Beautiful high floor one bedroom/convertible 2 with plenty of closet space and a washer and dryer! The Grayson offers an elevated level of living through stylishly redesigned luxury rental residences and common spaces along with exceptional access to some of Manhattan’s best nightlife and shopping destinations. The residence features 6-inch sandstone oak flooring, kitchen appointed with polished quartz countertops and full height backsplashes, self-closing drawers/cabinetry, stainless steel appliances, custom fitted closets, Bosch washer & dryer, and bathroom is fitted with Moen fixtures, a soaking tub and custom vanity. Amenities include a 24-hour attended lobby, residents’ lounge with billiards table and entertaining kitchen, private landscaped courtyard with wi-fi access, fitness center, and a landscaped roof deck with river and city views. If this home is converted into a 2 BR, it will still have a living room. Please click here for more details and please contact me if you would like to see this home.
The Real Deal, a New York City real estate trade publication, posted an interesting article today about what New York’s Business Improvement Districts do for the city. There are 70 Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in NYC, all of which are funded through a tax assessment paid by the property owners within the district. BIDs help beautify and clean neighborhoods, as well as maintain safety and help with the development of businesses. However, they do much more than that as well. Learn about the real influence they have in NYC neighborhoods by reading The Real Deal article here and find your local BID here.
Over the last year, I have been working closely with Mike House, Architectural Designer & Partner at raad studio in NYC. If you are a Curbed reader like I am, you have likely seen this week’s press about his studio’s upcoming hotel in Williamsburg. I sat down with Mike for a Q&A and learned some interesting things about him, including his past as a squatter (homesteader) in an East Village building (and how he was able to buy the building along with his fellow homesteaders), his involvement in the world’s first underground park, The Lowline, and his recommendations for creating a healthier, more sustainable environment in our current homes.
You graduated PRATT less than 5 years ago and you are already a partner at raad studio. Tell us about your path to where you are today.
raad studio was started by my partner, James Ramsey, about 10 years ago. I joined four years ago, right out of school, as an entry level person. Very quickly my work style meshed with James’ style and I was promoted to partner last year. I now work in collaboration with partners James Ramsey and Kibum Park, who is also a design director. I feel very lucky that I was able to find such a great fit right out of school.
How old are you?
You were involved in the homesteader movement, which some people call squatting. What was that like?
There is a long history of homesteading in the Lower East Side. It all started in the 70s when there were hundreds of vacant and city-owned properties that people would move into. I grew up in NYC and got involved with homesteading in high school. At the time, Giuliani was trying to liquidate all city-owned assets as a way of raising money for the city, so hundreds of properties were being transitioned by the office of Housing and Preservation Development to private ownership. As part of that deal, we teamed up with a non-profit developer named The Urban Homesteading Assistance Board and they were able to broker a deal where we renovated the buildings and brought them up to code, and then the title was transferred to us. Now we run them as regular coops.
My idea of “squatters” has always been one of junkies living in abandoned buildings, but that doesn’t at all sound like the case here?
There are definitely those types of squatters out there but the world that I came from is much closer to the European model of squatting and we call it homesteading because it’s not about finding a place to crash for free, it’s more about a community-minded way of living, a collective way of living. There is a rich history of organized homesteading in Germany, London, Amsterdam, Spain and many other countries. These highly organized collectives wherein people would band together and all contribute collective energy and resources to establish alternative ways to inhabit the city were a huge influence on our movement.
You were a teenager when you did this. How did you know about construction to renovate the buildings?
I learned on my own. There were a lot of people who shared their skills. It was a collective living environment, very similar to the way SoHo was pioneered by artists. People would slowly do the work using discarded materials from constructions sites. We all learned from our neighbors while everyone pitched in. It was a very collective-minded atmosphere and that is what got me interested in design and especially in pursuing renovation.
How did your experience as a homesteader affect what you are doing today?
A lot of what I learned in the Lower East Side was about how to deal with small spaces because the buildings we lived in were tenement buildings where there were 4 apartments to a floor – very traditional early 1900 tenement buildings. That experience got me thinking about efficient ways to live in small spaces and this got me interested in pursuing architecture; I thought either I could continue doing construction work or I could pursue architecture, so I started school at 22. Now a lot of the work I do is on luxury residential developments but the same skill set applies because our clients in New York have the same types of constraints that we dealt with when I was homesteading in many ways. We had to deal with the historical context of our building, adjacency to neighbors, making the most out of tight spaces, etc.
raad studio is involved in some huge projects, including the historical lowline project, an ambitious passion project started by your partner, James Ramsey and his friend Dan Barasch. raad studio is working to convert an abandoned underground trolley terminal into the world’s first underground park. The plan is to use modern technology to harvest sunlight above-ground and direct it underground. How is the project coming?
