too; robberies fell to 123 in 2012, from 1,388 in 1993, the statistics show.

But Hell’s Kitchen has also had growing pains. There are 923 bars in the two ZIP codes that cover Hell’s Kitchen, as opposed to 733 in the two ZIP codes that make up the East Village, and noise complaints are on the increase. This month, a task force was convened to try to persuade the local community board to deny future liquor licenses, though it is the state that ultimately makes any licensing decisions. And there is some talk about how nice a park would be on a blocklong parcel at 10th Avenue between 48th and 49th, now a staging area for a new water tunnel.

Residents are grateful that schools are at least trying to keep pace with the area’s popularity. A larger, airier Public School 51 opened on West 44th Street in September, for instance, and a new home for the Beacon School, an alternative public high school now housed in an overcrowded building on West 61st Street, is being created in an old library warehouse on West 43rd.

Few are arguing these days, though, about the neighborhood’s name. Residents, developers and community leaders say it’s not Clinton. It’s not Chelsea North. And despite the claim to the contrary in at least one glitzy ad, it’s definitely not Midtown West.

The name Hell’s Kitchen, beloved by old-timers and gleefully adopted by bars and bistros, is here to stay. That’s why the takeout joint at 641 West 10th Avenue is not called Midtown West Chicken, but Hell’s Chicken.

Spending Hours on The Co-op Board Minutes

image
The standard advice to apartment buyers is to make sure someone reviews the board minutes. But why? What’s in the minutes that is so important? It turns out to be quite a bit.

A co-op board’s minutes provide lawyers with the best window into the inner workings of a building: disputes between shareholders, pending lawsuits, bills coming down the line for major capital repairs, and votes on issues like whether an owner can rent out his or her apartment. They provide a sense of what a board is like and what issues may affect the buyer.

You can find out about the guy smoking too much in Apartment 4A or the barking dog in another apartment or that the roof needs repair. It can contain social nuances and issues as substantial as a financial crisis.

The board of directors of a co-op usually meets monthly to discuss building business, with a break over the summer. The board is required to keep a record of what happens in the meeting.

The minutes, usually just a summary of the meeting, are sometimes sanitized to mask certain controversial issues, said Steven R. Wagner, a lawyer specializing in real estate at Porzio, Bromberg & Newman.

Lawyers for buyers generally want to see 18 months’ to three years’ worth of minutes during the buying process, as a way of ensuring that the buyer knows as much as possible about the state of the building and the apartment before money is put in escrow. They generally review the minutes once an offer is accepted and before a contract is signed.

Usually a real estate lawyer or a paralegal will look over the minutes on site in the building, and prospective buyers can go along; alternatively, if the co-op allows it, the interested buyers can read them on their own. But a prospective buyer unfamiliar with the nuances of deciphering minutes might miss important clues about impending expenses or other issues that a lawyer might pick up on; and the buyer lacks the connections to get additional information from management firms if necessary. Also, not just any lawyer will do. The attorney should be a real estate expert familiar with co-ops.

Lawyers also look at a building’s financial statements, though minutes serve a different purpose. Financial statements look back over what has happened in the last year, Mr. Wagner noted, while minutes can help a lawyer better understand what changes are likely to occur. Board members might discuss a possible lawsuit against the building that has yet to be filed, or impending work on the facade or the heating system. These issues can lead to special assessments or increases in maintenance, or to a flip tax, if the building doesn’t have enough cash reserves to address them.

Buyers can also learn about the temperament of the board, from the way it addresses problems and implements rules, said Eva Talel, a partner of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan who is in charge of the co-op/condominium board representation group. In a building that allows shareholders to rent out their apartments, for example, a look at the minutes might reveal to a lawyer that the board allows such rentals only after an owner has been in the building for three or five years, Ms. Talel said. The board may also demand that owners adhere strictly to rules governing what is and is not allowed on their terraces.

Dogs may be allowed, but the board may prefer breeds under a certain size. Or it may be strict about complex guidelines on renovations — for example, the placement of bathrooms. You can find out how strict or flexible a board is from reading the minutes.

Lawyers can also learn quite a bit about the specific apartments their clients want to buy. The minutes should reflect whether, for example, there was a fire above, below or next to the apartment, or any history of water leaks, or even of bed bugs. If a neighbor has chronic complaints about noise or smoking, that will also be reflected in the minutes and may make buyers pause before they take the plunge.

The minutes do not, however, contain everything. A certain amount of summary is appreciated and expected of well-run buildings, Mr. Wagner added. If minutes were a jumble of verbatim discussions, it might be a sign of a poorly run building. Minutes can also give insight into board dynamics — whether the board seems to be efficient and professional, or a bastion of infighting.

