Fully Charged; Battery Park City is Almost Finished and it Finally Feels Grown Up

New York Magazine

S. Jhoanna Robledo
Sept. 25, 2006

It's been a big summer for Battery Park City. Construction of an ecologically friendly condo tower built by the Albanese Organization has been humming along; Milstein Properties announced it would develop a nearby plot; and in August, the sales office for Sheldrake's Riverhouse opened its doors. It's all business as usual in condo-happy downtown Manhattan. Yet this activity on the 92-acre flank of the borough marks the end of something: Those are the last pieces of residential Battery Park City that will be built. In other words, the city's longest-running development project is about to be done. "Our mission has been winding down," says James F. Gill, chairperson of the Battery Park City Authority, which manages the community.

It took only four decades. In 1966, Governor Nelson Rockefeller announced plans for a mini-community made up of housing, commercial buildings, and outdoor space atop landfill, much of it from the construction of the World Trade Center. But the project proceeded in fits and starts, delayed by the city's fiscal woes and wrangling over the original vision. The first apartment building wasn't finished until the early eighties. Even a decade ago, says Corcoran broker Victoria Terri-Coté, who lived there then, the neighborhood wasn't exactly coveted. It seemed too suburban, planned, un?New York. Most people who called the area home were young Wall Streeters who just wanted a place to crash.

But the neighborhood has settled in. Excellent public schools persuaded families to stay, as did the slow arrival of restaurants and other services, says J. Christopher Daly, whose company is building Riverhouse. The newer buildings in the complex, which have more larger apartments, are also better suited to families. The city's first ecofriendly rental, the Solaire, went up there (every tower since then has had to be "green"). The resultant community has become a little-known cash cow for the city, as the rent on the towers' land leases goes toward affordable housing?which isn't anywhere around here, because BPC residents are now paying full market rates?roughly $800 per square foot for older apartments, and topping $1,000 per square foot for newer ones?for the newly discovered privilege of living there.

{MOVERS} An End-of-Season Markdown Even in a year of price cuts on the East End, this one stands out: The six-acre spread in Montauk that photographer Peter Beard calls home, on the market since last fall, has just seen its $32 million price tag slashed to $20 million. And even at that, it may not go quickly, says one Hamptons broker who's watching the property. "Twenty million is still aggressive," says Gary DePersia of the Corcoran Group. "As far as I know, the highest price ever paid for a property [in Montauk] was $9.4 million for Richard Avedon's house"?which is next door and was sold by DePersia's wife, Charlotte. (In any case, one local insists, it's actually ex-wife Cheryl Tiegs's house and Beard is a long-term guest.) The estate?which consists of a handful of cottages, since the main house burned down in the seventies?is listed with Prudential Douglas Elliman's Linda Stein.

And, back in the city, another retro fashion figure has put his place on the block: Pierre Bergé is selling the two-bedroom pied-à-terre he and Yves Saint Laurent once shared at the Pierre for $8.5 million. Martha Kramer of Fox Residential is handling the sale.

{TRIPLE ASSESSMENT} 310 East 46th Street, Apartment 25H The facts: 850-square-foot one-bedroom condo. Asking price: $825,000. Maintenance: $2,114 per month. Broker: Gina Kuhlenkamp, Bellmarc. Our panelists agree that this corner unit in a former print shop in Turtle Bay has great bones?fourteen-foot ceilings, banks of windows, and a view of the East River. But it's been super-aggressively renovated, in a quasi-Tuscan idiom that will likely be a bit much for many Manhattan shoppers.

Darren Sukenik, Prudential Douglas Elliman: Sukenik says he'd hope for a "river buyer"?i.e., one who wants water views. But "the feeling and look, while hysterically attractive to those who get it," won't translate to most buyers: "It's not Tuscany, it's 46th Street." His assessment: $825,000.

Garret Price Lepaw, Corcoran: "I like the texture of the cement floors, but the rustic feeling is too rustic?it's run-down. None of the light sockets have covers?was that deliberate?" He also wondered about the "smallish" living area. "It's going to be a tough sell unless you get that one person who falls in love with it," he predicts. His assessment: $785,000.

Ben Lieblein, Nest Seekers International: "It's on a high floor, bright, with decent views, [but] the layout isn't that great. You walk in and you can see the whole apartment right away," says Lieblein, who also took issue with the high monthly fees. "The looks aren't unfixable, but the maintenance is." His assessment: $775,000.