The project is going well. We have secured endorsements from many local politicians, community organizations, etc. Our next step will be to establish the 2nd iteration of our “Lowline Lab.” This is a large scale mockup of the solar technology we currently have under development. We will be making some exciting announcements regarding the details of this very shortly. You can learn more about the project by watching Dan Barasch in this TED Talk.
Fair enough. Can’t wait to hear the announcements. What are you most passionate about when it comes to community planning and sustainable architecture?
At raad studio we are trying to simplify the process of applying sustainable design and construction principles to residential renovations. To this end we really try to encourage our clients and colleagues to consider using environmentally responsible materials and methods of construction. While a lot of firms are doing this the practice hasn’t really saturated the NYC residential construction industry and especially not with smaller design firms that are primarily doing renovations. We have been thinking a lot about the small steps we can take to make some of these sustainability guidelines easier to understand for contractors and for owners and to become part of the DNA of a project. These kind of nuts and bolts details are what excite me more so than the grander gestures that are often associated with sustainable building techniques. While the construction profession, our society and our city have long had some very respectable grand ideas surrounding sustainable design it has proven difficult to put them into practice with your every day contractors and the fast paced environment we work in. For example, the other day we went through all our wall details and modified our standard details to include low formaldehyde or formaldehyde-free building products, we only use low VOC paints and construction adhesives and we are replacing our fiberglass insulation products with either low formaldehyde content batt insulation or recycled cotton insulation. It’s much easier for the workers to work with safely, contains no formaldehyde and is made of recylced denim in some cases. We are really trying to make nuts and bolts type recommendations that are easy for contractors to understand and implement. There are bigger things that you can do such as solar panels and geothermal modifications but those are very high investment moves that are not a reality for most New York City renovators.
Who are some of your role models or inspirations?
There are a few people out there doing some very interesting things where they are integrating their design practices and also doing development and construction. DDG Partners is one of them. They are four partners; a finance guy, a real estate person, an architect, and a lawyer / real estate developer. And they’ve teamed together to develop their own projects. The type of work they are doing is really beautiful, nicely executed, and does not feel like bottom-line developer-type work. They have figured out a way for architects to have a strong voice in the direction of urban development projects. There is a little bit of a trend in the industry for architects to be not taken seriously in the development conversation because people think that we are blinded by our design values and are not financially astute, and there is probably a lot of truth to that, but these guys are doing some very interesting projects at the cross-section of design and development.
Another person on the development side who is an inspiration for me is Abby Hamlin of Hamlin Ventures. She is another great example of a successful developer who is building high quality projects that are profitable and also great examples of how the public good can be enhanced via design and architecture. She has an urban planning degree and tries to encourage innovative uses of public space through all of her private development work.
On the art side of things I am very influenced by Gordon Matta Clark and his explorations in “anarchitecture”. He was a young artist who studied architecture at Cornell but created his own form of architecture by cutting large holes out of floors and walls of abandoned buildings that were soon to be destroyed.
What are your design influences?
I am very influenced by high modern aesthetics starting with Frank Lloyd Wright all the way through 1960s Brutalist Architects such as Paul Rudolph and Louis Kahn. This movement has always really spoken to me; they use a lot of concrete, steel, and glass and you can see the process of construction clearly evident in the final product. The style is very true to the construction process, and structural members such as walls and columns are celebrated for what they are rather than being decorated or overly stylized. A lot of people criticize the Brutalists saying it is too cold for residential and that’s probably true for many people, so we balance this by adding warmth to our projects to make them livable and cozy. We do this in many ways, most commonly by choosing simple, pure, clean materials and geometries and then layering them plush or colorful with interior furnishings and décor to soften the hard edges.
What is your dream project?
I would love to renovate a classic Mies van der Rohe or Frank Lloyd Wright house. On a day to day, though, I am less interested in the type of project or building typology than I am in the constraints of a particular project, whether it’s a hotel or house or apartment or loft. Every project has a specific set of problems that need to be solved an its responding to these problems creatively that makes for a dream project.
How are your and raad studio’s architectural solutions different from what’s happening elsewhere in NYC and the world?
I think there are a lot of people doing really amazing work in NYC and in the world. One thing that differentiates us is that we are sensitive to clients’ issues so we really get to know the client, what their living environments are, how many kids they have, whether or not they entertain, what types of environments they feel good in, what types of environments they avoid. I like to think that separates us because a lot of architects are attached to their own vision of the project and it is more about them executing their vision rather than meeting the clients’ expectations. There are other archictects who don’t have a style so there isn’t a continuous thread. We are the middle ground: we have an identifiable style which emphasizes the materiality, joinery, and detail of design.