If a lawyer is puzzled by something in the minutes, he or she often asks more questions of the management company to get some insight. But in some buildings, lawyers actually have little to go on. Some smaller, self-managed buildings — like three- and four-unit co-ops in brownstones — might just keep handwritten notes, or in some cases nothing at all. In that event, a lawyer might just telephone a board member and have a conversation about what is happening in the building and whether there are any large repairs or lawsuits.

Although minutes can bring up issues of concern, it is rare that something comes up to scuttle a deal. Sometimes a revelation can force a concession from a seller — if, for example, an assessment is expected. The seller might pitch in some money to cover a portion of the bill.

The review of minutes typically comes at a very vulnerable time in the purchasing process, especially in a market in which buyers are falling over one another to land homes. Once an offer has been accepted, buyers may be itchy to get the contract signed, as they could be outbid in the interim, but they shouldn’t forgo the minutes.

Learning From Rejection

image

A Rejection From A Mortgage Lender Is No Cause For Shame. Instead, Think Of It As A Call To Action.

Rejected borrowers should find out exactly why their loan application was denied, then try to remedy or work around the problem. Lenders are required to detail the cause for denial in a formal rejection letter.

In reviewing the letter, borrowers should keep in mind that the larger banks often have overlays, or tighter requirements, than the minimum qualification standards set by Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Administration.

If the rejection is based on insufficient income, then the borrowers might simply downsize their expectations of how much house they can afford. “The next question should be, well, how much do I qualify for?”

When it comes to refinancing applications, appraisals are often the sticking point. If one lender denies your application on the basis of an appraisal that came in low, it may make sense to try another bank if you truly feel the value is there and your credit and income are decent.

If the rejection letter identifies a credit issue, the borrowers should get a copy of the credit report used by the bank. They can do that by asking their lender for the phone number of its credit report retrieval service, and contacting the service directly. The service is required to provide the borrower with a free copy of the report.

Whether the problem is a negative credit history, high credit-card balances, or a lack of credit history, borrowers should try to figure out — on their own, or with the help of a professional — how to raise their FICO score.

Seemingly inconsequential credit events like a medical collection for $100 can diminish your score enough to keep you from getting a loan. Credit is never terminal. It can always be fixed or improved.

Borrowers whose credit took a beating from a foreclosure, a bankruptcy or a short sale may not have to wait as long as they think to qualify for another loan if their financial problems were a result of job loss during the recession. The F.H.A. recently issued rules for a “Back to Work” loan program that extends borrowing privileges to otherwise ineligible applicants who can prove that their past financial problems were beyond their control, and that they are back on more sound financial footing.

“F.H.A. recognizes the hardships faced by these borrowers, and realizes that their credit histories may not fully reflect their true ability or propensity to repay a mortgage,” the agency said in the Aug. 15 mortgagee letter laying out the program’s underwriting standards.

So far, lenders have been hesitant to offer the program. Just because F.H.A. says we can do that doesn’t mean the lenders are going to allow it. They want to make sure they have good quality loans.

1 World Trade Center Ruled Tallest Building in The U.S

By a Spire, Manhattan Regains a Title From Chicago

imageOne World Trade Center’s height of 1,776 feet includes its spire.

For four decades, Chicagoans have been able to one-up New Yorkers on at least one measure: The City of the Big Shoulders had the tallest building in the United States.

The 1,451-foot Willis Tower in Chicago. The antennas are not calculated in the height of the building.
image
But as of Tuesday, that crown is moving east. One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan has officially been ruled to be taller than the Willis Tower, in Chicago. That judgment came from the primary arbiter of structural stature, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

New York’s tallest building was deemed taller even though it has six fewer floors and its roof is more than 100 feet lower than the top side of the Willis Tower. (Formerly known as the Sears Tower, the Chicago building captured the title in the 1970s from the twin towers.)

How can that be?

It all depends on what the definition of an antenna is.

Both buildings have long masts poking skyward from their roofs. But those on the 1,451-foot Willis Tower are considered antennas, which the council does not count in calculating the height of a building.

The 408-foot long mast on 1 World Trade Center, on the other hand, is more than just a means of improving radio signals, its developers argued. They called it a spire and insisted it was a critical and permanent element of the architects’ overall design.

When 25 members of the council’s height committee met in Chicago on Friday, they heard the spire argument from the chief architect, David Childs of the firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and representatives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which developed the trade center.