What does the future of NYC architecture look like?
I’d like to see less of a boundary between architect, developer and builder. I really like this emerging type of practice where the development side is very closely intertwined with the design side. Design can play a much more powerful role in our city if developers use the power of design to really enrich people’s lives and our cities, but the only way to do that in my opinion is to blur that boundary and to lay the designers on the same plane as the developers. I’d love to see that. The future of NY is going to be all about affordable housing and the response to changing climate conditions. We are seeing De Blasio roll out a lot of affordable housing. We are starting to see an apex in terms of very very high end apartments and I think there is a lot of room in the middle and low ends of the market for a lot of interesting design. There are some interesting projects out there such as the Sugar Hill project in Harlem, which is an interesting affordable housing development.
What publications do you read or recommend for learning about the latest architecture trends?
- DWELL really speaks to the residential modern aesthetic
- I enjoy the design content in NYTimes
- NYMag design content is great
- Elle Décor is good for interiors
Generally, I enjoy well respected non-design publications that happen to be covering design because they have a more objective point of view and they’re not required to constantly churn out articles about design.
Is there anything you recommend that we non-architects do in our homes to create a more sustainable environment on a small scale?
Integrating some of these increasingly accessible materials into our homes in terms of air quality and their impact on our health and our environment is a great start. Homeowners should consider the following:
- low VOC paint finishes
- water based floor stains
- sourcing material from local sources e.g. The Northeastern US may not be well known for quarry’s or natural stone but we produce incredible slate up in New England. We don’t have to get all of our stone products from Italy, Turkey or Brazil.
- having environmentally friendly cleaning products, especially in homes with small children.
- humidifiers and air filters are a great way to increase indoor air quality
- water quality in NY is good but there are tons of water filters that will hook up to your sink and take out even trace bacteria.
These are all great tips, Mike, thank you so much for your time.
raad studio is located at 5 White Street in Tribeca. To work with Mike and his team please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (212) 254-5490.
As someone who loves to cook and try new food, I’m excited that restaurant week is kicking off again. It’s not too late to make reservations at one of the nearly 300 NYC restaurants participating in the prix-fixe three-course $25 lunch or $38 dinner. Keep in mind that the 18-day long week, which runs through Friday, March 6, 2015 does not include Saturdays and, depending upon the restaurant, may not include Sundays. Also not included are tips, taxes, or drinks.
Restaurant week was founded in 1992 by Tim Zagat (of Zagat’s guides) and late restaurateur Joe Baum as a 4-day event offering lunch for $19.92. The original week was meant to accommodate thousands of reporters who were in NYC covering the Democratic National Convention. It was such a hit that, in the last 23 years, Restaurant Week has extended to small towns and large cities throughout the US including Chicago, Boston, and DC, and there are numerous spin-offs such as French Restaurant Week and Kosher Restaurant Week. New York City hosts a January and a July restaurant week, both of which are normally the slowest months for NYC restaurants.
Not everyone loves Restaurant week, though. Regulars at the restaurants participating in Restaurant Week complain that waits are longer, entrees are smaller, and the meals are often not on the restaurant’s typical menu. Many restaurants add low-cost meats like chicken or less expensive fish to the menu in order to save money. If you plan to go to a NYC restaurant week lunch or dinner, be sure to research the prix-fixe menu to ensure it’s not too different from the regular menu. Click here to see the menus for all the restaurants.
American Express, the original Restaurant Week sponsor, is again offering a $5 credit on all Restaurant week purchases over $25 as long as you register your card here.
There are so many options to choose from and countless articles recommending top places to go. Here are my top picks:
New and/or Hot: (You’ll notice a pattern)
I am excited to announce the closing of Apt 16D at 240 East 79th Street after less than 2 months on the market. Both my sellers and the buyers were very happy with the transaction. Now is a great time to sell! The average price per square foot for Manhattan coops has increased 4% since Q4 2013 and over 12% since Q4 2012.
We all know how difficult it can be to get across the city without the subway: nearly impossible. It’s the fastest way to get uptown, downtown, or across town at any time of the day, especially during rush hour when traffic is stopped. Although we all have complaints about the NYC subway, and wonder how the fare could be going up again even though the system hasn’t visibly improved, I think we all agree we would be lost without it.
The first train was built in the late 1800s above ground along Greenwich Street. Soon after, construction began for a subterranean line that was finished in 1904, charging riders 5 cents per ride to connect riders, while connecting most of Manhattan using what are now the 1 and 4 lines.
Today, the subway has approximately 660 miles of customer service tracks, 468 stations, over 6 million riders on some days, and about 1.7 billion riders per year. NYC ranks eighth in the world in terms of number of annual subway riders. Tokyo has 3.3B riders annually, almost twice the amount of riders that NYC has. Paris has about 1.5B.
The cost per ride has been steadily increasing since the fare first went up from five to ten cents 44 years after the original fare was established. You may wonder, “What do these fare increases pay for?” Despite all the increases, I still can’t understand the conductor when he speaks on the loudspeaker, the trains are still overpacked, and there are still constant delays. According to this Gothamist article, the MTA is $34.1M in debt (more money than some countries owe!) due to subway improvements and a $15B budget shortfall, so the rate increases go largely to paying off the interest on the debts and keeping up with maintenance on the train systems. Thomas F. Prendergast, the MTA’s chairman and CEO, called the upcoming (Mar 22) increase “modest” in a New York Times article earlier this year. Even with the fare increase, fare and toll revenue only covers about 52% of the cost to maintain the existing MTA’s operating budget which is about $13B annually.
Future projects that are already underway for the MTA lines include connecting Long Island Rail Road with Grand Central Station and Penn Station, giving riders access to both sides of Manhattan. This is a $3.1 billion project that isn’t scheduled to finish until 2019. The Second Avenue train is also getting work, with the construction of another line to alleviate the existing rush hour riders who currently crowd existing lines. The Q line was currently extended from 63rd to 96th Street, and will continue to build 8.5 miles to extend the line all the way to 125th Street. This is a $4.4 billion project that will be complete in 2019. Plans to eliminate the Metrocard by 2022 include an electronic reader that will read smartphones or credit cards with one tap. All of these upgrades, as well as the MTA debt, come at a price: $2.75 per ride starting March 22nd.
What improvements do you hope to see the MTA make in the coming years?
I am pleased to announce that I have closed on the sale of my listing at 363 Greenwich Street. Congratulations to the new owners. This is a great 16-unit building tucked away on Greenwich, one of my favorite Tribeca streets. At $2.725M, the sale of this apartment left my sellers and the buyers very happy. The average price per square foot in Tribeca is at $1900, a 14% increase from this time last year.
With Fashion Week in full swing, it’s time to talk about good looking men’s suits. As a real estate agent in NYC, I wear a suit 3-4 days a week. My favorite suits are made by Ermenegildo Zegna, Salvatore Ferragamo, Hugo Boss, and Ted Baker but rarely do I pay retail to wear them. With a little bit of time and patience, I find sharp suits at Century 21, Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, and Reiss. I also travel to Bangkok, Thailand frequently where I visit a tailor, David, who makes me custom cashmere suits for less than $400. If you are in the market for a new suit, be it off the rack or custom, there are many affordable options today that will keep you looking sharp in and out of the office. I asked my colleagues where they buy their suits and they all had positive things to say about the below options:
Mr. Ned is a household name among NYC suit wearers from Wes Anderson to Wall Street bankers. With a tailoring studio at 137 5th Avenue, Mr. Ned has been in business since 1964. For between $950-$4K, your custom fitting, superior quality suit will be made by Vahram Mateosian and his team. Vahram is the owner/operator and son of Mr. Ned himself. The studio has a selection of high quality fabrics from which to choose and, in about 6 weeks or less, your custom jacket and pants will be ready for pick up.
My.suit has four New York locations and one Pennsylvania location, but you can start and complete your order on the website without setting foot in a store. Suits are made in Mexico and will be ready for pickup/delivery? In 2 weeks (wow! That’s quick). Prices run in the $495-$995 range for a suit and include pants and a jacket.
Dragon Inside is an online tailor offering European-made suits from a selection of UK and Italian-made wool. Suits (pants/jacket) are ready in 25 days and will be shipped to you for free. Dragon Inside offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee and, if they get a measurement wrong, they will either refund you the entire cost of the suit or reimburse you up to $125 for any adjustments made by your local tailor. Suits range from $470 – $689.
Other recommendations for good places to buy suits are Carson Street Clothiers, Boden USA, and don’t forget to check Overstock.com before placing an order directly from a brand-name label. For the latest trends in men’s fashion for Spring 2015, check out GQ’s fashion week round up here, and please let me know if you have other recommendations for where to get nice suits.