The New York contingent said the spire had always been part of the plan to achieve the symbolic height of 1,776 feet.

The committee members unanimously agreed that the spire should be counted, said Timothy Johnson, the council’s chairman and a partner in NBBJ, a design firm.

“The building is in fact 1,776 feet,” Mr. Johnson said. “We don’t believe the spire will ever be removed.”

The Port Authority issued a joint statement with the architects and the Durst Organization, which is managing the building and recruiting tenants. “This iconic building represents the resilience of America, and today’s decision recognizes 1 World Trade Center’s rightful place in history,” the statement said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago was unmoved.

“If it looks like an antenna, acts like an antenna, then it is an antenna,” Mr. Emanuel said after the decision was announced. “At the Willis Tower, you have a panoramic view that is unmatched. You can’t get a view like that from an antenna.”

Mr. Emanuel’s tone reflects the pride Chicagoans take in their city’s architecture and its status as the home of the country’s first “skyscraper,” the 10-story Home Insurance Building.

Carol Willis, an architectural historian and founder of the Skyscraper Museum in Manhattan, said there were various ways to measure the size of a building beyond its height. “In the end,” Ms. Willis said, “buildings are about more than one dimension. It’s about height, floor plans, office space, location and rent.”

She pointed out that the Empire State Building was about 200 feet taller than another former record-holder, the Chrysler Building, and also had twice as much office space as the Chrysler Building and the Bank of Manhattan Building at 40 Wall Street combined.

Walter Chrysler came up with a spire of his own to gain the edge in a similar rivalry in the late 1920s. To beat the 927-foot height of 40 Wall Street, he secretly had a 125-foot spire assembled inside the crown of the Chrysler Building, raising it to 1,046 feet.

The architects for 40 Wall Street countered that their building had the highest usable floor.

How The Word “North”Affects Prices

Living Along Central Park North

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The moment Gary Davis popped his head out of the subway station on Central Park North and Lenox Avenue in 2004, he understood he was looking at an extraordinary spot. An architect and real estate developer, he had been invited to the block by a lawyer for the owner of a two-story corner building there, and though Mr. Davis recalls not being “very excited about Harlem,” he was quick to see the site’s potential. He then sent a photographer 120 feet above the street in a bucket attached to a crane arm; the resulting pictures showed breathtaking panoramic views of Central Park and miles beyond.

In 2007, 111 Central Park North, a 19-story glass-fronted luxury condominium, was opened on the site by the Athena Group, of which Mr. Davis was the executive vice president. He liked his surroundings so much that when the project was done, he bought a two-bedroom apartment on the seventh floor. (Although he declined to say what he paid, similar units were selling for around $1.4 million.)
image
“This is why I live here,” he said the other day, standing on his balcony and gesturing expansively at the park and the glorious cityscape of Manhattan, clear down to 1 World Trade Center. In the evenings, he said, the individual buildings on Central Park South soften into a purplish-gray mass whose craggy profile reminds him of the view of the Rocky Mountains from his childhood balcony in Denver.

Mr. Gray’s fellow residents on Central Park North are an eclectic bunch, even by New York standards. Along with regular folk like teachers, his neighbors on the three-block-long corridor include the Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who rents a full-floor condo upstairs; L. Dennis Kozlowski, the former Tyco International chief executive convicted of grand larceny, conspiracy and fraud, who lives at the Lincoln Correctional Facility down the street; and the numerous ducks that ply the water of the Harlem Meer, some of which have nested on a terrace at No. 111. Just across Lenox is the Park View Hotel, sometimes a source of noise that has compelled neighbors to shut their windows in summer.

No. 111 has provided the greatest lift to the area since the construction in the late 1980s of Towers on the Park, a mixed-income condo complex flanking West 110th Street west of Frederick Douglass Circle. At 201 Central Park North, a prewar building, a one-bedroom condo sold for $811 a square foot in May, a 20 percent jump from its sale price in 2004.

At 45 Central Park North, an income-restricted co-op, prices are lower, and bidding can get fierce. A three-bedroom on the second floor, listed in July at $469,000, attracted multiple offers above $500,000.

Jason Stone, the winning bidder along with his wife, Meredith, said he imagined watching their son, now 19 months old, play hockey at Lasker Rink, which is visible from their windows. “I’ve been reading about uberluxury apartments on Central Park South where the developers are looking for $7,000 to $8,000 a square foot,” said Mr. Stone, a structural engineer. “For less than 10 percent of that, I have Central Park views as well.”

What You’ll Find

Central Park North, also called West 110th Street, is bookended by circles, each commanded by a monument to an African-American legend. At the park’s northwest corner, the abolitionist Frederick Douglass gazes northward up the gentrifying boulevard that bears his name. At the northeast corner, the jazz composer Duke Ellington looks east past One Museum Mile, a Fifth Avenue luxury condo designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects, and toward a public housing development.

The uptown side of Central Park North is lined primarily by low-slung prewar apartments, many of them rent-stabilized. The street level of No. 111 is home to the Cooper-Hewitt Design Center, as well as a Dunkin’ Donuts.

The area’s population, historically dominated by blacks, has diversified at an even faster clip than Central Harlem as a whole. A 2007-to-2011 census survey estimated that 6,489 people lived in an area comprising the blocks along northern Central Park and a small wedge of land running north from there to 114th Street west of Lenox. Half of these residents were black, a 17 percent drop since 2000. In that time, the white population nearly quadrupled, to 19 percent; the share of Asians grew to 5 percent; that of Hispanics dropped slightly, to 23 percent.

But long before the gentrification of the 1990s, Central Park North was known as a more stable strip than the streets above it, said Larry Young, a Central Park North resident who grew up on 111th in the 1960s. Mr. Young, a program director for a nonprofit, recalled that back then kids from 111th or 112th played football in the street against 110th Street kids, whom he describes as typically better educated, with parents in better jobs, often the Civil Service.

Later, into the early ’80s, when Harlem in general grew more troubled, “drugs didn’t go so much in that part of town,” he said of Central Park North. “The families were more together, and even now it’s family-oriented.”

Residents often say that Central Park feels like their backyard. The street lacks the crowds and traffic of counterpart boulevards on its other sides, and at the Farmers’ Gate at Lenox Avenue and the Warriors’ Gate at Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, the park throws its arms open wide.

“I never feel it’s garbagey, and I never feel unsafe; it’s just picturesque,” said Ellen Anthony-Moore, a professor who has lived on Central Park North since 1999. “There are a lot of international families and a lot of people from Columbia University, and it just feels very down-to-earth.”

What You’ll Pay

Inventory is low — a search on Streeteasy.com found just two units for sale and five for rent.

No units have changed hands this year at 111 Central Park North; in 2012, three-bedrooms there traded for an average of $1,100 a square foot. At No. 201, a first-floor condo sold in July for $629 a square foot.

“People are paying a premium to live on that street,” said Chuck Newman, an agent at Reliance Realty Partners. But rental prices are wildly variable. Two-bedrooms in No. 111 are commanding $7,000 to $7,900 a month — “downtown prices” — said Jeffrey Berger of Isen & Company, a real estate advisory firm. At No. 125, a two-bedroom was listed at $4,000. But in some buildings, three-bedrooms can be had for $3,000.

What to Do

Restaurants and lounges like Bier International and 67 Orange Street have popped up on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, filling a neighborhood need.

The Conservatory Garden, whose chrysanthemums are a riot of color in fall, is a short walk.

Weeping willows overhang the sinuous shores of the Harlem Meer; Canada geese frequent its waters, and children fish with poles and bait provided free at the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center. Two playgrounds are nestled near Central Park North.

At the Harlem Meer Performance Festival each summer, picnickers enjoy jazz and other music. Nearby, Lasker Rink becomes a public pool in the summer.

The Schools

Some students are zoned for Public School 185 on West 112th Street, for prekindergarten through second grade, and P.S. 208 on West 111th, for Grades 3 through 5. Both scored Bs on their most recent city progress reports.

The Frederick Douglass Academy II Secondary School on West 114th serves Grades 6 through 12. SAT averages at the high school in 2012 were 356 in reading, 379 in math and 361 in writing, versus 434, 461 and 430 citywide.

The Commute

The financial district is about 35 minutes away on the 2 or 3 train, both of which stop at 110th and Lenox. The B and C stop at Frederick Douglass Circle; both reach Midtown in 15 to 20 minutes.

The History

The Lincoln Correctional Facility was built in 1914 as a Young Women’s Hebrew Association home for immigrants. Its roof, now caged, once had a garden, according to the Jewish Women’s Archive.

Trend Toward Colossal Condos in Manhattan

imageA view of the main living-room area in one of the condominiums at 11 E. 68th St. in Manhattan.

Manhattan Developers Are Building Increasingly Large Condos, New York’s Upscale Answer To The Suburban McMansion.

At the peak of the Manhattan real-estate boom in 2007, the average new condo—from studios to penthouses—was 1,265 square feet. Now, new condos average 1,564 square feet, a 24% increase.