In the spirit of the New Year and all that comes with it, using exercise to stay fit and relieve stress is a top priority. This is especially true for residents of NYC, considered by some the most stressed out city in the nation. Although it is easier to stay fit and get outside during the summer, I am one of the approximately 50 New Yorkers who prefer to hit the Rockaway Beach waves during winter months.Rockaway Beach during the winter is a completely different place than during the summertime. There are no crowds during winter, hardly any surfers in the water, the waves are much better, and the likelihood of swimming close to a great white shark goes down. Sure, being in nearly freezing water takes some getting used to (ask members of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club!), but a 5mm-thick wetsuit, gloves, boots, and hood help keep me warm enough until paddling and catching waves gets my heart and adrenaline pumping. Wetsuits inhibit flexibility, so winter surfing isn’t recommended for beginners.
If you’re interested in surfing at Rockaway Beach, now or in the summer, here are some tips:
- Check the waves at surfline.com or magicseaweed.com; waves in the 3-4 foot+ range are what you want.
- Get to the beach by jumping on the L and switching at Broadway Junction for the A train; head to 67th or 80th Streets for the best surfing spots
- If you’re serious about learning in the winter, reach out to Frank at New York Surf School, who will hook you up with a teacher during the winter months. Believe it or not, Frank gets up to a dozen new students every week during the winter, but this is still 97% fewer than the number he gets during the summer, when almost 500 people take lessons with his team every week. During the summer, there are plenty of surf schools to choose from.
- Be sure to eat at one of the excellent local restaurants, all of which serve delicious food.
Even if you decide to never surf in NYC, it’s worth checking out the surf culture in Rockaway Beach. You’ll feel like you’re not in New York City anymore; see what I mean by watching this video. And if you really can’t be bothered to visit Rockaway Beach for some fresh air and relaxation, at least pop into these Soho and Williamsburg surf stores where the relaxed vibe will take away your busy-city blues for at least a few moments.
As many of you know, I have been playing ice and roller hockey for years, however you don’t have to be a hockey player to enjoy ice skating. In Manhattan, ice skating has been a popular sport since the mid 1800s when there were very few residents north of 23rd Street. Shortly after the Central Park lake was filled in 1858, the first uptown skating rink was opened and everyone, rich and poor alike, came out in droves to enjoy the ice. When the ice thickened to four inches, a red flag was hung to signal that the ice was suitable for skating, and downtown trollies hoisted a red ball high on their poles to signal favorable skating conditions. This great January Curbed article by urban historian, Rebecca Dalzell gives a rich history of NYC ice skating and says that the skating rink was the only place single men and women could go without a chaperone to find a potential match.
At the time, it was a racy sight to see a glimpse of a woman’s ankle or foot as she put on her ice skates. I wonder what those skaters would think of Paper Magazine today.
Times have changed but skating is still a fun winter pastime and there are now many more options for skating in NYC. Below is a list of all currently operating NYC ice skating rinks. Click on the link for details about each ice skating rink.
Open through February
The Rink at Winter Village in Bryant Park (closes March 1)
Open through March
Open through April
Open All Year
New York City real estate is a record-breaking market and 2014 was no exception. December 23, 2014 marked the closing of the most expensive apartment ever sold in Manhattan: $100.5M for a duplex penthouse at One57. Although this is the highest amount ever paid for an apartment in New York City, The Woolworth Building’s three bedroom penthouse is expected to ask $110M when it hits the market. 2014 also brought us the long-anticipated opening of One World Trade Center, the completion of the Highline’s third and final phase, and Chinese buyers became the largest group of foreign buyers in Manhattan, followed by Russian and Brazilian buyers.
The 2014 market also reached new lows, with properties selling in less than half the time they would have sold for two years prior. In 2012, properties averaged between 83-133 days on the market, while properties in 2014 averaged only 47-73 days on the market before closing. 2014 saw an increase in price per square foot of over 10% from 2013. However, the second half of 2014 plateaued with many sellers overpricing their apartments in an attempt to take advantage of the bullish market. This caused properties to languish on the market and ultimately netted sellers less than they would have earned if they had priced their properties correctly. 2014 saw approximately 45% of Manhattan homes purchased with all cash, however for the buyers who did finance, sellers were more flexible and accepted finance contingencies, another sign that the market has normalized and that the fast pace with which real estate has been moving in recent months will be slowing down for 2015. 2015 will still be an extraordinary and record-breaking year for NYC real estate, however accurate pricing is as important as ever, fringe neighborhoods will become much more popular, and the spring will be the most competitive time to purchase because of Wall Streeters receiving their bonuses and reinvesting them in the real estate market. As always, please let me know if you have any questions about the NYC real estate market or if you would like to discuss the value of your home.