The big condos, increasingly expensive and brimming with high-end details and amenities, are being built in converted garages and walk-ups, as well as part of new, ground-up construction across much of Manhattan.

image

When work on the Charles, a 32-story glass and limestone tower designed by Ismael Leyva, resumed earlier this year on First Avenue on the far Upper East Side, it had fewer condos: only 29 four-bedroom apartments of at least 3,100 square feet each. Building plans filed in 2008 called for 51 units.

The developer, Bluerock Real Estate, announced last week that buyers had signed contracts on $73 million worth of apartments, with interiors designed by the late David Collins.

This included five apartments on the top six floors of the building, for more than $10 million each, including a $16.5 million duplex penthouse with two terraces.

At another time in New York history, the apartment mix would have seemed risky. Now, it is proving to be the most wise and prudent course of action.

This demand in turn is driving land costs higher, making it difficult to build smaller condos economically in many neighborhoods.

One measure of the change: The average apartment size at One57, the huge tower on West 57th Street, was 3,600 square feet, about 70% larger than the average at another premier condo, the Time Warner Center, when it went on the market in 2001.

“In New York, Space Is The Ultimate Status Symbol.

Developers say that they are responding to the market—strong demand by the buyers in the upper end of the 1%. The new buyers include international clients looking for investment-grades properties, and local families, who after years of falling crime improving quality of life, want to stay in New York to raise families, or return there when their children head off to college.

The trend toward bigger condos unfolds amid a changing political tone in New York, with Mayor-elect Bill De Blasio seeking new attention to economic inequality and voters this week citing worries about affordability.

Buyers, including many from the baby boomer generation near retirement age, now want highly finished living spaces, full of services, support staff and amenities—spaces they can walk into “with a toothbrush.”

imageThe exterior of 11 E. 68th St., which features four-, five-, and six-bedroom condominiums. John Taggart for The Wall Street Journal

Another sign of the times: When construction of a new neighborhood on Riverside Boulevard began in the 1990s, 22% of the condos had three or more bedrooms and the largest apartment was 2,200 square feet. Now, Extell Development is about to launch sales at a new building down the street called One Riverside Park. Forty percent of the apartment have three or more bedrooms.

The new-era condos are surfacing in many parts of the city. A few years ago, the Whitney Museum sold a row of small buildings and a mansion near its Madison Avenue space for $95 million. Now these buildings have been combined and are about to go back on the market as 10 condominiums, designed by Beyer Blinder Bell, including one penthouse with a 32-foot-long entrance gallery.

In the Flatiron district, Gale International is building three 100-foot-wide condos next to and on top of a parking garage at 21 W. 20th St., that will be listed at between $15 million and $17 million.

Another space on East 13th Street near Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village is being transformed into eight apartments with prices at $7.5 million to $28.5 million.

At 432 Park Avenue, small condos were combined and the number of apartments in the building was cut to 104 from 123. The least expensive apartment is now about $17 million.

This trend is likely to continue. In recent projects on the market, 44.8% of condominiums in prime neighborhoods had three or more bedrooms. She forecasts that figure could rise to 59% by 2014.

CHRISTIE’S: Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

It was an electrifying evening seeing Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale achieve $691,583,000 in sales making it the highest total in auction history:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The activity was swift and the auctioneers kept the audience involved in every lot:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” became the most expensive work of art at auction when it sold for $142.4 million. It was the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction.
imageWhen the bidding for “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” finally stopped the overflowing crowd in the salesroom burst into applause. The previous record for art sold at auction was Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” which went for $119.9 million in May 2012 at Sotheby’s in New York.

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog (Orange) Estimated: $35,000,000 - $55,000,000 Realized: $58,405,000

Jeff Koons
Balloon Dog (Orange)
Estimated: $35,000,000 – $55,000,000
Realized: $58,405,000

Koons’s 10-foot-tall stainless-steel structure “Ballon Dog (Orange)” which Christie’s estimated at $35 million to $55 million, sold for $58,405,000. The price smashed Koons’s previous record of $33.7 million and the record for the most expensive living artist.

The third-priciest lot was a graphic oversized Coca Cola bottle by Andy Warhol that went for $57.3 million.

Andy Warhol  Coco-Cola Estimated: $40,000,000 - $60,000,000 Realized: $57,285,000

Andy Warhol
Coco-Cola
Estimated: $40,000,000 – $60,000,000
Realized: $57,285,000

Records were smashed by ten artists, including Willem de Kooning, Donald Judd, Ad Reinhardt, Christopher Wool, and Wayne Thiebauld.